The Best Books On Secret Wartime Histories Around WW2

By Robert Hutton

The Books I Picked & Why

Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies

By Ben Macintyre

Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies

Why this book?

I could have picked any of Ben Macintyre’s books. He writes history as yarn, which is what I tried to do in Agent Jack. That definitely doesn’t mean making things up, but it means trying to tell the tale in a way that will keep the reader on board. British intelligence’s Double Cross operation – playing German spies back against their masters – was huge, but Macintyre keeps it at a manageable size by focusing on a few key agents. There’s a real skill too, in writing a book where everyone knows the ending but that still keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.


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The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville

By Clare Mulley

The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville

Why this book?

This is a great biography of a great subject, Krystyna Skarbek, more famous now as Christine Granville, a Pole who fought with Britain’s Special Operations Executive throughout the war and pulled off some astonishing stunts. It’s a thrilling story, though with a sad ending.


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Our Man in New York: The British Plot to Bring America into the Second World War

By Henry Hemming

Our Man in New York: The British Plot to Bring America into the Second World War

Why this book?

I have a vivid memory of opening the file on Britain’s efforts to bring America into the war, declassified only recently, and being astonished at the things that had gone on. Hemming’s book tells this amazing story and raises the ethical question of whether Britain’s end – defeating Hitler – was justified by its means – spreading fake news in the US and even interfering in its politics.


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Inge's War: A German Woman's Story of Family, Secrets, and Survival Under Hitler

By Svenja O'Donnell

Inge's War: A German Woman's Story of Family, Secrets, and Survival Under Hitler

Why this book?

We hear a lot about the wars of soldiers and spies, but much less about the lives of ordinary people. In this book, O’Donnell pieces together the story of her grandmother’s life as a young woman in Germany before and during the war. Unlike the tales of daring action, this is a story that is unexceptional, but all the more powerful for it. A reminder that for many people in Europe, the war was something that happened to them, rather than something they did.


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The Glamour Boys: The Secret Story of the Rebels who Fought for Britain to Defeat Hitler

By Chris Bryant

The Glamour Boys: The Secret Story of the Rebels who Fought for Britain to Defeat Hitler

Why this book?

A history of a different sort of secret, this is the story of a mostly gay group of British members of parliament who tried to warn their government about Hitler. Many had traveled to Berlin in the 1920s and 1930s to enjoy the nightlife, so they had an early sense of how the Nazi government was turning out. But their personal lives made it dangerous for them to oppose their own leaders at home. There’s a personal edge to the book for me, because one of the MPs, Ronald Cartland, was my great-uncle’s commanding officer, and they were killed in the same battle, covering the retreat to Dunkirk.


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