I. Treasures by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:
1. The Gulag Archipelago (1918-1956) — An Experiment in Literary Investigation. 1973. This volume contains Parts I-II, The Prison Industry and Perpetual Motion. The first 660 pages of the English translation. Nonfiction. Translated by Thomas P. Whitney.
2. The Gulag Archipelago (1918-1956) — An Experiment in Literary Investigation. 1975. This volume contains Parts III-IV, The Destructive Labor Camps and The Soul and Barbed Wire. The final 712 pages of the English translation. Nonfiction. Translated by Thomas P. Whitney.
These volumes of The Gulag Archipelago are perhaps the best books, the most honest political testament, and the most poignant condemnation of a brutal political system that has ever been or that will ever be written. These are absolutely must-read volumes for anyone who prefers freedom over slavery.
3. The Oak and the Calf. 1980 edition. Franklin Library. Memoirs/Nonfiction, 550 pages. Translated by H.T. Willets. This memoir relates an incredible journey of a courageous man who would place his life and liberty on the line in the pursuit of freedom of publication in a totalitarian state. Another must-read volume from an indomitable, irrepressible man.
4. The First Circle. 1968. Historic novel. Translated by Thomas P. Whitney.
5. One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich. 1963. Fiction.
6. Cancer Ward. 1969. Historic novel.
7. August 1914. (The Red Wheel I) 1971. Historic novel. Translated by Michael Glenny.
8. November 1916 (The Red Wheel II). 1999. Historic novel. Translated by H.T. Willets. (This volume includes Solzhenitsyn's famous "Lenin in Zurich" essay.)
The two volumes above, The Red Wheels I and II saga, show Solzhenitsyn as a magnificent writer of historic, epic, "fiction" novels. It is a loss to the world that the The Red Wheel III about the Russian Revolution (October 1917) has not been translated from its Russian original into any other language to my knowledge.
9. I take poetic license in adding under this treasure trove, Michael Scammell's authoritative biography entitled Solzhenitsyn. 1984. Biography, nonfiction.
II. Historic Novels by Gore Vidal:
1. Julian. 1981. Franklin Library edition. Historic novel. This is absolutely one of the best books I have ever read. Although categorized as a historic novel it is for the most part an accurate portrayal of the life and times of Roman Emperor Julian II, the "Apostate."
2. Burr. 1973. Franklin Library edition. Historic novel. This is the second best book by Gore Vidal. Although categorized as a historic novel it is for the most part an accurate portrayal of the life and times of Aaron Burr.
3. 1876. Historic novel. 1976. This is an absorbing novel with one of the most endearing characters in American fiction, Mr. Charlie Schuyler and his beautiful daughter, Emma. We learn a lot about newspaper editors, publishers, and politicians of the time in this novel. While most of the episodes related here are nonfiction except for the main characters, the politics of the time are viewed from the perspective of a very liberal writer who cannot separate his politics from historical reality. Vidal sees through his liberal prism only corruption and cynicism in American politics, and does not see a vibrant, expanding nation, a nation, the great American Republic, that set a brazing example about the nature and pursuit of freedom for most of the world. It is nevertheless a highly entertaining and captivating read.
4. Empire. 1987. Historic novel. In this tome, the descendants of Charlie Schuyler continue the American saga of empire building. The main characters in this novel are actually nonfiction and they come out vividly on these mostly historic pages. We meet and are delighted with the dialogue and actions of such historic figures as Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt; William Jennings Bryan; William Randolph Hearst; the mysterious "Five Hearts," John Hay and his wife, Henry Adams and his wife, and the strange geologist Clarence King; and Henry James, the dear friend of the Five Hearts. Even the Astors and the Vanderbilts come into the picture. The final fictitious exchange between William Randolph Hearst, the inventor of "yellow journalism," and Teddy Roosevelt is a memorable encounter and probably fairly accurate representation of the character of the two men who dominated an exciting era.
III. Historic Novels by Colleen McCullouch:
1. The First Man in Rome. 1990. William Morrow and Company, Inc. Historic novel. This is a wonderful introduction to the "Masters of Rome" series of historic novels by famed author Colleen McCullough. The first tome in this series, The First Man in Rome, at 896 pages, including magnificent maps, glossary, even sketch portraits of many of the main characters, is incredibly well-researched. Crisp writing, eloquent prose, exhilarating reading, spellbinding plots and intrigue — are all parts and parcel of this literary, unfolding, historic drama. The historic novel would have been a complete masterpiece had not the author fallen head over heels for the main protagonist, Gaius Marius, to the detriment of other historic figures who deserved better, particularly when the author boasted of historic veracity. Indeed, McCullough's scholarship is outstanding, and her literary abilities certain; the problem lies elsewhere, apparently her politics and her prejudicial bias for the Populares faction at the expense of the Optimates and the historical veracity she claimed.
Thus, to cover her political leanings, the author does not use those terms at all in her novel, as she "does not want to give the impression that there were formal political parties." The reality is she does not want to make her liberal leanings too obvious to her readership. Had she used those helpful and historic political terms, it would have made it too obvious that at least in her mind, with few exceptions, all the popular leaders and political demagogues pandering to the mob were the good guys with nobility of purpose and good intentions (e.g., not only Marius, but Saturninus and later Sulpicius, Cinna, and Carbo), while the Optimate leaders and the members of the old conservative-leaning families, those upholding the mos maiorum (i.e.,"the established order of things and the 'established customs of ancestors") were, almost uniformly, the bad guys (e.g., Caecilius Metellus Numidicus was turned into an incompetent general and undeservingly nicknamed "Piggle-Wiggle"; his son Metellus Pius made to stutter and called derisively "the Piglet"; the Caepios, with some truth, are severely turned into despicable villains). Lucius Cornelius Sulla is turned into a Dr. Jekyl and (mostly) a Mr. Hyde, a homosexual poisoner and serial killer with misogynistic tendencies and prone to pathological violence. In book two of this series, The Grass Crown, Sulla is even made to kill by poisoning a member of his party and mentor, Caecilius Metelus Numidicus, enraged in a completely fictional and implausible scenario!
Needless to say, those readers attuned only to historic melodrama, but not necessarily "qualified to judge" in the historic arena and oblivious to historic reality and political sentiment, will find no fault with this book and may even misconstrue my "parochial" criticism as undeserved. These valid caveats still do not detract me from recommending this book (4 out of 5 stars). Read Dr. Miguel Faria's complete book review of The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough — "The Apotheosis of Gaius Marius!".
2. The Grass Crown. The magnificent "Masters of Rome" series of historic fiction by novelist Colleen McCullough continues down the annals of the Roman Republic with the notable careers of Gaius Marius, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Aemeilius Scaurus, Metellus Numidicus, Metellus Pius, and Marcus Livius Drusus. This second tome at 894 pages also contains magnificent maps, improved glossary, and sketch portraits of many of the main characters. The scholarship still astonishes as does the crisp writing and exhilarating reading in this historic drama. The informative and elegant correspondence to and from Publius Rutilius Rufus, now expanded to Marcus Aemilius Scaurus and Lucius Cornelius Sulla, continues in The Grass Crown. Read Dr. Faria's review of The Grass Crown by Colleen McCullough —"Ancient Rome: Marius vs Sulla and the Marsian Wars!"
1. The Life of Samuel Johnson including a Journal of His Tour to the Hebrides by James Boswell. 1835. 10-volumes. Probably the most sympathetic and complete biography ever published.
2. John Adams by David McCullough. 2001. This biography restored John Adams to the pedestal where he belonged as one of the giants of our Founding Fathers.
3. Alexander Hamilton, A Life by Willard Sterne Randall. 2003. This is the best biography I have read on Alexander Hamilton and an absolutely must read.
4. Alexander Hamilton, American by Richard Brookhiser. 1999.
5. James Madison, A Biography by Ralph Ketcham. 1990. A comprehensive and honest biography.
6. James Monroe by W.P. Cresson. (1946) Easton Press edition, 1986. This is a colorful, truthful, and well researched biography of a great Virginian who served his country for many years in faithful and diligent service. He seems to be only remembered today as the author of the Monroe Doctrine, but as President of the United States, Monroe presided over the prosperous years known as the Era of Good Feeling.
7. Founding Father — Rediscovering George Washington by Richard Brookhiser. 1996.
8. American Sphinx — The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph Ellis. 1997.
9. Mr. Jefferson by Albert J. Nock. (1956) Reprinted in 1998.
10. Aaron Burr — Conspiracy to Treason by Buckner F. Melton, Jr. 2002. Although a small tome of 278 pages, this is an engaging and mesmerizing biography from both historic and legal points of view. You will not be able to put this book down! The adventurer and intriguer within Burr jumps out at us from the pages of this book. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall and his cousin, Thomas Jefferson, lock horns on federalism and treason. The eccentricities of John Randolph of Virginia, Supreme Court Justice Samuel P. Chase, and, the forgotten Founder, Luther Martin, all come alive with memorable words and deeds!
11. Fallen Founder — The Life of Aaron Burr by Nancy Isenberg. 2007. In this book, Ms. Isenberg, in a great leap of faith and with significant scholarship, attempts but fails to restore Burr's historic reputation as an American revolutionary icon and Founding Father. She succeeds in revealing other aspects of Aaron Burr's private life and personality that many of us suspected but could not quite pinpoint. Hamilton and the other American Founders had good reason to mistrust this man.
12. Casey — The Lives and Secrets of William J. Casey: From the OSS to the CIA by Joseph E. Persico. 1990. This tome is an excellent biography of William J. Casey, President Ronald Reagan's CIA Director (1981-1986) during one of the "hottest" periods of the Cold War. The life of Casey is a story against all odds, and to understand the story of this man who was so dedicated, the book must be read with the avidity it deserves. The son of Irish-Catholic immigrants, Casey was a man for all seasons, lawyer, author, capitalist, and director of secret intelligence during World War II (OSS), to "king-maker" in the Republican establishment, to finally Director of the CIA.
The cover of the book says, "Persico portrays a man at once complex and simple: a devout Catholic…an ideological warrior always at the ready with a crowbar or a legal brief; a deeply intelligent, yet oddly naive American patriot." I mostly agree. This biography is highly recommended.
13. Gentleman Spy — The Life of Allen Dulles by Peter Grose. 1994. This is a fascinating biography of one of the founding members, most influential, as well as one of the longest serving CIA Directors in the agency's history (1953-1961). Along with his brother, John Foster Dulles, who also served as Secretary of State under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Dulles brothers dominated the intelligence and foreign policy arenas in American politics. This biography is highly recommended.
14. Dossier — The Secret History of Armand Hammer by Edward Jay Epstein. 1996. What an incredible biography and spectacular journalistic and historical research! When I began to read this book, I wondered what I was doing reading a biography of a man I considered to be a despicable individual, fifteen years after publication. I had previously read two of Edward J. Epstein's books and had been impressed. Those two books are also listed here.
Moreover, I had read reviews of this book at the time of publication and I remember the accolades even years later, so I immersed myself in this book, which turned out to be another spellbinding adventure that I could not put down. Epstein had uncovered information that Armand Hammer thought would remain deeply buried and unrecoverable. From his childhood until his death, every fact on this man's life had been unearthed by the investigative journalism of this incredible author!
The avalanche of facts make intentions and motives crystal clear. This book must be read to be believed. While carefully building a sterling reputation that was central to his duplicitous life, posing as a capitalist, art connoisseur and philanthropist — Mr. Hammer was plainly not the American patriot he liked to portray himself as, posing in photographs with all American presidents, but a Soviet agent, the Kremlin's man in America!
15. The Sugar King of Havana — The Rise and Fall of Julio Lobo, Cuba's Last Tycoon by John Paul Rathbone. 2010. Besides those with an interest in Cuba, the tropical paradise, her turbulent history, the memories of Old Havana, etc., those with an interest in world economics in the early part of the 20th and 21st centuries, will find this a fascinating book.
This is an absolutely enchanting book, explaining Cuban history in terms of revolutionary politics and economics in terms of control of sugar world prices, from the turn of the 20th century just before and during the Cuban Revolution.
Sugar was sold then similarly as oil is today, as a world commodity, except that in sugar, Cuba and Julio Lobo, rather than OPEC and Chavez, were the biggest players, that is until Fidel and Raul Castro, Che Guevara, and communism basically destroyed the economy of the island. The rest is history.
1. The Memoirs of Jacques Casanova De Seingalt. The first complete and unabridged English translation by Arthur Machen in six volumes: Venetian Years; Paris and Prison; The Eternal Quest; Adventures in the South; In London and Moscow; Spanish Passions. In my opinion, these are the best memoirs ever published. Reading these six volumes is not only like stepping into this man's shoes and becoming the great lover, Jacques Casanova, but actually experiencing life, conversations, adventures, and intrigues in the marvelous 18th century in the great European cities of Italy, Spain, France, England, Holland, and even Germany and Russia!
Imagine saving the life of an eminent Venetian senator, a nobleman, and becoming his adopted son! Imagine meeting the Pope and receiving a papal dispensation so he could eat meat on Fridays! Imagine meeting world figures such as Madame de Pompadour, Voltaire, Frederick the Great, Catherine the Great; and becoming friends with the great ministers of Louis XV, as well as such notable charlatans as Cagliostro and Saint Germain! And of course, don't forget becoming the greatest lover of the 18th century and seducing high ranking noble women as well as rescuing the lowliest damsels in distress — and loving each and every one of them!
Besides all of this, the memoirs are incredibly and beautifully written as if Casanova was speaking to us today. I have read no better portrayal of an entire era as contained in these enchanting, six volumes. The only despair is when the book ends and we read the publishers details of the author's final days. What a life!
2. The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The anonymous translation into English of 1783 and 1790 revised and completed by A.S.B. Glover. Heritage Press edition, 1956. Let us just say that Rousseau cries rivers of tears in recounting details of his life. We laugh and wonder how this man became the influential person he was, and how such giants of the times, including Robespierre and Napoleon, were fascinated by the details of this man's life and his works!
3. The Confessions of St. Augustine. 1963. Heritage Press edition. This is a very personal and deeply spiritual work of a saintly man speaking to God. We do learn that St. Augustine did, in fact, write: "[Lord,] Grant me chastity and continency, but not yet!" We must remember that this book was written not only in a religious context, but also in the 4th century just before the sun set on the Western Roman Empire. I do believe that St. Augustine's City of God from a historical perspective is even a greater work by this giant of Christian theology.
A. Espionage and Cold War:
1. KGB — The Inside Story: Of Its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev by Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky. 1990. An incredibly well-written and enthralling volume on the history of Russian and Soviet espionage and intelligence services. From the Okrana to the KGB, the stories of agents, double agents, betrayals, is superbly told by the first hand experience of one of the greatest heroes of the Cold War, Oleg Gordievsky in collaboration with perhaps the greatest scholar of Cold War secret intelligence, Cambridge professor Christopher Andrew. This tome is a very readable volume that will enchant the reader from beginning to end.
2. The Sword and the Shield — The Mitrokhin Archives and the Secret History of the KGB by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin. 1999. This is a treasure trove of Russian KGB intelligence secrets that came to us thanks to the courage and determination of KGB officer, Vasili Mitrokhin, who defected to the West in 1992. Mitrokhin and his family were exfiltrated from Russia by the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). The defector brought with him six cases containing the voluminous secret notes that he had copied from the top secret KGB files on a daily basis for twelve years, from 1972-1984! These files went as far back as 1918 and contained all of the information available to the KGB's First Chief Directorate up until Mitrokhin's retirement in 1984. As a result of Mitrokhin's defection with his trove of secret files, hundreds of Soviet agents, Russian spies, and American traitors have been uncovered, and many have been brought to justice. These files are still being studied by scholars as well as Western intelligence services. This volume contains an enormous amount of material, code names, intelligence files, and probably will be savored only by the true espionage, Sovietologists, and Cold War aficionados.
3. The World Was Going Our Way — The KGB and the Battle For the Third World (Newly Revised Secrets from The Mitrokhin Archives) by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin. 2005. What a magnificent volume further revealing Russian Cold War secrets. Once again, the collaboration of Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin result in an explosive combination detailing Soviet espionage and the CIA-KGB wars in the Third World. Yes, the world might have been going the way of the Soviets in the intelligence wars, particularly in the Third World, and the KGB was as astounded as we were with the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union — but the truth was that Russian collectivism was rotten to the core and not even the almost omnipotent KGB could prevent the collapse of Soviet communism. This tome is much more reader friendly than their previous volume, The Sword and The Shield, and should have a wider audience. This volume is highly recommended not only espionage fans, but also to modern historians and scholars of Third World foreign policy and international studies.
4. KGB — The Secret Work of the Soviet Secret Agents by John Barron, 1974. This is a seminal book and monumental work on the history, the (then) current methods, organization, goals, of Soviet espionage — i.e., KGB foreign intelligence with its First Chief Directorate — and internal security operations — i.e., the Second Chief Directorate.
The author, John D. Barron (1930-2005), was an American investigative journalist, a brilliant Reader's Digest writer and editor, and one of the foremost scholars of Soviet espionage during the Cold War.
This book detailed and exposed all the KGB officers posted across the world who were then known to the Western security services and dealt a crushing blow to KGB operations throughout the world! It is 462 pages, including 14 chapters, four major appendices, chapter notes, full bibliography, and an excellent index. It is fully illustrated with 16 pages of photos revealing the faces of many of the main protagonists and antagonists, as well as operational methods. This book is not only a historic classic of espionage during the Cold War, but an informative thriller. I recommend it to historians, as well as Cold War and espionage aficionados, and assign it 5 stars without reservation — and this is almost forty years after its publication! An absolutely outstanding nonfiction classic! See Dr. Miguel Faria's complete book review posted on this website.
5. Special Tasks: The Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness — A Soviet Spymaster by Pavel Sudoplatov and Anatoli Sudoplatov with Jerrold L. and Leona P. Schecter. 1994. In the Foreword to this book, the historian Robert Conquest writes: "This is the most sensational, the most devastating, and in many ways the most informative autobiography ever to emerge from the Stalinist milieu. It is perhaps the most important single contribution to our knowledge since Khrushchev's Secret Speech….The range of Sudoplatov's activities….is remarkable." I agree!
Moreover, I believe we should let Sudoplatov give us a summary from his own Prologue: "My name if Pavel Anatolievich Sudoplatov, but I do not expect you to recognize it, because for fifty-eight years it was one of the best-kept secrets in the Soviet Union….I was responsible for Trotsky's assassination and, during World War II, I was in charge of guerrilla warfare and disinformation in Germany and German-occupied territories. After the war I continued to run illegal networks abroad whose purpose was to sabotage American and NATO instillations in the event hostilities broke out. I was also in charge of the Soviet espionage effort to obtain the secrets of the atomic bomb from America and Great Britain. I set up a network of illegals who convinced Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, Leo Szilard, Bruno Pontecorvo, Alan Nunn May, Klaus Fuchs, and other scientists in American and Great Britain to share atomic secrets with us. It is strange to look back fifty years and re-create the mentality that led us to take vengeance on our enemies with cold self-assurance…"
This is an incredible memoir, but I have placed it under the heading of Espionage and Cold War for the obvious nature of the astoundingly secret, explosive, and sensitive revelations of the main author. Sudoplatov was in charge of "Special Tasks," a euphemism for the department of "wet affairs" (assassinations) and other state top secrets of the USSR under Lavrenti Beria and Joseph Stalin.
6. Stalin — Breaker of Nations by Robert Conquest (1991) covers the life of Joseph Stalin, from his childhood in Gori to his death at his Nearer dacha (Kuntsevo) near Moscow on March 5, 1953. This book is 346 pages, including bibliographical notes and index. The book is easy to read, well-organized, and ideal for the beginning student of Soviet history and Stalinism. It contains two sets of photographs that put faces on the victims of Stalin, adding tangible personification to the almost surreal sense of totalitarian horror, i.e., socialist terror incarnate!
Through the sequential Congresses of the Party, we can follow Stalin's career as he ascends the levels of power with words and deeds, until he reaches the zenith of despotic, autocratic, and absolute power, and then the Congresses cease convening. Stalin rules with his inner circle, his minions who cajoled but also feared him.
Stalin even admitted to his Cheka Chief, Feliks Dzerzhinsky, and Politburo member, Lev Kamenev, "To choose one's victims, to prepare one's plans minutely, to slake an implacable vengeance, and then go to bed...there is nothing sweeter in the world."
Stalin was able to do this repeatedly and with tremendous precision, through to his anti-semitic campaign against alleged "Cosmopolitanism," and the Doctors' Plot Affair two decades later up to the eve of his death in 1953. This book tells you all about it. See Dr. Miguel Faria's complete book review posted on this website.
7. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy by Dmitri Volkogonov. 1988. As "the first glasnost biography" of dictator Joseph Stalin, author Dmitri Volkogonov, General of the Soviet Army and head of the Institute of MIlitary History, writes "My book is called Triumph and Tragedy to suggest how the triumph of one man became the tragedy for a whole people." See Dr. Miguel Faria's complete book review posted on this website.
8. Stalin: The First In-Depth Biography Based on Explosive New Documents From Russia's Secret Archives by Edvard Radzinsky. 1997. An authoritative, engaging, thrilling, and edifying biography of the Red Czar of the Soviet Union, the tyrant Joseph Stalin. See Dr. Miguel Faria's complete book review posted on this website.
9. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Monefiore. 2003. With stunning attention to detail, Montefiore provides us with a galvanizing portrait of a Stalin "as human and complicated as he is brutal" and chronicles the lives of those notorious henchmen who entered the court of the Red Tsar.
10. Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore. 2007. A well-researched, well-written, absorbing, and authoritative biography of Joseph Stalin's early years. Montefiore used archival material which had lain forgotten in dusty storage for years, interviewed eyewitnesses or their descendants, and perhaps most importantly, he uncovered and published material from a number of previously unpublished memoirs (for the first time made available for his book). This includes material from Stalin's girlfriends, terrorist comrades and revolutionary rivals, who knew him well; many of them later turned against him and perished. See Dr. Miguel Faria's complete book review posted on this website.
11. Deception — The Invisible War Between the KGB and the CIA by Edward Jay Epstein. 1989. See Dr. Miguel Faria's review of this book on this website.
12. Legend — The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald by Edward Jay Epstein. 1978. Absolutely absorbing reading! Another gem from Edward J. Epstein.
13. Oswald's Tale, An American Mystery by Norman Mailer. 1995. I am not a fan of Norman Mailer, but I must admit that this is an outstanding volume with engaging narrative and incredible research. This is probably the best book written on Lee Harvey Oswald's life from the assassin's perspective. This book presents a sharp contrast to Legend by Edward J. Epstein. Obviously, Mailer's book was written and published seventeen years later and more information was available to him, not to mention the fact that he was able to enter Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and obtain information and interview citizens. None of this was available to Mr. Epstein in the 1970s.
14. Death of a Dissident — The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB by Alex Goldfarb with Marina Litvinenko. 2007. "The assassination of former Russian intelligence officer Alexander 'Sasha' Litvinenko in November 2006 — poisoned by the rare radioactive element polonium — caused an international sensation. Within a few short weeks, the fit 43-year-old lay gaunt, bald, and dying in a hospital, the victim of a 'tiny nuclear bomb.' Suspicions swirled around Russia's FSB, the successor to the KGB, and the Putin regime. Traces of polonium radiation were found in Germany and on certain airplanes, suggesting a travel route from Russia for the carriers of the fatal poison. But what really happened? What did Litvinenko know? And why was he killed?....His closest friend, Alex Goldfarb, and his widow, Marina, are the only two people who can tell it all, from firsthand knowledge, with dramatic scenes from Moscow to London to Washington. Death of a Dissident reads like a political thriller, yet its story is more fantastic and frightening than any novel."
15. Comrade J — The Untold Secrets of Russia's Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War by Pete Earley. 2007. "In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, the Cold War ended, and a new world order began. We thought everything had changed. But one thing never changed: the spies. Spymaster, defector, and double agent — the remarkable true story of Sergei Tretyakov who ran Russia's post-Cold War spy program in America....Many spies have told their stories. None of them has the astonishing immediacy, relevance, and cautionary warnings as Comrade J."
After World War II, it took the valiant efforts of the Russian defector, code clerk Igor Gozenko, to awaken America and her allies to the fact that Uncle Joe, the greatest mass murderer in history, and our Russian communist friends were conducting serious, devastating espionage against the United States (e.g., atomic secrets among others) at the same time that we were providing the Soviets with vital economic and military aid during "The Great Patriotic War" against the Nazis.
The Berlin Wall comes crashing down in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapses in 1991. Again, the Russians were said to be our friends and allies in the war against (Islamic) terrorism. Even a professor wrote enthusiastically that we had reached the end of history, so humanity has to become reconciled to live peacefully under a soft blend of global socialism and capitalism. Now enters Russian master spy defector Sergei Tretyakov of the New York Rezidentura of the SVR ( the former First Chief Directorate of the KGB) to rain on this optimistically dystopic parade.
And Tretyakov is no ordinary spy of the Communist era. He is the first KGB/SVR officer, who was actively spying for the new Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, to defect to the USA. According to a senior FBI agent involved in the case, Sergei Tretyakov "has been by far the most important Russian Spy that our side has had in decades...I can tell you this man saved American lives." See Dr. Miguel Faria's complete book review posted on this website.
16. Operation Solo — The FBI's Man in the Kremlin by John Barron. 1996. This is the story of three heroes of the Cold War that very few Americans know about, a great cliffhanger, suspense-thriller — and it is all true!
17. Our Man in Mexico — Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA by Jefferson Morley. Foreword by Michael Scott. 2008. This is another suspenseful story of an unsung American hero operating quietly and effectively in our own backyard.
18. Traitors Among Us — Inside the Spy Catcher's World by Stuart A. Herrington. 1999. This book is a collection of stories about military traitors who sold their country's secrets to the Soviets for cold cash. Here is an excerpt from an Amazon.com review written by Mr. Wilburn Rowell:
"Herrington does a good job of telling of the military espionage by US servicemen who betrayed their country: the terrible damage that can occur because of it, the inherent difficulties in investigation, building a case for the prosecution, and the consequences for those who choose to sell out their country for money…."
I fully agree with this assessment! The reviewer's final words are particularly poignant:
"As a former serviceman stationed in Germany during the 1970s, I am appalled at the betrayal of our country by these sellouts. The terrible horror that communism unleashed upon the world and we in the West fought so valiantly against cannot be dismissed by some Marxist professor or journalist saying 'McCarthyism'. An estimated 100 million people were killed because of Communism (Black Book of Communism), and many of them were Americans."
I also applaud Mr. Rowell for this informative review and thank him for his service to this country and the cause of freedom in the world! Dr. Miguel A. Faria
19. The Spy Who Saved the World — How a Soviet Colonel Changed the Course of the Cold War by Jerrold L. Schecter and Peter S. Deriabin. 1992. This is the story of Soviet GRU Colonel Oleg Penkovsky, who gave his life in the service of the British and American intelligence — and in the cause of freedom during the Cold War.
20. Flawed Patriot — The Rise and Fall of CIA Legend Bill Harvey by Bayard Stockton. 2006. Bill Harvey was our American James Bond, but unfortunately his life was complex and his fate tragic in the service of his country. A well-written and researched biography of a lesser known American hero.
21. The Spy Who Got Away — The Inside Story of Edward Lee Howard, the CIA Agent Who Betrayed His Country's Secrets and Escaped to Moscow by David Wise. 1988. Well-written and fascinating biography of a traitor.
22. Ruse — Undercover with FBI Counterintelligence by Robert Eringer. 2007. This book is a hell of a suspenseful ride! A good patriotic hustler who risks his life for country and justice, Eringer goes after traitor Edward Lee Howard in post-communist Russia; assists in the capture of notorious killer Ira Einhorn in France; hoodwinks die-hard communist KGB Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov in Moscow; and plays the Great Game skillfully with Cuban Intelligence in Washington and Havana. Kudos for Mr. Eringer's book, an excellent sequel and denoument for David Wise's The Spy Who Got Away (1988)! Highly recommended for those who, like me, prefer Cold War non-fiction, real life spy thrillers to fiction, cloak and dagger potboilers!
23. Confessions of a Spy — The Real Story of Aldrich Ames by Pete Earley. 1997.
24. Nightmover — How Aldrich Ames Sold the CIA to the KGB for $4.6 Million by David Wise. 1995.
25. Spy — The Inside Story of How the FBI's Robert Hanssen Betrayed America by David Wise. 2002.
26. The Spy Next Door — The Extraordinary Secret Life of Robert Philip Hanssen, the Most Damaging FBI Agent in U.S. History by Elaine Shannon and Ann Blackman. 2002.
27. The Main Enemy — The Inside Story of the CIA's Final Showdown with the KGB by Milt Bearden and James Risen. 2003. An interesting account of the CIA-KGB war during the 1980s and 1990s.
28. Deadly Illusions — The KGB Orlov Dossier Reveals Stalin's Master Spy by John Costello and Oleg Tsarev. 1993.
29. Alexander Orlov — The FBI's KGB General by Edward Gazur. 2001. See Dr. Miguel Faria's complete book review posted on this website.
30. Spies — The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev. 2009. This is a must have, comprehensive reference source for scholars of the Cold War, espionage, and the KGB — as well as spy buffs.
31. Farewell — The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century by Sergei Kostin and Eric Raynaud. Translated by Catherine Cauvin-Higgins. 2011. The disintegration of the USSR is inextricably entwined and intimately related to the life and times, failures and accomplishments, paradoxes and contradictions of the courageous Russian....Code name: Farewell. See Dr. Miguel Faria's complete book review posted on this website.
32. Tiger Trap — America's Secret Spy War with China by David Wise. 2011. An astounding and critically needed book as Americans know very little about the espionage activities of China in the United States. See Dr. Miguel Faria's complete book review posted on this website.
B. World War II:
1. Churchill's Deception — The Dark Secret That Destroyed Nazi Germany by Louis C. Kilzer. 1994. See Dr. Miguel Faria's review of this book on this website.
2. Hitler's Traitor — Martin Bormann and the Defeat of the Reich by Louis C. Kilzer. 2000. See Dr. Miguel Faria's review of this book on this website.
C. Political Science Classics:
1. The Law by Frederic Bastiat. 1850. Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) was a French patriot as well as an economist, politician, statesman, and writer. As a deputy to the French legislative assembly just before and immediately the revolution of 1848, Bastiat opposed socialism espoused by Louis Blanc and other collectivists in the assembly. Unfortunately, Bastiat died from tuberculosis shortly before the publication of this little masterpiece! Some of his famous quotes are: "Socialism is legal plunder under or justified by false philanthropy"; "Law is force therefore it should be a negative concept"; "Legal plunder is organized injustice"; "The law commits legal plunder by violating liberty and property"; "Socialism is philanthropic tyranny."
2. Destructive Generation — Second Thoughts About the '60s by Peter Collier and David Horowitz. 1989. This book is the best book written about revolutionary groups in the U.S.A. during the 1960s. It has well researched and well written stories on The Weatherman underground terrorist group with colorful sketches of Bernadine Dohrn and Billy Ayers; Huey Newton, the Black Panther leader; the radical students at Berkley; the poignant story of radical lawyer Fay Stender; the Black terrorist, Geoge Jackson; Cuba and the Venceremos Brigade; the real meaning of McCarthyism; and other hot button issues of the New Left of the 1960s.
Moreover, the conversion of the authors, Peter Collier and David Horowitz, from leftist radicals to conservative political thinkers is of itself a marvelous read! This book is highly recommended.
3. Radical Son — A Generational Odyssey by David Horowitz. 1997. This book supplements what we learn in Destructive Generation, and as the author points out, it is David Horowitz's personal and generational odyssey from a left-wing radical to an intellectual leader of the conservative right.
This enthralling autobiography is a political testament of David Horowitz and traces three generations of his family's political fortunes. From the publisher: "One American family's infatuation with the radical left from the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 to the collapse of the Marxist empire six decades later.
"David Horowitz was one of the founders of the New Left and an editor of Ramparts, the magazine that set the intellectual and revolutionary tone for the movement. From his vantage point at the center of action, he populates Radical Son with vivid portraits of people who made the radical decade, while unmaking America at the same time. We are introduced to an aged Bertrand Russell, the world famous philosopher and godson of John Stuart Mill, who in his nineties became America's scourge, organizing a War Crimes Tribunal over the war in Vietnam. There is Tom Hayden, the radical Everyman who promoted guerrilla warfare in America's cities in the Sixties, married film legend Jane Fonda, and became a Democratic state senator when his revolutions failed. We meet Huey Newton, a street hustler and murderer who founded a black militia that became the Sixties' most resonant symbol of black power and black militance.
"Horowitz's encounter with Newton and his Black Panthers, the most celebrated radical group of the Sixties, become the focal point of the story when a brutal murder committed by the Panthers changes his life forever, prompting the profound "second thoughts" that eventually led him to become an intellectual leader of conservatism and its most prominent activist in Hollywood." I certainly agree. This book is a must-read and I cannot but make the highest recommendation. MAF
4. Soul on Fire by Eldridge Cleaver. (1978). Eldridge Cleaver's first book was Soul on Ice, which was a radical, counter-culture tome indicting America for everything under the sun, from the perspective of a Black Panther leader. It was required reading for me in my freshman year in college. Cleaver renounced that book years later, but that tome still remains the only book by Cleaver that the media and academia still acknowledge.
Cleaver was not only a violent radical but a Black Panther revolutionary, who escaped from Oakland, California in a hail of bullets; when the smoke had cleared, he had vanished, escaped from the evil "American capitalism and imperialism." He reappeared years later touring the various Worker's Paradises. He had visited hard-core communist countries, North Korea, Cuba, and the USSR, where he was feted and honored. In those countries where supposedly "all men are equal and their dignity respected," Cleaver found corruption, repression, lies, and racism. He was also welcomed in the social democracies of Western Europe, but even in these socialist countries with a "human face," he could see through the dissimulation. Finally after seeing the light of truth, Cleaver recognized that the United States of America was the beacon of freedom in the world and that there was no better country on earth. He called the FBI and told them he was catching the next plane fom Paris to the USA and to wait for him at the other end. He was turning himself in to face American justice. He would rather face prison in the United States than live as a fugitive in the socialist world! This journey is recounted in his later book, Soul on Fire.
And Soul on Fire is indeed, Cleaver's true masterpiece , his personal journey from a violent Black Panther radical of the 1960s to a repentant and wise American patriot of the early 1980s! This book, by a small publisher (Word Books of Waco, Texas) is hard to find, but well-worth the search and the read iif you can find a copy! It is a magnificent narrative containing politics, memoirs, philosophy, and Eldridge Cleaver's personal odyssey from radical revolutionary to conservative thinker. Find this book and read it! MAF
5. Our Enemy the State by Albert Jay Nock. 1935. This book by the libertarian Albert Jay Nock, a gifted writer and founder of The Freeman magazine, shows that libertarians can be on the extreme right of the political spectrum and sometimes can even border on a pacifist form of anarchism. As I wrote in March 1997 when I first finished reading it, "This book is anarchism at its best." This book is an antidote against statism and collectivism, but don't expect modern socialists to read it.
6. Out of America — A Black Man Confronts Africa by Keith B. Richburg. 1997. "This outstanding book by a black American journalist for The Washington Post recounts the emotional and spiritual awakening of the author upon his fateful visit to his ancestral home, Africa. He vividly recounts his adventurers and journalistic travails on the Dark Continent, and finds he belongs happily and unregretfully in America. He thanks Providence for the fact his ancestors were brought to America, even as slaves, so that he could be born a free man in America. One of the most poignant scenes in the book sums it up. In shock, he sees countless numbers of black corpses floating down a river in Rwanda. He states, as politically incorrect as it may be, "There but by the grace of God, go I." The book is a must read for everyone, particularly those who want to supplant America for a utopian paradise that has never existed in Africa or elsewhere — not even in socialism, communism, or any form of collectivism." 1999 Amazon.com book review written by MAF.
7. Beyond Freedom and Dignity by B.F. Skinner. 1971. In his book, psychologist B.F. Skinner wages war against the cherished Western concept of individual freedom and the dignity of man. See Dr. Miguel Faria's complete book review posted on this website.
D. Health Care:
1. Vandals at the Gates of Medicine — Historic Perspectives on the Battle Over Health Care Reform by Miguel A. Faria, Jr., MD. 1995. Read the complete book review on this website.
2. Medical Warrior: Fighting Corporate Socialized Medicine by Miguel A. Faria, Jr., MD. 1997. Read the complete book review on this website.
3. The Serpent on the Staff — The Unhealthy Politics of the American Medical Association by Howard Wolinsky and Tom Brune. 1994. Read the complete book review on this website.
4. Code Blue — Health Care in Crisis by Edward R. Annis, MD. 1993. Read the complete book review on this website.
5. Your Doctor Is Not In by Jane M. Orient, MD. 1993. Read the complete book review on this website.
6. Excitotoxins — The Taste that Kills by Russell L. Blaylock, MD. 1994. This book, written by a board-certified neurosurgeon, "describes what excitotoxins are, where they are found, and how they react in the body. Dr. Blaylock presents the latest research findings to demonstrate how exposure to excitotoxins will damage nerve cells in the brain. The use of aspartame, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and monosodium glutamate in prepared foods and beverages continues to increase on a yearly basis. Dr. Blaylock clearly demonstrates that the neurotoxic potential of excitotoxins such as MSG and aspartame (NutraSweet) is so overwhelming that it can no longer be ignored." Read Dr. Lawrence Huntoon's complete book review on this website.
7. Health and Nutrition Secrets That Can Save Your Life by Russell L. Blaylock, MD. 2002. Dr Faria writes: "Dr. Blaylock's latest magnum opus contains superb chapters covering essentially every aspect of health and nutrition; brain and body protection against toxins, injury, and disease; and even defense against bioterrorism.
"He covers causes of degenerative diseases, including the bad effects of free radicals and the benefits of certain minerals, vitamins, and other more powerful antioxidants; nutrition, genes, and genetic switches; the danger of mercury from various sources; the effect of fluoride from drinking water, toothpaste, and other sources; other toxic metals to avoid; vaccination hazards; toxic food additives; pesticides and other harmful chemicals; and causes of arteriosclerosis, stroke, heart attack, and other diseases of aging and how to prevent them."
This is the one book that every household should have! Read Dr. Faria's complete book review on this website.
8. Patient Power: The Free-Enterprise Alternative to Clinton's Health Plan by John C. Goodman and Gerald L. Musgrave. 1993. Do you want to enhance your access to quality medical care? Do you want to maintain control of your own health care? Are you tired of insurance companies or other third-party payers interfering with your medical care decisions? Marvelous tome that is simple-to-read, easy to understand, and explains, in plain English, the only true free-market alternative to all the various socialized medicine schemes that have been offered up, and that is, Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs). In Patient Power, the authors will tell you exactly how to regain control of your own medical care!
1. Cuba in Revolution — Escape From a Lost Paradise by Miguel A. Faria, Jr., MD. 2002. "Thirty-six years ago after a harrowing ordeal at sea, Miguel A. Faria, Jr., escaped from Cuba with his father and found a new home in the United States. Cuba's loss was America's gain. A consummate historian, Dr. Faria here applies himself with gusto, using a treasure-trove of inside information to tell his personal odyssey and to reveal the true story of the Cuban Revolution and its sell-out to communism. Especially noteworthy are the unknown stories of the Cuban patriots who fought Castro's communist regime." (Read Dr. Jerome Arnett's complete book review on this site.)
And, here is what Dr. Russell Blaylock writes about this book: "Most of us who enjoy reading books concerning our world, especially those dealing with acts of courage arising from human tragedy, find a few works that have a lasting effect on our lives, not just because of the subject, but because of the way in which it is presented. Few writers can fill the reader with an overwhelming sense of emotion that normally only comes with first hand experience. I found this in Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago and Armando Valladares' Against all Hope…." (Read Dr. Russell Blaylock's complete book review on this site.)
Cuba in Revolution — Escape From a Lost Paradise reveals the untold story of the Cuban Revolution, an eyewitness account weaved through a boy's intrepid escape via several Caribbean islands. Dr. Miguel Faria pounces on the purported triumphs of the Revolution, unravels the alleged gains, exposes the truth, and sets straight the historic record. The picture that comes to light is that of a brutal police state, mass repression, desolation, privation, and intolerance.
2. Dagger in the Heart — American Policy Failures in Cuba by Mario Lazo. 1968. This is an early epic history of the Cuban Revolution up to the early 1960s by Mario Lazo, an upper class Cuban lawyer, who was well-connected to and a major player in the elite Cuban-American business community. And yet, Lazo was no close-minded Batistiano but a concerned Cuban patriot. And his book is very poignant, the work of an informed citizen, who saw his nation disintegrate and did what he could to save the pieces. Moreover, as an insider, he relates how the U.S. lost opportunity after opportunity to help the island from falling to communism; instead the men of the U.S. State Department did what they could to see that the revolutionaries prevailed against Cuban President Fulgencio Batista. This is a must read book, and a beginner's entry into Cuban revolutionary history.
3. Fidel Castro by Robert E. Quirk. 1993. This is the most comprehensive biography of the Communist dictator to date, yet it is quite readable. Quirk's scholarship is superlative. This biography is magnificent and plainly fascinating! No other book about the life and times of Fidel Castro comes close to matching Quirk's magnum opus!
4. Mea Cuba by Guillermo Cabrera Infante. 1992. A thoughtful collection of writings by the famed Cuban author and editor of Lunes de Revolucion literary magazine. This is required reading for the literati of Cuban revolutionary literature and cultural history.
The stories and repression of Cuban poets and writers at the time of the Revolution is told splendidly by Cabrera Infante. From those who went along, Alejo Carpentier, Ernest Hemingway, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nicolas Guillen, and Alfredo Guevara; those who saw the coming dictatorship (too late), Carlos Franqui, Heberto Padilla, Carlos Alberto Montaner, and Cabrera Infante; those who refused to compromise and escaped, Reinaldo Arenas, Luis Aguero, and Walterio Carbonell; those who perished in and became victims of the Revolution, Virgilio Pinera and Jose Lezama Lima. What a panorama!
The destruction of artistic talent in Cuba reminds one of the same happenings in Russia immediately after the Bolshevik Revolution — i.e., the loss of the rich fountain of artistic and literary geniuses during the silver age of Russia, Zinaida Gippius, Alexander Blok, Andrei Bely, Marc Chagall, Vladimir Mayakovsky!
What was the intelligentsia in Cuba permitted to write and express their artistic and literary talents immediately after the triumph of the Revolution? As Fidel Castro told them at a convened writers' meeting: "Within the Revolution everything; outside the Revolution, nothing!"
5. Shadow Warrior — The CIA Hero of a Hundred Unknown Battles by Felix I. Rodriguez and John Weisman. 1989. This is the story of courage of Felix Rodriguez, one of the great heroes of Cuba and the United States in the 20th Century. He participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion, and in CIA covert operations in Central America, in the Caribbean, and in Europe as well as in Far East Asia. Rodriguez presided over the capture and execution of Che Guevara in Bolivia, testified at the Iran-Contra Hearings, and...well, you will have to read his book!
6. Against All Hope:The Prison Memoirs of Armando Valladares by Armando Valladares (1986). This is a kafkaesque drama which turns into a living nightmare, the stories of the Cuban Solzhenitsyn and his fellow prisoners in the gulag system of that imprisoned island. But Valladares, like Solzhenitsyn before him, could not be broken by the system of torture and repression, despite 20 years of living hell. This memoir is highly recommended, but (and this is not a cliche warning) the book is not for the squeamish!
7. Cuba en Guerra — Historia de la Oposicion Anti-Castrista 1959-1993 by Enrique Encinosa. 1994. Written in Spanish. "This book is not for the easily offended or faint-hearted. The poignant text, carefully annotated, meticulously researched, and succinctly put together by Enrique Encinosa is accompanied by graphic photos of rebel leaders...who died or were captured and executed by the communist dictator while attempting to bring freedom to Cuba....Why would campesinos (peasants), workers, or students pick up arms and lead open revolts in the Escambray Mountains against Fidel Castro's "worker's paradise?" Why would Cuban exiles living good comfortable lives in Miami with their families leave the U.S. to go back to Cuba, breach communist defenses to conduct clandestine operations, infiltration, and uprisings against Fidel Castro's communist government? You must read this book to find out." Read Dr. Miguel Faria's complete book review on this website.
8. Unvanquished — Cuba's Resistance to Fidel Castro by Enrique Encinosa. 2004. Although non-fiction, this book reads more like a novel! "It's the stupendous work of the serious scholar, Enrique Encinosa, who has written the definitive works on the guerrilla wars waged by anticommunist Cuban rebels against the repressive, totalitarian regime of Fidel and Raul Castro….Those who have opined that Cubans have not fought enough to obtain their freedom should read Encinosa’s chronicle. This is the story that proves them wrong. This little tome chronicles the previously unwritten and little-noticed, heroic efforts of those who have tried to bring freedom to Cuba by armed insurrection from inside and outside Cuba, efforts that have been ignored by the American media…" Read Dr. Miguel Faria's complete book review on this website.
9. Cuba — Dilemmas of a Revolution by Juan M. del Aguila. 1994. A well researched, written, and annotated book by Emory University Political Science Professor Juan del Aguila. Essential tome for the Cuban economic and political faction researcher in the early days of the Revolution.
10. Insider — My Hidden Life as a Revolutionary in Cuba by Jose Luis Llovio-Menendez. 1988. The story of a young Cuban student revolutionary married to a Parisian beauty and heiress and living in Europe who gets enticed to return to Cuba after the triumph of the Revolution. Upon his return, Llovio-Menendez becomes trapped in the island prison. The workers' paradise turns out not to be as described, but he finds this out too late. His family is exiled or imprisoned, and seemingly there is no exit for him!
11. Bay of Pigs — The Untold Story by Peter Wyden. 1979. Along with the book mentioned below, this tome is a good beginning chronicle of the Bay of Pigs fiasco, which Fidel Castro called "the first defeat of Yankee imperialism in America."
12. The Bay of Pigs — The Leaders' Story of Brigade 2506 by Haynes Johnson. 1964. This book, as well as the one mentioned above, compliment each other even though they are written from two different perspectives. This book is more passionate, written from the viewpoint of the Cuban exile participants. Both are highly recommended reading.
13. The Sugar King of Havana — The Rise and Fall of Julio Lobo, Cuba's Last Tycoon by John Paul Rathbone. 2010. This book is fully described in the Biographies section above.
14. Cuba: Viaje Al Pasado by Roberto A. Solera. 1994. One of the few books that reveals information about the surviving leaders of the Student Revolutionary Directorate, who fought against Fulgencio Batista and then joined the Revolution led by the opposite rival group, Fidel Castro's 26 of July Movement.
15. Natumaleza Cubana by Carlos Wotzkow. 1998. With Prologue by Guillermo Cabrera Infante. This book is required reading for environmentalists, who refuse to see the realities of a communist dictatorship and the ecological disasters in its wake. Central planning is bad for economic and social freedom as well as the environment.
16. Castro's Secrets — The CIA and Cuba's Intelligence Machine by Brian Latell. 2012. The author — a professor, scholar, and retired CIA officer, who had been active in foreign intelligence for 35 years — relies extensively on information provided by Cuban defectors and describes the largest and longest lasting double agent operation in the annals of world espionage. See Dr. Miguel Faria's complete book review posted on this website.
17. After Fidel — The Inside Story of Castro's Regime and Cuba's Next Leader by Brian Latell. 2005. In After Fidel, author Brian Latell — a National Intelligence Officer (1990-1994) and the top analyst for Cuba and Latin America for all the U.S intelligence agencies — describes in persuasive detail the personal relationship between Fidel and Raúl Castro. The book also contains dramatic revelations about the Castro brothers, even for those familiar with the history of the Cuban Revolution and the many biographies of Fidel Castro. See Dr. Miguel Faria's complette book review posted on this website.
A. Political Science Classics:
1. 1984 by George Orwell. 1949. Easton Press edition, 1992.
2. Animal Farm by George Orwell. 1946. Easton Press edition, 1992.
3. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. 1957.
4. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. 1943.
5. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. 1932. Easton Press edition, 1978. A futuristic, dystopia I chose to place in this section.
B. General Classics:
1. The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. 1924.
2. Aztec by Gary Jennings. 1980.
3. The Works of Edgar Allan Poe in Ten Volumes. 1904. The Cameo Edition. Everyone is familiar with Poe's classic Tales and well-known poems and short stories, such as The Raven, The Oblong Box, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Cask of Amontillado, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, and The Fall of the House of Usher. But Volume II of this collection contains a rare gem, Narrative of A. Gordon Pym. This is Poe's only full length novel and in a quirk of literary fate, it is one of his least known works. However, the reader will discover that many of the sub-plots contained in this novel have been widely used in classic adventure tales by a myriad of authors and Hollywood movies. This exquisite work is highly recommended.
C. Spy Thrillers:
1. Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre. 1974. The Franklin Library edition.
2. Smiley's People by John Le Carre. 1979. The Franklin Library edition.
3. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carre. 1964. Coward-McCann Publishers. This novel was also brilliantly adapted into a movie starring Sir Richard Burton, Claire Bloom, and Osker Werner.
Le Carre is a great writer, though at times difficult to read. I enjoyed the books and the movie adaptations of his intriguing novels, but I would be remiss if I didn't point out that he seems to apply a disturbing moral relativism between the free world of the West and the evil tyrannical communism of the East, as if the political philosophies of East and West were equal. Also, Le Carre tries to portray the novel's agents on both sides as if they played by the same rules; they did not. In reality, the KGB was almost always the agreesor and MI6 and the CIA played a mostly defensive game. Moreover, except the character of Geoge Smilley, whom Le Carre treats decently both as a professional and a human being, all of the MI6 spies and spy masters seem to be flawed individuals who cared nothing for the ideal of freedom that should be motivating them. One wonders why these individuals would be risking their lives with relatively little pay and little recognition, if they were as flawed as Le Carre portrays them in his novels.
1. The Story of Civilization by Will Durant. This 12-volume set includes the following tomes: Volume 1: Our Oriental Heritage, 1935; Volume 2: The Life of Greece, 1939; Volume 3: Caesar and Christ, 1944; Volume 4: The Age of Faith, 1950; Volume 5: The Renaissance, 1953; Volume 6: The Reformation, 1957; Volume 7: The Age of Reason Begins, 1961; Volume 8: The Age of Louis XIV, 1963; Volume 9: The Age of Voltaire, 1965; Volume 10: Rousseau and Revolution, 1967; Volume 11: The Age of Napoleon, 1975. Volume 12: The Lessons of History, 1968. And, beginning with the 7th volume in this series, the name of Ariel Durant (i.e., Will Durant's wife) is added as an author on each of the subsequent volumes. This is an exquisite narrative, a marvelous rendition of the story of civilization. The reader may not always agree with the lessons Will Durant derives from his well-researched historical facts, but his wit and flair for writing and his style are indisputable, those of a master craftsman and storyteller! This man's immense knowledge of history has resulted in a distillation of wisdom that exudes from the pages of each of his volumes in this monumental history of civilization. We cannot help but be enlightened after perusing each and every volume of this spectacular set!
2. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. 1946. Easton Press edition, 1974. Gibbon's magnificent work is divided into six volumes in this collection. It is no wonder that most learned persons have heard of the name of Edward Gibbon or at the very least the name of his magnum opus, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. At the time of the publication of this work, the Europeans were enthralled with this historical thriller. I believe the same thing would occur if the modern reader would only pause from his busy existence to read this magnificent, historical saga. It seems that many academics have commented on Gibbon's alleged criticism of Christianity as the culprit for the fall of the Roman Empire. After reading these volumes twice, I cannot say that I agree with this assessment. While Christianity did have a softening influence on the military mind of the Romans, there were myriads of reasons for the fall of the Empire. Perhaps the only valid criticism of Gibbon's work is the fact that he did not recognize the importance of the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, as a bulwark against the Eastern barbarians, from the Goths and Bulgars to the more recent newcomers, the Islamic hordes from Mecca, Medina, and the Arabian desert inspired by the prophet Mohammed. More attention should be given to Gibbon's admonition that civilization is only a generation away from barbarism, and that there is no guarantee that Western civilization could survive a renewed, resurgent savagery from the East.
3. A History of the English Speaking People by Sir Winston S. Churchill. 1956. Dorset Press edition. This collection is divided into four volumes entitled: Volume 1: The Birth of Britain; Volume 2: The New World; Volume 3: The Age of Revolution; Volume 4: The Great Democracies. This is a marvelous compilation of the contribution of the Anglo-American peoples to civilization. Needless to say, Churchill's personality reverberates in these pages with his wit, aphorisms, sometimes with humor, always with the historical knowledge and wisdom of a giant statesman.
4. Soldiers of Fortune — The Story of the Mamlukes, 1250-1517 by Sir John Bagot Glubb. 1973. I list this book here not only because it is an historic masterpiece, but also because this book fills a huge gap of knowledge in world history.
Written and Reviewed by Dr. Miguel Faria
Copyright© 2011 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D.