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Robert Baer's Top Book Recommendations

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


Travels into Bokhara (Illustrated)

Alexander Burnes was a British adventurer and employee of the East India Company during this turbulent era. He spoke Hindi and Persian and was nicknamed 'Bokhara Burnes' for his role in establishing contact with and exploring Bukhara, which made his name. He was rumored to be a spy during the first Afghan War and was knighted by Queen Victoria for his clandestine services during the conflict. Burnes kept a lively, detailed record of his trail-blazing journey across Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, the Indian sub-continent and beyond which he later published to great acclaim, entitled Travels into... more
Recommended by Robert Baer, and 1 others.

Robert BaerAlexander Burnes was an officer at the time, and he travelled to Central Asia. He was a truly brilliant linguist, unlike Lawrence of Arabia, who was a bad linguist. This book plunges you into Afghanistan, in particular, and the tribal areas of Pakistan. He covers that whole area from Peshawar through to Bukhara, and it is an intelligence nightmare. He brings this out very graphically in his... (Source)

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Black Mass

For the decade that followed the end of the cold war, the world was lulled into a sense that a consumerist, globalized, peaceful future beckoned. The beginning of the twenty-first century has rudely disposed of such ideas--most obviously through 9/11and its aftermath. But just as damaging has been the rise in the West of a belief that a single model of political behavior will become a worldwide norm and that, if necessary, it will be enforced at gunpoint.

In Black Mass, celebrated philosopher and critic John Gray explains how utopian ideals have taken on a dangerous...
Recommended by Robert Baer, and 1 others.

Robert BaerThat book accounts for a lot of things for me. One is how the intelligence was manipulated when we went into Iraq. I used to run Iraqi operations. I knew what was going on there. A narrative was written in national intelligence estimates that justified the war, and that happened in Britain as well. It bled into the belief that we could change the Middle East – that you could speed up human... (Source)

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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

A modern classic in which John le Carré expertly creates a total vision of a secret world, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy begins George Smiley's chess match of wills and wits with Karla, his Soviet counterpart.

It is now beyond a doubt that a mole, implanted decades ago by Moscow Centre, has burrowed his way into the highest echelons of British Intelligence. His treachery has already blown some of its most vital operations and its best networks. It is clear that the double agent is one of its own kind. But which one? George Smiley is assigned to identify him. And once...

Sam BourneThis is an example of the meticulously supreme thriller. John le Carré really is the master of the form, and any list of thrillers has to include that book. It’s a very emboldening book for thriller writers, because it teaches you not to underestimate the understanding of your reader. They can be pushed and pushed. It is an incredibly intricate plot and yet, if you write it well enough, as he... (Source)

Robert BaerLe Carré has the ability to add drama and colour. For classic espionage in a little town in Germany, you can’t do better than le Carré. (Source)

Andy BeckettI find the darkness in le Carré particularly interesting because it’s quite melancholic. It evokes a sadness about Britain and the establishment at that time. There’s a sense of the world closing in. He really captures that in the book. (Source)

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The Tartar Steppe

Idealistic young officer Giovanni Drogo is full of determination to serve his country well. But when he arrives at a bleak border station in the Tartar desert, where he is to take a short assignment at Fort Bastiani, he finds the castle manned by veteran soldiers who have grown old without seeing a trace of the enemy. As his length of service stretches from months into years, he continues to wait patiently for the enemy to advance across the desert, for one great and glorious battle . . . Written in 1938 as the world waited for war, and internationally acclaimed since its publication, The... more
Recommended by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Robert Baer, and 2 others.

Robert BaerThis book is all about Italians stationed on a remote Eurasian frontier. Of course they never were, but The Tartar Steppe is a metaphor for devoting your life to a higher good, for wanting to do public service and to make a difference. And you essentially give up everything. The main character, Giovanni Drogo, gives up his fiancée, his mother and his friends to wait for the Tartars who never... (Source)

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