100 books like The Collector

By Daniel Silva,

Here are 100 books that The Collector fans have personally recommended if you like The Collector. 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 Cause for Alarm

Julian D. Parrott Author Of Fit For Purpose

From my list on world-weary agents of espionage.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved espionage and crime thrillers—beach reads and lit fictionsince my early teens. If the plots involve ordinary people being pulled into extraordinary events with action and romance, then I’m hooked. I have studied Ian Fleming and James Bond and have taught university classes on the subject. I believe that we can learn a lot about our culture, society, and human nature from a well-written novel. I enjoy the flexibility the genre allows and I have added resonant events, history, music, and connections to my Welsh homeland in my novels.

Julian's book list on world-weary agents of espionage

Julian D. Parrott Why did Julian love this book?

I am intrigued by espionage plots that involve amateur spies and Ambler, inspired by the earlier gentleman spy genre, excelled at placing ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Ambler does this superbly in Cause with his main protagonist Nicholas Marlow, a down-on-his luck engineer, finds himself pulled into a deadly spy plot in pre-war fascist Italy. Ambler’s plotting is taut and engaging—more so given when it was written and the subject matter. Along with his rather naïve, romantic Marlow there are Fascist secret police, Nazi agents, and Soviet spies—who are actually the forces of good—(remember the time and the European situation!) Ambler’s influence on the post war espionage thriller writers is pretty clear here. Fleming even namechecks him, having Bond read Ambler’s Mask of Dimitrious (also a great book) in From Russia With Love.

By Eric Ambler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Nicky Marlow needs a job. He’s engaged to be married and the employment market is pretty slim in Britain in 1937. So when his fiancé points out the Spartacus Machine Tool notice, he jumps at the chance. After all, he speaks Italian and he figures he’ll be able to endure Milan for a year, long enough to save some money. Soon after he arrives, however, he learns the sinister truth of his predecessor’s death and finds himself courted by two agents with dangerously different agendas. In the process, Marlow realizes it’s not so simple to just do the job he’s…

Book cover of Blind Man's Bluff : The Untold Story of Cold War Submarine Espionage

Taylor Zajonc Author Of The Wrecking Crew

From my list on rogue submarines and underwater mayhem.

Why am I passionate about this?

My fascination with underwater adventure began as a teenager, when I accompanied a Russian expedition to the deepest archaeological site on the planet. I descended three miles deep into the Bermuda Triangle aboard a Soviet-era submersible to explore a mysterious wooden shipwreck inadvertently discovered during the search for astronaut Gus Grissom’s lost space capsule Liberty Bell 7. Since then, I’ve contributed to a number of historic shipwreck discoveries, including World War II treasure ships, lost Nazi U-Boats, Admiral Balchen’s HMS Victory, and the treasure steamship SS Connaught. These adventures and others serve as the inspiration for my novels.

Taylor's book list on rogue submarines and underwater mayhem

Taylor Zajonc Why did Taylor love this book?

The Cold War wasn’t always so cold, especially not in the icy depths where American and Soviet submarines faced off on a daily basis.

Taking an anthology approach to narrative nonfiction, Blind Man’s Bluff covers the wildest, most ambitious, and deadly stories of the era, including tapping undersea cables, secret spying operations, nuclear close calls, and how the CIA enlisted eccentric innovator Howard Hughes to steal a sunken Soviet nuclear submarine off the bottom of the ocean.

By Sherry Sontag, Christopher Drew,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Blind Man's Bluff as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Adventure, ingenuity, courage and disaster beneath the sea: the remarkable reality of Cold War submarine warfare

In Blind Mans Bluff, veteran investigative journalist Sherry Sontag and award-winning New York Times reporter Christopher Drew reveal an extraordinary underwater world. Showing for the first time how the American Navy sent submarines wired with self-destruct charges into the heart of Soviet seas to tap crucial underwater telephone cables, Sontag and Drew unveil new evidence that the Navy's own negligence might have been responsible for the loss of the USS Scorpion, a submarine that disappeared with all hands at the height of the…

Book cover of Need to Know

James E. Mack Author Of Asset Seven

From my list on spy reads by real life spies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent over two decades on the front lines of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, working for many organisations and agencies around the globe. Having survived shootings, bombings, double agents, and kidnap attempts, I now prefer to write about such things rather than experience them! I grew up reading spy thrillers from the likes of Gerald Seymour and Frederick Forsyth and retain a passion for the genre. And there’s nothing better than reading a new novel, getting lost in the plot, and appreciating the realism or authenticity the author brings to the story. I hope you enjoy the books I’ve recommended that were written by real-life spies.

James' book list on spy reads by real life spies

James E. Mack Why did James love this book?

You’re a CIA analyst, well respected and regarded by your employer, married for ten years and a mother of four children.

At work one day, you are directed to hack a Russian criminal’s computer. It’s not an easy task but you eventually succeed and are stunned to find details and photographs of 5 deep-cover Russian spies living in America looking back at you. One of which is your husband.

This is a great start to a novel that races along with our main character thrown into a maelstrom of lies, loyalty, and impossible choices.

Brilliant stuff.

By Karen Cleveland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Married for ten years. Four children. She thought she knew her husband better than anyone.
She was wrong.

'Heart-poundingly suspenseful and heart-wrenchingly insightful' J.P.Delaney, author of The Girl Before

'This compulsive, clever thriller will have you reading long into the night' Red


You get to work. Make a coffee. Turn on your computer.

Your task: break into a Russian criminal's laptop and find proof that he's concealing five deep-cover agents - seemingly normal people living in plain sight.

You're in. Five faces stare back at you.

One of them is your husband.


'An immensely satisfying story with serpentine…

Book cover of Spies and Scholars: Chinese Secrets and Imperial Russia’s Quest for World Power

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?

In recent years, we have seen a surge in books on contemporary Russia-China relations. Gregory Afinogenov’s Spies and Scholars takes us back to their humble beginnings in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. This pioneering study sheds new light on how the emergence of the Russian Empire as a global power was shaped through intelligence gathering in imperial China. A must-read not only for historians. 

By Gregory Afinogenov,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Financial Times Best Book of the Year

The untold story of how Russian espionage in imperial China shaped the emergence of the Russian Empire as a global power.

From the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire made concerted efforts to collect information about China. It bribed Chinese porcelain-makers to give up trade secrets, sent Buddhist monks to Mongolia on intelligence-gathering missions, and trained students at its Orthodox mission in Beijing to spy on their hosts. From diplomatic offices to guard posts on the Chinese frontier, Russians were producing knowledge everywhere, not only at elite institutions like the…

Book cover of The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal

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?

Hoffman tells the previously little-known story of Soviet military engineer Adolf Tolkachev, whose disgust with the communist regime inspired him to turn over enormously valuable secrets to the CIA station in Moscow beginning in the late 1970s. Hoffman’s careful reporting allows him to describe in meticulous and fascinating detail the remarkable techniques and great risks involved in running an agent in Moscow late in the Cold War.

By David E. Hoffman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


'An astonishingly detailed picture of espionage in the 1980s, written with pacey journalistic verve and an eerily contemporary feel.' Ben Macintyre, The Times

'A gripping story of courage, professionalism, and betrayal in the secret world.' Rodric Braithwaite, British Ambassador in Moscow, 1988-1992

'One of the best spy stories to come out of the Cold War and all the more riveting for being true.' Washington Post

January, 1977. While the chief of the CIA's Moscow station fills his gas tank, a stranger drops a note into the car.…

Book cover of Spymaster's Prism: The Fight Against Russian Aggression

Jim Popkin Author Of Code Name Blue Wren: The True Story of America's Most Dangerous Female Spy--And the Sister She Betrayed

From my list on nonfiction spy books to read in one day.

Why am I passionate about this?

I covered the FBI and CIA for years, first as a print reporter in Washington and then as the head of the NBC News investigative unit. So I have covered my fair share of spy scandals, and with my colleague Pete Williams helped NBC break the story of Robert Hanssen’s arrest. I was immediately drawn to the Ana Montes Cuba spy story when it broke and then learned that Montes had bought her condo from my close friend and college roommate, John. That meant I had spent hours inside Ana’s DC apartment, and that odd connection rooted me in her story in a deeper way.  

Jim's book list on nonfiction spy books to read in one day

Jim Popkin Why did Jim love this book?

Jack Devine is the former acting director of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, and ran covert ops that drove the Russians out of Afghanistan. In this book, he shows how the Russians have undermined our democracy for decades and how they’ve now weaponized cyberspace, too. It’s an alarming wake-up call from a true American spymaster. 

I have gotten to know Jack over the years, and have gotten a first-hand glimpse at how clever he must have been running secret operations in some of the world’s scariest neighborhoods. Not a guy to ever underestimate; his books are as fascinating as Jack himself.

By Jack Devine,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Spymaster's Prism: The Fight Against Russian Aggression legendary former spymaster Jack Devine aims to ignite public discourse on our country's intelligence and counterintelligence posture against Russia, among other adversaries. Spymasters are not spies - their mission is to run and handle spies and spy networks. They exist in virtually all sophisticated intelligence services around the world, including the more high-profile services like the CIA, SVR, SIS, MSS, VAJA and Mossad. Without exception, these spymasters are highly trained and broadly experienced top-level government officials who are at the heart of the intelligence business. They make the life and death decisions.…

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 From Russia with Love: A James Bond Novel

Anthony Lee Author Of Doctor Lucifer

From my list on thrillers with the most unique premises.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love thriller stories. I also love a variety of types of thrillers because there are so many ways for someone to face great challenges, overcome those hurdles, and achieve a major goal, all in the context of high stakes and fast-paced situations. It doesn’t matter if the story is related to crime, medicine, science, law, politics, espionage, etc. After experiencing such a diversity of thriller stories, including the books recommended below, I am passionate about creating my own stories, based on my life experiences and endless imagination.

Anthony's book list on thrillers with the most unique premises

Anthony Lee Why did Anthony love this book?

Fictional British secret agent James Bond may be well known from a decades-old film series, but he ultimately originated in a series of spy thrillers by Ian Fleming.

Of all 14 Bond books by Fleming, this book is no doubt his best one. The type of scheme that the villains have arranged for Bond is startling, and what is just as shocking is the moment when it is all revealed to the main character.

This book is so good that John F. Kennedy actually listed it as one of his favorite books while he was the President of the United States.

By Ian Fleming,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked From Russia with Love as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


SMERSH, the Russian intelligence unit whose acronym stands for “Death to Spies,” is hell-bent on destroying Special Agent James Bond.

His death would deal a catastrophic hammer blow to the heart of the British Secret Service.

The lure? A beautiful woman who needs 007’s help. Tatiana Romanova is a Russian spy who promises to hand over the prized Spektor decoding machine if Bond aids her defection. Bond suspects a trap but can’t resist the opportunity to give the British the upper hand in…

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…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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