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Book Review: James B. Comey: By the Book
by NYT Book Review - April 12, 2018
from The New York Times
Illustration by Hanna Barczyk

         When James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director and author of “A Higher Loyalty,” reads fiction, it’s “almost always something my kids are reading, so I can … pretend to be cool.”
What books are on your nightstand?
    “Grant,” by Ron Chernow (actual nightstand); “The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Defender of the Realm 1940-1965,” by William Manchester and Paul Reid (living room table).
When and where do you like to read?
    In bed and in the living room.
What was the last truly great book you read?
    “Why the West Rules — for Now,” by Ian Morris, a sweeping look at the patterns of human history and a glimpse at the future.
What books would we be surprised to find on your shelf?
    “The Fault in Our Stars,” by John Green; the “Mistborn” series, by Brandon Sanderson; and the “Red Rising” series, by Pierce Brown.
What kind of reader were you as a child? Any favorites from that time, or books you return to again and again?
    The first real book I remember reading on my own was “The Swamp Fox of the Revolution,” by Stewart H. Holbrook, about Francis Marion. I read it multiple times, and I’m not sure why. In a strange twist, it was also one of my wife’s favorites, growing up in Iowa at the same time as I was in Yonkers. In high school, I got deeply into Tolkien’s books and also loved “Five Smooth Stones,” by Ann Fairbairn, about an interracial relationship and the African-American struggle for civil rights. I liked those books so much I would try to read slowly to make them last longer.
What books over the years have most influenced your thinking?
     Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Moral Man and Immoral Society” and “The Nature and Destiny of Man” had a huge impact on me, as did Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style,” which was one of 12 books in my college course “Significant Books in Western Religion.” The professor believed that all ideas are wasted that can’t be clearly expressed. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” was also one of the 12 books and is the only book I’ve read repeatedly as an adult. More recently, I was really struck by Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.”
Which genres are you drawn to and which do you avoid?
      I read mostly nonfiction, with heavy emphasis on biography and social psychology. If I read fiction, it is almost always something my kids are reading, so I can understand what they are reading and also pretend to be cool.
Can you recommend any thrillers or other works of fiction that get law enforcement particularly right?
    “Red Sparrow” and its sequel, “Palace of Treason,” by Jason Matthews, nail the world of intelligence and counterintelligence (and offer a cleareyed view of modern Russia). Because crime and terrorism filled so many of my work days, I tended to avoid books about those subjects, so I don’t know of a book that gets those right. But Scott Turow gets the world of prosecution and trials right in his work, especially the classic “Presumed Innocent.”
If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
     The United States Constitution isn’t a book, so I would pick “The Road to Character,” by David Brooks.
Do you have a favorite literary character or hero?
    Atticus Finch.
Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t?
   I’m told no sensible author answers this one.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
    I read “Lean In,” by Sheryl Sandberg, when I was the F.B.I. director and recommended it to the workforce, so Ms. Sandberg would be invited. And if she doesn’t mind eating with dead people, I’d also have Reinhold Niebuhr and Martin Luther King Jr. Both were remarkable observers of human nature and America. It would be really interesting to pick their brains about current events.
How do you like to read? Paper or electronic? One book at a time or several simultaneously? Morning or night?
    I like to read paper books. I have tried reading on electronic devices but I need to feel the pages. I am always reading at least two books, one for upstairs and one for downstairs. Until I got fired, I read only on long flights because there was too much work stuff to read at home. Now that I’m underemployed, I read mostly at night, but sometimes during the day. Never in the morning. Wrong chronotype.
What books did you look to as inspiration or models while you were writing your own?
     Honestly none, because I was trying to do something unusual — write a book that was neither a pure leadership book nor a pure memoir. I wanted it to be a story-driven book that teaches in a subtle way. We’ll see if it worked.
If somebody walked into your office while you were writing, what would they see?
     I’m in an armchair with the laptop on my actual lap but atop one of those “read-in-bed” boards to make a better angle for typing. Our loyal, and old, rescue-dog, Benji, is asleep somewhere near my chair. I’m listening to classical music.
If you had to recommend one book to a student of government, what would it be?
   “The Terror Presidency,” by Jack Goldsmith.
Whom would you want to write your life story?
    Benjamin Weiser of The New York Times is the most careful and thoughtful journalist I have known and I loved his biography of the Polish defector Ryszard Kuklinski — “A Secret Life: The Polish Officer, His Covert Mission, and the Price He Paid to Save His Country.”
What do you plan to read next?
    “Trust,” by Francis Fukuyama, about how bonds within a society are made and broken. I started it last year and it has become only more relevant so I need to get back to it.
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        Index
A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership
by James Comey
Hardcover: 304 pages - Publisher: Flatiron Books (April 17 2018)
April 17 2018 on Amazon.ca Bestsellers Rank: #1 in Books
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Hardcover $23.86
at this it is Temporarily out of stock.
Kiddle e-book $15.99 CAN$
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On September 4, 2013, James Comey was sworn in as the seventh Director of the FBI.
    A Yonkers, New York native, Jim Comey attended the College of William and Mary and the University of Chicago Law School. After law school, Comey returned to New York and joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. There, he took on numerous crimes, most notably Organized Crime in the case of the United States v. John Gambino, et al. Afterwards, Comey became an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, where he prosecuted the high-profile case that followed the 1996 terrorist attack on the U.S. military’s Khobar Towers in Khobar, Saudi Arabia.
    Comey returned to New York after 9/11 to become the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. At the end of 2003, he was tapped to be the Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice (DOJ) under then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and moved to the Washington, D.C. area.
    Comey left DOJ in 2005 to serve as General Counsel and Senior Vice President at Defense contractor Lockheed Martin. Five years later, he joined Bridgewater Associates, a Connecticut-based investment fund, as its General Counsel. In early 2013, Comey became a Lecturer in Law, a Senior Research Scholar, and Hertog Fellow in National Security Law at Columbia Law School.