A book that helps make sense of recent headlines and old news alike.



An eye-opening look at the “illegals” and other agents who have been spying for Russia, Soviet and otherwise, over the last several decades in the West.

BBC security correspondent Corera tells a big story in a relatively short space. He opens with a cast of Russian spies trained by the KGB in the latter days of the Soviet Union. “Donald Heathfield…had been born in a cemetery, a ghost rising from the dead,” the author writes of spy Andrey Bezrukov, who took over the identity of a Canadian baby who had died shortly after being born. Each “illegal,” who lived an ordinary life in the West, was a tremendous investment in time and money, with far longer and more extensive training, by Corera’s reckoning, than that of the average CIA or MI6 agent. The great fear was that they would “go native,” finding life in the West more attractive than in the motherland. Then came the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the old ways seemed quaint and genteel in the eyes of the new apparatchiks under Vladimir Putin, himself a one-time KGB agent (though not much of one, Corera suggests). That new generation of the FSB, the successor to the KGB, angry that their elders had lost the Cold War, “were determined to restore Russian pride, and they would take the fight to their enemy.” They did, in elaborate games of cat and mouse, with seductive women who nearly snared an Obama Cabinet member in a “honey trap” and with operatives who barely bothered to disguise their identities. One of the latter was Maria Butina. “The information she provided,” writes the author, “was of ‘substantial value,’ and the Russian intelligence services would be able to use it for years to come to identify and target those who might be susceptible to recruitment by trained intelligence officers, according to a former FBI official’s declaration.” The spy ring was eventually broken, mostly thanks to betrayal on the part of Russian insiders rather than homegrown sleuthing.

A book that helps make sense of recent headlines and old news alike.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288941-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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