The Jack Reacher novels are one of the most popular mystery book series ever written. The series was started in 1997 with the publication of Killing Floor.
The series has since grown in magnitude and popularity ever since, resulting in an impressive 36 novels, short stories, and novellas so far.
Best of all for fans of this fan-favorite series is that there are more books still to come, and Jack Reacher’s story isn’t over yet.
All of the books in the series have been written by Jim Grant under the pseudonym Lee Child with a couple being co-written by guest authors.
The series has maintained a steady publication rate of one per year since its inception, with the exception of 2010 when fans were treated to a double publication.
Thanks to the popularity of the Jack Reacher book series, two Hollywood movie adaptations were made in 2012 and 2016 starring Tom Cruise.
A streamed television series was launched in 2022 starring Alan Ritchson on Amazon Prime, and because of this, new fans are flocking to the series.
However, it can be confusing to work out which order the books should be read in.
If you find yourself wondering which book in the series you should start with, you are in the right place.
We are going to look at the definitive order in which you should read the Jack Reacher series.
About Jack Reacher
The Jack Reacher book series has become famous for the sheer number of novels and novellas that make up the series, and it’s still growing.
The series is also popular for how easy it is to read. Each of the books is a stand-alone story that can be read separately from the other books in the series.
This gives readers huge freedom in terms of how they enjoy the books.
The series is very aptly named as it focuses solely on the titular character Jack Reacher. Jack is an ex-military policeman who has become a drifter since leaving the force.
Throughout the series, Jack travels around the United States, taking odd jobs to get by. During his stays in different states and towns, Jack finds himself investigating situations that are suspicious and often dangerous.
With so many different books that follow the same plot formula, the series runs the risk of the stories becoming repetitive and redundant.
However, the Jack Reacher series is renowned for its complex and layered characters that provide a strong base for the plot to build around.
Lee Child’s writing style is also incredible at drawing readers into the world of the titular character.
One of the main things that make this book series stand out from others, is the combination of full novels, novellas, and short stories that make up the whole story.
The range of publications makes the series accessible to all types of readers.
Let’s take a look at the chronological order of the books in the Jack Reacher series for fans who want to discover Jack Reacher from the very beginning.
Jack Reacher Books In Chronological Order
The story of Second Son is not the first book that was written by Lee Child, but it is the earliest story in Jack Reacher’s timeline at the time of writing.
The book was published in 2011, 14 years after the first book was published.
Second Son is a short story that features an incident that occurs in Reacher’s teen years. The entire story is set on a military base in the Pacific where Reacher’s US Marine father is stationed.
This short story is presented as the origin story of Jack Reacher and goes a long way to explaining why Reacher is the way he is.
It gives insight into what shaped his explosive career. Therefore, despite not being a full novel, it should be read as part of the series.
This book is a great introduction to the Jack Reacher series due to the short format of the book and the incredible insight and background that is given to the main character of the series.
- Provides a strong introduction to the character of Jack Reacher and his formative experiences.
- Although it is a stand-alone story, it makes more sense in the context of later books.
The second book in chronological order is the first full novel on this list. The Enemy was published in 2004 and introduces readers to Reacher as an elite military cop.
This story is a pivotal moment in the life of Jack Reacher and is the gateway to his life as a drifter.
This 464-page novel depicts the pivotal moment in Reacher’s career that takes him from a respected military cop to a nomadic drifter. The book details the messy case that derailed his career.
Following the murder of a 2-star general in a motel room, Reacher is tasked with controlling the situation. However, this is not a situation that can be controlled.
Throughout the novel, more and more military personnel are picked off as Reacher tries to uncover the truth.
This novel provides a little more backstory for Jack Reacher as his mother divulges a secret from her deathbed that forces him to question everything that he believes.
- Provides an in-depth look at the end of Reacher’s career which helps to inform future stories.
- Can feel like the end of Jack Reacher’s time in the military prematurely.
The second full novel in the series is Night School. This book was published in 2016, but fits into the timeline of Jack Reacher as the second novel and is set in 1996.
In this story, Jack Reacher is still a serving military cop. In the morning, he is presented with a medal, and in the afternoon, he is sent to school.
Finding himself in a classroom with an FBI agent and a CIA analyst at the height of their careers, none of them really know what they are doing there.
The men soon learn there is a Jihadist sleeper cell in Germany that has received an unexpected visitor. An undercover CIA agent in the cell overhears the guest conveying a disturbing message.
It is the job of Jack Reacher and the other two men to find the American mentioned in the sleeper cell.
If they don’t, the world will be subjected to a devastating act of terrorism. The hunt takes Reacher on a journey across Europe.
- The adventure that Reacher embarks on takes him to multiple European countries, making a change from other Jack Reacher novels.
- The story contains lots of spy cliches that might feel somewhat disingenuous.
The next book in the series, The Affair, is set in 1997, one year after Night School.
At this point in the series, Jack Reacher is still a serving military cop. In this case, a woman is murdered behind a bar in Mississippi.
Just down the road from the bar is a military base, causing speculation about the perpetrator.
An undercover Jack Reacher is sent to the base to investigate the murder and find the culprit. He works alongside the county sheriff who is a former US Marine and a stunningly beautiful woman.
Reacher discovers that the sheriff’s investigation has hit a dead end. Could the government be stonewalling her, or is she purposefully avoiding the truth about the killer?
This story is a significant turning point in Reacher’s career. He faces the choice between doing what the army wants or doing what he knows is right.
Will he be able to live with himself, or will the army be able to live with him?
- Strong plot with a build-up to a significant moment in the wider Jack Reacher series despite being a stand-alone story.
- The writing style of this book is different from others which some readers feel is a sell-out due to the movie rights that were sold to Tom Cruise.
Set a mere 6 months after The Affair, Killing Floor is the fifth book in the series chronologically but the first book that was published by Child in the Jack Reacher series.
This is technically the world’s first introduction to Jack Reacher despite being set further into the series. Therefore, there are a lot of descriptions of Reacher in this book.
This is the first book chronologically that features Reacher after his career in the military.
As he is passing through Margrave, Georgia, he is arrested for murder. The only problem is, he knows he didn’t murder anyone, not recently anyway.
Reacher has to try and prove his innocence while trying to work out why he was ever a suspect in the first place. However, this is not going to be an easy task in Margrave.
This is the perfect introduction to Reacher’s life outside of the military and provides insight into the sort of adventures that await him in the future.
- Provides a perfect insight into the adventures that Jack Reacher was always supposed to go on in the series before the backstory had even been written.
- Because this is the first book published in the series, there are a lot of descriptions that may become redundant for chronological readers who are familiar with Reacher.
Die Trying is one of the most action-packed books in the entire Jack Reacher book series.
Reacher has drifted to Chicago in this book and finds himself the victim of a gunpoint kidnapping alongside an unknown woman.
The assailants are calm and confident, this isn’t their first time, nor is the woman an ordinary civilian.
The FBI is desperate to find the woman, a Chicago special agent because the FBI always looks after their own.
Unaware that the FBI is on the case, Reacher and the woman have to join forces and fight against the odds to outwit and escape their captors.
However, the FBI is convinced that Reacher is one of the kidnappers rather than another victim. As they close in, their snipers are ordered to shoot to kill.
- A thrilling, fast-paced story that is perfect for lovers of action and adventure with a helping of danger.
- The pacing of the book is slightly off with the first ¾ featuring a slow burn and all the action crammed into the last ¼.
The 7th book in the chronological order of the Jack Reacher series is Tripwire.
At this point, Reacher has moved on to Key West. All has been going well until P.I. Costello turns up dead.
He had been hired in New York by the daughter of Reacher’s mentor and former commanding officer.
The investigation into a Vietnam MIA leads Reacher down a road that leads to hand-less “Hook” Hobie when he is hours away from his biggest score.
Once again, Reacher finds himself in trouble that he didn’t ask or look for. However, as the story unfolds, readers are treated to some military intrigue and Vietnam secrets which helps draw the reader in.
There are some military scenes in this book that are likely to cause some eye-rolls for veterans and will pull you out of Reacher’s world for a second, but Child’s writing is always a bit fun and lighthearted so it doesn’t affect the overall experience.
- The book features some really strong and complex supporting characters including the staple love interest.
- The book has a slow start which can be difficult to get through for new readers of the Jack Reacher series.
The next chronological installment in the Jack Reacher series is Running Blind. This is one of the most interesting books in the entire series.
This story takes place across the nation with women being killed by a mysterious assailant.
There is something intriguing about these murders. There is no evidence left at the scene, no fatal wounds are inflicted, no signs of a struggle, and apparently no motive at all.
However, the most important thing about these murders all over the country is that each of the female victims is known to Jack Reacher.
At first, Reacher is the FBI’s main suspect due to the link. However, after he convinces them that he is not their man, he is brought onto the case as a special advisor. Can he solve the case before anyone else has to die?
- A more personal story for Reacher gives readers the opportunity to see a whole new side to this character.
- The change in plot type can be off-putting for some long-time readers of the Jack Reacher series.
Continuing the chronological order of the series, we come to Echo Burning. In this installment, we catch up with Reacher drifting through Texas, hitchhiking to get around.
His main priority at the start of this book is to just keep moving. Reacher doesn’t care who picks him up as long as he can benefit from the A/C.
One of the motorists kind enough to stop for him is Carmen. A beautiful woman with a young daughter and an incarcerated husband who is physically aggressive.
Reacher has never been one to abandon a woman in distress so he accompanies her to her remote ranch.
Fans of the series will know by now that Reacher is no stranger to trouble and when he is met by lies, prejudice, hatred, and murder at the ranch, he has to do something.
Reacher finds himself sticking around the ranch to try and set things straight for this woman and her child.
- The plot of this book is enticing, thrilling, and exciting. There is danger around every corner in this book.
- The Jack Reacher that is described in this book feels different from when he was first introduced which can be challenging.
Without Fail is the next chronological installment in the Jack Reacher series.
In this book, Reacher is his usual, drifter self that readers know and love. In fact, it is all the things that make Reacher who he is that make him perfect for a very unique job: to kill the vice president of the United States.
Of course, he is only tasked with theoretically killing the vice president. A female CIA agent asks Reacher to find any holes or weaknesses in her system.
Reacher is against the clock to ensure that her system is foolproof before a covert group is able to enact plans to get to the vice president.
The group has planned their attack on the vice president well. The only problem that they’re going to face? Coming up against Jack Reacher.
- This novel is packed with tension that keeps the reader invested in the success of the mission Reacher is tasked with.
- The type of tension and drama in this book is different from other, more action-packed Jack Reacher stories.
The 11th book in the series is Persuader. This is a very classic Jack Reacher story that is going to appeal to long-time readers of the series. This is a story that goes back to the basics of what makes the series so good.
Reacher is once again painted as a man who travels from place to place with no possessions, family, or commitments. He is a man without fear.
Although he has no belongings, he does have a past, and some unfinished business is about to catch up with Reacher.
Ten years prior to Persuader, a key investigation that Reacher was working on went sour and resulted in someone getting away with murder.
A chance encounter brings it all back to Reacher and presents him with another shot. Is it vengeance, redemption, or justice?
- Classic Jack Reacher story with all the best parts of the beloved character. The ploy is fairly classic too.
- The prose can be a bit wordy at times which can slow the pace of the book.
The next book in the series is One Shot. This book offers readers a wild ride as Reacher is forced to employ all of his military cop experience.
6 shots have been fired, 5 people are dead, and the cops have it solved in a slam-dunk case. Unfortunately, the man they arrested says they’ve got the wrong guy and asks for Reacher.
Whoever the killer was, he missed one shot, and now Reacher has one shot to find out the truth and bring the killer to justice.
Reacher finds himself paired with a young, ambitious lawyer who is working against her D.A. father.
Moving through the shadows, Reacher gets closer and closer to the truth as the unseen enemy is pulling the strings.
With respect for his cunning and knowledge of his ruthlessness, there is nothing left for Reacher to do but match him shot for shot.
- One Shot is another classic Jack Reacher story that keeps the identity of the villain secret throughout.
- The short sentences can make the prose feel stop-start with plenty of unnecessary additional information.
The next installment in the series is The Hard Way. This is another classic Jack Reacher story where Reacher has to rely on his know-how and abilities to save the day.
In this story, it is two innocent lives that are at stake after Reacher is thrust into an explosive situation.
The story takes place in New York where Edward Lane runs an illicit soldiers-for-hire business. Lane pays a million-dollar ransom for his wife and child but it isn’t enough.
Desperate, he turns to Reacher and sets him loose, hunting down his family. On the journey to find the hostages, Reacher learns about the shady past of his temporary employer.
The man he is working for is not the most honest or trustworthy man, but that doesn’t stop Reacher from striving to save his innocent woman and child.
- The characters in this book are super complex and multifaceted. The whole storyline is a great reflection of real people.
- The twist in the plot is quite easy to work out early on in the book which can be disappointing.
Bad Luck and Trouble is another explosive novel in the Jack Reacher series. This is another story in the series that is set in multiple locations including California, Chicago, Vegas, and Portland.
Reacher finds himself plunged into the midst of a conspiracy that is killing old friends.
Bad Luck and Trouble is set a decade after Reacher left the military. He is still leading his famous nomadic lifestyle free from commitments.
That is until a member of his old unit managed to reach him using a mysterious signal that only 8 people would know.
When they get in touch with each other, his former colleague shares a harrowing tale of the brutal death of someone they both worked with.
In an attempt to solve the mystery of this death, Reacher begins to reunite his old military team. However, the more they uncover, the less they know.
When two other comrades disappear, the trail leads Reacher to the bright lights of Vegas with a shadow of international terrorism.
- This story is a look into the past with current-day Reacher and shows incredible character development.
- Some of the events in this story are out of character for such an established protagonist.
The 14th novel in the Jack Reacher series is Nothing to Lose. Hope and Despair are two, lonely towns in Colorado. They are separated by a single, empty road and Jack Reacher doesn’t ever turn back.
In this story, trouble finds Reacher when all he wants is a cup of coffee. Yet he finds himself at war against a town that wants him dead.
Having been in the town for minutes, the Deputy is already in the hospital and Reacher has returned to Hope to set up a base of operations against Despair.
Reacher seems to have stumbled across some illicit military operations that have resulted in two men disappearing.
Reacher teams up with a local cop to crack open the secrets of the town of Despair. As he uncovers more he begins to expose a terrifying connection to a war that’s killing Americans by the thousand.
- A classic Jack Reacher story where the protagonist is impressively smooth and triumphs over the bad guys.
- Reacher’s behavior can become repetitive in this book which can be boring for the reader by the end of the 407 pages.
The next installment in chronological order is Gone Tomorrow. This is a story that centers strongly around themes of terrorism.
Thankfully, Reacher is an all-American hero who is in the right place at the right time to save the day.
The bad guys in this story are almost stereotypical terrorists, but that doesn’t make them unrealistic.
In order to be the hero this time, Reacher must call upon old tricks that he learned during his days as a military cop.
However, he is faced with the dilemma of whether to intervene or not. If he intervenes, he could save lives, but what if he is wrong? If he intervenes, he could cost lives, including his own.
- The plot of this story is riveting and packed with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader on their toes throughout the book.
- A lot of the early parts of the story reuse incidents and plot lines from previous Reacher stories.
The 17th book in chronological order is 61 Hours. In this book, Reacher experiences the most exciting 61 hours of his life.
This is one of the fastest-paced books in the entire Jack Reacher series and is perfect for anyone who is looking for electric tension from their books.
A tour bus crashes in a horrific snowstorm which lands Reacher in a deadly confrontation.
In Bolton, South Dakota, Reacher comes across a woman who is standing up for justice against sinister forces.
Reacher finds himself having to protect this woman from a deadly assassin that is approaching Bolton to silence her.
Over the course of 61 hours, Reacher becomes embroiled in secrets and lies with enemies that are more powerful than he would have guessed. However, nothing will stop him from protecting this woman’s life.
- A fast-paced book that is the perfect speed for Jack Reacher. There is no time to stop and think too much.
- Some readers feel that the ending of the book is too inconclusive which can spoil the book.
The next book in the Jack Reacher series is Worth Dying For. The title of the book is the perfect fit for the attitude of Reacher whenever he meets a woman on his travels.
However, when he ends up in Nebraska, he might not get a choice in what is worth dying for.
Reacher stumbles across a clan known as the Duncans. They have forced an entire county into submission and now they want Reacher gone.
Unfortunately, there is a decades-old, unsolved mystery of a missing child that Reacher refuses to let go and he won’t be intimidated out of town.
As Reacher bravely toils on to try and solve the mystery of the missing child, he finds that the Ducans are at the bottom of an international criminal food chain. Suddenly, they become the least of his worries.
- The plot of this story shows Reacher in the light of a traditional, kind-hearted hero standing up for the little guy rather than a rugged ex-military cop.
- The book touches on some dark themes that can make some readers feel uneasy.
A Wanted Man feels like the perfect title for any Jack Reacher story. During this adventure, four people in a car are trying to make it to Chicago by morning.
The man driving doesn’t take his eyes off the road. The man next to him tells stories that don’t make sense.
The woman in the back is silent, while the man next to her is hitching a ride to Virginia.
An hour behind them on the road, a man has been stabbed to death in an old pumping station. The stabbing was done professionally and the suspects have vanished.
The phrase Jack Reacher doesn’t look for trouble, but trouble always finds him couldn’t be truer for this book.
All Reacher wanted to do was hitch a ride to Virginia. Instead, he finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy in which he is a threat to both sides.
- This book is a classic, stripped-back Jack Reacher story. It uses all of the aspects of Child’s formula to create an on-brand story.
- This story has a much slower pace than other books in the Jack Reacher series.
The next chronological installment of the series is Never Go Back. In this story, Reacher finally reaches Virginia, a journey that he started back at the start of Worth Dying For.
His ultimate destination is the old, stone building of his unit’s headquarters. To Reacher, this building is the closest thing to home.
The purpose of his trip is to meet the new commanding officer whom he’d spoken to on the phone. However, when he arrives, the officer behind the desk is not a woman.
Reacher finds himself accused of a 16-year-old homicide and in big trouble. The biggest surprise though comes when he’s informed that he is back in the army.
Is Reacher going to be sorry that he went back, or will someone else?
- This is another well-crafted novel that shows Jack Reacher as more mature in parts than in other books in the series.
- Some readers find that Reacher comes across as arrogant rather than the confident, smooth hero of previous books.
In the 21st installment of the Jack Reacher series, Personal, Reacher learns that a sniper he previously worked to put away is back out on the streets.
Not only that, but he may have been responsible for the attempted assassination of the president of France.
If anyone is able to stop this incredibly talented sniper-gone-bad, it’s the man who stopped him once before, Jack Reacher.
This time, Reacher is paired up with Casey Nice, a rookie analyst. The pair have a tough road ahead of them that will test their resolve.
During the ruthless journey, Reacher is preoccupied with the woman who he failed to save before. He can’t let himself make the same mistake again. Not with Nice.
- In this story, Jack Reacher is back to his best. He’s smooth, confident, and highly skilled.
- Long-time readers of the Jack Reacher series complain that this book feels like it has lost the edge that Reacher is known for.
In the 22nd book of the series, Make Me, Reacher has found himself in a place called Mother’s Rest and all he wants to know is where the name came from.
The town is tiny, surrounded by miles of fields, but no one wants to discuss the name.
During his visit, Reacher meets a woman called Michelle Chang who mistakes him for her missing husband who is embroiled in a private investigation that has gotten out of hand.
With nowhere in particular to go and plenty of time, Reacher teams up with Chang to uncover the truth about her missing partner.
He may have bitten off more than he bargained for as the journey takes him on a wild ride through LA, Chicago, Phoenix, and San Francisco with assassins every step of the way.
- This is a book that has made many Jack Reacher fans fall in love with the character all over again. There is no longer a hint of arrogance.
- For some readers who read the books in real-time, the release of the Tom Cruise movies ruined the imagery of this book.
Moving on to book number 23 in the Jack Reacher series is The Midnight Line. While strolling through a small town in Wisconsin, Reacher comes across a pawn shop with a class ring from 2005.
Intrigued by the ring and the initials engraved on the side, Reacher begins a journey to reunite the ring with its owner.
The quest takes Reacher through the upper Midwest, from a dive bar to a crossroads in the middle of nowhere.
On his journey, Reacher encounters bikers, cops, and a missing persons PI wearing a suit and tie in the wilderness of Wyoming.
The more Reacher digs into the origin of this class ring, the more danger presents itself. As Reacher will find out, the simple class ring is just a small link in a much larger and darker chain.
- This book brings Reacher back to his nomadic roots that made people fall in love with the character in the first place.
- The plot of this story does appear to go against the idea that Reacher doesn’t look for trouble.
Once again, we meet up with Reacher when he has very little on his plate. Therefore, at the start of Past Tense, Reacher has decided to embark on a road trip across America from Maine to California.
However, in classic Reacher style, he doesn’t get far before trouble finds him again. When he comes across a sign to the place where his father was born, he cannot help but take a detour.
When investigating the old family home he was told about, he discovers that no one by the name of Reacher ever lived there.
Knowing that his father never went back, Reacher begins to wonder if he was ever there. The present can be tense, but the past can be worse as Reacher finds out.
- The best thing about this book is the dual storyline that it features. It really keeps the reader on their toes.
- This is another story that touches on dark themes that some readers may find uncomfortable.
The penultimate installment at the time of writing is Blue Moon. Reacher is once again traveling around the country, this time on a Greyhound bus.
During his journey, Reacher steps off the bus to assist an old man who looks like a victim waiting to happen. However, you know what they say about good intentions.
An elderly couple has unfortunately made a few mistakes, and found themselves owing big money to bad people.
Suddenly, Reacher finds himself a wanted man in the middle of a turf war between Ukrainian and Albanian gangs.
Reacher is trying to stay ahead of the loan sharks, thugs, and assassins. In true Reacher style, he teams up with a fed-up waitress who knows a little more than she’s letting on and sets out to make the greedy pay.
- For fans of the Jack Reacher series, this is a book that feels comfortable and familiar to sink into.
- This is another plot that betrays the idea that Reacher doesn’t go looking for trouble.
The most recent chronological addition to the Jack Reacher series is The Sentinel. Once again, readers meet up with Reacher when he has nowhere in particular to go.
Continuing to be the ultimate drifter, he ends up in Pleasantville, Tennessee. However, he quickly discovers that there is nothing pleasant about the place.
Reacher is witness to an ambush in the street and decides to intervene in his trademark style, saving a man named Rusty Rutherford.
Rutherford is an unassuming IT worker who was fired after a cyberattack left the town’s data, information, and secrets locked up.
Rutherford wants to clear his name in the town. Reacher knows that there is more to this story and wants to uncover just what the guys who ambushed this man want and what they are hiding.
- This book features a collaborator in the form of Child’s brother. This brings a refreshing new twist to the writing.
- For more traditional Reacher fans, the addition of a collaborative author may have changed the feel of the book too much.
The Jack Reacher series is not a short one and if you want to read it from start to finish, you are going to have to commit, especially as the series is still growing.
Once you have read a couple of the books, however, it is easy to continue through the rest. Lee Child’s writing style helps readers become invested in the story of Reacher.
Thankfully, despite the fact that there are so many novels and even more short stories, the full-length books rarely break the 500-page mark. This makes the books and stand-alone stories much more digestible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are The Jack Reacher Movies Based On The Books?
Yes, the 2012 and 2016 Jack Reacher movies are based on the book series.
However, many fans of the book series dislike the movies because Tom Cruise does not match the 6’5” description of Reacher.
How Many Books Are In The Jack Reacher Series?
There are 26 main books in the series. However, there is also a series of short stories that feature the character of Jack Reacher and continue in the same universe.
Can I Skip Any Of The Books In The Series?
Yes. One of the best things about the Jack Reacher series is that all the books can function as stand-alone stories.
This means that you can begin the series at any point and jump around throughout the series.
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