Excited about the new Starz show? Then this is the perfect time to rip through all eight of Diana Gabaldon's brawling, sexy, smart 18th-century adventures
Finding herself plopped back into 1743, Claire Randall marries strapping clansman Jamie Fraser, and the two plot to change the course of history — until Claire becomes pregnant. 688 pp. = 11 hrs. & 25 mins.
2. Dragonfly in Amber
For her safety, Jamie has sent Claire back to her 20th-century husband, Frank. It’s now 1968, and Claire, who’s never told her daughter Brianna the truth about her father, spills the entire tale, flashing back to her years with Jamie and their attempts to divert the Jacobite rebellion. 752 pp. = 12 hrs. & 30 mins.
When Claire discovers that Jamie did not die in the bloody Battle of Culloden in 1746, as she has always thought, she makes the epic decision to find him and plunges once more through the stone-circle time portal. 880 pp. = 14 hrs. & 40 mins.
4. Drums of Autumn
Claire and Jamie, who have landed in America, decide to settle in North Carolina, and Brianna tumbles through the stones to join them. 896 pp. = 14 hrs. & 55 mins.
5. The Fiery Cross
Jamie’s knowledge of the approaching Revolutionary War puts him in a difficult situation as he and Claire build a community around their mountaintop homestead. 992 pp. = 16 hrs. & 30 mins.
6. A Breath of Snow and Ashes
Political turmoil and horrific violence are countered by moments of warmth and humor (Claire discovers a penis syringe — a treatment for syphilis — that can double as a modern hypodermic needle). 992 pp. = 16 hrs. & 30 mins.
7. An Echo in the Bone
War is at hand, and the Frasers join the Continental Army. What is already a complex series gets even more complicated, leaping between centuries, multiple romances, and new narrators. 832 pp. = 13 hrs. & 50 mins.
8. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood
It’s beginning to look like the ragtag American army might win — and Jamie and Claire have somehow survived. Meanwhile, in the 20th century, Brianna’s son is stalked by someone — or something — evil. 848 pp. = 14 hrs. & 10 mins.
What’s Next for Gabaldon
An e-book on how to write a good sex scene
The Outlandish Companion, Vol. II
A prequel volume about Jamie’s parents
A contemporary crime novel
Book 9 (”At the moment, there are only scraps.”)
World War II nurse Claire Randall stumbles into a mystical stone circle while traveling through the Scottish Highlands with her husband and tumbles back through time to 18th-century Scotland, where she falls in love with dashing warrior Jamie Fraser. So begins author Diana Gabaldon’s beloved and utterly addictive Outlander series, which kicked off 23 years ago and now has an eighth installment — Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, released in June — as well as a breathlessly anticipated TV adaptation debuting Aug. 9 on Starz. A onetime university professor whose previous long-form work included a 231-page dissertation on the nesting habits of piñon jays, Gabaldon seems an unlikely source for a sweeping tale that is part meticulously researched historical fiction, part fantasy, and part epic love story. Though the series is packed with plenty of (literally) bodice-ripping sex, she’s never defined her work as romance. ”The books were written originally because I wanted to learn how to write a novel,” Gabaldon said during a recent Comic-Con panel on the TV show. ”Consequently they have no genre. None. I never thought anyone was going to see them.” Guess legions of obsessive fans, 14 books (one of Outlander‘s characters, Lord John Grey, has merited his own six-volume spin-off), and more than 26 million copies in print worldwide have proved her wrong.
The Fine Print
The Outlander books, which swoop through a huge swath of 18th-century history, are themselves pretty huge, totaling 6,880 pages. Assuming you read at an average speed — about a page a minute — they’ll keep you busy for 115 hours.
Caitriona Balfe (Claire) and Sam Heughan (Jamie) portray the Outlander pair on the TV series.
More than a few famous real-life figures make cameo appearances throughout the eight books: Benedict Arnold, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Edward Stuart, George Washington, Laurence Sterne, Louis XV, Nathan Hale, Voltaire
When Animals Attack
Forget redcoats and rebels — it’s wildlife that really threatens Claire, Jamie & Co.: Crocodile, Water moccasin, Panther, Wolf, Buffalo, Black boar, Black bear, Stag
A World of Hurt
Jamie sure gets injured a lot — it’s a good thing Claire’s a medical professional: Bloody nose, Split lips, Knife wound, Broken arm, Lash wounds, Sprained thumb, Smashed knuckles, Broken fingers, Palm sliced by a sword, Poisonous snake bite, Gunshot wounds, Concussions, Cut eyebrow, Two loosened teeth, Burns and cuts, Lacerations, Gunshot wound, Dislocated bones, Gunshot wound, Eight-inch saber slash, Broken arm, Two-inch splinter embedded beneath a fingernail, Human bite, Pulled muscle, Gunshot wound, Lacerations, Strained ankle, Struck by lightning, Hypothermia
Charles Dickens, Dorothy L. Sayers, Robert Louis Stevenson, P.G. Wodehouse, John D. MacDonald
Ladies of Lallybroch, Outlander Book Club, Outlandish Observations, My Outlander Purgatory, Outlander Kitchen