Marika is a bookaholic who makes handcrafted silver jewelry in her spare time.
Is Reading the Jack Reacher Novels in Order Worth It?
Should you read the Jack Reacher book series in order? This is a question almost all fans of Lee Child's novels have asked themselves, including me. Child has said that reading his books in the order they were published is not important, but I have found that reading them chronologically allows one to establish a useful timeline that can be used to identify references to previous scenes and moments.
For example, the novel The Enemy will mean more to you once you've already gotten to know Jack Reacher. Being familiar with the main character from the get-go creates an enhanced reading experience.
Jack Reacher has become very popular since the first novel, Killing Floor, was published. Since reading this book, I have been hooked on the series and wait eagerly each year for the author to release another book.
Lee Child's Jack Reacher Books in Order of Publication
There are many Jack Reacher books and, while each can pretty much stand alone, reading the series in order allows readers to follow a cohesive storyline, giving them a better understanding of the main character's quirks and complexities.
- Killing Floor (1997): Lee Child's first novel of the thriller series. This is also the novel that made him a famous author.
- Die Trying (1998): This second novel of the Jack Reacher series caused me to become deeply involved in the life of the tormented hero.
- Tripwire (1999)
- Running Blind (2000): In the United Kingdom, this addition to the series is called The Visitor.
- Echo Burning (2001)
- Without Fail (2002)
- Persuader (2003)
- The Enemy (2004): Although published after Killing Floor, this story takes place before the events depicted the first novel. Still, readers should finish the previous books before diving into this one.
- One Shot (2005)
- The Hard Way (2006)
- Bad Luck and Trouble (2007)
- Nothing to Lose (2008)
- Gone Tomorrow (2008)
- 61 Hours (2010)
- Worth Dying For (2010)
- Second Son (2011): This is a shorter novella within the series.
- The Affair (2011)
- Deep Down (2012): This is a shorter Jack Reacher story found only in ebook (Kindle) format.
- A Wanted Man (2012)
- High Heat (2013): This is a short novella.
- Never Go Back (2013)
- Not a Drill (2014): This is a short novella.
- Personal (2014)
- Make Me (2015)
- Night School (2016)
- The Midnight Line (2017)
- Past Tense (2018)
Summaries and Reviews
1. Killing Floor
Killing Floor is the first Jack Reacher novel ever written. Truth be told, this was the first book I read. Once I got through the first two books, I religiously read each new book in the series.
In this very first book, Jack Reacher gets arrested for murder and one of the victims is none other than his estranged brother. If he is to regain his freedom, he must find out who really killed his brother.
Reacher is a very complex antihero and one that is extremely likable despite trying his best not to be.
“I'm not a vagrant. I'm a hobo. Big difference.”
— Lee Child
2. Die Trying
The second installment of the Jack Reacher series is full of action and suspense that will keep you turning the page until you reach the last one.
In this novel, Reacher and Holly, an FBI agent, are taken hostage. It seems they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time . . . or were they in the right place at the right time to stop a crime from being committed?
In this novel, we find Jack Reacher broke and working two jobs in the Florida Keys. By day he digs ditches and by night he works as a bouncer at a local strip club. He is quite content with this relatively peaceful lifestyle until he finds a private investigator by the name of Costello dead on the street. Costello had been keeping tabs on Reacher and, after finding him murdered near the strip club, the protagonist realizes his days in paradise are over.
4. Running Blind
In Running Blind, titled The Visitor in the United Kingdom, Reacher is under suspicion for the murder of two servicewomen whom he knew.
When a third woman is found dead, Jack starts his own investigation in order to find the killer and avenge the women.
The more Jack Reacher books you read, the more you will like this reluctant hero. In a way, he reminds me of Michael Connelly's character Harry Bosch, yet with his own personal style and charm.
5. Echo Burning
In Echo Burning, our hero returns for another installment of fun, thrill, and suspense. We find him hitchhiking his way through Texas when a woman named Carmen comes along in her shiny, new Cadillac and picks him up.
Of course, she comes with her own set of problems that only Reacher can fix. Her husband and the police are of no use to her, so, of course, Reacher saves the day.
All of these books are rather predictable in style, but they're so much fun to read that the repetitive plot doesn't take away from their quality.
“I know I'm smarter than an armadillo.”
— Lee Child
6. Without Fail
Without Fail starts with a bang: Jack is asked by the secret service to kill the Vice President of the United States. That's one request he doesn't get every day!
I won't spoil the fun by giving away the plot, but let's just say this book is filled with constant action and suspense.
Quinn, Jack Reacher's nemesis, is back. Reacher thought he had eliminated him many years ago, but it seems he was wrong. To kill him for good, our hero has to go undercover.
This is yet another book you simply can't put down. It starts a bit slow, but as it picks up the pace there are twists and turns at every corner.
8. The Enemy
The Enemy takes place before the events in Killing Floor. The year is 1990 and a general is found dead in a hotel room in North Carolina.
While the cause of death is apparently a heart attack, it seems there's more to the story than meets the eye. Jack gets involved with the hope of solving the case.
This book is full of non-stop action and makes for a fun and fast read.
9. One Shot
In this novel Reacher is finally on vacation. He spends his time enjoying the sun and beaches of Miami with a gorgeous blonde by his side. But his stay in paradise doesn't last long. He must find a sniper who has ruthlessly killed five people at random.
While the killer is easily found, he pleads not guilty, creating difficulties for the prosecution. But Jack Reacher is yet again at his best, following leads, solving crimes, and being his adorable, gloomy self.
10. The Hard Way
Trouble always finds Reacher, especially when he's not looking for it. In this novel, he is quietly sipping espresso at a café when he's dragged into solving a kidnapping case.
No stranger to violence, he uses expertise and charm to solve the puzzle. Sure, the story is a bit predictable, but it's just as enjoyable as Child's first novel.
11. Bad Luck and Trouble
Jack Reacher is alone again and couldn't be happier, but this solitude doesn't last long. One of his old team members has been thrown out of a helicopter, leaving Reacher no option but to get involved.
He meets up with a few of his old teammates to investigate why their friend was killed and why others from their squad have disappeared.
For some reason, this book didn't grab me as much as the others. However, it's still a great read. Jack seems a bit more mellow and soft compared to his character in previous novels.
“Now they broke my toothbrush, I don't own anything.”
— Lee Child
12. Nothing to Lose
As usual, we find Jack Reacher alone. this time walking on an empty road between two desolate towns because he can't find a ride. All he wants is a cup of coffee, but, otherwise, he's quite happy. This happiness is disrupted, though, when a band of thugs locates him.
This book was my least favorite of the Jack Reacher series. I couldn't relate to the story and found it a bit slow and dragging. It wasn't terrible, but I found that it didn't meet Lee Child's usual standard.
13. Gone Tomorrow
After the rather disappointing Nothing to Lose, in Gone Tomorrow we find Jack back and in full force. This book depicts the return of the old Jack as we know and love him. The story starts with a bang: Jack is in a subway in Manhattan when he witnesses an apparent suicide.
But the suicide may not be quite what it seems, and Jack is drawn to find out what really happened.
This is one of Lee Child's best books. Jack is back and all the ambiance and action we are used to has returned with him.
14. 61 Hours
61 Hours has a good, solid plot that reads quite fast. If you're seeking lots of action, this book probably isn't for you. In this novel, Reacher is more preoccupied with running after clues and solving puzzles than getting into fist fights.
“I'm not afraid of death. Death's afraid of me.”
— Lee Child
15. Worth Dying For
Worth Dying For is a perfect example of why you should read the Jack Reacher books in order. This story takes place shortly after the events depicted in 61 Hours. Action, suspense, thrill, and good old Jack are alive and well in this novel.
16. The Affair
Chronologically speaking, The Affair is a prequel, coming before Killing Floor, but after The Enemy.
It is 1997 and Reacher is still in the army. We learn more about why he dropped out of the military and how he became the loner he is.
The story is set in a small town like many of the previous books, and Jack has to find a murderer while simultaneously covering up a scandal. This is a great read which I highly recommend.
17. Deep Down
This is a shorter Jack Reacher story that takes place after the events in The Affair. Reacher's new assignment involves going undercover to find a spy who leaked information regarding a rifle the United States military is developing.
This being a rather short story, you won't find the complex character development of other Jack Reacher novels. However, for its size, I found it quite fast-paced and well-written, which are trademarks of Lee Child's writing.
One bonus is that Deep Down is cheaper than the other novels because of its size, so it's worth getting if you want to read everything by this author.
18. A Wanted Man
While the plot and style of A Wanted Man may seem a bit repetitive, it's exactly what the fans want. We are so used to the rugged Jack Reacher saving the world that seeing him do it again is extremely satisfying.
While this is a great read, I do agree with other readers that at times the repetitive plot can become a bit stale.
19. Not A Drill
Not A Drill is a short novella, spanning only 52 pages, which is squeezed between Never Go Back and Personal.
I was not impressed at all.
I love Lee Child's novels, but somehow the novellas, due to their short size probably, just can't achieve what the larger novels do. I've fallen for the trap before, yet I keep buying them . . . oh well.
20. Never Go Back
I was not disappointed by Never Go Back. Jack Reacher is back in action and depicted in the same style we know and expect from Lee Child.
This particular novel follows the events in 61 Hours, when Jack is trying to find Major Susan Turner, his new commanding officer, without any luck. He has his work cut out for him, and the action doesn't stop until the last page. I loved this book!
The army is different. Whatever else is wrong with it, you can trust your brother soldiers. And believe in them.
— Jack Reacher
Jack Reacher is alone and on the road until he is called back into action by the military, being the only one who can stop a killer who has taken an interest in the president of France.
After reading this book, I'm rather glad the series is coming to an end. I think the author has run out of steam and can't keep up. That's fine, for he has given us some great books, a great hero, and many hours of enjoyment. Everything good must come to an end.
© 2012 Marika
Should We Read The Lee Child Books In Chronological Order? - What do you think? Grab and chair and say Hello
Russ Marris on August 28, 2020:
Absolutely love these books. And I know you don’t need to read them in any order, put I’ve enjoyed doing so, keep them coming Lee
SHARON KRUMPE on March 30, 2020:
NO ANYTIME YOU PICK UP A BOOK IT NEVER LETS YOU DOWN.. YOU ABSOLUTLY CAN'T PUT THEM DOWN ANY BOOK ANY TIME AWESOME.
Denise on March 14, 2020:
LOVE the Jack Reacher books and Lee Childs is a great writer got them and read them over and over keep them coming
Betty Burton on February 15, 2020:
I have them on audiobooks. I have listened to some of them twice! Please keep them coming Mr. Child!!!!
Ralph on April 18, 2019:
Tom Cruise is a joke. A better choice would have been "The Rock"
Karen on February 15, 2019:
I have the perfect actor to portray Jack Reacher in movies:
Steve Burton who plays Jason Morgan on General Hospital.
He fits the character to a tee.
Douglas on September 01, 2018:
Tom Cruise as Reacher? Just killed the movie.
Steve Gregory on August 11, 2018:
The visitor is not on your list at number 4.
Nancy Steffan on January 31, 2018:
I read them in order and was hooked after book 1. Great character. I preordered the last two and read them in one day after receiving. Sasha Roiz would be a great Jack Reacher.
Maurice Glaude from Mobile on November 20, 2017:
I've never even heard of that movie Running blind. There are so many movies now it's hard to keep track. So many good ones go without notice.
Jeff on November 02, 2017:
Love the series although I haven’t read all of them yet. Tom Cruise as Reacher is a long stretch. Physically he is nothing like Reacher is described by Child plus he is a horrible actor. He works hard but can’t deliver a line without sounding like he is reading. Another great character/author combination is the Doc Ford series by Randy Wayne White. Check it out.
Barbara Radisavljevic from Paso Robles, CA on March 13, 2014:
I haven't read any of these yet, but I'd like to. I have found it's usually best to read a series of books in the right order. They make more sense that way.
bames24 lm on September 29, 2013:
I have a set of Jack Reacher books in my Kindle still waiting to be read. I guess I better start reading them then :)
anonymous on September 15, 2013:
@Faye Rutledge: Yes, it would take a long time to get current - but can you think of a better series to read in order. I take them to the gym with me and have large rubber bands to keep them open while working out on the elliptical - times FLIES by and I find myself cooling down for 10 or 15 minutes so I won't have to stop!
Faye Rutledge from Concord VA on September 06, 2013:
I always like to read in chronological order if I can, but in some cases you just can't. There are so many Reacher books, it would take a long time to get current. Reading any one of them would be a great start!
anonymous on August 29, 2013:
@anonymous: Try the Travis McGee series by John D MacDonald. Even Lee Child has recommended these books. They are great!
anonymous on August 26, 2013:
@anonymous: Try William Connelly's Harry Bosch, Ted Bell's Alex Hawke Series, J A Jance's J P Beaumont and Joanna Brady Series, so many great books, so little time.......
anonymous on August 23, 2013:
@anonymous: Try Mitch Rapp
Kristen from Boston on August 20, 2013:
I'm shopping for a new Lee Childs book and not sure if I feel like reading them in order or not. There are definite pros and cons, but usually with a good author like Childs it doesn't matter.
anonymous on August 17, 2013:
@anonymous: Try John Sanford and James Patterson
anonymous on August 16, 2013:
@John Dyhouse: I agree. I have read "A Wanted Man," #17, but have not yet read "Killing Floor," #1. Child does a good job of recapping pertinent facts, data, etc., to keep each book flowing on its own. I have only seven left to read (including the new one due out in September) and don't know yet what I will do next. Maybe I'll try the female Jack Reacher series.
RANADEEP on August 15, 2013:
Hey I haven't heard him before,now I got it and It is in my reading list,thanks you for sharing it!!
anonymous on August 12, 2013:
I am almost finished reading them all in order I have been averaging two books a week I will start the last book tomorrow. So now I have a problem I need to figure out what to read next. I love the Reacher type characters last author I read was Nelson Demille love the John Corey Character as well anyone have any suggestions?
anonymous on August 11, 2013:
@Frischy: If you get the E Book version you can make the characters as large as you want on the computer or tablet. The other choice is to get the audio version.
anonymous on August 04, 2013:
@anonymous: Hey John
My husband died at age 85, three years ago---without knowing the Reacher series---he would have loved them and so I am reading them for the both of us! I can't get enough! Read on!
anonymous on July 28, 2013:
I have almost read all the Jack Reacher books and thought you didn't really need to read them in order. But now I regret thinking that because at some parts or the story I didn't know what was going on.
anonymous on July 28, 2013:
I am retired age 79 going on 80 in Dec. I went to work part time for harric county kibery 4 years ago shelfing books. Love the work. This is when I saw a book by Lee Child. Yhey don't have all reacher book but I read all they have. Love the Jack Reacher books. Be glad when "Never go Back" is at HCPL.
anonymous on July 09, 2013:
I saw the phrase "ticket free", as in if he ever wants to get off ticket free. Not something we say in America.
We say to get off scott free , which ironically is a Scottish expression!
1. To completely get away with something, like murder.
Just amused by this. So many different slang terms.
anonymous on July 02, 2013:
Since Lee Child does not even write them in chronological order, It stands to reason that reading them that way isn't a priority.
John Dyhouse from UK on June 29, 2013:
Back again! I have been reading and catching up with these novels. I don't believe that reading them out of order has been a problem. They are so good anyway and they all stand on their own perfectly adequately
anonymous on June 16, 2013:
@anonymous: I so disagree, as I was very disappointed with Tom Cruise playing Reacher. Nothing like the character, first and foremost too too short. Did not have the look, almost a youthful baby face. I will not ever watch another Reacher movie with Cruise playing the roll
HalloweenRecipes on June 08, 2013:
Whenever I find a new author I enjoy reading I get all the books available and read them in chronological order. It just makes sense to me to do that even though with most authors you can read the books in any order you like. I am a big Jack Reacher fan.
PaulRyan on May 31, 2013:
I love the Jack Reacher novels and yes, I do read them in order (even if it's not necessary, it's just a "habit" of mine).
novelsinorder on May 21, 2013:
No real need to read in order - the "prequels" work better as backstory IMHO, and the rest are almost entirely self sufficient. As an acid test on the subject - I'd recommend picking up any one of them at an airport regardless of its place in the series
anonymous on April 06, 2013:
Cruises' acting ability was perfect for this part, but, Sasha Roiz (AKA Capt Renard) on the tv series Grimm would have been a great choice. Good acting ability and physically much closer to Reacher.
DvdMovieGirl on March 11, 2013:
Glad I have seen this as it really annoys me when I read books out of sequence. great idea for a Lens too.
badaniels on February 12, 2013:
I am a huge Lee Childs/Jack Reacher fan. I had fun reading this lens.
DecoratingEvents on February 01, 2013:
Very nice Jack Reacher Lens! I am a HUGE fan, as you know. I am almost finished reading the in order!
Tara Wojtaszek on January 19, 2013:
I haven't read any of the Jack Reacher books yet but you've piqued my curiosity. I'll have to check them out. Thanks.
Angela F from Seattle, WA on January 17, 2013:
Big fan of the series - can't imagine Tom Cruise in the title role tho on the big screen! *blessed
Lee from Derbyshire, UK on January 02, 2013:
Love the Jack Reacher books! I've got a Reacher lens to :-)
anonymous on December 31, 2012:
The movie was entertaining but Tom Cruise was extremely disappointing as Reacher. Forget the size issue. His attempt at the strong, silent, intimidating personality of Reacher just came off as comical overacting. Strutting around the motel room shirtless reminded me of his dressing room scene in Rock of Ages. Dozens of other actors could have done better. Despite this, it was an entertaining movie.
John Dyhouse from UK on December 31, 2012:
I have only just discovered Jack Reacher/Lee Child, I thought I was a fan of science fiction but I made up a number of books at a charity sale with a Jack Reacher novel. (6 for Â£1 - a bargain!) I was absolutely enthralled and read it in very short time, not being able to put it down. I have read a couple since but want to definitely read more. I will be reading them as I find them so going against your advice but I don't think that will affect the enjoyment. Thanks for the run down on the books.
Monica Lobenstein from Western Wisconsin on December 26, 2012:
I tend to like this genre of books. I'll be checking out Jack Reacher in the future. Thanks for the book list.
TedWritesStuff on December 19, 2012:
Had never heard of the character or series until the movie was advertised for release here on 3/1/13. I'll be seeing it.
Helen Phillips Cockrell from Virginia on December 14, 2012:
I've read all the Jack Reacher books...can't say I'm real happy about the choice of Tom Cruise to play Jack Reacher...just can't see it...
KatPalmer LM on November 24, 2012:
I love the Jack Reacher books and have read every one of them. Bad Luck and Trouble will always be my favourite because of all of his cheeky one-liners!
June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on November 21, 2012:
I am a huge fan of Jack Reacher. His more recent books are not as good as the earlier ones, though. He is turning into too much of a cowboy.
Loraine Brummer from Hartington, Nebraska on September 07, 2012:
I also enjoy the Jack Reacher books, I'm reading Tripwire right now, I'm afraid I haven't always read them in order.....but, I'm trying to catch up before reading the latest books. It takes a lot of imagination to think of Tom Cruise as Reacher!
BigAbbs on June 08, 2012:
The first one I read was "Without Fail" and is, I think, my favourite. I think I then started reading them in published order and was so hooked that I was trying to read them in just one sitting! "Echo Burning" I found hard-going, but my first real disappointment was "One Shot" - the first time I've found myself one (and more) steps ahead of the protagonist. I started finding them very formulaic and haven't yet read "61 Hours" or anything after. I probably will do at some point, though.
As for Tom Cruise playing Reacher - I really can't see it working. He's too old to do it now, but someone with a similar physical stature to Arnold Schwarzenneger is what I was expecting. So I was expecting a complete unknown to be cast as Reacher (like Sean Connery was unknown when cast as James Bond).
Have also heard that the film is now going to be called "Jack Reacher" because they think it will become a series of films. It gives me the opposite impression: a one-off and expected to flop.
However, I still think Lee Childs and Jack Reacher are my favourite author and character currently being written. Coming second is Andy McNabb and Nick Stone - and again I'm not up-to-date with them . . . and the first one I read (and favourite) was also Secret Service-related: "Crisis Four".
anonymous on April 26, 2012:
Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher-they turned Jack into a hobbit
JimDickens on April 12, 2012:
I would have preferred to see Matthew McConnaughy as Reacher instead of Tom Cruise -- Cruise is too short. Just finished The Affair. Great book
Renaissance Woman from Colorado on March 26, 2012:
I love the Jack Reacher series and have read all of these books. Other than the first book, I think I have read them in order. Can't wait for the next one to be published. I think Jack Reacher is one of the most interesting characters that has ever been developed. He is such an enigma.
PennyHowe on March 22, 2012:
Just wanted to say thanks for the great lens. I love the Jack Reacher books and have nearly read them all. I can hardly wait to get my hands on the new one. Enjoy! Having one of these to read on the National Goof Off day is my idea of a fun way to goof off!
DamienGC on February 23, 2012:
These are great books and easy to read, i've read pretty much all of them and as you come to expect from Child, it is fast paced, tense and fun to the end with a real protagonist that you will never tire of, probably why they sell so well despite being the same thing in different settings. But hey I'm not complaining i love these books! Great Lens! And as for reading them in order, its not necessary but it does give a nice sense of perspective to the reader which i enjoy more than just 16 stand alone thrillers
Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on February 18, 2012:
I've read some of them and I agre with you about reading a series in order. I'm halfway through that with the Bourne series by Robert Ludlum and Eric Von Lustbader.
Great info here for the likes of me who likes to follow a timeline
entertainmentev on February 16, 2012:
Great information! I love learning about new authors and books. I'm going to try to read the Killing Floor soon.