15 Spy Novels you must read – espionage thrillers, military fiction & political conspiracy books on the list!

Category: Novels
Spy Novels you must read thrillers crime espionage political conspiracy

Craving for novels you could read this winter? Ah! I feel the same! And what could possibly be better than sitting in your bed, blankets on, and reading books that would transport you into a different world? Yes, I am talking about captivating spy thriller novels with the potential to steal your interest in sleeping. 

Reading spy fiction can be a thrilling and immersive experience, as it often involves fast-paced plots, complex characters, and high-stakes bids (like do or die, hunt or hunted, kill or be killed). Spy novels often explore themes of betrayal, loyalty, and the blurred lines between right and wrong. You may often ask yourself who pays the bills for broken bridges and destroyed buildings when a high-speed chase takes place involving James Bond and those we suppose to be ‘bad’! Well, it is sure that these spy fiction books can also provide an interesting glimpse into the world of espionage, giving readers a behind-the-scenes look at the tactics and technology used by spies and intelligence agencies. Additionally, many spy novels take the stories in different countries and historical periods, which can provide an educational aspect to the reading experience. They can also offer a sense of escapism, allowing readers to dip themselves deep into a world of intrigue and danger.

I have tried my best to include novels featuring CIA, MI6, MI5, Kremlin, KGB, Military thrillers, Politics and Governments, assassins and common-person-in-the-mud spy novels. Hope you enjoy reading these recommended books in the detective fiction genre.

So, what are we waiting for? Here is the list of 15 awe-inspiring spy novels you must read: 

  1. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le Carré – This classic novel follows Alec Leamas, a burnt-out British spy sent to East Germany to sow misinformation about a high-ranking member of the East German intelligence agency. Follow this interesting journey into the depths of the Cold War and bridges built and burnt casually. You will enjoy the novel for sure. 
  2. The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon – This political spy thriller follows the story of Major Bennett Marco, who begins to suspect that his fellow soldier, Sergeant Raymond Shaw, has been brainwashed by the Chinese during the Korean War. An interesting tale of suspicion, apprehension and discovery that fans of detective fiction must read delightfully. 
  3. The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum – Forget this title has ever seen the doors of a book printing press! You must have enjoyed the Matt Damon action scenes though. Haven’t you? Now is the time to read this novel. This fast-paced thriller follows the story of Jason Bourne, a man with no memory of his past who is on the run from a group of assassins. If you like the experience of reading the first part, you can read others as well. 
  4. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré – Carré’s another book! Yes, the novel also saw a movie rendition. Set amid the Cold War, this novel follows the story of George Smiley, a retired MI6 officer who came back to track down a mole within the agency. In this novel, espionage thriller reaches its best with cool characters and psychological episodes the novelist has vividly depicted.  
  5. The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth – This classic spy thriller follows the story of an assassin hired to kill French President Charles de Gaulle, and the efforts of the French police to track him down. Assassins often feature with fantastic skills, brut strength, and unforgiving attitude in the world of spy, detective, and espionage thrillers. The same happens here, and you may find it amazing to read. 
  6. The Silent Man by Alex Berenson – This slow-burner espionage novel follows the story of John Wells, a former CIA agent who is drawn back into the world of espionage when a friend is killed in a terrorist attack. Whispers, tracks, clues, discoveries and the final mission – the novel has a manifold to offer. Are you ready? 
  7. The Good Shepherd by C.S. Forester – This World War II era novel follows the story of Captain John Quincy, a naval intelligence officer tasked with tracking down a German spy operating in Britain. Like the novel above (at 6), this one also may seem a slow burner with psychological depictions of the plans and schemes involving mind games. 
  8. The 39 Steps by John Buchan – This classic adventure novel follows the story of Richard Hannay, who becomes embroiled in a plot to prevent a group of spies from stealing British military secrets. It will be enjoyable because the real-life situations the author fuses with the storyline might arouse readers’ interest. 
  9. The Spy Who Dumped Me by Kim Harrison – Humorous! Yes, this novel, even being spy fiction per se, may offer bursts of laughter and light moments. This humorous ‘found-a-spy’ novel follows the story of Mia and her best friend, who is inadvertently drawn into the world of espionage after Mia’s ex-boyfriend turns out to be a spy. Well, you cannot take the flashes of serious spy thriller out of this novel! So, watch out! 
  10. The Night Manager by John le Carré – le Carré, again! The novel takes you deep into the world of arms smuggling, high-stakes dealing involving lords on the highest pedestals, and an experience you may compare with Hollywood movies with a similar setting. Jonathan Pine, a former British soldier, is the protagonist of this story. He lands an assignment to crack the rings and land into the inner circle of an arms dealer. Intriguing and thrilling, I have two words! 
  11. The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy – Oh, before you kick me with your fingers by putting a comment, I just tried to hide Tom Clancy for a while! This military thriller (as usually happens in Clancy’s world) follows the story of Captain Marko Ramius, the captain of a Soviet submarine who defects to the United States with his vessel. And the rest, you can imagine and predict, but never be sure! Enjoy the thrill, guys! 
  12. The Spy by Paulo Coelho – Coelho’s attempt on this list might surprise many before they read his work! It trumped me too. However, it is a notable work, and the novelist has managed to keep the excitement alive. The story follows a young woman Athena recruited by a secret organization to work as a spy during World War II. Relatable to an extent, this lured-into-the-ring espionage thriller offers something out of the box to the readers of usual detective fiction. 
  13. The Ipcress File by Len Deighton – This classic spy novel offers readers the story of Harry Palmer, a British intelligence officer on a mission to unfold the kidnapping of a notable scientist. It becomes hair-raising because the missing one is a British nuclear scientist. Are you ready for this take-me-back spy thriller experience?  
  14. The Kremlin Letter by Noel Behn – Can you separate spy thriller, the concept, from KGB, Kremlin, Russia, Russian double agents and Russian intelligence officers turning coats? Set during the height of the Cold War, this novel follows the story of a group of spies who are tasked with stealing a letter from the Kremlin.
  15. The Double Game by Dan Fesperman – CIA arrives in the ring! This espionage thriller follows the story of former CIA agent Bill Cage, who is drawn back into the world of espionage when a cold case from his past resurfaces. Involving father-son emotions, lost love appearing on the scene, and tips with anonymity, the novel may keep readers on the edge in patches. 

So, readers, this is my list – 15 spy thrillers (with political espionage, assassin-fiction, and military thrillers on the list too). Read the ones you like. All the best, and happy reading! 

List by Agraj for Egiostic Readers

Read More in:

Explore related articles:

3 Comments. Leave new

  • Rupali Banerjee
    February 5, 2023 11:13 pm

    This is an amazing list! Thanks for sharing this with us!

  • Sarah Simpson
    June 20, 2023 4:00 pm

    This is one hell of a list… I have read three from the list already. I will surely get my hands on at least 5 novels from this list. I am impressed by your knowledge about the best novels in the spy thriller genre. All the best buddy! Keep bringing more books.

  • I have surely heard about a few of them… many novels are unknown to me. I will surely get my hands on a few of these spy and detective novels very soon. Thanks for bringing this list with newness. Keep up!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Egoistic Pick of the Month: