last month

The extraordinary Soviet spy who gave Stalin the bomb

Ben MacIntyre is one of the most prolific producers of nonfiction books about espionage in the English language. Of the thirteen books he’s written to date, nearly all are about spies, saboteurs, and partisans, and five of those books have been made into documentaries by the BBC. In his latest venture, MacIntyre tells the tale […]

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a couple of months ago

A female WWII spy led thousands against the Nazis

Recent years have seen a flood of new books belatedly highlighting the role of women in espionage in World War II. Despite rampant sexism and misogyny, women did indeed fill vital roles as spies and analysts in intelligence-gathering as well as partisan activities behind enemy lines. And few women played as prominent a part as […]

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a few months ago

Jerry Brown: politician, would-be monk, “man of tomorrow?”

For nearly half a century, Jerry Brown has confounded the people of California with the contradictions rooted so deeply in his personality. We’ve long known that it would be simplistic to pigeonhole him as either liberal or conservative. But the inconsistencies are more profound than that. Throughout his many years in public office, he felt […]

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a few months ago

A critical but admiring biography of Nancy Pelosi

She has one of the most recognizable names in America. Yet far too few Americans have more than the most trivial understanding of who she is and where she comes from. And that ignorance is compounded by a relentless, years-long smear campaign by the Right Wing—a campaign that has only intensified since the 2018 Congressional […]

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10 months ago

The California Governor who was a notorious thief

He founded Stanford University to honor his fifteen-year-old son who died of typhoid fever — and left the university near bankruptcy when he died, without an endowment. He was elected as California’s eighth Governor when his business partners effectively bought the job for him after he had lost four previous election campaigns by embarrassing margins. […]

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10 months ago

The greatest spy of the twentieth century?

Who was the greatest spy of the twentieth century? Was it Kim Philby (1912-88), who served Moscow for three decades? Philby’s revelations led to the execution of numberless British and American agents behind the Iron Curtain, and his defection in 1963 pushed the CIA’s James Jesus Angleton over the abyss into the full-blown paranoia that […]

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11 months ago

They shaped twentieth-century Chinese history

The three sisters’s lives spanned three centuries of Chinese history. Born late in the nineteenth century, the youngest of them died at the age of 105 in 2003. Together, these three extraordinary women helped shape the destiny of the world’s most populous nation from the closing days of the Manchu dynasty to the dawn of […]

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11 months ago

James Jesus Angleton, the man who nearly destroyed the CIA

If there is anything even remotely resembling the “deep state” that Donald Trump and other Right-Wing conspiracy nuts obsess about, it certainly existed from the 1950s to the early 1970s in the heyday of the Central Intelligence Agency. Of course, Allen Dulles (1893-1969), who ran the CIA from 1953 to 1961, was a key figure […]

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last year

The secret history of World War II

Most histories of World War II give the impression that the conflict was a straightforward affair. Whether recounting the story of battles (Stalingrad, Normandy, Midway) or the tales of spies and saboteurs (Britain’s SOE, America’s OSS, Germany’s Abwehr), they tend to draw straight lines from one event to the next. Of course, human affairs are […]

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