Fred Burton’s 2022 Holiday Reading List

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This holiday season all of the books on my list focus on espionage, cops, crime, and disasters. Would you expect any less?  As usual, I’ve included a few of my favorite classics, some books that are new to the bookshelves this year, and two soon-to-be released books to fill your holiday list. Do you have any recommendations of what we should be reading in the new year?  You can reach me at  Have a safe and happy holiday season.  

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, John le Carré

“It’s the oldest question of all, George. Who can spy on the spies?”

Anyone who has followed my work knows I’ve always been a huge fan of John le Carré. I first read his novels in the early 1980’s when I was a counterterrorism special agent. Published in 1974, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was one of le Carre’s masterful novels, part of a series that depicts George Smiley, an aging spymaster on the hunt for a Soviet mole inside the British Security Service. Over the course of time, the U.S. and British Security Services have suffered mightily with Soviet KGB penetrations. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of the best depictions of how security services hunt for moles. The novel was also turned into a brilliant movie (check out the trailer here), but certainly read the book before. 

Spies, Lies and Algorithms: The History and Future of America’s Intelligence, Amy Zegart

I’ve seen a lot of changes in the security and intelligence community over the course of my career, but none have transformed the playing field like digital technology. In Spies, Lies and Algorithms, Zegart looks at the history of the U.S. intelligence community and how technology is changing some of the pillars of the industry. Zegart, a Stanford professor whose last book was co-written with former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice,  includes an especially interesting discussion of how open source information is reshaping intelligence analysis. This book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand how the internet and other digital technologies are changing espionage. Check out her article on the subject in the Atlantic earlier this year: How Fake Spies Ruin Real Intelligence.

The Safety Trap, Spencer Coursen and The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker 

Here are two outstanding books to consider reading or gifting to keep you and your family safe. First, Gavin de Becker’s #1 national best-seller The Gift of Fear is one of the books I recommend most to my friends and family to talk about personal safety. We encourage our staff to read Gavin’s book (my books, too, of course!) to get a better understanding of how people and organizations can protect themselves. His impact and contributions to the protection space have been significant and legendary. Spencer Coursen’s The Safety Trap follows the same path, helping individuals understand and practice measures they can take to stay safe in a dangerous and complex world. Both of these books make great gifts for any friends or family members who need personal security advice. 

Only The Dead, Jack Carr

Protectors, intelligence officers, and analysts love thrillers, and Jack Carr’s books have taken thriller readers by storm. Only The Dead, the sixth book in the series about Navy SEAL James Reece, is one of the most anticipated new book releases in 2023, coming on the heels of Jack’s best seller turned Amazon Prime blockbuster television series, The Terminal List. Do yourself a favor and begin with the first book in Jack’s series, The Terminal List, and watch James Reece grow. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed and you can pre-order Jack’s new book now. On a personal note, you won’t find a better person than Jack Carr. He is a great friend who consistently gives back to the military, security, and law enforcement community.    

Freezing Order, Bill Browder

Financier Bill Browder has an amazing story that he’s partially told in previous books. After Sergei Magnitski, one of his employees in Russia, was arrested and died in Russian custody, he made it his life’s work to expose the perpetrators and punish human rights offenders globally. In Freezing Order, Browder describes the Kremlin money laundering venture he tracked that he assesses is directly benefiting Russian President Vladimir Putin. The story weaves in harrowing tales of the Russian state’s efforts to intimidate, harm, and harass anyone working to expose their crimes, including Browder. This thriller sometimes reads more like fiction, but it’s a true story.  

Dead Fall, Brad Thor

Another must read is my good friend Brad Thor’s upcoming Scot Harvath thriller Dead Fall. If you’ve read one Brad Thor thriller, you’ll be a fan for life. I’ve read each and every one of his books, some more than twice because Brad is always thinking one step-ahead of the global news. Rising Tiger was Brad’s last thriller, a fast-paced geo-political story ripped from the headlines with wonderful characters to include a U.S. Embassy Foreign Service National Investigator, a position my DSS, FBI, DEA and CIA colleagues would know well. In the spirit of full disclosure, Brad was very kind to give yours truly a shout out in Rising Tiger, and we featured it in our Summer Reading List.

The Devil Never Sleeps: Learning to Live in an Age of Disasters, Juliette Kayyem

I’ve often said that sometimes tragedy is the only thing that can create necessary change. Kayyem, a former assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and crisis management professional, examines several catastrophes and makes recommendations about how we can change our mindset and approach to deal with disasters – the “devil” – once they inevitably arrive. This book is full of practical wisdom for leaders who know some disasters may be inevitable and want to be prepared to mitigate their consequences. 

Unwavering: A Border  Agent’s Journey from Hunter to Hunted, Dr. Jason Piccolo 

I’ve had the distinct privilege to know Jason for a long while and have been honored to have been be a guest on “The Protectors Podcast”, discussing Ghost and Chasing Shadows. Jason’s memoir, Unwavering, is a must read for anyone interested in current events, public safety, law enforcement, or the border. His career has been a life of service, from the military to federal LEO; and he has not been afraid to stand up to speak on wrong doings that he witnessed while protecting and serving — rare in this day and age. 

Public Enemies, Bryan Burrough 

Understanding the development and history of organizations can help us to understand how and why they operate the way they do. No other organization in the history of law enforcement has become as powerful or been as scrutinized as the FBI. Hoover’s legacy looms large and the image of the Bureau has been driven by the media (good, bad or indifferent).  Burrough’s Public Enemies is a look into the evolution of the FBI during a critical crime wave that occurred from 1933-1936, when the likes of John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Machine-Gun Kelly and Bonnie and Clyde captivated America. As someone who has watched the Bureau expand globally since 1985, Burrough’s book is a key piece to understanding the factors that initially propelled the FBI’s eventual change into a global law enforcement force with reach into EVERY aspect of criminal activity, LEO training, national security, terrorism, and espionage. 

Wise Gals, Nathalia Holt 

Wise Gals tells the story of four female CIA operatives who changed the course of the Cold War and helped to transfer the old Office of Strategic Services (OSS) into what we now know as the Central Intelligence Agency. The story is a well-researched tale of secrets and spies focusing on women whose stories are fascinating, but usually overlooked. We also had a great time talking to Nathalia about the book and these remarkable women on our podcast.

Have a great holiday season.

Executive Director, Ontic Center for Connected Intelligence