Ben Macintyre does not disappoint with his newest book, The Spy and the Traitor (Crown, $28). Very much a complement to his 2014 A Spy Among Friends, which tells the story of double agent Kim Philby’s betrayal of MI6, The Spy and the Traitor features KGB-agent-turned-British-spy, Oleg Gordievsky. Ben Macintyre immerses and inspires, allowing readers to understand Gordievsky’s ideological transformation and empathize with a double agent’s inability to share his innermost thoughts with his friends and family. Macintyre also includes the perfect (and infamous) foil to Gordievsky’s ideological turn: the tale of the mercenary CIA turncoat, Aldrich Ames. Even if Ames’s story is familiar to you, Macintyre ties Ames to Gordievsky’s tribulations, shedding new light on the human consequences of Ames’s betrayal. The Spy and the Traitor lends new perspective to infamous Cold War moments and tells an impossible-to-put-down story that will impress, thrill, and terrify its readers.
Though today’s Congress seems combative, all the filibusters and name-calling are nothing compared to when Congressmen actually stabbed and shot one another. From the infamous caning of Charles Sumner to endless challenges to duel, as historian Joanne Freeman shows in The Field of Blood (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $28), these frayed tensions were practically destined to erupt into the Civil War. Remembering the Congress of the past solely as hallowed halls and dignified men, she argues, is dangerous, as the real history reveals uncomfortable yet necessary truths about a nation on the brink of disunion. Written with wit, flair, and a hint of cheek, Freeman presents these Congressmen as petty, triumphant, stoic, and vengeful—or, as she puts it more simply, human.
Any of Antony Beevor’s books are must-reads for the World War II canon, and The Battle of Arnhem (Viking, $35) is no exception. From page one, Beevor transports the reader, and no matter the scene—squabbling generals, Allies racing across Europe in tanks, “exultant Belgians” cheering for the liberators—you feel like a part of it. As the narrative progresses and Operation Market Garden looms closer, Beevor draws you in further—which is especially wrenching, as it gets clearer and clearer (knowledge of history aside) that this operation will not lead the war to a speedy conclusion. From the generals on high to the lowest-ranking paratroopers, from the German invaders to the Dutch civilians, Beevor presents all the dimensions and complications of Operation Market Garden. If you want an in-depth, thoughtful, and engaging account of this chapter of World War II history, Beevor’s book is exactly what you need.