10 books like Kim Philby

By Tim Milne,

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

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The Missing Diplomats

By Cyril Connolly,

Book cover of The Missing Diplomats

The first account of the Burgess and Maclean story – it was published a year after their flight – this fifty page essay, based on a collection of articles in the Sunday Times, by someone who knew both men contains shrewd pen portraits of the two spies and the roots of their spying. “Politics begin in the nursery; no one is born patriotic or unpatriotic, right-wing or left-wing, and it is the child whose craving for love is unsatisfied, whose desire for power is thwarted or whose innate sense of justice is warped that eventually may try to become a revolutionary or dictator.

The Missing Diplomats

By Cyril Connolly,

Why should I read it?

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


Guy Burgess

By Tom Driberg,

Book cover of Guy Burgess: A Portrait With Background

The journalist  and Labour politician Tom Driberg had known Guy Burgess in London. After Burgess appeared publicly at a press conference in February 1956 five years after his flight to Russia, Driberg approached him asking to write his authorised life and Burgess agreed. In the absence of a memoir, this biography, based on a series of interviews, is our nearest insight into the spy’s mind set tracing his alienation from the Establishment from his school days at Eton, his politicisation at Cambridge University, concerns about McCarthyism whilst in Washington to the escape to Russia.

Guy Burgess

By Tom Driberg,

Why should I read it?

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


A Chapter of Accidents

By Goronwy Rees,

Book cover of A Chapter of Accidents

The writer and academic, Goronwy Rees, was one of Burgess’s closest friends and this volume of memoir best conveys Burgess’s character and charm. The two men saw much of each other during the 1930s, and Rees was one of Burgess’s first recruits, but the relationship foundered when Rees decided during the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939 to stop spying and threatened to betray his friend. After Burgess surfaced in Moscow, Rees penned a series of sensational articles about Burgess’s dissolute private life, probably as a damage limitation exercise, which backfired and led him to losing his academic post but he soon was to have his revenge.

A Chapter of Accidents

By Goronwy Rees,

Why should I read it?

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


The Climate of Treason

By Andrew Boyle,

Book cover of The Climate of Treason: Five who Spied for Russia

A landmark espionage book about the Cambridge Spies, which has stood up surprisingly well though published almost forty years ago and before the release of Russian and British archives, and first  made me  interested in ‘The Climate of Treason’.  It not only gives the historical background to their recruitment during the 1930s but, drawing on a deathbed confession from Goronwy Rees, named two new spies ‘Maurice’ and ‘Basil’. After leaks to the satirical magazine Private Eye , Margaret Thatcher confirmed that ‘Maurice’ was the Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures  Sir Anthony Blunt who had been granted immunity sixteen years earlier. ‘Basil’ was identified as an atomic scientist, serving in the Washington Embassy alongside Kim Philby and Guy Burgess, called Wilfrid Mann. Mann fended off the accusations at the time and the story died but subsequent research for my book has proved Mann was a spy.

The Climate of Treason

By Andrew Boyle,

Why should I read it?

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


The Human Factor

By Graham Greene,

Book cover of The Human Factor

Describing any book as the best of its kind is controversial but few writers in any genre can match one of the true literary giants of the 20th century. Greene worked for MI6 in West Africa during the Second World War before coming back to England where he worked alongside Kim Philby countering German spies based in Portugal and Spain. Elements of his sympathy for Philby, a KGB agent at the heart of MI6, are evident in The Human Factor, where MI6 officer Maurice Castle finds himself embroiled in an investigation into leaks to the KGB from within his section. The book reeks of authenticity but it is the brilliance of the writing, ramping up the tension from seemingly mundane incidents, which produces such a riveting thriller. 

The Human Factor

By Graham Greene,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Graham Greene's beautiful and disturbing novel is filled with tenderness, humour, excitement and doubt' The Times

A leak is traced to a small sub-section of the secret service, sparking off the inevitable security checks, tensions and suspicions. The sort of atmosphere, perhaps, where mistakes could be made? For Maurice Castle, it is the end of the line anyway, and time for him to retire to live peacefully with his wife and child. But no-one escapes so easily from the lonely, isolated, neurotic world of the SIS.

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY COLM TOIBIN


The Night Manager

By John Le Carré,

Book cover of The Night Manager

Well, in my opinion, pick any LeCarre spy novel and you're already winning at life. The slowness with which they sometimes seem to move becomes like a morphine dripline direct into your veins, and by the time you realize exactly what sort of gray-on-gray world the characters inhabit, and what qualities at first ambiguous but later crucial allow them to act with ambiguous heroism, you'll get a true flavor of MI6.

The Night Manager

By John Le Carré,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In The Night Manager, an ex-soldier helps British Intelligence penetrate the secret world of ruthless arms dealers.

At the start of it all, Jonathan Pine is merely the night manager at a luxury hotel. But when a single attempt to pass on information to the British authorities - about an international businessman at the hotel with suspicious dealings - backfires terribly, and people close to Pine begin to die, he commits himself to a battle against powerful forces he cannot begin to imagine.

In a chilling tale of corrupt intelligence agencies, billion-dollar price tags and the truth of the brutal…


The Foot Soldiers

By Gerald Seymour,

Book cover of The Foot Soldiers: A Times Thriller of the Month

A master thriller writer, his characters are invariably fascinating – the ‘good’ ones complex with frailties yet often quietly heroic, the ‘bad’ ones, not just villains but people. His plots take you on a page-turning journey in credible geo-contemporary theatres, combining gripping tensions and insights. I first met him in 1969-70 when he was a television reporter covering the anti-apartheid struggle in Britain.

The Foot Soldiers

By Gerald Seymour,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'[A] masterly novel' - The Sunday Times

'Strong echoes of George Smiley' - Financial Times

'A novel of real quality. Top brass' - The Times Thriller of the Month

*****

Beware of Russians bearing gifts.

Defectors are not always welcome.

Is the information they bring worth the cost of protecting them for the rest of their lives? Is it even genuine? Might they be double agents?

These are some of the questions facing MI6 when a Russian agent hands himself in to them in Denmark.

As a team begins to assess his value, his former employers in the Kremlin develop…


Smiley's People

By John Le Carré,

Book cover of Smiley's People: A George Smiley Novel

This is also a controversial choice, given that le Carré fans are largely split between The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. But for me, Smiley’s People is the true pinnacle of le Carré’s work with Smiley completely developed and totally in charge while the plot is based on a single, very credible intelligence operation that brings the Tinker Tailor trilogy to a riveting end. John le Carré studied at the University of Bern, where the key part of the operation takes place and went on to work for the British Security Service MI5 before moving into MI6 in the early sixties, based mainly in Germany, with the final denouement to this brilliant story coming memorably in a West Berlin he knew well. 

Smiley's People

By John Le Carré,

Why should I read it?

2 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…


MI6

By Keith Jeffery,

Book cover of MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949

The Secret Intelligence Service, SIS and also known now as MI6, is one of Britain’s most secret organisations, and as such has provoked intrigue, mystique, and fascination; all partly fuelled by Ian Fleming’s successful James Bond novels. But whilst there is some crossover at points with the fictional world, the official history makes it plain that much of its work was mundane. That does not lessen our interest in the organisation. This book provides the first authorised recognition that SIS existed, but also the first glimpse into its clandestine activities. Told chronologically rather than thematically, there is a sense of the developing history of the organisation, from the threats in 1909, through to the deceptions and counter-espionage ops of the First and Second World Wars to 1949 (the start of the early Cold War). The book is the first insight into some of the central characters – those who can…

MI6

By Keith Jeffery,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked MI6 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A groundbreaking book, this unprecedented study is the
authoritative account of the best-known intelligence organisation in the
world. Essential reading for anyone interested in the history of
espionage, the two world wars, modern British government and the conduct
of international relations in the first half of the twentieth century, MI6:
The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949 is a
uniquely important examination of the role and significance of
intelligence in the modern world.


Foley

By Michael Smith,

Book cover of Foley: The Spy Who Saved 10,000 Jews

Anyone who wants to know what a real-life, daring British secret agent looks like (hint: nothing like James Bond) should read about Frank Foley. The son of a West Country railway worker, only 5’2” tall, he wore a tweed jacket and owlish spectacles. Not very sexy. Officially a ‘passport control officer’ at the British embassy in Berlin, in fact he was the ringmaster of a spy network. Following Hitler’s rise to power he focused on saving Jews. As time was of the essence, he dispensed with cumbersome bureaucracy: "I pounded on the desks until I got what I wanted." As well as issuing thousands of life-saving visas, he hid in his own home Jews fleeing the Gestapo and helped them acquire forged documents. With no diplomatic immunity, he could have been arrested as a spy and shot. So often in life the unassuming ‘little guy’ is the greatest hero of…

Foley

By Michael Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As the horror of Nazism tightened its grip on Germany, Jews found themselves trapped and desperate. For many, their only hope of salvation came in the form of a small, bespectacled British man: Frank Foley. Working as a Berlin Passport Control Officer, Foley helped thousands of Jews to flee the country with visas and false passports, personally entering the camps to get Jews out, and sheltering those on the run from the Gestapo in his own apartment. Described by a Jewish leader as 'the Pimpernel of the Jews', Foley was an unsung hero of the Holocaust.But why is this extraordinary…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in intelligence services, Guy Burgess, and Kim Philby?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about intelligence services, Guy Burgess, and Kim Philby.

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