Going Deep: John Philip Holland and the Invention of the Attack Submarine by Lawrence GoldstoneLate in the 19th century, Irish inventor John Philip Holland designed the first torpedo-firing submarine that could stay submerged for a long period, but his efforts to sell his designs to Irish revolutionaries and the U.S. Navy ended in disappointment. In Going Deep, historian Lawrence Goldstone provides a "delightful" (Publishers Weekly) biography of Holland, bringing his achievements to light while explaining his political and financial difficulties. To follow up with a comprehensive history of submarines, check out Thomas Parrish's The Submarine.
Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens by Eddie IzzardBritish comedian Eddie Izzard, who finds accessible humor in a wide range of erudite subjects (including linguistic history, sexual politics, mad kings, and chickens with guns), wittily and candidly recounts his life in this "more rueful than boastful" (Kirkus Reviews) memoir. Izzard's fans will be intrigued by the challenges in his life, while those unfamiliar with his career may be delighted to discover a new source of television and film entertainment.
Be Free or Die: The Amazing Story of Robert Smalls' Escape from Slavery to Union Hero by Cate LineberryIn 1862, Robert Smalls, an enslaved steersman on a Charleston-based Confederate steamer, hijacked the ship and delivered it to the Union Navy's blockaders, bringing with him the other enslaved crew members and his own family. After this feat, he was acclaimed a Union hero, introduced to President Lincoln, and achieved a remarkable post-war career that included election to Congress. Be Free or Die places Smalls' achievements in the wider context of the Civil War and Reconstruction, illuminating a little-known aspect of African American history.
Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman's Awakening by Manal Al-SharifThough author Manal Al-Sharif grew up as a devoutly fundamentalist Muslim in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, she later received a technical education that led to a job as a computer security engineer. In Daring to Drive, she relates how she publicized a protest movement, the Women2Drive campaign, with a video recording of herself driving a car. This eye-opening memoir vividly portrays the customary restrictions on girls and women in her country as well as the difficulties of pushing for social change. For additional insight into women's lives in Saudi Arabia, try Jean Sasson's Princess or Carmen bin Ladin's Inside the Kingdom.
A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal by Jen WaiteIn A Beautiful, Terrible Thing, author Jen Waite movingly reveals the disintegration of her relationship with her husband, which began when she confronted him about a disturbing email from another woman. In alternating chapters that either depict her idyllic life with him before she realized he wasn't the person he claimed to be, or portray the anguish of her gradual discoveries about his personality, Waite's memoir offers a "frank and visceral" (Kirkus Reviews) warning to others who may have a tendency to dismiss potential red flags.
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen AbbottIn this well-researched group biography that reads like a spy thriller, author Karen Abbott portrays some unusual participants in the American Civil War. Four women aided their causes (two on the Union side and two for the Confederacy) by going against expected norms to collect and pass on valuable information. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy weaves together parallel accounts of the women's activities and includes additional historical details about other women who assumed unconventional roles during the war.
The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA's Clandestine Service by Henry A. CrumptonCIA agent and counterterrorism expert Henry Crumpton recounts his 25-year career as a spy in this absorbing and eye-opening memoir. Providing descriptions of espionage duties from routine administration to the challenges of field espionage, he relates his early advocacy of spy drones and critiques both the Bush and the Obama administrations' actions regarding the CIA. The Art of Intelligence presents an "entertainingly frank" (The Washington Post) insider view of the Agency that espionage and history buffs won't want to miss.
The Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son, and the CIA by Scott C. JohnsonInternational journalist Scott Johnson was a teenager when his father revealed the true nature of his job: he wasn't a diplomat, but a CIA agent. From that time on, Johnson struggled with the question of secret-keeping -- at first his father's, but later also his own as a journalist who had to protect his sources. The Wolf and the Watchman is an engrossing memoir that depicts the younger Johnson piecing together incidents that may have involved his father, reporting from global flashpoints, and reconciling the contradictions, betrayals, and genuine love that characterized their relationship.
A Cool and Lonely Courage: The Untold Story of Sister Spies in Occupied France by Susan OttawayBritish citizens Eileen and Jacqueline Nearne grew up mainly in France, but they returned to Britain to help the Allied war effort after the Nazis occupied Paris. After training with the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), both went to work with the French Resistance, collecting information and transmitting it within the Resistance and back to England. In this gripping account, author Susan Ottaway, who interviewed Eileen late in her life, describes each sister's war experience while detailing the SOE's efforts in France. Ottaway's Violette Szabo offers additional insight into women's intelligence work during World War II.
The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government by David TalbotIn The Devil's Chessboard, author David Talbot, founding editor-in-chief of Salon, provides chilling details of 1950s CIA Director Allen Dulles' secret influence during and after World War II. With deep connections to powerful business interests, attorney Dulles planned to fight Communism after the war -- in cooperation with German capitalists. Later, he went well beyond intelligence gathering to promote covert actions around the world, including a coup in Iran and the Bay of Pigs debacle in Cuba. For additional recent studies of Dulles, check out Scott Miller's Agent 110 and Stephen Kinzer's The Brothers.
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