Indiana Jones is a beloved character because of his unflinching thirst for truth, knowledge, and treasure. Few characters in literature and film alike have captivated audiences of millions in the way that Indiana Jones has. Sure, Harrison Ford has something to do with that, but it’s the writing that pulls the audience in.
Films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Temple of Doom have been just as influential on books as they have been on movies. Historical adventures have existed since long before Raiders of the Lost Ark, but that film definitely introduced them to a wider audience.
While the film isn’t directly based on a book, you can find traces of classic novels and early comic books all over it. Indiana Jones is a beloved character because he is relatable but he does things that few people would dare to attempt. He is far from the only character like that, however.
For the last several decades, many novels have come out that exemplifies the influence of Indiana Jones. Authors like Clive Cussler, James Rollins, and Dan Brown have given readers many similar adventurous protagonists. Follow along as we highlight the 20 best books like Indiana Jones for you to add to your reading list.
Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
Angels and Demons is the book that introduced the world to Robert Langdon. Much like Indiana Jones, Robert Langdon isn’t deterred by the threat of danger. Instead, he follows clues where they lead him whether he winds up in life-threatening situations or not.
You will like Angels and Demons if you appreciate the historical aspects of the Indiana Jones films. This book is available online, and it’s worth reading the sequels and watching the film adaptation when you finish it.
The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis
Many of the greatest adventure stories are true. That is the case with The Serpent and the Rainbow which is one of the craziest non-fiction books of all time. In many ways, Wade Davis is the real-life Indiana Jones regarding his thirst for knowledge and adventure.
Wade Davis documents his time in Haiti trying to get to the bottom of fascinating local traditions. To say more would spoil some of the most surprising aspects of this true story, and it is a captivating read.
Amazonia by James Rollins
Amazonia features a charming protagonist that is just as captivating as Indiana Jones. Nathan Rand is a brave and intelligent hero with a troubled past. He is a scientist instead of a professor, and he winds up in a mysterious and sinister situation in the jungle that would even scare Indiana Jones.
This is the kind of book that takes you on a journey as James Rollins slowly unravels the plot. You can find Amazonia online here, and it’s worth checking out his other books like Sandstorm.
The Mayan Secrets by Clive Cussler and Thomas Perry
Clive Cussler and Thomas Perry’s book The Mayan Secrets is an example of how to write a thrilling historical fiction novel. The protagonists, Sam and Remi have a similar dynamic to Indiana and Marion.
This book pulls you in as you eagerly await whatever lies at the end of the journey. The Mayan codex that is central to the plot keeps readers invested.
The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Lost World is a classic example of how many early adventure books still hold up to this day. This book follows an expedition into the Amazon where prehistoric animals still live and thrive. Professor Challenger isn’t as patient or charming as Indiana Jones, but he is a captivating character.
Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
Published in 1864, it would be an understatement to say that Journey to the Center of the Earth was ahead of its time. The protagonist Professor Otto Lidenbrock is a precursor to adventurers like Indiana Jones in many ways.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Few historical adventures are as thrilling as The Book Thief. Like the first Indiana Jones film, The Book Thief takes place nearly 100 years ago. What makes this book the most unique is that it is narrated by Death.
The narration sets this book apart from similar historical adventure books. Liesel is a lovable protagonist and you can’t help but become invested in her story.
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
The Amazon is the location for many historical books that are similar to Indiana Jones. However, few are as constantly entertaining as The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon. This non-fiction book follows Perry Fawcett’s journey into the Amazon in 1925.
His search for a once-thriving civilization leads to his disappearance. Buy this book if you are a fan of true stories that are so wild that they seem like the work of Hollywood.
Sandstorm by James Rollins
James Rollins may be the king of historical adventures, and Sandstorm is the perfect example of why. The first installation in the Sigma Force franchise, Sandstorm follows Painter Crowe who could easily go toe-to-toe with Indiana Jones.
This story takes you across the world in a competition to reach a coveted mythical location. Things heat up as Painter and his competitors draw closer. You can find this book online here.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
The Da Vinci Code is a thrilling sequel to Angels and Demons. While you can read it without having read the first installment, it’s worth reading them both. Robert Langdon finds himself in the middle of another mystery centered around a murder in a museum.
This murder gives way to a grand conspiracy that spans history, religion, art, and culture. Check out The Da Vinci Code before you watch the movie because the adaptation leaves many details out.
The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl
Set in 1865, The Dante Club is an impressively well-researched historical mystery. Worlds collide when a serial killer runs rampant as a committee tries to translate The Divine Comedy. It is a true murder mystery, but its roots in history and literature set this book apart.
Pick up The Dante Club if you’re a fan of books that keep you guessing until the end.
The Lincoln Myth by Steve Berry
The Lincoln Myth features an Indiana Jones-type hero in Cotton Malone. Cotton Malone simply wants to sell books and antiques, but his thirst for knowledge and adventure always gets the best of him. His background as a U.S. operative comes in handy when he winds up on an adventure that takes him across the world.
The context of the Civil War and its aftermath can be felt at every point of this adventure. Check out The Lincoln Myth if you want an informative and entertaining adventure.
The Hunt For Atlantis by Andy McDermott
The Hunt For Atlantis is a great introduction to the characters Nina and Eddie. Nina is well-versed in history and language, and that comes in handy for the adventures they embark on. Eddie is more of the muscle and helps drive a lot of the book’s action.
Their dangerous journey to the lost city of Atlantis is full of twists, turns, and conflicting interests. It’s also the first installment in a long series that continues to get better as it goes.
Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
Labyrinth does a great job of showing the ties between the past and the present. This book hops back and forth between 2005 and 1209. Kate Mosse succeeds at keeping you invested in the present protagonist, Alice, and the past protagonist, Alais.
The stories intertwine in ways that you will need to experience for yourself. You can find this book here online.
Pacific Vortex by Clive Cussler
Dirk Pitt is as close to Indiana Jones as it gets. His journey in Pacific Vortex is not unlike something that you’d see Indiana Jones go through on the big screen. Dirk comes across a cryptic message in the water leading to his discovery of a vortex in the Pacific.
How this vortex led to the disappearance of a ship and its crew and what it means for Dirk is why this book is worth reading.
Napoleon’s Pyramids by William Dietrich
Napoleon’s Pyramids succeeds in combining history, adventure, and pulpy action. The first installment in a series, this book introduces you to Ethan Gage who is quite similar to Indiana Jones. His journey to solve a cryptic riddle in Egypt is not unlike something you’d see in a Hollywood blockbuster.
Much like Indiana Jones, Ethan relies on old relics and archeology to reach the end of his adventure. Check this book out if you want a white-knuckle reading experience.
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston
Sometimes, the best adventure stories are entirely true. Such is the case with The Lost City of the Monkey God. This nonfiction account tells the story of multinational explorers and filmmakers in Honduras. They use lidar technology to find sites to explore, and it leads to interesting discoveries.
Douglas Preston does a great job of making their discoveries palatable to the reader, and you can find it here.
Doc Savage: The Desert Demons by Kenneth Robeson
Doc Savage: The Desert Demons combines the pulpy action of 1940s crime novels with Raiders of the Lost Ark. It is the first in a reboot series of the iconic Doc Savage character.
This time, Doc Savage goes on a journey across the country fighting against and getting to the bottom of a strange phenomenon. Check this book out if you like your adventure books to be slightly humorous and fun.
Ice Hunt by James Rollins
Ice Hunt is the type of adventure that makes you equally eager and reluctant to turn the page. That’s because your desire to find out what happens next is overshadowed by the horror of the situation in some instances.
Centered around a seemingly abandoned former Soviet base, this book is not what you may think it is from the first 50-100 pages. From hairless creatures to vortexes, there is no shortage of crazy surprises that James Rollins throws at the reader in this book.
Declare by Tim Powers
The best adventure books provide a charming and relatable protagonist. Andrew Hale is a great protagonist because of his past experiences that molded him and continue to haunt him. Brave and serious like Indiana Jones, Andrew doesn’t back down when his past comes back to haunt him.
The most unique aspect of this book is that it adds a supernatural element to the story. To say more about that would spoil the plot. Luckily, this book is readily available online for you to enjoy.
Check out books like Serpent and the Rainbow and Angels and Demons if you like Indiana Jones. Each of the books in this guide has protagonists that are just as hungry for adventure and knowledge as Indiana Jones. Whether it be Clive Cussler or Dan Brown, many authors capture the spirit of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Is Indiana Jones based on a book?
Indiana Jones isn’t based on a book, but the character is inspired by old pulp characters from comics, books, and radio serials. However, the film Raiders of the Lost Ark was later adapted into a book.
Who was the real-life inspiration for Indiana Jones?
Many people believe that Indiana Jones was inspired by a man named Roy Chapman Andrews. Like Indiana Jones, he was an academic and archeologist with a taste for adventure.
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