Publishers Weekly prints a list of 15 top spy novels (Best spy novels? It doesn't really say.), compiled by Peter Cannon.
1. THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD by John le Carre (1963)
2. THE BOURNE IDENTITY by Robert Ludlum (1980)
3. THE DAY OF THE JACKAL by Frederick Forsyth (1971)
4. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME by Ian Fleming (1962)
5. THE QUIET AMERICAN by Graham Greene (1955)
6. THE IPCRESS FILE by Len Deighton (1962)
7. THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE by Ken Follett (1978)
8. MASQUERADE by Gayle Lynds (1996)
9. THE MOSCOW CLUB by Joseph Finder (1991)
10. ABOVE SUSPICION by Helen MacInnes (1939)
11. THE 39 STEPS by John Buchan (1915)
12. HARLOT'S GHOST by Norman Mailer (1991)
13. THE UNLIKELY SPY by Daniel Silva (1996)
14. THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS by Erskine Childers (1903)
15. MORNING SPY, EVENING SPY by Colin MacKinnon (2006)
(Be sure to click through to the article in order to read Cannon's commentary.)
It seems like a good list, although I'll confess to only having read three of the books. (The first three.) I'm familiar with the work of several of the others, however.
I was pleased to see three of my favorite contemporary thriller writers included: Gayle Lynds, Joseph Finder and Daniel Silva.
It's somewhat arbitrary, what one considers a spy novel...But I would have definitely thrown in Ross Thomas' The Cold War Swap, Trevanian's The Eiger Sanction, William Goldman's The Marathon Man and David Morrell's The Brotherhood of the Rose.
What are some of your favorites?