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When a lawbreaker is a lovable rogue

Its title is long and the central character’s name, Ajatashatru Oghash Rathod, is both long and tongue-twisting. Never fear. This book is actually short — a novella rather than a novel, though lots of white space between lines and chapters expand it to an ergonomically appealing size. It’s also an appealing read.

The unbearable heaviness of being Russian

What Viennese wits used to say about the dying Austro-Hungarian Empire also applies to the corruption-stoked, smoke-and-mirrors world of Vladimir Putin’s Russia: “The situation is hopeless but not serious.” By the time you reach Page 131 of Peter Pomerantsev’s brilliant collection of sketches from the life in 21st century Russia you may find yourself echoing the lament of one of its more sympathetic characters (“Grigory,” an unusually bright, relatively cultivated member of the new class of Russian entrepreneur-tycoons): “There must be some way of working out how to make Russia work. Must be!”

When lies lead to murder

This riveting book is a compelling read not only for correcting a much-mythologized era, but also for reminding us of the harsh and often crass realities that influence all our presidents when they get blindsided by the unintended consequences of their acts.

The truth about communists in Hollywood

At last. After more than a half-century there is now available a book that thoroughly discredits all the movie industry protestations that there were no Communists in filmmaking during and after World War II, when in fact there were hundreds.

The lessons he learned in public service

Considering his life as a U.S. foreign service officer (FSO), Christopher Hill has few regrets. An FSO brat, his passion for diplomacy was fostered early. Referencing a formative experience in Cameroon, Mr. Hill explains, “I signed up for the Foreign Service exam … and resolved to pass it, because I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life.”

How animal rights activists doomed ‘Free Willy’

The film “Free Willy” captured the imagination of viewers in 1993 with a story detailing a young boy’s desire to free a killer whale named “Willy” from captivity in an amusement park. At the end of the film, Willy swims off to freedom. But the inspirational film bears little resemblance to reality, according to Mark Simmons, author of “Killing Keiko: The True Story of Free Willy’s Return to the Wild.”

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