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Spies and the disaster they share

Espionage work is associated with darkness and danger, according to those who make their living writing about it. These, of course, include experts in the genre like John le Carre and Olen Steinhauer, whose new and memorably titled book is tailored to the kind of terror that spies live with.

Turning a negative into a positive

There’s a popular narrative in U.S. politics these days. The Democrats dislike the Republicans. The Republicans dislike the Democrats. The American voter dislikes the Democrats and Republicans for what they’ve done, and still do, to politics and elections.

When sanctions work and when they don’t

At a time when once again, for the umpteenth time in postwar America, the imposition of economic sanctions and just how they should be applied is a hot-button topic in Washington’s corridors of power, here comes this provocative book which seems to be telling us that using them is at best almost useless and at worst actually counterproductive.

The little princess who could

Some people deserve to be remembered not because of any towering achievement, but simply because they did their best, sometimes rather clumsily, to make a positive contribution. Sophia Duleep Singh, daughter of the last maharajah of the Punjab, was such a person and Anita Anand’s groundbreaking biography, thoroughly researched and written with considerable verve, does her subject full justice — and then some.

Mariel Hemingway writes of painful family memories to help others cope with mental illness

- The Washington Times

Mariel Hemingway was only 6 years old when she learned how to mix cocktails and pour wine as a survival mechanism to keep her parents from arguing. In two new autobiographies, the California native and granddaughter of novelist Ernest Hemingway says she spent her childhood carefully navigating through a “minefield” of alcoholism, arguing, drug addiction, mental illness and suicide.

How spying shaped modernity

In the wake of the turbulent French Revolution at the turn of the 18th century, crowns rattled atop nervous royal heads throughout Europe. Was beheading monarchs going to become a new continental pastime? Would democratic forces sweep aside regimes whose only claim to “legitimacy” was heritage?

Responding to the attack on Pearl Harbor

Unless you are now 80 or more years old, you could hardly be expected to have memories of those dark days after the attacks by Japanese forces on Pearl Harbor, the Philippines and the British, French and Dutch colonies in the Western Pacific.

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What we see and what we don’t see

Can something be both male and female, present and past, light and dark, alive and dead, in the real world and in a fantasy? These are just some of the questions that arise in Ali Smith's tantalizing new novel, "How to Be Both." In an interview with The New York Times, Ms. Smith explained, "The book was about observation and what we see and don't see when we look, and I had a notion that it should be about time." And so it is, very successfully.

Fantasy forged in an evanescent landscape

Few if any contemporary English novelists are more highly esteemed that Kazuo Ishiguro. Four of his novels have been nominated for the Man Booker Prize, and one — "The Remains of the Day" — won it (in 1989). It is the best known of his works, in part because it was made into a successful film starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.

Will black Republicans ever be less lonely?

Frederick Douglass, the great writer, orator and abolitionist leader, was a trusted adviser to President Abraham Lincoln — and a black Republican. In an Aug. 15, 1888 letter, he famously wrote, "I recognize the Republican party as the sheet anchor of the colored man's political hopes and the ark of his safety."

Ornery H.L. Mencken loved baseball

As baseball season thunders down upon us — Go Nats! — let us pause to give loud huzzahs to the Library of America and the Washington writer Marion Elizabeth Rodgers, first for defying self-appointed literary censors, and also for revealing the hidden love of the national pastime by none other than Baltimore's famed scourge of bunkum, H.L. Mencken.

‘A call to action for the 46 states that know better’

William Bennett, who served as secretary of education under Ronald Reagan and director of national drug control policy (or drug czar) under George H.W. Bush, has long been known for his strong and clear articulation of conservative principles in a number of best-selling books, among them "The Book of Virtues."

Vive la difference

Like family traits, national characteristics may evolve or dilute over the generations, but they never really go away. As with family DNA, national DNA is reinforced by attitudes, traditions and surroundings — nature working hand in hand with nurture. This is especially true in countries with long-standing national and linguistic unity and a strong sense of cultural identity.

Finding a killer driven by ‘nuclear rage’

The investigating team of Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis is coping with unsolved "cold cases" and an ice-cold killer in this crafty and cleverly plotted mystery.

Celebrating family love and national pride

For those of us who thrilled to the movie made of Rodgers and Hammerstein's last Broadway collaboration, "The Sound of Music," it is hard to believe that a half-century has passed since it claimed its unique place in American film.

The politics that surrounded the sinking of the Lusitania

A lawyer friend of mine routinely asks a question when preparing the defense of white-collar clients accused of high-dollar crimes: "What were you thinking?" The question comes to mind often when reading Erik Larson's harrowing and intriguing resurrection of the infamous but misremembered sinking of the British liner Lusitania by a German submarine, the 1915 catastrophe that did not trigger America's entry into World War I.

How Ronald Reagan countered a nuclear threat

Life and professional partners, the Andersons completed this, their last book together, not long before Martin passed away. It is a model of careful research and clear writing and a tribute to a man, Ronald Reagan, whose vision of a world without nuclear weapons and his determination to bring it about led to the end of the Cold War.

A tangled Middle East after World War I

For obvious reasons, most English-language books published on the Great War of 1914-1918 are Eurocentric, focused on the grinding trench warfare of the Western Front. Even the occasional glances eastward seldom got beyond the Gallipoli campaign, and even these accounts stressed the role of Australian and New Zealander troops, not the Middle Eastern armies.

Louis Zamperini gestures during a news conference Friday May 9, 2014 in Pasadena, Calif. Ninety-seven-year-old World War II hero and former Olympian, Zamperini has been named grand marshal of the 2015 Rose Parade.(AP Photo/Nick Ut)

'Legacy of Faith' bonus tells the rest of the story of the 'unbroken' Louis Zamperini

- The Washington Times

The first three acts of Louis Zamperini's life were captured in "Unbroken," the blockbuster film that covered Zamperini's childhood, his track star years and the harrowing experiences of being lost at sea for nearly seven weeks and then sent to a Japanese prison camp. The next important chapters of his life are now available in "Legacy of Faith," a special edition bonus disc included with Tuesday's home release of "Unbroken" on Blu-ray and DVD.