13 Must-Read Ben Macintyre Books

If you're a fan of spy thrillers and espionage, you'll want to check out the work of author Ben Macintyre. He's written 13 nonfiction books that are filled with taut suspense, intrigue, and action.

From international politics to the world of secret agents, Macintyre's stories never fail to captivate his readers.

If you're looking for a great read, be sure to check out one of his titles!

Ben Macintyre Books

1. Forgotten Fatherland: The Search for Elisabeth Nietzsche

Forgotten Fatherland

Published: 1992

Pages: 272

This book weaves together two different stories into one. The first is about Friedrich Nietzsche and his life, and the second is about his sister Elisabeth and her person. We find out about Nietzsche and his beliefs, including how he detested antisemitism. We also learn more about how he slowly descended into madness.

Meanwhile, Elisabeth is married to a proud antisemite, Bernhard Forster. Even though he would have been appalled, she also used her brother to justify her racism. Because of her hatred of the Jews, they decide to find a utopia where they can only be with other Aryan peoples. In 1886, they ended up in the jungles of Paraguay.

They try to build the civilization, and others flock to it, but it ends up in shambles. In the end, she moved back to Germany and worked with the Nazis there.

2. The Napoleon of Crime

The Napoleon of Crime

Published: 1997

Pages: 336

Set in the Victorian era, this book is about the master thief, Adam Worth. Instead of being your usual gangster, Worth was able to infiltrate the rich and powerful and then was able to steal from them. An interesting part about Worth is that, unlike gangsters at the time, he refused to kill others.

However, he'd gladly steal your jewels, run a gambling ring in France, and even steal a painting he loved right from under the owner's nose.

Also, unlike many thieves, he only stole from those that could afford it. We wouldn't say he was a Robin Hood, but he understood the class level and financial abilities of others. However, instead of just being a story about a thief, it is also a story about how Alan Pinkerton could track down Worth and his gang.

Interestingly enough, William Pinkerton was supposedly the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. Meanwhile, Adam Worth was supposedly the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes’s arch-enemy, Professor Moriarty.

3. The Englishman's Daughter: A True Story of Love and Betrayal in World War One; It is titled A Foreign Field in the U.K.

The Englishman's Daughter

Published: 2002

Pages: 272

After the first world war started, four British men were stuck behind enemy lines. Luckily, the members of the town of Villeret even though the Nazis occupied the town. Private Robert Digby, who is one of the book's heroes, even falls in love with a local Claire Dessenne and has a daughter with her.

Meanwhile, this book shows the harshness of living under Nazi rules and all that the villagers had to endure.

While all this was going on, there was also a spy ring working in the town to help undermine the Nazis. This group of soldiers was thought to be part of it, and someone exposed the hidden soldiers to the Nazis, and they were then caught, tried in "court," and sentenced to death by a firing line. Do we find out who is responsible for the betrayal and death of the soldiers?

You’ll have to read it to find out!

4. The Man Who Would Be King

The Man Who Would Be King

Published: 2004

Pages: 351

Most people don't know that Rudyard Kipling's character in The Man who would be King is based on a person, and Josiah Harlan is that man. Initially from the United States, in 1927, Harlan decided to join the British army when his fiancée dumped him. He then became a surgeon, even though he had no medical training.

Again, he also decided to make himself a general with no training. He also started working for an exiled Afghan king. He chose to enter Afghanistan and work to overthrow the government there on his behalf. Yes, even though it seems impossible, this is all true.

However, he then ended up helping the new Afghan monarch by commanding his army against the original king. It was impressive how Harlan could embed himself in the world of the Afghanis and then become an outcast after the British invaded a few years later.

The rest of his life story is too fantastic, to sum up in a short space, so you'll have to read it and see just how unique and slightly insane Harlan was during his life.

5. Agent Zigzag

Agent Zigzag

Published: 2007

Pages: 364

Eddie Chapman was a thief, had a silver tongue, and was one of the best double spies in World War II. After he was caught for a crime, he ended up in prison on Jersey Island in the U.K. After his sentence was over, he moved to France and was then recruited by the Nazis to be a spy. After becoming a spy for Germany, he goes back into the U.K. and double-crosses the Germans by connecting with MI5, their secret service.

Being that Chapman was so good at lying and so unshakable in his desire to be the best spy possible, he was able to escape from many terrifying situations. He would travel from the U.K. back to Germany and spread as much disinformation as possible to undermine the Nazis. Meanwhile, the Nazis thought he was working for them and trusted him.

Amazingly Chapman was so good at being a spy that he was awarded the German Iron Cross because they had no idea he had been fooling them all along.

6. For Your Eyes Only

For Your Eyes Only

Published: 2008

Pages: 224

This is a quick read, at about 200 pages, and extremely fun for anyone who loves a good spy-thriller…and especially anyone who loves James Bond books and movies. Being that this biography is based on the super spy, Ian Fleming, who wrote those books, you get a fantastic insight into his life. It is fun to read about what Fleming did as a spy and then compare it to what Bond did during the same type of problem.

Of course, the stories written about James Bond were more fantastic than Fleming's real life, but often not by that much. FYI, this primarily deals with the Bond character from the books and not as much from the movies. Without question, Fleming's writings have inspired so much of what people read now in the thriller section. There are some interesting photos of Fleming and the Bond movies in it.

7. The Last Word: Tales from the Tip of the Mother Tongue

The Last Word

Published: 2009

Pages: 312

This book is unlike any other on this list as it doesn’t specifically deal with stories about people. It is more about the English language and the use of words in it. Originally started as a newspaper article, it morphed into a full-fledged book with small chapters describing the different styles and worlds.

There are times when you will be amazed at how these words and their usage came to be, and other times you'll be laughing out loud at the silliness of it all. Simply stated, if you want to learn more about English, and sometimes not entirely English language, then you'll want to check this out. Word nerds, as I'm sure McIntyre would refer to himself as one, will love this book especially.

8. Operation Mincemeat

Operation Mincemeat

Published: 2010

Pages: 426

In 1943, British intelligence hatched a daring plan to deceive the Germans about the location of Allied troops in the Mediterranean. The scheme was dubbed Operation Mincemeat, and it involved planting false information on a dead body and floating it off the coast of Spain.

Charles Cholmondeley and Ewen Montagu were two of the masterminds behind the operation, and their story is now told in Ben McIntyre's new book. Operation Mincemeat is a fascinating look at wartime espionage and deception, and it provides a fresh perspective on one of history's most famous military campaigns.

9. Double Cross

Double Cross

Published: 2012

Pages: 400

Many of McIntyre's books are based on agents, double agents, and sometimes agents so often over that, and you aren't even sure which side they are on most of the time. This book makes it even more confusing while explaining them perfectly because it is so in-depth, and he keeps it clear and understandable.

This information caused the Nazi forces to continually overestimate their knowledge of where battles would occur, how many Allied troops would be there, and when the attacks would happen. However, this is only part of the story as the spies themselves are also incredibly interesting and seem to be almost unreal in their portrayal.

If you've ever wondered what it is like to be a spy and all the utter confusion and sometimes absurdity of it, you will want to read this book.

10. A Spy Among Friends

A Spy Among Friends

Published: 2014

Pages: 368

In the world of espionage, the saying goes that there are no friends, only enemies, and potential enemies. The story follows Kim Philby, a high-ranking member of British intelligence, as he passes secrets to the Soviet Union. Despite being one of the most trusted members of the British government, Philby was a traitor who betrayed his country and friends. This absorbing book tells the story of Philby's life as a double agent and the devastating effect his betrayal had on his friends and colleagues.

McIntyre's book is a fascinating look at betrayal and loyalty, set against the backdrop of the Cold War. It is a chilling tale of treachery and betrayal that will leave readers wondering who they can trust. The full extent of his betrayal has only recently been revealed, thanks to McIntyre's meticulous research.

>> More books about the Cold War

11. Rogue Heroes

Rogue Heroes

Published: 2016

Pages: 400

Rogue Heroes is a new book by Ben McIntyre that tells the untold story of the SAS, the most famous and revered special forces unit in the world. Part history lesson, part action thriller, Rogue Heroes is a riveting account of how this tiny band of daring men astonished the world with their exploits behind enemy lines. Some of these included bombing depots, ammunition strongholds, and even showing the world the horrors of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. There was no longer any way to hide the truth of the pure evil of the Nazi regime.

Drawing on extensive interviews and never-before-seen archival material, McIntyre brings these heroes to life in all their brutal glory. When Britain was on the brink of collapse, they showed that there was no darkness too deep for them to conquer. Even if you think you know everything about these brave men, you will be amazed at how much more that was just beneath the surface.

12. The Spy and the Traitor

The Spy and the Traitor

Published: 2018

Pages: 384

Ben Macintyre's The Spy and the Traitor is a gripping tale of espionage and betrayal. The book tells the story of Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB officer who became a double agent for the British during the Cold War.

Gordievsky's story is one of courage and sacrifice, and Macintyre brings it to life with vivid detail and masterful storytelling. If you're looking for a page-turning read, The Spy and the Traitor is well worth your time.

This is one of our absolute favorites. The story draws you in quickly and keeps you in until the very last page! 

13. Agent Sonya

Agent Sonya

Published: 2020

Pages: 377

Many spy books focus on the men that are part of that world. However, agent Sonya was one of the most important Russian spies in history. She seemed to be an ordinary married woman, with three kids, living in the U.K. In reality, she was a devoted Communist and Russian spy. Her family had to flee because of the Nazis, so she decided to help the U.S.S.R. in their war against them.

Over a career of 20 years, at one point, she was able to get a scientist to give her information about the atom bomb so that Russia would have it also.

One of the reasons she is so important is that, again, as one of the few female spies, she often wasn't taken seriously or looked at by British Intelligence. That meant she could get away with plans that would have destroyed others.

Sonya, whose real name was Ursula Kuczynski, lived a life that very few people could have even imagined…which is one of the reasons she was able to do it for so long and do it so well.