The best books with impossible escapes

Bryan Johnston Author Of Death Warrant
By Bryan Johnston

Who am I?

I worked in television for 25 years so when I wrote my novel, Death Warrant, about a reality TV show that kills people, I had a wealth of experience to draw from (not the killing part, but the TV part). And one of my experiences in TV was promoting reality TV programs on the stations I worked for. What did I come away with from that? That I really hate reality TV. Why? Because there is virtually nothing real about it. The shows are produced to within an inch of their lives. So, anything I could do that takes a swipe at reality TV, that satirizes it a bit, I was all in.

I wrote...

Death Warrant

By Bryan Johnston,

Book cover of Death Warrant

What is my book about?

Frankie Percival is cashing in her chips. To save her brother from financial ruin, Frankie, a stage performer who never made it big, agrees to be assassinated on the most popular television show on the planet: Death Warrant. But once she signs her life away, her memory is wiped clean of the agreement, leaving her with no idea she will soon be killed in spectacular fashion for global entertainment. After years of working in low-rent theaters, Frankie prepares for the biggest performance of her life that could catapult her to the top, if only she lives that long.

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The books I picked & why

A Gentleman in Moscow

By Amor Towles,

Book cover of A Gentleman in Moscow

Why did I love this book?

This is easily the most entertaining and satisfying read I have ever had in my life. The story centers around the protagonist, Count Rostov, who is under house arrest in a luxury hotel in Moscow, Russia…for the rest of his life! He can never leave. But the Count is the most likable figure imaginable. Virtually everything from his previous life has been taken away, and yet he makes the best of his new normal. You’re constantly rooting for him. This book inspired me to make the hero of my own book as likable as possible. Everyone likes a hero you aspire to.

By Amor Towles,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked A Gentleman in Moscow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The mega-bestseller with more than 2 million readers, soon to be a major television series

From the #1 New York Times-bestselling author of The Lincoln Highway and Rules of Civility, a beautifully transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and…

The Count of Monte Cristo

By Alexandre Dumas, Robin Buss (translator),

Book cover of The Count of Monte Cristo

Why did I love this book?

The Count of Monte Cristo is the ultimate revenge book. Our hero, Edmond Dantes, is wrongfully thrown in prison for the rest of his life, and (spoiler alert) he beats the odds, and manages to escape. He then makes a completely new life for himself and exacts the most delicious revenge imaginable. I love a story where tremendous forces are working against the protagonist, and yet they continue to fight. You will be cheering for Edmond!

By Alexandre Dumas, Robin Buss (translator),

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Count of Monte Cristo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The epic tale of wrongful imprisonment, adventure and revenge, in its definitive translation

Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantes is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to use the treasure to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration. Dumas' epic tale of suffering and retribution, inspired by a real-life case of wrongful imprisonment, was a huge popular success when it was first serialized…

Book cover of Carter Beats the Devil

Why did I love this book?

Carter Beats the Devil is a historical mystery thriller based on a real character, a magician named Carter who is under suspicion of killing the president of the United States. There are plenty of powerful figures after him, and yet, he must dig deep into his own bag of tricks to outwit and escape them. Carter is a supremely enjoyable character who also happens to have a really cool job! I have always been fascinated by magic and this book takes you behind the curtain to see all that goes into the stagecraft.

By Glen Gold,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Carter Beats the Devil as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The mysterious death of President Harding in 1923 is only the curtain raiser to this extraordinary novel of magic and science. Charles Carter is Carter the Great, a name given to him by the supreme showman, Harry Houdini. Carter was born into privilege but became a magician out of need. Only at the moment of the performance, when an audience is brought together by a single experience, can Carter defeat his crippling fear of loneliness. But with every step into the twentieth Century, the stakes are growing higher. Science and the cinema are fast out-stripping even the master magician and…


By Henri Charriere,

Book cover of Papillon

Why did I love this book?

This is such a compelling book because you are rooting for the protagonist so much. His situation is so tragic and unfair that you’re in a constant state of anticipation. Will he succeed? Will things get better? He’s facing tremendous odds, and his chances of success are miniscule and everyone loves a good underdog story.

By Henri Charriere,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Papillon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An immediate sensation upon its publication in 1969, Papillon is a vivid memoir of brutal penal colonies, daring prison breaks and heroic adventure on shark-infested seas.

Condemned for a murder he did not commit, Henri Charriere, nicknamed Papillon, was sent to the penal colony of French Guiana. Forty-two days after his arrival he made his first break for freedom, travelling a thousand gruelling miles in an open boat. He was recaptured and put into solitary confinement but his spirit remained untamed: over thirteen years he made nine incredible escapes, including from the notorious penal colony on Devil's Island.

This edition…

Book cover of Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Why did I love this book?

What I found fascinating about this book is that the escape this privileged woman (Bernadette) is trying to make is from her own life. Twice! She successfully escapes from her previous life as an architect to become a stay-at-home mom but discovers over time that what she escaped from was what she truly needed in her life. She lost her creative drive. And so, she tries to escape her new life as well. The story then becomes a search for Bernadette by her daughter and husband. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? makes it abundantly clear that the grass isn’t always greener, and that we should appreciate the good things we have.

By Maria Semple,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Where'd You Go, Bernadette as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A misanthropic matriarch leaves her eccentric family in crisis when she mysteriously disappears in this "whip-smart and divinely funny" novel that inspired the movie starring Cate Blanchett (New York Times).

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect; and to 15-year-old Bee, she is her best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette vanishes. It all began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle --…

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