100 books like The Great Game

By Peter Hopkirk,

Here are 100 books that The Great Game fans have personally recommended if you like The Great Game. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945

Michael Schuman Author Of Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World

From my list on Asian history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Michael Schuman is the author of three history books on Asia, most recently Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World, released in 2020. He has spent the past quarter-century as a journalist in the region. Formerly a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and Time magazine, he is currently a contributor to The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion.

Michael's book list on Asian history

Michael Schuman Why did Michael love this book?

The masterful Toland weaves a narrative of jaw-dropping detail, drama and complexity that tells the grand and harrowing story of the Pacific War between the United States and Japan from the perspective of the Japanese. The tale takes the reader from Tokyo cabinet meetings to the deck of warships to the frontline of critical battles, to share the experiences of everyone from national leaders to top generals to ordinary soldiers. It’s one of those books that’s so good it leaves you wondering how it was even written.

By John Toland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“[The Rising Sun] is quite possibly the most readable, yet informative account of the Pacific war.”—Chicago Sun-Times

This Pulitzer Prize–winning history of World War II chronicles the dramatic rise and fall of the Japanese empire, from the invasion of Manchuria and China to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Told from the Japanese perspective, The Rising Sun is, in the author’s words, “a factual saga of people caught up in the flood of the most overwhelming war of mankind, told as it happened—muddled, ennobling, disgraceful, frustrating, full of paradox.”

In weaving together the historical facts and human drama leading…


Book cover of The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857

Michael Schuman Author Of Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World

From my list on Asian history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Michael Schuman is the author of three history books on Asia, most recently Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World, released in 2020. He has spent the past quarter-century as a journalist in the region. Formerly a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and Time magazine, he is currently a contributor to The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion.

Michael's book list on Asian history

Michael Schuman Why did Michael love this book?

Mixing deep archival scholarship with brilliant storytelling, Dalrymple transports the reader into the final days of the Mughal Empire and its last emperor. The story centers on Delhi during the mutiny against British rule in 1857, the last great attempt by the Indians to throw off their European overlords until Gandhi. What begins with hope ultimately ends in tragedy, for the Mughal poet-ruler who fails to grasp his chance to change history, and the brilliant civilization his empire had fostered.

By William Dalrymple,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

At 4pm on a dark, wet winter's evening in November 1862, a cheap coffin was buried in eerie silence: no lamentations, no panegyrics, for as the British Commissioner in charge of the funeral insisted, 'No vesting will remain to distinguish where the last of the Great Moghuls rests.' This Mughal was Bahadur Shah Zafar II, one of the most talented, tolerant and likeable of his remarkable dynasty who found himself leader of a violent uprising he knew from the start would lead to irreparable carnage. Zafar's frantic efforts to unite his forces proved tragically futile. The Siege of Delhi was…


Book cover of Nathaniel's Nutmeg: Or, the True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History

Eleanor Ford Author Of The Nutmeg Trail: Recipes and Stories Along the Ancient Spice Routes

From my list on to spice up your shelves.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my writing, food is a means to explore culture and understand the world. I’ve been described as a ‘culinary detective’. I collect and create eclectic, evocative recipes from around the globe so I can travel from my kitchen when I'm back home in London. The Nutmeg Trail follows my multi-award-winning books, Fire Islands and Samarkand.

Eleanor's book list on to spice up your shelves

Eleanor Ford Why did Eleanor love this book?

Delving into the bloodiest and most tragic period of spice’s past, Milton’s novel reveals the extraordinary link between nutmeg and colonisation. It was the seed from which the British Empire grew. If fiction is your preferred way to explore history – and what a history spice has! – then this is the book for you.

By Giles Milton,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Nathaniel's Nutmeg as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A true tale of high adventure in the South Seas.

The tiny island of Run is an insignificant speck in the Indonesian archipelago. Just two miles long and half a mile wide, it is remote, tranquil, and, these days, largely ignored.

Yet 370 years ago, Run's harvest of nutmeg (a pound of which yielded a 3,200 percent profit by the time it arrived in England) turned it into the most lucrative of the Spice Islands, precipitating a battle between the all-powerful Dutch East India Company and the British Crown. The outcome of the fighting was one of the most spectacular…


Book cover of Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire

Eran Pichersky Author Of Plants and Human Conflict

From my list on how plants have had a dramatic influence on human history.

Why am I passionate about this?

After serving in the military for several years, I pursued a scientific career as a plant biologist. It was during my military service in a unit that spent most of our time in the wilderness that I discovered plants, and particularly their smells. One cannot help it–if you step or crawl on a plant, you will smell it. As a military history buff, I also learned that many wars were fought over plants, and so I decided to write a book that combines the two–explaining what these plants do, why they are so important to people, and, therefore, how plants basically drive human behavior, often to violence. 

Eran's book list on how plants have had a dramatic influence on human history

Eran Pichersky Why did Eran love this book?

This book actually talks only a little about plants.

But it shows what people would do–in this case, the Portuguese–to get their hands on some important plants–spices in this case. They sailed from Europe to India around Africa for several months and fought everyone on the way to prevent them from obtaining the same plants. Exciting stuff—but also a bit dispiriting about the human species.

By Roger Crowley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As remarkable as Columbus and the conquistador expeditions, the history of Portuguese exploration is now almost forgotten. But Portugal's navigators cracked the code of the Atlantic winds, launched the expedition of Vasco da Gama to India and beat the Spanish to the spice kingdoms of the East - then set about creating the first long-range maritime empire. In an astonishing blitz of thirty years, a handful of visionary and utterly ruthless empire builders, with few resources but breathtaking ambition, attempted to seize the Indian Ocean, destroy Islam and take control of world trade.

Told with Roger Crowley's customary skill and…


Book cover of Flashman

Austin Grossman Author Of Crooked

From my list on set in alternate histories.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a lot of things. I design games. I study literature and theater. I write novels that are messy fusions of literary and genre fiction. I'm endlessly curious. Each of my books starts with when I hear in my head, the voice of a character asking a question. It's always a silly question, and it's always the one that matters more to them than anything else in the world. "Why does being superintelligent make you evil?" became Soon I Will Be Invincible. "What are people who play video games obsessively really looking for?" became You. Answering the question isn't simple, but of course that's where the fun starts.

Austin's book list on set in alternate histories

Austin Grossman Why did Austin love this book?

Flashman does a thing I love, which is to tell the story of another book's least notable character.

Harry Flashman comes from Thomas Hughes's 1850 novel Tom Brown's School Days (the entire basis for the Harry Potter novels), where he's a sub-Draco Malfo figure, a useless bully.

Flashman tells the story of his later years as the Victorian Empire's most cowardly soldier, rattling around British colonies, stumbling through their various atrocities and debacles. I wish the book were even harsher on the Brits, but it's a deeply fun counter-text and a lovely bit of escapism nonetheless.

By George MacDonald Fraser,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For George MacDonald Fraser the bully Flashman was easily the most interesting character in Tom Brown's Schooldays, and imaginative speculation as to what might have happened to him after his expulsion from Rugby School for drunkenness ended in 12 volumes of memoirs in which Sir Harry Paget Flashman - self-confessed scoundrel, liar, cheat, thief, coward -'and, oh yes, a toady' - romps his way through decades of nineteenth-century history in a swashbuckling and often hilarious series of military and amorous adventures. In Flashman the youthful hero, armed with a commission in the 11th Dragoons, is shipped to India, woos and…


Book cover of Playing the Great Game: A Victorian Cold War

Riaz Dean Author Of Mapping the Great Game: Explorers, Spies and Maps in 19th-Century Asia

From my list on the Great Game.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have travelled much of the area described in this book, including the two halves of what was once Turkestan, and on the Roof of the World which divides them. I collect old maps and books (including historical fiction titles) about the exploration of the region and the machinations of the Great Game. My book is the result of four years of research and writing.

Riaz's book list on the Great Game

Riaz Dean Why did Riaz love this book?

This is a shorter book by a well-established historian, who nevertheless writes in an accessible manner for the general reader. It is a good introductory text to the Great Game and contains a good map of the region and several illustrations and photographs.

By Michael Edwardes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Playing the Great Game as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this era of Cyber Warfare, it's great to compare with the original Khyber Warfare


Book cover of Anglo-Russian Rivalry in Central Asia 1810-1895

Riaz Dean Author Of Mapping the Great Game: Explorers, Spies and Maps in 19th-Century Asia

From my list on the Great Game.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have travelled much of the area described in this book, including the two halves of what was once Turkestan, and on the Roof of the World which divides them. I collect old maps and books (including historical fiction titles) about the exploration of the region and the machinations of the Great Game. My book is the result of four years of research and writing.

Riaz's book list on the Great Game

Riaz Dean Why did Riaz love this book?

This is a medium-length book by another well-established historian, who writes in a reasonably accessible manner. His is a more in-depth treatment of the Great Game, aided by Geoffrey Wheeler, an expert on Central Asia, who wrote the book’s Epilogue. It contains three maps and appendices (but no illustrations).

By Gerald Morgan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Anglo-Russian Rivalry in Central Asia 1810-1895 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Published in 1981, Anglo-Russian Rivalry in Central Asia 1810-1895 is a valuable contribution to the field of Middle Eastern Studies.


Book cover of Kim (1901) by: Rudyard Kipling

Riaz Dean Author Of Mapping the Great Game: Explorers, Spies and Maps in 19th-Century Asia

From my list on the Great Game.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have travelled much of the area described in this book, including the two halves of what was once Turkestan, and on the Roof of the World which divides them. I collect old maps and books (including historical fiction titles) about the exploration of the region and the machinations of the Great Game. My book is the result of four years of research and writing.

Riaz's book list on the Great Game

Riaz Dean Why did Riaz love this book?

Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907, Kipling immortalized the phrase ‘the Great Game’ in what was a masterpiece of writing and surely one of the best-loved English language novels of all time. His fictional portrayal of the Great Game forever touched it with a flavor of imperial romance.

By Rudyard Kipling,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kim (1901) by as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Born Joseph Rudyard Kipling 30 December 1865 Bombay, Bombay Presidency, British India Died 18 January 1936 (aged 70) Middlesex Hospital, London, England, United Kingdom Resting place Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, London Occupation Short story writer, novelist, poet, journalist Nationality British Genre Short story, novel, children's literature, poetry, travel literature, science fiction


Book cover of Sultan in Oman

Amelia Dalton Author Of Pages from My Passport

From my list on the lives of those who pushed the boundaries.

Why am I passionate about this?

I ‘fell’ into being at sea by chance, through my father’s insistence I join him on a Scottish fishing boat for a week. I discovered I adored exploring unknown islands and lonely beaches, discovering wildlife and resilient small communities. In the 1990’s a female working amongst fishermen and commercial shipping was unknown, it was a wholly male, chauvinistic world. Using these skills I found a job being paid to explore – a dream job, pioneering but frequently lonely and dangerous. It resulted in my expanding the range and world of small expedition ships into areas with no infrastructure, unexplored and uncharted, lonely, empty coasts from the Arctic to Singapore. 

Amelia's book list on the lives of those who pushed the boundaries

Amelia Dalton Why did Amelia love this book?

In this entertaining book Jan Morris crosses the Oman desert travelling as one of the Sultan’s entourage. 

I know Oman well, having visited long before the country was ‘open’ to tourism. I have slept on just a blanked on the sand with the huge bowl of Arabian stars sliding across a black sky above me so the delightful prose brings this all to life again. The early days of the oil business, whilst unfashionable these days are historic, the descriptions are vivid and highly amusing.

Desert life, campfires, camels, and Bedouin are all colourfully brought to life, with descriptions of the superb mud forts and sands so frequent in the mountains and sands of Oman.

By Jan Morris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1955 the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman, southeast of Saudi Arabia on the Arabian Sea, was a truly medieval Islamic State, shuttered against all progress under the aegis of its traditionalist and autocratic ruler. But it was also nearly the end of an imperial line, for in those days the British Government was still powerful in Arabia. Rumors of subversion and the intrigues of foreign powers mingled with the unsettling smell of oil to propel the sultan on a royal progress across the desert hinterland. It was an historic journey--the first crossing of the Omani desert by motorcar. Jan…


Book cover of The Road to Le Tholonet: A French Garden Journey

Amelia Dalton Author Of Pages from My Passport

From my list on the lives of those who pushed the boundaries.

Why am I passionate about this?

I ‘fell’ into being at sea by chance, through my father’s insistence I join him on a Scottish fishing boat for a week. I discovered I adored exploring unknown islands and lonely beaches, discovering wildlife and resilient small communities. In the 1990’s a female working amongst fishermen and commercial shipping was unknown, it was a wholly male, chauvinistic world. Using these skills I found a job being paid to explore – a dream job, pioneering but frequently lonely and dangerous. It resulted in my expanding the range and world of small expedition ships into areas with no infrastructure, unexplored and uncharted, lonely, empty coasts from the Arctic to Singapore. 

Amelia's book list on the lives of those who pushed the boundaries

Amelia Dalton Why did Amelia love this book?

I have loved travelling with Monty Don on this gentle, thoughtful, and evocative book is a joy. 

In addition to his huge knowledge of plants, he is an informed historian, and writes beautifully. The book is full of surprises as he takes one meandering through the byways of France sharing his passion for plants, places, and interest in people which all come shining through.

By Monty Don,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Road to Le Tholonet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is not a book about French Gardens. It is the story of a man travelling round France visiting a few selected French gardens on the way.

Owners, intrigues, affairs, marriages, feuds, thwarted ambitions and desires, the largely unnamed ordinary gardeners, wars, plots and natural disasters run through every garden older than a generation or two and fill every corner of the grander historical ones. Families marry. Gardeners are poached. Political allegiances forged and shattered. The human trail crosses from garden to garden.

They sit in their surrounding landscape, not as isolated islands but attached umbilically to it, sharing the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Soviet Union, Central Asia, and politics?

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, Central Asia, and politics.

The Soviet Union Explore 335 books about the Soviet Union
Central Asia Explore 31 books about Central Asia
Politics Explore 722 books about politics