10 books like Cold Warrior

By Tom Mangold,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Cold Warrior. Shepherd is a community of 6,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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A Spy Among Friends

By Ben Macintyre,

Book cover of A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal

A nonfiction selection. It’s an extraordinary book telling an extraordinary true tale. I found it a page-turner; Macintyre’s storytelling ability makes the book read like a classic spy thriller. It’s dramatic and insightful and cruelly entertaining, considering Kim Philby was perhaps one of the most successful Soviet spies working in the west and responsible for countless foiled MI6 and CIA missions and the deaths of hundreds of pro-western agents. Macintyre has an enviable ability to craft engaging and compelling stories with wit, charm, and panache about people who exuded wit, charm, and panache with a dangerous sideline in betrayal. The issues of friendship, loyalty, class, and betrayal make for a captivating read. I had to keep reminding myself that the story is chillingly true.

A Spy Among Friends

By Ben Macintyre,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked A Spy Among Friends as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kim Philby was the most notorious British defector and Soviet mole in history. Agent, double agent, traitor and enigma, he betrayed every secret of Allied operations to the Russians in the early years of the Cold War.

Philby's two closest friends in the intelligence world, Nicholas Elliott of MI6 and James Jesus Angleton, the CIA intelligence chief, thought they knew Philby better than anyone, and then discovered they had not known him at all. This is a story of intimate duplicity; of loyalty, trust and treachery, class and conscience; of an ideological battle waged by men with cut-glass accents and…

Ghost Wars

By Steve Coll,

Book cover of Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001

Taking the story from the endgame of the Cold War to the dawn of the War on Terror is this extraordinary book on the rise of Islamist terrorism and the CIA’s efforts to defeat it prior to 9/11. Coll’s research, based on interviews with a vast range of senior officials, is dazzling, yet it never overwhelms a narrative that combines human interest and geopolitical sweep seamlessly. No less impressive is his accomplishment in documenting not just the U.S. and Afghan perspectives but the Saudi and Pakistani as well, all in the same painstaking detail. If this whets the appetite for more of the same, Coll’s Directorate S resumes his account of the intelligence wars in Afghanistan, providing necessary background to understanding the failure of the U.S. occupation there.

Ghost Wars

By Steve Coll,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Ghost Wars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize

The explosive, New York Times bestselling first-hand account of America's secret history in Afghanistan

Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll has spent years reporting from the Middle East, accessed previously classified government files and interviewed senior US officials and foreign spymasters. Here he gives the full inside story of the CIA's covert funding of an Islamic jihad against Soviet forces in Afghanistan, explores how this sowed the seeds of bn Laden's rise, traces how he built his global network and brings to life the dramatic battles within the US government over national security. Above all, he…


Dead Doubles

By Trevor Barnes,

Book cover of Dead Doubles: The Extraordinary Worldwide Hunt for One of the Cold War's Most Notorious Spy Ring

The Portland Spy Ring was one of the first espionage cases exposed by Michał Goleniewski. Using MI5’s declassified files, Trevor Barnes tells the extraordinary story of how the discovery of a disillusioned British civil servant selling secrets from the Navy’s submarine research base at Portland revealed a shadowy world of deep-cover KGB spies operating under false identities stolen from the dead.

Dead Doubles

By Trevor Barnes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE PORTLAND SPY RING was one of the most infamous espionage cases from the Cold War. People the world over were shocked when its exposure revealed the shadowy world of deep cover KGB 'illegals' - spies operating under false identities stolen from the dead.

The CIA's revelation to MI5 in 1960 that a KGB agent was stealing crucial secrets from the world-leading submarine research base at Portland in Dorset looked initially like a dangerous but contained lapse of security by a British man and his mistress. But the couple were tailed by MI5 'watchers' to a covert meeting with a…


The Ipcress File

By Len Deighton,

Book cover of The Ipcress File

The perfect example of the anti-hero somewhat reluctantly taking on the responsibility and, in the end, realizing that who he thought was protecting him, were happy to leave him die, if needed. Harry (unnamed in the book) became the perfect anti-hero who wins through.

Deighton always wrote and understood that actions by simple people could rise calamitous events. In his books he writes of simple, brave, actions which, when viewed from the conclusion of events only then, are realized as globally pivotal.

The Ipcress File

By Len Deighton,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Ipcress File as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Len Deighton's classic first novel, whose
protagonist is a nameless spy - later christened Harry Palmer and made famous worldwide in the iconic 1960s film starring Michael Caine.

The Ipcress File was not only Len Deighton's first novel, it was his first bestseller and the book that broke the mould of thriller writing.

For the working class narrator, an apparently straightforward mission to find a missing biochemist becomes a journey to the heart of a dark and deadly conspiracy.

The film of The Ipcress File gave Michael Caine one of his first and still most celebrated starring roles, while the…


The Prodigal Spy

By Joseph Kanon,

Book cover of The Prodigal Spy

In 1950, McCarthy-ite red-baiting is at its height and communists are being hunted across America. When a US government official is accused of being a spy by the House Un-American Activities Committee, he abandons his family to flee the country. His apparent defection seems to confirm the allegations that he was a Soviet Bloc spy. Almost 20 years later, his son goes behind the Iron Curtain for a painful reunion.  Kanon’s novel is written as a thriller, yet it captures the paranoia of America in the early Cold War, the drabness of Soviet-occupied Prague, and explores profound issues of love and betrayal. 

The Prodigal Spy

By Joseph Kanon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It is 1950 and communists are being hunted across America. When Walter Kotlar is accused of being a spy by the House Un-American Activities Committee, his young son Nick destroys a piece of evidence only he knows about. But before the hearing can conclude, Walter flees the country, leaving behind his family...and a key witness lying dead, apparently having committed suicide. Nineteen years later, Nick gets a second chance to discover the truth when a beautiful journalist brings a message from his long-lost father, and Nick follows her into Soviet-occupied Prague for a painful reunion and the discovery of a…

A Question of Standing

By Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones,

Book cover of A Question of Standing: The History of the CIA

There are several general histories of the CIA to choose from (including my own Great Courses video lectures) but this for my money is the best book available right now. Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones has been writing about the Agency for years, he’s scholarly yet highly readable, and he plots just the right course between recognizing the CIA’s successes and critiquing its errors. This book is concise but comprehensive, tracing the organization’s origins in the decades before its founding in 1947, and coming all the way down to 2022. A great place to start.

A Question of Standing

By Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Question of Standing deals with recognizable events that have shaped the history of the first 75 years of the CIA. Unsparing in its accounts of dirty tricks and their consequences, it values the agency's intelligence and analysis work to offer balanced judgements that avoid both celebration and condemnation of the CIA.

The mission of the CIA, derived from U-1 in World War I more than from World War II's OSS, has always been intelligence. Seventy-five years ago, in the year of its creation, the National Security Act gave the agency, uniquely in world history up to that point, a…

The Very Best Men

By Evan Thomas,

Book cover of The Very Best Men: Four Who Dared- The Early Years Of The CIA

The best book on the founding period of the CIA, the 1940s to the 1960s. Thomas is the only non-Agency employee to have been granted access to still-classified CIA historical studies, making this work an invaluable compendium of previously secret information. It’s also a wonderfully rich evocation of the rarified social world of the early CIA – East Coast, WASP, Ivy League – and a moving biographical portrait of a generation of intelligence officers whose early careers began in youthful idealism but all too often descended into disillusionment, disgrace, and even suicide. The gold standard of CIA history books.

The Very Best Men

By Evan Thomas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Evan Thomas recreates the personal drama of four figures who risked everything to keep America out of war. They were Frank Wisner, Richard Bissell, Tracy Barnes and Desmond FitzGerald. Within the inner circles of Washington, at the high point of American power in the world, they planned and acted to contain the Soviet threat - by stealth and "political action", and to do by cunning and sleight of hand what great armies could not be allowed to do. The fall of each man had momentous consequences for the CIA. Thomas draws on the CIA's own secret histories, as well as…

The Cultural Cold War

By Frances Stonor Saunders,

Book cover of The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters

This book, about the CIA’s secret funding of art and culture in the Cold War battle for hearts and minds, caused a big stir on its publication in 2000. Written by a young British researcher, it scathingly criticized the Agency’s cultural operations (a source of some pride among intelligence veterans), arguing that they compromised and undermined the very artistic values they were supposed to defend. Several writers on the same subject since, myself included, have argued with aspects of her work, but Saunders’ research and storytelling are second to none. A harsh but hugely informative and entertaining account of one of the most intriguing chapters in the history of the Cold War.

The Cultural Cold War

By Frances Stonor Saunders,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

During the Cold War, freedom of expression was vaunted as liberal democracy's most cherished possession-but such freedom was put in service of a hidden agenda. In The Cultural Cold War, Frances Stonor Saunders reveals the extraordinary efforts of a secret campaign in which some of the most vocal exponents of intellectual freedom in the West were working for or subsidized by the CIA-whether they knew it or not.


Called "the most comprehensive account yet of the [CIA's] activities between 1947 and 1967" by the New York Times, the book presents shocking evidence of the CIA's undercover program of cultural interventions…


Wilderness of Mirrors

By David C. Martin,

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

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.

Wilderness of Mirrors

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…

The Spy Who Saved the World

By Jerrold L. Schecter, Peter S. Deriabin,

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

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.

The Spy Who Saved the World

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.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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