100 books like The Black Door

By Richard J. Aldrich, Rory Cormac,

Here are 100 books that The Black Door fans have personally recommended if you like The Black Door. 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 Spy Chiefs: Volume 1: Intelligence Leaders in the United States and United Kingdom

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 think it is important to consider how leaders shape organizations and how the evolution of an organization might have been different under another person. To appreciate how/why intelligence organizations evolved we must appreciate the influence of intelligence leaders. For example, John Deutch and Stanfield Turner not only created tension within the CIA during their tenure, but their poor decisions affected the organization long after their departure. This edited volume looks at the personalities of U.S. and U.K. intelligence leaders and their influence on intelligence. Although the book touches on some of the more familiar names such as Wild Bill Donovan, its authors also explore lesser-known leaders whose influence on their organization and the broader community was significant. A must-read for anyone wanting to appreciate how individuals shape intelligence! I also encourage you to pick up volume 2 to learn about intelligence leaders throughout the world.

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

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In literature and film the spy chief is an all-knowing, all-powerful figure who masterfully moves spies into action like pieces on a chessboard. How close to reality is that depiction, and what does it really take to be an effective leader in the world of intelligence? This first volume of Spy Chiefs broadens and deepens our understanding of the role of intelligence leaders in foreign affairs and national security in the United States and United Kingdom from the early 1940s to the present. The figures profiled range from famous spy chiefs such as William Donovan, Richard Helms, and Stewart Menzies…


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 Art of Betrayal: The Secret History of MI6

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?

The author is the BBC's Security and Defence Correspondent and his range of contacts enriches this book. 

It is full of anecdotes about the secret world and Russia looms large in his narrative. 

He explores the psychology and motivation of why British and Russian intelligence officers spied for the enemy during the Cold War and there is an excellent chapter on how the UK security services produced some inaccurate intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the Iraq war.

By Gordon Corera,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The secret history of MI6 - from the Cold War to the present day.

The British Secret Service has been cloaked in secrecy and shrouded in myth since it was created a hundred years ago. Our understanding of what it is to be a spy has been largely defined by the fictional worlds of James Bond and John le Carre. THE ART OF BETRAYAL provides a unique and unprecedented insight into this secret world and the reality that lies behind the fiction. It tells the story of how the secret service has changed since the end of World War II…


Book cover of Mi6

Boris Volodarsky Author Of Assassins: The KGB's Poison Factory Ten Years on

From my list on intelligence history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Boris B. Volodarsky is a former intelligence officer, captain of the GRU Spetsnaz, Russian special forces. With the first raising of the Iron Curtain, Boris legally left the Soviet Union with his family. After living in the West for over 30 years, he became a British academic writing books and other academic works on the subject he knew best of all – the history of intelligence. Dr. Volodarsky earned a history degree at the London School of Economics under Professor Sir Paul Preston defending his doctoral thesis there with flying colours. He is contributing articles to the leading newspapers and is often interviewed by television and radio channels in Britain and the USA.

Boris' book list on intelligence history

Boris Volodarsky Why did Boris love this book?

Unlike the official history of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), better known as MI6, by Keith Jeffery, this book is written without the censorship of the Service presenting the facts as the author, a journalist and academic, considers fit and proper to show. Very well written and covering a considerable period of time with many secret operations, it is a very good book which The Guardian described as ‘A remarkable achievement and an encyclopaedic post-war history which any student of the secret world should read.’

By Stephen Dorril,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mi6 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first comprehensive history of the UK government overseas intelligence service, MI6, by an acknowledged expert and author of the highly acclaimed Smear!

Epitomised in the public imagination by James Bond, MI6's svelte and glamorous image has been peeled away by Dorril's searching investigations to reveal a less savoury truth. Here is the story of MI6's recruitment operation after WW2 of former Nazis; anticommunist guerrilla campaigns in the Ukraine and the Baltic States; Operation Stalin which led to mass arrests and executions ordered by Stalin; the European terrorist network 'Gladio'; tunnels built in Vienna and Berlin known as operation 'Gold…


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

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

From my list on intelligence and espionage.

Why am I passionate about this?

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


Helen's book list on intelligence and espionage

Helen Fry Why did Helen love this book?

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

By Christopher Andrew,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

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


Book cover of Berlin Game

Merle Nygate Author Of The Righteous Spy

From my list on spy books that spies read and sometimes wrote themselves.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve written and script edited in a lot of different genres, from factual drama to sitcom, children’s TV to fantasy. I’ve always loved spy stories, and I’ve always wanted to write one. Recently, at the University of East Anglia I studied for an MA in Crime Fiction, and that’s where I finally got the chance to study espionage and write a spy novel myself. I hope you enjoy my selection of books if you haven’t already read them. Or even if you have. They’re all so good that I feel like re-reading them right now. 

Merle's book list on spy books that spies read and sometimes wrote themselves

Merle Nygate Why did Merle love this book?

This is the first book in a nine-book series, and once again, these are books I read and read again and always find something new to enjoy.

Set towards the end of the Cold War, the books make me laugh as well as think. In planning the series, Deighton said he wanted to write about Samson’s marriage and how the relationship is impacted by the work. I found this a compelling idea and it’s something I’ve done in my new book. I’m not sure that Len Deighton was a spy himself, but he certainly knew a few.

By Len Deighton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Masterly ... dazzlingly intelligent and subtle' Sunday Times

'Deighton's best novel to date - sharp, witty and sour, like Raymond Chandler adapted to British gloom and the multiple betrayals of the spy' Observer

Embattled agent Bernard Samson is used to being passed over for promotion as his younger, more ambitious colleagues - including his own wife Fiona - rise up the ranks of MI6. When a valued agent in East Berlin warns the British of a mole at the heart of the Service, Samson must return to the field and the city he loves to uncover the traitor's identity. This…


Book cover of Thunderball

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?

I have to mention either John Le Carre or Ian Fleming. I’ll go for guilty pleasure over great mastery. I haven’t read this since I was a kid. But I loved it back then. The Bond of the books is more realistic and complex than the cartoon character of the movies but, don’t worry, this isn’t a tale of gritty realism. A lot of fun and a great way to dispose of a few hours of excess reality.

Book cover of Dead Lions

Hugh Greene Author Of Son of Darkness

From my list on mysteries chosen by a thriller writer.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have written medical textbooks and research papers, but have a passion of writing thrillers—as Hugh Greene I have written the bestselling Dr Power mystery series which follows the forensic psychiatrist Dr Power and Superintendent Lynch as they solve murders and explore the minds that executed these crimes.

Hugh's book list on mysteries chosen by a thriller writer

Hugh Greene Why did Hugh love this book?

Expendable and incompetent Secret Service agents eventually wash up at Slough House, where they toil on pointless administrative tasks for a foul-mouthed, grubby boss called Jackson Lamb. Lamb is deliciously politically incorrect, offensive, and drinks and smokes to excess in his pit of an office. However he has a keen mind, is an experienced spy, and not afraid to act decisively to protect his employees and society. In this episode he unravels a nest of sleeper agents after an old Cold-War era colleague is found murdered on a coach. The book is well written and neatly plotted.

By Mick Herron,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The CWA Gold Dagger Award-winning British espionage novel about disgraced MI5 agents who inadvertently uncover a deadly Cold War-era legacy of sleeper cells and mythic super spies. 

The disgruntled agents of Slough House, the MI5 branch where washed-up spies are sent to finish their failed careers on desk duty, are called into action to protect a visiting Russian oligarch whom MI5 hopes to recruit to British intelligence. While two agents are dispatched on that babysitting job, though, an old Cold War-era spy named Dickie Bow is found dead, ostensibly of a heart attack, on a bus outside of Oxford, far…


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