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10 Best Don Winslow Books (2024)

Best Don Winslow Books ReviewBio

Winslow was born on the 31st of October, in the year of 1953, in New York City, New York, United States of America. Winslow is a prominent American writer, particularly known to audiences for his mystery and crime works. A common feature of his works is that they are predominantly situated in California. Worth noting is that Don has also co-written the screenplays for the movie adaptations of his novels.

As noted, Winslow was born in New York City, New York, but he actually grew up in Perryville, which is a beach town in the proximity of Matunuck, Rhode Island. The mother of Don was employed as a librarian, while his dad was a non-commissioned officer in the US Navy.

Best Don Winslow Books


The literary stories of his mother along with the stories of the navy were inspirational for Winslow and they set him up to become the terrific storyteller we know him as.

His career first started as he was an investigator who frequented California for investigating cases of arson, where the storytelling prowess he had made it easier to convey the story and point to the jury. Now, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at the best Don Winslow books.

Power of the Dog Series


Famous Trilogy

Winslow’s Power of the Dog series is among the best Don Winslow series, without a shadow of a doubt. The series is comprised of a total of three novels, so that these particular Don Winslow novels in order are:

  1. The Power of the Dog
  2. The Cartel
  3. The Border

Ensnared by the Drug

The Power of the Dog, the series’ first novel, is where we first take a look into this world. A DEA agent named Art Montana is the one we will be following as he steps into the treachery and corruption-riddled world of the drug trade.

The Barrera brothers, on the other hand, are the ones set to inherit a sizable drug empire. Another notable character, Nora Hayden, is a teenager without much enthusiasm, that comes to be a prostitute of high class.

The Might It Possesses

An important character of the story is also Father Parada, one mighty and scrupulous Catholic priest. Callan, an Irish young man from Hell’s Kitchen, in turn, goes on to become a ruthless hitman. What all these people have in common, which isn’t much, is that they’re in the realm of the drug Federaci and all those who possess it. Rightfully considered as being Don Winslow’s best book.

The Force


The Grip of Corruption

Of all Winslow’s books, the so-called Winslow’s Malone novels among the most popular Don Winslow books ever. The Force was published in the year of 2017, spanning nearly five-hundred pages in total.

Denny Malone is a man that only really desires to be a great police officer. They refer to him as the King of Manhattan North, as he’s the ‘Da Force’ leader. The group of a Malone bright, swift, bold, and tough special unit whose missions primarily involve going against drugs, weapons, and gangs.

A Daunting Choice

Day in and day out, Malone has been a witness to those that have been victimized, those that victimize, the dead, and the soon to be dead. All his career, Malone has gone to all the lengths to keep the city safe and not corrupted, even though he, himself, isn’t clean.

A fact that a few people only know is that Denny Malone and his group have succeeded in taking millions upon millions of dollars following the largest heroin bust in the whole city. However, Malone’s suspicious work has been noticed by the FBI, so he has to wrestle with himself, whether to do all he can for his family or to keep his crew safe.

Savages Series



The Savages series is another great pick for being the best Don Winslow book series. It is also the series where the best-selling Winslow books can be found. The Savages series is comprised of two novels and these Winslow’s books in order go as follows:

  1. Savages
  2. The Kings of Cool


The two main characters of Savages, a book worthy of being called one of Winslow’s best books, are Ben and Chon. Ben is a philanthropist and he moonlights as a part-time environmentalist, too. Chon, on the other hand, is Ben’s old pal that is a former mercenary.

The two of them together are running a Laguna Beach marijuana operation, as the profits they’re making are very notable especially with the loyal clients they have.

Nothing That Can Be Done

In the past, whenever it so happened that someone wanted to step up on their territory, the former mercenary Chon made them reconsider.

However, now that the Mexican Baja Cartel is interested in the market, they can’t just have Chon doing all of the work. When they say no and persist, the Baja kidnap Ophelia, a confidante of Ben and Chon. In a race against time, Ben and Chon have to figure out what the best action is.

Boone Daniels Series


Amazing Series

The Boone Daniels series is one of those works of the author that we consider to be worthy of the title of the top Don Winslow books. The two novels in here are some of the best-rated Don Winslow books, as well. These two books by Don Winslow in order are:

  1. The Dawn Patrol
  2. The Gentleman’s Hour

Surfing the Days Away

Boone Daniels, the eponymous main character, is a Private Investigator who is as laid back as one can conceivably be. Once upon a time ago, Boone Daniels worked as a police officer with the San Diego Police Department and he liked to enjoy his time with the group he was a part of, one called the Dawn Patrol. Well, while Boone isn’t with the San Diego PD anymore, the Dawn Patrol might just need his help this time.

A Ring of Pedophiles

We begin with a stripper that has witnessed some fishy things going on around with her pimp and her boss at work. Boone Daniels is pulled into this world of strippers, pimps, and murder, as a different stripper is killed. Before long, Boone Daniels uncovers something that, while it was important to read back when the book was published, is even timelier today. One of the best Don Winslow novels right here.



Out of the Comfort Zone

Satori is a very important Winslow’s work, as it takes the author out of his comfort zone and puts him in a place of writing that he wasn’t quite as familiar as with his other novels. Satori, perhaps the best Don Winslow novel of all our Don Winslow book reviews, was published in the year of 2011, spanning five-hundred pages.


The novel’s events take place during the year of 1951. The war in Korea is still going on, as a man in his mid-twenties named Nicholai Hel has been captured by the Americans and has spent three years in solitary confinement.

Nicholai is a so-called naked kill, can speak a number of languages very fluently, and has a situational awareness remarkable. For better or worse, Nicholai has the skills that make him the greatest assassin in the world and the Central Intelligence Agency needs him right now.

One Last Shot

The mission that Nicholai Hel has been picked for would see him take a trip to Beijing, China, and murder the USSR’s commissioner to China. In exchange, Hel would receive his liberty back once more, a lot of money, and a neutral passport. While the mission is perhaps one that skews towards the impossible, it’s also the only chance Hel has, so he accepts.

The Death and Life of Bobby Z


Days Are Numbered

The Death and Life of Bobby Z is outright one of the best Don Winslow books ever. If we were to have Winslow’s books ranked in a certain order, The Death and Life of Bobby Z would prove to be one of the best. The Death and Life of Bobby Z was published in the year of 1997.

Tim Kearney is a criminal, though by no means is he a bigtime one. However, one thing that he did, the same thing that sent him away to prison, is probably the same one that put a mark on his back. He killed a Hell’s Angels member and when he gets into prison, one brimming with gang members, he is aware of the dangers.

The Dead Have Risen

However, the DEA gives Kearney an opportunity and a chance to get out: impersonate a dead, though well-respected and well-reputed smuggler named Bobby Z, and his freedom will be given to him.

Neither the chances in jail nor the chances in prison are particularly favorable to his survival, but he takes the latter, nonetheless. Before long, Tim is in a desert at the compound where Bobby Z worked and he meets Z’s old girlfriend along with her son. However, when something goes awry, it’s the three of them that have to work together if they want to stay alive. One of the best books by Don Winslow.

California Fire and Life


Up in Flames

California Fire and Life is a tremendous work of Winslow’s. It ranks as being one of Winslow’s best crime books and, in our opinion, it cracks into the top five best novels by Winslow. California Fire and Life was published in the year of 1999.

Jack Wade was once with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, working as an arson investigator, but that was a somewhat long time ago. At present, Jack Wade is a claims adjuster working alongside the California Fire and Life.

Something Shady

A surfer by nature that likes to bide his time, when one day Wade dismounts the surfboard to go and check on a pretty large blaze going on at the Newport Beach mansions. When he gets there, he sees that it’s burning up the mansion of Nicky Vale, a real estate mogul.

In the ensuing fire, the wife of Nicky Vale, a dismal lady named Pamela, perished, as well. The county concludes that the source of the fire were cigarettes and vodka, but Jack and his understanding of arson say otherwise. Before he knows it, Jack is pulled into the case, working alongside Letitia del Rio, as insurance fraud, the mob, and Vietnamese gangs aim at him.

Neal Carey Series


Longer Series

Winslow’s Neal Carey series is a terrific source of the top novels of Don Winslow. It is a series of five books, all of which individually, we think, would make it into the list of the ten best Winslow books. The five books comprising the series are:

  1. A Cool Breeze on the Underground
  2. The Trail to Buddha’s Mirror
  3. Way Down on the High Lonely
  4. A Long Walk Up the Water Slide
  5. While Drowning in the Desert

All Shall Be Repaid

Neal Carey is by no means the common private investigator. Having graduated from Columbia University and grown up on the New York streets, Neal knows a thing or two about the law, especially since he’s been at odds with it.

Some time ago, he met a man named Joe Graham, a PI who had only one arm. Joe initiated Neal to the Bank, a New England institution that aims to keep the affluent clients out of harm’s way. They paid the college tuition of Neal, while he learned things he could never in college.

Clearing the Debt

But now, the time has come for Neal to pay his loans back. The Bank asks of him to find the rebellious teen daughter of a notable senior, one Allie Chase. An issue that arises is that Allie is in the London underground, a place that Neal doesn’t exactly know by heart. Nonetheless, he has to repay the Bank, so he sets off. All of Winslow’s Neal Carey books get our nod of recommendation.



Short Stories

Broken is the newest Don Winslow book, having been published in April of 2020. The page count of this novel is about six-hundred pages, with there being six short novels in here. Broken shows that Winslow has many more tales to weave.

A Chimp, A Crook, and a Bail Bondsman

Crime 101, of the six short novels in the book, is one that takes place on the 101 Highway in San Diego County, where a very bright criminal is trying to figure out the odds and ends of a heist that will get him a million bucks, but someone is onto him.

The San Diego Zoo, perhaps the most humorous of the lot, is where the criminal is, in fact, a chimpanzee brandishing a weapon. Sunset is a short story that gives us a glimpse of the bail bondsman’s work, while also alluding to characters from previous Winslow titles.

Intrigue, Old Faces, and the Border

Broken, the short story herein, is a story filled with action, filled with revenge, requiems, due-paying, and the like, as two brothers are the main characters. Paradise, one set in Hawaii, follows Ben, Chon, and Ophelia, from the Savages novel, as they try to get their business set up on the delightful islands. Finally, the Last Ride has to deal with border, border patrol, and is perhaps the most political of the bunch.

Isle of Joy


Retiring After All

Isle of Joy is a fantastic book from Winslow. Isle of Joy was published in the year of 1996 and it stands as being one of our absolute favorites. The events of the book take place in New York, during the later months of the year of 1958.

Walter Withers is a man that has devoted the greatest of his life’s years working for the Central Intelligence Agency, what with setting up traps for criminals, or getting to the bottom of the elaborate plots that they set up. However, Withers has come back to his hometown for a far calmer, easier life, and has begun to work as a private eye.

Slipping Up

Manhattan during the end of the 1950s was something worthy of awe, as it was booming with brilliant possibilities. One of the jobs that Wither gets is to bodyguard the girlfriend of a certain senator named Joe Keneally.

The girl is going to a social gathering, where Withers has to keep an eye on her – a piece of cake. However, when the morning comes following the social gathering, she’s less than alive, with Withers being the number one suspect. Now, the CIA and the FBI are gunning for him, as Withers tries to clear his name. Missing New York is a title worth picking up, but it’s a book exclusively in German.

Michael Englert

Michael is a graduate of cultural studies and history. He enjoys a good bottle of wine and (surprise, surprise) reading. As a small-town librarian, he is currently relishing the silence and peaceful atmosphere that is prevailing.