The best books to thrillingly page-turn

Who am I?

I am an activist-politician, who’s been both militant anti-apartheid protestor and Cabinet Minister, someone who tries to convey sometimes complex issues in straightforward terms, impatient with taking refuge down academic rabbit holes, striving to see the wood-for-the-trees. With the exception of George Orwell, each of the books I have recommended is by an author I know personally. My new thriller, The Elephant Conspiracy, sequel to The Rhino Conspiracy, reflects dismay at the corrupt betrayal of Nelson Mandela’s freedom struggle and the values which inspired it, the main characters fighting to revive those values of social justice, liberty, equal opportunities, and integrity, as well as service to others not selfish enrichment. 

I wrote...

The Elephant Conspiracy

By Peter Hain,

Book cover of The Elephant Conspiracy

What is my book about?

Leading politician and anti-apartheid campaigner turns the spotlight on Elephant poaching in South Africa. Gripping and pacey this is an epic tale of corruption, collusion, and courage. Having thwarted murderous poachers in The Rhino Conspiracy, the Veteran, Thandi and Mkhize are back in a new fight – battling to save elephant herds from being callously killed for their ivory, whilst trying to block wholesale political corruption and money laundering in contemporary South Africa. Will the forces of good triumph over the vicious looters? Can the annual trillion-dollar money laundering trade be brought to heel by a brave whistleblower? Peter Hain’s gripping second thriller builds to a dramatic climax, the action switching from wildlife to politics, from bushveld to city, from high finance to poaching. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Homage to Catalonia

Peter Hain Why did I love this book?

I recall reading it in my late teens, less as the classic it was on the barbarous Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, and more as a personal discovery by Orwell of how his democratic socialist instincts were sharpened and shaped by the buffeting swirl of ideological clashes and bitter sectarian struggles within the inspirational resistance to Franco’s fascism in Spain. As he witnessed the heroism and the horror, the passion and sometimes the ulterior purposes of these competing groups, Homage to Catalonia for me was a gripping narrative, climaxing in the internecine firefight in Barcelona where the left helped defeat itself, and thereby opened the door to Franco’s murderous victory and equally murderous rule. 

Like Orwell’s, the socialism that I had come to believe in during the first ten years of my life in Britain was instinctively ‘libertarian’ rather than ‘statist’, favouring democracy and liberty rather than central control and bureaucracy.  And like his, my politics were determinedly non-sectarian, committed to the broadest possible unity for practical action. His book helped define an enduring set of beliefs that were to guide me through more than fifty years of political life, both outside and inside government.

By George Orwell,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Homage to Catalonia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Homage to Catalonia remains one of the most famous accounts of the Spanish Civil War. With characteristic scrutiny, Orwell questions the actions and motives of all sides whilst retaining his firm beliefs in human courage and the need for radical social change.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition is introduced by Helen Graham, a leading historian on the Spanish Civil War.

When George Orwell arrived in Spain in 1936, he…

Book cover of Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Peter Hain Why did I love this book?

An extraordinary personal testimony to courage, steadfast resolve, principle, sacrifice, and strong leadership from the greatest, most iconic figure of the 20th century. From herd-boy to freedom fighter, from prisoner to President this is an inspiring story for our age by someone my parents knew from their campaigning against apartheid in Pretoria in the late 1950s/early 1960s; and I met after he was released from prison.

By Nelson Mandela,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Long Walk to Freedom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2018 is the centenary of Nelson Mandela's birth

'The authentic voice of Mandela shines through this book . . . humane, dignified and magnificently unembittered' The Times

The riveting memoirs of the outstanding moral and political leader of our time, A Long Walk to Freedom brilliantly re-creates the drama of the experiences that helped shape Nelson Mandela's destiny. Emotive, compelling and uplifting, A Long Walk to Freedom is the exhilarating story of an epic life; a story of hardship, resilience and ultimate triumph told with the clarity and eloquence of a born leader.

'Burns with the luminosity of faith in…

Book cover of The Foot Soldiers

Peter Hain Why did I love this book?

A master thriller writer, his characters are invariably fascinating – the ‘good’ ones complex with frailties yet often quietly heroic, the ‘bad’ ones, not just villains but people. His plots take you on a page-turning journey in credible geo-contemporary theatres, combining gripping tensions and insights. I first met him in 1969-70 when he was a television reporter covering the anti-apartheid struggle in Britain.

By Gerald Seymour,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'[A] masterly novel' - The Sunday Times

'Strong echoes of George Smiley' - Financial Times

'A novel of real quality. Top brass' - The Times Thriller of the Month


Beware of Russians bearing gifts.

Defectors are not always welcome.

Is the information they bring worth the cost of protecting them for the rest of their lives? Is it even genuine? Might they be double agents?

These are some of the questions facing MI6 when a Russian agent hands himself in to them in Denmark.

As a team begins to assess his value, his former employers in the Kremlin develop…

Book cover of To Kill a Man

Peter Hain Why did I love this book?

Another journalist whom I have met in real life the award-winning British journalist and broadcaster who writes for The Guardian, Sam Bourne is the literary pseudonym of Jonathan Freedland. To Kill A Man is a classic thriller with a climactic twist, a gripping tour de force through American feminism up against violent misogyny, ambition and struggle, politics, and crime. He writes with both simplicity and complexity, insight, and pacy readability.   

By Sam Bourne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked To Kill a Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A cat-and-mouse thriller of rare intelligence, To Kill a Man is the latest from number-one bestseller Sam Bourne -- a twisting, timely story of power, justice and revenge.

A woman is brutally assaulted in her own home by an intruder. She defends herself -- leaving her attacker dead.

But this is no ordinary woman. She's Natasha Winthrop, tipped as a future president of the United States.

When inconsistencies emerge in Winthrop's story, political troubleshooter Maggie Costello is drafted in to save Natasha's career. At first, Winthrop is hailed as a #MeToo heroine: the woman who fought back. But Maggie is…

Book cover of Lucy: Ultimate Survivor

Peter Hain Why did I love this book?

I enjoyed commenting on early drafts of this dramatic Georgian historical fiction written by my wife Elizabeth about her great-great-great-grandmother: painstakingly researched and vividly portrayed, it’s about love, betrayal, and survival. Lucy, strong-willed daughter of English landed gentry, born in the late 18th century, married Sam Lord, a plantation owner and fortune hunter from Barbados, at a time when women were their husband’s chattels with no rights even over the children. Abused and imprisoned by him in Barbados, she escaped with the help of enslaved people after giving birth at sea, braving disease and cruelty, and witnessing the abject misery of slavery in her descent from a life of pampered luxury to a struggle for survival in a far-off land.  

By Elizabeth Haywood,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A dramatic and intriguing true Georgian tale of love, betrayal and survival. Lucy, a strong-willed girl from a wealthy family, was brought up on the English–Welsh border and married a Caribbean plantation owner, Sam Lord, for love, meanwhile he married her for her fortune, at a time when a woman was a chattel and everything she had, including her children, became her husband’s. Abused and imprisoned in Barbados, she escaped with the help of enslaved people. A vibrant intimate description of early 19th-century life – giving birth at sea, braving disease and cruelty, and witnessing the abject misery of slavery…

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The Ninja's Oath

By Tori Eldridge,

Book cover of The Ninja's Oath

Tori Eldridge Author Of The Ninja Daughter

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Ninja Hiker Love Boat Mermaid Mom

Tori's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Chinese-Norwegian modern-day ninja, Lily Wong travels to Shanghai in an explosive joint mission with her father’s former-triad cook, Lee Chang, and the infuriatingly alluring assassin J Tran.

As this uneasy trio hunts for Chang’s kidnapped twelve-year-old niece, they must also move Chang’s family out of their condemned home, a task complicated by the feud between brothers and the old resentments and intrigues entwined with the stunning history of Shanghai. Meanwhile, back home in Los Angeles, Lily’s father is hospitalized with an unknown disease, and Lily is shocked by the true identity of her ninja teacher, known only as Sensei, and the truth behind why he left Japan. Although fourth in the series, it can be read as a standalone thriller or introduction to Lily Wong.

The Ninja's Oath

By Tori Eldridge,

What is this book about?

The Ninja's Oath takes Chinese-Norwegian modern-day ninja, Lily Wong, to Shanghai in an explosive joint mission with her father's former-triad cook and the assassin J Tran. Get ready for the riveting next book in Tori Eldridge's bestselling Lily Wong series!

International action adventure ensues when Lily Wong—a Chinese-Norwegian modern-day ninja—travels from Shanghai to Japan to help family friend and former triad enforcer, Lee Chang, locate and rescue his kidnapped twelve-year-old niece while, back home in Los Angeles, her father’s health wanes.

Their mission is aided and complicated by an enigmatic assassin with a discomforting fascination for Lily. When the hunt…

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Interested in the Spanish Civil War, King George III, and intelligence services?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Spanish Civil War, King George III, and intelligence services.

The Spanish Civil War Explore 48 books about the Spanish Civil War
King George III Explore 17 books about King George III
Intelligence Services Explore 24 books about intelligence services