The most recommended MI5 books

Who picked these books? Meet our 15 experts.

15 authors created a book list connected to MI5, and here are their favorite MI5 books.
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What type of MI5 book?


Alan Turing's Manchester

By Jonathan Swinton,

Book cover of Alan Turing's Manchester

Andrew Hodges Author Of Alan Turing: The Enigma

From the list on Alan Turing’s world.

Who am I?

I am a mathematician, based at Oxford University, following up the ideas of the Nobel prizewinner Roger Penrose on fundamental physics.  But I am best known for writing a biography of Alan Turing, the founder of computer science. I did this at a time when he was almost unknown to the public, long before computers invaded popular culture. And it meant giving a serious account of two kinds of secret history: the codebreaking of the Second World War and the life of an unapologetic gay man. Since then I have also created a supporting website. When I was drawn to find out about Alan Turing, it was not only because he was a mathematician. I seized the chance to bring together many themes from science, history, and human life. This broad approach is reflected in my recommendations. I am choosing books that hint at the great scope of themes related to Turing’s life and work.

Andrew's book list on Alan Turing’s world

Why did Andrew love this book?

My first pick is the one most directly about Alan Turing himself. After 1950 his attention turned mainly to his new theory of mathematical biology, but his death in 1954 left most of this work unpublished.  His ideas were 20 or more years ahead of their time and few people could assess them. Jonathan Swinton is a leading expert in this field, and has been studying Turing’s manuscripts for 30 years. But his book has a much broader range: he adds so much on the culture of Manchester and its region, with a particular focus on women both as protagonists and observers. He has also illustrated his story with a wealth of pictures.

By Jonathan Swinton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Manchester is proud of Alan Turing but does it deserve to be? Dr Jonathan Swinton explores the complexity of the city that Alan Turing encountered in 1948. He goes well beyond Turing as a mathematician, to cover wire-women, Wittgenstein and the daisy. This is a richly illustrated account of lives lived - and one life ended tragically early - in a post-war Manchester busy creating the computer. This is a book about the people one might have met in Turing s Manchester. It records the patronage of older men, triumphant from the successful prosecution of a scientific war, who could…

Sweet Tooth

By Ian McEwan,

Book cover of Sweet Tooth

Lee Polevoi Author Of The Confessions of Gabriel Ash

From the list on the Cold War told in the first person.

Who am I?

I read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for the first time many years ago, while traveling aboard a Canadian National Railway train from Montreal to British Columbia. Something about the contrast between the majestic Canadian Rockies and the dark alleys of John Le Carré’s Berlin brought the Cold War fully to life and set me on the path to writing a novel of my own set during that time. (Living through some of those tense years of superpower stand-offs didn’t hurt.) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is told in third-person, but many Cold War novels written in the first person do a masterful job of evoking that troubled era. 

Lee's book list on the Cold War told in the first person

Why did Lee love this book?

From this novel’s opening lines—“My name is Serena Frome (rhymes with plume) and almost forty years ago I was sent on a secret mission for the British Security Service”—Ian McEwan draws readers into the dreary and yet ominous world of Cold War England, circa 1974. 

The story purrs along like a well-oiled machine. Serena has an affair with an older man that ends badly, but not before her ex-lover sets her on an eventful career path with MI5.

Soon she’s recruited for an operation called “Sweet Tooth,” in which government channels funds are channeled to “acceptable” novelists so they can counter the effects of Soviet propaganda. 

In McEwan’s skillfully crafted prose and narrative power, we’re plunged deep inside this undercover world. 

By Ian McEwan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The year is 1972, the Cold War is far from over and Serena Frome, in her final year at Cambridge, is being groomed for MI5. Sent on Operation Sweet Tooth - a highly secret undercover mission - she meets Tom Haley, a promising young writer. First she loves his stories, then she begins to love the man. Can she maintain the fiction of her undercover life? And who is inventing whom? To answer these questions, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage - trust no one.

Dead Lions

By Mick Herron,

Book cover of Dead Lions

Hugh Greene Author Of Son of Darkness

From the list on mysteries chosen by a thriller writer.

Who am I?

I have written medical textbooks and research papers, but have a passion of writing thrillers—as Hugh Greene I have written the bestselling Dr Power mystery series which follows the forensic psychiatrist Dr Power and Superintendent Lynch as they solve murders and explore the minds that executed these crimes.

Hugh's book list on mysteries chosen by a thriller writer

Why did Hugh love this book?

Expendable and incompetent Secret Service agents eventually wash up at Slough House, where they toil on pointless administrative tasks for a foul-mouthed, grubby boss called Jackson Lamb. Lamb is deliciously politically incorrect, offensive, and drinks and smokes to excess in his pit of an office. However he has a keen mind, is an experienced spy, and not afraid to act decisively to protect his employees and society. In this episode he unravels a nest of sleeper agents after an old Cold-War era colleague is found murdered on a coach. The book is well written and neatly plotted.

By Mick Herron,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The CWA Gold Dagger Award-winning British espionage novel about disgraced MI5 agents who inadvertently uncover a deadly Cold War-era legacy of sleeper cells and mythic super spies. 

The disgruntled agents of Slough House, the MI5 branch where washed-up spies are sent to finish their failed careers on desk duty, are called into action to protect a visiting Russian oligarch whom MI5 hopes to recruit to British intelligence. While two agents are dispatched on that babysitting job, though, an old Cold War-era spy named Dickie Bow is found dead, ostensibly of a heart attack, on a bus outside of Oxford, far…

The Scarlet Papers

By Matthew Richardson,

Book cover of The Scarlet Papers

Nick Quantrill Author Of Sound of the Sinners

From Nick's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Crime writer Football North of England Psychological thriller Espionage

Nick's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Nick love this book?

I discovered espionage novels during lockdown, maybe to lose myself in a different type of uncertain world. I blasted through the greats, but absolutely loved discovering the contemporary authors writing such stories about new global issues.

There’s something special about Mick Herron’s Slough House series, but do check out Matthew’s The Scarlet Papers. I found it to be an epic tale that spans the last 75 years and numerous historical touchstones. It was an education for me, but more importantly, it was a read I couldn’t put down.

By Matthew Richardson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?



'A breathtaking thriller. A classic in the making' PETER JAMES
'A shot in the arm for thriller fans' THE TIMES
'Hugely impressive and compelling' WILLIAM BOYD
'Look out for The Scarlet Papers . . . Engrossing' STEVE CAVANAGH
'The most impressive espionage debut since Mick Herron's Slow Horses' DAILY MAIL
'Superbly constructed and written with flair. This might be the best spy novel of the year' SUNDAY TIMES
'The Cold War is…

As Green as Grass

By Emma Smith,

Book cover of As Green as Grass: Growing Up Before, During and After the Second World War

Clare Harvey Author Of The Escape

From the list on WW2 memoirs by brave and remarkable women.

Who am I?

I’m endlessly fascinated by the stories of young women from the WW2 era, who came of age at the moment the world was torn apart. As an author of wartime historical fiction with strong female characters, it’s vital for me to understand the experience of ordinary women who grew up in such extraordinary times, so I’m always on the hunt for real voices from the era. I’d love to think that in similar circumstances I’d face my challenges with the same humour, resourcefulness, bravery, and humanity as my favourite five female memoirists selected for you here.

Clare's book list on WW2 memoirs by brave and remarkable women

Why did Clare love this book?

I loved this book. It’s an absolute classic coming-of-age story, beginning when Emma is a schoolgirl on the brink of teens, and ending with her as a newly-married novelist. I particularly identified with the author as the bookish youngest of three, growing up in Devon – there were lots of parallels with my own teenage self – and I wonder how I would have coped with emerging into adulthood just as war broke out, as Emma did  – highly recommended!

By Emma Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Uprooted from her beloved Great Western Beach, Emma Smith moves with her family from Newquay to the Devonshire village of Crapstone. But the dust has hardly settled when tragedy strikes, and Emma's father, a DSO-decorated hero of the Great War, is so frustrated by the hardship of life as a lowly bank clerk and by his thwarted artistic ambitions that he suffers a catastrophic breakdown - from which disaster Emma's resourceful mother rallies courageously. Then, in 1939, the war again becomes a reality. Emma's sister Pam at once enlists with the WAAF and Jim, her politically minded brother, after initially…

A Game of Deceit

By Tim Glister,

Book cover of A Game of Deceit

D.L. Marshall Author Of Anthrax Island

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

Who am I?

Author Author Rusty car nut Skate dad History enthusiast Book hoarder

D.L.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did D.L. love this book?

I was out of breath when I finished this.

This book hops between locales brilliantly, and following Knox through the claustrophobic maze of Kowloon walled city of was fantastic. The highlight for me - if you can call it that - was a certain scene in a grain silo - the stuff of nightmares.

Somehow, these books manage to improve each time, which is no mean feat when the first was my favorite spy novel in years. But mostly, I’m excited that this trilogy, as it stands so far, looks poised to be a springboard into a new world with a deadlier foe. I really hope we’ll see more!

By Tim Glister,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this crackerjack Cold War thriller, MI5 faces a deadly threat, one only Richard Knox can avert. But he only has six days and the clock is ticking fast.

How long can you survive in the shadows?

Richard Knox, freshly returned to active duty after a year out of the field, is ordered to uncover the invisible enemy that's infiltrated the Service in his absence.

His quest takes him to Hong Kong, a city on the brink of chaos, where he discovers the lines between friend and foe have never been more blurred.

Who is behind the assault on MI5?…

Book cover of Tinker, Tailor, Schoolmum, Spy

Natasha Boydell Author Of The Legacy of Eve

From the list on motherhood.

Who am I?

I’ve always wanted to write fiction but it wasn’t until I became a mother that I finally took the plunge. I think motherhood, with all the joy, fear, and complexity that comes with it, is such a rich topic which I was inspired to explore in my writing and most of my books are centred around parenting and family life. And I also think that, like many of the characters in the books I’ve recommended, my journey to rediscover my sense of identity in the world as I approached my 40th birthday pushed me to finally pursue my dream of being an author.   

Natasha's book list on motherhood

Why did Natasha love this book?

This book had me in stitches!

It’s a comedy about a woman who gives up her job as an undercover spy to raise her family. But beneath the school runs and bake sales, she’s never quite said goodbye to the past and when the opportunity to work for MI5 again presents itself, she can’t say no. But does she still have what it takes?

If you’re terrified of your child’s class Whatsapp group, shudder when you see anyone from the school’s PTA, and are juggling being a mum with a career, then I think you’ll enjoy this one. 

By Faye Brann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'I just loved this book... put on a smile on my face' Libby Page, The Lido 'Naturally funny... page turning, smart and sassy' Helen Lederer, comedian, author and founder of the CWIP Prize 'Fresh and different... and skilfully written' Yomi Adekoke, Slay in Your Lane

Vicky Turnbull has never regretted giving up her career for family life in the suburbs. And apart from being outstandingly good at paintball, no one would ever know that in a past life she was an undercover spy and has been trained to kill a man with her bare hands. Not even her husband, and…

A Private Spy

By John le Carre, Tim Cornwell (editor),

Book cover of A Private Spy: The Letters of John le Carre

Doug Macdougall Author Of Diamond Men

From Doug's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Geoscientist Avid reader Canoer Traveler

Doug's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Doug love this book?

For anyone who loves John le Carré novels as much as I do, this book is a must-read.

The letters, chosen and commented on by one of le Carré’s sons, are superbly written and span almost the whole of the famous author’s life, from age thirteen until just two weeks before he died in December 2020.

Recipients include a prime minister, actors, agents, politicians, family and fans. The letters reveal a man deeply affected by a troubled childhood – abandoned by his mother at age five, brought up at arm’s length by a con-man father – and give clues as to why his writing is populated by characters who keep secrets and don’t know whom they can trust. 

By John le Carre, Tim Cornwell (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

John le Carre was a defining writer of his time. This enthralling collection letters - written to readers, publishers, film-makers and actors, politicians and public figures - reveals the playfully intelligent and unfailingly eloquent man behind the penname.

'The symbiosis of author and editor, father and son, has resulted in a brilliant book, le Carre's final masterpiece' 5*, Jake Kerridge, Sunday Telegraph

A Private Spy spans seven decades and chronicles not only le Carre's own life but the turbulent times to which he was witness. Beginning with his 1940s childhood, it includes accounts of his National Service and…

Dead Doubles

By Trevor Barnes,

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

Tim Tate Author Of The Spy Who Was Left Out In The Cold: The Secret History of Agent Goleniewski

From the list on non-fiction and fiction Cold War spies.

Who am I?

Tim Tate is a multi-award-winning documentary filmmaker, investigative journalist, and the author of 18 non-fiction books. The Cold War shaped – and continues to shape – the world we live in today. Although the collapse of the Soviet Union theoretically ended the conflict between East and West, in reality, the struggle between the Cold War superpowers of America and Russia rumbles on. Nor have the espionage agencies on either side of the former Iron Curtain fundamentally changed. Their actions during the Cold War run deeply beneath modern tensions. I spent years researching the hidden history of the most important Cold War spy; his extraordinary life and activities provide a unique lens with which to understand Cold War espionage.

Tim's book list on non-fiction and fiction Cold War spies

Why did Tim love 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.

By Trevor Barnes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE PORTLAND SPY RING was one of the most infamous espionage cases from the Cold War. People the world over were shocked when its exposure revealed the shadowy world of deep cover KGB 'illegals' - spies operating under false identities stolen from the dead.

The CIA's revelation to MI5 in 1960 that a KGB agent was stealing crucial secrets from the world-leading submarine research base at Portland in Dorset looked initially like a dangerous but contained lapse of security by a British man and his mistress. But the couple were tailed by MI5 'watchers' to a covert meeting with a…

Fellow Passenger

By Geoffrey Household,

Book cover of Fellow Passenger

Ray Scott Author Of Cut to the Chase

From the list on ordinary people in threatening matters of state.

Who am I?

I enjoy reading books that have an element of excitement, the element of the chase appeals, as does the idea of an ordinary citizen being caught up by accident or coincidence in either international espionage or terrorist situations. I have devoted many years to writing, and have written up to 20 novels of which four have so far been published, mainly on themes as described above, or in the espionage field similar to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy where the investigator, starting from scratch, is attempting to trace a mole within the organisation.

Ray's book list on ordinary people in threatening matters of state

Why did Ray love this book?

The main character becomes accidentally involved in international intrigue when he breaks into a house formerly owned by his father, which has become a government establishment. He becomes the target of both the British security services and the Russians, who believe he knows more than he does about the secret work carried on at the establishment. The book deals with his adventures and means of evading both Moscow and MI5.

I like and recommend this book, and others by this author, because of the theme of an ordinary individual being drawn into intention intrigue and finding his life in danger, together with what he does to evade capture both by the enemy and the police. Household also wrote his books with a cynical humour at times which I find absorbing.

By Geoffrey Household,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A brilliant story of espionage and disguise from the original master of spy fiction.
From the author of the modern classic ROGUE MALE

Claudio Howerd-Wolferstan is neither a communist nor a spy. Yet he breaks into a top-security Government hostel to retrieve the family treasure.

With a spot secured on the wanted lists of both the British police and Russian communist leaders, he is forced to run from a charge of high treason. A master of disguise, he bluffs his way out of many a dangerous situation and outwits his pursuers. But how long can his luck last?

The speed…

The Defence of the Realm

By Christopher Andrew,

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

Helen Fry Author Of Mi9: A History of the Secret Service for Escape and Evasion in World War Two

From the list on intelligence and espionage.

Who am I?

Historian Dr. Helen Fry has written numerous books on the Second World War with particular reference to the 10,000 Germans who fought for Britain, and also British intelligence, espionage and WWII. She is the author of the bestselling book The Walls have Ears: The Greatest Intelligence Operation of WWII which was one of the Daily Mail’s top 8 Books of the Year for War. She has written over 25 books – including The London Cage about London’s secret WWII Interrogation Centre. Her latest book is MI9: The British Secret Service for Escape & Evasion in WWII – the first history of MI9 for 40 years. Helen has appeared in numerous TV documentaries, including David Jason’s Secret Service, Spying on Hitler’s Army, and Home Front Heroes on BBC1. Helen is an ambassador for the Museum of Military Intelligence, and President of the Friends of the National Archives. 

Helen's book list on intelligence and espionage

Why did Helen love 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 the 1930s, to the Double-Cross deception and agents of World War Two. It goes beyond the Second World War to name some of the traitors and spies of the Cold War. There is a clear understanding publicly for the first time of the sheer scale of surveillance of enemies or…

By Christopher Andrew,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For over 100 years, the agents of MI5 have defended Britain against enemy subversion. Their work has remained shrouded in secrecy—until now. This first-ever authorized account reveals the British Security Service as never before: its inner workings, its clandestine operations, its failures and its triumphs.

Short Range

By Stephen Leather,

Book cover of Short Range

Wolfric Styler Author Of Troubled Zen

From the list on action series with characters in the military.

Who am I?

I have been in various militaries for over 17 years and am proud of my service. Troubled Zen is my first foray into the publishing world and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. I enjoy the ex-military hero-style action/ thriller novels because I find that I can understand their mindset and relate well with their characters. I found most were male, ex-special forces so I chose a female Explosive Ordnance Disposal member as I believe that there are plenty of aspects to investigate that can show how a woman can be equally tough, stubborn, ingenious, brave, and determined.

Wolfric's book list on action series with characters in the military

Why did Wolfric love 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 what it takes to protect his family. The ending truly shocked me, leaving me chomping at the bit for the next one.

By Stephen Leather,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The explosive new thriller in the Spider Shepherd series

Dan 'Spider' Shepherd's career path - soldier, cop, MI5 officer - has always put a strain on his family. So he is far from happy to learn that MI5 is using teenagers as informants. Parents are being kept in the dark and Shepherd fears that the children are being exploited.

As an undercover specialist, Shepherd is tasked with protecting a 15-year-old schoolboy who is being used to gather evidence against violent drug dealers and a right-wing terrorist group.

But when the boy's life is threatened, Shepherd has no choice but to…


By Trevanian,

Book cover of Shibumi

Gary McAvoy Author Of The Magdalene Deception

From the list on reads if you don’t feel like sleeping.

Who am I?

Apart from being an armchair historian and author of thriller and suspense novels, I’ve been a lifelong collector of original handwritten historical manuscripts—parchments and papyri from medieval times, papal documents from the Middle Ages, ancient illuminated manuscripts from hundreds of years ago, Gregorian chanting parchments…anything memorializing the human need to communicate and tell stories or document historical events. My home is like a museum, with framed historic written memorabilia on every wall, precious reminders of moments in time when someone thought what they were doing needed to be documented, usually in some form of achingly beautiful calligraphy when art was more important than expediency.

Gary's book list on reads if you don’t feel like sleeping

Why did Gary love this book?

I first read Shibumi in the 1970s when it was originally published, and it changed my entire philosophy about life. The cast of characters, led by assassin Nicholai Hel, his concubine Hana, and other characters are exquisitely well drawn, and each has their own distinct character traits, some endearing and others truly despicable. The book is at once exciting, sexy, funny, satirical, philosophical, and educational. Readers learn about Japanese, Chinese, and Basque cultures, World War II history, and even spelunking, all the while Nicolai deals with the evil forces of the CIA, NSA, MI5, and MI6. A brilliant writer, Trevanian was also a philosopher of sorts, giving us his take on society and how we relate to one another. One of those books that hold up well over time and you just never forget.

By Trevanian,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A classic spy novel from the bestselling author, Trevanian, about a westerner raised in Japan who becomes one of the world's most accomplished assassins.

Nicholai Hel is the world’s most wanted man. Born in Shanghai during the chaos of World War I, he is the son of an aristocratic Russian mother and a mysterious German father and is the protégé of a Japanese Go master. Hel survived the destruction of Hiroshima to emerge as the world’s most artful lover and its most accomplished—and well-paid—assassin. Hel is a genius, a mystic, and a master of language and culture, and his secret…

Smiley's People

By John le Carré,

Book cover of Smiley's People

Michael Smith Author Of No Man Dies Twice

From the list on spy thrillers by former members of MI6.

Who am I?

I’m a former military intelligence officer who left the British Army to become a journalist, initially with the BBC, then with The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times, working as a war correspondent in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and breaking a number of key stories, including the infamous Downing St Memos which exposed the truth about the intelligence that led to the 2003 war in Iraq. I have written a number of books on intelligence, including the UK number one bestseller Station X and the New York Times bestseller Killer Elite.

Michael's book list on spy thrillers by former members of MI6

Why did Michael love 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 MI5 before moving into MI6 in the early sixties, based mainly in Germany, with the final denouement to this brilliant story coming memorably in a West Berlin he knew well. 

By John le Carré,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Smiley's People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Our Kind of Traitor; and The Night Manager, now a television series starring Tom Hiddleston.

Tell Max that it concerns the Sandman...

A very junior agent answers Vladimir's call, but it could have been the Chief of the Circus himself. No one at the British Secret Service considers the old spy to be anything except a senile has-been who can't give up the game-until he's shot in the face at point-blank range. Although George Smiley (code name: Max) is officially retired, he's summoned to identify the body now…

The Secret World

By Christopher Andrew,

Book cover of The Secret World: A History of Intelligence

Duncan Falconer Author Of First into Action

From the list on providing a unique insight into military history.

Who am I?

I must be something of a specialist on the impact of conventional and guerrilla warfare on the civilian population. Truth is, leaving school, I never intended to have anything to do with war beyond the books I enjoyed reading. On leaving the military in my 30s I employed the only skills I had and managed organisations and mostly news teams operating in conflict zones all over the world. I matured into a crisis manager, responding and consulting to crisis situations such as kidnap & ransoms, and evacuations from conflict zones. Most of the characters in my books are real, good and bad, taken from the vast theatre of my own experiences. 

Duncan's book list on providing a unique insight into military history

Why did Duncan love 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 or coercion. Equally fascinating is how so much of that information was misinterpreted, denied, ignored, inflated, or simply misplaced. Great battles were won and lost, kingdoms toppled, fortunes spent and made, often based on a single snippet of information.

By Christopher Andrew,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Secret World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Almost every page includes a sizzling historical titbit ... captivating, insightful and masterly' (Edward Lucas, The Times)

The history of espionage is far older than any of today's intelligence agencies, yet the long history of intelligence operations has been largely forgotten. The first mention of espionage in world literature is in the Book of Exodus.'God sent out spies into the land of Canaan'. From there, Christopher Andrew traces the shift in the ancient world from divination to what we would recognize as attempts to gather real intelligence in the conduct of military operations, and considers how far ahead of the…