Book Reviews, NetGalley

Undaunted – John O. Brennan [ARC Review]

Title: Undaunted

Author: John O. Brennan

Released: October 6, 2020

Audience: Nonfiction, Adult, Political Issues


A powerful and revelatory memoir from former CIA director John Brennan, spanning his more than thirty years in government.

Friday, January 6, 2017: On that day, as always, John Brennan’s alarm clock was set to go off at 4:15 a.m. But nothing else about that day would be routine. That day marked his first and only security briefing with President-elect Donald Trump. And it was also the day John Brennan said his final farewell to Owen Brennan, his father, the man who had taught him the lessons of goodness, integrity, and honor that had shaped the course of an unparalleled career serving his country from within the intelligence community.

In this brutally honest memoir, Brennan, the son of an Irish immigrant who settled in New Jersey, describes the life that took him from being a young CIA recruit enamored with the mystique of spy work, secretly defiant enough to drive a motorcycle and sport a diamond earring, and invigorated by his travels in the Middle East to being the most powerful individual in American intelligence. He details his experiences with very different presidents and what it’s been like to bear responsibility for some of the nation’s most crucial and polarizing national security decisions.

He pulls back the curtain on the inner workings of the Agency, describing the selfless, patriotic, and invisible work of the women and men involved in national security. He also examines the insularity, arrogance, and myopia that have, at times, undermined its reputation in the eyes of the American people and of members of other branches of government. Through topics ranging from George W. Bush’s intervention in Iraq to his thoughts on the CIA’s controversial use of enhanced interrogation techniques to his eye-opening account of the planning of the raid that resulted in Bin Ladin’s death to his realization that Russia had interfered with the 2016 election, Brennan brings the reader behind the scenes of some of the most crucial moments in recent U.S. history. He also candidly discusses the times he has failed to live up to his own high standards and the very public fallouts that have resulted. With its behind-the-scenes look at how major U.S. national security policies and actions unfolded during his long and distinguished career―especially during his eight years in the Obama administration―John Brennan’s memoir is a work of history with strong implications for the future of America and our country’s relationships with other world powers.

Undaunted: My Fight Against America’s Enemies, at Home and Abroad offers a rare and insightful look at the often-obscured world of national security, the intelligence profession, and Washington’s chaotic political environment. But more than that, it is a portrait of a man striving for integrity; for himself, for the CIA, and for his country.

Buy it on: Indie Bound | Libro.FM

My Review:

I was super interested in this book when I saw it on Twitter. I blame years of watching shows about the government. I also started to get into political thrillers as well. I was super pleased to have the chance to read this. I do not know a lot about politics, but I thought this was a very thought provoking memoir.

The tone is conversational. Brennan talks as if you are a friend and explains his life. I thought it was funny he was going to be a priest and ended up in the government. I cannot imagine how two career choices could be more opposite. I am sure it would have been a much different memoir than he gone into the seminary, haha. Still, I enjoyed this book a lot even though it did seem slow at times.

I liked learning about his life and career. It was cool to see how he got to be where he was and all of his experiences. I did not have a lot of knowledge about how the CIA and government work, and this shed some light on how it all works. There were some details I did find boring at times, but the conversational tone helped to move the story along.

I think my favorite parts were when he was working with Obama and when he told people he liked to replace body parts, in a funny context. Even though all of the story was well done, these were what stuck out to me. It was also funny how Anthony Hopkins played him in a movie, making him seem like he was more evil. I do not think I would watch the movie, but I found it amusing how he remarked on this aspect of the choice. He has a good sense of humor and is honest. I really liked his candid speak and just the overall tone of the book. Also, the photos at the end were a nice touch.

The audience this book would suit are those interested in politics and those who want to read a memoir from someone inside of the government. perhaps even those who have never read about the government and want to learn more. There are also great insights into the CIA and how the middle east is approached too, it was a great learning tool.

I enjoyed this book a lot, and I would read more memoirs Brennan wrote.

4 stars.

A big thank you to NetGalley and Celadon Press for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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