The best books about Guy Burgess

1 authors have picked their favorite books about Guy Burgess and why they recommend each book.

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The Missing Diplomats

By Cyril Connolly,

Book cover of The Missing Diplomats

The first account of the Burgess and Maclean story – it was published a year after their flight – this fifty page essay, based on a collection of articles in the Sunday Times, by someone who knew both men contains shrewd pen portraits of the two spies and the roots of their spying. “Politics begin in the nursery; no one is born patriotic or unpatriotic, right-wing or left-wing, and it is the child whose craving for love is unsatisfied, whose desire for power is thwarted or whose innate sense of justice is warped that eventually may try to become a revolutionary or dictator.

The Missing Diplomats

By Cyril Connolly,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

Andrew Lownie is a former journalist for The London Times, the British representative for the Washington-based National Intelligence Centre, and he helped set up the Spy Museum in Washington. His books include biographies of the writer John Buchan, the spy Guy Burgess (which won the St Ermin’s Hotel Intelligence Book Prize), Dickie & Edwina Mountbatten (a top ten Sunday Times bestseller) and a forthcoming book on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.


I wrote...

Stalin's Englishman: Guy Burgess, the Cold War, and the Cambridge Spy Ring

By Andrew Lownie,

Book cover of Stalin's Englishman: Guy Burgess, the Cold War, and the Cambridge Spy Ring

What is my book about?

Guy Burgess was the most important, complex, and fascinating of "The Cambridge Spies"―Maclean, Philby, Blunt―brilliant young men recruited in the 1930s to betray their country to the Soviet Union. An engaging and charming companion to many, an unappealing, utterly ruthless manipulator to others, Burgess rose through academia, the BBC, the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6, gaining access to thousands of highly sensitive secret documents which he passed to his Russian handlers.

In this first full biography, Andrew Lownie shows us how even Burgess's chaotic personal life of drunken philandering did nothing to stop his penetration and betrayal of the British Intelligence Service. Even when he was under suspicion, the fabled charm which had enabled many close personal relationships with influential Establishment figures (including Winston Churchill) prevented his exposure as a spy for many years.

Guy Burgess

By Tom Driberg,

Book cover of Guy Burgess: A Portrait With Background

The journalist  and Labour politician Tom Driberg had known Guy Burgess in London. After Burgess appeared publicly at a press conference in February 1956 five years after his flight to Russia, Driberg approached him asking to write his authorised life and Burgess agreed. In the absence of a memoir, this biography, based on a series of interviews, is our nearest insight into the spy’s mind set tracing his alienation from the Establishment from his school days at Eton, his politicisation at Cambridge University, concerns about McCarthyism whilst in Washington to the escape to Russia.

Guy Burgess

By Tom Driberg,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

Andrew Lownie is a former journalist for The London Times, the British representative for the Washington-based National Intelligence Centre, and he helped set up the Spy Museum in Washington. His books include biographies of the writer John Buchan, the spy Guy Burgess (which won the St Ermin’s Hotel Intelligence Book Prize), Dickie & Edwina Mountbatten (a top ten Sunday Times bestseller) and a forthcoming book on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.


I wrote...

Stalin's Englishman: Guy Burgess, the Cold War, and the Cambridge Spy Ring

By Andrew Lownie,

Book cover of Stalin's Englishman: Guy Burgess, the Cold War, and the Cambridge Spy Ring

What is my book about?

Guy Burgess was the most important, complex, and fascinating of "The Cambridge Spies"―Maclean, Philby, Blunt―brilliant young men recruited in the 1930s to betray their country to the Soviet Union. An engaging and charming companion to many, an unappealing, utterly ruthless manipulator to others, Burgess rose through academia, the BBC, the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6, gaining access to thousands of highly sensitive secret documents which he passed to his Russian handlers.

In this first full biography, Andrew Lownie shows us how even Burgess's chaotic personal life of drunken philandering did nothing to stop his penetration and betrayal of the British Intelligence Service. Even when he was under suspicion, the fabled charm which had enabled many close personal relationships with influential Establishment figures (including Winston Churchill) prevented his exposure as a spy for many years.

A Chapter of Accidents

By Goronwy Rees,

Book cover of A Chapter of Accidents

The writer and academic, Goronwy Rees, was one of Burgess’s closest friends and this volume of memoir best conveys Burgess’s character and charm. The two men saw much of each other during the 1930s, and Rees was one of Burgess’s first recruits, but the relationship foundered when Rees decided during the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939 to stop spying and threatened to betray his friend. After Burgess surfaced in Moscow, Rees penned a series of sensational articles about Burgess’s dissolute private life, probably as a damage limitation exercise, which backfired and led him to losing his academic post but he soon was to have his revenge.

A Chapter of Accidents

By Goronwy Rees,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

Andrew Lownie is a former journalist for The London Times, the British representative for the Washington-based National Intelligence Centre, and he helped set up the Spy Museum in Washington. His books include biographies of the writer John Buchan, the spy Guy Burgess (which won the St Ermin’s Hotel Intelligence Book Prize), Dickie & Edwina Mountbatten (a top ten Sunday Times bestseller) and a forthcoming book on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.


I wrote...

Stalin's Englishman: Guy Burgess, the Cold War, and the Cambridge Spy Ring

By Andrew Lownie,

Book cover of Stalin's Englishman: Guy Burgess, the Cold War, and the Cambridge Spy Ring

What is my book about?

Guy Burgess was the most important, complex, and fascinating of "The Cambridge Spies"―Maclean, Philby, Blunt―brilliant young men recruited in the 1930s to betray their country to the Soviet Union. An engaging and charming companion to many, an unappealing, utterly ruthless manipulator to others, Burgess rose through academia, the BBC, the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6, gaining access to thousands of highly sensitive secret documents which he passed to his Russian handlers.

In this first full biography, Andrew Lownie shows us how even Burgess's chaotic personal life of drunken philandering did nothing to stop his penetration and betrayal of the British Intelligence Service. Even when he was under suspicion, the fabled charm which had enabled many close personal relationships with influential Establishment figures (including Winston Churchill) prevented his exposure as a spy for many years.

Kim Philby

By Tim Milne,

Book cover of Kim Philby: A story of friendship and betrayal

Kim Philby’s most personal betrayal was not of Nicholas Elliott, as suggested in Ben McIntyre’s A Spy Among Friends , but his school friend and another MI6 colleague Tim Milne , the nephew of Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne, whom he falsely accused of being a spy in order to deflect attention from himself. Milne’s memoirs were finally permitted to be published four years after his death and provide a fascinating and fresh glimpse into both Philby and Burgess especially Milne’s teenage European travels with Philby and his August 1948 visit to Philby in Turkey where he remembered fellow guest Burgess ‘lolling in a window seat, dirty, unshaven, wearing nothing but an inadequately fastened dressing-gown”, singing on jeep rides into the countryside and  diving into the Bosphorus from a second floor balcony.

Kim Philby

By Tim Milne,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Foreword by Phillip Knightley Kim Philby, the so-called Third Man in the Cambridge spy ring, was the Cold War's most infamous traitor. A Soviet spy at the heart of British intelligence, at one point heading up the section tasked with rooting out Russian spies within MI6, he betrayed hundreds of British and US agents to the Russians and compromised numerous operations inside the Soviet Union. Ian Innes 'Tim' Milne was Phiby's closest and oldest friend. They studied at Westminster School together and when Philby joined MI6 he immediately recruited Milne as his deputy. Philby's treachery was a huge blow to…

Who am I?

Andrew Lownie is a former journalist for The London Times, the British representative for the Washington-based National Intelligence Centre, and he helped set up the Spy Museum in Washington. His books include biographies of the writer John Buchan, the spy Guy Burgess (which won the St Ermin’s Hotel Intelligence Book Prize), Dickie & Edwina Mountbatten (a top ten Sunday Times bestseller) and a forthcoming book on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.


I wrote...

Stalin's Englishman: Guy Burgess, the Cold War, and the Cambridge Spy Ring

By Andrew Lownie,

Book cover of Stalin's Englishman: Guy Burgess, the Cold War, and the Cambridge Spy Ring

What is my book about?

Guy Burgess was the most important, complex, and fascinating of "The Cambridge Spies"―Maclean, Philby, Blunt―brilliant young men recruited in the 1930s to betray their country to the Soviet Union. An engaging and charming companion to many, an unappealing, utterly ruthless manipulator to others, Burgess rose through academia, the BBC, the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6, gaining access to thousands of highly sensitive secret documents which he passed to his Russian handlers.

In this first full biography, Andrew Lownie shows us how even Burgess's chaotic personal life of drunken philandering did nothing to stop his penetration and betrayal of the British Intelligence Service. Even when he was under suspicion, the fabled charm which had enabled many close personal relationships with influential Establishment figures (including Winston Churchill) prevented his exposure as a spy for many years.

The Climate of Treason

By Andrew Boyle,

Book cover of The Climate of Treason: Five who Spied for Russia

A landmark espionage book about the Cambridge Spies, which has stood up surprisingly well though published almost forty years ago and before the release of Russian and British archives, and first  made me  interested in ‘The Climate of Treason’.  It not only gives the historical background to their recruitment during the 1930s but, drawing on a deathbed confession from Goronwy Rees, named two new spies ‘Maurice’ and ‘Basil’. After leaks to the satirical magazine Private Eye , Margaret Thatcher confirmed that ‘Maurice’ was the Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures  Sir Anthony Blunt who had been granted immunity sixteen years earlier. ‘Basil’ was identified as an atomic scientist, serving in the Washington Embassy alongside Kim Philby and Guy Burgess, called Wilfrid Mann. Mann fended off the accusations at the time and the story died but subsequent research for my book has proved Mann was a spy.

The Climate of Treason

By Andrew Boyle,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

Andrew Lownie is a former journalist for The London Times, the British representative for the Washington-based National Intelligence Centre, and he helped set up the Spy Museum in Washington. His books include biographies of the writer John Buchan, the spy Guy Burgess (which won the St Ermin’s Hotel Intelligence Book Prize), Dickie & Edwina Mountbatten (a top ten Sunday Times bestseller) and a forthcoming book on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.


I wrote...

Stalin's Englishman: Guy Burgess, the Cold War, and the Cambridge Spy Ring

By Andrew Lownie,

Book cover of Stalin's Englishman: Guy Burgess, the Cold War, and the Cambridge Spy Ring

What is my book about?

Guy Burgess was the most important, complex, and fascinating of "The Cambridge Spies"―Maclean, Philby, Blunt―brilliant young men recruited in the 1930s to betray their country to the Soviet Union. An engaging and charming companion to many, an unappealing, utterly ruthless manipulator to others, Burgess rose through academia, the BBC, the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6, gaining access to thousands of highly sensitive secret documents which he passed to his Russian handlers.

In this first full biography, Andrew Lownie shows us how even Burgess's chaotic personal life of drunken philandering did nothing to stop his penetration and betrayal of the British Intelligence Service. Even when he was under suspicion, the fabled charm which had enabled many close personal relationships with influential Establishment figures (including Winston Churchill) prevented his exposure as a spy for many years.

Stalin's Englishman

By Andrew Lownie,

Book cover of Stalin's Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess

This biography of Guy Burgess has been selected because of the sheer impressive material which Lownie brings together as a result of 20 years of research. He has provided an illuminated and extensively researched biography that does not shy from laying out the full extent of Burgess’s deception and hedonistic behaviour, as well as the real risks he posed to Western intelligence services and State Secrets. The publicly educated and privileged Cambridge Five, who betrayed their country for ideological motives, arrogantly believed that they had the right to pass Western secrets to Russia. In spite of the brutality of the Stalinist regime, they believed in the communist cause and deceived everyone around them in Britain—their work colleagues, families, and friends. That deception ran dangerously into the Cold War and led finally to the defection of Burgess and his friend Donald Maclean to Moscow in 1951. Their defection caused huge ramifications…

Stalin's Englishman

By Andrew Lownie,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the St Ermin's Intelligence Book of the Year Award. A Guardian Book of the Year. The Times Best Biography of the Year. Mail on Sunday Biography of the Year. Daily Mail Biography of Year. Spectator Book of the Year. BBC History Book of the Year.

'Andrew Lownie's biography of Guy Burgess, Stalin's Englishman ... shrewd, thorough, revelatory.' William Boyd

'In the sad and funny Stalin's Englishman, [Lownie] manages to convey the charm as well as the turpitude.' Craig Brown

Guy Burgess was the most important, complex and fascinating of 'The Cambridge Spies' - Maclean, Philby, Blunt - all…


Who am I?

Helen is an ambassador for the Museum of Military Intelligence, a trustee of the Friends of the Intelligence Corps Museum, and a trustee of the Medmenham Collection. Her latest book Spymaster: The Man Who Saved MI6 about one of the greatest spies of the 20th century, was a Daily Mail best biography for 2021. Her history of MI9—the first such history for over 40 years—was shortlisted for The Duke of Wellington Medal for Military History. 


I wrote...

The Walls Have Ears: The Greatest Intelligence Operation of World War II

By Helen Fry,

Book cover of The Walls Have Ears: The Greatest Intelligence Operation of World War II

What is my book about?

During the Second World War, deception underpinned some of the major operations run by British intelligence. Deception —if successful—could to be of paramount importance in aiding Allied offensives and the final defeat of Nazi Germany. British intelligence used some of Britain’s most creative minds to dream up schemes to deceive the enemy. The unthinkable was put into a meticulous plan and executed with such precision and attention to detail as to completely hoodwink the enemy. What makes us so fascinated by all this—is that the deception worked. Operation Mincemeat is a really good example of that. The British were able to fuse fact with fiction, cast illusion and doubts in the mind of the enemy and trick the enemy into behaving or responding in a particular way.

The Untouchable

By John Banville,

Book cover of The Untouchable

John Banville is one of the finest writers in English alive today. It’s as simple as that. He is also one of the most versatile. Anyone who has read his impressionistic Booker Prizewinning novel The Sea will be startled to read The Untouchable, in which the author contrives to worm his way inside the minds of those famous traitors of the Cold War, the Cambridge spies. In the real world they included such figures as the Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, Sir (later stripped of his title) Anthony Blunt and the drunken diplomat Guy Burgess. Here they live again under the cover names of Viktor Maskell and ‘Boy’ Bannister. It is all related by Maskell himself. Prepare to be astonished at how convincing this act of impersonation is!

The Untouchable

By John Banville,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The Untouchable is an engrossing, exquisitely written and almost bewilderingly smart book . . . It's the fullest book I've read in a very long time, utterly accomplished, thoroughly readable, written by a novelist of vast talent' Richard Ford

Victor Maskell has been betrayed. After the announcement in the Commons and the hasty revelation of his double life of wartime espionage, his disgrace is public, his knighthood revoked, his position as curator of the Queen's pictures terminated. There are questions to be answered. For whom has he been sacrificed? To what has he sacrificed his life?

The Untouchable is beautifully…


Who am I?

I’m a child of the Cold War. Until the collapse of the Iron Curtain in 1989 this strange standoff between the Soviet Union and the Western allies informed everyone’s life, but my own case was particular because my father served in the Royal Air Force. For three years he was even in command of three squadrons of nuclear bombers. With a background like that, how could I not be interested in the larger picture? Since then I have gone on to write novels with all kinds of settings but the other side of the now defunct Iron Curtain has always held a fascination... and has directly led to at least three of my own books.


I wrote...

Prague Spring

By Simon Mawer,

Book cover of Prague Spring

What is my book about?

It’s the summer of 1968, the year of love and hate, of Prague Spring and Cold War winter. Two English students, Ellie and James, set off to hitch-hike across Europe with no particular aim in mind but a continent, and themselves, to discover. Somewhere in southern Germany they decide, on a whim, to visit Czechoslovakia where Alexander Dubcek’s ‘socialism with a human face’ is smiling on the world.

Meanwhile, Sam Wareham, a first secretary at the British embassy in Prague, is observing developments in the country with a mixture of diplomatic cynicism and a young man’s passion. In the company of Czech student Lenka Konecková, he finds a way into the world of Czechoslovak youth, its hopes, and its ideas. It seems that, for the first time, nothing is off-limits behind the Iron Curtain. Yet the wheels of politics are grinding in the background. The Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev is making demands of Dubcek and the Red Army is massed on the borders. How will the looming disaster affect those fragile lives caught up in the invasion?

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