The most recommended books about intelligence agencies

Who picked these books? Meet our 149 experts.

149 authors created a book list connected to intelligence agency, and here are their favorite intelligence agency books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of intelligence agency book?

Loading...
Loading...

Book cover of Mi6

Boris Volodarsky Author Of Assassins: The KGB's Poison Factory Ten Years on

From my list on intelligence history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Boris B. Volodarsky is a former intelligence officer, captain of the GRU Spetsnaz, Russian special forces. With the first raising of the Iron Curtain, Boris legally left the Soviet Union with his family. After living in the West for over 30 years, he became a British academic writing books and other academic works on the subject he knew best of all – the history of intelligence. Dr. Volodarsky earned a history degree at the London School of Economics under Professor Sir Paul Preston defending his doctoral thesis there with flying colours. He is contributing articles to the leading newspapers and is often interviewed by television and radio channels in Britain and the USA.

Boris' book list on intelligence history

Boris Volodarsky Why did Boris love this book?

Unlike the official history of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), better known as MI6, by Keith Jeffery, this book is written without the censorship of the Service presenting the facts as the author, a journalist and academic, considers fit and proper to show. Very well written and covering a considerable period of time with many secret operations, it is a very good book which The Guardian described as ‘A remarkable achievement and an encyclopaedic post-war history which any student of the secret world should read.’

By Stephen Dorril,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mi6 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first comprehensive history of the UK government overseas intelligence service, MI6, by an acknowledged expert and author of the highly acclaimed Smear!

Epitomised in the public imagination by James Bond, MI6's svelte and glamorous image has been peeled away by Dorril's searching investigations to reveal a less savoury truth. Here is the story of MI6's recruitment operation after WW2 of former Nazis; anticommunist guerrilla campaigns in the Ukraine and the Baltic States; Operation Stalin which led to mass arrests and executions ordered by Stalin; the European terrorist network 'Gladio'; tunnels built in Vienna and Berlin known as operation 'Gold…


Book cover of Double Agent Victoire: Mathilde Carré and the Interallié Network

Stew Ross Author Of Where Did They Put the Gestapo Headquarters?-The False War & Vichy: Volume One A Walking Tour of Nazi-Occupied Paris, 1940−1944

From my list on the German occupation of France, 1940−1944.

Why am I passionate about this?

I received my B.S. in geology and spent my career in commercial banking. How did I go from banking to becoming an author? I learned to write as a banker back in the “good old” days when the loan officer had to write their own credit memorandum. I enjoyed it so much I told myself, “One day, I'm going to write a book.” Then I found a book called Walks Through Lost Paris by Leonard Pitt. As my wife and I walked through the streets of Paris, I said, “I can write a book like this.” And so I did. We're about to publish our sixth book in an anticipated series of nine.

Stew's book list on the German occupation of France, 1940−1944

Stew Ross Why did Stew love this book?

I recommend this book because it introduces the reader to one of the first organized resistance networks in Paris. As a double agent, Mathilde Carré (nom de guerre: Victoire) was also known as “The Cat.” She was ultimately responsible for the arrest of hundreds of Interallié agents (including her boss, Roman Czerniawski).

This book has it all. The author weaves the stories of collaborationists (e.g., Bonny-Lafont), SOE double agents (e.g., Henri Déricourt), and Abwehr spy catchers (e.g., Hugo Bleicher) around intricate counter-intelligence plots involving British and German spy agencies. You will meet Czerniawski again as he became a double agent after his arrest by the Germans and worked for the Allies in Operation Double Cross. It’s a great foundation to begin your study of the resistance movement in Paris.

By David Tremain,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Mathilde Carre, notoriously known as La Chatte, was remarkable for all the wrong reasons. Like most spies she was temperamental, scheming and manipulative - but she was also treacherous. A dangerous mix, especially when combined with her infamous history of love affairs - on both sides. Her acts of treachery were almost unprecedented in the history of intelligence, yet her involvement in the 'Interallie affair' has only warranted a brief mention in the accounts of special operations in France during the Second World War. But what motivated her to betray more than 100 members of the Interallie network, the largest…


Book cover of The SIlk Code

J. C. Briggs Author Of The Murder of Patience Brooke

From J. C.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Dickens fan Victorianist Book collector Crimewriter

J. C.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

J. C. Briggs Why did J. C. love this book?

I love anything about World War II and spies, and this book takes you right into the dangerous world of espionage.

It’s wonderful, too, to have a female spy, Nancy, who works in London for the Special Operations Executive as a de-coder. She proves to be very clever at her work and suggests that coded messages should be written on silk as silk is thin and easily concealed in a cuff or a collar. Eventually, Nancy, who is half Dutch and speaks French, is sent to France to spy on the Germans.

What follows is a breathtaking tale of courage, betrayal, and loss. It’s fast-paced and authentic. Read the historical notes at the end. Deborah Swift has woven her detailed research into a fast-paced, thrilling, and moving story.

By Deborah Swift,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The Silk Code had me absolutely hooked... A great storyline full of bravery, trust, love, survival, betrayal and determination.' NetGalley reviewer,

Based on the true story of 'Englandspiel', one woman must race against the clock to uncover a traitor, even if it means losing the man she loves.

England, 1943:
Deciding to throw herself into war work, Nancy Callaghan joins the Special Operations Executive in Baker Street. There, she begins solving 'indecipherables' - scrambled messages from agents in the field.

Then Nancy meets Tom Lockwood, a quiet genius when it comes to coding. Together they come up with the idea…


Book cover of The Hut Six Story: Breaking the Enigma Codes

Mark Baldwin

From my list on the Enigma Machine and Bletchley Park.

Why am I passionate about this?

Dr. Mark Baldwin – aka Dr. Enigma – is a world expert and speaker on the Enigma machine and has delivered over 700 presentations and demonstrations (using his own, genuine wartime Enigma machine) to some 70,000 people around the world. He has spoken to a wide range of audiences, from cybersecurity experts and software developers at leading Silicon Valley tech companies such as Facebook, Dropbox, and PayPal, to academic audiences at universities, executives at business conferences, and the general public in a couple of hundred one-man theatre shows.

Mark's book list on the Enigma Machine and Bletchley Park

Mark Baldwin Why did Mark love this book?

The Enigma story and Bletchley Park are now legitimate subjects for academic study, but modern books are necessarily written by people without first-hand experience of wartime Intelligence work. As a publisher, I have always been keen to record the experiences of those people personally involved in such things, and Welchman was not just a leading codebreaker at Bletchley Park throughout the whole war, he was also instrumental in transforming a random collection of a hundred academics into a non-stop production line of codebreaking and Intelligence, employing over ten thousand people. This, our best-selling book, continues to intrigue readers worldwide.

By Gordon Welchman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Book by Welchman, Gordon


Book cover of The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War

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 read this unforgettable, true story, cover to cover while sitting for hours in the Denver airport waiting for a long-delayed flight to Seattle.

Thanks to Ben Macintyre’s brilliance, my day of stress became a meaningful and hugely informative adventure into the double life of Oleg Gordievsky. How this man, like his father and brother, joined the KGB; why certain realities and events during his KGB assignments changed him; what motivated his decision to become a double agent for British intelligence; and how he survived it all filled this saga with astute lessons about espionage.

There’s a simple yet profound line that stuck with me about the double life, something like: You love those around you while you conceal your true inner self.

By Ben Macintyre,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The celebrated author of Double Cross and Rogue Heroes returns with a thrilling Americans-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the end of the Cold War.

“The best true spy story I have ever read.”—JOHN LE CARRÉ

Named a Best Book of the Year by The Economist • Shortlisted for the Bailie Giffords Prize in Nonfiction

If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky. The son of two KGB agents and the product of the best Soviet institutions, the…


Book cover of The Secret Stealers

Soraya M. Lane Author Of Under a Sky of Memories

From my list on making you fall in love with WWII fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve read WWII fiction since I was a teenager, but it took me a long time to begin writing it! In fact, I started my career writing contemporary fiction, and it wasn’t until I went back to university and completed a Master's degree in Fine Arts (Creative Writing) that I was brave enough to write my first historical fiction novel. I genuinely love the genre, and as a writer I’m passionate about telling the largely untold tales of women from the war – ordinary women doing extraordinary things! I love nothing more than discovering something incredible women did during WWII, and then creating a story around that moment in time. 

Soraya's book list on making you fall in love with WWII fiction

Soraya M. Lane Why did Soraya love this book?

I’ve become great friends with Healey over the years due to us having the same publisher, and we write similar historical fiction in that we love telling WWII from the female perspective. Honestly, all Jane’s WWII novels are brilliant, but this is my favorite of hers. Her characters are impossible not to love, and we truly see this moment in history through the eyes of women – I can’t get enough of historical feminism! If you want to read about women doing incredible jobs during the war, this is the book for you.

By Jane Healey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A female American spy in Nazi-occupied France finds purpose behind enemy lines in a novel of unparalleled danger, love, and daring by the Amazon Charts bestselling author of The Beantown Girls.

Anna Cavanaugh is a restless young widow and brilliant French teacher at a private school in Washington, DC. Everything changes when she's recruited into the Office of Strategic Services by family friend and legendary WWI hero Major General William Donovan.

Donovan has faith in her-and in all his "glorious amateurs" who are becoming Anna's fast friends: Maggie, Anna's down-to-earth mentor; Irene, who's struggling to find support from her husband…


Book cover of The Fuller Memorandum

Paul StJohn Mackintosh Author Of Blowback

From my list on modern Lovecraftian horror.

Why am I passionate about this?

I believe that H.P. Lovecraft, only now appreciated at his full stature, has spawned a whole generation of equally brilliant writers who make modern weird horror the most vibrant, confrontational, and relevant of all current genres. He looms over today’s literature and pop culture like Cthulhu looms over the sea, and his heirs include some of the best writers of their generation. As a much-travelled Scottish writer, I’ve needed tools to tackle the chaotic, disorienting contemporary experience, as well as the darkest, most imaginative strains of my own Celtic legacy. Lovecraftian horrorthrough HPL’s explicit mythos or simply his implicit sensibility—served up the palette I needed to do that. 

Paul's book list on modern Lovecraftian horror

Paul StJohn Mackintosh Why did Paul love this book?

As a horror writer, I have a thick skin for horror writing. Charles Stross is one of the few authors whose darkest work still chills me when I read it. He’s also one of the most purely enjoyable self-confessed inheritors of Lovecraft’s mantle—teasing and subverting it constantly, while effortlessly tipping readers from chuckles to shivers. His humour only reinforces the horror. I rate The Fuller Memorandum highest in his Laundry Files series of sardonic occult espionage—rich in slightly reframed historical detail, compulsive as any thriller, quietly chilling in its implications.

By Charles Stross,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Bob Howard is an IT specialist and field agent for the Laundry, the branch of Her Majesty's secret service that deals with occult threats.

Overworked and underpaid, Bob is used to his two jobs overflowing from a strict nine to five and, since his wife Mo has a very similar job description, he understands that work will sometimes follow her home, too. But when 'work' involves zombie assassins and minions of a mad god's cult, he realises things are spinning out of control.

When a top-secret dossier goes missing and his boss Angleton is implicated, Bob must contend with suspiciously…


Book cover of Martyr

Adele Jordan Author Of The Gentlewoman Spy

From my list on exciting adventure in the Renaissance.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a ghostwriter, I’m asked to turn my hand to many genres. Yet the one I keep returning to is Renaissance Adventure. Having always been a fan of adventure, in films, TV, or books, for my English Degree at Exeter University, I dedicated my dissertation to the genre, and the fascination shows no sign of fading. I love all these books, but there is one difference between these and my series. That is the heroes here are all men. Bring on more adventure in this era with women! I hope you enjoy the books on this list – they are a fantastic way to spend your evenings with your pulse racing.

Adele's book list on exciting adventure in the Renaissance

Adele Jordan Why did Adele love this book?

Part of the Shakespeare family? Working for Walsingham in the height of the spy era? Who wouldn’t want to read about John Shakespeare!

There are many books in this series, but I’ve picked Martyr in particular as it’s the first, and what an introduction. With the threat of war imminent, and Mary Stuart about to be assassinated, a dark world is created here where it feels like every day that Shakespeare wakes up, he might struggle to keep breathing. What danger!

Once more, Rory Clements creates a world of intrigue that isn’t solely placed at the royal court but opens our eyes to the darker underbelly of the city. This book first got me into this genre many years ago. I could not recommend it enough as a first dip. 

By Rory Clements,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Martyr 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?

*****Part of the bestselling John Shakespeare series of Tudor spy thrillers from Rory Clements, winner of the Ellis Peters Historical Fiction Award*****

'Does for Elizabeth's reign what CJ Sansom does for Henry VIII's' Sunday Times

England is close to war. Within days the axe could fall on the neck of Mary Queen of Scots, and Spain is already gathering a battle fleet to avenge her.

Tensions in Elizabeth I's government are at breaking point. At the eye of the storm is John Shakespeare, chief intelligencer in the secret service of Sir Francis Walsingham. When an intercept reveals a plot to…


Book cover of The Key to Rebecca

Jim Carr Author Of Forget-Me-Nots

From my list on World War II you can't put down.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up during the war years and remembered the backouts, ration cards, and the newscasts from the front and worrying about my cousins who were in the middle of it. My cousin Gerald always made sure I had a model airplane kit every Christmas, even though he was fighting in Europe. As a journalist, I was lucky to work with a few war correspondents that covered Dieppe and D-Day and heard what they went through. One of those people was Bill Anderson who died two years ago. I recorded a video interview of him when he was still 97 about his experiences in Canada and Europe

Jim's book list on World War II you can't put down

Jim Carr Why did Jim love this book?

The war in Africa, where Rommel’s tanks seem unstoppable, sets the stage for this novel of intrigue and spies, with Egypt and The Suez Canal the prize. Follett is a master of suspense and he makes great use of it here as two secret agents lock horns. The German agent with a wonderfully appropriate name, The Spinx, enlists the wiles of a belly dancer and the British agent, seeks the help of a beautiful young Jewish woman, who plays a key role in unmasking the German agent and the final defeat of Rommel. I always love reading Follett. You’re never sure what.

By Ken Follett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ken Follett's The Key to Rebecca took readers and critics by storm when first published forty years ago. Today, it remains one of the best espionage novels ever written.

A brilliant and ruthless Nazi master agent is on the loose in Cairo. His mission is to send Rommel's advancing army the secrets that will unlock the city's doors. In all of Cairo, only two people can stop him. One is a down-on-his-luck English officer no one will listen to. The other is a vulnerable young Jewish girl. . . .


Book cover of Statecraft by Stealth: Secret Intelligence and British Rule in Palestine

David P. Oakley Author Of Subordinating Intelligence: The DoD/CIA Post-Cold War Relationship

From my list on history, personalities, activities of intelligence.

Why am I passionate about this?

My fascination with intelligence studies is tied to my previous experience as a practitioner. While serving as a military officer and CIA officer, I became curious about how two organizations with a shared history could be so different. Exploring the “why” of the CIA/DoD differences led me to the broader interplay of organizational cultures, individuals, and missions in influencing the evolution of intelligence, its purpose, and its role. These five books will provide the reader a broader appreciation of how intelligence was used to help policymakers understand reality and how intelligence organizations have been used to try to change reality. You will not merely learn something about intelligence but will be entertained and engaged while doing so. 

David's book list on history, personalities, activities of intelligence

David P. Oakley Why did David love this book?

The relationship between intelligence and policy and how various countries employ intelligence organizations are two important topics that are not fully explored. Wagner’s book looks at the role played by British intelligence in Palestine during the interwar period---a role that went beyond what many consider intelligence functions. As Wagner explains, British intelligence not only informed policymakers’ thinking but was also involved in the execution of policy in the Palestinian territory during this period. This combined, no better yet intertwined, history of British policy and intelligence during this important period is something that intelligence and regional scholars should read. 

By Steven B. Wagner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Britain relied upon secret intelligence operations to rule Mandatory Palestine. Statecraft by Stealth sheds light on a time in history when the murky triad of intelligence, policy, and security supported colonial governance. It emphasizes the role of the Anglo-Zionist partnership, which began during World War I and ended in 1939, when Britain imposed severe limits on Jewish immigration and settlement in Palestine.

Steven Wagner argues that although the British devoted considerable attention to intelligence gathering and analysis, they never managed to solve the basic contradiction of their rule: a dual commitment to democratic self-government and to the Jewish national home…