When I was a little girl, I watched a lot of Scooby-Doo, Batman, the old Nancy Drew (Bonita Granville was so good!). Because of these, I decided that when I grew up I wanted to be a spy–I practiced codes, read lots of books (Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy was excellent), and even went to the International Spy Museum in DC. But then, I rediscovered my love for storytelling and it lead me down a path of communication. Regardless, whenever I see anything spy-related, my curiosity is peaked and I feel the urge to check it out.
This is exactly what happened when I walked away with six books from the library rather than just one: I saw Marc Favreau’s new Spies: The Secret Showdown Between America and Russia. I’m back with another nonfiction book, and boy, was it good!
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Favreau not only includes a timeline of the Cold War, but also two glossaries, pages of notes, a detailed bibliography, key facts on both the KGB and the CIA, and a brief explanation of both countries’ espionage in the post-Cold War era. He clearly did thorough research and I loved his collection of anecdotes from real spies–combining interviews, official accounts/announcements, and scene recreation, readers are able to more fully grasp the shadowy side of the Cold War: one that is only seen in movies and not high school history textbooks.
Fair “warning,” this is technically a “teen book.” But I didn’t notice the small sticker when I first picked it up–I was too curious about the subject matter. As such, the writing style is fairly simplistic and very informative, which was actually pretty nice. I thought the clear writing style–it is aimed at teen readers–made the subject super understandable, but it didn’t take away from the storytelling.
I use “storytelling” because Favreau certainly employs a narrative style to this book, so it doesn’t drone on like a textbook might. The text is also appropriately broken up with a few photos, namely of the given agent focused upon in the chapter, but other times too showing important moments in espionage history–like Gary Powers’ trial, for example. By using a narrative approach, it makes the material that much more interesting: scene recreations and quotes from spies and/or those they alongside gave a unique voice to each section and helped to eloquently show the evolution of espionage rather than simply explain it.
Especially given the current political climate and tensions with Russia, I think this is a book worth reading because it gives quite a bit of historical context. Of course, it isn’t a complete history, but it certainly demonstrates the slightly shady side that we civilians rarely see in full, let alone glimpse. I don’t think its label as a “teen book” should dissuade anyone from reading it–Favreau researched and wrote it very well and not only was it enjoyable, but it was also entertaining.
That’s all I’ve got! You can always leave me a recommendation or simply reach out to say hi, if you do have a book in mind, I’ll work it into my lineup. Look out for my post next week on Rafi Middlefehldt’s What Makes Us.