100 books like The Spy and the Traitor

By Ben Macintyre,

Here are 100 books that The Spy and the Traitor fans have personally recommended if you like The Spy and the Traitor. 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 Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan

Ann Hagedorn Author Of Sleeper Agent: The Atomic Spy in America Who Got Away

From my list on bringing you close to what deeply drives people to become spies.

Why am I passionate about this?

Writing narrative nonfiction books is, for me, quite an adventure. My quest is to discover remarkable stories of deep significance and find answers to long-lingering questions, such as why a spy was never caught. For my six books, I have travelled worldwide to interview key players, dig through archives, and see first-hand the stories’ settings. With master’s degrees in journalism (Columbia University) and library science (University of Michigan), I use the research skills of both professions. Designing the best story structure is my passion because that’s the bridge writers must construct to artfully deliver true stories to readers. And I am inspired by reading excellent books.

Ann's book list on bringing you close to what deeply drives people to become spies

Ann Hagedorn Why did Ann love this book?

Knowing about Noor Inayat Khan’s life is crucial to understanding why people become spies; her story is utterly startling.

I learned about Noor (codename Madeleine) while doing research in London for my fifth book. One of the people I interviewed was well-informed about the women who were trained as spies in WWII for Winston Churchill’s Special Operations Executive (SOE).

During that trip, someone left a copy of her biography, Spy Princess (a 2006 British publication), for me at the hotel front desk; to this day, I don’t know who. I read it on the flight back to the U.S. and was immensely moved by Noor’s motivations and her shocking bravery, especially after she faced the Gestapo and was sent to a concentration camp. 

By Shrabani Basu,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

AN INDIAN PRINCESS, WHO IS IN THE LINEAGE OF TIPU SULTAN, PARTICIPATES IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR, SHE SPIES FOR THE BRITISH. THIS BRAVE AND FIERCE TIGRESS GETS CAUGHT BY THE GERMANS, AS A RESULT OF TREACHERY. HER FUTURE IS CLEAR; SHE SUFFERS IMMENSE PAINS AT THE HANDS OF GERMANS. TREACHERY, TORTURE AND TERRIBLE TORMENT.. ONE DAY, A BULLET REVEALS HER FROM ALL THIS TORTURE. SHE WAS THE ONE WHO KEPT THE FLAME OF BRAVERY ENLIGHTENED.


Book cover of Operation Whisper: The Capture of Soviet Spies Morris and Lona Cohen

Jack Barsky Author Of Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Allegiances as a KGB Spy in America

From my list on real espionage stories from ex undercover KGB.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am one of ten undercover illegal agents the Soviet Union sent to the United States during the height of the Cold War. We were admired and lionized as the elite of the elite. I spent altogether 10 years spying for the KGB in the US before cutting my ties to the espionage world for personal reasons. When the FBI introduced themselves nine years later, I had become what the KGB wanted me to become, a true blue American, and that is who I am today.  

Jack's book list on real espionage stories from ex undercover KGB

Jack Barsky Why did Jack love this book?

This book is a detailed description of the MI5 investigation of an undercover KGB couple by the names of Peter and Helen Kroger. In reality, they were American citizens named Morris and Lona Cohen. 

They were important members of the Rosenberg spy ring that stole the atomic secret. They fled the country just in time to escape execution. In 1954 they were redeployed to the UK to gather information concerning the nuclear submarine research done by the UK Navy off the isle of Portland. 

This book gives the reader insights into the complex police work needed to unmask deep-cover agents. After 8 years in jail, the Cohens were released and spent the remainder of their life in Moscow. They were part of the team that prepared me for my mission as a deep cover agent.

By Barnes Carr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Meet Morris and Lona Cohen, an ordinary-seeming couple living on a teacher's salary in a nondescript building on the East Side of New York City. On a hot afternoon in the autumn of 1950, a trusted colleague knocked at their door, held up a finger for silence, then began scribbling a note: Go now. Leave the lights on, walk out, don't look back. Born and raised in the Bronx and recruited to play football at Mississippi State, Morris Cohen fought for the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War and with the U.S. Army in World War II. He and his…


Book cover of Man Without a Face: The Autobiography of Communism's Greatest Spymaster

Jack Barsky Author Of Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Allegiances as a KGB Spy in America

From my list on real espionage stories from ex undercover KGB.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am one of ten undercover illegal agents the Soviet Union sent to the United States during the height of the Cold War. We were admired and lionized as the elite of the elite. I spent altogether 10 years spying for the KGB in the US before cutting my ties to the espionage world for personal reasons. When the FBI introduced themselves nine years later, I had become what the KGB wanted me to become, a true blue American, and that is who I am today.  

Jack's book list on real espionage stories from ex undercover KGB

Jack Barsky Why did Jack love this book?

Markus Wolf is generally considered the greatest Spy Master of the Cold War. 

He was in charge of intelligence for the Stasi (East German Intelligence Service), which was focused primarily on the enemy on the other side of the Berlin Wall. The Stasi was incredibly successful, having placed up to 1,000 East German agents into high places in the German government. 

This is a tale of espionage devised and executed by the best. Wolf was the inspiration for the famous “Karla” character in John Le Carree’s novels

By Markus Wolf, Anne McElvoy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Man Without a Face as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For decades, Markus Wolf was known to Western intelligence officers only as "the man without a face." Now the legendary spymaster has emerged from the shadows to reveal his remarkable life of secrets, lies, and betrayals as head of the world's most formidable and effective foreign service ever. Wolf was undoubtedly the greatest spymaster of our century. A shadowy Cold War legend who kept his own past locked up as tightly as the state secrets with which he was entrusted, Wolf finally broke his silence in 1997. Man Without a Face is the result. It details all of Wolf's major…


Book cover of The Tailor of Panama

Ann Hagedorn Author Of Sleeper Agent: The Atomic Spy in America Who Got Away

From my list on bringing you close to what deeply drives people to become spies.

Why am I passionate about this?

Writing narrative nonfiction books is, for me, quite an adventure. My quest is to discover remarkable stories of deep significance and find answers to long-lingering questions, such as why a spy was never caught. For my six books, I have travelled worldwide to interview key players, dig through archives, and see first-hand the stories’ settings. With master’s degrees in journalism (Columbia University) and library science (University of Michigan), I use the research skills of both professions. Designing the best story structure is my passion because that’s the bridge writers must construct to artfully deliver true stories to readers. And I am inspired by reading excellent books.

Ann's book list on bringing you close to what deeply drives people to become spies

Ann Hagedorn Why did Ann love this book?

I have read several John Le Carre novels, but I chose this one because of its ingenious depiction of the psychological traps of spydom.

It’s a satire, and as it moves through a mire of lies and deceit, it digs deeply into the twists and turns of the life of a tailor seemingly forced by bribery and blackmail to be a spy. His only freedom is to release his creativity into a vast new domain of endless deceit, in which, among other things, he drenches his handler with lies.

The story is brimming with surprises, including the fact that there’s no violence, which is one of the reasons I liked it so much. I read this one twice, years ago, and both times, I could barely take a break.

By John le Carré,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Tailor of Panama as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A work of rare brilliance' The Times

Charmer, fabulist and tailor to Panama's rich and powerful, Harry Pendel loves to tell stories. But when the British spy Andrew Osnard - a man of large appetites, for women, information and above all money - walks into his shop, Harry's fantastical inventions take on a life of their own. Soon he finds himself out of his depth in an international game he can never hope to win.

Le Carre's savage satire on the espionage trade is set in a corrupt universe without heroes or honour, where the innocent are collateral damage and…


Book cover of Eye of the Needle

Ann Hagedorn Author Of Sleeper Agent: The Atomic Spy in America Who Got Away

From my list on bringing you close to what deeply drives people to become spies.

Why am I passionate about this?

Writing narrative nonfiction books is, for me, quite an adventure. My quest is to discover remarkable stories of deep significance and find answers to long-lingering questions, such as why a spy was never caught. For my six books, I have travelled worldwide to interview key players, dig through archives, and see first-hand the stories’ settings. With master’s degrees in journalism (Columbia University) and library science (University of Michigan), I use the research skills of both professions. Designing the best story structure is my passion because that’s the bridge writers must construct to artfully deliver true stories to readers. And I am inspired by reading excellent books.

Ann's book list on bringing you close to what deeply drives people to become spies

Ann Hagedorn Why did Ann love this book?

I have read this novel twice and will undoubtedly read it again. It’s captivating because of the suspenseful plot and the perfect story structure, which is my favorite part of writing books.

The reality of the WWII challenges that the main players must face is gripping. It’s a reminder of how courage springs forth when fear is so overwhelming that there is no other choice but to be brave and do things you never believed you could do.

That is true for the Nazi spy who usually killed anyone who got in his way and for the woman who risked her life to, indeed, get in his way. Why he became a spy and why she tried to stop him are superbly revealed.

By Ken Follett,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Eye of the Needle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The worldwide phenomenon from the bestselling author of The Pillars of the Earth, World Without End, A Column of Fire, and The Evening and the Morning

His code name was "The Needle." He was a German aristocrat of extraordinary intelligence-a master spy with a legacy of violence in his blood, and the object of the most desperate manhunt in history. . . .

But his fate lay in the hands of a young and vulnerable English woman, whose loyalty, if swayed, would assure his freedom-and win the war for the Nazis. . . .


Book cover of Sleeper Agent: The Atomic Spy in America Who Got Away

Jack Barsky Author Of Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Allegiances as a KGB Spy in America

From my list on real espionage stories from ex undercover KGB.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am one of ten undercover illegal agents the Soviet Union sent to the United States during the height of the Cold War. We were admired and lionized as the elite of the elite. I spent altogether 10 years spying for the KGB in the US before cutting my ties to the espionage world for personal reasons. When the FBI introduced themselves nine years later, I had become what the KGB wanted me to become, a true blue American, and that is who I am today.  

Jack's book list on real espionage stories from ex undercover KGB

Jack Barsky Why did Jack love this book?

This is a book about George Koval, the most successful KGB sleeper in the United States. 

George was born in the United States to Jewish parents who had immigrated from Russia in 1910. George and his family returned to the USSR where George became infatuated with communism. He was recruited by the GRU (military intelligence) and re-injected into the US. 

As a born US citizen, he got clearance for the Manhattan Project. The atomic secrets he sent to the USSR allowed that country to accelerate the development of the nuclear bomb and become a superpower.  Koval was able to flee the US before being caught. 

This story really spoke to me because I operated for 10 years as an illegal for the KGB in America. 

By Ann Hagedorn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The dramatic and chilling story of an American-born Soviet spy in the atom bomb project in World War II, perfect for fans of The Americans.

George Koval was born in Iowa. In 1932, his parents, Russian Jews who had emigrated because of anti-Semitism, decided to return home to live out their socialist ideals. George, who was as committed to socialism as they were, went with them. It was there that he was recruited by the Soviet Army as a spy and returned to the US in 1940. A gifted science student, he enrolled at Columbia University, where he knew scientists…


Book cover of Breaking Cover

Jack Barsky Author Of Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Allegiances as a KGB Spy in America

From my list on real espionage stories from ex undercover KGB.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am one of ten undercover illegal agents the Soviet Union sent to the United States during the height of the Cold War. We were admired and lionized as the elite of the elite. I spent altogether 10 years spying for the KGB in the US before cutting my ties to the espionage world for personal reasons. When the FBI introduced themselves nine years later, I had become what the KGB wanted me to become, a true blue American, and that is who I am today.  

Jack's book list on real espionage stories from ex undercover KGB

Jack Barsky Why did Jack love this book?

Michelle fell in love with Joseph Assad, who was born and raised in Egypt, as a teenager. At the time she graduated with a master’s degree in contemporary Arabic studies, Joseph was already a member of the CIA. The two got married, and Michelle joined the CIA.

They were deployed as a couple of undercover agents in Iraq during the 8-year Iraq war. Michelle describes her entire time in the CIA, from training to highly dangerous operations, in vivid detail. As a white woman in an Islamic country, she literally had a target on her back. The couple got out of many dicey situations, but the most breathtaking section of the book deals with a rescue mission to save several hundred Christians from a war-torn zone.

Disclosure: Michell is a good friend of mine.

By Michele Rigby Assad,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A real-life, can’t-put-down spy memoir.
The CIA is looking for walking contradictions. Recruiters seek out potential agents who can keep a secret yet pull classified information out of others; who love their country but are willing to leave it behind for dangerous places; who live double lives, but can be trusted with some of the nation’s most highly sensitive tasks.

Michele Rigby Assad was one of those people.

As a CIA agent and a counterterrorism expert, Michele soon found that working undercover was an all-encompassing job. The threats were real; the assignments perilous. Michele spent over a decade in the…


Book cover of The Spy Who Changed History: The Untold Story of How the Soviet Union Won the Race for America's Top Secrets

Ann Hagedorn Author Of Sleeper Agent: The Atomic Spy in America Who Got Away

From my list on bringing you close to what deeply drives people to become spies.

Why am I passionate about this?

Writing narrative nonfiction books is, for me, quite an adventure. My quest is to discover remarkable stories of deep significance and find answers to long-lingering questions, such as why a spy was never caught. For my six books, I have travelled worldwide to interview key players, dig through archives, and see first-hand the stories’ settings. With master’s degrees in journalism (Columbia University) and library science (University of Michigan), I use the research skills of both professions. Designing the best story structure is my passion because that’s the bridge writers must construct to artfully deliver true stories to readers. And I am inspired by reading excellent books.

Ann's book list on bringing you close to what deeply drives people to become spies

Ann Hagedorn Why did Ann love this book?

What an eye-opener! I read this book one winter weekend in 2019 while researching early Soviet espionage in America to learn about the plan that Stalin and Soviet spy Stanislav Shumovsky set into motion in the U.S. in the 1930s. It reveals how trained Soviet spies were planted as students at American universities that ranked high in science education–starting with MIT.

As a model, Shumovsky earned a bachelor’s degree at MIT, joined professional societies to mingle with respected scientists, and focused his master’s degree on “high altitude flying,” sending mounds of information back to the USSR. However, it was not only what he sent home that made Shumovsky so important; it was what he set up for future spies who enrolled at MIT as well as Harvard and Columbia.  

By Svetlana Lokhova,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of KGB: The Inside Story of its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev

Taylor Downing Author Of 1983: Reagan, Andropov, and a World on the Brink

From my list on Cold War mysteries.

Why am I passionate about this?

Taylor Downing is a historian, writer, and television producer. He has written several best-selling books and has produced more than 200 television documentaries many of which have won awards. Taylor is currently researching and writing a new book on a little-known crisis in World War Two, due for publication in 2022.

Taylor's book list on Cold War mysteries

Taylor Downing Why did Taylor love this book?

A deeply revealing insight into the mysterious world of the Soviet secret service written as a collaboration between a top Cambridge historian and a senior KGB officer who was a double agent working for the British MI6. It tells us not only what the KGB got up to but, equally important, how the senior KGB leaders thought. It opens up the paranoia at the top of the Soviet system.

By Oleg Gordievsky, Christopher Andrew,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This history of the world's largest and most powerful intelligence service, the KGB, from its origin after the Russian revolution to the present day, analyzes its operations against subjects as diverse as the EEC, Margaret Thatcher, Solidarity and Libya. This study also provides an insight into Gorbachev's relations with the KGB and examines the disintegration of the Soviet bloc. Christopher Andrew has also written "Secret Service". Gordievsky was a KGB colonel who worked for British intelligence as a penetration agent in the KGB from 1974. He escaped to the West in 1985.


Book cover of Molehunt: The Secret Search for Traitors That Shattered the CIA

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?

David Wise was the dean of American espionage writers, the author of more than a dozen well-regarded books about spies before his death in 2018, and Molehunt is my favorite. It tells the story of the James Angleton-inspired to hunt for a supposed mole within the CIA, an enormously damaging affair that paralyzed the agency for years. Wise’s books are so authoritative because of the unmatched sources he had in the intelligence community.

By David Wise,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Details the obsessive internal spy hunt reminiscent of the McCarthy era lead by CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton after he was lead astray by former KGB officer Anatoly Golitsin. 25,000 first printing. $25,000 ad/promo. Tour.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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