Love science fiction? Then, discover our guide including the 12 best Edgar Rice Burroughs books to liven up your library.
The creator of the action hero and one of the top science fiction writers of the 20th century, Edgar Rice Burroughs, created memorable characters like John Carter and Tarzan. Though his books may be predictable, they are enjoyable to read, and today they have a pulp fiction following. Burroughs was born in 1875 and began writing in the early 1900s. He began his writing career after failed business attempts, and his primary goal was to make money. What followed was a lucrative career that sparked a following that still exists today. Burroughs died in 1950 at the age of 74.
If you are ready to explore the works of one of the best science fiction authors, you will want to start with the best Edgar Rice Burroughs books. Here is a list to get you started.
1. A Princess of Mars
A Princess of Mars was the first Edgar Rice Burroughs novel published in 1912. This science fiction novel was the first in the Barsoom series. It takes place on Mars, following the story of John Carter, an American Civil War veteran who goes prospecting in the American West, where he gets transported to Mars. Here he finds immense strength and agility and falls in love with a red-skinned princess, Dejah Thoris.
After publishing this first work, Burroughs completed ten more Barsoom books, including The Warlord of Mars, John Carter of Mars, The Chessmen of Mars, Under the Moons of Mars, and Synthetic Men of Mars, but readers routinely comment that the first work was their favorite.
“In one respect at least the Martians are a happy people, they have no lawyers.”Edgar Rice Burroughs
2. Tarzan of the Apes
One of the longest series Burroughs wrote was his Tarzan series, which started with Tarzan of the Apes in 1912. This book, which became the subject of many movies and comic book adaptations, tells of a boy raised by apes away from humans. His ape mother, Kala, and King Kerchak serve as surrogate parents until he meets Jane Porter and falls in love.
Though the book does not have the happily-ever-ending of many of its movie counterparts, the story remains popular. Some of the sequels of this first book include Tarzan and the Leopard Men, Tarzan and the Foreign Legion, Tarzan and the Lost Empire, Tarzan and the Golden Lion, and Tarzan and the Ant Men. You might also like hard science fiction.
“The time has arrived when patience becomes a crime and mayhem appears garbed in a manner of virtue”Edgar Rice Burroughs
3. At the Earth’s Core
At the Earth’s Core, Burroughs published in 1914, is the first of the Pellucidar novels. This series of seven books included Tarzan at the Earth’s Core, Land of Terror, Tanar of Pellucidar, and Back to the Stone Age. In the first book, Burroughs has plenty of adventure, but he also has a romance at the core.
In this book, the main character, David Innes, uses an experimental mining vehicle to burrow 500 miles into the earth. Here they find that the earth is a hollow shell with a kingdom, Pellucidar, at its core. This land is filled with prehistoric creatures and humans that serve as flying reptile creatures. It embraces the fantasy genre well, but sadly, the sequels were not well received by critics.
“Kho closed and sought my jugular with his teeth. He seemed to forget the hatchet dangling by.”Edgar Rice Burroughs
4. The Wizard of Venus
All of the books in the Venus series, which starts with Pirates of Venus, are full of adventure and intrigue, but the last book, The Wizard of Venus, is unique in that it was published in 1964, 14 years after the author’s death. The hero of this story, Carson Napier, finishes his adventures in the last book, which Burroughs wrote in 1941.
The book opens with Napier trapped in the castle of a wizard who uses hypnosis to keep the local population in his control. Then, the book follows Napier as he frees the people from this tyrant. The book also includes a short story called “Pirate Blood,” which makes it even more interesting to add to your collection. Other books in the Venus series include Lost on Venus, Escape on Venus, and Carson of Venus. If you like reading sci-fi books, you might want to explore our round-up of the best authors like Stephen King.
5. The Land That Time Forgot
The most famous of the Caspak series is the first book, The Land That Time Forgot. This book became a film in 1974 and again in 2009, which has kept it in modern culture. The book opens as a wartime sea adventure, but eventually, the characters end up on an island that time forgot.
Full of Neanderthals and dinosaurs, the island forces the crew of the ship and the ship’s prisoners to work together to survive. It opens plenty of questions about why the land stood forgotten as Bowen Tyler, the story’s hero, must fight for the survival of himself, his love interest, and his fellow stranded islanders. This opened the door to two sequels, The People That Time Forgot and Out of Time’s Abyss.
“I realize as never before how cheap and valueless a thing is life. Life seems a joke, a cruel, grim joke.”Edgar Rice Burroughs
6. The Moon Maid
The Moon Maid is the title for the first book in the Moon trilogy, and it is also sometimes the title of the first book combined with the other two, The Moon Men and The Red Hawk. Originally written as Under the Red Flag, this book took a political stance against Soviet Russia. Publishers did not like this, so Burroughs changed the setting to the moon and made it a science fiction work.
In these books, the main character, Julian, is fully aware of his past and present lives, and he keeps coming back to fight the Kalkans, a race of people living on the moon’s back side. The anti-communist threads woven through this book make it an engaging read with political meaning and obvious science fiction undertones. Looking for more sci-fi novels to add to your reading list? Check out our round-up of the best Cyberpunk authors!
“There is no such thing as Time,”Edgar Rice Burroughs
7. The Mucker
Considered his most realistic adventure tale, The Mucker was published in 1914, followed by The Return of the Mucker two years later and The Oakdale Affair two years later. The first book in the series starts with Billy Byme, a poor man from a Chicago, Illinois ghetto. Rather than mythical creatures and outer space adventures, this one takes the main character on a rags-to-riches story complete with headhunters of Japanese origins. This book deserves a spot on the list because it is a departure from Burroughs’s typical science fiction writing.
“Billy was a mucker, a hoodlum, a gangster, a thug, a tough.”Edgar Rice Burroughs
8. The War Chief
Even though Burroughs is known as one of the best fantasy authors, he also wrote a few westerns, and The War Chief was one of these. Published in 1927, this book tells the story of a white boy raised as an Apache. He drew on his service in the Calvary in southern Arizona to write this book. Though this story arc has been done often, Burroughs can do it well. It is hard to believe that he can shift from writing about an alien planet to the barren deserts of the American West. However, this ability shows just how influential Burroughs was as an author.
“Here was freedom. Agricola was as yet unborn, the Wall of Antoninus unbuilt, Albion not even a name; but Agricola was to come, Antoninus was to build his wall; and they were to go their ways, taking with them the name of Albion, taking with them freedom; leaving England, civilization, inhibitions.”Edgar Rice Burroughs
9. The Lost Continent
The Lost Continent is a fun little novel initially published in a magazine under Beyond Thirty. It shares the story of what would happen if the Western hemisphere severed contact with the rest of the world during a severe war. England faced destruction, and when the people of Pan-America rediscovered it, they found that Great Britain’s civilization had descended to ruin in the wake of the war.
A typical Burroughs story is filled with adventure, savages, and romance. In the end, diplomatic relations are restored and the rightful heirs return to the throne in Great Britain, but not before quite a bit of action and adventure takes place. The Lost Continent was published in 1916 as Beyond Thirty, but it did not become a novel until 1963.
“For an instant, I was dumbfounded.”Edgar Rice Burroughs
10. The Cave Girl
The Cave Girl tells of a woman stranded on an island with savages, only to learn that she was the daughter of a noblewoman. It involves adventure and romance as a young man discovers her on the island and seeks to free her and take her back to civilization. This book was initially published in two installments. In 1913, The Cave Girl was published in The All-Story periodical, followed by The Cave Man in 1914. Then, in 1925, the stories were combined and published as one book.
“It was foolish, of course, and he fully realized the fact; but his silly mind would insist upon attributing them to the cave girl–Nadara.”Edgar Rice Burroughs
11. The Outlaw of Torn
The Outlaw of Torn is a historical novel that takes the reader to medieval England. It tells of a lost prince, Richard, who has become an outlaw. Readers often say it feels much like reading a version of Robin Hood. He published this work in 1914. Like all works by Burroughs, this one has adventure and swordplay. There is also plenty of double-crossing in the book to keep it interesting. Because it is not a science fiction work, many fans of Burroughs overlook it, but it is definitely worth the read.
“It all happened in the thirteenth century, and while it was happening, it shook England from north to south and from east to west; and reached across the channel and shook France.”Edgar Rice Burroughs
12. The Girl from Farris’s
Originally published in 1916, The Girl from Farris’s tells of a “red light district” woman from Chicago who wants to clean up her life. But, sadly, when she enters normal society, she finds just as much deception and negative behavior as she finds on the street.
Even though Burroughs is one of the best science fiction writers of modern time, works like this show how varied his writing abilities were. He could write a book without adventure and fight scenes and still capture the reader’s attention throughout each page. Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best P.D. James books!
“A girl was descending the fire escape. How frightened she was she alone knew and that there must have been something very dreadful to escape in the building above her was apparent from the risk she took at each step upon that loose and rusted fabric of sagging iron.”Edgar Rice Burroughs
FAQs About Edgar Rice Burroughs Books
How many books did Edgar Rice Burroughs write?
In total, Burroughs wrote 80 books. This includes 26 Tarzan tales.
Did Edgar Rice Burroughs ever go to Africa?
Even though he wrote about Africa in many books, Burroughs never visited the continent. He was born in Chicago, Illinois, and died in Encino, California.
How many were Edgar Rice Burroughs books made into movies?
In addition to over 60 Tarzan-based films, there are nine other movies based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’s books.
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