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Kai Bird Books In Order

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Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

The Chairman: John J. McCloy and the Making of the American Establishment (1992)Description / Buy at Amazon
Hiroshima's Shadow: Writings on the Denial of History & the Smithsonian Controversy (With: Lawrence Lifschultz) (1996)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Color of Truth: McGeorge Bundy and William Bundy:Brothers in Arms (1998)Description / Buy at Amazon
American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (With: Martin J. Sherwin) (2005)Description / Buy at Amazon
Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs & Israelis 1956-78 (2010)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames (2014)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Outlier: The Life and Presidency of Jimmy Carter (2021)Description / Buy at Amazon

Kai Bird
Kai Bird was born in Eugene, Oregon on September 2, 1951. His dad was a US Foreign Service officer, and Bird spent his childhood in Mumbai, Jerusalem, Dhahran, Beirut, and Cairo. His dad named him after Kai-Yu Hsu, who was a refugee from Communist China that he met at the University of Oregon. Kai means “mustard” in Chinese.

He finished high school in the year 1969 at Kodaikanal International School in Tamil Nadu, South India. He got his MS in journalism from Northwestern University in 1975 and his BA from Carleton College in 1973.

After graduating from Carleton, he got a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, and used it to do a photojournalism project in Yemen. Two years later, his wife also got a Watson Fellowship, and the two spent fifteen months as freelance journalists traveling through Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan.

They filed weekly stories with papers like Hong Kong’s Far Eastern Economic Review and the Christian Science Monitor. Kai says they hardly made any money during this time, but they enjoyed the work that they were doing. He was an associate editor of The Nation magazine from 1978 until 1982 and then became a Nation columnist.

He works through writer’s block by figuring out each night which small anecdote or part of the story he would find the most interesting to write about the next morning. Then he gets to work writing up that anecdote.

Kai writes for himself, meaning that he writes in order to learn for himself what happened in any certain life or story.

Robert Ames just happened to be his next door neighbor in Dhahran Saudi Arabia from about 1962 until 1965, when he was an adolescent. So Kai had memories of him and was always curious about learning more about how he died in Beirut in the year 1983, and this is where he got inspired to write a biography about him.

Kai won a Pulitzer Prize for American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. He’s also won the Duff Cooper Prize, a Woodrow Wilson Center Fellowship, the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography, and a Guggenheim fellowship.

“The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames” is a non-fiction book that was released in the year 2014. This is Kai Bird’s portrait of the remarkable death and life of one of the most important operatives in all of CIA history. A man that, had he stayed alive, may have helped heal the rift between the West and the Arabs.

On April 18, 1983 a bomb was detonated outside of the American Embassy in Beirut, which resulted in the death of 63 people. It was a geopolitical turning point, and marked the start of Hezbollah as a political force, however even more important, eliminated America’s most effective and influential intelligence officer in the Middle East: Robert Ames, a CIA operative.

What set Ames apart from the rest of his peers was his extraordinary ability to form some meaningful and deep connections with some key Arab intelligence figures. Some operatives relied on subterfuge and threats, however Ames worked by emphasizing shared values and building friendships, never more notably than with Yasir Arafat’s charismatic intelligence chief and heir apparent “The Red Prince” (Ali Hassan Salameh).

His deepening relationship with Salameh held the possibility for a lasting peace. Within just a few years, however, both men were murdered by hitmen, and America’s relations with the Arab world started heading down a path which culminated in 9/11, the War of terror, and the modern fog of mistrust.

Bird, who during his childhood lived in the Beirut Embassy, knowing Ames as a neighbor when he was twelve, spent a number of years researching the book. Not only does the book pull on hours of interviews with Ames’ widow and some quotes from hundreds of Ames’ private letters, it is also woven together from hundreds of former and current Israeli, American, and Palestinian intelligence officers. Along with other players in the Middle East “Great Game”.

“The Outlier: The Unfinished Presidency of Jimmy Carter” is a non-fiction book that was released in the year 2021. Ever since Reagan’s landslide victory in November of 1980, pundits have called Jimmy Carter’s one term in the White House a failure of a presidency. However his time as a president is an unexplored and compelling tale, marked by adversity and accomplishment. This first full presidential bio of Carter, Kai approaches his presidency with an expert hand, unfolding the tale of Carter’s four years with very few allies in Washington and a large number of critics in the press.

As a president, he was not only an outsider, but a true outlier. He was the one and only president in a century to grow up in the center of the old confederacy, and even though he held strongly to the separation of state and church, his born-again Christianity made him the most openly religious president in memory. Like Bird illustrates, this background manifested itself in an unusual complex of humility, arrogance, and candor that neither America nor Washington was ready to embrace.

Forty years before of today’s broad public reckoning with the huge divide between America’s actions and creed, Carter looked out upon a nation torn by race, demoralized by both Vietnam and Watergate, and crippled by stagflation. As a result, he prescribed a radical self-examination from which the voters recoiled, ultimately. The price of his unshakable belief in doing the right thing would result in a second term. And Reagan’s ascendance.

The issues that Carter contended with during the late seventies are still hotly debated today: growing inequality, national health care, racism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, immigration, and energy independence. Four decades after voters pushed him out of the White House, he appears prescient on the major issues that face the country during the twenty-first century, even if during his own time he was a prophet scorned.

Pulling on interviews with the member’s of Carter’s administration and some recently unclassified documents from the Carter presidential library, Kai delivers a profoundly thorough, clear-eyed evaluation of a president’s legacy that has been dismissed, debated, and misunderstood.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Kai Bird

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