86 books like The Prodigal Spy

By Joseph Kanon,

Here are 86 books that The Prodigal Spy fans have personally recommended if you like The Prodigal 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 A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal

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 a non-fiction book but it reads like a novel and explores one of the great mysteries of the spy world: how on earth did Kim Philby manage to betray not only his country but also his friends over so many years? 

A former spy I had the privilege of interviewing described Philby as a shit, so maybe there’s the answer. I think this is a terrific read, and although Macintyre probably isn’t a spy, like Deighton, he knows them. 

By Ben Macintyre,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked A Spy Among Friends as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kim Philby was the most notorious British defector and Soviet mole in history. Agent, double agent, traitor and enigma, he betrayed every secret of Allied operations to the Russians in the early years of the Cold War.

Philby's two closest friends in the intelligence world, Nicholas Elliott of MI6 and James Jesus Angleton, the CIA intelligence chief, thought they knew Philby better than anyone, and then discovered they had not known him at all. This is a story of intimate duplicity; of loyalty, trust and treachery, class and conscience; of an ideological battle waged by men with cut-glass accents and…


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

Hugh Wilford Author Of The CIA: An Imperial History

From my list on history about the CIA.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a British-born American historian, currently residing in Long Beach, California. I’ve published four books on the CIA and lectured about it for the Great Courses. Why spies? I’ve always loved spy novels and movies but my historical interest was piqued years ago when I stumbled across the weird story of how the CIA secretly funded various American artists and writers in the so-called Cultural Cold War. Decades on, I’m still fascinated by the subject: there’s so much human drama involved, and it’s a great lens through which to examine recent American and world history.

Hugh's book list on history about the CIA

Hugh Wilford Why did Hugh love this book?

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.

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.

What is this book about?

A biography of the spymaster who ran the CIA's counterintelligence operation for twenty years until his downfall


Book cover of Dead Doubles: The Extraordinary Worldwide Hunt for One of the Cold War's Most Notorious Spy Ring

Tim Tate Author Of The Spy Who Was Left Out In The Cold: The Secret History of Agent Goleniewski

From my list on non-fiction and fiction Cold War spies.

Why am I passionate about this?

Tim Tate is a multi-award-winning documentary filmmaker, investigative journalist, and the author of 18 non-fiction books. The Cold War shaped – and continues to shape – the world we live in today. Although the collapse of the Soviet Union theoretically ended the conflict between East and West, in reality, the struggle between the Cold War superpowers of America and Russia rumbles on. Nor have the espionage agencies on either side of the former Iron Curtain fundamentally changed. Their actions during the Cold War run deeply beneath modern tensions. I spent years researching the hidden history of the most important Cold War spy; his extraordinary life and activities provide a unique lens with which to understand Cold War espionage.

Tim's book list on non-fiction and fiction Cold War spies

Tim Tate Why did Tim love this book?

The Portland Spy Ring was one of the first espionage cases exposed by Michał Goleniewski. Using MI5’s declassified files, Trevor Barnes tells the extraordinary story of how the discovery of a disillusioned British civil servant selling secrets from the Navy’s submarine research base at Portland revealed a shadowy world of deep-cover KGB spies operating under false identities stolen from the dead.

By Trevor Barnes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE PORTLAND SPY RING was one of the most infamous espionage cases from the Cold War. People the world over were shocked when its exposure revealed the shadowy world of deep cover KGB 'illegals' - spies operating under false identities stolen from the dead.

The CIA's revelation to MI5 in 1960 that a KGB agent was stealing crucial secrets from the world-leading submarine research base at Portland in Dorset looked initially like a dangerous but contained lapse of security by a British man and his mistress. But the couple were tailed by MI5 'watchers' to a covert meeting with a…


Book cover of The Ipcress File

Peter Riva Author Of Kidnapped on Safari

From my list on the otherness that few get to experience.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been to, and loved, North, Central, and especially East Africa for over fifty years. Only six times have I been to Africa on holiday; more often, perhaps twenty or more times, as a television producer. Working in Africa gains a perspective of reality that the glories of vacation do not. Each has its place, each its pitfalls like stalled plane rides with emergency landings in the bush or attacks by wildlife. But, in the end, the magic of the “otherness,” what an old friend called “primitava” captures one’s soul and changes your life.

Peter's book list on the otherness that few get to experience

Peter Riva Why did Peter love this book?

The perfect example of the anti-hero somewhat reluctantly taking on the responsibility and, in the end, realizing that who he thought was protecting him, were happy to leave him die, if needed. Harry (unnamed in the book) became the perfect anti-hero who wins through.

Deighton always wrote and understood that actions by simple people could rise calamitous events. In his books he writes of simple, brave, actions which, when viewed from the conclusion of events only then, are realized as globally pivotal.

By Len Deighton,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Ipcress File as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Len Deighton's classic first novel, whose
protagonist is a nameless spy - later christened Harry Palmer and made famous worldwide in the iconic 1960s film starring Michael Caine.

The Ipcress File was not only Len Deighton's first novel, it was his first bestseller and the book that broke the mould of thriller writing.

For the working class narrator, an apparently straightforward mission to find a missing biochemist becomes a journey to the heart of a dark and deadly conspiracy.

The film of The Ipcress File gave Michael Caine one of his first and still most celebrated starring roles, while the…


Book cover of Golem

Hannah Batsel Author Of A is for Another Rabbit

From my list on with super-detailed illustrations to stare at.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I fall in love with a fantasy world, I want to consume as much of that world as possible. That’s why I’m drawn to illustration that is so dense with worldbuilding elements. In my own work, I started indulging this obsession by creating tiny one-by-three-inch books that contained fully-illustrated alien worlds before eventually moving on to bigger books like A is for Another Rabbit, a book crammed so full of hidden jokes, Easter eggs, and thousand-rabbit-wide crowd scenes that my hand hurt by the end of it. Extreme detail is a way of prolonging the delight and discovery inherent in reading picture books, and I intend to keep pushing it to the limit!

Hannah's book list on with super-detailed illustrations to stare at

Hannah Batsel Why did Hannah love this book?

Golem’s illustrations are certainly not detailed in the same way as the others on this list; the imagery in this retelling of the Golem of Prague story is composed entirely of colorful cut paper, layered and woven into bold, dynamic scenes. Whereas the first four books I’ve recommended invite hours of poring over worldbuilding detail and density of information, Golem compels readers to marvel over the construction of its illustrations. How does the golem pierce through the spidery paper web of paper smoke? How are the sheets stacked to imply depth and shadow? Is this seriously all paper?! 

By David Wisniewski,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Retold from traditional sources and accompanied by David Wisniewski's unique cut-paper illustrations, Golem is a dramatic tale of supernatural forces invoked to save an oppressed people. It also offers a thought-provoking look at the consequences of unleashing power beyond human control. The afterword discusses the legend of the golem and its roots in the history of the Jews. A Caldecott Medal Book.


Book cover of Daughter of Smoke & Bone

Catherine Doyle and Katherine Webber Author Of Twin Crowns

From my list on fantasy to make you swoon.

Why are we passionate about this?

As co-authors of cross-over romantic fantasy, best friends, and soon-to-be sisters-in-law, Katie and I share a great love of all things fantasy romance. Our favourite novel, The Princess Bride, was a huge inspiration for our own book, Twin Crowns, which aims to capture the swoony romance, laugh-out-loud humour and rollicking adventure found in so many of the novels that we love. 

Catherine's book list on fantasy to make you swoon

Catherine Doyle and Katherine Webber Why did Catherine love this book?

This is a brilliant urban fantasy about 17-year-old Karou, a spunky blue-haired teenager who lives with a foot in two worlds – our own, and one inhabited by all manner of monsters, good and mad. Amidst the wreckage of an ongoing war, Karou finds love with the angelic Akiva, the two fast becoming a kind of Romeo & Juliet in this sophisticated tale full of mythology and magic, which moves seamlessly from the streets of Prague to an intricate otherworld of the author’s own creation, without missing a step. It’s epic and swoony, and utterly unputdownable! 

By Laini Taylor,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Daughter of Smoke & Bone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

The 10th anniversary edition of the first in Laini Taylor's breathtaking fantasy trilogy

'Remarkable and beautifully written . . . The opening volume of a truly original trilogy.' GUARDIAN

Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. 'He never says please', she sighed, but she gathered up her things.

When Brimstone called, she always came.

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a…


Book cover of Havel: A Life

Todd Hasak-Lowy Author Of We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes the World

From my list on inspirational nonviolent leaders.

Why am I passionate about this?

In the early years of the Trump presidency, I looked for a subject that would inspire young readers, and keep me from falling into despair. I loved researching this topic and finding ways to do justice to the incredible people and the movements at the center of my book. Simply put, it was a joy to become an expert on this important topic. There are so many reasons to be pessimistic about the state of the world, but these stories give me hope that together we can create a better future for everyone.

Todd's book list on inspirational nonviolent leaders

Todd Hasak-Lowy Why did Todd love this book?

Because of the enormous odds stacked against each movement of this sort, the story of every nonviolent leader has an unlikely element to it. But Vaclav Havel’s biography may be the most unlikely of all. A playwright, an intellectual, and, in his own words, a “bundle of nerves,” Havel nevertheless found himself leader of Czechoslovakia’s astonishing nonviolent Velvet Revolution in 1989, and soon after became the country’s first president following the fall of communism. A very human embodiment of humanist conviction, Havel’s life is one to study.

By Michael Zantovsky,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Václav Havel was one of the most prominent figures of the twentieth century: iconoclast and intellectual, renowned artist turned political dissident, president of a united and then divided nation, and dedicated human rights activist. Written by Michael Zantovsky—Havel’s former press secretary, advisor, and longtime friend—Havel: A Life chronicles his extraordinary journey from the theatrical stage to the world stage.

Havel’s lifelong perspective as an outsider began with his privileged childhood in Prague and his family’s blacklisted status following the Communist coup of 1948. In his youth, this feeling of being isolated and outcast fueled his poetry and then later his…


Book cover of Women of Prague: Ethnic Diversity and Social Change from the Eighteenth Century to the Present

Chad Bryant Author Of Prague: Belonging in the Modern City

From my list on Prague and its hidden histories.

Why am I passionate about this?

Prague has fascinated me my whole life. I first explored the city while an English teacher in the Czech Republic in 1993, shortly after the end of Communist rule there. I’ve been wandering Prague’s streets ever since, always seeing something new and intriguing, always stumbling upon stories about the city and its people. Below are some of my favorite books about a city that continues to surprise me. The author or co-editor of four books, I teach European history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Chad's book list on Prague and its hidden histories

Chad Bryant Why did Chad love this book?

Women rarely feature as central figures in most works about Prague. In this book, Iggers introduces us to an array of fascinating female writers, activists, powerful ladies of society, and survivors who have lived in Prague and its environs over the past two hundred years. Each chapter includes a brief introduction and excerpts from these women’s writings, such as diaries, letters, and newspaper articles. The reader can thus hear these women’s voices and feel transported to a different moment in history. Some entries are hard to read, such as Milada Horáková’s farewell letter to her teenage daughter, written on June 23, 1950. The lead defendant in Communist Czechoslovakia’s first public show trial, Horáková was executed three days later. Wilma Iggers is a Czechoslovak native who escaped to Canada after the Nazis invaded her country in 1938, which only enhances the perspectives that she brings to these women’s lives. 

By Wilma Abeles Iggers,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For many centuries Prague has exerted a particular fascination because of its beauty and therichness of its culture and history. Its famous group of German and Czech writers of mostly Jewish extraction in the earlier part of this century has deeply influenced Western culture.However, little attention has so far been paid to the roles of women in the history of thisethnically diverse area in around Prague. Based on largely autobiographical writings and letters by women and enhanced by extensive historical introduction, this book redresses a serious imbalance. The vivid and often moving portraits, which emerge from the varied material used…


Book cover of The Hundred-Year Flood

Rosanna Staffa Author Of The War Ends At Four

From my list on the unexpected ways we find home.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an Italian-born writer living in Minneapolis. I experienced being an outsider early on in my childhood when my family moved from Naples to Este, a small town in the hills near Venice. My fascination with language started then as I had to master the different Northern dialect. I was a listener rather than a talker. My shyness was painful in life but turned out to be a gift as a writer. When I left Italy for America, once again I was an outsider, too visible or invisible, and facing a new language. I relate to estrangement and longing, but I treasure that being an outsider still gives me a sense of wonder about reality.

Rosanna's book list on the unexpected ways we find home

Rosanna Staffa Why did Rosanna love this book?

I’m deeply affected by the poetic, haunted quest of a Korean adoptee who seeks his place in the world, shifting back and forth in time— Tee’s present in a Massachusetts rehab facility with his time in Prague. 

I respond to how present the awareness of being other is, while I can occasionally pretend to forget mine. I share the question about the past.

Tormented about being an adoptee, Tee left his family behind after facing the tragedy of an uncle’s suicide and a disturbing revelation from his father. In Prague, he has newfound happiness interrupted by a forced evacuation because of an epic flood that comes every 100 years.

Tee decides to remain with his lover: “If the water did rise and cut them off from the rest of Prague, they would be unreachable,” Tee thinks, “even from his pasts.”

By Matthew Salesses,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hundred-Year Flood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the tradition of Native Speaker and The Family Fang, Matthew Salesses weaves together the tangled threads of identity, love, growing up, and relationships in his stunning first novel, The Hundred-Year Flood. This beautiful and dreamlike debut follows twenty-two-year-old Tee as he escapes to Prague in the wake of his uncle's suicide and the aftermath of 9/11. Tee tries to convince himself that living in a new place will mean a new identity and a chance to shed the parallels between him and his adopted father. His life intertwines with Pavel Picasso, a painter famous for revolution; Katka, his equally…


Book cover of Prague Panoramas: National Memory and Sacred Space in the Twentieth Century

Chad Bryant Author Of Prague: Belonging in the Modern City

From my list on Prague and its hidden histories.

Why am I passionate about this?

Prague has fascinated me my whole life. I first explored the city while an English teacher in the Czech Republic in 1993, shortly after the end of Communist rule there. I’ve been wandering Prague’s streets ever since, always seeing something new and intriguing, always stumbling upon stories about the city and its people. Below are some of my favorite books about a city that continues to surprise me. The author or co-editor of four books, I teach European history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Chad's book list on Prague and its hidden histories

Chad Bryant Why did Chad love this book?

For years, I used to walk past the statues of St. Wenceslaus, František Palacký, and other Czech national heroes without giving them much thought. After reading this book, I came to appreciate how much Prague’s monuments can tell us about the city’s history. Their creators offered a variety of interpretations over the meaning of “Czechness”, and these monuments have inspired passionate debates about nationhood and religion ever since. The book also made me think about ways that monuments can exclude others and inspire hatred, and not just in Prague. Consider, for example, statues celebrating the Confederacy erected by white supremacists decades after the end of the Civil War. Many still dot my part of the country.

By Cynthia Paces,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Prague Panoramas examines the creation of Czech nationalism through monuments, buildings, festivals, and protests in the public spaces of the city during the twentieth century. These \u201csites of memory\u201d were attempts by civic, religious, cultural, and political forces to create a cohesive sense of self for a country and a people torn by war, foreign occupation, and internal strife.

The Czechs struggled to define their national identity throughout the modern era. Prague, the capital of a diverse area comprising Czechs, Slovaks, Germans, Poles, Ruthenians, and Romany as well as various religious groups including Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, became central to…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Czech Republic, conspiracies, and the Cold War?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Czech Republic, conspiracies, and the Cold War.

The Czech Republic Explore 11 books about the Czech Republic
Conspiracies Explore 39 books about conspiracies
The Cold War Explore 232 books about the Cold War