The most recommended military intelligence books

Who picked these books? Meet our 18 experts.

18 authors created a book list connected to military intelligence, and here are their favorite military intelligence books.
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Book cover of Information Hunters: When Librarians, Soldiers, and Spies Banded Together in World War II Europe

Brooke L. Blower Author Of Americans in a World at War: Intimate Histories from the Crash of Pan Am's Yankee Clipper

From my list on surprising histories about Americans abroad during WWII.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a history professor at Boston University, where I teach and write about modern American popular thought, political culture, trade, travel, and war especially in urban and transnational contexts. I enjoy histories that are based on deep and creative bodies of research and that push past timeworn myths and clichés about the American past.

Brooke's book list on surprising histories about Americans abroad during WWII

Brooke L. Blower Why did Brooke love this book?

I just love it when a topic that sounds dull—in this case librarians and archivists during World War II—turns out to be unexpectedly rich and interesting. 

Peiss recounts in riveting detail the highly successful wartime mission that sent teams of scholars and other bookish types to scour Europe’s bookstores and basements for rare and otherwise valuable publications. Amassing truckloads of printed material not only aided the Allies’ intelligence operations but also restored looted property, demobilized Nazi propaganda, and, ultimately, transformed the holdings of American research libraries.

By Kathy Peiss,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

While armies have seized enemy records and rare texts as booty throughout history, it was only during World War II that an unlikely band of librarians, archivists, and scholars traveled abroad to collect books and documents to aid the military cause. Galvanized by the events of war into acquiring and preserving the written word, as well as providing critical information for intelligence purposes, these American civilians set off on missions to gather foreign
publications and information across Europe. They journeyed to neutral cities in search of enemy texts, followed a step behind advancing armies to capture records, and seized Nazi…

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

Louise Ross Author Of Women Who Walk: How 20 Women From 16 Countries Came To Live In Portugal

From my list on historically accurate books about Portugal.

Why am I passionate about this?

Louise Ross is a non-fiction and fiction writer, speaker, and podcaster. Originally from Australia, she moved abroad in the mid-'80s, living in the UK, France, the US, and since 2014, Portugal. Her book, Women Who Walk: How 20 women from 16 countries came to live in Portugal, (2019), is a collection of mini-memoirs. In 2020, she released the sequel and comparative read, The Winding Road to Portugal: 20 Men from 11 Countries Share Their Stories. Louise lives on the Estoril coastline where she continues to interview women living in Portugal, and around the world, for her podcast, Women Who Walk

Louise's book list on historically accurate books about Portugal

Louise Ross Why did Louise love 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. 

By Neill Lochery,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Lisbon had a pivotal role in the history of World War II, though not a gun was fired there. The only European city in which both the Allies and the Axis power operated openly, it was temporary home to much of Europe's exiled royalty, over one million refugees seeking passage to the U.S., and a host of spies, secret police, captains of industry, bankers, prominent Jews, writers and artists, escaped POWs, and black marketeers. An operations officer writing in 1944 described the daily scene at Lisbon's airport as being like the movie Casablanca," times twenty. In this riveting narrative, renowned…

Book cover of Diversion and Deception: Dudley Clarke's a Force and Allied Operations in World War II

Helen Fry Author Of The Walls Have Ears: The Greatest Intelligence Operation of World War II

From my list on deception in WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

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. 

Helen's book list on deception in WW2

Helen Fry Why did Helen love this book?

This is perhaps an unusual choice in that it focuses on deception outside the sphere of countries usually covered by historians. Bendeck explores the numerous deceptions around D-Day, in a cluster of operations that were known as Plan Bodyguard. He explores the little-known, but vital, Plan Zeppelin which was the largest and most complex of the Bodyguard plans. Plan Zeppelin, in conjunction with A Force’s strategic deception plans in the Mediterranean, succeeded in convincing Hitler to hold back sixty German divisions from southern France and move them to the Balkans in time for D-Day. Focusing on the years 1943 to 1945, Bendeck illuminates how A Force, under the leadership of charismatic Dudley Clarke, orchestrated both strategic and tactical deception plans to create the illusion of military threats by the Allies to German defences and troops across the southern perimeter of Europe. Her book is a nuanced and important…

By Whitney T. Bendeck,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Among the operations known as Plan Bodyguard, the deception devised to cover the Allies' Normandy landing, was the little known but critical Plan Zeppelin, the largest and most complex of the Bodyguard plans. Zeppelin, in conjunction with the Mediterranean Strategy, succeeded in pinning down sixty German divisions from southern France to the Balkans in time for D-Day. This was the work of "A" Force, Britain's only military organization tasked with carrying out both strategic and tactical deception in World War II. Whitney T. Bendeck's Diversion and Deception finds "A" Force at its finest hour, as the war shifted from North…

Book cover of The Glamour Boys: The Secret Story of the Rebels who Fought for Britain to Defeat Hitler

David C. Dawson Author Of A Death in Berlin

From my list on historical gay heroes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve read a lot of books that feature gay characters. These characters often partition into two main groups: angsty men who are victims of oppression or illness, or camp stereotypes who provide the light relief. I prefer to read about heroes who happen to be gay. That’s why I started writing novels. My recent books are historical novels inspired by real gay heroes. The feedback I get from readers indicates that there are a lot of people who want the same as I do.

David's book list on historical gay heroes

David C. Dawson Why did David love this book?

The untold true story of how a group of gay MPs lobbied the British government to stop its policy of appeasing Hitler in the run up to WWII. It’s a book about patriotic heroes who are criminals in their own land because of their sexuality. It moved me deeply and inspired my own fictional thriller set in Berlin in 1933.

By Chris Bryant,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


'Superb' Stephen Fry
'Thrillingly told' Dan Jones
'Fascinating' Neil MacGregor
'Astonishing' Peter Frankopan

We like to think we know the story of how Britain went to war with Germany in 1939, but there is one chapter that has never been told. In the early 1930s, a group of young, queer British MPs visited Berlin on a series of trips that would change the course of the Second World War.

Having witnessed the Nazis' brutality first-hand, these men were some of the first to warn Britain about Hitler, repeatedly…

Book cover of Women in Intelligence: The Hidden History of Two World Wars

Rayna Flye Author Of Secrets, Lies, and Sneaky Spies

From my list on female codebreakers, agents, and spies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I always wanted to be a spy, but as I scare easily and can’t keep a secret, it was never going to happen. My respect and fascination with the intelligence community has never abated however, and I will never pass up an opportunity to engage with spy-related content. From going to spy museums across the globe to attending lectures to watching the latest entertaining (and totally unrealistic) spy flick, I love it all. I channel that love into writing humorous spy novels that feature fun, fearless females and ripped-from-the-headlines scenarios.  

Rayna's book list on female codebreakers, agents, and spies

Rayna Flye Why did Rayna love this book?

Do I judge a book by its cover? Why yes, yes I do! And the moment I saw this gorgeous cover I put it right into my shopping cart, paid full price, and never looked back.

Luckily for me, Women in Intelligence happens to be an excellent book where the content more than matched the expectations I had from the fabulous artwork. Although there are a few familiar faces that appear, most of the women were completely new to me. Not the femme fatales of popular culture; these were patriotic women who often went unseen in the background.

I love that Fry truly delves into uncovering the unsung heroines of WWI and WWII, giving these quiet, determined women a chance to be recognized and to shine.

By Helen Fry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A groundbreaking history of women in British intelligence, revealing their pivotal role across the first half of the twentieth century

From the twentieth century onward, women took on an extraordinary range of roles in intelligence, defying the conventions of their time. Across both world wars, far from being a small part of covert operations, women ran spy networks and escape lines, parachuted behind enemy lines, and interrogated prisoners. And, back in Bletchley and Whitehall, women's vital administrative work in MI offices kept the British war engine running.

In this major, panoramic history, Helen Fry looks at the rich and varied…

Book cover of The Polish Officer

Jenny Harrison Author Of Dead Before Curfew

From my list on the human cost of war.

Why am I passionate about this?

My name is Jenny Harrison and my writing career started in 1997 in South Africa with Debbie's Story, which to my astonishment, became a bestseller. Thinking this was going to be an easy route to fame and fortune, I continued writing after migrating to New Zealand. Alas, the road to a bestseller is rife with disappointment but that didn't stop me from writing a bunch of paranormal and humorous novels. Circumstances led me to writing about families caught up in World War II. I don’t write about battles or generals, I write about ordinary people who face the unimagined cost of war and survive.

Jenny's book list on the human cost of war

Jenny Harrison Why did Jenny love this book?

This book is by Alan Furst whose research is impeccable. His storytelling can be jerky and maybe chaotic but that’s how things were in the time he writes about. His characters are drawn from the sinister underbelly of war, the men and women who work in the shadows. His writing is intense, I remember the scenes as chaotic, with no character arc or happy ending, but a mirror of the times when life was lived moment by moment.

By Alan Furst,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

September 1939. As Warsaw falls to Hitler’s Wehrmacht, Captain Alexander de Milja is recruited by the intelligence service of the Polish underground. His mission: to transport the national gold reserve to safety, hidden on a refugee train to Bucharest. Then, in the back alleys and black-market bistros of Paris, in the tenements of Warsaw, with partizan guerrillas in the frozen forests of the Ukraine, and at Calais Harbor during an attack by British bombers, de Milja fights in the war of the shadows in a world without rules, a world of danger, treachery, and betrayal.

Book cover of Machinehood

Lavanya Lakshminarayan Author Of The Ten Percent Thief

From my list on science fiction novels exploring the near future.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a novelist and game designer from Bangalore. I’ve been a lifelong reader of science fiction and fantasy. Growing up, I almost never encountered futures that included people like me—brown women, from a country that isn’t the UK/ US, and yet, who are in sync with the rapidly changing global village we belong to. Over the last decade, though, I've found increasing joy in more recent science fiction, in which the future belongs to everyone. The Ten Percent Thief is an expression of my experiences living in dynamic urban India, and represents one of our many possible futures. 

Lavanya's book list on science fiction novels exploring the near future

Lavanya Lakshminarayan Why did Lavanya love this book?

The year is 2095, and human beings must take performance enhancement pills to compete with automated systems. The future in Machinehood could be ours tomorrow.

Welga and Nithya, the novel’s protagonists, are constantly on the verge of burnout while pushing themselves to perform. A mysterious terrorist organization called the Machinehood turns up to demand equal rights for AI, and that humans put an end to pill manufacturing, triggering events around the world. Parts of the novel are set in Chennai, India, and despite all its futuristic advances, the city retains its present day identity. Machinehood also portrays women in technologically-driven spaces, which is something I'm always rooting for.

By S.B. Divya,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the Hugo Award nominee S.B. Divya, Zero Dark Thirty meets The Social Network in this science fiction thriller about artificial intelligence, sentience, and labor rights in a near future dominated by the gig economy.

Welga Ramirez, executive bodyguard and ex-special forces, is about to retire early when her client is killed in front of her. It's 2095 and people don't usually die from violence. Humanity is entirely dependent on pills that not only help them stay alive, but allow them to compete with artificial intelligence in an increasingly competitive gig economy. Daily doses protect against designer diseases, flow enhances…

Book cover of An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin's Master Agent

Victor Robert Lee Author Of Performance Anomalies

From my list on spy books set in Asia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about Asia, where I have spent a chunk of my life. My non-fiction reporting has centered on Beijing's territorial ambitions, including its ongoing takeover of the South China Sea, which in a sense was prefigured by the plot of my novel Performance Anomalies. The main character, Cono 7Q, has been pecking at my brain for many years, abetted by my brushes with spooks in the underbelly of Central Asia and China. I use a pen name so my travel in certain countries can be less encumbered.

Victor's book list on spy books set in Asia

Victor Robert Lee Why did Victor love this book?

Soviet master spy Richard Sorge's high-level infiltration of the Japanese government and German embassy in Tokyo during WW2 enabled him to warn Stalin that Hitler was going to invade Russia (ignored) and that Japan would not invade Siberia (believed). The latter intel allowed Stalin to call his Eastern army to reinforce Moscow and reverse Hitler's march. As remarkable as these feats of espionage were, perhaps Sorge's greatest achievement originated years earlier in Shanghai, where he captivated and recruited Ursula Kuczynski (who became Agent Sonya) to spy for the Soviets, which ultimately brought them The Bomb. Sorge had a penchant for drunken high-speed motorcycle rides across Tokyo and almost killed himself. In the end, the Kempetai took care of that; he was unmasked and hanged in Sugamo Prison in 1944, abandoned by the Soviets.

By Owen Matthews,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked An Impeccable Spy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

SHORTLISTED FOR THE PUSHKIN HOUSE PRIZE 'The most formidable spy in history' Ian Fleming 'A superb biography ... More than a hundred books have been written about him and this is undoubtedly the best' Ben Macintyre Richard Sorge was a man with two homelands. Born of a German father and a Russian mother in Baku in 1895, he moved in a world of shifting alliances and infinite possibility. A member of the angry and deluded generation who found new, radical faiths after their experiences on the battlefields of the First World War, Sorge became a fanatical communist - and the…

Book cover of Finding Thoroton: The Royal Marine Who Ran British Naval Intelligence in the Western Mediterranean in World War One

Roseanna M. White Author Of The Number of Love

From my list on British intelligence in WW1.

Why am I passionate about this?

Roseanna M. White is a historical fiction writer whose bestselling stories always seem to find their way to war, espionage, and intrigue. A fascination with her family’s heritage led her to tales set in Edwardian and Great War England, and she’s spent the last seven years studying that culture and how the era’s events intersected with things like faith, family, the arts, and social reforms. Of course, she does all this study and writing about war and mayhem from the safety of her home in West Virginia, where life is blessedly ordinary and no one expects her to actually crack any codes in order to survive...which is definitely a good thing.

Roseanna's book list on British intelligence in WW1

Roseanna M. White Why did Roseanna love this book?

British Intelligence during the First World War is most known for the work of Room 40, which led to the more famous Bletchley Park in the next World War; however, another crucial part of the operation was all the agents in the field that reported to the same man who spearheaded the codebreaking. Those in the Mediterranean were under the command of Charles “the Bold” Thoroton, and this book, written by his granddaughter’s husband, is an enthralling peek into the life of an agent on the ground. From fascinating stories of how unnamed agents found the information the Admiralty was desperate for to being targeted by counter-agent femme fatales, Finding Thoroton reveals information not to be found in any other book, compiled through careful research. A fascinating read.

Book cover of Pearl Harbor: Final Judgement

Valarie J. Anderson Author Of Pearl Harbor's Final Warning

From my list on real people struggling to understand Pearl Harbor.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2013, I found a red suitcase under my mother’s guestroom bedroom filled with letters and radiograms. I shipped it home, combined its contents with her brother’s papers, and my family’s Pearl Harbor story emerged but questions remained. Seven years later, after a lot of research which included the books I’ve listed for your consideration, and the help of many people, I was able to answer the question of why Pearl Harbor was taken by surprise. I also unpacked my family’s story, long-buried for fear of prosecution. My book shows the civilian Pearl Harbor story as it weaves its way through the world of cryptology, spies, and 1941 radio technology

Valarie's book list on real people struggling to understand Pearl Harbor

Valarie J. Anderson Why did Valarie love this book?

This book describes the Clausen investigation that prompted the Congressional hearing into Pearl Harbor. Its spellbinding revelations leave the reader on the edge of their seat. Clausen details the U.S.’s ability to break codes but shows how they did not the common sense to know what to do with the information.  

By Henry C. Clausen, Bruce Lee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This account of the top secret investigation is “essential history . . . the authoritative appraisal of why American armed forces met the Japanese attack asleep” (The Christian Science Monitor).

On December 6, 1941, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, commander in chief of the United States Pacific Fleet, assured his staff that the Japanese would not attack Pearl Harbor. The next morning, Japanese carriers steamed toward Hawaii to launch one of the most devastating surprise attacks in the history of war, proving the admiral disastrously wrong. Immediately, an investigation began into how the American military could have been caught so unaware.…