bibliophile betty

Books & Books & Books & Books


Declassified: 50 Top-Secret Documents that Changed History (2008) Thomas B. Allen

Declassified: 50 Top-Secret Documents that Changed History (2008)
Thomas B. Allen

In this collection of 50 documents, Thomas B. Allen briefly details the secrets of spies and behind-the-scenes (often behind enemy lines) that provided pivotal turning points in history, American and otherwise. Many of the documents focused on the Cold War, naturally, and while I felt this volume was too short to give a full history of the circumstances surrounding these documents, it certainly sparked an interest to research further.

Many of the early documents mentioned originated in Elizabethan England and the Revolutionary War. It’s fascinating to recognize how many spies, double agents, and moles tried to double cross Queen Elizabeth I, the singularly most powerful monarch in sixteenth century Europe. Her quests for international expansion and her indomitable military branches, particularly the British Navy, were nearly thwarted by men who attempted to double-cross her. Silly boys, you should have known that you can’t defeat a queen.

Much of the other histories focused on the Cold War, naturally, as this period is considered the height of espionage. However what I found most interesting was not the interaction between the United States and the Soviet Union, but rather the interactions between the Soviet Union and China. Though the U.S. had a strong hand in driving North Korea and South Korea apart, China played a significant role as well. This was one instance that I’d like to look further into, so I might be picking up some histories on Chinese-Soviet relations soon.

My favorite declassified document? The kidnapping plot of Abraham Lincoln (or April Ham Lincon, for whom I am naming my first child). Unbeknownst to me and despite all my research on the Lincoln assassination, turns out the plot to kill the president was initially a kidnapping plot. The others involved dropped out, leaving John Wilkes Booth alone. One man can’t kidnap the president, especially a six-foot five lumberjack of a president, so Booth decided he would shoot him instead. Absolutely fascinating stuff.

Allen’s book piques the interest of readers without bogging them down with unnecessary details. While I wish the book had been just a bit longer, I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for a starting point on international espionage.


Band of Brothers

Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest (1992) Stephen E. Ambrose

Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest (1992)
Stephen E. Ambrose

Since this year is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, I thought picking up a historical account of the E Company would be a decent supplement to the other histories I had planned to read in 2014. Turns out, Stephen Ambrose’s account is a jingoistic, dry read peppered with the occasional genuine sympathy-provoking personal recollection. You’re better off watching the mini-series, which I have yet to start but it’s in my queue.

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Infidel (2007) Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Infidel (2007)
Ayaan Hirsi Ali

This memoir has been on my list since its release, and I finally got around to reading it after receiving it as a gift this past holiday season. Rarely have I read anything so painful, so uplifting, and so motivating.

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Insurgent (2012) Veronica Roth

Insurgent (2012)
Veronica Roth

Finally, a sequel I’m satisfied with! It’s been tough to find a good follow-up, especially for a debut author, but Veronica Roth’s Insurgent, coming a year after the first book in this trilogy, made me ridiculously happy to read an un-put-down-able book (don’t judge my made-up words). I finished the book in a remarkably short period of time; a quick, easy read, it did not disappoint with the action and suspense.
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A Dance with Dragons (ASOIAF #5)

A Dance with Dragons (2011) George R. R. Martin

A Dance with Dragons (2011)
George R. R. Martin

It took me about a month to finish this book. NOTHING HAPPENED. But you know what? I ain’t even mad.

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Three Days to Never

Three Days to Never (2006) Tim Powers

Three Days to Never (2006)
Tim Powers

I’d never heard of Tim Powers before picking up Three Days to Never, but supposedly he’s a master at supernatural science fiction. Okay. I can dig that.

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Lexicon (2013) Max Barry

Lexicon (2013)
Max Barry

I wish I liked this book more. Every once in a while I’ll finish reading a narrative that leaves me with a sense that something is missing, but I can’t quite identity what it is. With Max Barry’s Lexicon, with a fascinating premise and many good qualities as a story, I don’t know what is missing but it bothered me for days after finishing.

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