The best well-written slam-bang adventures

William Illsey Atkinson Author Of Sun's Strong Immortality
By William Illsey Atkinson

The Books I Picked & Why

Raintree County

By Ross Lockridge

Book cover of Raintree County

Why this book?

My friends and I discovered Raintree County as undergrads, and found in it everything that matters – history, character, politics, and above all action. Here is life with all its pleasure and horror, apostasy and faith, sacrifice and victory. Here too is the core of American democracy, its glories and fiascos: a love letter to the Republic, more than ever relevant in the factional bitterness of today. An unforgettable novel from a man who killed himself at 34.

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Flying Colours

By C.S. Forester

Book cover of Flying Colours

Why this book?

"I find Hornblower admirable, vastly entertaining," said Winston Churchill in the best short review ever written. Forester takes you back 200 years to an age of wooden ships and iron men. Here you smell the powder, see the mainsails strain, hear the roar of cannon and the clang of steel – and learn more about the Napoleonic Wars than any textbook could convey. The Hornblower books are all electrifying, but to my mind, this is the best.

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By George MacDonald Fraser

Book cover of Flashman

Why this book?

If Hornblower is my favorite fictional sailor, my favorite fictional soldier is Sir Harry Paget Flashman. But while Hornblower has real courage, Flashman is an anti-hero – posturing as noble but in truth a coward, lecher, and cad. With one redeeming trait: absolute honesty in showing the 19th century as it really was. From incompetent generals to scheming statesmen and aristocrats who bribe their way to titles via sweatshops and the slave trade, Flashman gives us a dark but fascinating underside of history.

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The Revolt on Venus

By Carey Rockwell

Book cover of The Revolt on Venus

Why this book?

Tom Corbett, Space Cadet remains my favorite young adult series. What’s not to like? Fights ending in fellowship, villains, and perils defeated, all in a dazzling 24th-century world of atomic spaceflight, electric wristwatches, high-speed slidewalks, hard-nosed Solar Guard officers with hearts of gold, and – remember this was written 70 years ago – brilliant women who are full professors of astrophysics at Space Academy (I’ll always love you, Dr. Joan Dale). Oh yes, and the Paralo-Ray: a weapon that immobilizes but does not kill. Of the eight Corbett books, The Revolt on Venus is the best: tense and thrilling, full of great characters, and politically astute.

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Lives of Girls and Women

By Alice Munro

Book cover of Lives of Girls and Women

Why this book?

Great adventure doesn’t always mean jungles, star-wastes, or derring-do. The human heart – what one poet called "the wilderness behind the eyes" – can be as electrifying as any firefight. In this tradition, Alice Munro won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature. Lives of Girls and Women is her second novel, and like all great adventure stories will tell you more about yourself than you ever suspected. As Sir Walter Scott said of Jane Austen: "That young lady has a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life."

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