The most recommended terrorism books

Who picked these books? Meet our 88 experts.

88 authors created a book list connected to terrorism, and here are their favorite terrorism books.
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Book cover of A Gentleman's Game

Curtis C. Chen Author Of Waypoint Kangaroo

From my list on spy books that show how and why we spy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a lifelong science fiction fan, and that genre has proved to be a potent gateway to others: espionage thrillers, fantasy horror, category romance, and more. “Spy-fi” in particular has always fascinated me, since it often deals with the intersection (sometimes collision) of new technologies with age-old human needs and wants. And spies operate in the margins and gray areas of society, basically committing crimes while still claiming to be in the service of a greater good. Sometimes HOW and WHY we do things is just as important as WHAT we’re doing.

Curtis' book list on spy books that show how and why we spy

Curtis C. Chen Why did Curtis love this book?

This is the first of a series of novels based on the Queen & Country comic book, created and written by Rucka and originally inspired by the Sandbaggers British TV series. I love the main character, Tara Chace, and I also love how her stories don’t pull punches when it comes to portraying the politics and bureaucracy that sit on top of the actual operations she’s asked to perform.

The world is complicated, but sometimes, if we can focus on solving one single problem, we can make everything just a little bit better—for a while, anyway. The work never ends, and that’s the real job: to persist despite all horrors.

By Greg Rucka,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Tara Chace may be the most dangerous woman alive. She can seduce you into believing she’s the woman of your dreams—or kill you with the icy efficiency of an executioner. As the new head of Special Operations for British Intelligence, she no longer has to court death in the field—she wants to.

Throw away the old rules, the old school, the old-boy network. The world of international espionage is about to learn the hard way that spying is no longer merely…

A GENTLEMAN’S GAME

Greg Rucka’s electrifying thrillers have pushed the boundaries of suspense fiction to where few have dared…


Book cover of Epidemic Empire: Colonialism, Contagion, and Terror, 1817–2020

Pamela K. Gilbert Author Of Mapping the Victorian Social Body

From my list on how epidemics relate to bigger narratives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began college as a science major, but then switched to literature from a minor to my major. In graduate school, as I worked on my dissertation (which became my first book), I found that metaphors of the body and health were everywhere in the literary field in the mid-nineteenth century. Suffice it to say that the sciences, including the rapid development of modern medicine, are both fundamental to this period and deeply shape its literary culture. In Mapping the Victorian Social Body, I became fascinated with the history of data visualization. Disease mapping completely transformed the ways we understand space and how our bodies exist within it.

Pamela's book list on how epidemics relate to bigger narratives

Pamela K. Gilbert Why did Pamela love this book?

This book begins with cholera and the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and vampire novels, and then moves forward in time to examine the longstanding continued use of epidemic disease as a metaphor to describe political revolt and terror. Kolb argues that the colonial state has long positioned itself as a hygienic "doctor" treating political "disease," and shows clearly why understanding political activity within the frame of disease is so damaging. Moving through the mid-twentieth century with Camus and Algeria, to Rushdie, 2001, and the shameful history of the US torture memo, Kolb's argument is both historically sweeping and persuasive.   

By Anjuli Fatima Raza Kolb,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Terrorism is a cancer, an infection, an epidemic, a plague. For more than a century, this metaphor has figured insurgent violence as contagion in order to contain its political energies. In Epidemic Empire, Anjuli Fatima Raza Kolb shows that this trope began in responses to the Indian Mutiny of 1857 and tracks its tenacious hold through 9/11 and beyond. The result is the first book-length study to approach the global war on terror from a postcolonial literary perspective.

Raza Kolb assembles a diverse archive from colonial India, imperial Britain, French and independent Algeria, the postcolonial Islamic diaspora, and the neo-imperial…


Book cover of Salvador

Ryan Murdock Author Of Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America

From my list on Central America.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ryan Murdock is Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Outpost, Canada’s national travel magazine, and a weekly columnist for The Shift, an independent Maltese news portal. His feature articles have taken him across a remote stretch of Canada’s Northwest Territories on foot, into the Central Sahara in search of prehistoric rock art, and around Wales with a drug squad detective hunting for the real King Arthur.

Ryan's book list on Central America

Ryan Murdock Why did Ryan love this book?

An account of El Salvador’s era of “disappearances” from one of the best non-fiction writers of her generation. Didion interviews the president, visits smoldering body dumps on the edge of San Salvador, and captures the atmosphere of revolution, civil strife, and Soviet-American rivalry that afflicted El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala in the 1980s. Essential reading for understanding the scars that continue to plague the region today.

By Joan Didion,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

El Salvador, 1982, is at the height of a ghastly civil war. Joan Didion travels from battlefields to body dumps, interviews a puppet president, considers the distinctly Salvadorean meaning of the verb 'to disappear' and trains a merciless eye not only on the terror there but also on the depredations and evasions of US foreign policy. Salvador is a restless and unflinching masterclass in the art of reportage by one of the great literary stylists of the twentieth century.


Book cover of The Bomber

Brenda Chapman Author Of Blind Date: A Hunter and Tate Mystery

From my list on crime fiction with intriguing lead characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been addicted to reading mysteries and crime fiction since I was a kid, and I naturally fell into writing in these genres—I’m currently in the midst of penning my fourth series! There’s nothing better than discovering a new, well-written series and following along with interesting, complicated main characters over several books. These favourite recommendations of mine will take you to Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, and my very own Canada without ever having to leave home. Hopefully, you’ll discover some new authors, and their main characters will bring you as much enjoyment as they’ve given me. 

Brenda's book list on crime fiction with intriguing lead characters

Brenda Chapman Why did Brenda love this book?

Annika Bengtzon is another strong woman reporter working in a man’s world. She’s married to a man very involved in his own career. They have two children and Annika struggles to balance chasing after a story with looking after the kids and keeping house. Most women can relate to her very real pressures and will empathize with all that she goes through on the home front. I liked her tenacity and intelligence and almost reckless pursuit of a killer. Marklund is Swedish and I enjoy learning more about the country—another cold, northern setting. Her character develops over the series with gritty crimes at the centre of the stories.

By Liza Marklund,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Seven days. Three killings. And one woman who knows too much...

Crime reporter Annika Bengtzon is woken by a phonecall in the early hours of a wintry December morning. An explosion has ripped apart the Olympic Stadium. And a victim has been blown to pieces.

As Annika delves into the details of the bombing and the background of the victim, there is a second explosion. These chilling crimes could be her biggest news story yet. When her police source reveals they are hot on the heels of the bomber, Annika is guaranteed an exclusive with her name on it.

But…


Book cover of Never Say Die

Aly Kay Tibbitts Author Of Operation Latensification: HADES

From my list on young adult for spy lovers.

Why am I passionate about this?

One fateful day in 4th grade, after finishing the Chronicles of Narnia, I picked up a YA spy novel off my teacher’s bookshelf. I never went back. I was immediately drawn to the depth of the characters, the nuance of how their public persona didn’t always match their internal thoughts, and their ability to succeed when no one thought they could. Eventually, what I read became what I wrote. Now, whenever I get overwhelmed, I love to turn to the genre that helped me through High School. Whether I reread old favorites, revisit my own stories, or find new friends, these characters remind me I can do anything.

Aly's book list on young adult for spy lovers

Aly Kay Tibbitts Why did Aly love this book?

Alex Rider is the series that first introduced me to YA spy novels. They are a defining part of my childhood and adolescence… I don’t have a favorite

After thinking the series was over, Never Say Die was the unexpected sequel I needed. I didn’t need to reread the books to be re-immersed in Alex Rider’s world—it was almost as if I’d never left.

But why choose this one? For a character that could be defined as a reluctant spy, I enjoyed seeing him use the skills that had been forced upon him for something he wanted to do for once. It taught me that we might not always have control over what skills and talents we acquire, but we do have a choice in how we use them.

By Anthony Horowitz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Never Say Die as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Alex Rider is now an IMDb TV/Amazon Original Series!

The world’s greatest teen spy is back in action in a thrilling new mission: destroy once and for all the terrorist organization SCORPIA. Americans may have purchased more than 6 million copies of Alex's adventures, but now, more than ever, we all need his heroics.

Following the events of Scorpia Rising, Alex relocates to San Francisco as he slowly recovers from the tragic death of his best friend and caregiver, Jack Starbright, at the hands of terrorists working for SCORPIA. With Jack gone, Alex feels lost and alone, but then, out…


Book cover of Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill

Robert Desiderio Author Of The Occurrence: A Political Thriller

From my list on inspiring thought in the creation of fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

My first memory of storytelling was as a kid reading Jules Verne’s, The Mysterious Island in the basement of my house in The Bronx where I grew up. It transported me to a  world of magic and mystery. The effect of that experience wouldn’t seriously take hold for decades when I realized the acting career I’d pursued for twenty years wasn’t where I was meant to be. Fascinated with mysteries and metaphysics and studying the world of past lives and reincarnation led me to incorporate this vast realm into what I write. The Occurrence, my first novel, took these ideas and thread them through a story of politics and spirituality. 

Robert's book list on inspiring thought in the creation of fiction

Robert Desiderio Why did Robert love this book?

Jessica Stern is a fearless scholar and expert on terrorism. She gets in the den with lions.

Her interviews with extremist members from three world religions aren’t an easy read, but it gives incredible insight into the mindset of violence perpetrated in the name of God. You will feel her fear, and she does it with an exquisite empathy, but never sympathy. 

By Jessica Stern,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Terror in the Name of God as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For four years, Jessica Stern interviewed extremist members of three religions around the world: Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Traveling extensively-to refugee camps in Lebanon, to religious schools in Pakistan, to prisons in Amman, Asqelon, and Pensacola-she discovered that the Islamic jihadi in the mountains of Pakistan and the Christian fundamentalist bomber in Oklahoma have much in common. Based on her vast research, Stern lucidly explains how terrorist organizations are formed by opportunistic leaders who-using religion as both motivation and justification-recruit the disenfranchised. She depicts how moral fervor is transformed into sophisticated organizations that strive for money, power, and attention. Jessica…


Book cover of Exo

Dan Rice Author Of Dragons Walk Among Us

From my list on YA fantasy and sci-fi with diverse perspectives.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an author of young adult fantasy and science fiction, I’ve read many books that fall within that rubric. This list captures the most exciting young adult novels I’ve read over the past few years. All have aspects of storytelling and themes I strive to capture in my writing. One thing I love about the young adult genre is the characters go on an adventure full of excitement and danger. The adventure is a metaphor for growing up. So if reads chock-full of death-defying odds, mystery, wonder, and a sprinkling of romance are your jam, the books in this list are for you.

Dan's book list on YA fantasy and sci-fi with diverse perspectives

Dan Rice Why did Dan love this book?

On the surface, Exo is a tale of Earth occupied by aliens. What makes this story interesting is the protagonist, Donovan, is trapped between two worlds. He is the son of a prominent liaison between humanity and the aliens, and he is a member of the police force employed by the aliens to keep the recalcitrant humans in line. But when human freedom fighters capture him, he identifies with aspects of their cause while disagreeing with their tactics and believing the aliens are not evil.

Lee does an excellent job of creating a world where nothing is black and white. Donovan is a sympathetic character trapped by his divided loyalties without easy solutions to his conundrums.

By Fonda Lee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Exo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

“A deeply immersive story that balances fantastic, original world building with spine-tingling adventure.” —Sabaa Tahir, #1 New York Times–bestselling author

It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose alien rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a…


Book cover of What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat

Vicente Medina Author Of Terrorism Unjustified: The Use and Misuse of Political Violence

From my list on terrorism and why it matters.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born and spent my childhood living under a tyrannical regime that indiscriminately used violence against innocent civilians. Such cruelty made a lasting impact on me. For the past thirty-two years, I have been teaching philosophy at Seton Hall University. Given my childhood experiences, I have chosen to write on issues related to social and political philosophy and applied ethics. After the catastrophic event of 9/11, I wondered about the motivations, explanations, justifications, or excuses for this kind of unprecedented act of war against civilians. I have spent a great deal of my research exploring the relationship between justified acts of war and terrorist acts.

Vicente's book list on terrorism and why it matters

Vicente Medina Why did Vicente love this book?

Louise Richardson’s book is an insightful investigation for people who want to understand the motivation of terrorists and their supporters, especially those who engage in suicide terrorism. She makes a persuasive argument that suicide terrorists are motivated by political objectives understood in the broad sense of this term. They have long and short-term political objectives among which are revenge, renown, and reaction. She refers to these motives as the three Rs. She contends that those who engage in suicide operations are disaffected individuals supported by a community that espouses a legitimizing ideology, be it political, religious, or both. As result, their deep-seated grievances can turn into deep-seated resentment against powerful nations which they blame for intervening in their own country. For example, they oftentimes blame the US government for maintaining a presence in Islamic countries, including supporting despotic and nepotic regimes, such as the present Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 

By Louise Richardson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“This is at the top of my list for best books on terrorism.”–Jessica Stern, author of Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill

How can the most powerful country in the world feel so threatened by an enemy infinitely weaker than we are? How can loving parents and otherwise responsible citizens join terrorist movements? How can anyone possibly believe that the cause of Islam can be advanced by murdering passengers on a bus or an airplane? In this important new book, groundbreaking scholar Louise Richardson answers these questions and more, providing an indispensable guide to the greatest…


Book cover of The Transnational World of the Cominternians

Oleksa Drachewych Author Of Left Transnationalism

From my list on international communist movement between World Wars.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been interested in the topic of international relations and when I started graduate studies, I focused on Russian and Soviet foreign policy between the World Wars. When I began my research, I learned of the existence of the Comintern and was fascinated both by this attempt to develop a worldwide movement and its connection to Soviet foreign policy. Since then, I have focused on trying to understand the individuals who populated the parties and the organization and unearthing a legacy that still resonates today. One cannot fully understand the history of decolonization or of human and civil rights movements without considering the influence of the Comintern. 

Oleksa's book list on international communist movement between World Wars

Oleksa Drachewych Why did Oleksa love this book?

For a long time, studies of the Comintern focused on the political organization itself. Brigitte Studer’s work focuses on developing a cultural history of the organization, focusing on what she calls the “Cominternians,” the various communists who worked in the apparatus. Here, she uses a variety of lenses, from Moscow as a transnational hub, to the role of gender, to the impact of the Stalinist terror on these members. By also focusing on a wide array of experiences, she showcases the hope many Cominternians had, but also the betrayal they experienced as Stalinism changed the movement in the 1930s. Partially responsible for the transnational turn in Comintern studies, this book is a must-read for anyone looking to know more about the organization. 

By Brigitte Studer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The 'Cominternians' who staffed the Communist International in Moscow from its establishment in 1919 to its dissolution in 1943 led transnational lives and formed a cosmopolitan but closed and privileged world. The book tells of their experience in the Soviet Union through the decades of hope and terror.


Book cover of The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression

Jasper Becker Author Of Made in China: Wuhan, Covid and the Quest for Biotech Supremacy

From my list on understanding the history of communism.

Why am I passionate about this?

Jasper Becker is a foreign correspondent who spent decades reporting on China and the Far East. His the author of numerous books including Hungry Ghosts – Mao’s Secret Famine, Rogue Regime – Kim Jong Il and the looming threat of North Korea, City of Heavenly Tranquillity, and most recently Made in China – Wuhan, COVID and the Quest for Biotech Supremacy.

Jasper's book list on understanding the history of communism

Jasper Becker Why did Jasper love this book?

This was the first real effort to bring together a picture of the whole story of the global Communist movement and the many famines it created. It covers the whole-scale of the misery in regimes in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Europe, Russia, India, China, and southeast Asia. It’s a lot of ground to cover but the narrative does not flag. Although the opening of the archives had produced more information, this is still a very impressive book however sobering it might be.

By Stéphane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panné , Andrzej Paczkowski , Karel Bartosek , Jean-Louis Margolin

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Already famous throughout Europe, this international bestseller plumbs recently opened archives in the former Soviet bloc to reveal the actual, practical accomplishments of Communism around the world: terror, torture, famine, mass deportations, and massacres. Astonishing in the sheer detail it amasses, the book is the first comprehensive attempt to catalogue and analyze the crimes of Communism over seventy years.

"Revolutions, like trees, must be judged by their fruit," Ignazio Silone wrote, and this is the standard the authors apply to the Communist experience-in the China of "the Great Helmsman," Kim Il Sung's Korea, Vietnam under "Uncle Ho" and Cuba under…