100 books like Mission France

By Kate Vigurs,

Here are 100 books that Mission France fans have personally recommended if you like Mission France. 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 Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville

Sarah Percy Author Of Forgotten Warriors: The Long History of Women in Combat

From my list on women in combat.

Who am I?

I’m an academic, writer, and broadcaster, and I’ve always been fascinated by the big questions of who fights wars and why. A puzzle caught my eye: the only profession (short of maybe priest) where women were actively banned in the 1980s and as late as the 2010s, was combat. How could Western democracies ban women from an entire profession? This was especially odd, given that the plentiful historical evidence that women were perfectly capable of combat. So I wrote a book explaining how women in combat fit into the broader sweep of military history, and how the suppression and dismissal of their stories has had a profound social and cultural impact. 

Sarah's book list on women in combat

Sarah Percy Why did Sarah love this book?

The stories of women spies during World War II are not as well known as they should be – especially  because these women were highly trained, incredibly brave, and trained in all kinds of combat techniques.

I find them fascinating because they demonstrate that ordinary women are capable of the greatest feats of physical bravery – these women were not recruited because they were muscle-bound or could shoot a bullseye from a great distance.

They were usually just regular women who happened to speak a European language fluently. Krystyna Skarbek, brilliantly written about in this exciting biography by Clare Mulley, was one such woman – her adventures, including crucial organization of French resistance fighters and rescuing her colleagues from the Nazis – make for irresistible reading.

By Clare Mulley,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Spy Who Loved as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In June 1952, a woman was murdered by an obsessed colleague in a hotel in South Kensington. Her name was Christine Granville. That she died young was perhaps unsurprising, but that she had survived the Second World War was remarkable. The daughter of a feckless Polish aristocrat and his wealthy Jewish wife, she would become one of Britain's most daring and highly decorated special agents. Having fled to Britain on the outbreak of war, she was recruited by the intelligence services long before the establishment of the SOE, and took on mission after mission. She skied into occupied Poland, served…


Book cover of A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II

David Snell Author Of Sing to Silent Stones: Part One

From my list on wartime books about families torn apart by the conflict in WW1 and WW2.

Who am I?

My reading is almost entirely influenced by my own family’s extraordinary history. My mother and father-in-law were both illegitimate. Both suffered for the fact and my father-in-law was 11 years old when he first found out and was reunited with his mother, albeit on a second-class basis compared to his half siblings. My mother trained bomb aimers. My father flew Lancaster bombers and was just 19 years old in the skies above wartime Berlin. My own books combine history, my personal experiences, and my family’s past to weave wartime stories exploring the strains that those conflicts imposed on friendships.

David's book list on wartime books about families torn apart by the conflict in WW1 and WW2

David Snell Why did David love this book?

What I loved about this book is that it is the true story of an American woman living in Nazi-occupied France, where she organised and ran resistance groups and led them in action.

The book, though factual, reads like a fictional novel, and her exploits and shear "daring do" almost beggar belief. She only had one leg, a fact that many who met her were completely unaware of, yet she crossed the Pyrenees on foot in winter!

It didn’t surprise me to find out that the men who "ran" the operations from London and Washington denigrated her achievements and consigned her to obscurity, describing her in the words of the book’s title. But she was a truly amazing heroine, and I would have loved to have met her.

By Sonia Purnell,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked A Woman of No Importance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Chosen as a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by NPR, the New York Public Library, Amazon, the Seattle Times, the Washington Independent Review of Books, PopSugar, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, BookBrowse, the Spectator, and the Times of London

Winner of the Plutarch Award for Best Biography

"Excellent...This book is as riveting as any thriller, and as hard to put down." -- The New York Times Book Review

"A compelling biography of a masterful spy, and a reminder of what can be done with a few brave people -- and a little resistance." - NPR

"A…


Book cover of A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII

Mara Timon Author Of City of Spies

From my list on real-life, kick-ass female agents of WW2.

Who am I?

My mother instilled a love of books in me, and my father fostered my fascination with history – which meant that a good part of my formative years involved books, writing, and watching WW2 films. Years later, when a BBC documentary captured my imagination, I delved into the world of SOE’s female spies, binge-reading biographies and autobiographies. I was struck by their determination, dedication, resourcefulness – and in awe of their exploits. These women were heroes. When an idea for a story took hold, I followed one "what if..." after another until my first novel emerged. While City of Spies is fiction, I tried to stay as faithful as possible to history.

Mara's book list on real-life, kick-ass female agents of WW2

Mara Timon Why did Mara love this book?

Sarah Helm’s biography of Vera Atkins is perfectly titled. On one level, Vera was the 2nd in command of SOE’s French Section, responsible for recruiting, training, and deploying SOE operatives into France. On another level, there were the closely guarded secrets of her own life.

Sarah Helm’s biography revealed a workaholic, an immigrant who became more English than the English, and whose loyalty to her charges, and the Allied cause, was unswerving. After the war, when 118 SOE agent didn’t make it home, Vera launched a personal crusade to find out what happened to them – a mission that took her across Allied-Occupied Germany to the concentration camps. (She found all but one.)

On a side note, Vera Atkins has been fictionalised on both big and small screens, from Ian Fleming’s Miss Moneypenny to Foyle’s War Hilda Pierce. Her legacy remains an inspiration.

By Sarah Helm,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Life in Secrets as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During World War Two the Special Operation Executive's French Section sent more than 400 agents into Occupied France -- at least 100 never returned and were reported 'Missing Believed Dead' after the war. Twelve of these were women who died in German concentration camps -- some were tortured, some were shot, and some died in the gas chambers. Vera Atkins had helped prepare these women for their missions, and when the war was over she went out to Germany to find out what happened to them and the other agents lost behind enemy lines. But while the woman who carried…


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

Helen Fry Author Of Mi9: A History of the Secret Service for Escape and Evasion in World War Two

From my list on intelligence and espionage.

Who am I?

Historian Dr. Helen Fry has written numerous books on the Second World War with particular reference to the 10,000 Germans who fought for Britain, and also British intelligence, espionage and WWII. She is the author of the bestselling book The Walls have Ears: The Greatest Intelligence Operation of WWII which was one of the Daily Mail’s top 8 Books of the Year for War. She has written over 25 books – including The London Cage about London’s secret WWII Interrogation Centre. Her latest book is MI9: The British Secret Service for Escape & Evasion in WWII – the first history of MI9 for 40 years. Helen has appeared in numerous TV documentaries, including David Jason’s Secret Service, Spying on Hitler’s Army, and Home Front Heroes on BBC1. Helen is an ambassador for the Museum of Military Intelligence, and President of the Friends of the National Archives. 


Helen's book list on intelligence and espionage

Helen Fry Why did Helen love this book?

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…

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.


Book cover of The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5

Helen Fry Author Of Mi9: A History of the Secret Service for Escape and Evasion in World War Two

From my list on intelligence and espionage.

Who am I?

Historian Dr. Helen Fry has written numerous books on the Second World War with particular reference to the 10,000 Germans who fought for Britain, and also British intelligence, espionage and WWII. She is the author of the bestselling book The Walls have Ears: The Greatest Intelligence Operation of WWII which was one of the Daily Mail’s top 8 Books of the Year for War. She has written over 25 books – including The London Cage about London’s secret WWII Interrogation Centre. Her latest book is MI9: The British Secret Service for Escape & Evasion in WWII – the first history of MI9 for 40 years. Helen has appeared in numerous TV documentaries, including David Jason’s Secret Service, Spying on Hitler’s Army, and Home Front Heroes on BBC1. Helen is an ambassador for the Museum of Military Intelligence, and President of the Friends of the National Archives. 


Helen's book list on intelligence and espionage

Helen Fry Why did Helen love this book?

The official history of MI5 similarly provides the first authorised account of another secret organisation. The book provides a far-reaching account of clandestine activities since its nascent beginnings as part of the Secret Service Bureau in 1909, and across a period of 100 years. It offers a rare insight into some of the eyebrow-raising operations in counter-espionage, as well as an administrative overview, for an intelligence agency that is responsible for Britain’s security at home. It gives the first inside account from it archives, from Bolshevik threats and Communist subversive activities in the 1920s in Britain to Hitler’s spies in the 1930s, to the Double-Cross deception and agents of World War Two. It goes beyond the Second World War to name some of the traitors and spies of the Cold War. There is a clear understanding publicly for the first time of the sheer scale of surveillance of enemies or…

By Christopher Andrew,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For over 100 years, the agents of MI5 have defended Britain against enemy subversion. Their work has remained shrouded in secrecy—until now. This first-ever authorized account reveals the British Security Service as never before: its inner workings, its clandestine operations, its failures and its triumphs.


Book cover of Behind the Enigma: The Authorized History of Gchq, Britain's Secret Cyber-Intelligence Agency

Helen Fry Author Of Mi9: A History of the Secret Service for Escape and Evasion in World War Two

From my list on intelligence and espionage.

Who am I?

Historian Dr. Helen Fry has written numerous books on the Second World War with particular reference to the 10,000 Germans who fought for Britain, and also British intelligence, espionage and WWII. She is the author of the bestselling book The Walls have Ears: The Greatest Intelligence Operation of WWII which was one of the Daily Mail’s top 8 Books of the Year for War. She has written over 25 books – including The London Cage about London’s secret WWII Interrogation Centre. Her latest book is MI9: The British Secret Service for Escape & Evasion in WWII – the first history of MI9 for 40 years. Helen has appeared in numerous TV documentaries, including David Jason’s Secret Service, Spying on Hitler’s Army, and Home Front Heroes on BBC1. Helen is an ambassador for the Museum of Military Intelligence, and President of the Friends of the National Archives. 


Helen's book list on intelligence and espionage

Helen Fry Why did Helen love this book?

This is the long-anticipated authorized history of GCHQ, one of Britain’s most top-secret intelligence agencies that was published in 2020. John Ferris was granted rare access to the majority of the archives at GCHQ headquarters in Cheltenham.  This volume of over 800 pages provides an open assessment of the crucial role of GCHQ in the most important defining moments of the 20th and 21st centuries; from the codebreakers of the First World War, to breaking of the German Enigma codes in the Second World War, and to contemporary times with the betrayal by whistleblower Edward Snowdon in 2013. Ferris has not been tempted to glamourize GCHQ’s contribution and legacy but provides an honest account that acknowledges that much intelligence work can be laborious. But this does not deflect from the agency’s achievements and fascinating history.

By John Ferris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

You know about MI5. You know about MI6. Now discover the untold stories behind Britain's most secretive intelligence agency, in the first ever authorised history of GCHQ. For a hundred years, GCHQ - Government Communications Headquarters - has been at the forefront of innovation in national security and British secret statecraft. Famed for its codebreaking achievements during the Second World War, and essential to the Allied victory, GCHQ also held a critical role in both the Falklands War and Cold War. Today, amidst the growing threats of terrorism and online crime, GCHQ continues to be the UK's leading intelligence, security…


Book cover of Saturday at M.I.9

Helen Fry Author Of Mi9: A History of the Secret Service for Escape and Evasion in World War Two

From my list on intelligence and espionage.

Who am I?

Historian Dr. Helen Fry has written numerous books on the Second World War with particular reference to the 10,000 Germans who fought for Britain, and also British intelligence, espionage and WWII. She is the author of the bestselling book The Walls have Ears: The Greatest Intelligence Operation of WWII which was one of the Daily Mail’s top 8 Books of the Year for War. She has written over 25 books – including The London Cage about London’s secret WWII Interrogation Centre. Her latest book is MI9: The British Secret Service for Escape & Evasion in WWII – the first history of MI9 for 40 years. Helen has appeared in numerous TV documentaries, including David Jason’s Secret Service, Spying on Hitler’s Army, and Home Front Heroes on BBC1. Helen is an ambassador for the Museum of Military Intelligence, and President of the Friends of the National Archives. 


Helen's book list on intelligence and espionage

Helen Fry Why did Helen love this book?

Saturday was the codename given to Airey Neave when he worked for MI9, the branch of military intelligence for escape and evasion in World War Two. Neave has achieved legendary status as the first British man to successfully escape from Colditz Castle, Leipzig in Germany in 1942, and make it back to England. This fortress – nicknamed ‘the camp for naughty boys’ by British officer POWs – was believed by the Germans to be impenetrable and from which no prisoner could ever escape. Neave’s success vastly raised the morale of airmen and soldiers going into action because they knew it was possible to escape from such camps. Neave was perfectly placed to write this first history of MI9, placing on record the establishment and running of the major escape lines as well the bravery of thousands of women and men of Nazi-occupied countries who aided MI9 and saved over 35,000…

Book cover of Liberation

Mara Timon Author Of City of Spies

From my list on real-life, kick-ass female agents of WW2.

Who am I?

My mother instilled a love of books in me, and my father fostered my fascination with history – which meant that a good part of my formative years involved books, writing, and watching WW2 films. Years later, when a BBC documentary captured my imagination, I delved into the world of SOE’s female spies, binge-reading biographies and autobiographies. I was struck by their determination, dedication, resourcefulness – and in awe of their exploits. These women were heroes. When an idea for a story took hold, I followed one "what if..." after another until my first novel emerged. While City of Spies is fiction, I tried to stay as faithful as possible to history.

Mara's book list on real-life, kick-ass female agents of WW2

Mara Timon Why did Mara love this book?

Want to read a thriller that will keep you turning the pages late into the night? Liberation is for you. And – here’s the kicker – it’s based on the real-life deeds of Nancy Wake. When her husband was snatched by the Gestapo, she joined SOE, trained as an agent, and parachuted into France. Nicknamed “The White Mouse” by the Germans for her ability to evade capture, she led a battalion of 7000 Resistance fighters, killed a man with her bare hands and defeated 22000 Germans (losing only 100 men). Even with a 5-million-franc bounty on her head (the largest bounty of the war), the Germans still couldn’t get their hands on her.

After the war, she sold her medals to fund herself. When asked about it, she blithely commented: "There was no point in keeping them, I'll probably go to hell and they'd melt anyway."

Nancy Wake was seriously…

By Imogen Kealey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The must-read thriller inspired by the true story of Nancy Wake, whose husband was kidnapped by the Nazis and became the most decorated servicewoman of the Second World War - soon to be a major blockbuster film.

To the Allies she was a fearless freedom fighter, special operations super spy, a woman ahead of her time. To the Gestapo she was a ghost, a shadow, the most wanted person in the world with a five-million-Franc bounty on her head.

Her name was Nancy Wake.

Now, for the first time, the roots of her legend are told in a thriller about…


Book cover of D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II

Thomas F. Linehan, Jr. Author Of Hannah Gould

From my list on courageous women and girls in war time.

Who am I?

I focus on real-life stories of people usually in wartime conflicts and study the American Civil War and WWII. I am friends with several Holocaust survivors. But my focus is on defiance, rather than evading capture or captivity. Wars show the extremes of human behavior, both good and evil. I have a place in my heart for women and girls who were thrust into a man’s world at incredible disadvantage and through extraordinary character and ability overcame the harshest realities. A few were military fighters, some spies, but all in death-defying roles. Many died in action, and most never recognized for their valor. These are the unsung heroes that I love most.  

Thomas' book list on courageous women and girls in war time

Thomas F. Linehan, Jr. Why did Thomas love this book?

The success of the D-Day invasion of German-occupied France was highly dependent upon spy-gathered information. The stories of three young women, unlikely heroes, are set against a complicated historical backdrop of spy networks in Nazi-occupied France leading up to the Allied invasion. These are the stories of Andree Borrel, Odette Sansom, and Lise de Baissac. The British spy organization, Special Operations Executive (SOE) hired, trained, and utilized these and other women as field operatives. Without the covert work they accomplished, the Allied invasion could have been disastrous. Although the work is non-fiction, it flows like a novel with quotes and personal anecdotes of the real agents. The courage and valor of these everyday women turned heroines are inspiring.  

By Sarah Rose,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked D-Day Girls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The dramatic, untold story of the extraordinary women recruited by Britain's elite spy agency to help pave the way for Allied victory, for fans of A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE by Sonia Purnell

'Gripping: Spies, romance, Gestapo thugs, blown-up trains, courage, and treachery (lots of treachery) - and all of it true, all precisely documented'
ERIK LARSON, author of THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY

'The mission is this: Read D-Day Girls today. Not just for the spy flair but also because this history feels more relevant than ever, as an army of women and girls again find themselves in…


Book cover of Early One Morning

Mark Chisnell Author Of The Fulcrum Files

From my list on historical thrillers set just before WWII.

Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by history, and the time immediately preceding the Second World War is one of the most interesting. How inevitable was the tragedy that unfolded in Germany, Europe, and then around the globe? I was drawn to it after the 2008 economic crash, and the parallels of economic hardship and the resurgence in populist nationalism. I’ve read all that history in an attempt to learn from it, and I hope that some of that comes through in The Fulcrum Files.

Mark's book list on historical thrillers set just before WWII

Mark Chisnell Why did Mark love this book?

The key to a successful historical thriller is a strong sense of time and place, but not so strong that it slows down the plot – it’s still a thriller after all, and while it’s so tempting to find somewhere to put all that research, discipline is essential. I loved this book because Robert Ryan does it particularly well. I took a lot from it for The Fulcrum Files, particularly the mix of action and romance and the basis in real events.

By Robert Ryan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the flamboyant 20s, Englishman William Grover-Williams and Frenchman Robert Benoist were fierce rivals racing their elegant Bugattis on the glittering European race circuits. Not only is the World Championship in their sights, but they have both fallen for the sensuous charms of the extravagantly beautiful Eve Aubicq. But when war breaks out, both are signed up by Special Operations Executive for missions behind enemy lines in France, one of which includes investigating rumours of the manufacture of the lethal gas Zyklon B and how it is being used by the Germans. In a series of daring sabotages and assassinations,…


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