A Book to Read This December: The Spy Who Came In From the Cold

Join 1book140, our Twitter book club, for a John le Carré classic this month.
Penguin

"From the day my novel was published, I realised that now and forever more I was to be branded as the spy turned writer, rather than as a writer who, like scores of his kind, had done a stint in the secret world, and written about it."

Fifty years ago, when John le Carré published The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, it was received as a "revelatory message from the other side," a realistic alternative to the narratives associated with James Bond.

Alec Leamas is no Bond; when he's recalled by London after the last of his agents dies, British intelligence asks him to further dismantle his fraying personality for one last, desperate job.

This month at 1book140The Atlantic's Twitter book club, readers voted for top contenders from 2013 that we didn't get to read this year. Le Carré's novel overwhelmingly won the vote and is a fantastic companion to last month's book, In the First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Le Carré's novel was adapted into a 1965 film starting Richard Burton, Claire Bloom, and Oskar Werner, winning four BAFTA awards, a Golden Globe, and an Edgar. In this great scene, Alec Leamas is offered the choice between a desk job and a final mission.

Penguin issued two 50th-anniversary editions this year. The gorgeous new cover is by Matt Taylor, who was recently interviewed by Port Magazine. Taylor read all the novels in this series, though he does admit resorting to Wikipedia to meet the deadline for The Honourable Schoolboy. The UK edition nostalgically reintroduces the original cover.

Reading Schedule

Joining our Twitter book club is easy. Find a copy of The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, follow us at @1book140, and tweet to join the conversation so we know that you're reading along. To avoid spoilers, we spread the conversation across one hashtag per week. Follow each week's hashtag to see the conversation at that point in the book.
    • Week One: Chapters 1-7, using #1b140_1 as a hashtag for your tweets
    • Week Two: Chapters 8-14, using #1b140_2
    • Week Three: Chapters 15-20, using #1b140_3
    • Week Four: Chapters 21-26, using #1b140_4
    Presented by

    J. Nathan Matias develops technologies for civic participation, media analytics, and creative learning at the MIT Media Lab and Center for Civic Media. He also co-facilitates @1book140, The Atlantic's Twitter book club.

    Never Tell People How Old They Look

    Age discrimination affects us all. Who cares about youth? James Hamblin turns to his colleague Jeffrey Goldberg for advice.

    Join the Discussion

    After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

    blog comments powered by Disqus

    Video

    Never Tell People How Old They Look

    Age discrimination affects us all. James Hamblin turns to a colleague for advice.

    Video

    Would You Live in a Treehouse?

    A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

    Video

    Pittsburgh: 'Better Than You Thought'

    How Steel City became a bikeable, walkable paradise

    Video

    A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

    In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

    Video

    Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

    If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

    More in Entertainment

    Just In