15 Best Tom Clancy Books You Need to Read

Sonia Akavan
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If you are a fan of Tom Clancy, then you really need to check this out. Here we put together an overview of the 15 best Tom Clancy books you need to read.

Don’t they look good? I know I can’t wait to get started.

NameCategoryProduct
The HuntBest OverallThe Hunt
The Cardinal of the KremlinBudget PickThe Cardinal of the Kremlin
By Clancy TomUpgrade PickBy Clancy Tom

1. The Hunt

Our rating: 9 / 10

The Hunt

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Pros:

  • Clancy gets it right with this novel
  • Impressive attention to detail
  • Incredible pace
  • Action packed and extremely entertaining
  • Masterful writing

Cons:

  • Jack Ryan is rather generic
  • So much of it is unrealistic

When you hear the name Tom Clancy, you immediately think of some over the top, action-packed, high octane novel involving a lot of people getting family members shot…err…killed. Okay, maybe not actual family members (thankfully), but Clancy certainly did have a way of humanizing not just the main characters, but all sorts of real-life people you see in his books.

The Hunt for Red October was Clancy’s first book, and it is a timeless story that sees seasoned spy and analyst Jack Ryan team up with some of the best. This is a great book for you even if you aren’t really into military stuff, professional spies or government work. The book is very realistic when it comes to the technology, which comes in handy for those who like to get a little technical in their books.

2. The Cardinal of the Kremlin

Our rating: 7 / 10

The Cardinal of the Kremlin

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Pros:

  • Fast paced
  • Thrilling plot
  • Well developed characters

Cons:

  • A lot of technical details
  • A little too political

(Jack Ryan)

The Cardinal of the Kremlin spans 18-month period and Jesse Ryan is back in the business as usual, only this time he’s waging a secret war with the KGB. He’s tasked to gather intelligence on the Kremlin and the KGB is bent on preventing this.

The book’s first half is a little slow as the author gives a deeper insight into the political aspect of the CIA and the KGB. The last half of the book is where it really picks up the pace and is definitely worth the read. Essentially, the book is about Jack Ryan doing what he does best: keep the espionage world going even when the cold war is over.

3. Clear and Present Danger

Our rating: 7 / 10

Clear and Present Danger

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Pros:

  • Well written
  • Michael Collins does a great job with narration
  • Accurate depiction of how the government works
  • Interesting plot

Cons:

  • Sometimes slow
  • Some continuity mistakes which take you of the story

(A Jack Ryan Novel)

Clear and Present Danger is a great Clancy novel that explores the United States government, terrorism, drug cartels, and all that goes on in between.

The book is littered with some of Clancy’s most memorable characters, including John Clark and Ding Chavez. Jack Ryan is the ultimate insider, the president’s right-hand man and advisor.

4. Rainbow Six

Our rating: 6 / 10

Rainbow Six

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The Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy is the seventh novel in the Jack Ryan series, or a reboot of that series in accordance to Clancy's wishes. In Rainbow Six, the U.S. Counter Terrorist Centre (CTC), an organization led to protect the U.S. by its clandestine intelligence and action, is introduced. This novel is set in 1994, mostly in Baltimore, Maryland and Venezuela, and it deals with a terrorist attack on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting in Caracas, Venezuela.

The Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy is the seventh novel in the Jack Ryan series, or a reboot of that series in accordance to Clancy's wishes. In Rainbow Six, the U.S. Counter Terrorist Centre (CTC), an organization led to protect the U.S. by its clandestine intelligence and action, is introduced. This novel is set in 1994, mostly in Baltimore, Maryland and Venezuela, and it deals with a terrorist attack on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting in Caracas, Venezuela.

5. The Sum of All Fears

Our rating: 6 / 10

The Sum of All Fears

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The Sum of All Fears is the 11th novel in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series. It departs from his previous books by not making the plot the focus of the book. Of course, that doesn’t mean that this book isn’t incredibly thought-provoking and interesting.

The plot takes place during the Cold War. Jack Ryan, an analyst with the CIA, stumbles upon a plot that he believes could annihilate all life on earth. He seeks out assistance with his boss, Arnold van Damm, in order to gain access to the president.

The president doesn’t believe that such a plot exists, but Ryan and his team set out to stop the Russians from partnering with known terrorist organizations, especially the Shi’a Lebanese Hezbollah, to attack the US.

6. Without Remorse

Our rating: 6 / 10

Without Remorse

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Pros:

  • A more in-depth John Clark novel
  • Historically accurate
  • Fast-paced and very entertaining
  • Never a dull moment

Cons:

  • Might be a little complicated for some readers
  • Can be a lot of information for a first time Clancy reader

Without Remorse was written by Tom Clancy himself and is the story of John Clark, one of his most beloved recurring characters.

The story takes place in the 1980s and follows John Clark and his work as a member of the CIA and as a member of the U.S. Naval Academy rugby team. It gives some great insights into the character and explains why he is so tough.

The story takes place during major historical events like the Cold War, the Middle East conflict, and several drug wars. This novel is full of Clancy’s signature action-packed storytelling style, making it an entertaining and thrilling read.

7. Debt of Honor

Our rating: 6 / 10

Debt of Honor

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Pros:

  • Inspired by true events
  • Compelling story
  • Good character dialog
  • Easy flow in writing
  • Death defying escapes
  • Fast paced

Cons:

  • Focuses more on the military battle scenes
  • Jack Ryan is just a side character, not the main protagonist

Europa Books has published Debt of Honor but was originally written by Tom Clancy, the master of spy thrillers. The book was inspired by a real life incident where an empire found itself in dire economic straits, and its politically powerful leader, feeling abandoned by the allies he had depended on for support, planned to rebuild his empire’s fortunes by launching a sneak attack against the United States.

Debt of Honor takes a different twist of how this incident could have unfolded. The story is made more interesting by the fact that the Japanese Air Force is undergoing a transformation from a traditional air-combat force “ a role that it performed with valor during World War II, but with increasingly limited success in the decades after “ into a terrorist force. And our allies, including Russia, have begun to come to terms with, to make deals with, and to profit from our enemies.

8. Executive Orders

Our rating: 6 / 10

Executive Orders

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9. Red Rabbit

Our rating: 6 / 10

Red Rabbit

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Pros:

  • A shift in focus from military operations to spying
  • Takes key events from Clancy books and compresses them into a single story.
  • Reviewers like the fresh perspective

Cons:

  • The sophistication of the Jack Ryan character in TV and movies doesn’t really translate here.
  • A page turner, but doesn’t come with the high-tech plot that the Clancy novels are so famous for.

Red Rabbit came out in 2002, and it was Tom Clancy’s first novel following his death in October of the previous year. It kept a similar style to his previous novels, which was a shift from the rising terrorism of the time and a focus on Cold War-era espionage.

The book takes key events from the Ryanverse and compresses them into a single story. The Jack Ryan character has been criticized for being super human and not realistic; however, this novel may prove otherwise.

As one of the last books written by Clancy and considering where his political beliefs were, it is a great political read. Many of the reviews note that it caused them to reflect on Clancy’s influence on their life, politics, and reading. It was a great reminder of how Clancy changed the way we look at military operations in the world and of real world spies.

10. Threat Vector

Our rating: 6 / 10

Threat Vector

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Pros:

  • Stories take place in the modern age
  • Brief summary of current events
  • Excellent description of technology

Cons:

  • Not enough focus on Jack Ryan characters
  • Ending feels rushed and full of contradictions

Tom Clancy, the prominent military fiction novelist and author of many best-selling books, notably Patriot Games and The Hunt for Red October, in addition to several U.S. Military novels, died on October 1, 2013, at the age of 66.

Even though he passed away in 2013, he left a legacy of work behind. With 75 million books sold and a record for the most number of best-selling video games with his name attached, Tom Clancy certainly has a legacy behind him.

Clancy's series of techno thrillers has been going strong since 1984. His very first fiction novel, The Hunt for Red October, was written during the Cold War and later on became a bestseller. Since then, Clancy has published 12 more books, including several best-selling non-fiction books. More than 100 million copies of his novels are in circulation worldwide.

11. Command Authority

Our rating: 6 / 10

Command Authority

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Pros:

  • John Krasinski is very good in the leading role
  • The production is quality worthy of a feature film
  • Keira Knightley is fantastic as always
  • Well written, mature but not over the top
  • Would really appeal to fans of the series

Cons:

  • Would seem a bit slow to non fans
  • Would seem a bit boring to non fans

12. The Bear and the Dragon

Our rating: 5 / 10

The Bear and the Dragon

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Pros:

  • In-depth character development
  • Realistic sociopolitical concerns
  • Military history and technical accuracy
  • Great action scenes
  • Vivid descriptions

One of the most famous and most commercially successful military fiction series of all time is Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels. It features heroic soldier Jack Ryan in all his glory.

Some of the books are part of the explicit CIA-agent Jack Ryan series, which revolves around Ryan and his adventures with the CIA. Other novels in the series feature Ryan as a more visible supporting character.

Several of those are co-authored with Barry M. DeZero, and three of the books have been co-authored by DeZero and Mark Greaney.

13. Dead or Alive

Our rating: 5 / 10

Dead or Alive

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Pros:

  • Well-written
  • Full of action

I liked this book! Fuller and better written than the Clancy books I've read so far.

14. The Teeth of the Tiger

Our rating: 5 / 10

The Teeth of the Tiger

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Pros:

  • Story takes place in a fictional China
  • Action takes in the past and present
  • A Jack Ryan Jr. novel
  • Takes place in a fictional China
  • Started the Ryanverse

This is a classic and should be no different than one of Clancy's other book, it reads like a harry potter book if harry potter was an adult spy in the middle east instead of the wizardry world. Any Clancy or action buff will surely enjoy. I enjoyed this book because it had many ties to his other books like the ryans, mudskips, and clear and present danger.

15. Locked On

Our rating: 5 / 10

Locked On

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Pros:

  • Enquiring minds need to know things
  • Almost a procedural about how policy is made
  • More people need to know about the nation's military spending, capabilities, and their plans for the future
  • Challenge to the overall military planning across all of the services and the joint warfighting capabilities
  • One of the best ways to get a handle on what a lot of people call the new emerging defense strategy
  • A very compelling book

Cons:

  • Not so much fiction as reality
  • Not so much a can't put down piece of fiction that America is used to
  • Challenging the idea of the good guy versus the bad guy concept
  • Questions to be answered and probably more books to come

Clancy throws away the fantastical elements of modern warfare and looks at things from a more realistic perspective regarding what is happening on the ground. Calling the book fiction is somewhat misleading as the book is a study in the way things really are and a look at what one might expect with the way technology is evolving.

This book is Clancy at his best.

16. By Clancy Tom

Our rating: 3 / 10

By Clancy Tom

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Pros:

  • Fast-paced
  • Profound
  • Great job building deep connections with the readers and characters
  • Very entertaining
  • Absorbing
  • Well-paced

Cons:

  • Fiction
  • Story might be too simplistic for some adults

Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels never fail to impress and incite a lot of thought, deep into the night. It is one of the best spy fiction writers in the world. Tom Clancy made his debut novel – The Hunt for Red October in 1984.

For 28 years, Tom Clancy has written several bestselling novels. The sum of his works have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide and 22 of his books have been made into films.

Patriot Games is the follow-up to The Hunt for Red October in which Ryan returns to the field as an analyst after the death of his wife but soon becomes embroiled in an attempted coup in England.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What should I read if I like Tom Clancy?

If you love Tom Clancy novels, you probably have a few other authors you like as well. If you need a few more books to read, check out the list of 14 books above. We’ve even selected the best Tom Clancy novels of all time.

If you don’t have a specific author to follow, then here are some of the most popular authors similar to Tom Clancy:

  • Brad Thor
  • Dan Brown
  • Patterson and Paich
  • James Rollins

What is the best Tom Clancy book to start with?

You can't go wrong with any of his books, but here are some of Tom Clancy's best books in circulation as shown by various readers and book critics:

"The Bear and the Dragon"; "Patriot Games"; and "Clear and Present Danger".

"The Hunt for Red October" is also great, and so is "Without Remorse". "The Bear and the Dragon"; "Patriot Games"; and "Clear and Present Danger".

"The Hunt for Red October" is also great, and so is "Without Remorse".

For fiction readers, "Red Storm Rising" is as gripping as any book you will read outside of James Patterson. "Rainbow Six" is full of edge of your seat moments and page-turning intrigue. If you're a history buff, "Net Force" is an interesting collection of military fiction that is sure to keep you on your toes.

Do you need to read Jack Ryan books in order?

Fortunately, the Jack Ryan novels do not need to be read in chronological order. It’s unclear whether Clancy himself kept track of the chronology of his novels, but it doesn’t really matter for the audience. There are no major spoilers from the later novels that would be spoiled by reading an earlier one. The series was designed to be accessible to new readers of Clancy novels.

If you’ve never read a Jack Ryan series book and you find one on sale at your local Walmart, you can pick it up and jump right in without having to read the previous books. If you enjoy it, you can then find other books in the series and read them as well.

What are some cool books to read?

With in-depth explorations of the social, psychological, and technological follies of the 20th century, this is a great collection of Tom Clancy’s iconic novels. Titles included in this collection are: Red Storm Rising, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, The Sum of All Fears, Rainbow Six, and more. If you’re a fan of Tom Clancy, then this collection is for you.

Conclusion

Tom Clancy wrote several novels and non-fiction books that were later adapted into best-selling video games, including: The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and Rainbow Six.

This article gives an overview of the 15 books you need to read if you're a fan of Tom Clancy novels.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
The HuntBest OverallThe Hunt
The Cardinal of the KremlinBudget PickThe Cardinal of the Kremlin
By Clancy TomUpgrade PickBy Clancy Tom