To this blog author, spy stories are among the most thrilling and intriguing literature that can be read. This is especially the case for those stories that are based on actual historic events. The working list below identifies my favorite books, movies, and mini-series that are based on real spy sagas – both those involving foreign adversaries and those detailing the actions of whistleblowers who reveal inappropriate spying and surveillance activities.
While there is some artistic license often employed in movies and mini-series, the basis for the story is still true. Meanwhile, non-fiction and biographical books tend to delve into the actual nitty-gritty details of the spy’s life, their espionage endeavors, as well as their efforts to avoid being caught.
Not all of the spies from these stories sneak around foreign capitals in search of important secrets. In fact, quite a few lived in plain sight (Agent Sonya and An Impeccable Spy – Richard Sorge) or were average citizens who find themselves drawn into espionage by circumstances and/or personal beliefs/ideology (The Courier, Official Secrets, and Snowden). Some spies strived to break the enemy’s codes (The Imitation Game), some silently lurk under the sea (Blind Man’s Bluff), while others oversaw an entire spy network (Spymistress).
As more espionage-related books are read and films/mini-series are watched, this list will be updated. I hope you enjoy these amazing stories as much as I do. Any suggestions on other true spy accounts to read or watch are most welcome. Enjoy!
p.s. There will be a future post on favorite fictional spy sagas, as well.
*A small commission is earned from purchases that are made using the following links to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War Hardcover (2018)
Agent Sonya: Moscow’s Most Daring Wartime Spy (2020)
Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story Of American Submarine Espionage (2000)
A Spy’s Guide to Santa Fe and Albuquerque (2011)
An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent (2019)
Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself–While the Rest of Us Die (2017)
Codename: Hero: The True Story of Oleg Penkovsky and the Cold War’s Most Dangerous Operation (2012) – added 5/16/22
No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State (2014)
Spymistress: The True Story of the Greatest Female Secret Agent of World War II (2006)
The Lisbon Route: The Lisbon Route: Entry and Escape in Nazi Europe (2011)
Surrender on Demand (1997)
Iron Spy (2019)
The Courier (UK – 2021)
The 12th Man (Norway -2017)
Official Secrets (UK – 2019)
The Imitation Game (UK – 2014)
Operation Mincemeat (UK – 2022) – added 5/12/22
Bridge of Spies (2015)
Jack Strong (Poland – 2014) – added 5/13/22
A Call to Spy (UK – 2019) – added 7/17/22
Red Joan (UK – 2019)
Female Agents (France – 2008) – added 5/17/22
Wasp Network (France – 2020) – added 5/21/22
Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) – added 5/6/22
Wife of a Spy (Japan – 2021) – added 5/15/22
The Spy Who Stole the Atom Bomb (2017)
The Spy (2019)
*A small commission is earned from purchases that are made using the above links to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.