10 books like KGB

By Christopher Andrew, Oleg Gordievsky,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like KGB. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The Target Is Destroyed

By Seymour M. Hersh,

Book cover of The Target Is Destroyed: What Really Happened To Flight 007 And What America Knew About It

A brilliant investigation into one of the great mysteries of the Cold War - why had flight KAL007 drifted 350 miles off course into sensitive Soviet military airspace when it was shot down? Was it a genuine navigational error or could it have been a more sinister spying operation?

The Target Is Destroyed

By Seymour M. Hersh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Documents the circumstances surrounding the Soviet attack on, and downing of, a Korean Airlines civilian 747 jet in September, 1983


Midnight in Chernobyl

By Adam Higginbotham,

Book cover of Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster

The world continues to consider nuclear power, despite the devastation to the nuclear industry caused by the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Nuclear power can play a part in fighting climate change, but we need to be aware of the risks as well as the rewards. Beyond that, it is a well-researched and dramatic story about the trauma that ensues when human communities are beset by environmental disasters.

Midnight in Chernobyl

By Adam Higginbotham,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Midnight in Chernobyl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Best Book of the Year
A Time Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of the Year
2020 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence Winner

From journalist Adam Higginbotham, the New York Times bestselling “account that reads almost like the script for a movie” (The Wall Street Journal)—a powerful investigation into Chernobyl and how propaganda, secrecy, and myth have obscured the true story of one of the history’s worst nuclear disasters.

Early in the morning of April 26, 1986, Reactor Number Four of the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station exploded, triggering one of the…


Command and Control

By Eric Schlosser,

Book cover of Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety

More recent than Kaplan’s Wizards and more episodic but making it clear how close we came to destruction in the Cold War. With journalistic flair, he drives the narrative with real hair-raising episodes most notably a blow-by-blow account of an accident at a Titan II missile silo in Arkansas, in 1980. It’s a book that every student should read as the new generation needs to know how close to disaster we came in between 1947 and 1991 and the world could easily revert into a new Cold War. 

Command and Control

By Eric Schlosser,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Oscar-shortlisted documentary Command and Control, directed by Robert Kenner, finds its origins in Eric Schlosser's book and continues to explore the little-known history of the management and safety concerns of America's nuclear aresenal.

"A devastatingly lucid and detailed new history of nuclear weapons in the U.S. Fascinating." -Lev Grossman, TIME Magazine

"Perilous and gripping . . . Schlosser skillfully weaves together an engrossing account of both the science and the politics of nuclear weapons safety." -San Francisco Chronicle

A myth-shattering expose of America's nuclear weapons

Famed investigative journalist Eric Schlosser digs deep to uncover secrets about the management of…


A Spy Among Friends

By Ben Macintyre,

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

This is a book principally about Kim Philby, the once head of Britain's counterintelligence against the Soviet Union who was exposed as a double agent. There's a lot about this master spy’s activities in the Lebanese capital in the lead-up to his defection to Moscow from there in January of 1963. In 1960 Philby made a tour of the Middle East to write some articles, including stopping in Kuwait which inspired some of the action in my own book. I love any work by Ben Macintyre but this book appealed to me especially. It’s got some great photos in it and, trite as it sounds, I couldn’t put it down.

A Spy Among Friends

By Ben Macintyre,

Why should I read it?

8 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…


The Spy and the Traitor

By Ben Macintyre,

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

This is a nonfiction book that reads like a novel. It is a juxtaposition of two spies, Oleg Gordievsky, KGB, and Aldrich Ames, CIA. Gordievsky risks his life by becoming a top source for MI6 (British Intelligence) because of his moral outrage over the crimes committed by the Soviet State. Ames risks more than prison by betraying his country and causing the death of a great number of CIA sources in the Soviet Union. This is a thriller unequalled by the best espionage fiction.

The Spy and the Traitor

By Ben Macintyre,

Why should I read it?

1 author 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…


The Sword and the Shield

By Vasili Mitrokhin, Christopher Andrew,

Book cover of The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB

Better known as The Mitrokhin Archive, these are the first (and practically only) books, two great volumes, truly based on the secret KGB archives showing Soviet foreign intelligence operations in Europe, the USA, and the rest of the world. They cover the period from the founding of the Cheka (predecessor to the KGB) in 1917 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Again, both books are wonderfully written by Professor Andrew who had worked with Mitrokhin and his archive and represent an academic research of exceptional quality. All scholars, students and intelligence professionals must have these two books in their library. The same concerns all university libraries without any exception.

The Sword and the Shield

By Vasili Mitrokhin, Christopher Andrew,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Sword and the Shield is based on one of the most extraordinary intelligence coups of recent times: a secret archive of top-level KGB documents smuggled out of the Soviet Union which the FBI has described, after close examination, as the "most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source." Its presence in the West represents a catastrophic hemorrhage of the KGB's secrets and reveals for the first time the full extent of its worldwide network.Vasili Mitrokhin, a secret dissident who worked in the KGB archive, smuggled out copies of its most highly classified files every day for twelve…


The Genius Under the Table

By Eugene Yelchin,

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

What was life like under the Stalinist Soviet regime? Author Eugene Yelchin vividly and often hilariously recounts his own experiences during those repressive, poverty-stricken, and politically difficult times. Filled with Yelchin’s charming black and white drawings, readers of all ages will applaud Yelchin while learning much about those long-ago times in a country still run by a repressive regime. This timely, poignant book is a great read.

The Genius Under the Table

By Eugene Yelchin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Genius Under the Table as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

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…


Spymaster

By Oleg Kalugin,

Book cover of Spymaster: My Thirty-Two Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West

Kalugin was a major general in the KGB, dispatched to America as a spy under the cover of being a journalist for Radio Moscow. His account of his role in Soviet disinformation and “active measures”—forging letters, planting stories, concocting conspiracy theories—provides a rare insider look into how the KGB did business for decades. Perhaps most chilling is his description of how one of his bosses, former KGB chief turned Soviet premier Yuri Andropov—was guided by Lenin’s words: “We must be ready to employ trickery, deceit, law-breaking, withholding and concealing the truth. There are no morals in politics. There is only expedience.”

Spymaster

By Oleg Kalugin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Oleg Kalugin oversaw the work of American spies, matched wits with the CIA, and became one of the youngest generals in KGB history. Even so, he grew increasingly disillusioned with the Soviet system. In 1990, he went public, exposing the intelligence agency's shadowy methods. Revised and updated in the light of the KGB's enduring presence in Russian politics, Spymaster is Kalugin's impressively illuminating memoir of the final years of the Soviet Union.


Deep Undercover

By Jack Barsky, Cindy Coloma,

Book cover of Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Allegiances as a KGB Spy in America

Before stumbling across this memoir, while doing the research for my next novel, I had no idea that the Cold War saw German Communist spies living in the USA - but come to think of it, why shouldn’t they have existed on the other side of the Iron Curtain? Barsky’s story blew me away: he was sent by the KGB to the States as a sleeper agent. What “broke” him was not his challenging profession, but the love for his child — he eventually had two families, one in East Germany with a wife who knew about his true identity - and another one in the States, with a wife who didn’t.

He had a son with the German and a daughter with his Latin-American wife in the US. He wasn’t there when his son was born, but witnessed the birth of his daughter. When the Cold War ended and…

Deep Undercover

By Jack Barsky, Cindy Coloma,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One decision can end everything . . . or lead to unlikely redemption.
Millions watched the CBS 60 Minutes special on Jack Barsky in 2015. Now, in this fascinating memoir, the Soviet KGB agent tells his story of gut-wrenching choices, appalling betrayals, his turbulent inner world, and the secret life he lived for years without getting caught.

On October 8, 1978, a Canadian national by the name of William Dyson stepped off a plane at O’Hare International Airport and proceeded toward Customs and Immigration.

Two days later, William Dyson ceased to exist.

The identity was a KGB forgery, used to…


Venona

By John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr,

Book cover of Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America

This book is a true find for history buffs. It is based on the by now declassified thousands of KGB messages that were decoded by the Venona Project. It gives clear evidence of the Soviet espionage efforts by the KGB against the United States even while the two were allies in WWII. It also proves the hitherto only rumored deep penetration of Soviet assets into the United States government. In those decrypted documents there is proof that the much-maligned Senator Joseph McCarthy was more right than wrong, albeit too frenetic and sensationalist in his pursuit of communists in the US government.  

Venona

By John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Only in 1995 did the United States government officially reveal the existence of the super-secret Venona Project. For nearly fifty years American intelligence agents had been decoding thousands of Soviet messages, uncovering an enormous range of espionage activities carried out against the United States during World War II by its own allies. So sensitive was the project in its early years that even President Truman was not informed of its existence. This extraordinary book is the first to examine the Venona messages-documents of unparalleled importance for our understanding of the history and politics of the Stalin era and the early…


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