The best espionage books 📚

Browse the best books on espionage as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

Coming Fall 2022: The ability to sort this list by genre (signup here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books).

Book cover of Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal

Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal

By Ben Macintyre

Why this book?

Nowhere is the phrase "stranger than fiction" more appropriate than in describing Agent Zigzag. Charming British conman Eddie Chapman turned himself into one of the best double agents his country ever produced. But for whom was he really working? None of his handlers seemed to be sure. His squirming loyalties allowed him to keep a family and a mistress, to remain alive despite interrogation by both sides, and earn an Iron Cross from Germany's Abwehr and a pardon from MI5 for blowing up a British factory. I was astonished by this tale, and left wondering if Chapman, in the…

From the list:

The best books about the weirder side of World War II

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Nazi Spies in America: Hitler's Undercover War

Nazi Spies in America: Hitler's Undercover War

By William Breuer

Why this book?

This Times bestseller is a page-turner of true crime that combines our fascination with spy games and a real-world FBI detective story, an epic stretching from the 1920s to a "floodtide of espionage" in the late 1930s and the counterintelligence war through a foiled sabotage mission to blow up U.S. bridges and waterworks (which the FBI's Hoover nearly botched then spun for favorable publicity) to V-E day.

From the list:

The best books on spies and espionage in WW2

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Lisbon: War in the Shadows of the City of Light, 1939-1945

Lisbon: War in the Shadows of the City of Light, 1939-1945

By Neill Lochery

Why this book?

I grew up with lots of stories and books about WWII because my father was a veteran. What is different about this book’s narrative is Portugal’s position of neutrality during the Second World War and the resulting web of political intrigue. Salazar, Portugal’s dictator at the time, played both sides, aligning with the British, all the while selling off Portugal’s Tungsten, a metal used to produce armor-piercing projectiles (which apparently melted the British tanks), to the Germans for gold that the Nazi’s looted. And at the end of the war, all that gold helped Portugal emerge economically intact. 

From the list:

The best historically accurate books about Portugal

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Operation Uranium Ship

Operation Uranium Ship

By Dennis Eisenberg, Eli Landau, Menahem Portugali

Why this book?

A true story based on Israel’s most amazing espionage strike. This is as good as a first-rate espionage thriller with the added benefit of being non-fiction. The title was the first thing that grabbed my attention because it was not only an espionage thriller, but also a sea story. For me, it was a combination of the two greatest genres into a rare and excellent story.
From the list:

The best books of the sea

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Red Sea Spies: The True Story of Mossad's Fake Diving Resort

Red Sea Spies: The True Story of Mossad's Fake Diving Resort

By Raffi Berg

Why this book?

Who would have imagined that a fake diving resort on the Red Sea would become the focus of a clandestine operation by the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad? Raffi Berg’s book tells the epic story of a mission behind enemy lines by Israeli spies to secretly rescue thousands of Ethiopian Jews and bring them to Israel. It was a clandestine operation sparked by a single cryptic message pleading for help from the Ethiopian Jewish community. During his research, Raffi Berg was given rare permission to interview the Mossad agents involved in the mission, including the commander Dani. He also gathered testimonies…

From the list:

The best books on spies and their greatest stories

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of American Spy

American Spy

By Lauren Wilkinson

Why this book?

This book is probably best known for making Barack Obama’s summer reading list. The story of a Black American woman working for the FBI who gets recruited by the CIA for a Cold War mission to befriend, and ultimately undermine, the revolutionary president of Burkina Faso is the type of historical fiction I love, a spy thriller based on true events and taken directly from the headlines of the 1980s. Wilkinson brilliantly weaves together a story of race, class, gender, identity, and above all patriotism and loyalty.
From the list:

The best novels set in Africa about journalists, diplomats, and spies

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Or, view all 69 books about espionage

New book lists about espionage

All book lists about espionage

Bookshelves related to espionage

Browse books by…