This fictional character has won the hearts of millions of people all across the globe with his superhuman-yet-believable qualities and his advanced fighting skills and military intelligence. If you have been wanting to read about the famous Jack Reacher, then this Penlighten article will give you a complete list of Jack Reacher books in the order they should be read.
The Misrepresentation of Jack Reacher!
Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series is so famous that in 2012, Hollywood made a movie based on the book, ‘One Shot’. While Reacher is 6’5″ tall with a 50-inch chest, it was hard for readers to watch Tom Cruise play the part who is nowhere close to the character’s physical description.
The movie was a huge success and appreciated by those who were introduced to Reacher for the first time. However, for those who had already met him through Lee Child’s imagination, the movie couldn’t live up to their expectations. However, the author said the following regarding Cruise’s portrayal of Reacher―”With another actor you might get 100% of the height but only 90% of Reacher. With Tom, you’ll get 100% of Reacher with 90% of the height.”
Coming back to the books based on the tough, strong, intelligent, and invincible Jack Reacher who is a former Major in the United States Army Military Police Corps. Before quitting at the age of 36, he served for 13 years and was a member of the 110th Special Investigations Unit, a special unit that handled exceptionally difficult cases, especially those involving members of the US Army Special Forces. After quitting, Reacher decides to explore his own country, and for doing so, he leads the life of a vagabond. He travels in buses or as a hitchhiker. He carries minimal belongings, including a debit card, a foldable toothbrush, some money, and an expired passport.
Trouble always ends up finding Reacher in the different places he visits. Jim Grant, who uses the pen name of Lee Child, has written various books based on the character’s experiences and dangerous encounters with murderers and kidnappers, entertaining us readers with a great deal of mystery and thrill.
Order of Jack Reacher Books
The author has done a marvelous job in framing the plot of each additional book in the series, with none or minimal dependency on the previous books. All in all, each book is a complete story in itself. Therefore, even if you wish to read these books in the order of their publication, it wouldn’t be a problem as such. This order is listed as under –
Jack Reacher Books in Order of Publication
- 1. Killing Floor (1997)
- 2. Die Trying (1998)
- 3. Tripwire (1999)
- 4. Running Blind/ The Visitor (2000)
- 5. Echo Burning (2001)
- 6. Without Fail (2002)
- 7. Persuader (2003)
- 8. The Enemy (2004)
- 9. One Shot (2005)
- 10. The Hard Way (2006)
- 11. Bad Luck and Trouble (2007)
- 12. Nothing to Lose (2008)
- 13. Gone Tomorrow (2009)
- 13.5. Guy Walks into a Bar… (2009)*
- 14. 61 Hours (2010)
- 15. Worth Dying For (2010)
- 15.5. Second Son (2011)*
- 16. The Affair (2011)
- 16.5. Deep Down (2012)*
- 17. A Wanted Man (2012)
- 17.5. High Heat (2013)*
- 18. Never Go Back (2013)
- 19. Personal (2014)
* The titles marked with this sign are not full-fledged novels, but short stories based on Reacher’s life.
Jack Reacher Books in Chronological Order
As mentioned already, most of the books are independent of each other; however, some books consist of the flashback of Reacher’s earlier life in the military. Therefore, those who wish to get familiar with Reacher’s life chronologically, the following is the order.
The first book of the series we recommend you to read is Second Son. Although it is a short story published much later in 2011, it is based on Reacher’s teen life, when he was 13. In fact, you may say that it is a prequel of his life where you see Jack and his family stationed in a military base in Okinawa, Japan. This book is about the difficulties and troubles they face and how the young 13-year-old Jack handles them. This book will give you a fair peek into the early formative years of Jack, and what made him the tough one-man missile over the years.
The short story High Heat has the almost 17-year-old Jack Reacher visiting his brother at West Point, where he ends up stopping in New York City. The place is under a murder spree, and the heat is scorching! Reacher meets a woman in trouble (who later turns out to be an FBI agent) and agrees to help her, while the mad killer known as ‘Son of Sam’ is still uncaught. The entire city drowns in darkness when the lights go out due to a power grid failure. How does Jack come out of this heated mess? How does he help the woman? This book will show what he was capable of, in spite of just being almost 17!
Deep Down is a short story whose plot is set in the year 1986. Here, Reacher is sent as an undercover investigator where his mission is to find out the people responsible for leaking classified information on a new, state-of-the-art sniper rifle for the United States forces. It is suspected that the details of this weapon are being leaked directly from the Capitol to unknown foreign arms dealers. What seems to be a mission of no potential danger, turns out to become more complex and dirty than expected by our hero.
The Enemy is not a short story! While Reacher’s name comes along with the tag “ex-military policeman”, the plot of this book is from the time he was still serving. While celebrating New Year’s Eve in 1990, a two-star general is found dead in a motel in North Carolina. His briefcase which had some important documents goes missing, and a few hours later, the general’s wife (who is hundreds of miles away) is found dead. Reacher is asked to control the situation, and in the process, he finds out a stunning secret from his dying mother. This is the book where he also gets demoted from a major to a captain, making Reacher question everything around him.
The Affair is the last book in the series where Reacher is investigating while still in his uniform. So, you may well imagine what the plot has in store for you! A woman’s throat is cut behind a bar, near a huge army base in Mississippi. Reacher is asked to go undercover as a civilian and investigate the case with a female county sheriff, who was a former US Marine. The dilemma is whether the killer is a civilian or someone from the army base. This case brings about a turning point in Reacher’s career where he needs to decide if he lives by his principles, or as per the army’s desires. One of the best books in the series we say!
Killing Floor was the first published book of the famous Jack Reacher series. Here, Reacher has quit the military and is more of a drifter. He steps into the fictional town of Margrave, Georgia, and to his shock, he is arrested within an hour for charges of a murder! He ends up becoming the sole suspect of the series of murders that take place in the town which hasn’t seen violence in decades! Things get all the more difficult for Jack when he learns that one of the victims was a dear one of his. When two cops end up trusting his innocence, a violent, mysterious, and revengeful series of events take place.
In the second novel of this series Die Trying, we have the retired Reacher minding his own business and passing by a dry cleaning shop in Chicago, where he stops only to help a woman with her crutches. Within no time, both Reacher and the woman are kidnapped and taken thousands of miles away to northwestern Montana, where a well-armed militia group plans to use the woman as a high-profile hostage to fulfill their mission. Turns out, the woman is an FBI Special Agent, and also the daughter of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. An interesting turn of events takes place while Reacher and the woman work together for their freedom, and more.
The third novel published by Lee Child, Tripwire has a plot that confirms that even though Reacher isn’t a part of the armed forces, he is not apart from it, as well! While Reacher is busy doing two jobs a day, he comes across a New York City private detective who is busy inquiring about Reacher on behalf of some Mrs. Jacob. When our hero fails to identify any Mrs. Jacob, he denies his identity, only to find out later that the woman is Reacher’s former army commander, Leon Garber’s daughter. When the private detective ends up dead, Reacher visits New York; the general dies. Clueless, Reacher needs to pick up bits and pieces to investigate an M.I.A. situation from Vietnam.
Running Blind is published in the UK as The Visitor. Here, Reacher is the prime suspect, and an arrested victim of two murders, both of women who were a part of the US military before they left under dubious circumstances. Reacher was arrested because of his former military alliance, his current lifestyle of being a drifter, and the fact that he knew both these women. However, he is forced to help in the investigation when the third victim dies while Reacher was in custody.
In Echo Burning, our protagonist gets picked up by a beautiful Hispanic woman while driving through Texas. This beautiful helpful woman causes big troubles when she narrates a sad story of her life to Reacher, saying how she fears death when her criminal husband comes out from jail, and how her 6-year-old daughter would be left all alone. She wants someone to kill her husband before she gets killed, but Reacher agrees to accompany her only for protection. Though Reacher is still pondering whether the story is true or not, an interesting turn takes place when the woman’s husband is found dead hours within his return home. The woman is arrested, and it is Reacher’s task to find out what the mystery is all about.
Without Fail takes us fans to an all new level, when Reacher is asked by a female secret service agent to help her find the flaws in the security that her team has set for the Vice President of the United States! Here, our hero is asked to think like an assassin, and help the security team see the possible misses they have in the process. Reacher accepts the task and sets on to his mission along with a trusted colleague. In the process, some threatening letters are intercepted by the security team, addressed for the Vice President. The story is about his hunt to find the actual assassins and their motive behind all this.
Persuader has certain flashbacks of Reacher’s military life, and that is just one of the interesting things in this story! This book makes Reacher meet with the ghosts of his past, when one day he sees a man named Quinn while walking on the street. Quinn should have been dead 10 years ago. Reacher decides to investigate further and finish his unfinished business of pursuing this guy and knocking him dead! He becomes a part of an undercover DEA operation, where he also needs to find an agent who is missing, and maybe held captive by the bad guys.
One Shot is a story on which the Tom Cruise-starrer movie, Jack Reacher was made! 5 murders are committed by a sniper using six shots. The one shot that went missing is what helps Reacher find the truth behind these murders. While the police caught the suspect within hours, the suspect (a former army sniper), on the other hand, asked the police to find Reacher for him. Reacher meets the suspect and sets out to find the real truth behind these murders, in the process, unveiling more than what he anticipated.
The tenth novel in the series named The Hard Way is about Reacher unveiling his employer’s truth and some dirty secrets, the hard way! Reacher witnesses the exchange of one million dollars as a ransom amount, only to realize that the wife and daughter of Edward Lane, the underhanded director of a private military firm, are kidnapped. Lane hires Reacher to find his family and rescue them. However, as the events unfold, Lane’s nasty secrets come out in front of Reacher, making him realize that not all is what it seems to be.
Jack Reacher is absolutely untraceable, with no telephone number, no permanent address, and no credit card. But Bad Luck and Trouble starts when one day, he receives an amount deposited in his bank account. Being obsessed with math and following his investigative instincts, Reacher comes down to a code that was confined only to the eight members of his army investigative team. Soon, he is traced by another member who informs him that someone is trying to kill all the members of this former team. Reacher unites with the survivors to solve the puzzle and find the ones responsible. The story consists of various twists and turns in the form of brutal murders, hard-core revenge, and all that comes along with it.
The reason why Jack Reacher likes to live a life of a loner is because that way, he has Nothing to Lose. Unlike the previous book, where his dear ones were at stake, now our hero visits the lonely town of Despair and finds out that everyone there wants him dead. The owner of the town has suspiciously employed a majority of people in a factory that works in secrecy. Knowing our hero who is adamant to reveal all these mysterious happenings that are taking place in this town, this book gives the readers an interesting plot that leads Reacher to find something really big in the midst of this small town.
Guy Walks into a Bar… is a short story―a prequel to the next book in line―which was published in The New York Times. The plot is based in a blues music club, where Reacher sits quietly observing a mysterious girl supposedly surrounded by her bodyguards; a mysterious group of people who hint towards the involvement of Russian mafia, and a possible kidnapping. However, the truth turns out to be something totally different than what he perceived of the situation.
Gone Tomorrow is another interesting and thrilling story that will keep you hooked right till the end! Reacher boards a late-night subway in New York City, accompanied by 5 fellow passengers. Forced by his investigative instincts, he observes all five and concludes that the fifth passenger (a woman named Susan Marks) is a suicide bomber. When questioned, Susan shoots herself in front of Reacher, as a result of which he is questioned by the authorities regarding her death. Finally, Reacher decides to take the investigation in his hands to find out some deep-rooted conspiracies that not only link to the woman’s death, but also many across America.
61 Hours is more of a countdown, where something big is about to happen at the end of it. In fact, throughout the book, you can see Child reminding his reader, “X hours to go”. Here, our hero with amazing problem-solving (and problem-inviting) qualities is stranded in the fictional town of Bolton, South Dakota, when his bus crashes in a snowstorm. Forced to live among the locals for a couple of days, after which the replacement bus is expected to arrive, Reacher teams up with the local police to solve a murder and protect an elderly lady named Mrs. Salter, who is a sole witness of a drug dealing.
Worth Dying For takes our tough guy to the isolated town of Nebraska, where he ends up overhearing a drunk doctor in a bar that he would not treat a wounded woman. Reacher, who lives by morals, goes out to this doctor, thereby convincing him to treat her. When he accompanies him, he finds out that the woman is physically abused and happens to be the wife of a local scion who rules and dominates the entire town. Knowing Reacher, who soon enters his name in the bad books of the bad guys, he (as expected) steps in to save the town and also solve a mysterious disappearance of a child that took place 25 years ago!
Does Reacher step into trouble or does it work the other way round? In A Wanted Man, all he does is stick out his thumb and ask for a car ride, which eventually turns out to be a roller coaster ride! He is picked by two men and a woman―one driving the car, other telling stories that don’t connect, and the woman all worried and silent. A man is stabbed to death in a pumping station an hour behind them, and in due time, Reacher decodes that the two men responsible for the murder are those who offered him the lift, and the woman is taken by them as a hostage. How does Reacher handle this situation, being a possible victim from both sides―his fellow travelers and the cops?
Never Go Back has a lot of “shocks” in store for our hero. A journey that started 4 books ago, finally ends with a hell lotta action and drama! Reacher has reached Washington D.C. to meet Major Susan Turner, the current commanding officer of his previous unit, who has just been an intriguing voice till now. He expects to meet her at the headquarters, the 110th MP, the closest place to home for Reacher. But things get messy when he learns that Turner has been fired and he is expected to join back! What would Reacher do in the midst of these mysterious events? There is speculation that a movie would be based on this book very soon.
This much-awaited book, Personal is going to hit the stores on September 2, 2014 in the United States. In the UK, it will be published on August 28, 2014. The stakes are high on this one as Reacher travels all the way to France to catch the one man who has taken a long-range shot at the French president. Army tracks Reacher down to investigate into the matter, because Reacher is the only one who can do it. Unlike most of the settings of Reacher’s adventures that have taken place in the United States, here he travels across the Atlantic to Paris, and then to London. We bet this is going to be one Reacher novel worth the wait!
Reacher has been featured in many other novels written by different authors including Stephen King and Diane Capri. Also, a short story titled James Penney’s New Identity by Lee Child features Jack Reacher while he was still a captain in the Army. He is the one who helps James Penney during his state of predicament, when Penney accidentally ends up becoming a fugitive, a wanted criminal.
Another short story was published in the UK hardback edition of ‘Never Go Back‘, titled Everyone Talks. This story is being told from the perspective of a female detective who is investigating a case that involves shooting, while Reacher is in the hospital. It was also published in 2012, in the June/July edition of Esquire magazine.
Jack Reacher is not just a fictional character. For his avid fans, he is their hero. His do-or-die attitude, his stubbornness when it comes to morals and ethics, right and wrong, black and white, his witty sense of humor, all this makes you fall in love with this guy, irrespective of the brutality and violence. Therefore, we consider it as our duty to warn you―get hold of one book, and you won’t stop till you’ve read all. While different books have different pace, some being full of action while others being more focused towards the mental contemplation, rest assured, each page you read will only help you in understanding and enjoying Jack Reacher, and perhaps, live the action-packed adventure along with him.