Best Selling Books by Kai Bird

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The Outlier

release date: Jan 01, 2021
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The Outlier
An essential re-evaluation of the complex triumphs and tragedies of Jimmy Carter's presidential legacy--from the expert biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning co-author of American Prometheus "This is superior history, superbly researched and marvelously written."--Douglas Brinkley, New York Times bestselling author of American Moonshot Four decades after Ronald Reagan's landslide win in 1980, Jimmy Carter's one-term presidency is often labeled a failure; indeed, many Americans view Carter as the only ex-president to have used the White House as a stepping-stone to greater achievements. But in retrospect the Carter political odyssey is a rich and human story, marked by both formidable accomplishments and painful political adversity. In this deeply researched, brilliantly written account, Kai Bird expertly unfolds the Carter saga as a tragic tipping point in American history. As president, Carter was not merely an outsider, but an outlier. He was the only president in a century to grow up in the heart of the Deep South, and his born-again Christianity made him the most openly religious president in memory. This outlier brought to the White House a rare mix of humility, candor--and unnerving self-confidence that neither Washington nor America was ready to embrace. Decades before today's public reckoning with the vast gulf between America's ethos and its actions, Carter looked out on a nation torn by race and demoralized by Watergate and Vietnam and prescribed a radical self-examination from which voters recoiled. The cost of his unshakable belief in doing the right thing would be a second term--and the ascendance of Reagan. In these remarkable pages, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Bird traces the arc of Carter's administration, from his aggressive domestic agenda to his controversial foreign policy record, taking readers inside the Oval Office and through Carter's battles with both a political establishment and a Washington press corps that proved as adversarial as any foreign power. Bird shows how issues still hotly debated today--from national health care to growing inequality and racism to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict--burned at the heart of Carter's America, and consumed a president who found a moral duty in solving them. Drawing on interviews with Carter and members of his administration and recently declassified documents, Bird delivers a profound, clear-eyed evaluation of a leader whose legacy has been deeply misunderstood. The Outlier is the definitive account of an enigmatic presidency--both as it really happened and as it is remembered in the American consciousness.

The Color of Truth

release date: Jan 10, 2017
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The Color of Truth
"Grey is the color of truth." So observed Mac Bundy in defending America's intervention in Vietnam. Kai Bird brilliantly captures this ambiguity in his revelatory look at Bundy and his brother William, two of the most influential policymakers of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. It is a portrait of fiercely patriotic, brilliant and brazenly self-confident men who directed a steady escalation of a war they did not believe could be won. Bird draws on seven years of research, nearly one hundred interviews, and scores of still-classified top secret documents in a masterful reevaluation of America's actions throughout the Cold War and Vietnam.

American Prometheus

release date: Dec 18, 2007
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American Prometheus
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction J. Robert Oppenheimer is one of the iconic figures of the twentieth century, a brilliant physicist who led the effort to build the atomic bomb for his country in a time of war, and who later found himself confronting the moral consequences of scientific progress. In this magisterial, acclaimed biography twenty-five years in the making, Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin capture Oppenheimer’s life and times, from his early career to his central role in the Cold War. This is biography and history at its finest, riveting and deeply informative.

The Chairman: John J McCloy & The Making of the American Establishment

release date: Jan 10, 2017
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The Chairman: John J McCloy & The Making of the American Establishment
“Exhaustively researched and remarkably evenhanded.” —The New York Times “Absorbing…the definitive life story.” —Kirkus Reviews “A fascinating study.” —Los Angeles Times In The Chairman, the authoritative biography of John J. McCloy, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Kai Bird chronicles the life of the man labeled “the most influential private citizen in America.” Against the backgrounds of World War II, the Cold War, the construction of Pax Americana, the Cuban missile crisis, the Kennedy assassination, and Vietnam, Bird shows us McCloy’s astonishing rise from self-described “chore boy” to “chairman of the Establishment.” His powerful circle shaped the postwar globe. But McCloy stood out among them as a towering figure of achievement: as a Wall Street lawyer who earned the confidence of captains of industry and presidents; as Henry Stimson’s right-hand man at the War Department; as president of the World Bank and chairman of the Chase financial empire; and as presidential adviser. Bird captures every facet of this self-made man. We see McCloy’s commercial acumen as the most in-demand lawyer of Wall Street; his dictatorial will as high commissioner of occupied Germany; and his stoic loyalty as adviser to Presidents FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Ford, and Reagan. Bird brilliantly explores how McCloy came to epitomize the American Establishment and the values of a generation that led the United States through bitter war and unparalleled prosperity.

The Good Spy

release date: May 20, 2014
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The Good Spy
The Good Spy is Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Kai Bird’s compelling portrait of the remarkable life and death of one of the most important operatives in CIA history – a man who, had he lived, might have helped heal the rift between Arabs and the West. On April 18, 1983, a bomb exploded outside the American Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people. The attack was a geopolitical turning point. It marked the beginning of Hezbollah as a political force, but even more important, it eliminated America’s most influential and effective intelligence officer in the Middle East – CIA operative Robert Ames. What set Ames apart from his peers was his extraordinary ability to form deep, meaningful connections with key Arab intelligence figures. Some operatives relied on threats and subterfuge, but Ames worked by building friendships and emphasizing shared values – never more notably than with Yasir Arafat’s charismatic intelligence chief and heir apparent Ali Hassan Salameh (aka “The Red Prince”). Ames’ deepening relationship with Salameh held the potential for a lasting peace. Within a few years, though, both men were killed by assassins, and America’s relations with the Arab world began heading down a path that culminated in 9/11, the War on Terror, and the current fog of mistrust. Bird, who as a child lived in the Beirut Embassy and knew Ames as a neighbor when he was twelve years old, spent years researching The Good Spy. Not only does the book draw on hours of interviews with Ames’ widow, and quotes from hundreds of Ames’ private letters, it’s woven from interviews with scores of current and former American, Israeli, and Palestinian intelligence officers as well as other players in the Middle East “Great Game.” What emerges is a masterpiece-level narrative of the making of a CIA officer, a uniquely insightful history of twentieth-century conflict in the Middle East, and an absorbing hour-by-hour account of the Beirut Embassy bombing. Even more impressive, Bird draws on his reporter’s skills to deliver a full dossier on the bombers and expose the shocking truth of where the attack’s mastermind resides today.

Divided City

release date: Jul 08, 2010
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Divided City
Crossing Mandelbaum Gate is a vivid memoir of an American boy growing up in the midst of the Arab-Israeli conflict, three major wars and three decades of political upheavals in the Middle East. Set in Jerusalem (1956-1958), Beirut (1970), Saudi Arabia (1962-1965), Amman and Cairo (1965-1967), Bird's book explains through a blend of memoir and history why the Western experience in the Middle East has been so turbulent. Through Bird's Zelig-like presence, the reader experiences the Suez War of 1956, the June 1967 War and the Black September hijackings of 1970 that led to the Jordanian Civil War. Bird's memoir shows how all of these momentous events led to the rise and tragic downfall of a secular Arab nationalist ethos -- only to be replaced by the rise of a fundamentalist, politically reactionary Islamist movement. The narrative history tells the stories of such illuminating figures as life-long Jerusalem resident George Antonius, author of The Arab Awakening, and his charismatic wife; Jordan's King Hussein and his CIA connections; the businessman Salem bin Laden, Osama's older brother and a family friend; Saudi kings Faisal and Khalidl; President Nasser of Egypt; and Leila Khaled, the striking young Palestinian radical who hijacked one of the Black September planes. The son of a U.S. Foreign Service officer, Kai Bird spent his formative years with the Arabs, but he ended up marrying the only daughter of two Holocaust survivors. This Shoah survival story becomes a part of Bird's own personal narrative, and provides him with a deeper understanding of the historical relationship between the destruction of European Jewry and the Arab-Israeli conflict. This extraordinary memoir by a Pulitzer-prize-winning historian sheds new light on all the wars of the Middle East fought in the name of identity.

Crossing Mandelbaum Gate

release date: Apr 20, 2010
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Crossing Mandelbaum Gate
PULITZER PRIZE WINNER KAI BIRD’S fascinating memoir of his early years spent in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon provides an original and illuminating perspective into the Arab-Israeli conflict. Weeks before the Suez War of 1956, four-year-old Kai Bird, son of a garrulous, charming American Foreign Service officer, moved to Jerusalem with his family. They settled in a small house, where young Kai could hear church bells and the Muslim call to prayer and watch as donkeys and camels competed with cars for space on the narrow streets. Each day on his way to school, Kai was driven through Mandelbaum Gate, where armed soldiers guarded the line separating Israeli-controlled West Jerusalem from Arab-controlled East. He had a front-seat view to both sides of a divided city—and the roots of the widening conflict between Arabs and Israelis. Bird would spend much of his life crossing such lines—as a child in Jerusalem, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, and later, as a young man in Lebanon. Crossing Mandelbaum Gate is his compelling personal history of growing up an American in the midst of three major wars and three turbulent decades in the Middle East. The Zelig-like Bird brings readers into such conflicts as the Suez War, the Six Day War of 1967, and the Black September hijackings in 1970 that triggered the Jordanian civil war. Bird vividly portrays such emblematic figures as the erudite George Antonius, author of The Arab Awakening; Jordan’s King Hussein; the Palestinian hijacker Leila Khaled; Salem bin Laden, Osama’s older brother and a family friend; Saudi King Faisal; President Nasser of Egypt; and Hillel Kook, the forgotten rescuer of more than 100,000 Jews during World War II. Bird, his parents sympathetic to Palestinian self-determination and his wife the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, has written a masterful and highly accessible book—at once a vivid chronicle of a life spent between cultures as well as a consummate history of a region in turmoil. It is an indispensable addition to the literature on the modern Middle East.

The Generation Gap

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Bangladesh, the Unfinished Revolution

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American Prometheus

release date: Jan 01, 2005
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