10 books like The Cultural Cold War

By Frances Stonor Saunders,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like The Cultural Cold War. Shepherd is a community of 6,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Ghost Wars

By Steve Coll,

Book cover of Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001

Taking the story from the endgame of the Cold War to the dawn of the War on Terror is this extraordinary book on the rise of Islamist terrorism and the CIA’s efforts to defeat it prior to 9/11. Coll’s research, based on interviews with a vast range of senior officials, is dazzling, yet it never overwhelms a narrative that combines human interest and geopolitical sweep seamlessly. No less impressive is his accomplishment in documenting not just the U.S. and Afghan perspectives but the Saudi and Pakistani as well, all in the same painstaking detail. If this whets the appetite for more of the same, Coll’s Directorate S resumes his account of the intelligence wars in Afghanistan, providing necessary background to understanding the failure of the U.S. occupation there.

Ghost Wars

By Steve Coll,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Ghost Wars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize

The explosive, New York Times bestselling first-hand account of America's secret history in Afghanistan

Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll has spent years reporting from the Middle East, accessed previously classified government files and interviewed senior US officials and foreign spymasters. Here he gives the full inside story of the CIA's covert funding of an Islamic jihad against Soviet forces in Afghanistan, explores how this sowed the seeds of bn Laden's rise, traces how he built his global network and brings to life the dramatic battles within the US government over national security. Above all, he…


Cold Warrior

By Tom Mangold,

Book cover of Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton - The CIA's Master Spy Hunter

The history of the CIA features many fascinating personalities and there are several excellent spy biographies, Thomas Powers on Richard Helms, for example, or Randall Woods on William Colby. But the most complex and compelling of all figures in the Agency’s past must surely be the legendary head of counterintelligence, James Angleton. Again, there are numerous works on Angleton and his obsessive hunt for a top-level Soviet agent in the CIA, but I enjoyed and benefited most from Tom Mangold’s Cold Warrior, an astonishingly detailed and penetrating portrayal of America’s real-life George Smiley.

Cold Warrior

By Tom Mangold,

Why should I read it?

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


A Question of Standing

By Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones,

Book cover of A Question of Standing: The History of the CIA

There are several general histories of the CIA to choose from (including my own Great Courses video lectures) but this for my money is the best book available right now. Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones has been writing about the Agency for years, he’s scholarly yet highly readable, and he plots just the right course between recognizing the CIA’s successes and critiquing its errors. This book is concise but comprehensive, tracing the organization’s origins in the decades before its founding in 1947, and coming all the way down to 2022. A great place to start.

A Question of Standing

By Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Question of Standing deals with recognizable events that have shaped the history of the first 75 years of the CIA. Unsparing in its accounts of dirty tricks and their consequences, it values the agency's intelligence and analysis work to offer balanced judgements that avoid both celebration and condemnation of the CIA.

The mission of the CIA, derived from U-1 in World War I more than from World War II's OSS, has always been intelligence. Seventy-five years ago, in the year of its creation, the National Security Act gave the agency, uniquely in world history up to that point, a…

The Very Best Men

By Evan Thomas,

Book cover of The Very Best Men: Four Who Dared- The Early Years Of The CIA

The best book on the founding period of the CIA, the 1940s to the 1960s. Thomas is the only non-Agency employee to have been granted access to still-classified CIA historical studies, making this work an invaluable compendium of previously secret information. It’s also a wonderfully rich evocation of the rarified social world of the early CIA – East Coast, WASP, Ivy League – and a moving biographical portrait of a generation of intelligence officers whose early careers began in youthful idealism but all too often descended into disillusionment, disgrace, and even suicide. The gold standard of CIA history books.

The Very Best Men

By Evan Thomas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Evan Thomas recreates the personal drama of four figures who risked everything to keep America out of war. They were Frank Wisner, Richard Bissell, Tracy Barnes and Desmond FitzGerald. Within the inner circles of Washington, at the high point of American power in the world, they planned and acted to contain the Soviet threat - by stealth and "political action", and to do by cunning and sleight of hand what great armies could not be allowed to do. The fall of each man had momentous consequences for the CIA. Thomas draws on the CIA's own secret histories, as well as…

Wilderness of Mirrors

By David C. Martin,

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

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.

Wilderness of Mirrors

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…

The Spy Who Saved the World

By Jerrold L. Schecter, Peter S. Deriabin,

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

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.

The Spy Who Saved the World

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.


Chief of Station, Congo

By Larry Devlin,

Book cover of Chief of Station, Congo: Fighting the Cold War in a Hot Zone

There are different kinds of adventure. Safe to say the life of a CIA operative in raw, post-colonial Africa, who is charged with countering his Cold War rival the Soviet Union, must have been unique. Devlin portrays himself as a free-wheeling rogue playing fast and loose with the law (such as it was in 1960s Congo), and even with the life of murdered independence Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. It makes for exciting reading, even if not all of it is completely true.

Chief of Station, Congo

By Larry Devlin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Larry Devlin arrived as the new chief of station for the CIA in the Congo five days after the country had declared its independence, the army had mutinied, and governmental authority had collapsed. As he crossed the Congo River in an almost empty ferry boat, all he could see were lines of people trying to travel the other way,out of the Congo. Within his first two weeks he found himself on the wrong end of a revolver as militiamen played Russian-roulette, Congo style, with him. During his first year, the charismatic and reckless political leader, Patrice Lumumba, was murdered and…

Who Paid the Piper?

By Frances Stonor Saunders,

Book cover of Who Paid the Piper? : CIA and the Cultural Cold War

This may be over 20 years old but it is still the best account of the CIA’s massive interventions in culture and politics across the world and domestically in the Cold War. Detailed research and authoritatively written. The full story of the CIA’s intervention in the UK is still not fully told, with its covert operations in the Labour Party and we still do not know who the 50 British journalists were who were paid salaries by the CIA.

James Oliver and I covered the UK’s Information Research Department’s (IRD) mirror operation from 1947-1977 in Britain’s Secret Propaganda War. What this shows was that many ‘leading’ journalists, academics, politicians, and artists were not the best of their generation but were elevated by secret funding, publishing, and promotion because they suited the agenda of Anglo-US intelligence agencies. 

Who Paid the Piper?

By Frances Stonor Saunders,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Who Paid the Piper? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During the Cold War, writers and artists were faced with a huge challenge. In the Soviet world, they were expected to turn out works that glorified militancy, struggle and relentless optimism. In the West, freedom of expression was vaunted as liberal democracy's most cherished possession. But such freedom could carry a cost. This book documents the extraordinary energy of a secret campaign in which some of the most vocal exponents of intellectual freedom in the West became instruments - whether they knew it or not, whether they liked it or not - of America's secret service.

The Spy Who Got Away

By David Wise,

Book cover of The Spy Who Got Away

David Wise became the first Western journalist to interview former CIA officer Edward Lee Howard, who defected to Moscow on the KGB’s dime. Wise penned a slew of excellent nonfiction spy books before his death in 2018, but I believe his keen-eyed narrative skills and vivid portrait of Cold War espionage make The Spy Who Got Away his best in show.

Wise recounts Howard’s career in the CIA, which fired him in 1983 for alleged drug abuse, and the FBI’s subsequent investigation of his illegal ties to the KGB. But his story takes a cool, cinematic turn as he describes the way Howard slipped FBI surveillance – propping up a dummy in the front passenger seat of a speeding 1979 Oldsmobile – and jumping out of the car to escape to Moscow.

The Spy Who Got Away

By David Wise,

Why should I read it?

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


Secrets

By Angus MacKenzie,

Book cover of Secrets: The CIA's War at Home

Starting with his experience as publisher of an anti-war newspaper in the 1970s, and relying on official records released under the Freedom of Information Act, Mackenzie reveals how the CIA used undercover operatives to sabotage the dissident press and developed a system of secrecy agreements and pre-publication review boards that spread throughout the federal government in efforts to silence former intelligence agents and other would-be whistle-blowers. This brilliant book is the last work by the late Mackenzie, who dedicated his life to defending the First Amendment. He was a long-time associate of the Bay Area’s Center for Investigative Reporting, which with his wife, Jane Hundertmark, completed it after his untimely death.

Secrets

By Angus MacKenzie,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This eye-opening expose, the result of fifteen years of investigative work, uncovers the CIA's systematic efforts to suppress and censor information over several decades. An award-winning journalist, Angus Mackenzie waged and won a lawsuit against the CIA under the Freedom of Information Act and became a leading expert on questions concerning government censorship and domestic spying. In "Secrets", he reveals how federal agencies - including the Department of Defense, the executive branch, and the CIA - have monitored and controlled public access to information. Mackenzie lays bare the behind-the-scenes evolution of a policy of suppression, repression, spying, and harassment. Secrecy…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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