100 books like Agent Zigzag

By Ben Macintyre,

Here are 100 books that Agent Zigzag fans have personally recommended if you like Agent Zigzag. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII

Mara Timon Author Of City of Spies

From my list on real-life, kick-ass female agents of WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

My mother instilled a love of books in me, and my father fostered my fascination with history – which meant that a good part of my formative years involved books, writing, and watching WW2 films. Years later, when a BBC documentary captured my imagination, I delved into the world of SOE’s female spies, binge-reading biographies and autobiographies. I was struck by their determination, dedication, resourcefulness – and in awe of their exploits. These women were heroes. When an idea for a story took hold, I followed one "what if..." after another until my first novel emerged. While City of Spies is fiction, I tried to stay as faithful as possible to history.

Mara's book list on real-life, kick-ass female agents of WW2

Mara Timon Why did Mara love this book?

Sarah Helm’s biography of Vera Atkins is perfectly titled. On one level, Vera was the 2nd in command of SOE’s French Section, responsible for recruiting, training, and deploying SOE operatives into France. On another level, there were the closely guarded secrets of her own life.

Sarah Helm’s biography revealed a workaholic, an immigrant who became more English than the English, and whose loyalty to her charges, and the Allied cause, was unswerving. After the war, when 118 SOE agent didn’t make it home, Vera launched a personal crusade to find out what happened to them – a mission that took her across Allied-Occupied Germany to the concentration camps. (She found all but one.)

On a side note, Vera Atkins has been fictionalised on both big and small screens, from Ian Fleming’s Miss Moneypenny to Foyle’s War Hilda Pierce. Her legacy remains an inspiration.

By Sarah Helm,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Life in Secrets as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During World War Two the Special Operation Executive's French Section sent more than 400 agents into Occupied France -- at least 100 never returned and were reported 'Missing Believed Dead' after the war. Twelve of these were women who died in German concentration camps -- some were tortured, some were shot, and some died in the gas chambers. Vera Atkins had helped prepare these women for their missions, and when the war was over she went out to Germany to find out what happened to them and the other agents lost behind enemy lines. But while the woman who carried…


Book cover of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

Henry Rozycki Author Of Walk the Earth as Brothers

From my list on novels that describe what war does to young men.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the child of Holocaust survivors who chose not to talk about it. The effects were clear and stark – my mother crying out with nightmares, my father doing everything in his power not to be noticed by authorities – but I was not allowed to know their sources. Though my lottery number was 76, I missed going to Vietnam by a year as the draft ended; I watched so many of my peers come back either damaged or at least profoundly changed. I never wish I experienced war in all its hellaciousness, but from early adolescence, I have wondered how I would have acted.

Henry's book list on novels that describe what war does to young men

Henry Rozycki Why did Henry love this book?

I have read virtually all of Le Carre’s books because I don’t believe anyone goes so deeply into the psyche of men who enlisted in the fight for perhaps noble reasons but who now continue on almost as automatons. They have not only lost their idealism, their morality and even humanity are either gone or hanging by a thread. It is what I imagine is the furthest edge of what can happen to young soldiers who don’t die—just keep soldiering.

I don’t think anyone has done it better.

By John le Carré,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Spy Who Came in From the Cold as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Our Kind of Traitor; and The Night Manager, now a television series starring Tom Hiddleston.

The 50th-anniversary edition of the bestselling novel that launched John le Carre's career worldwide

In the shadow of the newly erected Berlin Wall, Alec Leamas watches as his last agent is shot dead by East German sentries. For Leamas, the head of Berlin Station, the Cold War is over. As he faces the prospect of retirement or worse-a desk job-Control offers him a unique opportunity for revenge. Assuming the guise of an embittered…


Book cover of Flames in the Field: The Story of Four SOE Agents in Occupied France

Shrabani Basu Author Of Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan

From my list on secret agents and espionage in WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer of Indian origin and have always been passionate about telling the story of the involvement of Indians in both World Wars. Very few people know that 2.5 million Indian volunteered for the Second World War, the largest volunteer force in history. I have always enjoyed reading stories of intelligence operations in wartime, the role of the Resistance in occupied countries and particularly the role of women in the Second World War. I was drawn to the story of Noor Inayat Khan from all these perspectives.

Shrabani's book list on secret agents and espionage in WW2

Shrabani Basu Why did Shrabani love this book?

The story of four women agents from the SOE’s French section and their journey to a death camp in France is movingly told. They travel from different directions and come from different backgrounds but meet their tragic fate together. The book captures the spirit of resistance and their heroism.

By Rita Kramer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Flames in the Field as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the true story of four women, members of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), who were sent into Nazi-occupied France during World War II, and then caught up in a web of deception which resulted in their deaths at the hands of the Gestapo. In this book, Rita Kramer pieces together the women's stories, how they came to be involved in such a dangerous operation as well as their experiences in France, and also analyzes the controversial methods of SOE at a crucial period in the war.


Book cover of Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War, 1941-1945

Shrabani Basu Author Of Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan

From my list on secret agents and espionage in WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer of Indian origin and have always been passionate about telling the story of the involvement of Indians in both World Wars. Very few people know that 2.5 million Indian volunteered for the Second World War, the largest volunteer force in history. I have always enjoyed reading stories of intelligence operations in wartime, the role of the Resistance in occupied countries and particularly the role of women in the Second World War. I was drawn to the story of Noor Inayat Khan from all these perspectives.

Shrabani's book list on secret agents and espionage in WW2

Shrabani Basu Why did Shrabani love this book?

A thrilling personal account by the brilliant cryptographer, Leo Marks, who was only 22 when employed by the SOE. It was Marks who gave the special codes to famous SOE agents like Violette Szabo, Noor Inayat Khan, and Nancy Wake before they left for the field. An insight into how the code war between Germany and England played out, often with disastrous consequences.

By Leo Marks,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Synopsis coming soon.......


Book cover of Carve Her Name with Pride: The Story of Violette Szabo

Shrabani Basu Author Of Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan

From my list on secret agents and espionage in WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer of Indian origin and have always been passionate about telling the story of the involvement of Indians in both World Wars. Very few people know that 2.5 million Indian volunteered for the Second World War, the largest volunteer force in history. I have always enjoyed reading stories of intelligence operations in wartime, the role of the Resistance in occupied countries and particularly the role of women in the Second World War. I was drawn to the story of Noor Inayat Khan from all these perspectives.

Shrabani's book list on secret agents and espionage in WW2

Shrabani Basu Why did Shrabani love this book?

Originally published in 1956, this book is still worth a read, even though more material on the SOE agents is now available. Violette Szabo’s bravery, her death in Ravensbruck Concentration camp at the age of 23 and her posthumous George Cross collected by her daughter Tania, continues to move and inspire.

By R.J. Minney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Carve Her Name with Pride as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Carve Her Name With Pride is the inspiring story of the half-French Violette Szabo who was born in Paris Iin 1921 to an English motor-car dealer, and a French Mother. She met and married Etienne Szabo, a Captain in the French Foreign Legion in 1940. Shortly after the birth of her daughter, Tania, her husband died at El Alamein. She became a FANY (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry) and was recruited into the SOE and underwent secret agent training. Her first trip to France was completed successfully even though she was arrested and then released by the French Police. On June…


Book cover of Traitors Among Us

James M. Olson Author Of To Catch a Spy: The Art of Counterintelligence

From my list on counterintelligence.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m passionate about spying. It was an absolute privilege for me to have been able to spend my life in the shadows, so to speak. I was undercover my entire career doing espionage and covert action operations for our country and the CIA. I discovered very early on that I had a particular fascination for the arcane and Byzantine subspecialty of counterintelligence. It’s hard to describe the exhilaration I felt when we nabbed an American traitor and brought him or her to justice. It doesn’t get any better than that.   

James' book list on counterintelligence

James M. Olson Why did James love this book?

No book I know of does a better job of illustrating the “art” of counterintelligence than Colonel Herrington’s account of two major counterintelligence cases he oversaw: Clyde Lee Conrad and James Hall, two spies who definitely needed catching. I am in awe of the professionalism, creativity, and doggedness shown by Stu and his team of CI specialists in these lengthy and complex investigations. Every tool of good counterintelligence is on display here, especially analysis, surveillance, and double agentry.

By Stuart A. Herrington,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As director of the elite Foreign Counterintelligence Activity, author Stuart Herrington was the U.S. Army's top counterintelligence officer. In this thrilling and informative account he details one of the most damaging and delicate cases of espionage ever committed against the United States. Between 1972 and 1988, thousands of highly classified documents were sold to the Soviet Union and her Warsaw pact surrogates. They were secrets so sensitive that had war broken out in Central Europe, our ability to defend our NATO allies would have been seriously compromised. It was up to Herrington and his team to root out the elusive…


Book cover of True Believer: Inside the Investigation and Capture of Ana Montes, Cuba's Master Spy

James M. Olson Author Of To Catch a Spy: The Art of Counterintelligence

From my list on counterintelligence.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m passionate about spying. It was an absolute privilege for me to have been able to spend my life in the shadows, so to speak. I was undercover my entire career doing espionage and covert action operations for our country and the CIA. I discovered very early on that I had a particular fascination for the arcane and Byzantine subspecialty of counterintelligence. It’s hard to describe the exhilaration I felt when we nabbed an American traitor and brought him or her to justice. It doesn’t get any better than that.   

James' book list on counterintelligence

James M. Olson Why did James love this book?

This book is the best example I can come up with of how good counterintelligence must be patient and tenacious. Ana Montes was the senior analyst on Cuba for the Defense Intelligence Agency---and also a spy for Cuban intelligence. Scott Carmichael led the DIA’s investigative team, which overcame countless delays and roadblocks to get the job done and eventually caught her. This was US counterintelligence at its best.

By Scott W. Carmichael,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ana Montes appeared to be a model employee of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), advancing quickly through the ranks to become its top analyst on Cuban affairs.

But for sixteen years Montes sent Castro some of America's most closely guarded secrets and at the same time influenced what the United States thought it knew about Cuba. She is the only member of the U.S. intelligence community ever convicted of espionage for the Cuban government, yet her arrest ten days after 9/11 went largely unnoticed.

This book calls attention to the grave damage Montes inflicted on U.S. security--Carmichael even implicates her…


Book cover of The Spy's Son: The True Story of the Highest-Ranking CIA Officer Ever Convicted of Espionage and the Son He Trained to Spy for Russia

James M. Olson Author Of To Catch a Spy: The Art of Counterintelligence

From my list on counterintelligence.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m passionate about spying. It was an absolute privilege for me to have been able to spend my life in the shadows, so to speak. I was undercover my entire career doing espionage and covert action operations for our country and the CIA. I discovered very early on that I had a particular fascination for the arcane and Byzantine subspecialty of counterintelligence. It’s hard to describe the exhilaration I felt when we nabbed an American traitor and brought him or her to justice. It doesn’t get any better than that.   

James' book list on counterintelligence

James M. Olson Why did James love this book?

This case makes me very angry. As a former CIA officer myself, I felt deeply the malignancy of this betrayal from within. I was riveted by Denson’s account of how Howard James Nicholson, a CIA clandestine service colleague, let his personal problems and amorality get the better of him. Selling out to the Russians was certainly not the right answer for him, nor was dragging his son into spying. Denson has written a compelling counterintelligence treatise.

By Bryan Denson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The riveting true story of the father-and-son co-conspirators who sold US national secrets to Russia.

Jim Nicholson was the highest-ranking CIA officer ever convicted of espionage. A single father, respected mentor, and brilliant case officer, he was also a double agent selling thousands of state secrets to the Russians. However, it was from behind the bars of a federal prison that he conducted his greatest betrayal. Just 12 years after Jim's conviction, his youngest son, Nathan, was arrested for the same crime.

Through interviews, private letters, and access to Jim's personal journal, Pulitzer Prize finalist Bryan Denson pieces together a…


Book cover of Bat Bomb: World War II's Other Secret Weapon

David Andrew Westwood Author Of Kelsmeath, 1940

From my list on the weirder side of World War II.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in London, and while I was born sometime after WWII, its devastation was still clear in my bombed suburb and in the stories from my family. My father and his brother served in the Royal Air Force, and an Austrian aunt had managed to escape the rest of her family's fate in Auschwitz. I've had five nonfiction books published when I decided to write a biography of my uncle David Lloyd, an RAF Spitfire pilot killed in 1942. Sadly, little information was available from his military records. All I had was a photograph of him in his plane, looking young and confident. I went on to write nine books set during WWII, and five during WWI.

David's book list on the weirder side of World War II

David Andrew Westwood Why did David love this book?

Strange, sick, and if this doesn't constitute animal cruelty I don't know what does, Project X-Ray planned to strap incendiaries to bats and drop them to roost on Tokyo's roofs, burning down the city and shortening the war. A dentist who had explored New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns conceived this idea, then approached the White House, where President Roosevelt surprisingly said, “This man is not a nut."  

The military duly tested the plan, and the bats burned down a brand-new airbase, effectively sending the project up in flames. And a good thing, too. I shudder to imagine the anxiety of a crew ordered to fly a planeful of explosive bats all the way to Japan.

By Jack Couffer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It was a crazy way to win World War II in the Pacific-

All the United States had to do was to attach small incendiary bombs to millions of bats and release them over Japan's major cities. As the bats went to roost, a million fires would flare up in remote crannies of the wood and paper buildings common throughout Japan. When their cities were reduced to ashes, the Japanese would surely capitulate...

The plan made sense to a handful of eccentric promoters and researchers, who convinced top military brass and even President Roosevelt to back the scheme. It might…


Book cover of Fu-Go: The Curious History of Japan's Balloon Bomb Attack on America

David Andrew Westwood Author Of Kelsmeath, 1940

From my list on the weirder side of World War II.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in London, and while I was born sometime after WWII, its devastation was still clear in my bombed suburb and in the stories from my family. My father and his brother served in the Royal Air Force, and an Austrian aunt had managed to escape the rest of her family's fate in Auschwitz. I've had five nonfiction books published when I decided to write a biography of my uncle David Lloyd, an RAF Spitfire pilot killed in 1942. Sadly, little information was available from his military records. All I had was a photograph of him in his plane, looking young and confident. I went on to write nine books set during WWII, and five during WWI.

David's book list on the weirder side of World War II

David Andrew Westwood Why did David love this book?

It's probably good that we haven't heard more of Fu-Go, because if we had, it would mean the aerial bombs sent over from Japan succeeded in spreading fire and terror across North America. Near the end of World War II, Japan launched high-altitude hydrogen balloons armed with incendiary bombs. They were designed to fly westward on the winds of the upper atmosphere and burn both American forests and Americans. 

Made by Japanese schoolgirls who manufactured the balloons by the thousand, the exercise was ultimately a failure, causing only one reported incident. I suspect, though, that others were covered up to avoid panic, and this is a plot point in one of my own books.

By Ross Coen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Near the end of World War II, in an attempt to attack the United States mainland, Japan launched its fu-go campaign, deploying thousands of high-altitude hydrogen balloons armed with incendiary and high-explosive bombs designed to follow the westerly winds of the upper atmosphere and drift to the west coast of North America. After reaching the mainland, these fu-go, the Japanese hoped, would terrorize American citizens and ignite devastating forest fires across the western states, ultimately causing the United States to divert wartime resources to deal with the domestic crisis. While the fu-go offensive proved to be a complete tactical failure,…


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