Let’s be honest: Robert Ludlum needs no introduction. He’s the man behind The Bourne series and many other bestselling thriller novels, with more than 300 million books in print.
Not many other authors have the same going for them.
The Bourne series is, without a doubt, Robert Ludlum’s best-known work. The trilogy spawned three smash-hit blockbuster films, a television series, and even a continuation of the novels after Ludlum’s unfortunate passing in 2001.
So the books are popular, to say the least. And if you’re new to the world of Jason Bourne, it’s well worth knowing how to read the books in the right order.
After all, there are more than a dozen Bourne books in the series.
About The Bourne Series
The Bourne series centers around Jason Bourne – a man who wakes up with bullet wounds, a surgically altered appearance, and no recollection of what happened or who he is.
He’s also being hunted from all sides, with only one course of action: to stay alive long enough to find out who he really is.
Robert Ludlum wrote the first three Bourne books, The Bourne Trilogy, over a 10-year span, the first of which was published in 1980.
The Jason Bourne books have been hailed as among the best spy novels ever written and were adapted into films, released between 2002 and 2007, starring Matt Damon in the lead role as Jason Bourne.
Due to the popularity of The Bourne Trilogy (the books and the movies), the book series was continued by author Eric Van Lustbader. The Bourne continuation books, which extend the story chronologically, are:
- The Bourne Legacy (2004)
- The Bourne Betrayal (2007)
- The Bourne Sanction (2008)
- The Bourne Deception (2009)
- The Bourne Objective (2010)
- The Bourne Dominion (2011)
- The Bourne Imperative (2012)
- The Bourne Retribution (2013)
- The Bourne Ascendancy (2014)
- The Bourne Enigma (2016)
- The Bourne Initiative (2017)
Brian Freeman took over the series in 2020, starting with the 15th Jason Bourne book. Freeman’s Bourne books also follow the story chronologically, and so far include:
Robert Ludlum Books In Order (The Bourne Trilogy Series)
The Bourne Identity is the first book in the Bourne series, which introduces the lead protagonist, Jason Bourne, for the first time.
It was published in 1980 and was adapted into the blockbuster film of the same name, released in 2002.
The Bourne Identity lures readers in from page one, introducing a dangerous terrorist known as “Carlos the Jackal”, before detailing a boat explosion that leaves one survivor, a man to be later named Jason Bourne, coming around with no recollection of what happened prior or who he is.
Jason Bourne has bullet wounds all over his body and his face has been altered with plastic surgery.
He experiences constant flashbacks that he can’t make sense of and discovers an item embedded in his hip with a clue that starts his story of finding out who he is.
As the first book in Ludlum’s Bourne Trilogy, The Bourne Identity sets the stage with an engaging premise, instant conflict, and a central mystery that will have new readers asking questions from the first page to the last.
- Introduces the world-famous protagonist, Jason Bourne
- Considered Robert Ludlum’s best novel and one of the best Bourne books in the series
- The story is packed with mystery, action, conflict, and suspense
- Watched the movie? Then you’ll already know the general plot of the book
The Bourne Supremacy is the second book in the Bourne series. It was published in 1986, six years after The Bourne Identity, and was the basis of the blockbuster sequel of the same name, released in 2004.
In The Bourne Supremacy, Jason Bourne has recovered from his wounds in The Bourne Identity and is working as a teacher, under his real name.
The events of the first book seem over with for Jason Bourne, until word breaks out of another “Jason Bourne” operating under a powerful Chinese communist.
Back in danger, the stakes are higher than ever before for Bourne, who must travel overseas to tackle threats greater than those he faced in The Bourne Identity.
After all, with two Jason Bournes on the loose, only one can survive.
The Bourne Supremacy tackles strong themes such as deception, trust, and morality in what is a suspense-packed, page-turning sequel to the first book in the series.
Readers who enjoyed The Bourne Identity will find The Bourne Supremacy easy to get into thanks to its plot which presents a new mystery that forces Bourne into a whole new environment.
- Widely considered to be just as good as the first book in the series, The Bourne Identity
- The setting is larger in The Bourne Supremacy, which sees Jason Bourne go international
- Introduces a new gripping mystery in the form of a “second” Bourne assassin
- Some readers cite The Bourne Supremacy as having a complicated, convoluted plot
The Bourne Ultimatum is the third novel in the Bourne series and the last Bourne book written by Robert Ludlum, completing Ludlum’s Bourne Trilogy.
It was published in 1990 and was the basis of the blockbuster movie of the same name, released in 2004.
The Bourne Ultimatum sees Jason Bourne face his biggest enemy: the man known as Carlos the Jackal.
The final book in Ludlum’s trilogy sets the scene with Bourne discovering news of the Jackal. He sets off to find him, but the Jackal is far from underprepared – he’s waiting.
Having discovered who he really is while settling into a life free of the past, Jason Bourne must face his biggest decision yet in The Bourne Ultimatum, with his peaceful new life, and everything he’s regained, hanging in the balance.
The Bourne Ultimatum contains an explosive showdown, impossible decisions, and stakes that have never been higher for Jason Bourne, making it a must-read, and worthy, finale to Robert Ludlum’s best-selling Bourne Trilogy.
- Widely considered the best book Robert Ludlum’s Bourne Trilogy series
- Contains as much mystery, action, conflict, and suspense as the previous two Bourne books
- Wraps up Robert Ludlum’s Bourne story with a satisfying ending and one final showdown between Jason Bourne and the series’ main antagonist
- Like The Bourne Supremacy, some readers find the plot of The Bourne Ultimatum complex and hard to follow
And there you have it: how to read Robert Ludlum’s Bourne books in order, starting with The Bourne Identity – the book that gave birth to Jason Bourne, three blockbuster films, a television series, and over a dozen continuation novels, which are still ongoing.
All in all, reading Robert Ludlum’s Bourne books is straightforward, since the story continues chronologically – no time jumps or flashforwards.
After The Bourne Identity, simply continue with The Bourne Supremacy, followed by The Bourne Ultimatum.
And if you want to continue following Jason Bourne in more high-stakes plots, the story has been extended in the continuation novels written by Eric Van Lustbader and Brian Mills, starting with the fourth Bourne book, The Bourne Legacy.
So what are you waiting for? If you’re yet to dive into the world of Bourne, the books are the best place to start.
Leave the movies, as awesome as they are, until after you’ve read Robert Ludlum’s Bourne trilogy!
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Jason Bourne Books Did Robert Ludlum Write?
Robert Ludlum wrote three Jason Bourne books – the original trilogy. Eric Van Lustbader wrote the fourth book, The Bourne Legacy, and continued the series until Brian Freeman took over with The Bourne Evolution.
Are The Jason Bourne Books Based On A True Story?
While the Bourne stories are fiction, protagonist Jason Bourne was inspired by Ansel Bourne, a man in the 1800s who suffered from a rare disorder called dissociative fugue.
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