An engaging update to Allen Dulles’s Craft of Intelligence.

BURN BEFORE READING

PRESIDENTS, CIA DIRECTORS, AND SECRET INTELLIGENCE

Just who came up with the idea to dust Fidel Castro with a chemical that would burn off his beloved beard? Turner, retired spook-in-chief, knows—and if he’s not telling all, he’s telling lots.

Turner served as director of national intelligence—not just of the CIA, but of “the fifteen agencies that comprise the Intelligence Community” under the benighted Carter administration. In this cleared-by-CIA account of how the modern U.S. intelligence apparatus came about, he is refreshingly open in admitting failures, along with successes. He opens with an unorthodox look at canonical founder William “Wild Bill” Donovan. Intelligence had hitherto been the province of the military and a few club-like organizations of private citizens, such as one “that met in New York to discuss gossip in the guise of foreign intelligence, aided by heavy drinking.” Donovan helped organize and professionalize the service; Franklin Roosevelt, in turn, kept Donovan in the dark about information he had received from other intelligence sources and, in the end, kept the OSS under military control rather than create a strong Cabinet-level director of intelligence, at least in part, Turner guesses, because “there was strong opposition from the military (something that has never abated).” The author recounts a decidedly checkered history as subsequent intelligence directors tried to coordinate their activities with the agenda of chief executives—which has a surprisingly personal dimension, for the CIA head who wins is the one whom the president likes, and such individuals are rare indeed. Along the way, Turner drops anecdotes about Castro’s beard (the proposed assault on which was the brainchild of spy novelist Ian Fleming), the little-known but successful rescue of six Americans during the Iranian hostage crisis, the military’s jealousy when the CIA developed neat toys and the character of certain directors such as Reagan advisor William Casey, who “serves as a warning of what can happen if the DCI is given too much power.”

An engaging update to Allen Dulles’s Craft of Intelligence.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7868-6782-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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

NIGHT

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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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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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