Dan Brown is best known for his riveting series featuring brilliant symbologist Robert Langdon, which have captivated readers for more than a decade. With dizzying conspiracies and stellar suspense, fans find it impossible to put down Brown’s books. If you’re looking for your fix before Origin is released this fall, here is a list of books that Brown himself recommends. Publishers’ descriptions included below.
The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
His memory is a blank. His bullet-ridden body was fished from the Mediterranean Sea. His face has been altered by plastic surgery. A frame of microfilm has been surgically implanted in his hip. Even his name is a mystery. Marked for death, he is racing for survival through a bizarre world of murderous conspirators — led by Carlos, the world’s most dangerous assassin. Who is Jason Bourne? The answer may kill him.
Brown says: “Ludlum’s early books are complex, smart, and yet still move at a lightning pace. This series got me interested in the genre of big-concept, international thrillers.”
Plum Island by Nelson DeMille
Taking the best elements from two of his most outstanding bestsellers, The Gold Coast and The General’s Daughter, Nelson DeMille combines the breathless suspense of an expertly wrought murder mystery with his wry perspective on a peculiarly American social scene to deliver an enthralling and compelling story.
Wounded in the line of duty, NYPD homicide detective John Corey convalesces in the Long Island township of Southold, home to farmers, fishermen — and at least one killer. Tom and Judy Gordon, a young, attractive couple Corey knows, have been found on their patio, each with a bullet in the head. The local police chief, Sylvester Maxwell, wants Corey’s big-city expertise, but Maxwell gets more than he bargained for.
The early signs point to a burglary gone wrong. But because the Gordons were biologists at Plum Island, the offshore animal disease research site rumored to be involved in germ warfare, it isn’t long before the media is suggesting that the Gordons stole something very deadly. Suddenly a local double murder becomes a crime with national and worldwide implications.
John Corey doesn’t like mysteries, which is why he likes to solve them. His investigations lead him into the lore, legends, and ancient secrets of northern Long Island — more deadly and more dangerous than he could ever have imagined. During his journey of discovery, he meets two remarkable women, Detective Beth Penrose and Mayflower descendant Emma Whitestone, both of whom change his life irrevocably. Ultimately, through his understanding of the murders, John Corey comes to understand himself.
Fast-paced and atmospheric, marked by entrancing characters, incandescent storytelling, and brilliant comic touches, Plum Island is Nelson DeMille at his thrill-inducing best.
Brown says: “[DeMille] remains the master of substance, wry humor, and controlled point of view.”
Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer
William Lowell Kane and Abel Rosnovski, one the son of a Boston millionaire, the other a penniless Polish immigrant-born on the same day near the turn of the century on opposite sides of the world-are brought together by fate and the quest of a dream. Two men — ambitious, powerful, ruthless — are locked in a relentless struggle to build an empire, fueled by their all-consuming hatred. Over sixty years and three generations, through war, marriage, fortune, and disaster, Kane and Abel battle for the success and triumph that only one man can have.
Coma by Robin Cook
They called it “minor surgery,” but Nancy Greenly, Sean Berman and a dozen others — all admitted to Boston Memorial Hospital for routine procedures — were victims of the same inexplicable, hideous tragedy on the operating table. They never woke up.
Susan Wheeler is a third-year medical student working as a trainee at Boston Memorial Hospital. Two patients during her residency mysteriously go into comas immediately after their operations due to complications from anesthesia. Susan begins to investigate the causes behind both of these alarming comas and discovers the oxygen line in Operating Room 8 has been tampered with to induce carbon monoxide poisoning.
Then Susan discovers the evil nature of the Jefferson Institute, an intensive care facility where patients are suspended from the ceiling and kept alive until they can be harvested for healthy organs. Is she a participant in — or a victim of — a large-scale black market dealing in human organs?
Brown says: “Thrillers like Coma, The Hunt for Red October, and The Firm all captivated me by providing glimpses into realms about which I knew very little — medical science, submarine technology, and the law.”
The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
The runaway bestseller that launched Tom Clancy’s phenomenal career.
A military thriller so gripping in its action and so convincing in its accuracy that the author was rumored to have been debriefed by the White House. Its theme: the greatest espionage coup in history. Its story: the chase for a top secret Russian missile sub. Lauded by the Washington Post as “breathlessly exciting,” The Hunt for Red October remains a masterpiece of military fiction by one of the world’s most popular authors, a man whose shockingly realistic scenarios continue to hold us in thrall.
The Firm by John Grisham
When Mitch McDeere signed on with Bendini, Lambert & Locke of Memphis, he thought that he and his beautiful wife, Abby, were on their way. The firm leased him a BMW, paid off his school loans, arranged a mortgage, and hired the McDeeres a decorator. Mitch should have remembered what his brother Ray — doing 15 years in a Tennessee jail — already knew: You never get nothing for nothing. Now the FBI has the lowdown on Mitch’s firm and needs his help. Mitch is caught between a rock and a hard place, with no choice — if he wants to live.
The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
The Divine Comedy, translated by Allen Mandelbaum, begins in a shadowed forest on Good Friday in the year 1300. It proceeds on a journey that, in its intense recreation of the depths and the heights of human experience, has become the key with which Western civilization has sought to unlock the mystery of its own identity.
Mandelbaum’s astonishingly Dantean translation, which captures so much of the life of the original, renders whole for us the masterpiece of that genius whom our greatest poets have recognized as a central model for all poets.
This Everyman’s edition — containing in one volume all three cantos, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso — includes an introduction by Nobel Prize-winning poet Eugenio Montale, a chronology, notes, and a bibliography. Also included are forty-two drawings selected from Botticelli’s marvelous late-fifteenth-century series of illustrations.
Brown says: “The Divine Comedy — like the Mona Lisa — is one of those rare artistic achievements that transcends its moment in history and becomes an enduring cultural touchstone… [It] speaks to us centuries after its creation and is considered an example of one of the finest works ever produced in its artistic field.”
Contact by Carl Sagan
Pulitzer Prize-winning author and astronomer Carl Sagan imagines the greatest adventure of all — the discovery of an advanced civilization in the depths of space.
In December of 1999, a multinational team journeys out to the stars, to the most awesome encounter in human history. Who — or what — is out there? In Cosmos, Carl Sagan explained the universe. In Contact, he predicts its future — and our own.
Brown says: In a New York Times interview, Brown lists Contact as one of his “favorites through the years.”
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Dracula is the ultimate horror story, producing one of literature’s most lasting villains: Count Dracula. A harrowing, memorable, and enduring story about the world’s most famous vampire.
A true masterwork of storytelling, Dracula has transcended generation, language, and culture to become one of the most popular novels ever written. It is a quintessential tale of suspense and horror, boasting one of the most terrifying characters ever born in literature: Count Dracula, a tragic, night-dwelling specter who feeds upon the blood of the living, and whose diabolical passions prey upon the innocent, the helpless, and the beautiful. But Dracula also stands as a bleak allegorical saga of an eternally cursed being whose nocturnal atrocities reflect the dark underside of the supremely moralistic age in which it was originally written — and the corrupt desires that continue to plague the modern human condition.
Brown says: “[It] was such a lesson in creating suspense that I couldn’t put it down.”
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
It was a dark and stormy night. Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.
“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”
A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.
Brown says: Brown describes his childhood memories of reading A Wrinkle in Time: “[W]hen I finished the book, I remember crying with relief that everything had worked out…. It was in that moment that I became aware of the magic of storytelling and the power of the printed word.”
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Two couples — Benedick and Beatrice, and Hero and Claudio — must overcome deception, gossip, and, occasionally, their own misplaced pride if their love is to persevere. Aided by military commander Don Pedro and impeded by his brother Don John, the friends go to great lengths in the pursuit of marriage.
Known as The Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare is arguably the greatest English-language writer known. Enormously popular during his life, Shakespeare s works continue to resonate more than three centuries after his death, as has his influence on theatre and literature. Shakespeare s innovative use of character, language, and experimentation with romance as tragedy served as a foundation for later playwrights and dramatists, and some of his most famous lines of dialogue have become part of everyday speech.
Brown says: “I didn’t understand how funny this play truly was until I became an English teacher and had to teach it. There is no wittier dialogue anywhere.”
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
A controversial tale of friendship and tragedy during the Great Depression.
Over 75 years since its first publication, Steinbeck’s tale of commitment, loneliness, hope, and loss remains one of America’s most widely read and taught novels. An unlikely pair, George and Lennie, two migrant workers in California during the Great Depression, grasp for their American Dream. They hustle work when they can, living a hand-to-mouth existence. For George and Lennie have a plan: to own an acre of land and a shack they can call their own. When they land jobs on a ranch in the Salinas Valley, the fulfillment of their dream seems to be within their grasp. But even George cannot guard Lennie from the provocations, nor predict the consequences of Lennie’s unswerving obedience to the things George taught him.
Of Mice and Men represents an experiment in form, which Steinbeck described as “a kind of playable novel, written in a novel form but so scened and set that it can be played as it stands.” A rarity in American letters, it achieved remarkable success as a novel, a Broadway play, and three acclaimed films.
Brown says: “Simple, suspenseful, and poignant.”
Have you read any of Brown’s favorite books? Tell us in the comments!
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