While other writers may be satisfied working in one genre, for years James Patterson has been quietly taking over every single literary category in the bookstore. With boundless energy, a unique imagination, and a list of dependable writing partners, Patterson likely has written a book for just about every reader out there, no matter their literary taste. As a result, Patterson books make ideal gifts, too. Here’s a quick guide to the ideal Patterson book for every sort of reader—which should be a great help as you search for new reads during James Patterson Week, July 29-August 6, when all James Patterson books are buy one, get one free at Barnes & Noble (in-stores and online, full details here).
For the Patterson Newbie
Along Came a Spider
If you’ve somehow made it through life without ever reading a James Patterson book, choosing one can be a bit overwhelming—the man literally has hundreds of them in circulation, with dozens more arriving every year. Many suggest Along Came a Spider as the ideal Patterson starting point. It was his eighth novel, and the first to feature breakout character Alex Cross. It’s a compelling slow-burn thriller, and the first book where Patterson’s mastery of character and pacing came together to create a breakout, series-launching classic. If you’re wondering whether you’ll enjoy Patterson, this book is your litmus test.
For Thriller Fans
Ambush, by James Patterson and James O. Born
If you’re looking for thrills at a relentless pace instead of slow-burn suspense and mystery, Patterson’s newer series are a better choice—including the Michael Bennett series. In the 11th entry, Detective Michael Bennett receives an anonymous tip that leads him into an attempted assassination. He realizes it’s the work of a talented and mysterious professional, who soon targets Bennett’s family while serving up perfect red herrings clues to keep Bennett and his fellow cops chasing their tails. Bennett puts the pieces together while attempting to protect everyone he cares about, realizing rival cartels battling to corner the city’s drug traffic may have set aside their differences to take out the largest obstacle in their way: Detective Michael Bennett himself.
For Thriller Fans Who Want a Standalone
The Cornwalls Are Gone, by James Patterson and Brendan DuBois
If you don’t want to commit to a series with double-digit books or dive into the middle of one and play catch-up, Patterson also writes excellent standalones. This one tells the story of army intelligence officer Amy Cornwall, skilled at dealing with scenarios that would make most people blanch. But nothing in her professional career has prepared her for the sense of dread she experiences when she comes home to find her husband and young daughter missing. Contacted by the kidnapper, she is told there is only one way to save them: she must somehow secure the release of an unnamed captive. She has two days to accomplish her mission, and if she fails, her family will be killed. Amy has no choice but to go rogue, using her training, contacts, and sense of desperation to find out who took her family and why.
For Fantasy Fans
Sophia, Princess Among Beasts, by James Patterson and Emily Raymond
Patterson’s name is synonymous with thrillers, but he’s branched out into every other conceivable genre—including, most recently, epic fantasy, bringing his trademark tension and thriller grit along for the ride. At the core of this epic fantasy is a mystery that only Sophia, princess of a kingdom under dire threat, can solve. Sophia is smart and capable, beautiful and beloved by the people, and an avid reader who spent long hours as a child reading about a terrible realm filled with monsters. When she discovers that that place—and its resident monsters—are very real, and that an army is marching on her kingdom, Sophia knows it is her duty to protect those who have put their trust in her. Her only hope is to solve an ancient a mystery—if she has time.
For Young Kids
No More Monsters Under Your Bed, Jordan Chouteau and Anat Even Or
James Patterson is a huge leader in the drive to get kids reading more, and he’s shepherded to shelves excellent books for kids of all ages. If you’ve got toddlers at home and you want to encourage them to read more (and get comfortable reading), books like No More Monsters—created under the “James Patterson Presents” imprint—are fun, exciting, and as an added bonus, it might even convince kids to go to bed more easily. The illustrations are a delight, and the positive messages are introduced with a lot of fun. It’ll make your own little monster excited about bedtime and reading!
For The Voracious Middle Grade Reader
Laugh Out Loud, by James Patterson Chris Grabenstein and Jeff Ebbeler
If you know any burgeoning book nerds, you’re going to want to do all you can to encourage that behavior—and Patterson is in your corner. His middle-grade books offer the perfect balance of serious message and plain old fun. This one tells the story of a kid who wants to start a book company for kids, run by kids, and it is bursting with imagination—of course a kid would design a headquarters with a Ferris wheel used in place of an elevator—and references to other books, which will encourage young readers to search out even more great reads.
For YA Readers
Young adults who love to read demand interesting stories that don’t talk down to them. Patterson brings his mastery of building tension and plot-twist expertise to this sci-fi YA series (inspired by and connected to his adult novel When the Wind Blows), focused on a “flock” of human-avian hybrids with wings, the results of genetic experiments. The first books kicks off when the youngest member of this ersatz family, Angel, is abducted by a shadowy group, and the rest of the flock must risk everything in order to track down her kidnappers and save her, fighting evil scientists and a group of human-wolf hybrids called Erasers.
The Confessions series, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Patterson also writes straight-up thrillers for YA audience, so if sci-fi isn’t your bag, the tense, heart-pounding story of Tandy Angel and her family secrets will keep you turning pages well into the night. When Tandy’s parents are murdered, she knows she was the last person to see them, and that she’s the prime suspect. As she investigates on her own, flashes of memory reveal that Tandy has plenty of buried secrets—secrets that mean maybe she can’t even trust herself.
For True Crime Fans
Filthy Rich: The Shocking True Story of Jeffrey Epstein, by James Patterson, John Connolly, and Tim Mallo
If fiction is just too made up for your tastes, Patterson brings his skill at crafting tension and mystery to a non-fiction book exploring someone you’ve likely heard a lot about in recent weeks: infamous alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Long before fresh charges finally brought the billionaire down, Patterson was on the case, detailing the truly awful, appalling crimes that Epstein is said to have committed—and how he (almost) got away without serious punishment. This is a riveting master-class in true crime writing.
For History Fans
The Murder of King Tut, by James Patterson and Martin Dugard
If you love to learn about distant eras and cultures, this book is your jam. Patterson and co-author Martin Dugard (a historian who also writes for Bill O’Reilly’s popular Killing series), approach the mystery of the famous Egyptian pharaoh’s death as if it was one of the famed author’s crime thrillers, digging through ancient evidence to construct a narrative of passion and betrayal that would rival any modern-day story of power and murder. This is one of those works of history where the process is just as fascinating as the story that emerges, as is the reconstruction of King Tut’s life and the world he inhabited.
For Straight-Up Sci-Fi Fans
Humans Bow Down, by James Patterson, Emily Raymond, Jill Dembowski, and Alexander Ovchinnikov
Looking for a gritty, exciting sci-fi adventure? Patterson does those, too. This dark story is set in a grim future where the war between the machines and humanity has already happened—and humanity lost. The survivors can either do as they’re told, or be banished into the Reserve, where death lurks around every corner. One last leader rallies the remaining people for a final desperate try at freedom—but it might require the least likely alliance of all time. It’s a futuristic story filled with classic Patterson twists.
For Fans of Romance
Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas
If you love a good tear-jerking love story—and think that Patterson only writes gory novels about serial killers—prepare to be pleasantly surprised by his forays into romance. This touching story starts off as a straightforward romance as a woman meets the man of her dreams—until he disappears from her life mysteriously. When the explanation comes, it comes in the form of a diary that is mailed to her, a diary filled with surprises, heartbreak, and a beautiful secret.
For Horror Fans
When the Wind Blows
Patterson’s tale of genetic experiments, serial murders, and shadowy groups roams directly into full-on supernatural horror territory, combining his thriller licks with a wildly inventive (and often truly terrifying) horror aspect. A young veterinarian is trying to move past her husband’s murder, but when more dead bodies turn up she’d swept up into the investigation—and meets a mysterious girl with a shocking secret tied to the growing body count in unimaginable ways.
For Western Fans
Like a bit of a drawl and a dash of the Old West in your stories? Look no further. Rory Yates is one of 200 lawmen who have been elevated to the status of Texas Ranger. Fast on the draw and dedicated to the Ranger creed of “never surrender,” Yates’ rise cost him his marriage to schoolteacher Anne. When Yates gets a call from Anne complaining of creepy phone calls and strange objects left at her home, he heads home, only to find his former wife has been brutally murdered. Even worse, Yates is the main suspect, and clearing his name dredges up connections and memories in he’d rather not recall. When a second murder occurs, Yates knows whoever’s responsible is targeting him specifically—and he will need his shooting skills and his reliance on the Ranger code to survive the twisted scheme.
What’s your favorite James Patterson book?