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Ben Macintyre's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Ben Macintyre recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Ben Macintyre's favorite book recommendations of all time.

In the novel that introduced James Bond to the world, Ian Fleming’s agent 007 is dispatched to a French casino in Royale-les-Eaux. His mission? Bankrupt a ruthless Russian agent who’s been on a bad luck streak at the baccarat table.

One of SMERSH’s most deadly operatives, the man known only as “Le Chiffre,” has been a prime target of the British Secret Service for years. If Bond can wipe out his bankroll, Le Chiffre will likely be “retired” by his paymasters in Moscow. But what if the cards won’t cooperate? After a brutal night at the gaming tables, Bond soon finds himself dodging...
Recommended by Ben Macintyre, and 1 others.

Ben MacintyreI think it’s the best of them, and it’s wonderful because it reveals what I think is the essential Bond. (Source)

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This book reveals the precise role of the Security Service in 20th-century British history, from its foundation by Captain Kell of the British Army in October 1909, through two world wars, up to and including its present roles in counter-espionage and counter-terrorism. less
Recommended by Ben Macintyre, and 1 others.

Ben MacintyreIt’s an authorised, not an official, history, which means that it’s authorised to the extent that Andrew was allowed access to all 400,000 MI5 files. (Source)

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Filled with highly sensitive information about espionage, this secret report was never intended to go beyond a very select audience within the government and security services. The man who wrote it in 1945 was J. C. Masterman, MI5 recruit and leader of the shadowy XX Committee. He was the mastermind behind one of the war’s most remarkable achievements: finding, turning and then running almost every Nazi agent to penetrate the British Isles.

No man knew more about the dangers of double-dealing and counter-espionage, and in writing his report, Masterman was keen to give the most complete...

Recommended by Ben Macintyre, and 1 others.

Ben MacintyreMasterman’s account of the double-cross system is the definitive account and, although it’s written in quite a dry way, it’s absolutely thrilling. (Source)

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In this classic, John le Carre's third novel and the first to earn him international acclaim, he created a world unlike any previously experienced in suspense fiction. With unsurpassed knowledge culled from his years in British Intelligence, le Carre brings to light the shadowy dealings of international espionage in the tale of a British agent who longs to end his career but undertakes one final, bone-chilling assignment. When the last agent under his command is killed and Alec Leamas is called back to London, he hopes to come in from the cold for good. His spymaster, Control, however, has... more
Recommended by Ben Macintyre, Keith Jeffery, and 2 others.

Ben MacintyreI think it sets the standard for all spy literature. It’s very hard to improve on The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. It’s the classic le Carré recipe of compromised individuals trying to find their way through a labyrinth of deception and self-deception (Source)

Keith JefferyThis is at the far end of the spectrum from James Bond, but it also says a lot about the bureaucracy of the Service. (Source)

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The Riddle of the Sands

Languishing one summer at the Foreign Office in London, Carruthers is rescued by an unexpected invitation to join Arthur Davies and the Dulcibella in the Baltic. A grouse-shooting party or a weekend at Cowes would have been more Carruther’s style. More disconcerting still, soon after his arrival it emerges that Davies needs his assistance, not on a yachting holiday, but in a sport of amateur spying...

Sounding a warning of the dangers of a German sea-borne invasion, The Riddle of the Sands created a sensation when it appeared in 1903. Recognizably the great forerunner...

Ben MacintyreIt’s a ripping yarn, it’s just so exciting. I first read it when I was about ten, and I’ve re-read it periodically since and it combines two of the things that I love most. (Source)

Keith JefferyA wonderful book both for the espionage aficionado and also for the yachtsman. (Source)

Stephen EvansIt’s the Great Game again, but this time it is played out in a small sailing boat on the Frisian Coast in Germany around 1900. (Source)

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