101 Best Adventure Novels From All-Time Great Authors

Posted on Sep 15, 2023

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Written by P.J McNulty

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Studying the best adventure books can offer invaluable insights for aspiring authors. 

These works exemplify diverse styles, themes, and narratives, providing a rich tapestry of storytelling techniques that can inspire new angles for creating compelling adventures.

Are you ready for a journey into adventurous fiction?

Here is our list of the best adventure novels:

1. “1984” – Set in a dystopian society, the book follows Winston Smith as he rebels against a totalitarian regime. Its adventure lies in the intellectual and moral quests against oppressive forces.

2. “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” – Captain Nemo takes a crew on a submarine journey across the world’s oceans. It’s pioneering in its exploration of science fiction and oceanic adventures.

3. “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” – A man from the 19th century time-travels to Arthurian England and tries to modernize it. This book explores the adventure of cultural and technological clashes.

4. “A Journey to the Center of the Earth” – A team of explorers descend into a volcano to reach Earth’s core. It’s essential for its early exploration of science fiction and subterranean adventure.

5. “A Princess of Mars” – John Carter is mysteriously transported to Mars where he becomes embroiled in local politics and wars. This is a seminal work in the planetary romance subgenre of adventure fiction.

6. “A Song of Ice and Fire” – This series of books revolves around the political and mythical conflicts in the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos. Its epic scope and complex characters redefine adventure in a fantasy setting.

7. “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” – Huck Finn and escaped slave Jim travel down the Mississippi River. It’s notable for its portrayal of friendship and the quest for freedom as an adventure.

8. “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” – Alice falls into a rabbit hole and explores a fantastical world. It’s a key book in the “nonsense” and surreal adventure genres.

9. “Animal Farm” – Farm animals overthrow their human owner to establish an egalitarian society, which eventually fails. Though more political than adventurous, its journey into dystopia offers an intellectual adventure.

10. “Around the World in 80 Days” – Phileas Fogg attempts to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days to win a bet. It’s important for its celebration of technology and international adventure.

11. “Beowulf” – An ancient epic where Beowulf fights the monster Grendel, its mother, and a dragon. It’s seminal in the genre for its themes of heroism and adventure in early literature.

12. “Blood Meridian” – A teenage runaway known as “the Kid” joins Indian-hunters in the 1850s American Southwest. Its brutal, relentless journey makes it a dark but important adventure narrative.

13. “Brave New World” – Set in a dystopian future, people are engineered and conditioned for their roles in society. While more dystopian than adventure, the story explores the adventure of challenging societal norms.

14. “Catch-22” – American bomber pilots in WWII face the absurdity and futility of war. While not a traditional adventure, its characters navigate dangerous and absurd situations, adding an unconventional adventure element.

15. “Cloud Atlas” – Interconnected stories span various timelines and genres, from the past to the post-apocalyptic future. It redefines adventure by covering multiple types of journeys and quests.

16. “Congo” – An expedition goes to the African Congo in search of a rare type of diamond. Its techno-thriller elements and African jungle setting make it a modern adventure tale.

17. “Dune” – Paul Atreides navigates political and environmental dangers on the desert planet of Arrakis. Known for its intricate world-building, it’s a cornerstone in sci-fi adventure.

18. “Ender’s Game” – A boy, Ender Wiggin, is trained in a military academy to fight aliens. This book combines the adventure of space warfare with psychological depth.

19. “Fahrenheit 451” – In a future society where books are banned, fireman Guy Montag starts questioning the system. It’s an intellectual adventure, battling the suppression of ideas and freedom.

20. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” – Set during the Spanish Civil War, an American demolitions expert fights with rebel forces. The book is significant for combining war-time action with deep philosophical underpinnings.

21. “Gulliver’s Travels” – Lemuel Gulliver embarks on several voyages, encountering various strange and satirical societies. This is a foundational text in the adventure genre, combining exploration with social commentary.

22. “Harry Potter” series – A young wizard, Harry Potter, attends Hogwarts and fights against the dark wizard Voldemort. This series is key for modernizing the magical adventure for a new generation.

23. “Heart of Darkness” – A journey up the Congo River to find Kurtz, an ivory trader gone rogue. This book explores the dark adventures that can occur within the human soul.

24. “His Dark Materials” – Lyra and Will explore parallel universes while combating an oppressive regime. It’s significant for its blending of adventure, theology, and philosophy.

25. “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” – Earthman Arthur Dent explores the galaxy after Earth’s destruction. The book offers a comedic take on space adventure.

26. “I Am Legend” – The last human alive in a world of vampires, Robert Neville fights for survival. It’s a cornerstone in post-apocalyptic adventure literature.

27. “Iliad” – Focuses on the Trojan War, specifically the hero Achilles. It is one of the earliest and most celebrated adventure epics.

28. “Into the Wild” – True story of Christopher McCandless, who leaves society for life in the Alaskan wilderness. This book is crucial for understanding the allure and perils of modern-day adventure.

29. “Into Thin Air” – A firsthand account of the 1996 Mt. Everest disaster. This book set the standard for adventure journalism.

30. “Ivanhoe” – Set in medieval England, a disowned knight aims to regain his honor. This book revitalized interest in the Middle Ages and its adventures.

31. “Jurassic Park” – A group of people try to survive in a park filled with genetically engineered dinosaurs. This book blends science fiction with survival adventure.

32. “Kidnapped” – David Balfour is betrayed by his uncle, becomes a fugitive, and strives to regain his inheritance. The book is known for its vivid characters and themes of political and personal liberation.

33. “King Solomon’s Mines” – Allan Quatermain leads an expedition to find a missing person and discovers a lost civilization. This book is foundational in the “lost world” subgenre of adventure.

34. “Life of Pi” – Pi Patel survives on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger. The novel explores themes of spirituality and survival in extreme circumstances.

35. “Lord Jim” – Jim, a ship’s officer, seeks redemption after a moment of cowardice. This book deals with the moral dimensions of adventure.

36. “Lord of the Flies” – Stranded on an uninhabited island, a group of boys descend into savagery. The book explores the dark potential of human nature under adventurous circumstances.

37. “Lord of the Rings” – Frodo Baggins embarks on a quest to destroy a powerful ring. It’s a seminal work in the fantasy adventure genre, with an epic scope.

38. “Moby-Dick” – Captain Ahab obsessively hunts the white whale Moby Dick. It’s an adventure that delves deeply into themes of obsession and the human condition.

39. “Neuromancer” – A washed-up computer hacker is hired to pull off the ultimate hack. This book pioneered the cyberpunk genre, blending high tech with adventure.

40. “Neverwhere” – Richard Mayhew helps a girl from a parallel London and becomes part of her quest. It modernizes urban fantasy adventure.

41. “Odyssey” – Odysseus embarks on a ten-year journey to return home from the Trojan War. This ancient epic sets the framework for the adventure genre, focusing on heroism and trials.

42. “Of Mice and Men” – Two displaced ranch workers seek new job opportunities during the Great Depression. While not a traditional adventure, the characters navigate the hardship and tragedy of life’s unpredictable journey.

43. “On the Road” – Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty travel aimlessly across America. The book captures the spirit of adventure in post-war America and has become a staple of American literature.

44. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” – The history of the Buendia family in the fictional town of Macondo. Although more magical realism than adventure, it explores the adventure of human existence over generations.

45. “One Piece” – Manga about Monkey D. Luffy who aims to become the Pirate King. This series stands out for its unique approach to maritime adventure and the quest for treasure.

46. “Papillon” – Based on a true story, a man is sentenced to life imprisonment and seeks to escape. The book has been highly regarded for its harrowing and realistic portrayal of adventure through escape.

47. “Peter Pan” – Peter Pan takes Wendy and her brothers to the magical world of Neverland. It’s seminal in the genre of children’s adventure literature.

48. “Robinson Crusoe” – Crusoe is shipwrecked on a deserted island and must survive. It is one of the first novels in the Western canon and is considered the template for the desert island adventure.

49. “Sherlock Holmes” series – Sherlock Holmes solves complex crimes with his friend Dr. Watson. While mystery-focused, the series is also an adventure in intellectual problem-solving.

50. “Shogun” – An English sailor becomes embroiled in Japanese politics during the feudal era. The novel is notable for its exploration of cultural clash as adventure.

51. “Siddhartha” – Siddhartha embarks on a journey of self-discovery during the time of the Buddha. The novel reinterprets the spiritual quest as an internal adventure.

52. “Snow Crash” – In a future America, a pizza delivery guy and computer hacker tries to stop a deadly drug/virus. This book is crucial for combining cyberpunk with adventure storytelling.

53. “Starship Troopers” – In a future interstellar war, Johnny Rico serves in the Mobile Infantry against alien bugs. The book combines military science fiction with adventure elements.

54. “Swiss Family Robinson” – A family shipwrecked on an uninhabited island works together to survive and build a new home. This book is a classic example of the survival adventure genre.

55. “Tarzan of the Apes” – Raised by apes, Tarzan navigates life in the jungle and eventually meets other humans. This book is seminal for its introduction of the “wild man” archetype in adventure fiction.

56. “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” – A collection of Sherlock Holmes stories featuring a variety of adventures. It popularized the detective adventure subgenre.

57. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” – Tom Sawyer goes on various adventures in a small Missouri town. This book is a cornerstone in American literature, portraying childhood adventure.

58. “The Alchemist” – Santiago, a shepherd, travels to Egypt in search of a treasure. The novel’s take on the personal quest as a spiritual adventure has made it globally popular.

59. “The Andromeda Strain” – Scientists race against time to stop a lethal alien microorganism. The book combines scientific speculation with adventure, setting standards for the techno-thriller genre.

60. “The Call of the Wild” – A domestic dog, Buck, is stolen and sold into the brutal life of an Alaskan sled dog. The story is a prime example of the animal adventure genre.

61. “The Catcher in the Rye” – Holden Caulfield wanders through New York after being expelled from prep school. Although more of a coming-of-age story, it presents an urban adventure through the eyes of a disaffected youth.

62. “The Chronicles of Narnia” – Children discover a magical world where they combat evil forces. This series is pivotal in the fantasy adventure genre, introducing moral and spiritual themes.

63. “The Count of Monte Cristo” – Edmond Dantès is wrongfully imprisoned and seeks revenge after escaping. The book is a masterful blend of adventure and themes of justice and retribution.

64. “The Da Vinci Code” – Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu try to solve a murder by unraveling a religious mystery. It’s significant for blending historical elements with modern adventure and intrigue.

65. “The Dark Tower” – Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger, goes on a quest to find the Dark Tower. The series is notable for its blend of multiple genres, including fantasy, science fiction, and adventure.

66. “The Godfather” – Michael Corleone takes over his family’s criminal empire after his father’s assassination attempt. Although primarily a crime novel, it includes elements of adventure through its exploration of power dynamics.

67. “The Great Gatsby” – Jay Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy Buchanan leads to his downfall. More a social commentary than a typical adventure, it navigates the tumultuous landscapes of love and American dreams.

68. “The Hobbit” – Bilbo Baggins goes on a quest to help dwarves reclaim their homeland from a dragon. This book is crucial for setting the stage for modern fantasy adventure.

69. “The Hunger Games” – In a dystopian future, Katniss Everdeen participates in a deadly televised game. The book reinvigorated the young adult adventure genre with its focus on survival and social issues.

70. “The Island of Dr. Moreau” – Shipwrecked Edward Prendick discovers an island of animal-human hybrids. The book is important for combining science fiction with ethical adventure.

71. “The Jungle Book” – Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves, learns the laws of the jungle. The book is seminal in the animal adventure genre.

72. “The Last of the Mohicans” – Set in the American frontier, Hawkeye aids in the rescue of kidnapped daughters. The novel is important for its portrayal of wilderness and Native American life as part of the adventure.

73. “The Little Prince” – A pilot stranded in the desert meets a young prince from another planet. Although a children’s book, it explores the adventure of understanding different perspectives.

74. “The Odyssey” – Odysseus embarks on a ten-year journey to return home from the Trojan War. This ancient epic sets the framework for the adventure genre, focusing on heroism and trials.

75. “The Old Man and the Sea” – An old fisherman, Santiago, struggles to catch a giant marlin. The story is a brief but intense adventure focusing on the human struggle against nature.

76. “The Picture of Dorian Gray” – Dorian Gray remains young while a portrait of him ages and shows his moral decay. The adventure here is more ethical and psychological than physical.

77. “The Pilgrimage” – Paulo Coelho recounts his journey on the pilgrimage road to Santiago. The book translates the physical journey into spiritual adventure.

78. “The Princess Bride” – A young woman and her true love overcome obstacles, including an unwelcome marriage. It parodies traditional adventure tales while still delivering an exciting story.

79. “The Road” – A father and son travel through a post-apocalyptic world. The story takes the adventure genre into a darker, survivalist direction.

80. “The Silence of the Lambs” – FBI trainee Clarice Starling seeks the help of imprisoned cannibal Dr. Lecter to catch a serial killer. Though a thriller, it features the adventure of navigating extreme psychological dangers.

81. “The Stand” – A superflu wipes out most of the population, and survivors are drawn into a battle between good and evil. The novel combines elements of horror, fantasy, and adventure, showcasing the human journey amidst apocalypse.

82. “The Sun Also Rises” – Expatriates from the Lost Generation navigate love and life while traveling from Paris to Spain. Although often categorized as a novel of manners, it explores the adventure of a disenchanted generation.

83. “The Swiss Family Robinson” – A family shipwrecked on a deserted island works to survive. The book is a classic in the survival adventure genre.

84. “The Talented Mr. Ripley” – Tom Ripley manipulates his way into the life of a wealthy acquaintance, leading to murder. It’s a psychological adventure that explores the limits of identity and morality.

85. “The Three Musketeers” – D’Artagnan joins the Musketeers and becomes embroiled in political intrigue. This book is a foundational work in the adventure genre, featuring friendship and heroism.

86. “The Time Machine” – An unnamed protagonist travels to the distant future and finds a dystopian society. The book introduced the concept of time travel as a form of adventure.

87. “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” – Two Americans hunt for gold in the mountains of Mexico but face challenges, including their own greed. It’s a seminal work on the adventure and consequences of treasure hunting.

88. “The Wind in the Willows” – Anthropomorphized animals go on various adventures in the English countryside. The book is significant for portraying adventure in a pastoral setting.

89. “To Kill a Mockingbird” – Scout Finch navigates childhood in a racially-divided Southern town while her father defends a black man accused of rape. Though primarily a social commentary, the narrative includes adventures that mirror the broader societal struggles.

90. “Treasure Island” – Jim Hawkins goes on a quest to find buried treasure but faces mutiny and piracy. This novel essentially defined the pirate adventure genre.

91. “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” – Captain Nemo takes his submarine Nautilus on an underwater journey. The book pioneered the concept of underwater adventure.

92. “Ulysses” – The novel follows Leopold Bloom through a single day in Dublin. Although challenging to read, it presents a kind of intellectual adventure through its experimental style.

93. “War and Peace” – The novel explores the lives of five aristocratic families through the historical events of the Napoleonic era. While largely a historical epic, it includes grand scales of military adventure.

94. “Watership Down” – A group of rabbits seeks a new home while facing numerous challenges. The book stands out for its portrayal of adventure and heroism among non-human characters.

95. “Where the Wild Things Are” – A young boy named Max sails to the land of the Wild Things. This children’s book transforms a simple bedtime story into an adventure about facing fears.

96. “White Fang” – A wolf-dog hybrid named White Fang navigates life between the wild and human civilization. The book is significant for exploring the animal perspective in the adventure genre.

97. “Wuthering Heights” – The turbulent relationship between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff spans years and transcends death. Though a gothic novel, it involves emotional and physical adventures that challenge social norms.

98. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” – A father and son take a motorcycle trip, serving as a backdrop for philosophical discussions. The book presents a unique blend of philosophical exploration and road trip adventure.

99. “Zorba the Greek” – The narrator becomes friends with Zorba and embarks on various endeavors in Crete. The book is noted for its focus on the joy and tragedy of life as an adventure.

100. “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” – Captain Nemo takes the submarine Nautilus on a voyage under the sea. The novel is pioneering in the subgenre of underwater adventure.

101. “Catch-22” – Yossarian, a U.S. Army Air Force B-25 bombardier, is trying to maintain his sanity while fulfilling his service requirements during World War II. The novel is noted for its critique of bureaucratic operation and reasoning, wrapped in a paradoxical adventure of survival.

Are you ready to start your own writing adventure?

In conclusion, the 101 adventure novels on this list offer not just entertainment, but also invaluable lessons in storytelling, character development, and world-building

If you’re a writer or an aspiring author, consider these works a masterclass in the adventure genre. 

Enjoy reading them and let them inspire you to craft your own thrilling tales.

If you’re looking for other lists of best books, check out our post dedicated to the best books by genre.  

The world is always in need of a good adventure story—perhaps the next one will be yours.

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