Top 11 Best Books About Spies — Thrillers, Memoirs & Biographies

Nothing beats a good book on espionage, be it inspired from real facts or not. You know there are plenty of drama, double standards, plot twists and exciting adventures — you never really know what might happen next. Are they who they say they are? Who is the hero? Where is the catch? All in all, whether you are after a bit of history, some exciting moments from the past or just a good story with spies, here are some of the best rated books about spies out there.

The Black Market Concierge, by Barry Oberholzer

This is one of the best nonfiction spy books out there — chances are it will leave you speechless. The author’s secret life as an informant is worth a movie, as a matter of fact the book will be a basis of a new TV series in 2022. He has managed to infiltrate various crime syndicates all over the world and all of his work has gone public in 2012, getting into headlines all over the world.

He has managed to come up with vital information for the CIA, as well as other intelligence agencies from other countries. He has extracted and provided valuable data from the Middle East, providing support to logistics agencies and supporting against the country’s biggest enemies. This book provides a deep insight into his valuable missions, as well as his double life as an informant.

The book will show you what it feels like to be a spy, working against corruption and terrorism. Exposing corruption at high levels in South Africa was one of Barry Oberholzer ‘s greatest achievements. Go through this memoir and find out what modern espionage looks like in today’s society — a testimony that will move you, regardless of how picky you are.

A Spy Among Friends, by Ben Macintyre

This is one of the best books on espionage if you are into Kim Philby stories. According to many, this is one of the greatest spies in the entire history, making a great character in the author’s most ambitious work. The spy was used against the Soviet Union and made the difference throughout the Cold War while working secretly for the enemy of the country.

Kim Philby grew up with Nicholas Elliott — best friends, same schools and exclusive clubs. None of them would have thought the other one could be spying for the enemy. But then, Kim Philby put his work above his friendship. Everything coming from Nicholas was transmitted straight to Moscow. He even befriended CIA’s head James Jesus Angleton, gaining access to even more valuable information.

His work led to many failed operations. A web of suspicion got all over him, but he thought of further lies to protect himself. His two friends never expected a betrayal, but Kim managed to cripple the entire agency with his transmissions. All in all, this is a real story that will get you hooked in straight away — lots of suspense and action involved.

The Billion Dollar Spy, by David E. Hoffman

It all started with a random happening. The chief of the CIA was driving out of the American embassy in Russia in February, 1978. An unknown man knocked on his window and gave him an envelope. The contents changed everything — details on various top secret projects of the Soviet Union, as well as technological advancements that no one knew anything about.

The man was Adolf Tolkachev. He was a Soviet engineer whose access to secret data helped the USA reshape the strategy against the Soviet Union. The result? The USA gained full cover over Europe and managed to outweigh the Soviet Union in pretty much any field. Adolf Tolkachev was an exception, after many years of the CIA trying to get agents to work in the Soviet Union.

The motivation? Getting rid of the abusive KGB. The spy took great risks, but so did the Americans employing him. He used secret cameras and even met other agents face to face in parks. This book is based on real events, but it will unfold like a classic espionage thriller. It will give you an interesting experience with no clues about the ending.

Agent Zigzag, by Ben Macintyre

Eddie Chapman was everything. He was a conman, but also a serious criminal. He was one of the best known double agent UK has ever had. He was a traitor, but his loyalty was also through the room. He was a villain, but deep down inside him, he was a hero. Despite all these things, he had an issue — he did not always know where one personality ended and the other began.

The story takes place in 1941. He trained as a German spy in France. He was then sent into Britain. He did not have much on himself — a fun, a poisonous pill, a wireless and the plan to destroy an airplane factory. Instead of doing all these, he got in touch with the MI5. He spent the next four years trying to help the world get rid of Hitler, traveling all over Europe, spreading fake news and keeping his plan straight.

His story also brings in a few moments of love — indeed, he had the time to seduce a few beautiful women as well. The Nazis treated him as a hero. He was even given the Iron Cross. In the UK, he was pardoned for every crime. Both countries helped his mother and his lover. About 60 years after the war was over, the MI5 has released info on Eddie Chapman’s files, making everything public.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, by Karen Abbott

Karen Abbott talks about the less known history during the Cold War. She tells the story of four different women who have managed to change everything in the war. This story follows four women — an abolitionist, a farm girl, a socialite and a widow. At first, it looks like they have nothing in common. However, they were all spies.

It all started when Belle Boys shot a Union soldier. She then became a courier, but also a spy for the Confederate forces. She seduced men on both sides in order to reach her objectives. Emma Edmonds got a short haircut and she pretended to be a man in order to join the Union forces. Rose O’Neale Greenhow was a widow and got into all kinds of affairs with various politicians to gather intelligence.

Last, but not least, Elizabeth Van Lew was a rich abolitionist. She organized a top notch espionage group right under everyone’s noses. The book brings in data from real sources, as well as interviews with the spies’ descendants. Discover a bunch of stories based on love, lies, war and drama. The book also features almost 40 real pictures and three different maps.

Code Name: Lise, by Larry Loftis

Code Name: Lise is one of the best books about spies if you are into World War II stories. The action takes place in 1942 and follows Odette Sansom. Her father was a war hero and she decided to follow his footsteps in order to help both the UK and France throughout the war. After many failed attempts, she finally managed to land in France and begin her extraordinary missions. This is where she met Peter Churchill too.

As they end up smashing one mission after another, the two fall in love eventually. Meanwhile, they have to constantly watch their backs, as the Germans are hunting them — especially sergeant Hugo Bleicher. The couple was captured later on and ended up in a prison from Paris. They were then taken to Germany and ended up in a concentration camp — tortured, starved and nearly killed.

No matter what happened, Odette and Peter stuck to their principles. They never give up on their hope or love. Bottom line, the author has managed to define real courage like no one else. This is a story about love and patriotism, two things that may seem completely different at first, but also two things that could go hand in hand in extreme situations.

The Cuckoo’s Egg, by Clifford Stoll

If you like technology and espionage, this could be one of the best books on espionage out there. The Internet was not too popular back then. However, someone in particular underlined its real potential in terms of espionage. Fully armed with enough evidence on technology espionage, an American citizen started a sophisticated quest to expose a network of spies.

Now, the story could only lead to one question — would the authorities actually back the fight? Cliff Stoll used to be an astronomer. Later on, he ended up working as a system manager at a laboratory. A few hints and an error made it pretty obvious — an unauthorized user was taking a look at his system and trying to find valuable information.

The hacker had a code name — Hunted. Cliff did not know much about Hunter, apart from the fact that valuable data has been stolen and given away. Cliff ended up in a modern one man hunt. He ended up spying on the actual spy, breaking codes on purpose and trying to confuse the hacker while aiming to reveal his identity.

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Originally published at on July 30, 2021.

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