I bought Le Carre's first Smiley novel on my Kindle while I was browsing around the Kindle store looking for something light to read at night before bed. I've always liked spy-type movies and shows (while living in Japan I watched every episode of Alias, which was available on DVD at a Blockbuster in a nearby city...I also hit up all episodes of the X-Files, but that's not quite as relevant), and had never picked up a Le Carre book. On the plus side, he's just a great writer and the books were super fun reads. On the down side, they were not ideal for reading before bed, as quite often I found myself reading far longer than I should have and needed an extra coffee the next morning.
I think of Le Carre similar to J.K. Rowling or Stephen King -- their pure talent as both storytellers and authors are not given full credit because they are genre writers. Though some of the Smiley novels become a touch repetitive at time or wander off in directions that aren't necessarily as engaging as his best work, overall they are rewarding reads. Le Carre is really a great writer and he's capable of creating deep characters that, as a reader, you become connected to and you begin to care about their stories and challenges while moving the plot along at breakneck speeds, he can touch on challenging human issues with subtlety and complexity, and his narration can be nothing short of brilliant. Consider the following:
"It is also the pardonable vanity of lonely people everywhere to assume that they have no counterparts."
“A lot of people see doubt as legitimate philosophical posture. They think of themselves in the middle, whereas of course really, they're nowhere.”
“We lie to one another every day, in the sweetest way, often unconsciously. We dress ourselves and compose ourselves in order to present ourselves to one another.”
“Smiley was soaked to the skin and God as a punishment had removed all taxis from the face of London.”
These novels are great beach reads, summer reads, books for people who want to be writers, espionage or cold war enthusiasts, and Anglophiles.