The best and most accurate non-fiction books about Cold War espionage

Who am I?

I am an author and veteran journalist who reported for The Washington Post for more than two decades, and I write frequently about military history and intelligence. My father worked for the CIA, and I was born in Berlin when he was stationed there as a case officer. Later I was based in Germany as a foreign correspondent when the Berlin Wall came down. So it’s not too surprising that I am interested in Cold War espionage and history. As a reporter, author, and reader, I’ve always been attracted to stories off the beaten track, the ones that most people know little or nothing about. 


I wrote...

Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War's Most Audacious Espionage Operation

By Steve Vogel,

Book cover of Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War's Most Audacious Espionage Operation

What is my book about?

Betrayal in Berlin tells the astonishing true story of the Berlin Tunnel, one of the West’s greatest espionage operations of the Cold War. Vogel provides the most vivid account to date of George Blake, the dangerous Soviet mole who betrayed the operation, including information from rare interviews he conducted with Blake himself. Using fresh archival sources as well as interviews with many participants, including numerous key CIA and British SIS officers who had never previously spoken publicly, Vogel’s suspenseful account of the tunnel and the dramatic story behind Blake’s fateful betrayal reads like a thriller.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Molehunt: The Secret Search for Traitors That Shattered the CIA

Steve Vogel Why did I love this book?

David Wise was the dean of American espionage writers, the author of more than a dozen well-regarded books about spies before his death in 2018, and Molehunt is my favorite. It tells the story of the James Angleton-inspired to hunt for a supposed mole within the CIA, an enormously damaging affair that paralyzed the agency for years. Wise’s books are so authoritative because of the unmatched sources he had in the intelligence community.

By David Wise,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Molehunt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Details the obsessive internal spy hunt reminiscent of the McCarthy era lead by CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton after he was lead astray by former KGB officer Anatoly Golitsin. 25,000 first printing. $25,000 ad/promo. Tour.


Book cover of Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed

Steve Vogel Why did I love this book?

Sandy Grimes and Jeanne Verterfeuille were part of the CIA team that identified Aldrich Ames, perhaps the most damaging spy in the agency’s history. Not only is the book a riveting account of the detective work that went into Ames’ arrest, it provides a wealth of information about the valuable agents and operations that he betrayed, and the incalculable damage he caused, including the loss of GRU General Dmitriy Polyakov, the highest-ranking spy run by the U.S. during the Cold War.

By Sandra Grimes, Jeanne Vertefeuille,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Circle of Treason as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

While there have been other books about Aldrich Ames, Circle of Treason is the first account written by CIA agents who were key members of the CIA team that conducted the intense "Ames Mole Hunt." Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille were two of the five principals of the CIA team tasked with hunting one of their own and were directly responsible for identifying Ames as the mole, leading to his arrest and conviction.

One of the most destructive traitors in American history, CIA officer Aldrich Ames provided information to the Soviet Union that contributed to the deaths of at least…


Book cover of Wilderness of Mirrors: Intrigue, Deception, and the Secrets That Destroyed Two of the Cold War's Most Important Agents

Steve Vogel Why did I love this book?

Wilderness of Mirrors, written more than 40 years ago by Martin, the still-distinguished CBS News correspondent, remains a classic of espionage nonfiction. As the title suggests, the book captures the Byzantine world of counterintelligence during the Angleton era. Martin was the first to write knowledgeably about the Berlin Tunnel, and this book is also the first in-depth look at one of the most fascinating, important, and ultimately self-destructive officers of the first decades of the CIA, William King Harvey.

By David C. Martin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wilderness of Mirrors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the dawn of the Cold War, the world's most important intelligence agencies-the Soviet KGB, the American CIA, and the British MI6-appeared to have clear-cut roles and a sense of rising importance in their respective countries. But when Kim Philby, head of MI6's Russian division and arguably the twenty-first century's greatest spy, was revealed to be a Russian mole along with British government heavyweights Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess, everything in the Western intelligence world turned upside down.

Here is the true story of how the American James Bond-the colorful, foulmouthed, pistol-packing, alcoholic ex-FBI agent William "King" Harvey-put the finger…


Book cover of The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal

Steve Vogel Why did I love this book?

Hoffman tells the previously little-known story of Soviet military engineer Adolf Tolkachev, whose disgust with the communist regime inspired him to turn over enormously valuable secrets to the CIA station in Moscow beginning in the late 1970s. Hoffman’s careful reporting allows him to describe in meticulous and fascinating detail the remarkable techniques and great risks involved in running an agent in Moscow late in the Cold War.

By David E. Hoffman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Billion Dollar Spy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WATERSTONES NON-FICTION BOOK OF THE MONTH AUGUST 2018 AND A SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

'An astonishingly detailed picture of espionage in the 1980s, written with pacey journalistic verve and an eerily contemporary feel.' Ben Macintyre, The Times

'A gripping story of courage, professionalism, and betrayal in the secret world.' Rodric Braithwaite, British Ambassador in Moscow, 1988-1992

'One of the best spy stories to come out of the Cold War and all the more riveting for being true.' Washington Post

January, 1977. While the chief of the CIA's Moscow station fills his gas tank, a stranger drops a note into the car.…


Book cover of The Spy Who Saved the World: How a Soviet Colonel Changed the Course of the Cold War

Steve Vogel Why did I love this book?

Schecter, a journalist, and Deriabin, a KGB officer who defected to the U.S., tell the inside story of Oleg Penkovsky, the history-changing Soviet GRU colonel who delivered critical information that helped the CIA and President John F. Kennedy avoid nuclear disaster during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The inside account delivers fascinating details about Penkovsky’s motivations, actions, and tragic demise, as well as a gripping narration of how the CIA handled one of the Cold War’s most important intelligence operations.

By Jerrold L. Schecter, Peter S. Deriabin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Spy Who Saved the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Examines how Oleg Penkovsky provided U.S. intelligence with data on Soviet nuclear capabilities


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Dinner with Churchill

By Robin Hawdon,

Book cover of Dinner with Churchill

Robin Hawdon Author Of Number Ten

New book alert!

Who am I?

My writing is eclectic and covers many topics. However, all my books tend to have a thriller element to them. Perhaps it's my career as an actor and playwright which has instilled the need to create suspense in all my writings. I sometimes feel that distinguished authors can get so carried away with their literary descriptions and philosophical insights that they forget to keep the story going! It is the need to know what happens next that keeps the reader turning the pages. Perhaps in achieving that some subtlety has to be sacrificed, but, hey, you don't read a political thriller to study the philosophical problems of governing nations!

Robin's book list on lone heroes and threats to national security

What is my book about?

This is a new novel by one of the UK's most prolific writers. It is based around an extraordinary true incident at the start of World War II when fierce political opponents Winston Churchill and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain encountered each other at a famous dinner party. Seen from the perspective of Lucy Armitage, a young girl suddenly conscripted by a strange stroke of fate into Churchill's overworked but adoring team of secretaries.

As Churchill prepares to take over the leadership of the nation, Lucy finds herself increasingly involved in her famous employer's phenomenal work output and eccentric habits. When romance and the world of espionage impinge on her life, she becomes a vital part of the eternal struggle between good and evil regimes that still exists today.

Dinner with Churchill

By Robin Hawdon,

What is this book about?

It is on historical record that, on the evening of October 13th 1939, six weeks after war had been declared on Hitler's Germany, Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain, fierce and implacable opponents for years over the appeasement issue, met together with their two wives, Clementine and Anne, for a private dinner at Admiralty House, and event which caused ripples throughout Westminster.

Chamberlain was still Prime Minister, but had seen all his efforts to negotiate peace with Hitler shattered. Churchill had been recalled to the cabinet after ten years 'in the wilderness', his dire warnings of the Nazi threat vindicated.

Lucy…


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Interested in the Cold War, espionage, and spies?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Cold War, espionage, and spies.

The Cold War Explore 230 books about the Cold War
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