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In this post from BooKKooks, you will discover top novels from Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950), a famous American writer, one of the founders of fantasy and science fiction genres. He is best known for creating his jungle hero Tarzan. Burroughs’ imagination knew no bounds and his pen ranged from primitive Africa to the American West and far beyond the stars.
He created the whole universe, with each book series containing a number of themed novels. This list of the most remarkable novels features books from various series and is ranked according to their popularity.
Rated List of Best Books by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Tarzan of the Apes: Welcome to the Jungle
Tarzan of the Apes is the first book about Tarzan adventures that appeared in 1912 and captured the minds and imagination of American readers immediately. The triumphs of the character in Hollywood, on television and radio made him an international cultural icon. That popularity forced the author to continue the series with 2 dozen sequels in the 1940s.
The plot of the book is well known to most readers. Tarzan is a son of a British lord and lady marooned by mutineers on the Atlantic coast of Africa. After the couple dies, a white-skin infant is raised by a she-ape in the African jungles. He speaks their language and becomes the most respected and feared creature in the jungle.
The protagonist was created as a superhero having no flaws: handsome, athletic, courageous, loyal, and intelligent. Later, he experiences civilization but rejects it and returns to the wild.
- The book holds readers’ attention
- Fun to read
- The narration is very descriptive
- Serves as an example for young boys
- Features a romantic line that will be interesting for female readers
- The hardcover will last longer
- The main character is too superlative
- The language of the book is a bit archaic
- Some readers may be offended by casual racism
A Princess of Mars: First Novel of the Martian Series
Like many other writers, Edgar Rice Burroughs was attracted by the Martian myth despite the fact that science claims that this planet had no life. The author started writing his Martian adventures in 1911.
A Princess of Mars is the first novel from the thrilling 11 books in the series. The odyssey begins when John Carter, a Civil War veteran, finds himself on the red planet (Barsoom) through the powers of a magical cave. Immediately, he is captured by 6-limbed, green-skinned giants.
He discovers that the gravity on Mars is weaker than it’s on the Earth. That gives him an advantage in strength and allows him to jump like a giant grasshopper. On Barsoom, he continues to combat among rival tribes. When his captors take a human-looking princess of the city of Helium (Dejah Thoris) as a prisoner, Carter calls on all his courage and ingenuity to rescue her.
- There is plenty of action that keeps you turning pages
- Describes moral men who have courage, a sense of honor, loyalty, and generosity of spirit
- Captivating for all generations of readers
- Fun to read regarding the state of knowledge about Mars a hundred years ago
- For readers from the 21st century, it looks like a fairytale
- Shows a lot of battles and escapes, which begin to blur
- The storyline is full of bizarre holes
The Gods of Mars: John Carter’s Adventure Continues
This book is the second in the Barsoom series. At the end of the first book, John Carter is transported to the Earth against his will. This time, he returns to Mars after 10 years of exile and separation with his wife, Princess Dejah, and the nation of Helium.
Unfortunately, the main character materializes in the wrong place on Barsoom. He is trapped in the Valley Dor, the land of the dead, from which no one has ever escaped. This heaven appears to be not a land of legend but a world full of cannibalistic slavers and deadly beasts who exploit the pilgrims. The novel describes the Barsoomian religion and racial tensions. Carter reacts angrily that some races are controlled by others and decides to destroy that religious infrastructure.
Also, the protagonist reunites with his friend Jeddak Tars Tarkas. The entire book is spent in his pursuit of returning to Dejah who had disappeared. When he finally finds her, she is taken once again.
- The read is fresh and entertaining
- Lots of new characters
- Has a cliffhanger to pull readers into the book #3
- This novel features more dialogues than narration compared to the book #1
- Some readers don’t like the repetition of the plot: they battle, they are captured, they escape
- The readers may find the ending unfair
- The novel requires a map of the planet because the geography is impossible to visualize
The Return of Tarzan: Second Book in the Tarzan Series
The first novel ends with Tarzan rescuing Jane Porter from a forest fire. He conceals his identity as the true Lord Greystoke not to interfere with her marriage to his cousin who inherited the title after Tarzan’s father died and left no heir. This sequel offers Tarzan and Jane another chance.
The ape-man returns to France to visit his friend, who helps his grieving comrade get a post in the French Secret Service that will suit his adventurous nature. Before his path crosses with that of Jane and the couple reunites, the reader will witness a duel, a shipwreck, espionage, political scandals, attempted murders, suicide, a lost race, lion attacks, and ancient treasure. Expect to see a lot of rescues, escapes, and jeopardies.
- The book is hard to put down
- The novel shows the triumph of old-fashioned values and heroic charm
- The captivating read for both men and women
- The settings in France and North America are depicted more realistically than that in tropical Africa
- It reads like a spy novel featuring civilized Tarzan as James Bond, not an ape-man hero
Pellucidar: in a Hollow-Earth World
This is the second book from seven written for the Pellucidar series. The first novel describes the adventures of David Innes and Abner Perry in the incredible world inside the Earth full of primitive monsters. Intelligent but sinister reptiles are the dominant species and control humans who stuck in the stone-age civilization period. The story ends with Innes returning to the outer crust to bring tools, arms, and books to advance subterranean people.
In the book #2, he returns to Pellucidar with weapons and technological know-how. He leads a federation of the inner world in a battle against slavers. The situation is complicated by the kidnapping of Dian, the beautiful human-like empress. So, it makes the protagonist enter a greater battle.
- A heart-pounding, romantic adventure
- A versatile novel full of beautiful maidens, gallant heroes, and horrifying villains
- Answers some questions from the previous book
- The series includes a Tarzan crossover
- The atmosphere and language are a bit outdated for contemporary readers
- The protagonist is a superhero, and other characters are always shown dumber
- Dian rarely speaks and looks like a prop for the story
Warlord of Mars: Exceptional Adventure
Trying to spread the truth and free Barsoom citizens from slavery, Carter has to pay a price for his good intentions. In the third book of the Martian series, he risks his life rescuing his beloved wife, Princess Dejah, who was imprisoned by his enemies in the vault of the Temple of the Sun. This cell can be accessed only once in a Martian year.
The protagonist meets his old friends, and his adventure brings him to the mysterious North Pole. Actually, the story is one big chase scene. However, it is not tiresome to read about the feats of this lucky guy, whose character was created before Captain America and Superman appeared.
- Very thrilling with no pause for breathing
- This is the slimmest book compared to the previous two but action-packed
- Appeals to people of all ages
- Teaches bravery, honor, and loyalty
- The storyline is a bit predictable
- It becomes annoying that the hero is being late several times by a fraction of a second to reach his goal
- Picky readers find countless implausibilities in the novel
Pirates of Venus: the Beginning of Another Exciting Series
Pirates of Venus starts the Venus series of Burroughs’ books, which involves other planets and their inhabitants. The protagonist Carson Napier launches his rocket ship to Mars, but because of a miscalculation, he crash-lands on planet Venus.
The main character is a modest but confident man of good breeding who lacks Tarzan’s power and Carter’s remarkable ego. He is not a superhero, and this makes his adventures more exciting.
Carson is aware that this is a one-way trip. He has to survive in this unknown world until other rockets from the Earth rescue him. In this book, readers will find exotic animals and plants, monsters, winged men, cities on tree branches, and forbidden love, of course. Spoiler: Carson falls in love with the Emperor’s daughter, Duare.
- Another enjoyable read for fans of Pellucidar and Barsoom to feel the freshness of old science fiction
- Although it was first published in 1932, the book is very inventive
- Rather short for bedtime reading the other night
- Readers see a more mature Burroughs
- There is no character development, as the author focuses on describing the world
- The plot is a Burroughs’ cliché
At the Earth’s Core: Acquaintance with Pellucidar
This 1914 fantasy novel is the first book in the Pellucidar series. Professor Perry invents and builds a giant manned burrowing machine (called the Prospector) hoping to uncover mineral deposits beneath the surface. His ex-student and a wealthy man, David Innes, finances the project. During a test run, something goes wrong, and the vehicle breaks through the Earth’s crust.
The two men discover the thickness of the crust is only 500 miles, and its center is not a mass of white-hot magma. They come upon lush jungles, vast oceans, and eternal noon, so everyone there loses track of time. That is a mysterious realm of Pellucidar, a savage subterranean world inhabited with prehistoric beasts and primitive cave people who are subject to evil reptilian masters. The adventurers come to the rescue in their struggle for freedom.
- A very imaginative work for readers
- Fascinating descriptions and details
- Features a romantic element with Dian the Beautiful
- The author offers nifty ideas for solving problems such as gravity, light, etc.
- Some readers consider the plot silly and not serious and call it a kid’s book
- The book has much in common with a Jules Verne’s setting
The Land That Time Forgot: Illustrated Edition
The first edition of The Land That Time Forgot came out in 1918, but the novel is still popular. This is the first book in the Caspak trilogy, which describes the lost continent of Caprona and the adventures of the first people who set foot here. This fantasy novel starts as a wartime sea adventure, and then it develops into a lost world story where the slow progress of evolution results in flora and fauna metamorphosis.
A man finds a floating bottle with a manuscript inside describing the happy salvation of the writer (American passenger Bowen J. Tyler) after a shipwreck and his subsequent capture by a German submarine. They sail towards Greenland, but being short of fuel, they have to disembark on a tropical island. Filled with strange biological specimens and Neanderthal men, this uncharted world is not hospitable.
- The writing style is fast-paced and engaging
- A handy edition with illustrations
- The story ends well, and the fans can enjoy 2 more books
- Reminiscent of Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World”, Jules Verne’s and Herbert Wells’ novels
- The characters are stereotyped
Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds
This is the third book in the fantasy adventures of the Venus series. Carson Napier and his love Princess Duare are in search of a new home because the Earthman violated the taboo of speaking to her and confessed his love. The couple tries to find a new place in Sanara, the city under siege by the Zani.
The ruler of the city sends the protagonist on a secret mission, while his only goal is to claim the Princess and get rid of Carson. Then, the main character is back to rescue the ever in peril Duare.
- Non-stop action
- Suitable for any reader’s taste: a love story, adventures in space, philosophy, etc.
- An easy-to-read entertaining novel
- The end of the novel is a little abrupt
- The book has a déjà vu aspect with the John Carter series, and some readers think the author has run out of ideas
Here are some unknown facts related to the best Edgar Rice Burroughs books described above and the author himself.
- Will Murray (born 1953), a famous American novelist and journalist, has been hooked by Tarzan books since childhood. As a mature writer, he wrote an authorized sequel to Burroughs’ books: Tarzan: Return to Pal-ul-don (2015), King Kong vs. Tarzan (2016), and Tarzan, Conqueror of Mars (2020), where legendary John Carter is revived.
- Tarzan remains one of the most successful fictional characters and has become a cultural sensation. With hundreds of millions of copies sold, the book spawned 250 TV episodes, 60 films, and numerous comic strips offered for sale.
- If you want to know how many books Burroughs wrote, the answer is almost 70. You can get acquainted with them in chronological order on the official Burroughs’ website.
- When Burroughs acquired a ranch in Los Angeles, CA, he named it Tarzana. The citizens that lived around the ranch wanted to adopt this name for the whole community. The Postal Service of the United States formally accepted this name in 1927.
- Directed by Scott Sidney, the first Tarzan film was an American silent movie (1918) starring Elmo Lincoln. It had a huge success and was filmed in Louisiana swamps, which stood for the African jungle. Burroughs sold the rights for the movie for $5,000, while normally film rights were sold for $100-500.
- In 1923, the novelist set up his own company to print his books.
- To honor Burroughs’ work, which inspired real exploration of Mars, a large crater on the red planet was named after him.
If you know more interesting facts about this author and his books, leave them in the comments below.
Even after Burroughs’ death, his novels have a hypnotic influence on readers. They withstood the test of time and stayed in people’s hearts and minds. You can catch a glimpse of his characters here and there. The author’s prolific output still inspires people of art to use the images of his characters in their works. The list of his novels is endless, so you may start your own journey with the picks selected for you above.