The Five Best Spy Novels of All Time

Spy novels are one of the most popular genres in literature, so it’s no surprise that there are many classics in the field and many new spy novels coming out every year. These spy novels each hold something special, whether it’s suspense, thrills, nail-biting action, or witty dialogue. Which one of these five best spy novels of all time is your favorite?

John le Carré's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

One of le Carré's earliest novels, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a suspenseful Cold War thriller. It follows two secret agents, Alec Leamas and Hans Guennan. Together they join forces to foil a spy ring that's ensnaring British soldiers stationed at an East German border post—with both operatives risking their lives for their respective sides. Although fiction, The Spy Who Came in from Cold is loosely based on actual events during late 1950s and early 1960s; as many reviewers point out, much about it could be ripped from today's headlines.

Robert Ludlum's Bourne Trilogy

Jason Bourne is a creation unlike any spy hero you've ever seen before—and that's for good reason. Ludlum was a prolific writer and churned out one hit novel after another. With his Bourne Trilogy (which begins with The Bourne Identity), he created a character that became synonymous with intelligence and mystery; whether you've read all three books or not, odds are you're familiar with Jason Bourne through films like The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, and The Bourne Legacy.

Ian Fleming's James Bond Series

Why Fleming's James Bond novels are timeless in a post-Cold War world is open to interpretation, but he is considered by many to be one of—if not THE—best spy novelists ever. His James Bond books were released between 1953 and 1964 and have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. They've also been made into several Hollywood films starring actors such as Sean Connery, Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. That alone gives them some serious cred. His novels are most closely associated with the 1960s; that decade saw three different actors play 007 in six films (Dr.

Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series

Michael Connelly wrote his Harry Bosch series from 1992 to 2014. It's a thrilling look at an LAPD detective who is on a mission to catch one of California's most notorious serial killers, and you'll never want to put it down once you start reading. In fact, you may find yourself going through four or five novels in as many days (at least). The series follows Harry from his early years working homicide on L.A.'s mean streets, all while unraveling a complex conspiracy that reaches far beyond one murderer.

Frederick Forsyth's Day of the Jackal

There are so many novels that use spies and spying as a major plot device, but not many capture it quite like Frederick Forsyth’s Day of The Jackal. First published in 1971, Jackal tells the story of an assassination plot against Charles de Gaulle. It jumps between France, Germany and Algeria, telling separate subplots that end up coming together to form one cohesive tale. The book was translated into several languages and was adapted into a 1973 film starring Edward Fox (who played James Bond in one film). But if you want to get a true sense for what Forsyth is capable of as a writer, there’s no better place to start than his first novel.


When it comes to spy novels, there is no shortage of great options. Whether you’re interested in realistic depictions or prefer comic books, there are more than enough books out there to keep you busy. But if you have a favorite genre or just need a list to get started, try picking up one of these five best spy novels of all time! After all, keeping up with your enemies makes for a good read!

Sherlock Holmes

Private Detective, London