The James Bond books by British author Ian Fleming are some of the best spy thrillers ever written. Fleming published the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, in 1953 when he was 43 years old. The last, The Man With the Golden Gun, was published posthumously in 1965. Like his protagonist, Fleming drank and smoked too much and he died of a heart attack at the age of just 56. The James Bond books are of their time, and some of the descriptions of his attitude to women will make you cringe, but that doesn't mean the books aren't worth reading. Fleming is a beautiful writer and it's hard not to read any of his books without becoming much more aware of the impact, especially on your senses, of ordinary, unremarkable things around you—whether it's the smell of a bar of soap or the psychology of playing a game of stone, paper, scissors. Unlike the movies, the James Bond books are not fast-paced action thrillers. While shooting and other violent acts take place, most of the action is very slow-moving, taking place almost at a standstill—and yet the books keep you turning the pages.
Below, we've listed the James Bond books in the order they were written. 12 of the books are novels; two (For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy and The Living Daylights) are short story collections. On Her Majesty's Secret Service is our favourite, but Thunderball is also extremely good.
“I think it’s the best of them, and it’s wonderful because it reveals what I think is the essential Bond.” Read more...
Ben Macintyre, Journalist
Live and Let Die
by Ian Fleming
Live and Let Die is the second James Bond book, published in 1954. The plotting is more sophisticated than in Casino Royale, and the story takes Bond to the United States and the Caribbean.
by Ian Fleming
Moonraker is the third James Book book and was published in 1955. In a device that Ian Fleming uses often, there is nothing ostensibly suspicious about the man Bond is asked to look into, the industrialist Hugo Drax. In nearly every respect Drax is a model citizen. However, he cheats at cards.
Diamonds Are Forever
Diamonds Are Forever is the fourth of Ian Fleming's books featuring British spy James Bond, published in 1956. As the title suggests, it's about diamond smuggling and the book opens in Africa. Most of the action, however, takes place in the United States. As with most James Bond books, the pace is slow but you're drawn into the story. It's a really nice snapshot of the US in the 1950s (including New York City's Diamond District, racing at Saratoga Springs and gambling in Las Vegas), told through the eyes of an observant and interested Brit with a feel for the sensual.
“Although Bond gets wounded or into trouble, he always manages to come out on top in the end.” Read more...
The best books on The Secret Service
“This is the one where James Bond has to go out to Jamaica and investigates the disappearance of Strangways, the head of Station J in Kingston. What I really like about all his books is the attention to detail. It was all based on his experiences when he worked for naval intelligence during the war.” Read more...
Pete Winner, Military Historians & Veteran
The Spy Who Loved Me
by Ian Fleming
The Spy Who Loved Me is the tenth James Bond book, published in 1962, and different from the others in that the main protagonist (and narrator) is a Canadian woman who is travelling down the East Coast of the US to get away from her life in London. It's one of the shorter Bond books (just 164 pages) and Bond himself does not appear till the third part of the book. The setting is a motel in the Adirondacks in New York State, 10 miles west of Lake George. It's not a bad plot—featuring American gangsters—and the descriptions of a 1960s American motel and its mod-cons take you back into the past.