TV Series – If you are a fan of suspenseful spy thrillers, then you will get hooked on The Americans. Elizabeth and Philip Jennings seem like a typical middle class American couple living in suburban D.C. during the Reagan era. They run a travel agency and have two children. But in fact, they are KGB agents in an arranged marriage whose goal is to get Cold War secrets for Mother Russia at any cost. Which means being masters of disguise, betrayal, and sleeping with whomever it takes. In their minds, they believe they are making the world a better place. If being spies in an enemy country isn’t complicated enough, their new neighbor is a counter intelligence FBI agent and their teen-age daughter who is suspicious of their behavior, becomes very active in a Christian youth group. Elizabeth and Philip also fear that their children may also be recruited by the KGB or their fates if the parents are captured or killed.
The drama was created by.former CIA agent Joe Weisberg and was inspired by the true story of Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley. Donald and Tracey were agents of Putin unbeknownst to their sons until they were arrested in 2010.
If you like House of Cards, Homeland, and Scandal you will probably enjoy The Americans. I’ll let you in on a little secret. The Americans is a show on FX and only streamed on Amazon Prime, but the Library has all the current seasons on DVD.
Book – Although I’ll read just about anything, I primarily consider myself a science fiction fan. I love the experience of exploring new worlds full of strange and unfamiliar things, people, and attitudes. Patrick O’Brien’s excellent series of Napoleonic War naval adventures scratches the same itch for me. There’s the technology, certainly – antiquated rather than futuristic, but the attention to detail is the same, and just like you don’t need to know how faster-than-light travel works in order to enjoy a science fiction story, neither do you need to understand the finer points of sailing against the wind in order to follow one of Aubrey’s fantastic chases. But there’s also the characters, a tightly-knit cast, constantly changing, of people facing physical and emotional danger of all description. The characters are what keeps me coming back to this series, again and again. (Well, and the sloth.)
The series really acts as one long book, telling the story of Captain Jack Aubrey and Doctor Stephen Maturin’s friendship, from the time they meet at a concert in 1800, through a final, unfinished novel set after the Battle of Waterloo. But although the series is best appreciated in sequential order, I do sometimes recommend that for a first attempt, the reader starts with something other than the first book – Post Captain, perhaps, or The Fortune of War (one of my favorites, set during the War of 1812), or even Far Side of the World, as I did when the movie came out and I didn’t know any better. You can always go back and start over again at the beginning, and if you fall in love with the characters, you’ll probably want to anyway.