• Sun. Feb 25th, 2024

The Finest Reads of 2023: A Vacation Reward Information

The Finest Reads of 2023: A Vacation Reward Information

HOLIDAY SPECIAL REPORT – On this season of giving, your pleasant neighborhood Cipher Transient “Undercover” workforce – which spends the majority of the 12 months publishing guide critiques and interviews with authors and publishers – presents our annual checklist of books to think about when you’re shopping for for the pal who has all the pieces or the member of the family who’s actually focused on intelligence, overseas coverage, nationwide safety, and/or spy fiction. Our checklist additionally may be helpful in the event you’re trying to drop some hints to Santa for stuff you’d like to seek out in your personal stocking this 12 months.


The apparent place to begin is within the guide evaluate part of The Cipher Transient. Throughout 2023, we revealed critiques of 45 books. That variety of books is simply too unwieldy for this checklist, so we thought we’d pare it down and give attention to these which earned the very best honors of three.5 or 4 Trench Coats (The Cipher Transient’s score system for singling out excellence.) However even that didn’t put a lot of a dent within the workload – since 27 of our 45 books scored these highest rankings.

Editor’s word: the Trench Coat rankings are solely decided by our volunteer reviewers – so your mileage could differ. Chances are you’ll love a guide that solely snared two Trench Coats from our reviewer – or hate one which earned 4.  However Cipher Transient reviewers convey a wealth of expertise and an eagle eye to the method, so we suspect you might be more likely to agree.

Whereas we don’t have the bandwidth to summarize even 27 books, listed here are some standouts that our reviewers beloved probably the most. The vast majority of the books we reviewed had been non-fiction – so let’s flip that on its head and begin with some stellar novels.


Cipher Transient professional and veteran CIA Russia hand Paul Kolbe actually appreciated the newest novel from former CIA analyst David McCloskey known as Moscow X. In Paul’s evaluate he wrote that he was “intrigued by and in the end immersed, in a terrific plot seasoned with traditional tradecraft, new methodologies and compelling characters.” In case you are intrigued by McCloskey – take a look at the interview he did with us for our Cowl Tales podcast.

We turned to Rob Richer, a former high-ranking CIA clandestine service officer (and Cipher Transient professional) with tons of expertise within the Center East to evaluate The Peacock and the Sparrow a novel written by one other former CIA officer, I.S. Berry.  Richer praised Berry’s capacity to seize the “political complexity and inner sensitivities” of Bahrain and prose so sharp readers can “see the streets described of their thoughts’s eye, to sense the ambiance, and (even) think about the smells.”

The Cipher Transient has on name, Dr. Ken Dekleva, a former State Division Regional Medical Officer/Psychiatrist, to assist us evaluate a number of espionage novels. He awarded The Useless Drop by James Roth, a strong 3.5 trench coats. That guide is a couple of northern Virginia teenager who stumbles throughout a lifeless drop that results in a fancy story of KGB vs CIA chilly conflict espionage.

Earlier within the 12 months, Dr. Dekleva reviewed: A True American Patriot: A Novel by retired CIA officer Dan O’Connor. The novel has two protagonists – “Doc” – who Dekleva describes as a combination of “Secret Service agent and CIA paramilitary officer” and “the Professor” who’s “gifted in math, physics, unique overseas languages, and diplomacy.” Collectively they confront terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and extra. By the best way, we flip to Dr. Dekleva not simply due to his capacity to investigate the personalities of the characters within the books he critiques – however he’s additionally a novelist on his personal proper having written The Negotiators Cross and The Final Violinist.


There are such a lot of good titles to select from. Calder Walton, Assistant Director of the Harvard Heart’s Utilized Historical past and Intelligence initiatives, was out with Spies: The Epic Intelligence Battle Between East and West this summer time, so we turned to Daniel Hoffman, a former senior CIA officer, three-time station chief and Cipher Transient professional to interrupt it down for us. Dan discovered it to be a “fascinating historical past of cloak and dagger espionage” which “lifts the veil on the multifarious clandestine operations Russia and the West carried out towards each other for over a century.” If you wish to know extra about how that guide got here to be, Walder reveals among the secrets and techniques of his scholarship on this Cowl Tales podcast.

Then there was a guide by Andrew Hoehn and Thom Shanker, Age of Hazard, the place they resolve the easy drawback talked about within the subtitle of “Holding America Secure in an Period of New Superpowers, New Weapons, and New Threats.”  George Galdorisi, a former naval officer and bestselling creator of fiction and non-fiction in his personal proper, reviewed the guide for us and known as it a “clear-headed and well-reasoned argument that the U.S. coverage, intelligence and army buildings, a lot of which date again to the top of World Battle II, are now not sufficient to cope with at present’s, and particularly tomorrow’s, threats.” Simply kidding about that “easy resolution” half. However if you wish to know extra about Age of Hazard take a look at our interview with the authors for the Cowl Tales podcast again in Might.

That leads us to the lately revealed: Battle: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine written by retired 4-star basic (and Cipher Transient professional) David Petraeus and British historian Lord Andrew Roberts. We leaned on the experience of Ben Griffin, the Chief of the Army Historical past Division of the U.S. Army Academy, for his tackle the guide. He discovered it a “thought-provoking guide which is able to attraction to policymakers, army leaders, and people within the examine of conflict and technique.”

One other fan favourite is By All Means Accessible: Memoirs of a Life in Intelligence, Particular Operations and Technique by Cipher Transient Skilled Dr. Michael Vickers. Cipher Transient COO Brad Christian beloved the guide a lot that he’s hoping Vickers will run for president.

A recurring theme in among the books we reviewed was the function of ladies in intelligence and army operations.  A lot of these roles had been laudatory – like these described in Valiant Girls: The Extraordinary American Servicewomen Who Helped Win World Battle II by Lena Andrews, which was reviewed for us by former senior CIA officer (and TCB professional) Linda Weissgold, and Girls in Intelligence: The Hidden Historical past of Two World Wars by Helen Fry – which was reviewed by the aforementioned Lena Andrews (an instance of how we attempt to faucet the deep experience of parents to evaluate books for us.)  

Different ladies who had been topics of books reviewed in The Cipher Transient weren’t worthy of emulating – for instance Ana Montes, a Protection Intelligence Company official (reviewed right here) who spied for Cuba and was the topic of two books reviewed in TCB: Code Title Blue Wren by Jim Popkin (who additionally joined us on this Cowl Tales podcast) and “Queen of Cuba” by former FBI particular agent Pete Lapp, which was reviewed for us by retired CIA senior counterintelligence government (and Cipher Transient professional) Mark Kelton.

We might go on and on about some nice – and practically nice — books reviewed in The Cipher Transient – however time, house and power counsel we cease right here.  However to seek out different books that suit your private pursuits – or these of your reward recipients – take a look at the cabinets stuffed with books reviewed over the previous 12 months and earlier than at this hyperlink.


We’re so glad you requested.  There are some attention-grabbing new books popping out within the new 12 months that we’re trying ahead to studying (and reviewing).

In early January search for God, Weapons, and Sedition: Far-Proper Terrorism in America by Cipher Transient professional Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware (reviewed by Philip Mudd.) In February, search for The Beverly Hills Spy: The Double-Agent Battle Hero Who Helped Japan Assault Pearl Harbor by Ronald Drabkin (reviewed by TCB professional Joe Augustyn). 

Later that month, there shall be The Achilles Entice: Saddam Hussen, The CIA, and the Origins of America’s Invasion of Iraq by Steve Coll, and March will see the publication of  2054: A Novel, a futuristic have a look at synthetic intelligence mixed with a violent partisan divide sooner or later would possibly result in an existential menace to America. That guide is by Cipher Transient professional Admiral James Stavridis and Elliot Ackerman.

Inside the checklist above, are simply among the nice books we have now reviewed in The Cipher Transient. To seek out the entire checklist going again some 5 years – go to our web site.  And don’t overlook to subscribe to the Cowl Tales podcast, the place we do interviews with authors, publishers, brokers and Hollywood movers and shakers.


For those who assume you’ve the chops to be a Cipher Transient reviewer – drop us a word. Tell us of your pursuits and space of specialty in an e-mail to: [email protected]. 

You don’t need to have a selected forthcoming guide in thoughts – simply tell us that you’re and we are going to attempt to match up the precise books with the precise potential reviewers.

Try our Reviewer Pointers.

You’ll word that we all the time attempt to discover reviewers with deep experience and pursuits of their very own to match that of the books’ authors. For those who assume you’ve what it takes to be a Cipher Transient reviewer, e-mail us at [email protected]

We’ve acquired loads of good books (and some dangerous ones) on the horizon – and wish good reviewers to assist us kind them out.

Full disclosure:  The Cipher Transient participates within the Amazon Associates program and should make a small fee from purchases made by way of hyperlinks. That doesn’t change the value you pay – we simply get a really, very small slice of Jeff Bezos’ earnings. 

Learn extra expert-driven nationwide safety insights, perspective and evaluation in The Cipher Transient as a result of Nationwide Safety is Everybody’s Enterprise

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