The best books weaving adventure and history

Why am I passionate about this?

As an art school drop-out who'd been majoring in sculpture, I'm fascinated by material culture—artifacts created by early peoples that reveal their cultural values. Often, the relics and sites that engage both archaeologists and readers suggest unexpected depths of knowledge that show human ingenuity through the ages. I strive to incorporate the details of an artifact or monument's creation into the clues and descriptions in my work, hopefully illuminating a little-known historical realm, if only by torchlight as the adventure unfolds. The fact that I get to explore so many exotic locations, in research if not in person, is a definite plus!


I wrote...

The Mongol's Coffin

By E. Chris Ambrose,

Book cover of The Mongol's Coffin

What is my book about?

A secret map…a legendary lost tomb…an army determined to bury it forever!

When a grad student discovers a musical map to Genghis Khan's tomb, her scholarly life explodes into arson and gunfire. Former Spec Ops intelligence officer Grant Casey brings in the Bone Guard for a race to the tomb—to prevent Chinese authorities from destroying it. Mongolian traditions clash with modern priorities in a high-stakes adventure to save one of the world's greatest lost treasures.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Angels & Demons

E. Chris Ambrose Why did I love this book?

While most people associate Dan Brown with his more famous work, The DaVinci Code, this first novel in his Robert Langdon series really founded the archaeological thriller genre.

I loved how this book transports readers to the milieu so thoroughly that it was a bit of a spoiler when I recognized one key location from my own time in Rome before the secret was revealed—but that's a testament to how well he conveys the scene! Brown invites us behind the scenes of secret societies, sharing insider information to raise the stakes.

I had the great good fortune to take a workshop with Dan just before DaVinci Code came out, and benefit from his enormous skill as a teacher. The man tells a ripping yarn, full of puzzles that blend fact and fancy. 

By Dan Brown,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Angels & Demons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

CERN Institute, Switzerland: a world-renowned scientist is found brutally murdered with a mysterious symbol seared onto his chest.

The Vatican, Rome: the College of Cardinals assembles to elect a new pope. Somewhere beneath them, an unstoppable bomb of terrifying power relentlessly counts down to oblivion.

In a breathtaking race against time, Harvard professor Robert Langdon must decipher a labyrinthine trail of ancient symbols if he is to defeat those responsible - the Illuminati, a secret brotherhood presumed extinct for nearly four hundred years, reborn to continue their deadly vendetta against their most hated enemy, the Catholic Church.

Origin, the spellbinding…


Book cover of The Emperor's Tomb

E. Chris Ambrose Why did I love this book?

Dan Brown may have initiated the genre, but Steve Berry takes it a few steps further. He spends more time developing the historical reality, and less time on invention, and his streamlined prose really delivers on the promise of his plot.

In this book, Berry links a contemporary interest in fossil fuels with a striking source of historical data—a lamp taken from the tomb of the first Emperor of China, familiar to a Western audience mainly because of the army of terra cotta warriors defending the tomb to this day. Berry delves into the legends about that tomb, then brings it vividly to life.

If Brown gives his readers entry into a secret society, Berry hands over the key to a hidden realm, but one with implications for our own world. Berry manages multiple viewpoints with a skill I hope to emulate.

By Steve Berry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Emperor's Tomb as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A new Cotton Malone adventure that takes our hero from Europe to the Far East in a race to unlock the mystery of an ancient tomb.

Hearing that his old friend Cassiopeia Vitt is in trouble, Malone follows the few clues he has and realises that they are in the middle of something huge, involving Russian and US oil interests and a centuries-old secret.

After stumbling across two dead bodies and into the crosshairs of his former boss, Malone finds himself in a race to unravel the mystery of an emperor's tomb, a sinister society, and a deadly battle between…


Book cover of The Fallen Angel

E. Chris Ambrose Why did I love this book?

Silva's series follows a retired Mossad agent who is now an art restorer. As an art school drop-out, that instantly appealed to me!

Much as I enjoy adventure and history both, it's character that keeps me engaged. Silva's not creating just one person, he builds an entire network of ex-Mossad agents, family members, and more—while still driving a plot that keeps you guessing.

Silva's attention to historical detail is as rich as his protagonist's focus on art history. Every one of his scenes accomplishes so much to bring characters, settings, and conflicts to life. You can read the series out of order, but you'll miss some of the richness of the changing relationships Silva invests in.

Silva's work explores our own relationships with history as well, especially when his characters launch an "op" that requires using every tool in their espionage kit to bring off near-magic results. 

By Daniel Silva,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Fallen Angel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gabriel Allon, master art restorer and assassin, returns in a spellbinding #1 New York Times bestselling novel 'Allon is the 21st century Bond' Daily Mail

Bruised and war-weary following his secret war to bring down a terrorist mastermind, Gabriel Allon returns to his beloved Rome to restore a Caravaggio masterpiece.

But early one morning Gabriel is summoned by his friend and occasional ally Monsignor Luigi Donati, the all-powerful private secretary to the Pope. The broken body of a beautiful woman lies beneath Michelangelo's magnificent dome. Donati fears a public inquiry will inflict more wounds on an already-damaged Church so he…


Book cover of The Arthurian Relic

E. Chris Ambrose Why did I love this book?

Clawson's protagonist, Harry Fox, is a criminal, working for criminals—which makes him a bit unusual in a field dominated by historians and law enforcement. And yet…Harry is highly sympathetic.

I love how Clawson uses Harry's interactions with secondary characters and random strangers to develop that side of his character. This book delivers on medieval clues and ciphers without ever losing that focus on character.

As a history geek myself, I get excited when I recognize the characters from my research, emerging from a thriller plot, in this case, the historian Geoffrey of Monmouth. (Don't worry if you haven't heard of him, he's a little obscure, but that only makes it more fun to see his work incorporated into fiction!)

Book cover of Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II

E. Chris Ambrose Why did I love this book?

Much of my reading is non-fiction, the kind of research material I need to create my work. A lot of it is pretty dry, or of interest only to the specialist. Not so with Kurson's work!

This is an adventure book all the way, and the best part is, it's a true story! Shadow Divers follows a team looking for a new dive site, and finding a lot more: a sunken U-Boat, lost off the American coast for decades. The story travels between archives and dives to a deep wreck where the current could sweep the divers away.

The vividness and intensity of his underwater scenes captured my imagination, while the methodical research required to identify the wreck gave me ideas about how to manage my own research, and how to portray the stakes of the search even when there are no lives on the line.

By Robert Kurson,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Shadow Divers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times Bestseller 

In the tradition of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm comes a true tale of riveting adventure in which two weekend scuba divers risk everything to solve a great historical mystery–and make history themselves.

For John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, deep wreck diving was more than a sport. Testing themselves against treacherous currents, braving depths that induced hallucinatory effects, navigating through wreckage as perilous as a minefield, they pushed themselves to their limits and beyond, brushing against death more than once in the rusting hulks of sunken ships.
But in the…


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Book cover of Shortcake

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What is my book about?

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Dive into this gripping techno-thriller series that explores the emotional turmoil of life, resilience in the face of tragedy, the ever-present specter of death, and the eternal struggle to find the inherent goodness within us all.

Shortcake

By Christopher Gorham Calvin,

What is this book about?

A genetically engineered child with no memory of her past. A killer with dreams of destruction. And the fate of a city hanging in the balance…

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