Previously Read Books

March 2022

The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A. Baker III by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser

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For a quarter-century, from the end of Watergate to the aftermath of the Cold War, no Republican won the presidency without his help or ran the White House without his advice. James Addison Baker III was the indispensable man for four presidents because he understood better than anyone how to make Washington work at a time when America was shaping events around the world. The Man Who Ran Washington is a page-turning portrait of a power broker who influenced America's destiny for generations.

A scion of Texas aristocracy who became George H. W. Bush's best friend on the tennis courts of the Houston Country Club, Baker had never even worked in Washington until a devastating family tragedy struck when he was thirty-nine. Within a few years, he was leading Gerald Ford's campaign and would go on to manage a total of five presidential races and win a sixth for George W. Bush in a Florida recount. He ran Ronald Reagan's White House and became the most consequential secretary of state since Henry Kissinger. He negotiated with Democrats at home and Soviets abroad, rewrote the tax code, assembled the coalition that won the Gulf War, brokered the reunification of Germany and helped bring a decades-long nuclear superpower standoff to an end. Ruthlessly partisan during campaign season, Baker governed as the avatar of pragmatism over purity and deal-making over division, a lost art in today's fractured nation.

 

His story is a case study in the acquisition, exercise, and preservation of power in late twentieth-century America and the story of Washington and the world in the modern era--how it once worked and how it has transformed into an era of gridlock and polarization. This masterly biography by two brilliant observers of the American political scene is destined to become a classic.

February 2022

The Spy and The Traitor by Ben MacIntyre

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If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky. The son of two KGB agents and the product of the best Soviet institutions, the savvy, sophisticated Gordievsky grew to see his nation's communism as both criminal and philistine.


He took his first posting for Russian intelligence in 1968 and eventually became the Soviet Union's top man in London, but from 1973 on he was secretly working for MI6. For nearly a decade, as the Cold War reached its twilight, Gordievsky helped the West turn the tables on the KGB, exposing Russian spies and helping to foil countless intelligence plots, as the Soviet leadership grew increasingly paranoid at the United States's nuclear first-strike capabilities and brought the world closer to the brink of war.


Desperate to keep the circle of trust close, MI6 never revealed Gordievsky's name to its counterparts in the CIA, which in turn grew obsessed with figuring out the identity of Britain's obviously top-level source. Their obsession ultimately doomed Gordievsky: the CIA officer assigned to identify him was none other than Aldrich Ames, the man who would become infamous for secretly spying for the Soviets.


Unfolding the delicious three-way gamesmanship between America, Britain, and the Soviet Union, and culminating in the gripping cinematic beat-by-beat of Gordievsky's nail-biting escape from Moscow in 1985,