2 Ways to Read Jack Reacher Books in Order by Lee Child

With the popularity of the Amazon Prime show Reacher, many have been captivated by the character for the first time and are wondering how to read the Jack Reacher books in order. There are two recommended reading orders depending on how familiar you are with Lee Child’s world and popular main character.

Of course, as is the case with most action-packed mystery thrillers, it is possible to read the Jack Reacher books as standalones. That’s because each book has its own self-contained storyline and arc.

However, Lee Child’s debut novel is the best introduction to the character and the series. There are other benefits to following the structure of a reading order which include making sure you don’t miss a book or forget which ones you’ve read.

But before we dive into the list of Jack Reacher books in order, let’s learn a little bit more about the author himself.

Who is Lee Child?

Lee Child, whose real name is James Grant, is a British author who got his start writing in a somewhat unconventional way, but one every potential author can look up to.

After high school, he went to law school, but upon graduating actually got involved with part-time theater work. When his time there was over he went to work for Granada Television in Manchester for 18 years.

But in 1995 he was fired as the company restructured internally. Instead of look at it as a time of crisis, he turned to his passion for reading and decided to write a book. With just a pen and pad of paper he sat down to write The Killing Floor.

The book was an immediate success and the series has since sold more than 100 million copies. The novels have also been translated into 49 languages.

Did Lee Child Retire?

Lee Child announced in January of 2020 that he would be retiring from writing and that his brother, Andrew Grant (taking the pen name Andrew Child), would be taking over the Jack Reacher series.

Lee Child intends to co-author the books with Andrew for a little while before completely handing over the reins, but Andrew is doing most of the leg work.

So don’t worry Reacher fans, Andrew has had years of practice sounding like his older brother Lee and it’s nearly impossible to tell where one author ends and the other begins.

2 Ways to Read Jack Reacher Books in Order

#1 Jack Reacher Books in Order of Publication

The publication order is the easiest way to read Lee Child’s books in order to ensure you don’t get lost in between the journey. This reading order also begins with Child’s debut novel, which is the best introduction to the character and series.

  1. Killing Floor (1997)
  2. Die Trying (1998)
  3. Tripwire (1999)
  4. Running Blind (2000) (Also published as The Visitor)
  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)
  14. 61 Hours (Spring 2010)
  15. Worth Dying For (Fall 2010)
  16. Second Son (2011) (Short Story)
  17. The Affair (2011)
  18. Deep Down (2012) (Short Story)
  19. Everyone Talks (2012) (Short Story)
  20. A Wanted Man (2012)
  21. High Heat (2013) (Short Story)
  22. Never Go Back (2013)
  23. Not a Drill (2014) (Short Story)
  24. Personal (2014)
  25. Small Wars (2015) (Short Story)
  26. Make Me (2015)
  27. Night School (2016)
  28. No Middle Name (2017) (Short Story Collection)
  29. The Midnight Line (2017)
  30. The Christmas Scorpion (2018) (Short Story)
  31. Past Tense (2018)
  32. The Fourth Man (2019) (Short Story – No longer available)
  33. Blue Moon (2019)
  34. The Sentinel (2020)
  35. Better Off Dead (2021)
  36. No Plan B (2022)
  37. The Secret (2023)
  38. In Too Deep (Expected: October 21, 2024)

It is easy to tick off your reading journey from this order, unlike reading what you want without any order at all.

#2 Jack Reacher Books in Chronological Order

If you’re like me, you might prefer to read Jack Reacher’s tale in chronological order. Normally, I would recommend against this for spoiler purposes. But since the Jack Reacher books are standalones, you can read them however you like. You won’t be spoiled by jumping around.

There are a few recurring characters, but their relationship development with Reacher doesn’t change all that much. It’s not like you’ll skip ahead and find Reacher married with three kids and wonder how he got there.

But if that is a concern, then chronological order is the one for you.

  1. Second Son (2011) (Short Story) – Takes place in 1974
  2. High Heat (2013) (Short Story) – Takes place in 1977
  3. Deep Down (2012) (Short Story) – Takes place in 1986
  4. Small Wars (2015) (Short Story) – Takes place in 1989
  5. The Enemy (2004) – Takes place in 1990
  6. The Secret (2023) – Takes place in 1992
  7. Night School (2016) – Takes place in 1996
  8. The Affair (2011) – Takes place in 1997
  9. Killing Floor (1997)
  10. Die Trying (1998)
  11. Tripwire (1999)
  12. Running Blind (2000) (Also published as The Visitor)
  13. Echo Burning (2001)
  14. Without Fail (2002)
  15. Persuader (2003)
  16. One Shot (2005)
  17. The Hard Way (2006)
  18. Bad Luck and Trouble (2007)
  19. Nothing to Lose (2008)
  20. Gone Tomorrow (2009)
  21. 61 Hours (Spring 2010)
  22. Worth Dying For (Fall 2010)
  23. A Wanted Man (2012)
  24. Everyone Talks (2012) (Short Story)
  25. Never Go Back (2013)
  26. Not a Drill (2014) (Short Story)
  27. Personal (2014)
  28. Make Me (2015)
  29. No Middle Name (2017) (Short Story Collection)
  30. The Midnight Line (2017)
  31. The Christmas Scorpion (2018)
  32. Past Tense (2018)
  33. The Fourth Man (2019) (Short Story – No longer available)
  34. Blue Moon (2019)
  35. The Sentinel (2020)
  36. Better Off Dead (2021)
  37. No Plan B (2022)
  38. In Too Deep (Expected: October 21, 2024)

Now that we’ve had a birds-eye view of the best way to read the Jack Reacher books in order, let’s answer a few Frequently Asked Questions.

Do I start with Killing Floor or The Enemy?

The first Jack Reacher novel is Killing Floor. It was the first book Lee Child wrote. But if you’re looking for the earliest Jack Reacher book in the timeline, it’s The Enemy.

I started where most people do, reading The Killing Floor. But after reading the second book, Die Trying, I did some research and discovered The Enemy took place while Jack was still Military Police, years earlier.

The Enemy actually falls 8th in publication order, so I could have held it off a lot longer. But I am the type of person that prefers to read in chronological order whenever possible without encountering spoilers.

I do feel that Killing Floor gives you a better picture of who Jack Reacher is and sets the tone for the series more. While The Enemy features a few characters and situations that are spoiled by Jack Reacher’s recollections in Killing Floor.

If you’re coming into the series fresh, having never read a Jack Reacher book before and you aren’t sure if you’re going to like it, then read Killing Floor first. I think it will hook you better.

If you know you’re going to commit to reading all the books, then start with The Enemy. Just understand that Jack Reacher is a loner and a drifter in the main series. This is the only entry with him active in the military.

Reacher Book-to-Screen Adaptations

There are now two versions of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher that have graced screens and both have evoked very different reactions among book fans.

The first adaptation starred Tom Cruise in the titular role of Reacher as part of a film franchise. While the casting choice caused controversy among the fandom, the 2012 film Jack Reacher and its 2016 sequel Jack Reacher: Never Go Back were financially successful at the box office. Collectively, the two movies grossed more than $380 million at box offices around the world.

However, in the books Jack Reacher is described as blond, 6-feet-5-inches, and weighing more than 250 pounds. This is almost the polar opposite of Tom Cruise, so while Cruise was able to convey the emotion and drive behind Reacher, fans were never truly able to accept him as the character.

This made the announcement of a new television series adaptation starring Alan Ritchson all the more exciting. Fans could immediately picture Ritchson with his dominating stature as Jack Reacher.

The first season of Reacher was an immediate success.

Is Season 2 of Reacher Out Yet?

The second season has not yet premiered, but Amazon has confirmed it will hit small screens in December 2023.

The first season of the adaptation premiered on Amazon Prime in February 2022 and just days after its premiere it was renewed for a second season. That first season adapted Killing Floor, while the second season will jump ahead in the series to adapt Bad Luck and Trouble.

This does not follow the Jack Reacher books in order of publication, but the showrunner says they will be keeping with the chronological order in the show’s world. This makes sense as Bad Luck and Trouble, the 11th book in publication order, reveals more about Reacher’s backstory.

Summary of the Jack Reacher Books in Order

Killing Floor Jack Reacher Books in Order

1. Killing Floor

Killing Floor is the very first Jack Reacher book. Centered around a sleepy town in Georgia, Reacher finds himself accused of murder in a place he’s never visited before.

He’ll have to convince the local authorities he wasn’t involved, and to do that he might just have to solve the case himself.

Die Trying Lee Child Books in Order

2. Die Trying

Jack Reacher is randomly kidnapped outside a dry cleaners with a woman he doesn’t know all because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. What he doesn’t know is that the woman was the target and she has a secret that could get them both killed.

Tripwire Lee Child

3. Tripwire

Jack Reacher is living in Florida under the radar. When a private investigator tracks him down, he ignores the man. But when the PI turns up dead, he leaves for New York to track down who hired him and figure out what was so important it got the investigator killed.

The Visitor Jack Reacher

4. Running Blind / The Visitor

Jack Reacher ones again finds himself the suspect in a murder. But not a single murder. All across the country, women are dying without any evidence or trace. But there is one thing that each of the women has in common, and it’s Jack Reacher.

Echo Burning Jack Reacher Books in Order

5. Echo Burning

Jack Reacher is hitchhiking across the Texas desert and with nowhere to go and no timeline to get there. It’s along the way that he meets Carmen Greer.

When Carmen picks him up, Reacher isn’t expecting the story she tells him or that he’s a part of her plan. Before the day is over, it could cost them their lives.

Without Fail Lee Child Books in Order

6. Without Fail

The Secret Service wants Jack Reacher to assassinate the Vice President.

In theory, anyway.

When a mysterious group sets their sights on the vice president, it’ll be up to Reacher to figure out how they plan to do it and stop it before they succeed.

Persuader Lee Child

7. Persuader

Jack Reacher teams up with DEA agent Susan Duffy to rescue one her agents she sent into harms way. Reacher stages a ruse that plunges him into the heart of a criminal enterprise to confront his past and right his wrongs.

The Enemy Lee Child Jack Reacher Books in Order

8. The Enemy

On New Year’s Day in 1990, as the Berlin Wall is coming down, a two-star general is found dead in a North Carolina Motel. His briefcase is missing, but nobody has any idea what was inside. Reacher has to control the situation, but it gets out of hand when the general’s wife gets killed too. The dominoes begin to fall apart after that.

Reacher is forced to question everything he once believed… About his family, his career, his loyalties, and also about himself. 

One Shot Jack Reacher

9. One Shot

James Barr is accused of killing five people, but he insists he’s innocent and he wants Jack Reacher to prove it. As soon as Reacher hears what he has to say, the case explodes. Reacher teams up with the DA’s daughter to work against him and reveal the prosecution has secrets of its own.

The Hard Way Lee Child

10. The Hard Way

Edward Lane will do anything to get his family back, including hiring Jack Reacher to find them. Along the way, Reacher discovers the sordid past of his employer, but by then, he’s in too deep and the only way out is to clean up the mess or die trying.

Final thoughts

Each of these books has gripping suspense that captures the reader’s mind from the first to the last page. Jack Reacher is one of the best characters you will ever encounter in these mystery murder stories. 

So, have you read Jack Reacher books in order? In what order did you read them? Or, have you recently discovered these intriguing books? What reading order are you planning to use? 

Let us know in the comments below. 

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4 thoughts on “2 Ways to Read Jack Reacher Books in Order by Lee Child

  1. I’m struggling a bit here….I want to read them in strict chronological order so do I read No middle name first, as recommended or The Enemy or The Killing Floor ? Please advise. Kind regards, Pete.

    1. No Middle Name is a series of short stories. They time hop all over the place and aren’t in strict chronological order. There are also stories that take place later after the other books.

      The Enemy is the first full book chronologically and then onto Killing Floor. There are shorts before that, though, in No Middle Name

  2. Jack Reacher is my favorite book character of all time. I am an avid reader. Reacher just seems so real, not a superhero, but he has all the nuances of a man who is comfortable in his own skin.

  3. I read the books in chronological order, but then I found the two books about when Jack was 13 and 16, and that made me want to read them in order of his age or by the year they are supposed to take place. I can’t tell you how many times I read Second Son and High Heat! I really like Jack Reacher’s character, so I wanted to see what made him tick…hence reading them in a different order than they were written.

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