100 books like Room 40

By Patrick Beesly,

Here are 100 books that Room 40 fans have personally recommended if you like Room 40. 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 From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, Volume I: The Road to War, 1904–1914

Mark Harris Author Of Harwich Submarines in the Great War: The First Submarine Campaign of the Royal Navy in 1914

From my list on WWI naval history without the same old story.

Why am I passionate about this?

Military history has always fascinated me. I grew up in Britain with my parents’ tales of service in the Second World War on land, sea, and in the air. The First World War saw the zenith of British sea power and was an obvious draw. The scale and scope of the fighting were huge, and I’ve been researching the naval war in depth for over thirty years. The high levels of literacy of the combatants mean that it is also possible to gain deep insights into their experiences. This makes for stories I'm passionate about discovering as a reader and telling as an author. I hope this list helps you discover them too.

Mark's book list on WWI naval history without the same old story

Mark Harris Why did Mark love this book?

This is a five-volume history focusing on the Anglo-German naval rivalry from its origins in 1904 to the ultimate demise of the Imperial German Fleet in 1919. This is history writing at its epic best.

Marder’s approach to history is even handed and avoids partisanship. His research is monumental is scale and he developed a network of relationships with many of the key figures in the story. The result is an incredibly well researched and informed history of the naval war, with great depth of insight, all written in an approachable style.

A true classic of naval literature that is a joy to read and is unlikely to ever be surpassed.

By Arthur J. Marder,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, Volume I as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Arthur Marder's critically acclaimed five volume series, From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, represents one of the finest contributions to the literature of naval history since the work of Alfred Mahan. These new editions of the series are published with a new introduction by Barry Gough, distinguished Canadian maritime and naval historian, that provide an assessment of the importance of Marder's work and anchors it firmly amongst the great naval narrative histories of this era.

"His naval history has a unique fascination. To unrivalled mastery of sources he adds a gift of simple narrative . . . He is beyond…


Book cover of The Last Gentleman of War: The Raider Exploits of the Cruiser Emden

Mark Harris Author Of Harwich Submarines in the Great War: The First Submarine Campaign of the Royal Navy in 1914

From my list on WWI naval history without the same old story.

Why am I passionate about this?

Military history has always fascinated me. I grew up in Britain with my parents’ tales of service in the Second World War on land, sea, and in the air. The First World War saw the zenith of British sea power and was an obvious draw. The scale and scope of the fighting were huge, and I’ve been researching the naval war in depth for over thirty years. The high levels of literacy of the combatants mean that it is also possible to gain deep insights into their experiences. This makes for stories I'm passionate about discovering as a reader and telling as an author. I hope this list helps you discover them too.

Mark's book list on WWI naval history without the same old story

Mark Harris Why did Mark love this book?

If there is one story to fire the imagination about naval action in the First World War, it is that of the German cruiser Emden and her crew. Her commander, Karl von Müller, showed skill and chivalrous humanity in equal measure.

Emden raided the Indian Ocean, pursued by numerous Allied warships, causing havoc to commerce. The cruise ended in an epic final action with the Australian cruiser Sydney. Part of the crew then made an audacious escape home across the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Desert.

Lochner’s research is thorough, making extensive use of archive material to tell the story. This is essential for writing well-informed history, but he also brings the crew and their adventures vividly to life.

By R.K. Lochner, Thea Lindauer (translator), Harry Lindauer (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Based on German, French, and English sources, this World War I saga of the German cruiser Emden provides a colorful portrait of a lost era of naval warfare and a lasting tribute to a legendary merchant raider. Though dauntless in pursuit of enemy ships, the Emden treated captured crews with great courtesy and is remembered today as the last man-of-war that adhered to a chivalric code of conduct. The bold and gallant raids against Allied merchant ships in the Indian Ocean earned the Emden the admiration of friend and foe alike. In a single raid it sank a Russian cruiser…


Book cover of Dardanelles Patrol: The Incredible Story of the E.11

Mark Harris Author Of Harwich Submarines in the Great War: The First Submarine Campaign of the Royal Navy in 1914

From my list on WWI naval history without the same old story.

Why am I passionate about this?

Military history has always fascinated me. I grew up in Britain with my parents’ tales of service in the Second World War on land, sea, and in the air. The First World War saw the zenith of British sea power and was an obvious draw. The scale and scope of the fighting were huge, and I’ve been researching the naval war in depth for over thirty years. The high levels of literacy of the combatants mean that it is also possible to gain deep insights into their experiences. This makes for stories I'm passionate about discovering as a reader and telling as an author. I hope this list helps you discover them too.

Mark's book list on WWI naval history without the same old story

Mark Harris Why did Mark love this book?

The remarkable story of the Royal Navy Submarine Service in the First World War deserves greater recognition. This book takes you inside their world.

It tells the story of an action-packed patrol by submarine E.11 into the dangerous Turkish waters of the Sea of Marmora during the Dardanelles Campaign in 1915. E.11’s captain, Martin Nasmith VC, pushed the limits of what was possible to attack enemy warships and supplies, even swimming out to disarm a torpedo that failed to explode in order to use it again!

The book resembles a novel, but the events are entirely factual to the historical record. Nasmith and his crew collaborated closely in the drafting. It is this that gives the book the feel of experiencing the events with them as they unfold.

By Peter Shankland, Anthony Hunter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Book by Shankland, Peter, Hunter, Anthony


Book cover of Battle of the Baltic Islands 1917: Triumph of the Imperial German Navy

Mark Harris Author Of Harwich Submarines in the Great War: The First Submarine Campaign of the Royal Navy in 1914

From my list on WWI naval history without the same old story.

Why am I passionate about this?

Military history has always fascinated me. I grew up in Britain with my parents’ tales of service in the Second World War on land, sea, and in the air. The First World War saw the zenith of British sea power and was an obvious draw. The scale and scope of the fighting were huge, and I’ve been researching the naval war in depth for over thirty years. The high levels of literacy of the combatants mean that it is also possible to gain deep insights into their experiences. This makes for stories I'm passionate about discovering as a reader and telling as an author. I hope this list helps you discover them too.

Mark's book list on WWI naval history without the same old story

Mark Harris Why did Mark love this book?

Successful amphibious operations are hard to pull off. The Allies failure at Gallipoli is well known.

This book tells the story of Operation Albion, the successful German seizure of the Russian islands in the Baltic. A large part of the German Fleet was involved and had to overcome stubborn resistance by the battleships, cruisers, and destroyers of the Russian Fleet to break into the Gulf of Riga.

The Baltic is a little-known theatre of naval operations. The book draws on both Russian and German sources to show how the German Fleet and Army worked hand in hand to achieve a decisive victory in this theatre of the naval war.

By Gary Staff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Battle of the Baltic Islands 1917 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In late 1917, the Russians, despite the revolution, were still willing to continue the war against Germany. This is an account of Operation Albion, the highly-successful seaborne operation launched by the Germans to change their minds. The Baltic Islands were pivotal for the defence of the Finnish Gulf and St. Petersburg, so their capture wasessential for any campaign towards the Russian capital. Only after the fall of the islands did Russia begin peace negotiations (freeing nearly half a million German soldiers for the Kaiser's last gamble on the Western Front). This then was a campaign of great significance for the…


Book cover of 'Blinker' Hall: Spymaster: The Man Who Brought America into World War I

Roseanna M. White Author Of The Number of Love

From my list on British intelligence in WW1.

Why am I passionate about this?

Roseanna M. White is a historical fiction writer whose bestselling stories always seem to find their way to war, espionage, and intrigue. A fascination with her family’s heritage led her to tales set in Edwardian and Great War England, and she’s spent the last seven years studying that culture and how the era’s events intersected with things like faith, family, the arts, and social reforms. Of course, she does all this study and writing about war and mayhem from the safety of her home in West Virginia, where life is blessedly ordinary and no one expects her to actually crack any codes in order to survive...which is definitely a good thing.

Roseanna's book list on British intelligence in WW1

Roseanna M. White Why did Roseanna love this book?

Any research into the codebreaking arm of British Intelligence during the Great War will quickly point to one man as the mastermind: Admiral Sir Reginald “Blinker” Hall. He is, at a glance, one of the most intriguing historical figures you’ll ever come across…and the more you learn, the more convinced you’ll be of that. In Blinker Hall, Spymaster, Ramsay delivers not only a thorough look into intelligence and codebreaking, using documents that have been declassified only recently to his writing, but also an insightful look into the man who orchestrated one of the most complex intelligence systems of the modern era. For anyone interested in intelligence, cryptography, or even just the invisible world behind a war that spanned continents, this book delivers it all, and does it in an engaging, entertaining style.

By David Ramsay,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Admiral Sir Reginald 'Blinker' Hall, the Director of Naval Intelligence (DNI) for most of the First World War, described as 'a genius in his own sphere and brilliantly successful', was one of the outstanding if largely unrecognized naval leaders of that war. Naval intelligence's ability to read and analyze German naval and diplomatic signals on a daily basis was a significant factor in the allied victory. The Germans never realized that their codes had been broken. The revelation of the Zimmermann Telegram, depicted as one of the most exciting events in the history of intelligence, astutely handled by Hall, was…


Book cover of The Thirty-Nine Steps

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?

Read as a teenager, this book hooked me into mystery thrillers. It has everything from murder to political intrigue to a spy ring.

The book is a chase thriller with twists, turns, and surprises. Written in 1930, the work had the feel of a ‘boy's own’ adventure story with a man on the run hunting German spies and clues leading to the 39 steps and victory.

Great story!

By John Buchan,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Thirty-Nine Steps as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Richard Hannay has just returned to England after years in South Africa and is thoroughly bored with his life in London. But then a murder is committed in his flat, just days after a chance encounter with an American who had told him about an assassination plot which could have dire international consequences. An obvious suspect for the police and an easy target for the killers, Hannay goes on the run in his native Scotland where he will need all his courage and ingenuity to stay one step ahead of his pursuers.


Book cover of Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War

Kate Breslin Author Of High as the Heavens

From my list on World War One and the hidden world of espionage.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an American novelist and Anglophile who enjoys writing about British history, I never planned to venture into world war fiction, but once a story led me there I was hooked. I love doing deep-dive research and learning about real men and women of the past who faced high stakes: life and death situations and having to make impossible decisions, both on the battlefield and in the hidden world of espionage. Their courage and resourcefulness inspire me, and I realize that even when we’re at our most vulnerable, we can still rise to become our best and bravest when it counts. 

Kate's book list on World War One and the hidden world of espionage

Kate Breslin Why did Kate love this book?

I’d always imagined the femme fatale, Mata Hari, as the female spy of WWI, but in this well-researched book by Tammy Proctor, I was fascinated to learn there were quite a few women agents in the Great War. Proper ladies, in long dress skirts or nurses’ uniforms, each playing her part in a dangerous game of subterfuge against the enemy to help the Allies win. They knew the risks, yet were willing to sacrifice their lives for what they saw as the greater good; and it was these women who inspired me to create the heroine in my book, Evelyn Marche. Her bravery and daring in the novel are a tribute to them.

By Tammy M. Proctor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When the Germans invaded her small Belgian village in 1914, Marthe Cnockaert's home was burned and her family separated. After getting a job at a German hospital, and winning the Iron Cross for her service to the Reich, she was approached by a neighbor and invited to become an intelligence agent for the British. Not without trepidation, Cnockaert embarked on a career as a spy, providing information and engaging in sabotage before her capture and imprisonment in 1916. After the war, she was paid and decorated by a grateful British government for her service.
Cnockaert's is only one of the…


Book cover of Gabrielle Petit: The Death and Life of a Female Spy in the First World War

Alison Fell Author Of Women as Veterans in Britain and France After the First World War

From my list on women and the First World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the First World War ever since I read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth at the age of 19. When I lived in France in my twenties I started to read French nurses’ memoirs and diaries, and for the last fifteen years or so have continued to read and write about women’s experiences during and after the war as a university academic researcher, often from a comparative perspective. Men’s stories and memories of the First World War still dominate our understanding of it, but I believe that women’s perspectives give us a vital and often overlooked insight into the war and its consequences.

Alison's book list on women and the First World War

Alison Fell Why did Alison love this book?

British people have often heard of Edith Cavell, who has been commemorated in Britain as a national heroine of the war after she was executed by the Germans in 1915 for her role in running an escape network in Belgium for Allied Soldiers. But Cavell was only one individual amongst hundreds who resisted the authorities in occupied France and Belgium. Like Cavell, young Belgian woman Gabrielle Petit was remembered as a national heroine after her execution during the war. De Schaepdrijver’s book vividly brings her story to life, explaining how she was became involved in espionage, as well as showing how a cult of remembrance grew around her in the decades following the 1918 armistice.

By Sophie de Schaepdrijver,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In central Brussels stands a statue of a young woman. Built in 1923, it is the first monument to a working-class woman in European history. Her name was Gabrielle Petit. History has forgotten Petit, an ambitious and patriotic Belgian, executed by firing squad in 1916 for her role as an intelligence agent for the British Army. After the First World War she was celebrated as an example of stern endeavour, but a hundred years later her memory has faded.

In the first part of this historical biography Sophie De Schaepdrijver uses Petit's life to explore gender, class and heroism in…


Book cover of The Spy Net: The Greatest Intelligence Operations of the First World War

Kate Breslin Author Of High as the Heavens

From my list on World War One and the hidden world of espionage.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an American novelist and Anglophile who enjoys writing about British history, I never planned to venture into world war fiction, but once a story led me there I was hooked. I love doing deep-dive research and learning about real men and women of the past who faced high stakes: life and death situations and having to make impossible decisions, both on the battlefield and in the hidden world of espionage. Their courage and resourcefulness inspire me, and I realize that even when we’re at our most vulnerable, we can still rise to become our best and bravest when it counts. 

Kate's book list on World War One and the hidden world of espionage

Kate Breslin Why did Kate love this book?

Henry Landau’s story is a favorite because it visualized for me the brilliance of WWI espionage. During the war, Landau worked for the British Secret Intelligence Service in neutral Holland and collaborated with the resistance group La Dame Blanche or “The White Lady” in occupied Belgium, who covertly provided him with intelligence to aid the Allies against Germany. They created innocuous “grocery lists” – a code for how many German troops, horses, and artillery were sighted at Belgium’s train stations, and “letterboxes” used to pass intel so as to safeguard each cell of agents from capture. I was thrilled to discover this “White Lady” network of mostly noncombatants—women and children—whose ingenuity in surveillance was well before its time.

By Henry Landau,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Henry Landau was a young South African serving with the British Army when he was recruited into the British secret service, the organisation we now know as MI6, which needed a Dutch speaker to run its agent networks in Belgium. Talent-spotted by one of the secret service's secretaries on a dinner date, Landau was summoned to the service's headquarters in Whitehall Court to meet Mansfield Cumming, the legendary 'Chief' of the service and the original 'C'.Cumming, who had a wooden leg and tested the character of his young recruits by plunging a paper knife into it, sent Landau to Rotterdam,…


Book cover of I Was a Spy!

Kate Breslin Author Of High as the Heavens

From my list on World War One and the hidden world of espionage.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an American novelist and Anglophile who enjoys writing about British history, I never planned to venture into world war fiction, but once a story led me there I was hooked. I love doing deep-dive research and learning about real men and women of the past who faced high stakes: life and death situations and having to make impossible decisions, both on the battlefield and in the hidden world of espionage. Their courage and resourcefulness inspire me, and I realize that even when we’re at our most vulnerable, we can still rise to become our best and bravest when it counts. 

Kate's book list on World War One and the hidden world of espionage

Kate Breslin Why did Kate love this book?

Talk about a real-life action heroine! I grew up loving stories of intrigue and suspense, and Marthe McKenna’s 1932 memoir is like reading a thriller! As a young woman in German-occupied Belgium during WWI, she worked for the Resistance right under the enemy’s nose. I felt her fear as she witnessed brutality or took outlandish risks, and her exploits were incredibly brave for a woman of her time. I was in awe to read the book’s foreword by Sir Winston Churchill himself, lauding Marthe’s extraordinary courage and ingenuity during her ordeal. She taught me that we can all do more than we ever imagined if it means our survival, and her story inspired the high stakes I created in my novel.

By Marthe McKenna,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked I Was a Spy! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“The Greatest War Story of All – Takes rank with All Quiet on the Western Front. She fulfilled in every respect the conditions which made the terrible profession of a spy dignified and honourable. Dwelling behind the German line within sound of cannon, she continually obtained and sent information of the highest importance to the British Intelligence Authorities. Her tale is a thrilling one … the main description of her life and intrigues and adventures is undoubtedly authentic. I was unable to stop reading it until 4 a.m.”

Winston Churchill 1932

With her medical studies cut short by the 1914…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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