100 books like KGB

By Christopher Andrew, Oleg Gordievsky,

Here are 100 books that KGB fans have personally recommended if you like KGB. 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 Target Is Destroyed: What Really Happened To Flight 007 And What America Knew About It

Taylor Downing Author Of 1983: Reagan, Andropov, and a World on the Brink

From my list on Cold War mysteries.

Why am I passionate about this?

Taylor Downing is a historian, writer, and television producer. He has written several best-selling books and has produced more than 200 television documentaries many of which have won awards. Taylor is currently researching and writing a new book on a little-known crisis in World War Two, due for publication in 2022.

Taylor's book list on Cold War mysteries

Taylor Downing Why did Taylor love this book?

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?

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


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

David DeKok Author Of Fire Underground: The Ongoing Tragedy of the Centralia Mine Fire

From my list on environmental catastrophes.

Why am I passionate about this?

David DeKok became interested in environmental disasters in his native Michigan in 1974, when PBB, a fire-retardant chemical, was accidentally mixed with animal feed, entered the food chain, and then most people in the state, probably including himself. As a journalist in Pennsylvania, he wrote extensively about the Centralia mine fire and the aftermath of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and is the author of four books. He tends to write about small towns and small-town people in crisis.

David's book list on environmental catastrophes

David DeKok Why did David love this book?

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.

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…


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

Nicholas Mee Author Of Gravity: From Falling Apples to Supermassive Black Holes

From my list on when contemplating the risks of nuclear technology.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always had a passion to engage with the deepest questions of existence, from the interpretation of quantum mechanics to string theory and cosmology. My desire to understand is driven purely by curiosity, and my aim in writing about these topics is to make the wonders of the universe as widely accessible as possible. But scientific knowledge and the advance of technology also has a potentially darker side. It is vital for the future of humanity that science is widely understood so that democratic informed decisions can be made to safeguard against its misuse, and this was the motivation for recommending my list of books.

Nicholas' book list on when contemplating the risks of nuclear technology

Nicholas Mee Why did Nicholas love this book?

Command and Control is the gripping story of an accident at an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile silo in Arkansas in 1980 that resulted in the explosion of a Titan II missile.

The explosion blew the concrete lid off the silo and sent the missile’s nine-megaton thermonuclear warhead hurtling one hundred metres through the air. Fortunately, the warhead, which had 500 times the explosive power of the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, did not explode.

Interwoven with the minute-by-minute account of this accident, Schlosser gives a riveting history of the development of nuclear weapons by the U.S. military and discusses the mechanisms that have been devised to ensure that they are not detonated unintentionally. He also describes numerous other alarming nuclear mishaps that have occurred over the years.

By Eric Schlosser,

Why should I read it?

4 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…


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

Merle Nygate Author Of The Righteous Spy

From my list on spy books that spies read and sometimes wrote themselves.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve written and script edited in a lot of different genres, from factual drama to sitcom, children’s TV to fantasy. I’ve always loved spy stories, and I’ve always wanted to write one. Recently, at the University of East Anglia I studied for an MA in Crime Fiction, and that’s where I finally got the chance to study espionage and write a spy novel myself. I hope you enjoy my selection of books if you haven’t already read them. Or even if you have. They’re all so good that I feel like re-reading them right now. 

Merle's book list on spy books that spies read and sometimes wrote themselves

Merle Nygate Why did Merle love this book?

This is a non-fiction book but it reads like a novel and explores one of the great mysteries of the spy world: how on earth did Kim Philby manage to betray not only his country but also his friends over so many years? 

A former spy I had the privilege of interviewing described Philby as a shit, so maybe there’s the answer. I think this is a terrific read, and although Macintyre probably isn’t a spy, like Deighton, he knows them. 

By Ben Macintyre,

Why should I read it?

12 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…


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…


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

Boris Volodarsky Author Of Assassins: The KGB's Poison Factory Ten Years on

From my list on intelligence history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Boris B. Volodarsky is a former intelligence officer, captain of the GRU Spetsnaz, Russian special forces. With the first raising of the Iron Curtain, Boris legally left the Soviet Union with his family. After living in the West for over 30 years, he became a British academic writing books and other academic works on the subject he knew best of all – the history of intelligence. Dr. Volodarsky earned a history degree at the London School of Economics under Professor Sir Paul Preston defending his doctoral thesis there with flying colours. He is contributing articles to the leading newspapers and is often interviewed by television and radio channels in Britain and the USA.

Boris' book list on intelligence history

Boris Volodarsky Why did Boris love this book?

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.

By Christopher Andrew, Vasili Mitrokhin,

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…


Book cover of The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West

Mark Hollingsworth Author Of Agents of Influence: How the KGB Subverted Western Democracies

From my list on the KGB, Russia and espionage.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been writing about Russia for the past 20 years for all the UK national newspapers, The Spectator and contributed to several TV documentaries. I am fascinated by Russia which is a unique country and has been a major influence on the world for the past 100 years. Based on new documents, my book Londongrad - From Russia with Cash revealed how Russian Oligarchs made their wealth, moved it out of Russia, hid their fortunes and then parked and spent it in London. My new book - Agents of Influence - provides an insight into how the KGB influenced the West based on new archives.

Mark's book list on the KGB, Russia and espionage

Mark Hollingsworth Why did Mark love this book?

Based on an unprecedented treasure trove of documents smuggled out of the Soviet Union by former intelligence officer Vasily Mitrokhin, this book demonstrated the KGB operations used in an attempt to destabilise the West during the Cold War - disinformation, forgery of documents, honey trapping, smears, surveillance and recruiting agents of influence and politicians in the UK, NATO countries and the USA.

I am recommending The Mitrokhin Archive because it is based on primary documents.  So many books about espionage are based on memories and speculation, while the Mitrokhin Archive's value is that its assertions and revelations are based on actual KGB documents. 

And so this book was indispensable for my research for my book.

By Christopher Andrew, Vasili Mitrokhin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'One of the biggest intelligence coups in recent years' The Times

For years KGB operative Vasili Mitrokhin risked his life hiding top-secret material from Russian secret service archives beneath his family dacha. When he was exfiltrated to the West he took with him what the FBI called 'the most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source'. This extraordinary bestselling book is the result.

'Co-authored in a brilliant partnership by Christopher Andrew and the renegade Soviet archivist himself ... This is a truly global expose of major KGB penetrations throughout the Western world' The Times

'This tale of malevolent…


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

Mark Hollingsworth Author Of Agents of Influence: How the KGB Subverted Western Democracies

From my list on the KGB, Russia and espionage.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been writing about Russia for the past 20 years for all the UK national newspapers, The Spectator and contributed to several TV documentaries. I am fascinated by Russia which is a unique country and has been a major influence on the world for the past 100 years. Based on new documents, my book Londongrad - From Russia with Cash revealed how Russian Oligarchs made their wealth, moved it out of Russia, hid their fortunes and then parked and spent it in London. My new book - Agents of Influence - provides an insight into how the KGB influenced the West based on new archives.

Mark's book list on the KGB, Russia and espionage

Mark Hollingsworth Why did Mark love this book?

It is rare for a KGB spy to reveal so many secrets about the Soviet Union and Russian intelligence operations in the West and so this book is a revelation. 

Kalugin was a KGB officer based in the USA in the 1970s and he describes all their dirty tricks - fake letters, disinformation, honey trapping, and even attempts to bug the US Congress.

By Oleg Kalugin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors 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.


Book cover of Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America

Neal Thompson Author Of Reckoning: Vietnam and America's Cold War Experience, 1945-1991

From my list on America’s path through the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I entered the United States Army in August 1970, two months after graduation from high school, completed flight school on November 1971, and served a one-year tour of duty in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot in Troop F (Air), 8th US Cavalry, 1st Aviation Brigade. After my discharge, I served an additional 28 years as a helicopter pilot in the Illinois National Guard, retiring in 2003. I graduated from Triton Junior College, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Northwestern University Law School in 1981. My passion for this subject arises, as one would expect, from my status as a veteran. My expertise is based on my own experience and 16 years of research and writing that went into the preparation of my book.

Neal's book list on America’s path through the Cold War

Neal Thompson Why did Neal love this book?

Starting in World War II, American cryptanalysts broke Soviet codes and determined that hundreds of Americans working for the Soviet Union were active within the federal government during the New Deal and throughout the Second World War. Code named Venona, this operation was a closely guarded secret until declassification in 1996. When these intercepts were combined with information acquired from Soviet archives after the collapse of the USSR, they revealed not only a massive penetration of American government, science, and industry by Soviet spies but an American Communist Party that had assisted in these efforts, serving as an arm of Soviet intelligence. In other words (quoting American Communist Party member Alfred Bernstein), “[Joseph] McCarthy was right.” “The system was loaded with Communists.”

By Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes,

Why should I read it?

2 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…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the KGB, the Soviet Union, and intelligence agency?

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

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