Jack Ryan Reading Order: The Best Way To Read This Series

The Jack Ryan series by author Tom Clancy is the story of a high-level CIA analyst and ex-marine. The 10 books featured here were the ones that were written exclusively by Tom Clancy about Jack Ryan.

Best Jack Ryan Reading Order

Other Jack Ryan books were written by different authors after the death of Tom Clancy in 2013 and even some were written in collaboration with him before he passed.

The Teeth of the Tiger is the final Jack Ryan book written by him exclusively with no collaboration.

Although Tom Clancy’s name appears on later books this is about marketing and branding rather than an acknowledgment of authorship.

The original author’s name has more gravitas and therefore is more likely to sell. However, the actual writers’ names do appear on the front of the book.

There are 12 Jack Ryan books in total, the stories continue however with his son Jack Ryan Jr with a total of 36 novels for the whole franchise.

A total of six have been made into movies between 1990 and 2021.

About The Jack Ryan Series

Jack Ryan, Jr.

The Jack Ryan series of books from The Hunt for Red October to Zero Hour are based on the character of a former U.S. Marine and CIA analyst.

The books follow his career and eventual election to the office of President of the United States.

Later books feature his son Jack Ryan Jr as well as other characters featured in the earlier novels including John Clark, Domingo Chavez, and Daniel E. Murray.

As well as the movie adaptations there is also an Amazon television series featuring Jack Ryan.

Video games based on the novels have also been made including The Sum of All Fears.

12 Jack Ryan Books In Order

The Hunt For Red October

The Hunt for Red October (A Jack Ryan Novel)

When a Soviet submarine commander makes a fateful decision to defect, he takes the highly advanced nuclear submarine with him.

Russia wants it back and the chase is on to get it back or at least not to let it fall into American hands.

Meanwhile, covert photos of Red October land on Jack Ryan’s desk, and now he’s in the middle of this high-stakes game.


  • A gripping tale that was frighteningly real


  • Lots of technical writing and naval terminology

Patriot Games

Patriot Games (A Jack Ryan Novel)

Having saved a member of the Royal family from an Ulster Liberation Army assassination plot Jack Ryan wins the admiration of the country.

But not the men who planned the attack. Now they are targeting him.

As he delves into the dark world of counter-intelligence he uncovers a connection between this terrorist organization and an international underground network.

Ryan now finds himself in the struggle of his life.


  • Action-packed story


  • Good for its time, but feels dated now

The Cardinal Of The Kremlin

The Cardinal of the Kremlin (Jack Ryan)

Another clash of superpowers in this story of the Star Wars missile defense program.

Despite arms negotiations going well, America discovers that the Soviet Union is secretly building its own massive laser defense system.

To find out more the US needs to speak to their highest agent in the Kremlin, code-named the Cardinal. But his cover is about to be exposed, and now Jack Ryan has to rescue him.


  • Detailed information about global and political situations


  • Lots of subplots

Clear And Present Danger

Clear and Present Danger (A Jack Ryan Novel)

As part of undercover teams, Jack Ryan and John Clark are sent to Colombia.

This follows the assassination of the American Ambassador and the visiting head of the FBI by powerful drug lords as a warning to leave them alone.

With the most sophisticated weapons at their disposal, the fight is being taken to the enemy. But who the enemy may be is not entirely clear.


  • Incorporates real international issues and political realities


  • Overly detailed for some readers

The Sum Of All Fears

The Sum of All Fears (A Jack Ryan Novel)

As Deputy Director of the CIA, Jack Ryan has created a peace plan for the Middle East that could finally end the violence and bloodshed there.

But too many people want the conflict to continue and are desperate enough to create a nuclear crisis as a result.

The world is on the brink of war and the President is not competent enough to deal with it. Ryan and Clark must find an answer, and quickly.


  • Successfully blends multiple plot lines


  • Includes lots of technical information

Debt Of Honor

Debt of Honor (A Jack Ryan Novel)

Jack Ryan is called out of retirement and appointed National Security Adviser to the President.

In a new time when old enemies are friends and vice versa, he finds that the problems of peace are as complicated as war.

This time it is the economy that is being attacked, and Jack Ryan is the person tasked with finding out who the culprit is.


  • Full of political intrigue and military maneuvering


  • Pace is slow

Executive Orders

Executive Orders (A Jack Ryan Novel Book 7)

When a jumbo jet crashes into the Capitol building and kills the President and his cabinet one man is left to deal with this unprecedented disaster.

Having initially been sworn in as caretaker, Vice President Ryan now finds himself President of the United States.

With the eyes of the world on him, he has to deal with perhaps the most critical situation of his life.


  • Well-developed characters and events


  • Some plot lines feel predictable

The Bear And The Dragon

The Bear and the Dragon (A Jack Ryan Novel)

Elected President of the United States in his own right, Jack Ryan realizes that this level of authority and responsibility doesn’t get any easier with time.

When the chairman of the SVR, former KGB, is targeted by an assassination attempt he has to find out who is responsible.

With antiterrorism specialist John Clark in Moscow as his eyes and ears, Ryan needs to defuse this dangerous situation.


  • An intricately woven story


  • A long read

Red Rabbit

Red Rabbit (Tom Clancy)

This is the story of Jack Ryan’s early years as a CIA analyst on loan to the British SIS.

One of his first tasks is to debrief a Soviet defector who tells him of a plot by senior Russian officials to assassinate the Pope.

Despite his inexperience, Ryan has to untangle the plot and not just to save the life of the Pope but to stop the potential resulting instability in the Western world.


  • Provides background information on Jack Ryan’s early career


  • Lots of detail to get bogged down in

The Teeth Of The Tiger

The Teeth of the Tiger (A Jack Ryan Jr. Novel)

The last book written solely by Tom Clancy in the Jack Ryan universe brings his son Jack Ryan Jr. front and center to the story.

He becomes part of the ‘Campus’, an organization set up by his father before stepping down as President.

Faced with a possible alliance of Middle East agents and the Colombian drug network the threat to the stability of the United States is real.

Can Jack Ryan Jr. make a difference?


  • Brings Jack Ryan Jr. forward as the new protagonist of the book series


  • Last novel written solely by Tom Clancy

Final Thoughts

The work of Tom Clancy in the Jack Ryan series has produced some of the best and most detailed spy novels of a generation.

The background and depth that Clancy goes into making some of his books feel like debriefs from the CIA.

There are those who are detractors of the number of minutiae that he includes in his stories and others that say that the level of detail is what makes the tale believable.

As Clancy was an avid Naval historian this attention to detail is not surprising and works well in the books.

The fact that several of the books have been made into very successful movies is also a testament to the writing skill of the author.

Working their way through the career of this ex-marine as he becomes a CIA analyst, then National Security Adviser, and finally, President of the United States the series spans several decades.

For fans of real-world mystery, political intrigue, and espionage there are no better books to read than the Jack Ryan series by Tom Clancy.

Those who really enjoy the Ryan universe can carry on enjoying the stories through other authors who have maintained the characters after Tom Clancy passed away.

The stories follow Jack Ryan Jr. as the main protagonist of the new era of novels.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Jack Ryan Book Is First In The Series?

The Hunt for Red October is the first book in the Jack Ryan series, published in 1984. However, the tale of Jack Ryan begins in Red Rabbit which was published in 2002.

What Order Should You Read The Jack Ryan Books In?

You can read the books in the order of publication. However, if you want to read about The Jack Ryan universe then start with Without Remorse then move on to Patriot Games.

How Many Jack Ryan Books Did Tom Clancy Write?

Tom Clancy wrote twelve Jack Ryan novels by himself but in 2010 he began collaborating with other authors to expand the Ryan universe. In total, he wrote 21 Jack Ryan books.

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Noah Burton