100 books like Spy Chiefs

By Christopher Moran (editor), Mark Stout (editor), Ioanna Iordanou (editor) , Paul Maddrell (editor)

Here are 100 books that Spy Chiefs fans have personally recommended if you like Spy Chiefs. 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 Secret World: A History of Intelligence

Duncan Falconer Author Of First into Action

From my list on providing a unique insight into military history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I must be something of a specialist on the impact of conventional and guerrilla warfare on the civilian population. Truth is, leaving school, I never intended to have anything to do with war beyond the books I enjoyed reading. On leaving the military in my 30s I employed the only skills I had and managed organisations and mostly news teams operating in conflict zones all over the world. I matured into a crisis manager, responding and consulting to crisis situations such as kidnap & ransoms, and evacuations from conflict zones. Most of the characters in my books are real, good and bad, taken from the vast theatre of my own experiences. 

Duncan's book list on providing a unique insight into military history

Duncan Falconer Why did Duncan love this book?

My line of work has only enhanced my fascination with spies and spying. Espionage was on the periphery of my world and I was privy, on occasion, to snippets of information that shed light on certain events. Reading this book was like being privy to a host of secrets, many during my own era. How fascinating to be taken through the history of espionage from biblical times until today. The author reveals missing pieces to many significant moments in history, where monumental decisions were made based on information bought and sold, died for, killed for, stolen, or extracted by torture or coercion. Equally fascinating is how so much of that information was misinterpreted, denied, ignored, inflated, or simply misplaced. Great battles were won and lost, kingdoms toppled, fortunes spent and made, often based on a single snippet of information.

By Christopher Andrew,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Almost every page includes a sizzling historical titbit ... captivating, insightful and masterly' (Edward Lucas, The Times)

The history of espionage is far older than any of today's intelligence agencies, yet the long history of intelligence operations has been largely forgotten. The first mention of espionage in world literature is in the Book of Exodus.'God sent out spies into the land of Canaan'. From there, Christopher Andrew traces the shift in the ancient world from divination to what we would recognize as attempts to gather real intelligence in the conduct of military operations, and considers how far ahead of the…


Book cover of The Black Door: Spies, Secret Intelligence and British Prime Ministers

David P. Oakley Author Of Subordinating Intelligence: The DoD/CIA Post-Cold War Relationship

From my list on history, personalities, activities of intelligence.

Why am I passionate about this?

My fascination with intelligence studies is tied to my previous experience as a practitioner. While serving as a military officer and CIA officer, I became curious about how two organizations with a shared history could be so different. Exploring the “why” of the CIA/DoD differences led me to the broader interplay of organizational cultures, individuals, and missions in influencing the evolution of intelligence, its purpose, and its role. These five books will provide the reader a broader appreciation of how intelligence was used to help policymakers understand reality and how intelligence organizations have been used to try to change reality. You will not merely learn something about intelligence but will be entertained and engaged while doing so. 

David's book list on history, personalities, activities of intelligence

David P. Oakley Why did David love this book?

I am fascinated by how different countries approach intelligence, both from how they organize intelligence activities and how intelligence informs policymaking. These various approaches highlight there is not a common approach to intelligence and help explain why simple definitions of intelligence are insufficient at capturing various intelligence activities and organizations. The Black Door looks at how British Prime Ministers have used intelligence and their relationships with intelligence organizations over the past century. A well-written account by two thoughtful and prolific scholars, the reader will appreciate how British Prime Ministers have used intelligence to not only understand the world but to also act.  

By Richard J. Aldrich, Rory Cormac,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Black Door explores the evolving relationship between successive British prime ministers and the intelligence agencies, from Asquith's Secret Service Bureau to Cameron's National Security Council.

Intelligence can do a prime minister's dirty work. For more than a century, secret wars have been waged directly from Number 10. They have staved off conflict, defeats and British decline through fancy footwork, often deceiving friend and foe alike. Yet as the birth of the modern British secret service in 1909, prime ministers were strangers to the secret world - sometimes with disastrous consequences. During the Second World War, Winston Churchill oversaw a…


Book cover of Statecraft by Stealth: Secret Intelligence and British Rule in Palestine

David P. Oakley Author Of Subordinating Intelligence: The DoD/CIA Post-Cold War Relationship

From my list on history, personalities, activities of intelligence.

Why am I passionate about this?

My fascination with intelligence studies is tied to my previous experience as a practitioner. While serving as a military officer and CIA officer, I became curious about how two organizations with a shared history could be so different. Exploring the “why” of the CIA/DoD differences led me to the broader interplay of organizational cultures, individuals, and missions in influencing the evolution of intelligence, its purpose, and its role. These five books will provide the reader a broader appreciation of how intelligence was used to help policymakers understand reality and how intelligence organizations have been used to try to change reality. You will not merely learn something about intelligence but will be entertained and engaged while doing so. 

David's book list on history, personalities, activities of intelligence

David P. Oakley Why did David love this book?

The relationship between intelligence and policy and how various countries employ intelligence organizations are two important topics that are not fully explored. Wagner’s book looks at the role played by British intelligence in Palestine during the interwar period---a role that went beyond what many consider intelligence functions. As Wagner explains, British intelligence not only informed policymakers’ thinking but was also involved in the execution of policy in the Palestinian territory during this period. This combined, no better yet intertwined, history of British policy and intelligence during this important period is something that intelligence and regional scholars should read. 

By Steven B. Wagner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Britain relied upon secret intelligence operations to rule Mandatory Palestine. Statecraft by Stealth sheds light on a time in history when the murky triad of intelligence, policy, and security supported colonial governance. It emphasizes the role of the Anglo-Zionist partnership, which began during World War I and ended in 1939, when Britain imposed severe limits on Jewish immigration and settlement in Palestine.

Steven Wagner argues that although the British devoted considerable attention to intelligence gathering and analysis, they never managed to solve the basic contradiction of their rule: a dual commitment to democratic self-government and to the Jewish national home…


Book cover of Threat on the Horizon: An Inside Account of America's Search for Security After the Cold War

David P. Oakley Author Of Subordinating Intelligence: The DoD/CIA Post-Cold War Relationship

From my list on history, personalities, activities of intelligence.

Why am I passionate about this?

My fascination with intelligence studies is tied to my previous experience as a practitioner. While serving as a military officer and CIA officer, I became curious about how two organizations with a shared history could be so different. Exploring the “why” of the CIA/DoD differences led me to the broader interplay of organizational cultures, individuals, and missions in influencing the evolution of intelligence, its purpose, and its role. These five books will provide the reader a broader appreciation of how intelligence was used to help policymakers understand reality and how intelligence organizations have been used to try to change reality. You will not merely learn something about intelligence but will be entertained and engaged while doing so. 

David's book list on history, personalities, activities of intelligence

David P. Oakley Why did David love this book?

The decade between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the Global War of Terrorism was a decade of uncertainty for the U.S. intelligence community and an important part of intelligence history. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the reduction in national security budgets raised numerous questions about the purpose, focus, and funding of intelligence organizations during the 1990s. Loch Johnson’s book is an excellent and essential read to understand this period. One of the foremost intelligence scholars, Johnson also served on the Aspin-Brown Commission that considered the future of U.S. intelligence after the Cold War (he also previously served on the 1975 Church and Pike Commission). A commission covered extensively in this book.

By Loch K. Johnson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Aspin-Brown Commission of 1995-1996, led by former U.S. Defense Secretaries Les Aspin and Harold Brown, was a landmark inquiry into the activities of America's secret agencies. The purpose of the commission was to help the Central Intelligence Agency and other organizations in the U.S. intelligence community adapt to the quite different world that had emerged after the end of the Cold War in 1991.

In The Threat on the Horizon, eminent national security scholar Loch K. Johnson, who served as Aspin's assistant, offers a comprehensive insider's account of this inquiry. Based on a close sifting of government documents and…


Book cover of The Colored Conventions Movement: Black Organizing in the Nineteenth Century

John Ernest Author Of A Nation Within a Nation: Organizing African American Communities before the Civil War

From my list on early African American community activism.

Why am I passionate about this?

Good question. Why would a white guy be passionate about nineteenth-century African American community building and activism? It’s a long story, but the short version is that by the time I reached graduate school, I could no longer avoid the realization that I had been dramatically miseducated about American history, and that the key to American history—one important key, anyway—is African American history. You can’t understand what it means to be an American if you don’t know this history, and you can’t understand our own very troubled times, or how to respond to these times, how to turn frustration into action, unless you know this history. So I developed my expertise over the years. 

John's book list on early African American community activism

John Ernest Why did John love this book?

The story of how this book came to be is almost as interesting as the story it tells. Emerging from a class discussion at the University of Delaware, the Colored Conventions Project developed into an award-winning international digital initiative involving community partners representing a broad range of churches, schools, and other organizations. These collaborative efforts led to an historic conference that led, in turn, to this book, in which various contributors address different aspects of the Colored Conventions Movement, a series of state and national gatherings that took place throughout the nineteenth century to work towards strengthened communities and social reform. These conventions both represented and encouraged the larger community-development project that took place nationally, and it’s a revelation to discover this great foundation of African American activism, a collaborative effort being continued today by the ambitious project this book represents.

By P. Gabrielle Foreman (editor), Jim Casey (editor), Sarah Lynn Patterson (editor)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This volume of essays is the first to focus on the Colored Conventions movement, the nineteenth century's longest campaign for Black civil rights. Well before the founding of the NAACP and other twentieth-century pillars of the civil rights movement, tens of thousands of Black leaders organized state and national conventions across North America. Over seven decades, they advocated for social justice and against slavery, protesting state-sanctioned and mob violence while demanding voting, legal, labor, and educational rights. While Black-led activism in this era is often overshadowed by the attention paid to the abolition movement, this collection centers Black activist networks,…


Book cover of The Con Job

Nicole Dieker Author Of Ode to Murder

From my list on cozy mysteries for music and math nerds.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the author of The Larkin Day Mysteries, a cozy-comedy-nerdy-mathy-theater-geeky mystery series set in Eastern Iowa. I’ve been a full-time freelance writer for over a decade, and you may have seen my work in Vox, Morning Brew, Dwell, Lifehacker, Popular Science, and/or The Billfold. I live in a small Midwestern town with the Great Love of My Life and we spend our time practicing the piano, playing chess, and cultivating our garden. I spent a few years working in both amateur and professional theater, including a semester teaching Shakespeare at the University of Hyderabad. By the time I was ready to become a full-time freelancer and part-time novelist, I had plenty of experiences to draw from.

Nicole's book list on cozy mysteries for music and math nerds

Nicole Dieker Why did Nicole love this book?

You weren’t expecting me to recommend a Leverage tie-in novel, were you?

From my perspective, a book based on a television series is just as valid as a television series based on a book—and if you don’t share the same view, you might need to adjust one of your mirrors. I love The Con Job because takes the nerdy, cozy world of Leverage and places it in San Diego Comic-Con, giving the characters a real-world experience that many of us will have experienced ourselves.

There’s not a lot of music in this one, which may disappoint those of us who watched Leverage for the Rimsky-Korsakov, but there’s plenty of math and physics and a few inside jokes. It’s a comfort read, in more ways than one—which is probably why I keep reading it.

By Matt Forbeck,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The rich and powerful take what they want. We steal it back for you.

When a disreputable dealer starts swindling aged and ailing comic-book creators out of their wealth-and their high-valued comics and artwork-the daughter of one victim comes to ex-insurance investigator Nathan Ford and his team of counter-crooks for help.

Their scheme: run a con at the Comic-Con International, where the crook intends to sell the goods. But there's more going on than simple theft. An arson plot is in motion that will not only destroy countless rare collectibles, but may end up costing lives.

With time short, the…


Book cover of Weakness of Will and Practical Irrationality

Chrisoula Andreou Author Of Choosing Well: The Good, the Bad, and the Trivial

From my list on essay collections wth themes being tempted or torn.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been drawn to philosophical inquiry for as long as I can remember (even before knowing philosophy was a thing, which I didn’t realize until after high school). My most enduring interest is in inquiry concerning rationality and irrationality. My early studies focused on the relationship between morality and rationality. My current research focuses on choice situations and preference structures that can interfere with choosing well by prompting self-defeating patterns of choice. The relevant patterns are associated with being tempted or torn and include cases of individual and collective procrastination. Though not a cure-all, understanding rationality’s guidance can, I think, highlight certain pitfalls in life and help us avoid them.  

Chrisoula's book list on essay collections wth themes being tempted or torn

Chrisoula Andreou Why did Chrisoula love this book?

This collection advances philosophical debate regarding the theoretically interesting and practically important topic of weakness of will.

Weakness of will is traditionally understood as involving, roughly speaking, giving into temptation by freely acting against one’s better judgment. It is widely viewed as irrational, but some theorists question whether it is really possible to freely act against one’s better judgment, and they provide alternative explanations of what appear to be instances of weakness of will or alternative ways of understanding what is going on in the cases of interest.

Look to this collection for illuminating discussions regarding weakness of will in relation to, among other things, compulsion, irresoluteness, internal fragmentation, and emotional sensitivity to value.

By Sarah Stroud (editor), Christine Tappolet (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Weakness of Will and Practical Irrationality as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Among the many practical failures that threaten us, weakness of will or akrasia is often considered to be a paradigm of irrationality. The eleven new essays in this collection, written by an excellent international team of philosophers, some well-established, some younger scholars, give a rich overview of the current debate over weakness of will and practical irrationality more generally.
Issues covered include classical questions such as the distinction between weakness and compulsion, the connection between evaluative judgement and motivation, the role of emotions in akrasia, rational agency, and the existence of the will. The also include new topics, such as…


Book cover of The Lasting Significance of Etty Hillesum's Writings

Simon Hammelburg Author Of Broken on the Inside: The War Never Ended

From my list on the psychological aftermath of the Shoah.

Why am I passionate about this?

Simon Hammelburg is a Dutch author, journalist, and songwriter. During the seventies, he started his career as a news broadcaster with AVRO Broadcasting (Radio & TV) in Holland. He worked as an anchor as well as a travelling journalist. In the eighties, he became the United States Bureau Chief for Dutch and Belgian radio and television, as well as several newspapers and weeklies. He specialized in the psychological aftermath of the Shoah (Holocaust).

Simon's book list on the psychological aftermath of the Shoah

Simon Hammelburg Why did Simon love this book?

The Lasting Significance of Etty Hillesum’s Writings brings together the work of 33 experts from all over the world to shed new light on the life, works, inspiration, and vision of the Dutch Jewish writer Etty Hillesum (1914-1943), one of the victims of the Nazi regime. Hillesum’s diaries and letters illustrate her heroic struggle to come to terms with her personal life in the context of the Holocaust. This volume revives Hillesum's research with a comprehensive rereading of her texts but also by introducing new sources about her life. With the current rise of interest in peace studies, Judaism, the Holocaust, inter-religious dialogue, gender studies, and mysticism, this book is invaluable to students and scholars in a wide range of disciplines.

By Klaas Smelik,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Lasting Significance of Etty Hillesum's Writings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Lasting Significance of Etty Hillesum's Writings contains the proceedings of the third international Etty Hillesum Conference, held in Middelburg in September 2018. It brings together the work of 33 experts from all over the world to shed new light on life, works, inspiration and vision of the Dutch Jewish writer Etty Hillesum (1914-1943), one of the victims of the Nazi regime. Hillesum's diaries and letters illustrate her heroic struggle to come to terms with her personal life in the context of the Holocaust. This volume revives Hillesum research with a comprehensive rereading of her texts but also by introducing…


Book cover of The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran

Kenneth M. Pollack Author Of Armies of Sand: The Past, Present, and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness

From my list on Middle East military history.

Why am I passionate about this?

After college I joined the CIA. They assigned me to the Iran-Iraq military account so I had a front-row seat for the Persian Gulf War. I went on to do two tours at the NSC and a quick stop at DoD in between, all working on Middle East political and security issues. I was unexpectedly thrown out by Bush II in 2001 and so had to flee to the think tank world. I’ve since written ten books on the political-military affairs of the Middle East and am now working on my eleventh, a history of the U.S. and Iraq since 1979 titled The Iraq Wars.

Kenneth's book list on Middle East military history

Kenneth M. Pollack Why did Kenneth love this book?

David Crist is the historian of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff—and the son of former CENTCOM Commander, General George B. Crist.  He knows this subject backwards and forwards and brings to light any number of topics that I had only ever seen discussed in the classified world. But he does so with the perspicacity of a military historian and the insight of a superb military analyst. Most people simply do not know about the many close calls and bloody clashes there were between the U.S. and Iran during this era, and Crist’s book fills that important gap. Moreover, this is a fascinating example of a protracted, low-intensity or “hybrid” conflict with a canny and determined foe and so it has no end of lessons to teach. 

By David Crist,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The dramatic secret history of our undeclared thirty-year conflict with Iran, revealing newsbreaking episodes of covert and deadly operations that brought the two nations to the brink of open war

For three decades, the United States and Iran have engaged in a secret war. It is a conflict that has never been acknowledged and a story that has never been told.

This surreptitious war began with the Iranian revolution and simmers today inside Iraq and in the Persian Gulf. Fights rage in the shadows, between the CIA and its network of spies and Iran's intelligence agency. Battles are fought at…


Book cover of The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I

Tracy Borman Author Of Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story Of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant

From my list on life in Tudor times.

Why am I passionate about this?

Tracy Borman is a historian and novelist specialising in the Tudor period and has written a number of best-selling books, including The Private Lives of the Tudors, Thomas Cromwell, and Elizabeth’s Women. She is also a popular broadcaster and has presented numerous history documentaries, including Channel 5’s The Fall of Anne Boleyn and Inside the Tower of London. Alongside this, she is the joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces and Chief Executive of the Heritage Education Trust.

Tracy's book list on life in Tudor times

Tracy Borman Why did Tracy love this book?

Although Elizabeth I has gone down in history as the iconic ‘Gloriana’, the longest-reigning and arguably most successful monarch from the Tudor dynasty, as queen she never enjoyed the luxury of feeling secure on her throne. This brilliant non-fiction book explores the many plots that swirled around the Virgin Queen’s throne – and the intricate spy network that helped thwart them all.

By Stephen Alford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The acclaimed and enthralling story of the dark side of Elizabethan rule, from Stephen Alford

Elizabeth I's reign is known as a golden age, yet to much of Europe she was a 'Jezebel' and heretic who had to be destroyed. The Watchers is a thrilling portrayal of the secret state that sought to protect the Queen; a shadow world of spies, codebreakers, agent provocateurs and confidence-men who would stop at nothing to defend the realm.

Reviews:

'Forget Le Carre, Deighton and the rest - this is more enthralling than any modern spy fiction' Daily Telegraph

'Absorbing and closely documented ...…


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