100 books like The Berlin Exchange

By Joseph Kanon,

Here are 100 books that The Berlin Exchange fans have personally recommended if you like The Berlin Exchange. 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 Night Soldiers

James Stejskal Author Of A Question of Time

From my list on spies by Americans who really know the score.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a military historian and an author. To get inspiration for my writing, I spent 35 years in Special Forces (as a "Green Beret") and as a CIA officer in strange places working with interesting people. I first wrote non-fiction but I needed US Government approval for everything. So, following the saying “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth,” I tell my tales as “faction”—stories reflecting a reality most people don’t know or understand. I write about “Us Versus Them”—stories about teamwork—and the result is The Snake Eater Chronicles. I leave it to the reader to decide where fact ends and fiction begins.

James' book list on spies by Americans who really know the score

James Stejskal Why did James love this book?

Another master, Alan Furst’s 1st novel (of 15 so far) is a great place to start. His stories are so well researched you might think you were reading a travel guide.

Filled with intricate details of the conflict between Russia and Germany as World War II begins, Khristo Stoianev is a young man recruited to work for the Russian secret service, the NKVD. From his recruitment in Bulgaria through training and successive secret missions, Khristo must survive not only the Nazis, but his own employers, who decide he too must be killed.

Furst builds both the pace and tension as Khristo fights his way across Europe trying to escape. Relentless.  

By Alan Furst,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Night Soldiers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bulgaria, 1934. A young man is murdered by the local fascists. His brother, Khristo Stoianev, is recruited into the NKVD, the Soviet secret intelligence service, and sent to Spain to serve in its civil war. Warned that he is about to become a victim of Stalin's purges, Khristo flees to Paris. Night Soldiers masterfully re-creates the European world of 1934-45: the struggle between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia for Eastern Europe, the last desperate gaiety of the beau monde in 1937 Paris, and guerrilla operations with the French underground in 1944. Night Soldiers is a scrupulously researched panoramic novel, a…


Book cover of Damascus Station

James Stejskal Author Of A Question of Time

From my list on spies by Americans who really know the score.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a military historian and an author. To get inspiration for my writing, I spent 35 years in Special Forces (as a "Green Beret") and as a CIA officer in strange places working with interesting people. I first wrote non-fiction but I needed US Government approval for everything. So, following the saying “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth,” I tell my tales as “faction”—stories reflecting a reality most people don’t know or understand. I write about “Us Versus Them”—stories about teamwork—and the result is The Snake Eater Chronicles. I leave it to the reader to decide where fact ends and fiction begins.

James' book list on spies by Americans who really know the score

James Stejskal Why did James love this book?

A newcomer to fiction, David McClosky is another “former” who infuses his storytelling with details only an insider would know.

He tells an excellent tale, diving deep into the fractured regime of Bashar al-Assad's Syria and showing what harm the nasty world of despots and the dark world of spying can wreak on souls. The story intertwines a forbidden love affair between a CIA officer and his agent with collecting intelligence on Syrian chemical weapons and Washington bureaucrats trying to decide what to do next.

It is an excellent representation of what it’s like to serve in a denied area and, having served in Damascus, I can say the scenery is accurate, the personalities are spot on, and the tradecraft is good. I’m looking forward to Moscow X.

By David McCloskey,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Damascus Station as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

CIA case officer Sam Joseph is dispatched to Paris to recruit Syrian Palace official Mariam Haddad. The two fall into a forbidden relationship, which supercharges Haddad's recruitment and creates unspeakable danger when they enter Damascus to find the man responsible for the disappearance of an American spy.

But the cat and mouse chase for the killer soon leads to a trail of high-profile assassinations and the discovery of a dark secret at the heart of the Syrian regime, bringing the pair under the all-seeing eyes of Assad's spy catcher, Ali Hassan, and his brother Rustum, the head of the feared…


Book cover of The Tears of Autumn

James Stejskal Author Of A Question of Time

From my list on spies by Americans who really know the score.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a military historian and an author. To get inspiration for my writing, I spent 35 years in Special Forces (as a "Green Beret") and as a CIA officer in strange places working with interesting people. I first wrote non-fiction but I needed US Government approval for everything. So, following the saying “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth,” I tell my tales as “faction”—stories reflecting a reality most people don’t know or understand. I write about “Us Versus Them”—stories about teamwork—and the result is The Snake Eater Chronicles. I leave it to the reader to decide where fact ends and fiction begins.

James' book list on spies by Americans who really know the score

James Stejskal Why did James love this book?

I love McCarry’s books because not only are they true to the genre, they are historically accurate (and often quite humorous).

Moreover, his spy “tradecraft” works because he was a deep-cover CIA officer—the ones who get shot if they’re caught. His characters are realistic, not supermen—they have feelings, fears, and families—and they struggle against enormous odds.

In Tears of Autumn, American spy Paul Christopher believes he knows who assassinated JFK, a theory that pits him against a Vietnamese family seeking revenge for the death of its patriarch, as well as his bosses in the CIA. To survive, Christopher must stay one step ahead of all of them in this totally plausible tale of political intrigue. 

By Charles McCarry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A re-release of the best-selling thriller originally published twenty years ago finds influential secret agent Paul Christopher pursuing a dangerous theory about the assassination of JFK, an investigation that threatens American foreign policy. By the author of Old Boys. 20,000 first printing.


Book cover of Muir's Gambit: A Spy Game Novel

James Stejskal Author Of A Question of Time

From my list on spies by Americans who really know the score.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a military historian and an author. To get inspiration for my writing, I spent 35 years in Special Forces (as a "Green Beret") and as a CIA officer in strange places working with interesting people. I first wrote non-fiction but I needed US Government approval for everything. So, following the saying “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth,” I tell my tales as “faction”—stories reflecting a reality most people don’t know or understand. I write about “Us Versus Them”—stories about teamwork—and the result is The Snake Eater Chronicles. I leave it to the reader to decide where fact ends and fiction begins.

James' book list on spies by Americans who really know the score

James Stejskal Why did James love this book?

Muir’s Gambit is a prequel to Beckner’s blockbuster movie Spy Game (with Brad Pitt and Robert Redford). 

Not your traditional “spy thriller,” it follows a dark thematic arc of two spies, fueled by whisky and cigarettes, talking on the front porch of a beach house after the assassination of a comrade.

It is layered with a gritty (and sometimes absurdist) intellectual/philosophical study of the moral cost of living a life of lies. All in search of a truth that is hidden from everyone but one man.

Told with flashbacks to events in Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, and Hong Kong, it is a story fraught with human emotion—love, heartbreak, grief, regret—and the fragility of memory. A story told with authentic tradecraft and serpentine strategy, it evokes—more than any other book I’ve read—the reality, challenges, and moral pitfalls of working in a clandestine intelligence organization.

Muirs Gambit is the 1st…

Book cover of Funeral in Berlin

Stephen Holgate Author Of Tangier

From my list on spies and intrigue.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've always loved spy stories. The best offer complex characters, exotic locales, suspense, and stakes higher than any detective story. I got to know quite a few CIA types during my foreign service career. Some became good friends. I never asked them about their work, but once or twice passed a tidbit their way. Once, the local KGB got the notion I was with the CIA or was somehow prone to persuasion. They were all over me for weeks, making me extremely uncomfortable. The station chief held my hand throughout. So, while I can’t claim a lot of personal knowledge, I’ve had a touch. Here’s my list of favorite spy stories.

Stephen's book list on spies and intrigue

Stephen Holgate Why did Stephen love this book?

Though Deighton has gone on to write several hugely popular and better-known spy stories, none of them beats Funeral In Berlin for sheer fun. Narrated by its nameless, smart-ass protagonist, who works for an obscure and underfunded British intelligence agency, the book has all the Cold War suspense, plot twists, and dubious characters you could wish for. Swiftly paced and told with great irreverent humor, it’s terrific entertainment.

By Len Deighton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A ferociously cool Cold War thriller from the author of The Ipcress File.

Len Deighton's third novel has become a classic, as compelling and suspenseful now as when it first exploded on to the bestseller lists.

In Berlin, where neither side of the wall is safe, Colonel Stok of Red Army Security is prepared to sell an important Russian scientist to the West - for a price. British intelligence are willing to pay, providing their own top secret agent is in Berlin to act as go-between. But it soon becomes apparent that behind the facade of an elaborate mock funeral…


Book cover of The Berlin Airlift: The Cold War Mission to Save a City

Helena P. Schrader Author Of Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

From my list on the Russian blockade of Berlin and the Allied Airlift.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first went to Berlin after college, determined to write a novel about the German Resistance; I stayed a quarter of a century. Initially, the Berlin Airlift, something remembered with pride and affection, helped create common ground between me as an American and the Berliners. Later, I was commissioned to write a book about the Airlift and studied the topic in depth. My research included interviews with many participants including Gail Halvorsen. These encounters with eyewitnesses inspired me to write my current three-part fiction project, Bridge to Tomorrow. With Russian aggression again threatening Europe, the story of the airlift that defeated Soviet state terrorism has never been more topical. 

Helena's book list on the Russian blockade of Berlin and the Allied Airlift

Helena P. Schrader Why did Helena love this book?

Although The Berlin Airlift devotes time and space to the political background of the crisis, the bulk of the book is devoted to explaining how the West and the Berliners effectively responded to the Soviet blockade.

It shows both the difficulties encountered, the risks involved, and how the West’s efforts ultimately forced the Soviets to abandon their aggression unconditionally. Importantly, this book does not neglect the role played by the Berliners themselves in fighting for their freedom from Soviet domination.

By John Tusa, Ann Tusa,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A detailed dramatic narrative...Vivid."-Times (London) Literary Supplement. How the Allies kept the population of West Berlin alive in the face of a Russian blockade.

In the summer of1948, the Russians occupied all of Eastern Europe. Behind Russian lines, the Allied-controlled part of the great city of Berlin stood as the lone Western outpost in a sea of Communist occupation. Then the Soviets closed all Allied traffic through their zone, sealing off the food and supply routes on which the city relied.

A vast air armada streamed from Western airfields to supply the hard-pressed Berliners with food and necessities. For over…


Book cover of Berlin in the Balance: The Blockade, the Airlift, the First Major Battle of the Cold War

Helena P. Schrader Author Of Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

From my list on the Russian blockade of Berlin and the Allied Airlift.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first went to Berlin after college, determined to write a novel about the German Resistance; I stayed a quarter of a century. Initially, the Berlin Airlift, something remembered with pride and affection, helped create common ground between me as an American and the Berliners. Later, I was commissioned to write a book about the Airlift and studied the topic in depth. My research included interviews with many participants including Gail Halvorsen. These encounters with eyewitnesses inspired me to write my current three-part fiction project, Bridge to Tomorrow. With Russian aggression again threatening Europe, the story of the airlift that defeated Soviet state terrorism has never been more topical. 

Helena's book list on the Russian blockade of Berlin and the Allied Airlift

Helena P. Schrader Why did Helena love this book?

Parris’ book provides a “peek behind the curtains” to look at the decision-making process, particularly in Washington.

He uses eye-witness reports to highlight the differences between the various actors, and underlines disagreements within governments. Truman, for example, was not only often at odds with his generals and diplomats, he was also considered a “lame duck” president, destined for electoral defeat during the critical early months of the blockade and airlift.

Understanding his relationships with his cabinet officials is thus extremely illuminating and well handled by Parrish. The weakness of the book is that its focus on American politics and issues results in a comparative neglect of British, German, and Soviet perspectives.   

By Thomas Parrish,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In June 1948, Soviet authorities in Germany announced a land blockade of the American, British, and French sectors of Berlin. Isolated more than one hundred miles within Soviet-occupied territory, western Berlin was in danger of running out of coal, food, and the courage to stand up to Joseph Stalin.As Berlin in the Balance recounts, this crisis was a turning-point for U.S. policy. Just three years earlier, the Soviet Union had been an ally and Berlin the target of American bombers. In 1946 Winston Churchill had ignited protests by calling for an Anglo-American alliance against the USSR. The Berlin blockade made…


Book cover of Winter: The Tragic Story of a Berlin Family 1899-1945

Amy Carney Author Of Marriage and Fatherhood in the Nazi SS

From my list on the Third Reich (fiction).

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m someone who has one of the best jobs in the world – I’m an associate professor of history. I get paid to learn and to share what I learn with my students. I am super passionate about my work, both teaching and research. As for my research, I’m a historian of Nazi Germany.

Amy's book list on the Third Reich (fiction)

Amy Carney Why did Amy love this book?

While technically a prequel to Deighton’s well-known Cold War Game, Set, Match trilogy, Winter can certainly be read as a standalone novel. As the subtitle indicates, this is a book about a family. But really, this is a novel about two brothers, Peter and Pauli. The evolution of their relationship over the course of nearly half a century, 1900-1945, is the foundation on which Deighton explores this tumultuous period of German history. From their innocent and carefree youth in the late Wilhelmine period, to the trauma of their military service during the First World War, through the rise and rule of the Nazi party – can the ties that bind the Winter brothers survive?  

By Len Deighton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this gripping prelude to the Game, Set, Match trilogy, spies aren't born--they're made. Winter tells the tale of a Berlin family divided. Two brothers, Peter and Paul Winter, came of age during the Great War; then as Hitler's power spreads through Germany threatening a new era of violence, the brothers are driven apart by differing morals and ambitions. Meticulously researched, this allegory of a nation at odds with itself paints a brilliant portrait of the German zeitgeist during those turbulent years, and provides a powerful depiction of the rise of the Third Reich.


Book cover of Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown That Shaped the Modern World

Helena P. Schrader Author Of Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

From my list on the Russian blockade of Berlin and the Allied Airlift.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first went to Berlin after college, determined to write a novel about the German Resistance; I stayed a quarter of a century. Initially, the Berlin Airlift, something remembered with pride and affection, helped create common ground between me as an American and the Berliners. Later, I was commissioned to write a book about the Airlift and studied the topic in depth. My research included interviews with many participants including Gail Halvorsen. These encounters with eyewitnesses inspired me to write my current three-part fiction project, Bridge to Tomorrow. With Russian aggression again threatening Europe, the story of the airlift that defeated Soviet state terrorism has never been more topical. 

Helena's book list on the Russian blockade of Berlin and the Allied Airlift

Helena P. Schrader Why did Helena love this book?

Milton does an exceptional job of tracing the origins of the Berlin crisis that culminated in a Soviet blockade of the 2.2 million German civilians living in the Western Sectors of Berlin.

The book starts with a look at Allied decisions and actions during the Second World War and describes how these influenced and shaped the post-war period. It does a particularly outstanding job of portraying life in occupied Berlin with rare granularity and neutrality. The result is a work that highlights Western hubris, failings, and mistakes as much as Soviet arrogance, deceit, and cruelty.

The book’s strength is explaining the build-up to the crisis (three-quarters of the book) rather than the confrontation itself. I recommend it as a good book to start with.

By Giles Milton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Brilliantly recapturing the febrile atmosphere of Berlin in the first four years after the Second World War, Giles Milton reminds us what an excellent story-teller he is' - Andrew Roberts, author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny

Berlin was in ruins when Soviet forces fought their way towards the Reichstag in the spring of 1945. Streets were choked with rubble, power supplies severed and the population close to starvation. The arrival of the Soviet army heralded yet greater terrors: the city's civilians were to suffer rape, looting and horrific violence. Worse still, they faced a future with neither certainty nor hope.…


Book cover of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

Henry Rozycki Author Of Walk the Earth as Brothers

From my list on novels that describe what war does to young men.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the child of Holocaust survivors who chose not to talk about it. The effects were clear and stark – my mother crying out with nightmares, my father doing everything in his power not to be noticed by authorities – but I was not allowed to know their sources. Though my lottery number was 76, I missed going to Vietnam by a year as the draft ended; I watched so many of my peers come back either damaged or at least profoundly changed. I never wish I experienced war in all its hellaciousness, but from early adolescence, I have wondered how I would have acted.

Henry's book list on novels that describe what war does to young men

Henry Rozycki Why did Henry love this book?

I have read virtually all of Le Carre’s books because I don’t believe anyone goes so deeply into the psyche of men who enlisted in the fight for perhaps noble reasons but who now continue on almost as automatons. They have not only lost their idealism, their morality and even humanity are either gone or hanging by a thread. It is what I imagine is the furthest edge of what can happen to young soldiers who don’t die—just keep soldiering.

I don’t think anyone has done it better.

By John le Carré,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Spy Who Came in From the Cold 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.

The 50th-anniversary edition of the bestselling novel that launched John le Carre's career worldwide

In the shadow of the newly erected Berlin Wall, Alec Leamas watches as his last agent is shot dead by East German sentries. For Leamas, the head of Berlin Station, the Cold War is over. As he faces the prospect of retirement or worse-a desk job-Control offers him a unique opportunity for revenge. Assuming the guise of an embittered…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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