My Must-Read Book Collection: Spy Novels

I find it extremely difficult when people approach me and ask for a book recommendation. It’s an impossible task because the sheer number of books in each genre is mind-boggling! And to pick one at random and tell someone to read it is akin to a crime in my head.

So I’ve decided to share my must-read book collection with the world in a very methodical way. Every month, I will pick one category and share some of the best books I’ve read in that genre. So anytime you feel the craving to read a book and are looking for some help, you know where to find it!

And the category I’m going to start off with is: Spy Novels

Spy-Novels

A good spy novel is one which grips you from the get-go. A lot of writers have tried their hand at this genre but few manage to make a mark. The reason behind this is a good spy novel combines elements of heavy research, good story and solid characters. This combination takes a writer who is super-smart, tenacious and has a solid writing style.

Across the years, I have read a lot of spy novels which attempt to take the reader into the cloak and dagger world of espionage. But only the following novels managed to capture my entire attention and transport me to the realm of secrecy, shadows and suspense!

1. The Deceiver

The Deceiver

A classic spy novel by the legendary Frederick Forsyth. The Deceiver takes the reader into the life of a British Secret agent by the name of Sam McCready and his most successful missions.

This spy novel is a particular favorite of mine because the four missions of Sam in the book show the different skills and tactics required from an actual spy who works undercover. The author doesn’t mince words when describing the ethical dilemmas and the cold inhuman decisions which are a part and parcel of a spy’s life.

Another interesting theme described is the importance of relying on human intelligence as opposed to gadgets and drones. Sam in his various missions demonstrates how a superior human agent can always exploit the loopholes in technology and thereby makes a strong case for using humans in covert operations.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

(Other awesome spy novels by the same author: The Fist of God , The Afghan )

2. The Matarese Circle

the-matarese-circle

The Matarese Circle by Robert Ludlum is a lesser known spy novel by the legendary author who created the Bourne series. This spy novel pits the protagonists Brandon Scofield (US Intelligence) and Vasili Taleniekov ( Soviet KGB) against a mysterious organization called Matarese.

Matarese is a dynasty which has it’s secret origins around 100 years back and is led by an evil mastermind. The natural enemy spies who hate each other must combine forces to save their respective nations from falling prey to Matarese!

I love this book because it is a solid example of spy fiction which transports you to the Cold-War era and the filled with suspicion and a wariness resulting from long battle. And it’s one of the few books which forces the natural enemies in the spy world to collaborate towards a common goal!

I remember losing all sense of time when reading this novel and having a grim look on my face till I reached the end of the novel. Action, superior intelligence strategies and amazing characters make this an unputdownable book!

PS: Ludlum is extra awesome because he follows this novel with a sequel called Matarese Countdown which is equally gripping with a CIA protagonist and a ruthless new villain!

Rating: 4 / 5

(Other awesome spy novels by the same author: The Ambler Warning, The Covert-One Series )

3. The Company

the-company robert littell

Don’t read this book unless you are a serious espionage fan and can spare a week. Because it’s extremely addictive and is a mammoth read (900 pages!) which can piss off your near and dear ones as they try to get your attention.

The Company is a definitive novel by Robert Littell about the infamous CIA(Central Intelligence Agency) which showcases its history from 1950 to 1995. This is a must-read for all those wanting to understand the dynamics of intelligence history and the moves of the big players following World War-II.

The CIA’s involvement in the defection of Burgess and MacLean from Britain to the Soviet Union(thus ending Britain as a superpower), the Suez Canal crisis, the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban Missile Crisis are covered extremely well. Also the arming of rebels in Afghanistan to combat Russia and the Gulf War are featured with a very good amount of detail.

The best part of the novel is that you end up learning all these things without realizing them as you are caught in the gripping story-line and associate yourself with many characters as the novel progresses. You get to know a large number of young men and women recruited while still in college and their battle with themselves and the world as they rise through the ranks of the Company.

Don’t miss the character called The Sorcerer (Harvey Torretti), a heavy-drinking chief of the Berlin office in the early Cold War days. He re-defines the trope of badass spy who can be drunk as a fish while carrying out super-complicated covert operations.

Rating: 5 / 5 

 

4. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

George Smiley: Short, fat and boring.

Atleast that’s what James Bond fans would call him. This John LeCarre novel is close to my heart because it sheds all the fancy glamorous bits of what we associate with the world of spies.

The hero of the novel is a disciplined intelligence professional who was forced to retire. He is called upon to hunt down a Soviet mole in the “Circus”, the highest echelon of the British Secret Intelligence Service.

This is not an easy book to read as you don’t have all the answers to the puzzle before the characters. The timeline is non-linear, and contains many subplots. As a reader, you will be left observing the actions of the characters and you must put together the pieces yourself!

But at the end of it, you’ll realize it’s totally worth it. You learn the psychological approaches to interrogation along with many intelligence operations details which other novels never capture. And of course you’ll fall in love with Smiley, the legendary spymaster as he battles his way through the darkness cast by the shadows of his enemies.

Rating: 4 / 5

(Other awesome spy novels by the same author: The Honourable Schoolboy, Smiley’s People)

5. The Key to Rebecca

The Key To Rebecca

The Key To Rebecca is my most favorite Ken Follett book. The novel starts in 1942 as the World War II is raging, and the now legendary German general Erwin Rommel is having success after success with his famous Afrika Corps.

The Nazis are planning to invade Cairo and Rommel wishes to urgently hack into the British intelligence from their Headquarters in Cairo. So Rommel sends a master spy known only as the “Sphinx,”into British occupied Egypt. Then begins the roller coaster ride as the Sphinx tries to outwit his opponents and faces many obstacles.

I absolutely love this book because it was the first ever spy novel which kept me up all night! It’s a fantastic thriller which keeps you on edge as you start rooting for the anti-hero Sphinx as he devilishly wades through dangerous waters. A must, must-read indeed!

Rating:  4.5 /5 

(Other awesome spy novels by the same author: Eye of the Needle, Triple)

Over to You

Hope this post introduced you to some books which were new to you. Don’t forget to give them a try and let me know what you thought of them. And if you have any favorite spy novels which you think are a must-read, tell me about them in the comments!

Cheers!

What Master Influencers Do Differently


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When I was in the ninth grade, I picked up this book from my dad’s office library. The title read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. I was super excited!

I had always dreamt of being one of those master influencers and speakers whom thousands of people listened to and sought advice from. Therefore I was naturally attracted to the book and ended up finishing it in a few days!

I thought I had discovered a great secret which very few people knew about!

You see I was pretty dumb back then (Sometimes I still am!). I forgot to notice the part on the front cover where it said ‘More than 15 million copies sold!’. It was a good thing I didn’t notice it. If I had, then I’d have assumed that more than half the world knew about influence and there was no great secret to it!

How-to-Win-Friends-and-Influence-people-Dale-Carnegie

So happily I set off putting the little tips mentioned in the book to use. I started to smile more, say thank you more and listen genuinely to people. The surprising part was it worked! I became more persuasive and assertive and before I knew it my confidence in my ability to influence peaked!

Later when I looked back, I realized though the book had sold so many copies, not even 10% of the people who had bought the book ever put it to use. They never bothered acting on all the golden advice given in the book! Had they tried even a little, it could have helped them become better influencers in life!

Most of the advice in the book is still pretty sound. But in today’s world, it takes more than just being nice and saying thank you to become a master influencer. These things might make you more likeable and get you more friends, but if you seek to influence people, you will have to learn from the best and start following them.

Whether you want to become a better Manager, Blogger or an Effective Leader in your field, you need to learn and master the art of influence. And who better to teach you influence than some of the most powerful influencers in the world!

What Master-Influencers Do Differently

After having studied the actions of many master influencers – old and new, I can say with a great degree of confidence that they all have some common characteristics which you and I can learn from. So what do they do differently which gives them the power to influence people around them?

Use The Power of Communication

The one thing which all influencers do with extreme efficiency is communication. If you wish to stand out from the pack and become a master at exerting influence, you need to understand the different forms of communication.

1. Verbal and Written Communication

Nadella Satya

The written and the spoken word. As an influencer you will have to choose words carefully when communicating to your target audience. Because once the words are written or spoken there is no way you can take them back.

Imagine an average manner of trying to communicate his vision to the team

“Team , we should achieve $xx million in the next 2 years and develop a product which will make us no 1 in the market!”

Motivating?  Maybe.  Powerful?  Not nearly enough.  Memorable? Hardly!

Now look at how Steve Jobs communicated his vision

“We are here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?”

JObs Vision

Simple. Powerful. Profound.

Master Influencers understand this principle and put it to use. They choose their words carefully and ensure they carry maximum impact and benefit their audience. You too can follow their lead. Thinking for a few seconds before speaking/writing can produce wonderful results.

2. Non- Verbal and Para-Verbal Communication

luther

Non-Verbal communication constitutes a very important part of communication. In fact only 7 – 8% of your communication is verbal. Almost a majority of it is made up of things like your body language, posture and poise.

Para-Verbal communication is a lesser known and relatively ignored form of communication which the masters employ to their use. Para- verbal refers to how you put across your message. Sometimes the same words if conveyed with the right tone, pitch and cadence can have a deadly effect. Master Influencers also learn to use silence to communicate their intent.

So next time when you wish to communicate, keep these elements in the back of your mind. With gradual practice you will definitely be able to become a better communicator and an influencer.

Listen with Empathy

President-Bill-ClintonAll of us love to talk don’t we? But what about listening?

When was the last time you gave undivided attention to someone speaking to you?

Bill Clinton was the most charismatic person in any room not because he was a great speaker. It was because he was a listener who could make you feel as if you were the only person in the room! When he listened, he actually cared and made sure you understood that. This one quality alone made even his enemies admire him.

Listening is said to be a fast disappearing trait nowadays where all of us seem happy to be in our own worlds all the time. All it takes is to mute your internal noise and bring all your attention to the person in front of you. It’s not hard as you think! Next time when someone talks to you, try listening not just with your ears but your entire being and watch the magic unfold!

Are Not Afraid to Ask for Help 

Reach-out

Many people make the mistake of assuming that in order to influence, you always need to be in a position of power or superiority in a situation. And because of this convoluted thought process, they stay smug and aloof when it comes to asking for help.

Master-Influencers do the exact opposite.

Influence happens in equal measure when you are not afraid to ask for help and do so fearlessly. Because it tells the people around you that you are not someone who is arrogant and cocky but a level-headed individual who wants to learn from the people around.

Moreover this keeps your ego in check and teaches you how to harness the talent and skills of people around you! This in effect will make you a better leader and an influencer.

Over to You

Whether consciously or not, we are all trying to be Master Influencers in our own little worlds. But the trick is to realize that influence is not rocket science. And as long as influence is not used as a selfish tool for power but rather as a means to benefit those around you, you will thrive. 

Before I forget, I am planning to send a special Ebook to my subscribers next week. It contains some of the best advice from this amazing book you’ve never heard of. If you like what’s written here, I seriously suggest becoming a subscriber now!

So what are the other ways Master Influencers set themselves apart? Would love to know your thoughts…

Cheers!