The best books about hostage negotiation

Why am I passionate about this?

My book recommendations reflect my experience as a former US government physician-diplomat, based overseas in Russia, Mexico, Europe, and South Asia, where I was involved in working closely with law enforcement and diplomatic negotiators in several highly sensitive, delicate, and dangerous hostage situations, both as a consultant and in providing medical support/care coordination to released hostages. I always found this work to be exhilarating and demanding, and it left me with the highest respect for law enforcement, diplomatic, and mental health professionals who work in this space. As a result, I’ve had additional formal training in hostage negotiation, negotiation psychology, and medical/psychological support to victims.

I wrote...

The Last Violinist

By Kenneth Dekleva,

Book cover of The Last Violinist

What is my book about?

The protagonist of this novel, a sequel to The Negotiator’s Cross, is a gifted violinist from North Korea, whose life experiences and passionate love affairs – with a high-ranking North Korean diplomat’s wife, as well as with a Korean American CIA officer, draw him into a web of espionage, tragedy, and lastly, religious conversion. He finds himself at the center of a web of betrayals, with various intelligence agencies, involved in double-dealing, murder, art theft, a hostage trade, and finally, his own defection. In this thrilling novel even the late Dear Leader, Chairman Kim Jong-Il, makes a cameo appearance. The author explores the psychological intricacies of human relationships, betrayals, passions, friendships, religious conversion, and love in a world of espionage, hostage negotiation, and betrayal.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Proof of Life: Twenty Days on the Hunt for a Missing Person in the Middle East

Kenneth Dekleva Why did I love this book?

Daniel Levin’s book is a gripping, gut-wrenching tale of his search for missing young man in Syria during the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

A gifted international negotiator, Levin also tells a very human and tragic tale, with valuable lessons on how negotiators should approach the most dangerous, high-risk negotiations, where the chances of failure and sorrow are extremely high. Levin writes masterfully, and his story overwhelms the reader with his sense of empathy, tragedy, and yes, even hope, in a part of the world where hope is in short supply.

By Daniel Levin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Proof of Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Riveting . . . Well-written and highly compelling."—Wall Street Journal

​“Truly thrilling. Daniel Levin brilliantly conveys both the menace and the evil of Middle Eastern intrigue, and some victories of human kindness over cruelty and despair.”—Daniel Kahneman, New York Times bestselling author of Thinking, Fast and Slow 

Daniel Levin was in his New York office when he got a call from an acquaintance with an urgent, cryptic request to meet in Paris. A young man had gone missing in Syria. No government, embassy, or intelligence agency would help. Could he? Would he? So begins a suspenseful, shocking, and at times…

Book cover of Man without a Gun: One Diplomat's Secret Struggle to Free the Hostages, Fight Terrorism, and End a War

Kenneth Dekleva Why did I love this book?

Picco’s book is a striking tale of his role as a UN diplomat in the 1980s and 1990s, where he worked tirelessly behind the scenes to negotiate and free numerous hostages held by Islamic terrorist groups in Lebanon. 

He describes his meetings with key Israeli, Syrian, American, and Iranian interlocutors in extremely risky, high-stakes hostage negotiations; he was thought to have been one of the few Westerners to have ever met the late Imad Mugnihyah, leader of Islamic Jihadand lived to tell the tale. 

Picco is a true hero, and the released Lebanon hostages owed their lives to his compassion, courage, unbelievable endurance, and remarkable diplomatic gifts.

By Giandomenico Picco,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Man without a Gun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Can an unarmed man triumph in a land of terror and violence?

Man Without a Gun is the true story of a single UN diplomat's astonishing high-wire struggle for peace in the Middle East. UN secretary-general Javier Pérez de Cuéllar called the author "more of a soldier than a diplomat." And, indeed, his life is the stuff of John le Carré thrillers. But Man Without a Gun is more than a thriller: It is a real-life voyage through the maze of the secretive Middle East, the inside account of the political maneuverings that continue to dominate today's headlines, and the…

Book cover of Bring Back Our Girls: The Untold Story of the Global Search for Nigeria's Missing Schoolgirls

Kenneth Dekleva Why did I love this book?

This book is an incredible story of the behind-the-scenes efforts to locate and free the 276 young Nigerian [Chibok] schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014, a kidnapping which attracted worldwide media attention. 

It’s a story of 2 tales: first, of the incredible courage and Christian faith of those young girls, which in many cases, sustained them, keeping them alive physically, psychologically, and spiritually as they underwent immense hardships and tortures. Second, it’s a tale of two other heroes, a Nigerian lawyer, Zanna Mustapha, and a Swiss diplomat, Pascal Holiger, who worked tirelessly over many years to free many of the hostages. 

A gripping read about Nigeria, Christian faith, hostage negotiation, terrorism, and redemption.

By Joe Parkinson, Drew Hinshaw,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bring Back Our Girls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What happens after you click tweet?. . . The heart-stopping and definitive account of the rescue mission to free hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls, and their heroic survival, after their 2014 kidnapping spurred a global social media campaign that prompted the intervention of seven militaries, showing us the blinding possibilities-for good and ill-of activism in our interconnected world.

In the spring of 2014, American celebrities and their Twitter followers unwittingly helped turn a group of teenagers into a central prize in the global War on Terror by retweeting #BringBackOurGirls, a call for the release of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls who'd been kidnapped…

Book cover of Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator

Kenneth Dekleva Why did I love this book?

Noesner’s book is a must-read for any professional hostage negotiator. 

At the FBI, Noesner was one of the founders of the discipline in the 1980s, and he worked tirelessly as a student, and later, master of the craft of crisis negotiation. The book is a deeply human and personal tale, and Noesner describes his many successes but also his failures – including Waco – where his patient, careful approach was overtaken by other events, subsequently resulting in tragedy and a loss of life. 

Noesner’s humility, dedication, and empathy shine throughout this superb book.

By Gary Noesner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator

An enraged man abducts his estranged wife and child, holes up in a secluded mountain cabin, threatening to kill them both. A right wing survivalist amasses a cache of weapons and resists calls to surrender. A drug trafficker barricades himself and his family in a railroad car, and begins shooting. A cult leader in Waco, Texas faces the FBI in an armed stand-off that leaves many dead in a fiery blaze. A sniper, claiming to be God, terrorizes the DC metropolitan area. For most of us, these are events we hear about on…

Book cover of Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It

Kenneth Dekleva Why did I love this book?

Voss is an excellent writer and former FBI hostage negotiator, and he’s not shy about sharing his experiences, warts and all, with readers from the very beginning. 

He does so from the opening chapter, where his mettle is tested by Harvard’s top experts in negotiation. Of course, as Voss shows later, his talents and experiences had already been forged and tested in many hostage scenarios overseas, where Voss led FBI teams negotiating some of the most challenging cases worldwide. 

Voss shares these stories in a practical, narrative style, and highlights the importance of tactical empathy, and using such skills to achieve optimal, life-saving outcomes. This is an excellent book and a must-read for any professional hostage negotiator.

By Chris Voss, Tahl Raz,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Never Split the Difference as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


A former FBI hostage negotiator offers a new, field-tested approach to negotiating - effective in any situation.

'Riveting' Adam Grant
'Stupendous' The Week
'Brilliant' Guardian
After a stint policing the rough streets of Kansas City, Missouri, Chris Voss joined the FBI, where his career as a kidnapping negotiator brought him face-to-face with bank robbers, gang leaders and terrorists. Never Split the Difference takes you inside his world of high-stakes negotiations, revealing the nine key principles that helped Voss and his colleagues succeed when it mattered the most - when people's lives were at stake.


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Book cover of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

Michael Bungay Stanier Author Of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

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Why am I passionate about this?

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What is my book about?

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It's the best-selling book on coaching this century, with 15k+ online reviews. Brené Brown calls it "a classic". Dan Pink said it was "essential".

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By Michael Bungay Stanier,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Coaching Habit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Look for Michael's new book, The Advice Trap, which focuses on taming your Advice Monster so you can stay curious a little longer and change the way you lead forever.

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