100 books like George F. Kennan

By John Lewis Gaddis,

Here are 100 books that George F. Kennan fans have personally recommended if you like George F. Kennan. 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 The Cold War: A World History

Robert D. Kaplan Author Of In Europe's Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond

From my list on the Cold War from a journalist who lived it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began my career as a foreign correspondent in Cold War Eastern Europe, under communist domination. I lived in Greece, a Cold War battleground, in the 1980s, from where I made regular forays into the Balkans and Central Europe. Those journeys left a vivid, lifelong impression on me.

Robert's book list on the Cold War from a journalist who lived it

Robert D. Kaplan Why did Robert love this book?

This is a thick history of the Cold War that breaks new ground in that it shifts the emphasis from Europe, where the Cold War started and ended, to the Third World where it was actually fought in a bloody manner through a series of proxy wars, large and small.

By Odd Arne Westad,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Odd Arne Westad's daring ambition, supra-nationalist intellect, polyglot sources, masterly scholarship and trenchant analysis make The Cold War a book ofresounding importance for appraising our global future as well as understanding our past' Richard Davenport-Hines, TLS, Books of the Year

As Germany and then Japan surrendered in 1945 there was a tremendous hope that a new and much better world could be created from the moral and physical ruins of the conflict. Instead, the combination of the huge power of the USA and USSR and the near-total collapse of most of their rivals created a unique, grim new environment: the…


Book cover of Armed Truce: The Beginnings of the Cold War 1945-1946

Robert D. Kaplan Author Of In Europe's Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond

From my list on the Cold War from a journalist who lived it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began my career as a foreign correspondent in Cold War Eastern Europe, under communist domination. I lived in Greece, a Cold War battleground, in the 1980s, from where I made regular forays into the Balkans and Central Europe. Those journeys left a vivid, lifelong impression on me.

Robert's book list on the Cold War from a journalist who lived it

Robert D. Kaplan Why did Robert love this book?

This is a somewhat obscure work, a massive book that apparently did not sell well. But it offers a blow-by-blow description by a great British historian about how the Cold War started, and demonstrates how it was principally Stalin's actions that led to World War II morphing into a cold war.

By Hugh Thomas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Provides an account of the first years of the Cold War, with insights into the state of the world after the Second World War and vivid portraits of such personalities as Stalin, Beria, Churchill, Roosevelt, deGaulle, and Truman


Book cover of Eisenhower: The White House Years

Robert D. Kaplan Author Of In Europe's Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond

From my list on the Cold War from a journalist who lived it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began my career as a foreign correspondent in Cold War Eastern Europe, under communist domination. I lived in Greece, a Cold War battleground, in the 1980s, from where I made regular forays into the Balkans and Central Europe. Those journeys left a vivid, lifelong impression on me.

Robert's book list on the Cold War from a journalist who lived it

Robert D. Kaplan Why did Robert love this book?

This is a deft, economical, and readable biography of Eisenhower's years in the White House, when the Cold War was at its most tense and dangerous, and how it wasn't inevitable that it would stay cold. Eisenhower, in fact, it could be argued, put his stamp on the style and tenor of the Cold War like no other U. S. president.

By Jim Newton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Newly discovered and declassified documents make for a surprising and revealing portrait of the president we thought we knew.

America’s thirty-fourth president was belittled by his critics as the babysitter-in-chief. This new look reveals how wrong they were. Dwight Eisenhower was bequeathed the atomic bomb and refused to use it. He ground down Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism until both became, as he said, "McCarthywasm." He stimulated the economy to lift it from recession, built an interstate highway system, turned an $8 billion deficit in 1953 into a $500 million surplus in 1960. (Ike was the last President until Bill Clinton…


Book cover of Smiley's People

Ray C Doyle Author Of The Defector's Diary

From my list on mystery thrillers ripped from news headlines.

Why am I passionate about this?

I guess my real interest in writing about the good and bad in crime and politics and the good and bad characters involved started with my first job as a junior in a local newspaper. The 60s was a time of great change. I was in the right place at the right time and got involved in reporting local government politics. I graduated later to cover Britain’s role within the EU in Brussels. I was fascinated, not so much by the politics but by the politicians and fellow news reporters involved. They inspired the creation of my fictional character, Pete West, a hardboiled political columnist. 

Ray's book list on mystery thrillers ripped from news headlines

Ray C Doyle Why did Ray love this book?

The first and best of my list from the master spy himself.

It is a complicated plot that is skillfully and gradually laid bare in what starts as a murder investigation by a retired MI6 agent and ends as a political coup for the ‘Circus’ (MI6).

A great read from the start; I think this is one of Le Carre’s best and one that helped influence me in my writing. The book is much better than the TV or movie versions, and le Carre’s characterisation of Smiley is superb.

By John le Carré,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Smiley's People 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.

Tell Max that it concerns the Sandman...

A very junior agent answers Vladimir's call, but it could have been the Chief of the Circus himself. No one at the British Secret Service considers the old spy to be anything except a senile has-been who can't give up the game-until he's shot in the face at point-blank range. Although George Smiley (code name: Max) is officially retired, he's summoned to identify the body now…


Book cover of George F. Kennan: Memoirs, 1950-1963

John Philipp Baesler Author Of Clearer Than Truth: The Polygraph and the American Cold War

From my list on Russia in Western eyes.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in West Germany, surrounded by American soldiers and with a father who had escaped communist East Germany, the Cold War always fascinated me. What was it about? Would it ever end? When it did, it took everybody by surprise. This lesson, that nothing is certain and that history can always make a turn when you least expect it, stayed with me as I pursued my degrees in history, first in Heidelberg and then at Indiana University Bloomington. As an immigrant to the United States, I study the United States from the outside and the inside. How Americans see themselves, and how they see others, is my main interest that I keep exploring from different angles.

John's book list on Russia in Western eyes

John Philipp Baesler Why did John love this book?

Diplomat and historian George Kennan wrote with unmatched elegance and clarity. His memoirs, especially the first volume, covering his time in the U.S. embassy in Moscow in the 1940s and the beginning of the Cold War, are a pleasure to read. Kennan sincerely loved Russia but his alarmist view of the communist party profoundly shaped the apocalyptic view of American policymakers of a worldwide communist conspiracy on the march. Kennan later attempted to correct what he saw as a misinterpretation of his views. There is no better introduction to the American policy of containment that began with the Truman administration and continued until 1989.

By George Kennan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The American diplomat's reflections of his years of government service provide insight into four decades of U.S. policy


Book cover of The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain

Polly Farquhar Author Of Lolo Weaver Swims Upstream

From my list on middle-grade books where setting makes the story.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love books where the setting is just as big and alive as the characters. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s a familiar place or someplace new: if a vivid setting is a key element of the story, I’m in. I think it’s because I grew up in one of those small towns in the beautiful middle of nowhere where if someone asks where you’re from, it’s just easier to say someplace else. I wanted to see the world, and books let me do that. I also wanted validation in reading—and writing—about the small places I knew, and books let me do that, too.  

Polly's book list on middle-grade books where setting makes the story

Polly Farquhar Why did Polly love this book?

This middle-grade memoir written and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin is hands down one of my favorite books in any category, period.

It is a short but rich story with layers of setting, from the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the courtyard of the narrator’s communal apartment building, to his private world under the family table in their one-room apartment. I laughed out loud, except for when I was crying.

By Eugene Yelchin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Genius Under the Table as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

An Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Honor Winner

With a masterful mix of comic timing and disarming poignancy, Newbery Honoree Eugene Yelchin offers a memoir of growing up in Cold War Russia.

Drama, family secrets, and a KGB spy in his own kitchen! How will Yevgeny ever fulfill his parents’ dream that he become a national hero when he doesn’t even have his own room? He’s not a star athlete or a legendary ballet dancer. In the tiny apartment he shares with his Baryshnikov-obsessed mother, poetry-loving father, continually outraged grandmother, and safely talented brother, all Yevgeny has is his…


Book cover of Red Alert: The Novel that Inspired Dr. Strangelove, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Paul Lashmar Author Of Britain's Secret Propaganda War

From my list on the madness of the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started researching the way the West’s intelligence services manipulated the public when I was a student in the mid-1970s. I then became an investigative journalist and often returned to the subject in different ways, especially as a national security correspondent. I fully acknowledge the massive manipulation by the Communist Bloc during the Cold War but believe that it is important the public is aware of the manipulation that the West’s Cold Warriors utilized is fully known and recognized as it has left a legacy that has allowed for the rise of ‘fake news’.


Paul's book list on the madness of the Cold War

Paul Lashmar Why did Paul love this book?

Red Alert is a 1958 novel by a former RAF pilot called Peter George about nuclear war and was the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick in the concept of his 1964 film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. George’s book is a great read and pretty grim but it is not comedic in any way. After playing around with storyboards for a film based on the book, Kubrick realised the only way to deal with the nuclear mindset was through satire. Inspired by Peter George Kubrick somehow got to the nub of the lunacy of the nuclear gamble.

This was three decades before I was able – using then declassified documents and interviews with the generals and policymakers only then just prepared to speak about Mutual Assured Destruction and the Doomsday machine for my documentaries and book in the mid-1990s. They revealed Kubrick,…

By Peter Bryant,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The basis for Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove: A chilling Cold War thriller in which unchecked power unleashes total nuclear disaster.
 
Air Force Brigadier General Quinten is a dying man suffering from the paranoid delusion that he can make the world a better place by ordering a full-scale nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. Receiving word of the attack already underway, the president of the United States and his advisors now must work frantically to stop it. The US bombers are to be shot down—but a lone bomber called the “Alabama Angel” escapes and flies on to complete its lunatic…


Book cover of The Charm School

David Michael Dunaway Author Of Angry Heavens: Struggles of a Confederate Surgeon

From my list on celebrating an author’s literary style.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a lifetime, passionate reader. During the summer vacations, my brother and I would often ride with our father to his job in downtown Mobile and walk to Mobile Public Library, where we would spend all day exploring and reading. Well-written novels with remarkable but believable characters—such as those I've noted here are my passion. I have included novels in my list where I can identify personally with the protagonist. My list of books is varied. They have one thing in common: believable characters who struggle with life—authored by legitimate wordsmiths. When I wrote Angry Heavens as a first-time novelist, it was my history as a reader that I used as a writer.

David's book list on celebrating an author’s literary style

David Michael Dunaway Why did David love this book?

The Charm School was written at the height of the Cold War and is the story of a young American aspiring to drive a Pontiac Trans Am into and across Russia. After not many days of arduous travel—after all Russian roads and gasoline access points were not built for a Pontiac Trans Am muscle car of the 1960s—he accidentally comes across a Russian village unlike any he has seen thus far—a village far into the pinewoods that looked as if it had been plucked out of New England America with its residents speaking perfect American English free of Russian accents and filled with typical Americanisms. He knows he must reach the American Embassy in Moscow and alert the CIA station chief.  

Given the current state of affairs with Russia, there may not be a more informative book to read. The Charm School is simply the #1 spy novel ever written.…

By Nelson DeMille,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"True master" and #1 New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille presents a chilling, relentlessly suspenseful story of Cold War espionage perfect for fans of the hit FX show The Americans (Dan Brown).

On a dark road deep inside the Russian woods at Borodino, a young American tourist picks up an unusual passenger with an explosive secret: an U.S. POW on the run from "The Charm School," a sinister operation where American POWs teach young KBG agents how to be model U.S. citizens. Their goal? To infiltrate the United States undetected. With this horrifying conspiracy revealed, the CIA sets an…


Book cover of Molehunt: The Secret Search for Traitors That Shattered the CIA

Steve Vogel Author Of Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War's Most Audacious Espionage Operation

From my list on accurate non-fiction about Cold War espionage.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author and veteran journalist who reported for The Washington Post for more than two decades, and I write frequently about military history and intelligence. My father worked for the CIA, and I was born in Berlin when he was stationed there as a case officer. Later I was based in Germany as a foreign correspondent when the Berlin Wall came down. So it’s not too surprising that I am interested in Cold War espionage and history. As a reporter, author, and reader, I’ve always been attracted to stories off the beaten track, the ones that most people know little or nothing about. 

Steve's book list on accurate non-fiction about Cold War espionage

Steve Vogel Why did Steve love this book?

David Wise was the dean of American espionage writers, the author of more than a dozen well-regarded books about spies before his death in 2018, and Molehunt is my favorite. It tells the story of the James Angleton-inspired to hunt for a supposed mole within the CIA, an enormously damaging affair that paralyzed the agency for years. Wise’s books are so authoritative because of the unmatched sources he had in the intelligence community.

By David Wise,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Details the obsessive internal spy hunt reminiscent of the McCarthy era lead by CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton after he was lead astray by former KGB officer Anatoly Golitsin. 25,000 first printing. $25,000 ad/promo. Tour.


Book cover of The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War

Ann Hagedorn Author Of Sleeper Agent: The Atomic Spy in America Who Got Away

From my list on bringing you close to what deeply drives people to become spies.

Why am I passionate about this?

Writing narrative nonfiction books is, for me, quite an adventure. My quest is to discover remarkable stories of deep significance and find answers to long-lingering questions, such as why a spy was never caught. For my six books, I have travelled worldwide to interview key players, dig through archives, and see first-hand the stories’ settings. With master’s degrees in journalism (Columbia University) and library science (University of Michigan), I use the research skills of both professions. Designing the best story structure is my passion because that’s the bridge writers must construct to artfully deliver true stories to readers. And I am inspired by reading excellent books.

Ann's book list on bringing you close to what deeply drives people to become spies

Ann Hagedorn Why did Ann love this book?

I read this unforgettable, true story, cover to cover while sitting for hours in the Denver airport waiting for a long-delayed flight to Seattle.

Thanks to Ben Macintyre’s brilliance, my day of stress became a meaningful and hugely informative adventure into the double life of Oleg Gordievsky. How this man, like his father and brother, joined the KGB; why certain realities and events during his KGB assignments changed him; what motivated his decision to become a double agent for British intelligence; and how he survived it all filled this saga with astute lessons about espionage.

There’s a simple yet profound line that stuck with me about the double life, something like: You love those around you while you conceal your true inner self.

By Ben Macintyre,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The celebrated author of Double Cross and Rogue Heroes returns with a thrilling Americans-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the end of the Cold War.

“The best true spy story I have ever read.”—JOHN LE CARRÉ

Named a Best Book of the Year by The Economist • Shortlisted for the Bailie Giffords Prize in Nonfiction

If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky. The son of two KGB agents and the product of the best Soviet institutions, the…


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Interested in the Cold War, the Soviet Union, and journalists?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Cold War, the Soviet Union, and journalists.

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