My Favorite Reads of 2021

Targeted: My Inside Story of Cambridge Analytica and How Trump and Facebook Broke Democracy by Brittany Kaiser

The eyewitness account of the rise and fall of Cambridge Analytica, including the dealings with Trump’s election campaign. An eyeopener in terms of data privacy and the power of Facebook.
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5

The Murder of Mr Moonlight: How sexual obsession, greed and arrogance led to the killing of an innocent man – the definitive story behind the trial that gripped the nation by Catherine Fegan

In what resulted in Ireland’s longest running murder trial, this is the story of the murder of Bobby Ryan, and how it came to light that the man who had ‘discovered’ the body was actually behind the crime. This is a very detailed account by Catherine Fegan, and is hard to put down once you start reading.
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5

Hitler: Downfall: 1939-1945 by Volker Ullrich

Part two of Volker Ullrich’s expansive biography of Hitler, focusing on the war years. A real masterpiece that deserves its place with the best Hitler biographies.
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5

Inside Hitler’s Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich by Joachim Fest

Joachim Fest brings us inside the last desperate days of Third Reich with a focus on Hitler’s degenerating mental state in the bunker and the events leading up to his suicide.
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5

In The Bunker With Hitler by Bernd Freytag von Loringhoven

Loringhoven was a staff officer assigned to the Führerbunker in 1945 with the responsibility of preparing status updates for Hitler. This is a fascinating account from someone who was actually there.
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5

The Hitler Conspiracies: The Third Reich and the Paranoid Imagination by Richard J. Evans

I usually read anything new that is published by Evans, and this is a very interesting collection of thoughts. The book focuses on five claims that involve Hitler and the Nazi party, and analyzes each one in great detail – 1) that the Jewish people were conspiring to undermine civilization, as outlined in ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’, 2) that the German army was ‘stabbed in the back’ in 1918, 3) that the Nazi’s were responsible for the Reichstag fire of February 1933, 4) that Rudolf Hess’ flight to the UK in 1941 was sanctioned by Hitler to agree peace terms with Churchill, and 5) that Hitler escaped the bunker to Argentina in 1945.
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5

Beyond Evil: Inside the Twisted Mind of Ian Huntley by Nathan Yates

Perhaps one of the most memorable crimes of the early 21st century. This book by investigative journalist Nathan Yates is at times a tough read, but nonetheless an insight into the sick mind of Ian Huntley and his partner.
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5

Dresden: The Fire and the Darkness by Sinclair McKay

In February 1945 the Allies obliterated the city of Dresden, with an estimated 25,000 people killed. This account by McKay is a minute by minute account from the perspective of both people on the ground in Dresden and the bomber crews above.
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5

Zodiac: The Shocking True Story of America’s Most Elusive Serial Killer by Robert Graysmith

The classic book on the Zodiac case, by a man who has been fascinated by the Zodiac killings since the beginning.
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5

Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell by John Preston

A brilliant account of the life and times of Robert Maxwell, the media tycoon who died in suspicious circumstances aboard his yacht in 1991, just days before it was realized he had plundered the pension funds of the group of companies he controlled with an estimated 726m of missing cash.
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5

My Favorite Reads of 2020

2020 being the year that it was, reading a good book was an escape from the ongoing pandemic. These are some of my favorite reads from this year.

Almost the Perfect Murder: The Killing of Elaine O’Hara, the Extraordinary Garda Investigation and the Trial That Stunned the Nation by Paul Williams
Billed as the definitive account of this horrific case, and written by Ireland’s premier crime journalist, this is a very interesting read. Obviously the subject matter make this tough in places, but Paul Williams does an excellent job of presenting the narrative of one of the most memorable crimes in recent Irish history.
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5

Permanent Record by Edward Snowden
A Christmas 2019 gift from my wife, this is the first hand account of Edward Snowden’s journey from a contractor working with US Intelligence Services to his current exile in Russia. Snowden gives a good background with regards his philosophies and ultimately why he did what he did, but in parts this reads as if he was some sort of hacker god who could do anything, when in reality he was a lowly contractor with access he perhaps didn’t need to fulfil his day-to-day role. Nonetheless a good read.
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5

Hitler: Ascent 1889-1939 by Volker Ullrich
There are perhaps 4 or 5 definitive biographies of Hitler by respected academics (discounting the 10s of really bad ones). My favorite has been Ian Kershaw’s ‘Hitler’, published in two volumes that is standard reading for anyone interested in understanding Hitler. Volume 1 of German academic Volker Ullrich’s Hitler biography is equally as good as Kershaw’s in my opinion. It is a superb biography that gives a lot of insight into Hitler the man, and attempts to answer long standing questions around Hitler’s early and personal life, as well as dispelling long held myths about Hitler’s WW1 service. Volume 2, ‘Hitler: Volume II: Downfall 1939-45’ currently sits on my bookshelf and I am looking forward to reading this soon.
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5

Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew by Michael D. Leinbach
I am a space nut, and remember clearly the 2003 tragedy of the loss of the Columbia Shuttle on her return to Earth. There have been many books and documentaries on the subject since, but this one is unique. Leinbach was the Shuttle Launch Director at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center, and in 2003 was tasked with leading the debris recovery and recovery of crew remains scattered across 1000s of kilometers of multiple US states. This is his first hand account of that operation, from the moment of Columbia’s disintegration, to the winding down of the recovery operation.
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5

Columbine by Dave Cullen
I had been wanting to read something about the Columbine shootings for some time. I had been thoroughly underwhelmed previously by Michael Moore’s documentary which I felt avoided portraying the facts in favor of focusing on theatrics like confronting Walmart and the NRA. Dave Cullen is an American journalist who covered the Columbine shootings from day 1, and this is his account of the shootings as well as the background on the shooters. The book is full of fascinating insights, and factual interviews with key people involved.
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5

A Dream of Death by Ralph Riegel
Published in July 2020, this is an account of the murder of French national Sophie Toscan du Plantier in West Cork in 1996, and the arrest of Ian Bailey for her murder. One of the most memorable crimes of the 1990s in Ireland, and a case which remains unsolved to this day, Riegel uses his journalistic skills to present an excellent narrative of the case, right up to Ian Bailey’s first extradition hearing.
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5

Meredith by John Kercher
John Kercher’s brilliantly written account of his daughter’s murder in Perugia, Italy in 2007, the case for which American student Amanda Knox and Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were tried, convicted, imprisoned and eventually acquitted for their involvement (Rudy Guede remains in prison for the murder). John Kercher wanted to focus on his daughter, the victim, and not Amanda Knox like so many other books on this case tend to do, and this book does exactly that.
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5

The Crimes of Josef Fritzl: Uncovering the Truth
Everyone has probably heard of the Fritzl case, but surprisingly there aren’t many books on it, likely due to the fact that the Austrian authorities aren’t the most forthcoming with information. This book, from the journalists who helped to break the story, is an excellent account of the Fritzl case, giving insights into Josef Fritzl’s life, both with his ‘upstairs’ family, with his secret family in the basement, and his business dealings outside. It is evident from reading this that there were many failings of the Austrian authorities, and also that Fritzl from a young age displayed characteristics that would later contribute to his crimes. This book is one I couldn’t put down.
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5

Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City by Russell Shorto
My favorite city in the world, which I usually visit at least twice a year, but not in 2020 due to the pandemic. Anyone who thinks Amsterdam is only good for sex tourism and coffeeshops is frankly, ignorant, and I’m willing to debate that with anyone. So I thought I should read a history of the city and maybe learn some things that would be useful the next time I get to visit. I am so glad to have picked Russell Shorto’s book. The history of Amsterdam from early times right up to the present day is presented in an excellent narrative, while discussing Amsterdam’s history of liberalism and the historical reasons for that. I learnt so much from this book, and have added a few areas to my list which I will visit when I’m next in Amsterdam (here’s hoping 2021).
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5

My Favorite Reads of 2019

A round-up of the books I’ve read during 2019. I had a target of 15 books this year, and am currently reading number 13, so not a bad outcome.

Not in Your Lifetime: The Defining Book on the J.F.K. Assassination by Anthony Summers

I had wanted to read something else on the J.F.K assassination since I read Bill O’Reilly’s ‘Killing Kennedy’ a few years ago on holiday. This didn’t disappoint. This book is full of information I had previously not read, and provokes a lot of thought.

Gestapo: The Story Behind the Nazis Machine of Terror by Lucas Saul

A short read on the Gestapo. Easy to read, but a bit simplistic for my liking. Might serve as a general introduction to those unfamiliar, but I didn’t really learn anything I didn’t already know.

Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany by Norman Ohler

I enjoyed this account of narcotic usage in German political circles during WW2 by German writer Ohler. The account of Hitler’s personal doctor and Hitler’s addictions was very interesting.

Stalingrad by Antony Beevor

The first book I’ve read by Beevor, and definitely not my last. I loved his style of writing and his ability to present the facts. This is the account of the Battle of Stalingrad during WW2, ultimately leading to the loss of the entire German 6th Army and the repercussions and impact on the war.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

A re-read of this John Green tragedy while on holiday in Germany in June.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

An account of the Lusitania’s last Atlantic crossing, weaving in stories of real people while portraying the political turmoil of WW1. I thought this was excellently written and it was one of the books of this year I couldn’t put down.

Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid

An interesting read giving some background and a light introduction to the forensic sciences from a few different perspectives from crime writer McDermid. She interviews lots of experts in the different forensic fields which adds credibility to her points, and overall I enjoyed this one.

Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy by Serhii Plokhy

I wanted to read something on Chernobyl after watching the miniseries on HBO, and this is an excellently written account of the lead-up to the tragedy, and the after-effects which are still felt today.

The Fall of Berlin 1945 by Antony Beevor

I was a fan of Beevor’s after reading ‘Stalingrad’ earlier in the year. This is his account of the fall of Berlin and the last days of WW2 in Germany. It’s a bit slow to get to the actual point of the Battle of Berlin, but I guess all the lead-in information is necessary to set the scene and introduce the commanders on both sides. When it does get going it is very enjoyable, written in Beevor’s style which I really like.

The 5 AM Revolution: Why High Achievers Wake Up Early and How You Can Do It, Too by Dan Luca

This was a short read (about 150 pages) that I purchased at an airport in India while on a business trip in November. It is not that original in the ideas that it presents in my opinion but still an interesting read.

Apollo 11: The Inside Story by David Whitehouse

Not so much the story of Apollo 11, but the story of the entire Apollo Program and the race to beat the Russians. I really enjoyed this one, another one I found hard to put down.

The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff

Repetitive, tedious, boring, confusing, would be just some of the words I would used to describe Shiff’s writing style in this account of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. For a subject that I find very interesting, boy, did I struggle with this one. I wish I could say it was worth it, but unfortunately not.

Almost the Perfect Murder: The Killing of Elaine O’Hara, the Extraordinary Garda Investigation and the Trial That Stunned the Nation by Paul Williams

I am currently reading this account of the Elaine O’Hara murder.

My Favorite Reads of 2018

A roundup of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in 2018. Not up to my usual numbers, I usually try to manage 10-15 books a year, but this year due to completing my Masters Thesis I fell behind.

Ian Brady: The untold story of the Moors Murders by Alan Keightley

I’ve been fascinated with the Moors Murders case since watching a documentary a few years ago. Alan Keightley presents here a definitive account, based on his many meetings with Ian Brady whilst he was in prison. A sometimes harrowing read.

Auschwitz #34207 – The Joe Rubenstein Story by Nancy Sprowell Geise

I’ve read a few Auschwitz memoirs. I remember reading Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’ for the first time a few years ago, and wondering how any human could endure the suffering the Jewish people did during those years. Joe Rubenstein’s story is another difficult read.

Frost/Nixon: Behind the Scenes of the Nixon Interviews by David Frost

I watched Ron Howard’s ‘Frost/Nixon’ when it came out and remember being fascinated by the battle of wits between the journalist and former US President. This book, written not long after the interviews give some good detail of how the interviews were put together and how they eventually became a success.

Archangel by Robert Harris

My once a year allowance of fiction. I read this about 10 years ago and it’s one of the best pieces of historical fiction in my opinion. Re-read in sunny Portugal in August.

CyberWars: Hacks that shocked the business world by Charles Arthur

A great book that gives a large amount of detail behind many of the most famous hacks such as HBGary, Sony Pictures and TalkTalk.

KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps by Nikolaus Wachsmann

An absolutely astounding work of history of the camps, starting at their inception in 1933 to the liberation in the spring of 1945. I’ve never read a more detailed analysis of the camps and their legacy.

The Shortest History of Germany by James Hawes

Another holiday read, and a very good one at that. I read this in an afternoon, and it outlines the history of Germany from Roman times right up to the present day.

Currently Reading

The Death of Hitler: The Final Word on the Ultimate Cold Case: The Search for Hitler’s Body by Jean-Christophe Parshina & Lana Brisard

This is very enjoyable so far. In some parts I’m aware it’s been translated from French though. Looking forward to the conclusions it will draw, especially since the authors have been able to get access to GARF (the Russian State Archives), which contain documents from Hitler’s Fuhrer bunker, records and reports from Red Army soldiers involved in the capture of the bunker in Berlin, and reputedly fragments of Hitler’s skull.

My Favorite Reads of 2016

A round up of the best books I have read in 2016.

A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss

Theoretical physicist Krauss writes on the beginnings of the Universe and the current state of Cosmology. Space Science is a huge interest for me, and I bought this book as I thought it would help me understand some of the science better. However I found it sometimes introducing concepts very difficult to understand, and found myself referencing Wikipedia to learn more. A good read though if you are interested in the subject, I would recommend.

American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by Chris Kyle

An amazing journey tracking the beginnings and career of the deadliest sniper in American military history and his tragic murder on home soil after multiple tours in Afghanistan. I read this before I saw the Clint Eastwood directed film adaption.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

This tragic tale of terminally ill teenagers was something I had wanted to read for a while based on a recommendation from a friend. Although you suspect what’s coming, it still almost knocks you for six when it does. Haven’t seen the big screen adaptation, but loved the sound track. I had this book for about a year before I read it, and was sorry I didn’t pick it up the minute it arrived. Considering reading John Green’s follow up book, “Paper Towns”.

The Gestapo: The Myth and Reality of Hitler’s Secret Police by Frank McDonough

Excellent history of the Gestapo’s key figures, internal power struggles and conduct from their beginnings right up to the end of WW2. Interwoven with stories of real people and incidents from Gestapo case files. At times I thought McDonough was somewhat sympathetic towards the Gestapo, but overall he presents the material in a very matter-of-fact way, also dispelling many myths about Hitler’s secret police along the way. I recommend if you’re a fan of WW2 history.

Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir by Amanda Knox

I’ve followed the Amanda Knox case since the very first day I heard of the murder of British student Meredith Kercher on the news. This is an absolutely riveting read, presenting the story from the perception of Knox from her move to Italy, meeting with Kercher, and her ultimate incarceration for her murder. I particularly enjoyed her descriptions of the court cases and her time in prison. Overall for me thought, some of the content raises even more questions.

All She Wanted by Aphrodite Jones

All She Wanted is the definitive history of the Teena Brandon case, a transman who was murdered on New Years Eve 1993 in Humboldt, Nebraska. I became interested in this case after seeing the big screen adaption, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ (1999) for which Hilary Swank won an Oscar for her portrayal of Brandon. This is a great read that describes the main characters in fantastic detail, along with the ensuing murder cases. Both murderers still await execution on the Nebraska Death Row following their convictions in the mid 1990s.

Trouble in Paradise: Uncovering the Dark Secrets of Britain’s Most Remote Island by Kathy Marks

I’ve been fascinated with Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific since I saw the Marlon Brando version of ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’. Pitcairn is the island where the mutineers and their Tahitian partners settled to evade detection by the British Navy. Controversy erupted on the island on the mid 1990’s with claims of decades of sexual abuse, implicating almost every male on the island. Kathy Marks was one of only six journalists permitted to be on the island during the trials. This book captures the trials and the atmosphere around them brilliantly, as well as exploring how the absence of authorities on Pitcairn led to this situation, and the somewhat romantic view outsiders have of the island vs. the actual reality. I read this while on a short break to Düsseldorf, Germany in May, and found it hard to put down.

Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross

This is the definitive biography of Kurt Cobain, charting his early life to his rise to the most popular rock star in the world as front man of Nirvana. At times a harrowing read, especially when it talks of Cobain’s early homelessness, mental anguish, and prolific drug abuse. The book gives great insights into the meaning of lots of Nirvana songs (like the reasoning behind ‘Smells Like Tenn Spirit’), and what events in Cobain’s life they related to. I could not put this down, although it took me a few weeks to read due to lots of engagements, it’s a book that will remain in my mind for a long time. If you’re a Nirvana fanatic like myself, you will enjoy this.

Amongst Women by John McGahern

Something I’ve read a few times before, and only the second piece of fiction I’ve read this year, after ‘The Fault in Our Starts’. A favorite of mine, thoroughly recommended if you’ve never read it. I took this on holidays to Portugal in September this year and read it in a few hours in the sun.

The Interstellar Age: Inside the Forty-Year Voyager Mission by Jim Bell

The second book I brought on holidays to Portugal. I had bought this while in Germany in May in the famous ‘Mayersche Buchhandlung’ book store in Düsseldorf. This is a fascinating read even if you have never heard of the Voyager program. Unfortunately for me, I left this on the airplane on the way home from Portugal, still with the final chapter to read.

The Third Reich at War by Richard J. Evans

This is the final part of Richard J. Evan’s excellent Nazi Germany trilogy (preceded by ‘The Coming of the Third Reich’ and ‘The Third Reich in Power’). It’s a lengthy read (700+ pages), but well worth it for the level of detail that Evan’s goes into. Some sections of this, especially the chapters relating to the ‘Final Solution’ are distressing to read. This is the best history of Nazi Germany I have ever read.

Hitler’s Last Day: Minute by Minute by Jonathan Mayo and Emma Craigie

As I had read in many reviews of this book, this is not actually just confined to Hitler’s last day. It covers April 29th, April 30th and the aftermath. Along the way it introduces a host of characters from Allied soldiers as they race through Italy, British secret service agents and many political heavyweights such as Churchill and Truman. Hitler’s death is not covered in any great detail, so that doesn’t make this book stand out from countless others covering the topic. But, it’s the ongoing introduction of new characters and how this period effected them that makes this a good read.

The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler: Leading Millions Into the Abyss by Laurence Rees

This covers Hitler’s rise from disgruntled WW1 veteran to Fuhrer of Nazi Germany. Along the way the author seeks to answer the question as to why so many people followed this man unquestionably, and how he led a nation to ruin.

Auschwitz: The Nazis & The ‘Final Solution’ by Laurence Rees

Impressed with the previous book in this list also authored by Rees, I decided to read this. A terrifying account of Auschwitz from it’s journey from work camp to site of the deaths of over 1 million people. Impeccably researched and detailed, this is a book that can be read in a few hours but you will remember for quite some time afterwards.