100 books like The Billion Dollar Spy

By David E. Hoffman,

Here are 100 books that The Billion Dollar Spy fans have personally recommended if you like The Billion Dollar Spy. 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 Molehunt: The Secret Search for Traitors That Shattered the CIA

Steve Vogel Author Of Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War's Most Audacious Espionage Operation

From my list on accurate non-fiction about Cold War espionage.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author and veteran journalist who reported for The Washington Post for more than two decades, and I write frequently about military history and intelligence. My father worked for the CIA, and I was born in Berlin when he was stationed there as a case officer. Later I was based in Germany as a foreign correspondent when the Berlin Wall came down. So it’s not too surprising that I am interested in Cold War espionage and history. As a reporter, author, and reader, I’ve always been attracted to stories off the beaten track, the ones that most people know little or nothing about. 

Steve's book list on accurate non-fiction about Cold War espionage

Steve Vogel Why did Steve love this book?

David Wise was the dean of American espionage writers, the author of more than a dozen well-regarded books about spies before his death in 2018, and Molehunt is my favorite. It tells the story of the James Angleton-inspired to hunt for a supposed mole within the CIA, an enormously damaging affair that paralyzed the agency for years. Wise’s books are so authoritative because of the unmatched sources he had in the intelligence community.

By David Wise,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Details the obsessive internal spy hunt reminiscent of the McCarthy era lead by CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton after he was lead astray by former KGB officer Anatoly Golitsin. 25,000 first printing. $25,000 ad/promo. Tour.


Book cover of Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed

Steve Vogel Author Of Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War's Most Audacious Espionage Operation

From my list on accurate non-fiction about Cold War espionage.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author and veteran journalist who reported for The Washington Post for more than two decades, and I write frequently about military history and intelligence. My father worked for the CIA, and I was born in Berlin when he was stationed there as a case officer. Later I was based in Germany as a foreign correspondent when the Berlin Wall came down. So it’s not too surprising that I am interested in Cold War espionage and history. As a reporter, author, and reader, I’ve always been attracted to stories off the beaten track, the ones that most people know little or nothing about. 

Steve's book list on accurate non-fiction about Cold War espionage

Steve Vogel Why did Steve love this book?

Sandy Grimes and Jeanne Verterfeuille were part of the CIA team that identified Aldrich Ames, perhaps the most damaging spy in the agency’s history. Not only is the book a riveting account of the detective work that went into Ames’ arrest, it provides a wealth of information about the valuable agents and operations that he betrayed, and the incalculable damage he caused, including the loss of GRU General Dmitriy Polyakov, the highest-ranking spy run by the U.S. during the Cold War.

By Sandra Grimes, Jeanne Vertefeuille,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

While there have been other books about Aldrich Ames, Circle of Treason is the first account written by CIA agents who were key members of the CIA team that conducted the intense "Ames Mole Hunt." Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille were two of the five principals of the CIA team tasked with hunting one of their own and were directly responsible for identifying Ames as the mole, leading to his arrest and conviction.

One of the most destructive traitors in American history, CIA officer Aldrich Ames provided information to the Soviet Union that contributed to the deaths of at least…


Book cover of Wilderness of Mirrors: Intrigue, Deception, and the Secrets That Destroyed Two of the Cold War's Most Important Agents

Steve Vogel Author Of Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War's Most Audacious Espionage Operation

From my list on accurate non-fiction about Cold War espionage.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author and veteran journalist who reported for The Washington Post for more than two decades, and I write frequently about military history and intelligence. My father worked for the CIA, and I was born in Berlin when he was stationed there as a case officer. Later I was based in Germany as a foreign correspondent when the Berlin Wall came down. So it’s not too surprising that I am interested in Cold War espionage and history. As a reporter, author, and reader, I’ve always been attracted to stories off the beaten track, the ones that most people know little or nothing about. 

Steve's book list on accurate non-fiction about Cold War espionage

Steve Vogel Why did Steve love this book?

Wilderness of Mirrors, written more than 40 years ago by Martin, the still-distinguished CBS News correspondent, remains a classic of espionage nonfiction. As the title suggests, the book captures the Byzantine world of counterintelligence during the Angleton era. Martin was the first to write knowledgeably about the Berlin Tunnel, and this book is also the first in-depth look at one of the most fascinating, important, and ultimately self-destructive officers of the first decades of the CIA, William King Harvey.

By David C. Martin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

At the dawn of the Cold War, the world's most important intelligence agencies-the Soviet KGB, the American CIA, and the British MI6-appeared to have clear-cut roles and a sense of rising importance in their respective countries. But when Kim Philby, head of MI6's Russian division and arguably the twenty-first century's greatest spy, was revealed to be a Russian mole along with British government heavyweights Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess, everything in the Western intelligence world turned upside down.

Here is the true story of how the American James Bond-the colorful, foulmouthed, pistol-packing, alcoholic ex-FBI agent William "King" Harvey-put the finger…


Book cover of The Spy Who Saved the World: How a Soviet Colonel Changed the Course of the Cold War

Steve Vogel Author Of Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War's Most Audacious Espionage Operation

From my list on accurate non-fiction about Cold War espionage.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author and veteran journalist who reported for The Washington Post for more than two decades, and I write frequently about military history and intelligence. My father worked for the CIA, and I was born in Berlin when he was stationed there as a case officer. Later I was based in Germany as a foreign correspondent when the Berlin Wall came down. So it’s not too surprising that I am interested in Cold War espionage and history. As a reporter, author, and reader, I’ve always been attracted to stories off the beaten track, the ones that most people know little or nothing about. 

Steve's book list on accurate non-fiction about Cold War espionage

Steve Vogel Why did Steve love this book?

Schecter, a journalist, and Deriabin, a KGB officer who defected to the U.S., tell the inside story of Oleg Penkovsky, the history-changing Soviet GRU colonel who delivered critical information that helped the CIA and President John F. Kennedy avoid nuclear disaster during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The inside account delivers fascinating details about Penkovsky’s motivations, actions, and tragic demise, as well as a gripping narration of how the CIA handled one of the Cold War’s most important intelligence operations.

By Jerrold L. Schecter, Peter S. Deriabin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Examines how Oleg Penkovsky provided U.S. intelligence with data on Soviet nuclear capabilities


Book cover of Spymaster: My Thirty-Two Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West

Mark Hollingsworth Author Of Agents of Influence: How the KGB Subverted Western Democracies

From my list on the KGB, Russia and espionage.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been writing about Russia for the past 20 years for all the UK national newspapers, The Spectator and contributed to several TV documentaries. I am fascinated by Russia which is a unique country and has been a major influence on the world for the past 100 years. Based on new documents, my book Londongrad - From Russia with Cash revealed how Russian Oligarchs made their wealth, moved it out of Russia, hid their fortunes and then parked and spent it in London. My new book - Agents of Influence - provides an insight into how the KGB influenced the West based on new archives.

Mark's book list on the KGB, Russia and espionage

Mark Hollingsworth Why did Mark love this book?

It is rare for a KGB spy to reveal so many secrets about the Soviet Union and Russian intelligence operations in the West and so this book is a revelation. 

Kalugin was a KGB officer based in the USA in the 1970s and he describes all their dirty tricks - fake letters, disinformation, honey trapping, and even attempts to bug the US Congress.

By Oleg Kalugin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Oleg Kalugin oversaw the work of American spies, matched wits with the CIA, and became one of the youngest generals in KGB history. Even so, he grew increasingly disillusioned with the Soviet system. In 1990, he went public, exposing the intelligence agency's shadowy methods. Revised and updated in the light of the KGB's enduring presence in Russian politics, Spymaster is Kalugin's impressively illuminating memoir of the final years of the Soviet Union.


Book cover of Lenin on the Train

Susanne Schattenberg Author Of Brezhnev: The Making of a Statesman

From my list on Pre-Putin’s Soviet Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I had to choose another elective subject at school, my grandmother advised me: "Take Russian. We will have to deal with the Russians – for better or for worse.” So I chose Russian as my third foreign language and my grandmother was right – first it came good: perestroika and glasnost, then it came bad: Putinism. So I studied Russian and history, did my doctorate and habilitation in Russian-Soviet history, and today I am a professor of contemporary history and culture of Eastern Europe and head of the Research Centre for East European Studies at the University of Bremen. 

Susanne's book list on Pre-Putin’s Soviet Russia

Susanne Schattenberg Why did Susanne love this book?

This book made me a traveling companion of Lenin. Together with him we go on an incredible journey: from Switzerland across Europe via Finland to Petrograd. This journey changed the world, because it brought Lenin back to Russia, Russia the October coup, and the century of a Soviet regime. Merridale depicts the unique moment of the dawn of a new age as banally and grotesquely as if she had really been there. The best part: just before he left, Lenin called the American embassy because he would have preferred to be transported by the Americans rather than the Germans. But it was Easter Sunday and no one could be reached at the embassy, and so the story took its course....

By Catherine Merridale,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The superb, funny, fascinating story of Lenin's trans-European rail journey and how it shook the world' Simon Sebag Montefiore, Evening Standard, Books of the Year

'Splendid ... a jewel among histories, taking a single episode from the penultimate year of the Great War, illuminating a continent, a revolution and a series of psychologies in a moment of cataclysm and doing it with wit, judgment and an eye for telling detail' David Aaronovitch, The Times

By 1917 the European war seemed to be endless. Both sides in the fighting looked to new weapons, tactics and ideas to break a stalemate that…


Book cover of Russia and the Idea of Europe: A Study in Identity and International Relations

Andrei P. Tsygankov Author Of Russia's Foreign Policy: Change and Continuity in National Identity

From my list on Russia’s foreign policy after the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Russian academic living in the West and a contributor to both Western and Russian academia. I move between the two and try to build bridges by explaining the two sides’ differences and areas of potential cooperation. I do it in my teaching and research on international politics, which I understand through the lens of culture and politics. Most of my books analyze Russian and Western patterns of thinking formed through history and interaction with each other. I love reading good books about these topics and hope you enjoy my selected list!

Andrei's book list on Russia’s foreign policy after the Cold War

Andrei P. Tsygankov Why did Andrei love this book?

Russia has historically connected to Europe as its significant other. This book describes the nature of the country’s identity development through the love-hate relations with European nations and search for recognition by Western other. Sometimes, Russia has sought to borrow Europe’s institutions and values. Other times, it has positioned itself as a great power and a superior system of internal values relative to “corrupt” Europe. 

By Iver B. Neumann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The end of the Soviet system and the transition to the market in Russia, coupled with the inexorable rise of nationalism, brought to the fore the centuries-old debate about Russia's relationship with Europe. In this revised and updated second edition of Russia and the Idea of Europe, Iver Neumann discusses whether the tensions between self-referencing nationalist views and Europe-orientated liberal views can ever be resolved.

Drawing on a wide range of Russian sources, this book retains the broad historical focus of the previous edition and picks up from where the it off in the early 1990s, bringing the discussion fully…


Book cover of Russian Foreign Policy in the Twenty-First Century and the Shadow of the Past

Andrei P. Tsygankov Author Of Russia's Foreign Policy: Change and Continuity in National Identity

From my list on Russia’s foreign policy after the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Russian academic living in the West and a contributor to both Western and Russian academia. I move between the two and try to build bridges by explaining the two sides’ differences and areas of potential cooperation. I do it in my teaching and research on international politics, which I understand through the lens of culture and politics. Most of my books analyze Russian and Western patterns of thinking formed through history and interaction with each other. I love reading good books about these topics and hope you enjoy my selected list!

Andrei's book list on Russia’s foreign policy after the Cold War

Andrei P. Tsygankov Why did Andrei love this book?

Russia’s foreign policy has followed different historical trajectories and relations with the outside world. This excellent collection of works by historians and social scientists focuses on the long “shadows of the past” as a lens through which to assess the country’s international behavior and moments of transformation. The explored themes include the impact of Russian foreign policy on domestic political structures, imperial identity, geographic settings, position within the global economy, and others. 

By Robert Legvold,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Russian Foreign Policy in the Twenty-First Century and the Shadow of the Past as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Because the turbulent trajectory of Russia's foreign policy since the collapse of the Soviet Union echoes previous moments of social and political transformation, history offers a special vantage point from which to judge the current course of events. In this book, a mix of leading historians and political scientists examines the foreign policy of contemporary Russia over four centuries of history. The authors explain the impact of empire and its loss, the interweaving of domestic and foreign impulses, long-standing approaches to national security, and the effect of globalization over time. Contributors focus on the underlying patterns that have marked Russian…


Book cover of We Shall Be Masters: Russian Pivots to East Asia from Peter the Great to Putin

Sören Urbansky Author Of Beyond the Steppe Frontier: A History of the Sino-Russian Border

From my list on Russia in Asia.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sören Urbansky was born and raised in East Germany next to the Iron Curtain. Since embarking on an overland journey from Berlin to Beijing after high school, he became hooked by peoples’ lifeways in Northeast Asia. In college, Sören began studying history in earnest and grew intrigued by Russia and China, the world’s largest and most populous countries. He has published widely on this pivotal yet forgotten region. Sören is a research fellow at the German Historical Institute Washington and is currently embarking on a new project that examines anti-Chinese sentiments from a global perspective.

Sören's book list on Russia in Asia

Sören Urbansky Why did Sören love this book?

Chris Miller has written a well-argued account of Russia’s various attempts to gain great power status in the Asia-Pacific over the five centuries – and its repeated setbacks. Russia’s imperial expansion to Alaska, Hawaii, and California reminds us that Russia’s expansionist dreams often amounted to little. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is another example that Putin’s ambitions in the East are restrained by the country’s firm rooting in Europe.

By Chris Miller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Shall Be Masters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An illuminating account of Russia's attempts-and failures-to achieve great power status in Asia.

Since Peter the Great, Russian leaders have been lured by opportunity to the East. Under the tsars, Russians colonized Alaska, California, and Hawaii. The Trans-Siberian Railway linked Moscow to Vladivostok. And Stalin looked to Asia as a sphere of influence, hospitable to the spread of Soviet Communism. In Asia and the Pacific lay territory, markets, security, and glory.

But all these expansionist dreams amounted to little. In We Shall Be Masters, Chris Miller explores why, arguing that Russia's ambitions have repeatedly outstripped its capacity. With the core…


Book cover of The Elusive Empire: Kazan and the Creation of Russia, 1552-1671

Stefan B. Kirmse Author Of The Lawful Empire: Legal Change and Cultural Diversity in Late Tsarist Russia

From my list on how cultural diversity sustained the Russian Empire.

Why am I passionate about this?

You can experience Russia by exploring the churches and palaces of St Petersburg and Moscow. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not my approach. For me, it has always made more sense to look at the largest country on earth from its edges, the distant mountains, steppes, forests, and waters that surround it. For three decades, I have travelled across this space, studied its languages, written books and articles about it. And I have tried to look through the lens of the diverse peoples and cultures that have been part of Russian history, for better or worse. The rise and fall of the Russian Empire are unthinkable without them.    

Stefan's book list on how cultural diversity sustained the Russian Empire

Stefan B. Kirmse Why did Stefan love this book?

Why read a book on the early modern frontier?

You may think that all you need to know about Russia in the 1500s is Ivan the Terrible, but this gripping book will teach you otherwise.

It’ll ring familiar bells for those fascinated by the American West: it’s about an expanding state struggling to secure an unruly frontier. It features plenty of competition, even conflict, between local governors and distant lawmakers, between secular and church figures.

It also shows the suppression, but also systematic cooptation (nearly absent in the American case!), of an indigenous population.

As the title suggests, though, the Russian colonial system remained “elusive” – more rhetorical than real – as accommodation became the key form of interaction across many frontier regions.

This is bold, but argued pretty convincingly.          

By Matthew P. Romaniello,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1552, Muscovite Russia conquered the city of Kazan on the Volga River. It was the first Orthodox Christian victory against Islam since the fall of Constantinople, a turning point that, over the next four years, would complete Moscow's control over the river. This conquest provided a direct trade route with the Middle East and would transform Muscovy into a global power. As Matthew Romaniello shows, however, learning to manage the conquered lands and peoples would take decades.

Russia did not succeed in empire-building because of its strength, leadership, or even the weakness of its neighbors, Romaniello contends; it succeeded…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Soviet Union, Russia, and espionage?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Soviet Union, Russia, and espionage.

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