The best MI5 books 📚

Browse the best books on MI5 as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of The Secret World: A History of Intelligence

The Secret World: A History of Intelligence

By Christopher Andrew

Why this book?

My line of work has only enhanced my fascination with spies and spying. Espionage was on the periphery of my world and I was privy, on occasion, to snippets of information that shed light on certain events. Reading this book was like being privy to a host of secrets, many during my own era. How fascinating to be taken through the history of espionage from biblical times until today. The author reveals missing pieces to many significant moments in history, where monumental decisions were made based on information bought and sold, died for, killed for, stolen, or extracted by torture…

From the list:

The best books that provide a unique insight into military history

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Book cover of Slow Horses

Slow Horses

By Mick Herron

Why this book?

When my editor (Harvard University’s Randy Rosenthal) first read my debut novel, his feedback was that my characters lacked enough significant flaws. “Readers want to share common ground and empathize with the characters in your novel. No one ever fell in love with a perfect character.” Herron’s novel has abundant characters with egregious flaws. And those flaws do make them so very intriguing. The plot is thick with manipulation and humor. Perhaps the best spy thriller written in the last 20 years. 

From the list:

The best thrillers that will also make you laugh

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Book cover of Short Range

Short Range

By Stephen Leather

Why this book?

My preference is for authors to develop a series for their characters in order for me to fully embrace the depth of the character, if the character is worth developing. I enjoy picking up a novel in which I am familiar with the character as it makes it easier for me to relate to them.

The Spider Shepherd series is essential reading for me, and in particular this book. A book or two previously showed that Shepherd had finally healed enough, from his wife’s death, to find a new relationship. As a non-rule breaker, Shepherd shows that he will do…

From the list:

The best action book series with characters who have served in the military

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Book cover of The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5

The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5

By Christopher Andrew

Why this book?

The official history of MI5 similarly provides the first authorised account of another secret organisation. The book provides a far-reaching account of clandestine activities since its nascent beginnings as part of the Secret Service Bureau in 1909, and across a period of 100 years. It offers a rare insight into some of the eyebrow-raising operations in counter-espionage, as well as an administrative overview, for an intelligence agency that is responsible for Britain’s security at home. It gives the first inside account from it archives, from Bolshevik threats and Communist subversive activities in the 1920s in Britain to Hitler’s spies in…

From the list:

The best books on intelligence and espionage

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Book cover of Dead Doubles: The Extraordinary Worldwide Hunt for One of the Cold War's Most Notorious Spy Ring

Dead Doubles: The Extraordinary Worldwide Hunt for One of the Cold War's Most Notorious Spy Ring

By Trevor Barnes

Why this book?

The Portland Spy Ring was one of the first espionage cases exposed by Michał Goleniewski. Using MI5’s declassified files, Trevor Barnes tells the extraordinary story of how the discovery of a disillusioned British civil servant selling secrets from the Navy’s submarine research base at Portland revealed a shadowy world of deep-cover KGB spies operating under false identities stolen from the dead.

From the list:

The best Cold War spy books (non-fiction & fiction)

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Book cover of Smiley's People: A George Smiley Novel

Smiley's People: A George Smiley Novel

By John Le Carré

Why this book?

This is also a controversial choice, given that le Carré fans are largely split between The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. But for me, Smiley’s People is the true pinnacle of le Carré’s work with Smiley completely developed and totally in charge while the plot is based on a single, very credible intelligence operation that brings the Tinker Tailor trilogy to a riveting end. John le Carré studied at the University of Bern, where the key part of the operation takes place and went on to work for the British Security Service…

From the list:

The best spy thrillers by former members of MI6

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