The 10 Best Tom Clancy Books

Updated June 12, 2017 by Quincy Miller

10 Best Tom Clancy Books
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We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. If you enjoy technically accurate espionage and military stories set during and after the Cold War, pick up a title from our selection of Tom Clancy books, and then find a comfortable chair to curl up in. These fast-paced, highly-detailed thrillers will keep you turning the pages -- and wondering how much of it is actually true. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best tom clancy book on Amazon.

10. The Sum of All Fears

The Sum of All Fears may hit a little close to home nowadays, as it's based on a worst-case scenario: terrorists getting their hands on a nuclear weapon. The plot builds to a thrilling conclusion, while establishing Clancy as an author who is unwilling to pull any punches.
  • seamlessly switches narratives
  • plausible and horrifying story
  • starts off slowly
Publisher The Sum of All Fears
Model n/a
Weight pending
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

9. Cardinal of the Kremlin

If you want a white-knuckle spy thriller, Cardinal of the Kremlin is about two heroes fighting to prevent a war. Filled with looks at the machinery behind high-stakes diplomacy, this novel shows that the most unreliable element in war will always be the human one.
  • examines motives underlying conflict
  • thrilling race against the clock
  • longer than it needs to be
Publisher Cardinal of the Kremlin
Model n/a
Weight pending
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

8. Rainbow Six

Written years before 9/11, Rainbow Six nonetheless anticipated a world in which terrorist cells could cause as much fear as the most reckless rogue nations. Focusing on a special-ops team put together by John Clark and Ding Chavez, this novel is terrifyingly realistic.
  • fast-paced action scenes
  • colorful cast of commandos
  • not all characters fully developed
Publisher Berkley
Model n/a
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

7. Executive Orders

Picking up where "Debt of Honor" left off, Executive Orders places Jack Ryan in a situation he never expected he'd encounter -- serving as U.S. President. Struggling to rebuild the government while fighting wars on multiple fronts, Ryan has to learn fast or pay dearly.
  • filled with legal intrigue
  • conclusion is extremely satisfying
  • kindle edition filled with typos
Publisher Executive Orders
Model n/a
Weight pending
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

6. Patriot Games

Patriot Games is a chilling cat-and-mouse pursuit that is less technical and military-based than other Clancy books. It easily hooks the reader by dwelling on the human emotions of passion and revenge to keep you eagerly anticipating what's to come.
  • well-crafted and terrifying villain
  • keeps action and stakes personal
  • some unexciting filler chapters
Publisher Berkley
Model n/a
Weight 12.8 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

5. Red Storm Rising

If you've ever wondered who would win a war between the U.S. and Russia, Clancy gives us his best guess in Red Storm Rising. It's an unforgettable World War III book that's equal parts history lesson and prophecy, bringing each air, land, and sea battle scene to life.
  • timely geopolitical narrative
  • very engaging sub-plots
  • not a light read before bedtime
Publisher Berkley
Model n/a
Weight 12.8 ounces
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. Clear and Present Danger

Clear and Present Danger is a '90s classic about a covert war between American Special Forces and the Colombian drug cartels. Featuring a great blend of suspense and humor, it still resonates today due to its nuanced look at the causes and effects of the War on Drugs.
  • touches on law and politics
  • full of intrigue and betrayal
  • poses tough drug policy questions
Publisher Berkley
Model n/a
Weight 8.8 ounces
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

3. Debt of Honor

One of Clancy's most intricate tales, Debt of Honor weaves together stories involving industrial espionage, misguided patriotism, and economic policy to create a chillingly authentic look at just how easy it is for two nations to stumble into war with one another.
  • doesn't resort to use of stereotypes
  • plot is brisk and engaging
  • incredibly shocking ending
Publisher Debt of Honor
Model n/a
Weight pending
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

2. Without Remorse

Without Remorse is the story of how a lovestruck Navy SEAL crosses the lines of justice and morality to become the CIA legend known as Mr. Clark. It's gripping, suspenseful, and has heart-wrenching scenes that reel you in, culminating in a fulfilling act of vengeance.
  • superb action written in gory detail
  • raises relevant ethical issues
  • reminiscent of 70s revenge thrillers
Publisher Berkley
Model n/a
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. The Hunt for Red October

The Hunt for Red October is the one that started it all -- the novel that introduced the world to Jack Ryan and launched Clancy's phenomenal career. The details and scenarios are so realistic and accurate, some military insiders thought Clancy had committed espionage.
  • great submarine battles
  • deftly shows diplomatic chess moves
  • filled with suspense on every page
Publisher Clancy, Tom
Model n/a
Weight 14.1 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

Choosing A Tom Clancy Book

Newcomers to the writings of Tom Clancy are well-advised to start with the same book that put the writer on the literary map in 1987. His debut novel, The Hunt for Red October, is a gripping tale of a Cold War-era cat-and-mouse game played between cunning submariners. Clancy spent at least two years writing the book, and his work shows through in the technical accuracy and taut plot line of the October. This book was the first to feature Jack Ryan, a character many readers will come to feel they know as if he were a personal friend.

If you prefer not to dive right into a huge catalog of books centered around a single character and his exploits, yet you still want to experience Clancy's writing, his two standalone novels are Red Storm Rising, published in 1986, and Against All Enemies, which came out in 2011. In total, Clancy wrote (or co-authored) 21 novels; 19 of which featured his signature character, Jack Ryan, an accomplished military and intelligence officer who would eventually become a two-term president of the United States (this plot line commences in Debt of Honor).

While less well-known for his nonfiction writing, Clancy was the author of many books packed with real life stories and rich in information about actual military machinery, fighting units, and strategy. His nonfiction works explored everything from the soldiers, weaponry and the tactics of a Marine Expeditionary Unit to shelling light on what life is like aboard a nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed submarine. Tom Clancy's Military Reference books read with almost the same fast pace as his celebrated fictional works, yet are valid resources for the individual researching a given weapons system, special forces team, or other component of the modern American military. They are also simply pleasurable reads for anyone interested in the United States Army, Air Force, Navy, or Marine Corp.

Readers should note that Clancy did not write all of his books alone, often partnering with another author to complete his works. This was especially true later in the author's life. The last five book's Clancy published were all written with a partner. Mark Greaney assisted Clancy on the final three -- in fact, Greaney has continued to write books in the Jack Ryan series Clancy created, and is considered by many a worthy successor to the late master.

Movie Adaptations Of Tom Clancy's Work

In the modern era, the greatest tribute a book can receive is often to be made into a major motion picture. Tom Clancy's books received this honor many times over. (His works also inspired hugely successful video game franchises, for which he often consulted.)

While movies rarely do justice to the books on which they are based, watching a film after you have already read its source material is often a pleasure, and occasionally a disappointment. The film versions of Clancy's novels are generally accepted to be faithful and well-made movies, and they've starred some of Hollywood's most famous actors.

The film version of The Hunt for Red October came out in 1990 and starred Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan. The film also featured Sean Connery, James Earl Jones, and Sam Neill, among others in the cast. It grossed an estimated $200 million at the box office, having cost some $30 million to produce.

In 1992, Harrison Ford took over the role of Ryan, starring in the film Patriot Games, which was another box office success and earned generally favorable critical reviews. In 1994, Ford reprised the Ryan role in Clear and Present Danger, which earned more than $219 million in ticket sales and which is considered a critical success despite being largely devoid of memorable acting.

Then, in 2002, Ben Affleck was cast as Jack Ryan in the film adaptation of The Sum of All Fears. This film received largely mixed reviews, but it made back its budget several times over. Clancy's works have been the inspiration for other media projects, including a made-for-TV film and another theatrical motion picture, but these four films remain the only adaptations.

Tom Clancy: A Brief Biography

Tom Clancy came to writing at an age when most people are firmly set on a career path. He did not commence serious novel writing until he was well into his 30s, and did not see his first book published until he was 38. That debut publication was a life-changing event, however, with The Hunt for Red October eventually selling millions of copies, greatly aided by the praise of President Ronald Reagan, who called the book a "perfect yarn."

Clancy was born in 1947 in Baltimore, Maryland, the city in or near which he would spend much of his young life. Clancy attended both high school and college in Maryland, joining the Reserve Officer's Training Corp while studying at Loyola College. He would never serve in the military due to his poor eyesight, however.

Clancy took work with a Connecticut-based insurance agency after college, before moving back to Maryland in his later 20s. He took a job at a family-run insurance agency, which he would go on to purchase in the year 1980. His career as an insurance salesman was soon to come to an end, though.

Tom Clancy earned a $5,000 advance for October, which was published by the Naval Institute Press. His subsequent book advances would add on several zeroes; soon the author was earning millions of dollars for his writing, and by the end of the 1980s, he had established his brand of quick-paced, well-informed military-themed fiction.

With wealth and acclaim came two large homes, both of which were located in Maryland. Clancy had four children during his long first marriage, and one during his second. The author died in October of 2013 in a hospital in his native Baltimore. He was only 66 years old, but had already redefined the boundaries of fiction in the minds of many readers and critics.



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Last updated on June 12, 2017 by Quincy Miller

Quincy is a writer who was born in Texas, but moved to Los Angeles to pursue his life-long dream of someday writing a second page to one of his screenplays.


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