We have a range of interviews on espionage and spying, with book recommendations on the subject from journalists, academics, former intelligence officers as well writers of spy novels.
The academic Michael Goodman chooses his best books on the pioneers of intelligence gathering, focusing on the early years of the CIA and Britain’s MI6. Rory Cormac discusses the history and morality of covert actions. One of his recommendations is Keith Jeffrey’s authorised history of MI6, MI6: The history of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949.
Keith Jeffrey himself gives us his top books on the UK’s Secret Service, both history and fiction. Ex-CIA officer, Robert Baer, offers his best books on espionage, and reflects on the ups and downs, pros and cons, of serving in the field. Tim Weiner chooses books specifically on the US intelligence services and the journalist Edward Lucas chooses his best books on Putin and Russian history.
Veteran foreign correspondent Richard Beeston chooses his favourite books of spies, lies and foreign correspondents, focused on novels and history that deal with the mid-20th century, including The Master Spy by Philip Knightley, a biography of the British traitor and Soviet agent, Kim Philby.
Ben Macintyre offers his best choices on spies, including The Defence of the Realm: The authorised history of MI5 by Christopher Andrew. British spy fiction writer Charles Cumming also revealed his favourite books on espionage.
Four of our interviewees recommend books by John Le Carré: Ben Macintyre and Keith Jeffrey both recommend The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, Charles Cumming picked The Constant Gardener and Robert Baer chose Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
Of recent books, Ben Macintyre's The Spy and the Traitor was chosen as one of our best nonfiction books of 2018; it's a true story that reads like a thriller. Also, A Woman of No Importance, a biography of Virginia Hall, who became the Gestapo’s most wanted Allied spy, is one of our best biographies of 2020. With the focus on China, we have selected books on Chinese espionage.
The British public-school system, with its hidden homosexuality and feelings of loneliness, encouraged subterfuge and led to a generation of great spy writers and spies, suggests author and journalist Ben Macintyre. He picks the best books on spies.
With the end of the Soviet Union, many thought the spy novel was dead. Within a decade, it was back, with old antagonists back in different guises and a new raft of international flashpoints to keep both fictional and real-life spies busy. Here, British spy novelist Charles Cumming, author of more than ten books, recommends five key post-Soviet spy thrillers and explains how the genre has evolved since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The author of the only authorized history of MI6, Keith Jeffery, tells us about the evolution of the secret intelligence services, their representation in fiction, and the man Fleming may have had in mind when he created James Bond
Covert Action: Central Intelligence Agency and the Limits of American Intervention in the Post-War World
by Gregory Treverton
Executive Secrets: Covert Action and the Presidency
by William J Daugherty
MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949
by Keith Jeffery
The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West
by Christopher Andrew & Vasili Mitrokhin
Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations
by Ronen Bergman
Many of us live in democracies and believe in government transparency, but the truth is our leaders have considerable scope to engage in secret operations overseas. Rory Cormac talks us through five books on ‘covert action,’ and some of the countries that have embraced it as a policy tool.
The former foreign correspondent takes us on a gloriously anecdotal ramble through the history of war reporting, espionage and journalistic half-truths, and recalls his encounters and friendship with “the third man” Kim Philby
The former CIA operative lifts the lid on the reality of spying. He says the intelligence service knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the war, but politicians and reporters didn’t listen
Journalist and author Edward Lucas gives an excoriating critique of Putinism and explains how Russia’s amoral present is rooted in a failure to come to terms with its past.
The job of the intelligence services is to understand others and help leaders act more wisely, says the author of a new history of the FBI. There’s a balance to be struck between liberty and security but when the CIA and FBI do not harmonise their intelligence missions, people die.
There’s an unseen, mostly unacknowledged cyber war going on. British journalist Misha Glenny, author of Dark Market, tells us who’s involved, how far it spreads and what could happen if we let it continue unchecked. He picks the best books to get a better handle on cybersecurity.
Leading British spy writer Charles Cumming found his vocation at 25 after he was approached by MI6. He says that experience, brief but interesting, was crying out to be dramatised
Global security consultant says sending armed forces into another country based on purely moral, gut feelings of good and evil is a dangerous policy-making premise. He chooses books on Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Al Qaeda
Spam Nation: The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime-from Global Epidemic to Your Front Door
by Brian Krebs
Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon
by Kim Zetter
Worm: The First Digital World War
by Mark Bowden
Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War
by Fred Kaplan
Bytes, Bombs, and Spies: The Strategic Dimensions of Offensive Cyber Operations
by Amy Zegart & Herbert Lin
Not all important subjects make good reading, but cyber security is an exception: not only do we all need to know about and take responsibility for it, but it also generates nonfiction books worthy of John le Carré. Cyber security and policy expert Josephine Wolff, author of You’ll see this message when it is too late, recommends the best cyber security books.
The senior lecturer in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, chooses books on the real pioneers of British and American espionage – flawed men who saved lives and made a difference.