The best books on national security

John D. Marks Author Of The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control: The Secret History of the Behavioral Sciences
By John D. Marks

The Books I Picked & Why

The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms And The CIA

By Thomas Powers

The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms And The CIA

Why this book?

This is a great book about former CIA Director Richard Helms and the agency he directed.  Helms was the quintessential CIA man, and Powers tells the story of his 30-year career in spying in this beautifully written book, which somehow captures both Helms’ elusiveness and his essence.


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Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century

By George Packer

Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century

Why this book?

Dick Holbrooke was a one-of-a-kind diplomat who, by force of his character, brought peace to Bosnia. He embodied still significant, but declining, American power in the post-Vietnam era, and this book brilliantly captures his character and his exploits.


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The Quiet American

By Graham Greene

The Quiet American

Why this book?

This classic novel is the book I read before leaving for Vietnam as a young Foreign Service Officer. Written in 1955, it foretold in hugely insightful terms the quagmire in which the United States would sink into. It demonstrated the reasons why Americans have done so badly in combatting insurgencies.


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A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam

By Neil Sheehan

A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam

Why this book?

As both a military officer and a civilian leader of the pacification program, John Vann personified American involvement – and failure – in Vietnam. In my view, this is the definitive book on the War. If you only are going to read one book on Vietnam, this is the one I would choose.


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Reporter: A Memoir

By Seymour M. Hersh

Reporter: A Memoir

Why this book?

Sy Hersh is far and away the best investigative reporter of the last 50 years. This book tells how he got the stories that became some of the biggest national security scandals of our time – from My Lai to Watergate to CIA domestic spying to Abu Ghraib. This is essential reading for anyone interested in either or both journalism or national security.


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