a couple of months ago

Barack Obama’s memoir is a literary tour de force

You might expect a political memoir to offer up a smorgasbord of self-justification and score-settling. Many such autobiographical works are that and little more. But that is most assuredly not the case with Barack Obama’s A Promised Land. In this first of two planned volumes, the forty-fourth President eloquently conveys what it’s like to live […]

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last year

An insightful Silicon Valley memoir

Memoirs and autobiographies are often about score-settling. But that’s not the case with Uncanny Valley, Anna Wiener’s insightful and revealing account of her years working for three tech startups in Silicon Valley. You might expect to know at least the names of the companies where she worked, giving focus to her expos√© of the sexism […]

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last year

A moving death camp survivor’s memoir

In August 1977, a Ukrainian immigrant named John Demjanjuk (1920-2012) living near Cleveland, Ohio was accused by Holocaust survivors of being the notorious guard known as Ivan the Terrible at the Treblinka Nazi death camp. He was extradited to Israel and eventually convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity in 1988. One of the […]

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last year

Escape from North Korea: a first-person account

Few countries on Earth are more isolated than North Korea. The term “hermetically sealed” is often applied. And as a result few first-hand accounts of life in the hermit kingdom of the Kim Dynasty have made it into print in the West. Of those that have appeared in the United States, most are third-person tales […]

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last year

A peek inside the editorial process at The New Yorker

Once upon a time, in the dim recesses of the twentieth century, I learned the rules of spelling and grammar from my mother (a former English teacher) and a succession of prim ladies in the public school system of Lima, Ohio. It was all cut and dried, as rules tend to be. Rules were rules. […]

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last year

Life undercover in the CIA chasing suitcase nukes

Most of us know what little we know about the work of the CIA from novels. Of course, much of that, perhaps most of it, is fanciful. Former CIA officers do write memoirs from time to time, but often, as the Washington Post noted (June 4, 2012), they write to “settle scores about spies.” And, […]

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last year

Under deep cover in the CIA during the Cold War

From 1964 to 1982, former Marine fighter pilot Frank McCloy served under deep cover in the CIA in Madrid, Delhi, Tokyo, and Caracas. But he was far from alone. His wife, Lillian, and three young children shared the experience with him of culture shock, life-threatening illness, and danger from lunatic drivers and dismissed servants. And […]

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a couple of years ago

The Michelle Obama memoir is an extraordinary story

If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to live in the White House, you can get a pretty good idea from the Michelle Obama memoir, Becoming. Assuming you ever had any fantasies about becoming President of the United States, this book may drive the thought from your mind. Life in the White House […]

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