Adult Recommendations

A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal, by Ben MacIntyre

Kim Philby was a cricket fan, journalist, friend, spy—and traitor. In A Spy Among Friends, Ben MacIntyre examines the life and career of one of the most successful Soviet double agents through his friendships with Nicholas Elliott, a fellow British spy, and James Jesus Angleton, the chief of the CIA’s counterintelligence department. MacIntyre’s telling exposes the strange, almost incestuously intimate world of spying in the 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s: a society of hard-drinking school friends-turned-agents made vulnerable by the peculiarly British belief that only a small circle can be trusted, but that within that circle, trust is absolute—even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Philby exploited this weakness to its fullest, “picking clean” agents from every major intelligence organization in Europe, America, and the Middle East; untold hundreds of British and British-allied agents died as a result.  

Absorbing, well-organized, and marbled with delightful oddities like Elliott’s bodyguard/nanny (who had “enormous feet” and drank gin from a bottle marked “Holy Water”), A Spy Among Friends is a must-read for espionage fans and Cold War buffs.

High-Rise by JG Ballard

In a gleaming new high-rise building on the outskirts of London, the inhabitants have everything they need to live comfortable, pampered lives: two indoor pools, an elegant restaurant, a grocery store, a beauty parlor, a bank, even a rooftop park and a school. But violence lurks beneath the polished surface: when minor construction problems send a floor into darkness, riots erupt—leaving a dead dog floating in the swimming pool. In the weeks that follow, chaos rules, as the lower floors send raiding parties to assault the penthouse, and warring groups seize control of the elevators. A dark (and darkly funny) exploration of the animal passions that lie beneath the most civilized facades, this 1975 novel is being adapted into a 2015 movie directed by Ben Wheatley and starring Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, and Luke Evans.

Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking) by Christian Rudder

Do Equal Opportunity Employers really hire without discrimination? Is Twitter destroying our capacity to write, or improving it? Can Facebook predict if your marriage will last? How is Google fighting the flu?

Christian Rudder, one of the founders of OkCupid, leverages the company’s massive collection of data as a starting point for this examination of human nature. Rudder keeps the text light and readable, skipping wonky details while being sure to note when his conclusions are limited by his data. His insights range from quirky factoids—white men are most likely to read Robert Heinlein while drinking a home-brewed beer, while Asian women would rather snack on macarons and read Norwegian Wood—to sobering insights about racism, sexism, and homophobia. A must-read for anyone interested in social media and what it reveals about our personalities and communities.