Further Reading: Russian Spies

After mounting accusations of collusion, election meddling and spreading fake news, recent sensational headlines on Russian doings seem drawn directly from a Cold War thriller. We recommend the following books, linked to their excerpted Booklist reviews, for readers craving more accounts of political intrigue and conspiracy—or for those sad that The Americans has ended.



The Deceivers coverThe Deceivers, by Alex Berenson

The first installment of a new multivolume story arc finds agent John Wells and his longtime supporter, aging CIA analyst Ellis Shafer, sniffing out a many-tentacled conspiracy that reads like today’s headlines on steroids: Russian tampering kicked to a new level; a dim-witted, to-the-manor-born presidential aspirant with a baffling appeal to blue-collar voters; and a double agent out of The Manchurian Candidate.






Need to Know coverNeed to Know, by Karen Cleveland

What would you do if you found out that your entire life, including your husband, your children, and your career, might be part of an orchestrated effort on the part of the Russian government to infiltrate the CIA? Vivian Miller, a dedicated agent within the Company, is about to face that dilemma.


Divided Spy coverA Divided Spy, by Charles Cumming

Spies have been coming in from the cold for decades, of course, most notably in le Carré, but also in the work of many other espionage novelists of the last 50 years. In fact, one could say that disenchantment with the secret world and the toll it takes on the individual human life is the quintessential theme of the modern spy novel.







Kremlin's Candidate by Jason MatthewsThe Kremlin’s Candidate, by Jason Matthews

A recap of Matthews’ three-decade career with the CIA reads like a plot summary for his galvanizing Red Sparrow trilogy (Red Sparrow, 2013; Palace of Treason, 2015), starring Dominika Egorova, a stunning former dancer turned Russian spy determined to thwart Putin’s brutal and corrupt regime.




From Cold War to Hot Peace coverFrom Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia, by Michael McFaul

American foreign policy is personal for McFaul, who began observing U.S.-Russian relations as a student in the 1970s and 1980s, engaged them as a pro-democracy activist and academic in the 1990s and 2000s, served on President Obama’s National Security Council, and was the American ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014.






A Very Expensive Poison coverA Very Expensive Poison: The Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko and Putin’s War with the West, by Luke Harding

Prior to the death by radioactive poison of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 (see Alan S. Cowell’s The Terminal Spy, 2008), as award-winning journalist Harding notes, “It might have seemed improbable verging on incredible that Russian assassins might murder someone on the streets of London.” Yet Harding’s tour de force account of Russian murderous mayhem only starts with Litvinenko’s shocking death.


Russian Roulette coverRussian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, by Michael Isikoff and David Corn

Authors Isikoff and Corn are both known for their writing skills and investigative-reporting chops. So put them together, and you have a highly readable book that meticulously pieces together how Russia involved itself in the 2016 election, who the players were, and how successful their complex machinations turned out to be.






Plot to Destroy Democracy coverThe Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin and His Spies are Undermining America and Dismantling the West, by Malcolm Nance

In his prescient The Plot to Hack America—published before the 2016 election—Nance, a naval intelligence officer and a national security advisor for NBC News, offered informed speculation about how the Russians might meddle.

Now Nance is back with more specific information about how that meddling was done, laying out in frightening detail Russia’s plot to upend the world’s democratic norms and promote authoritarian governments, which Nance dubs a potential “Axis of Autocrats.”

About the Author:

I'm a summer intern with Booklist and an MFA candidate at Bowling Green State University.

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