The most recommended espionage books

Who picked these books? Meet our 506 experts.

506 authors created a book list connected to espionage, and here are their favorite espionage books.
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Book cover of The Fallen Angel

E. Chris Ambrose Author Of The Mongol's Coffin

From my list on weaving adventure and history.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an art school drop-out who'd been majoring in sculpture, I'm fascinated by material culture—artifacts created by early peoples that reveal their cultural values. Often, the relics and sites that engage both archaeologists and readers suggest unexpected depths of knowledge that show human ingenuity through the ages. I strive to incorporate the details of an artifact or monument's creation into the clues and descriptions in my work, hopefully illuminating a little-known historical realm, if only by torchlight as the adventure unfolds. The fact that I get to explore so many exotic locations, in research if not in person, is a definite plus!

E. Chris' book list on weaving adventure and history

E. Chris Ambrose Why did E. Chris love this book?

Silva's series follows a retired Mossad agent who is now an art restorer. As an art school drop-out, that instantly appealed to me!

Much as I enjoy adventure and history both, it's character that keeps me engaged. Silva's not creating just one person, he builds an entire network of ex-Mossad agents, family members, and more—while still driving a plot that keeps you guessing.

Silva's attention to historical detail is as rich as his protagonist's focus on art history. Every one of his scenes accomplishes so much to bring characters, settings, and conflicts to life. You can read the series out of order, but you'll miss some of the richness of the changing relationships Silva invests in.

Silva's work explores our own relationships with history as well, especially when his characters launch an "op" that requires using every tool in their espionage kit to bring off near-magic results. 

By Daniel Silva,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Gabriel Allon, master art restorer and assassin, returns in a spellbinding #1 New York Times bestselling novel 'Allon is the 21st century Bond' Daily Mail

Bruised and war-weary following his secret war to bring down a terrorist mastermind, Gabriel Allon returns to his beloved Rome to restore a Caravaggio masterpiece.

But early one morning Gabriel is summoned by his friend and occasional ally Monsignor Luigi Donati, the all-powerful private secretary to the Pope. The broken body of a beautiful woman lies beneath Michelangelo's magnificent dome. Donati fears a public inquiry will inflict more wounds on an already-damaged Church so he…


Book cover of A Spy Among Friends: Philby and the Great Betrayal

John Corcelli

From John's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Writer Reader Listener Musician Cyclist

John's 3 favorite reads in 2023

John Corcelli Why did John love this book?

I loved this book for its engaging story. Spies, particularly the real ones, intrigue me.

Macintyre shapes the story of Kim Philby as a mystery wrapped inside an enigma. His style flows like a river in summertime, a trip through history with a human touch and a fascination for the people of the Cold War.

The book was made into a six-part TV series featuring Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce. I watched it, and then I read the book. I couldn’t get enough of MI6, the CIA, and the KGB who play games of the worst kind, through lies.

By Ben Macintyre,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A SUNDAY TIMES No. 1 BESTSELLER WITH AN AFTERWORD BY JOHN LE CARRE 'Riveting, astounding ... An unputdownable postwar thriller' Observer 'Irresistibly readable' Sunday Times 'Worthy of John le Carre at his best' Guardian 'Hugely engrossing ... Both authoritative and enthralling' William Boyd ________________ Kim Philby was the most notorious British defector and Soviet mole in history. Agent, double agent, charmer and traitor, he betrayed every secret of Allied operations to the Russians in the early years of the Cold War. In the aftermath of the Second World War, Philby, Nicholas Elliott and James Jesus Angleton were rising stars in…


Book cover of A Gentleman's Game

Curtis C. Chen Author Of Waypoint Kangaroo

From my list on spy books that show how and why we spy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a lifelong science fiction fan, and that genre has proved to be a potent gateway to others: espionage thrillers, fantasy horror, category romance, and more. “Spy-fi” in particular has always fascinated me, since it often deals with the intersection (sometimes collision) of new technologies with age-old human needs and wants. And spies operate in the margins and gray areas of society, basically committing crimes while still claiming to be in the service of a greater good. Sometimes HOW and WHY we do things is just as important as WHAT we’re doing.

Curtis' book list on spy books that show how and why we spy

Curtis C. Chen Why did Curtis love this book?

This is the first of a series of novels based on the Queen & Country comic book, created and written by Rucka and originally inspired by the Sandbaggers British TV series. I love the main character, Tara Chace, and I also love how her stories don’t pull punches when it comes to portraying the politics and bureaucracy that sit on top of the actual operations she’s asked to perform.

The world is complicated, but sometimes, if we can focus on solving one single problem, we can make everything just a little bit better—for a while, anyway. The work never ends, and that’s the real job: to persist despite all horrors.

By Greg Rucka,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Gentleman's Game as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Tara Chace may be the most dangerous woman alive. She can seduce you into believing she’s the woman of your dreams—or kill you with the icy efficiency of an executioner. As the new head of Special Operations for British Intelligence, she no longer has to court death in the field—she wants to.

Throw away the old rules, the old school, the old-boy network. The world of international espionage is about to learn the hard way that spying is no longer merely…

A GENTLEMAN’S GAME

Greg Rucka’s electrifying thrillers have pushed the boundaries of suspense fiction to where few have dared…


Book cover of Regency Spies: Secret Histories of Britain's Rebels and Revolutionaries

Lona Manning Author Of A Contrary Wind

From my list on Regency England beyond balls and bonnets.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer of Jane Austen-inspired fiction who fell down a research rabbit hole and perhaps I’ll never climb out. Dr. Johnson said, “The greatest part of a writer's time is spent in reading… a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” The five books I’m recommending offer a window into the long 18th century, the era of the Enlightenment, and the dawn of the industrial revolution. In these books I’ve met philosophers, romantics, and reformers who brought literacy to the underclass and emancipation to the enslaved. These books have helped me place the characters of my novels within a fascinating, consequential period of history. 

Lona's book list on Regency England beyond balls and bonnets

Lona Manning Why did Lona love this book?

How did governments spy on their own citizens in the age of quill pens and candlelight? Although Londoners lustily sang “Britons never, never, never shall be slaves,” the reality was that few men could vote, and some were in danger of being dragged off the street and impressed into the Navy. The struggle for democratic reform, however, was met with suspicion by government leaders who feared a revolution like the one in France that toppled the monarchy. Regency Spies uncovers the hidden world of espionage and agents provocateurs who kept an eye on populist reformers like Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt and deluded fanatics like Arthur Thistlewood. While learning about the Peterloo Massacre and the Cato Street Conspiracy, I was also intrigued by the parallels to our own times.

By Sue Wilkes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Sue Wilkes reveals the shadowy world of Britain's spies, rebels and secret societies from the late 1780s until 1820. Drawing on contemporary literature and official records, Wilkes unmasks the real conspirators and tells the tragic stories of the unwitting victims sent to the gallows. In this 'age of Revolutions', when the French fought for liberty, Britain's upper classes feared revolution was imminent. Thomas Paine's incendiary Rights of Man called men to overthrow governments which did not safeguard their rights. Were Jacobins and Radical reformers in England and Scotland secretly plotting rebellion? Ireland, too, was a seething cauldron of unrest, its…


Book cover of American Spy

Rayna Flye Author Of Secrets, Lies, and Sneaky Spies

From my list on female codebreakers, agents, and spies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I always wanted to be a spy, but as I scare easily and can’t keep a secret, it was never going to happen. My respect and fascination with the intelligence community has never abated however, and I will never pass up an opportunity to engage with spy-related content. From going to spy museums across the globe to attending lectures to watching the latest entertaining (and totally unrealistic) spy flick, I love it all. I channel that love into writing humorous spy novels that feature fun, fearless females and ripped-from-the-headlines scenarios.  

Rayna's book list on female codebreakers, agents, and spies

Rayna Flye Why did Rayna love this book?

I love this book because Wilkinson takes politics, race, romance, along with the good, the bad, and the ugly of the intelligence community and wraps it up in a bow of deeply evocative writing that kept me twisted up.

Just a quick teaser to show my love of her writing: “I unlocked the safe beneath my desk, grabbed my old service automatic, and crept toward my bedroom doorway, stealthy until I was brought to grief by a Lego Duplo that stung the sole of my foot.” [Insert sobbing emoji here for how much I love this line] Her writing had me jabbing my husband every few minutes, going, “Read this. READ THIS!”

I loved that each answer solved in the book simply raised more questions, and I was left wondering if the answers were even answers in the first place. The abrupt ending is the satisfyingly frustrating icing on the…

By Lauren Wilkinson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A BARACK OBAMA SUMMER READING 2019 PICK

SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2019 CENTRE FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE

'A whole lot more than just a spy thriller, wrapping together the ties of family, of love and of country' BARACK OBAMA

'There has never been anything like it' MARLON JAMES (GQ)

'A compelling read' MAIL ON SUNDAY

'Pacy and very exciting' DAILY TELEGRAPH
__________________________________

What if your sense of duty required you to betray the man you love?

It's 1986, the heart of the Cold War. Marie Mitchell is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She's brilliant and talented, but she's also…


Book cover of An American Spy

Ursula Wong Author Of Amber Exile

From Ursula's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Rabid researcher History hound Intrepid traveler Cycling fanatic

Ursula's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Ursula Wong Why did Ursula love this book?

An American Spy shows us the people-side of the spy trade. A masterful Chinese agent has avenged his son’s death by massacring almost everyone in the secret black operations organization called the Department of Tourism (DOT). A CIA supersleuth and brains behind the DOT aims for revenge with the help of reluctant hero, Milo Weaver.

Aside from a beautifully complex story, I love Mr. Steinhauer’s spies. After marrying his daughter-in-law, the Chinese agent makes stunning observations about the intrigues of the communist intelligence apparatus. Poor Milo is constantly distracted by a physical injury and a crumbling home life. His agent friends use drugs to cope. Even the beautiful and highly effective Leticia Jones is more about dealing with stress than doing nasty things.

The story made my head spin, but isn’t spying like that?

By Olen Steinhauer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Milo Weaver is still haunted by his last job. As an expert assassin for the Department of Tourism, an ultra-secret group of super-spooks buried deep in the corridors of the CIA, he fought to keep himself sane in a paranoid and amoral profession. Now, the Department has been destroyed, and with it Weaver's livelihood. Finally he can spend time with his family - without constantly looking over his shoulder and fixing one eye on the exits.

Weaver's former boss is not so settled. For Alan Drummond, Tourism was everything. Now, all he wants is to take revenge on the Chinese…


Book cover of From Russia, With Love

Robert Craven Author Of A Kind of Drowning

From my list on spies, spying and cold war thrillers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the author of six espionage books, 5 featuring allied spy, Eva Molenaar operating at the highest levels of Hitler’s Reich. The 6th The Road of a Thousand Tigers, is my homage to le Carre and Ian Fleming. I have loved the spy genre since I first read The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers and grew up seeing every Bond movie since The Man with the Golden Gun at the cinema.

Robert's book list on spies, spying and cold war thrillers

Robert Craven Why did Robert love this book?

From Russia with Love is a short book and is set at the early stages of the cold war. It shakes up the norm by spending close to a quarter of the opening of the novel describing Donald ‘Red’ Grant’s evolution from Irish thug to Russia’s leading spy killer. Bond is targeted by SMERSH to be eliminated by Grant and the lure; a SPEKTOR coding machine that British Intelligence are keen to get hold of. The final showdown between Grant and Bond on a train is a masterclass in tension and violence, like Eric Ambler, Fleming captures Europe and its mindset, this time in its post-war paranoia. It is my favorite Bond book. For me, Fleming never bettered it. 

By Ian Fleming,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From Russia, With Love as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There's no better time to rediscover James Bond.

SMERSH, the Russian intelligence unit, is hell-bent on destroying Special Agent James Bond.

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

The lure? The chance for 007 to bring the Spektor decoding machine from Istanbul to London, and for the British to take the upper hand in a chilling new front of the Cold War.

So begins a deadly game of bluff and double bluff, with Bond a marked man as he enters the murky world of Balkan espionage.

'Bond is a hero for all…


Book cover of Enemies Within: Communists, the Cambridge Spies and the Making of Modern Britain

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?

Many people have wondered why so many upper-class Englishmen brought up in the heart and highest echelons of the British Establishment betrayed their country. 

This book provides the answers and examines how their treachery influenced British foreign policy and cultural and political institutions until the end of the Cold War. It also reads extremely well and is full of colourful asides and anecdotes.

By Richard Davenport-Hines,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What pushed Blunt, Burgess, Cairncross, Maclean and Philby into Soviet hands?

With access to recently released papers and other neglected documents, this sharp analysis of the intelligence world examines how and why these men and others betrayed their country and what this cost Britain and its allies.

Enemies Within is a new history of the influence of Moscow on Britain told through the stories of those who chose to spy for the Soviet Union. It also challenges entrenched assumptions about abused trust, corruption and Establishment cover-ups that began with the Cambridge Five and the disappearance of Guy Burgess and Donald…


Book cover of Tree of Smoke

Max Ludington Author Of Thorn Tree

From my list on 1960s counterculture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated with the sixties and its counterculture ever since I was about eleven or twelve, and I found out that the summer I was born, 1967, was called the Summer of Love. Because of this fascination, I started reading writers like Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson at an early age. Then, I became a lover of the Grateful Dead and went on tour with them as a fan for a couple of years in my late teens. It was the best way remaining in this country, in the 1980s, to be a hippie in some real way. I still love the music and literature of that time.

Max's book list on 1960s counterculture

Max Ludington Why did Max love this book?

Denis Johnson’s big, National Book Award-winning novel revolves around the Vietnam War itself, with a big cast of characters and many narrative threads.

I really loved following all the threads and seeing the intricate web they formed. The picture it paints of America is still relevant today. It’s an exciting book, and though it requires quite a lot from a reader, it ends up being hugely satisfying.

By Denis Johnson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

`Once upon a time there was a war, and a young American who thought of himself as the Quiet American and the Ugly American, and who wished to be neither, who wanted instead to be the Wise American, or the Good American, but who eventually came to witness himself as the Real American and finally as simply the Fucking American. That's me.'

This is the story of Skip Sands, a CIA spy engaged in psychological operations against the Viet Cong, and the disasters that befall him. It is also the story of two brothers heading towards self-destruction, and a story…


Book cover of The First Lady

B.D. Lawrence Author Of An Angel and a One-Armed Man

From B.D.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Anti-sex trafficking crusader Christian Crime fiction lover Software engineer Straight-shooter

B.D.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

B.D. Lawrence Why did B.D. love this book?

You’ve probably heard books and movies described as roller coaster rides. This one is part of a roller coaster ride.

The first two-hundred and thirty pages are the roller coaster going up the first big hill. The last one-hundred and forty pages is the roller coaster screaming down the big hill, going faster and faster and faster. The last part of this book is intense. I read those last one-hundred and forty pages in two sittings, staying up later than I intended. I haven’t read something that intense in some time.

Gorman does an amazing job of fleshing out the main characters. There is quite a variety of people involved in this story. Also, there are many points of view, but I didn’t have any trouble keeping them sorted.

This isn’t a mystery. I knew who the murderer was early on. Therefore, Gorman has to build intensity in other ways…