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Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base

3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,061 Ratings  ·  680 Reviews
Area 51

It is the most famous military installation in the world. And it doesn't exist. Located a mere seventy-five miles outside of Las Vegas in Nevada's desert, the base has never been acknowledged by the U.S. government-but Area 51 has captivated imaginations for decades.

Myths and hypotheses about Area 51 have long abounded, thanks to the intense secrecy enveloping it.
ebook, 549 pages
Published May 17th 2011 by Little, Brown and Company
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"Wow! It sure is hot in the desert. Hey, why does that rattle snake have two heads?"

"I can tell you……."

"Oh, hello…I didn‘t see you there, just talking to myself and the snake---s. I’m Stephanie, and who are you and what are you doing in the middle of the Mojave Desert?"

"I could ask you the same thing. I’m Annie Jacobson, I wrote a book about Area 51. It’s just over the hill there."

"The hill with the two Hummers on it? Hey, and there seems to be a couple guys with guns…..uh……pointing in our direc
May 19, 2011 Dave rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Area 51 is a very odd book. On the one hand, much of it is a sane, grounded history of the installation's key role in Cold War nuclear testing and spy-plane R&D, full of previously undisclosed information based on declassified records and dozens of interviews with people who worked there.

Jacobsen sticks to that sensible course for about 90 percent of the book. But the other 10 percent is kind of, well, nuts. Things get weird when she links Area 51 to the Roswell incident. Based on a single,
Jun 20, 2011 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I heard an interview with Jacobsen on Fresh Air which intrigued me. Then I got a sample chapter to see if it held up to a critical reading, and I was hooked.

If all you know about Area 51 is the alien/spaceship wacko thing, then you can be forgiven for thinking that is what this is about. Rather, this investigative reporter examines the secret, "black operations" that have gone on here since the beginning of the Cold War. And what has piqued my interest the most is her detailed account of how the
Mar 23, 2014 Eric_W rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Annie Jacobsen is obsessed with secrecy. Her other book, Operation Paperclip, deals with the hidden machinations of the US government after WW II to find and import Nazi scientists who had special expertise in rocketry and chemical weapons.

This book details the hidden history of Area 51, an ultra-secret location (officially it doesn’t exist) in the Nevada desert just next to the atomic weapons testing area. Supposedly created by the CIA in 1955 for U-2 flights, Jacobsen discovered it had been se
Jun 12, 2011 Djll rated it liked it
I was just listening to Terry Gross interview Jacobsen on Fresh Air, and what I heard has really blown my mind, and I don't use that term, ever. I am definitely going to get a hold of this book asap.

Jacobsen's final chapter of the book apparently concerns the 1947 Roswell alien-landing conspiracy theories. Being very secretive but convinced of her source's veracity, she said the crash was of a Soviet flying disc aircraft, inspired by or possibly directly designed by some German engineers, those
Scott Gilbert
Jul 09, 2011 Scott Gilbert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
UFO and conspiracy books are a particularly guilty pleasure of mine. I believe nothing, but am entertained and thrilled by all of it. Jacobsen didn't fail me in this regard. She has piled up a fast, heated history of Area 51 and the elements of the "Military-Industrial Complex" which bred the secret base (and its matching mystery installations around the world and country). Much related here must be true, and most of it is quite reasonable and revelatory (stolen technologies, blundering atom bom ...more
Dec 01, 2014 Jamie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Excellent, incredible book. I don’t know how Annie Jacobsen compiled the half of it. Her work is extensive and exhaustive and it’s fascinating on all fronts. How could it not be, with a subject like this? But in connecting the dots of such an unwieldy story, it never bogs down. Her research is as satisfying as it is incomplete and disconcerting— the few pixels of a much larger picture. And she presents it without hype or paranoia. Not even when that could be justified by the secrets our country ...more
Nov 12, 2011 Marvin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
When this was first recommended to me, I was afraid it would be another UFO conspiracy tome. It is far from that. Of course, the author does give her attention to the UFO theories surrounding the mysterious Area 51 and, in the first chapters, teases us with the promise of an explanation. By the last chapter, we get that explanation and it is more mind-boggling and disturbing than any UFO theory could be.

But while that may be the author's most sensational claim, this is a book about the real impo
: I am by nature a very nosy person. I am also incredibly skeptical of groups of humanoids with more than their fair share of power (in this case, our beloved government). Prone as I am to juicy conspiracy theories, it is no surprise that this behemoth book claiming to reveal the deepest, darkest secrets of Area 51 called to me- it has “nosy conspiracy theorist” written all over it!

And Annie Jacobsen delivered. An incredibly talented national security journalist, Jacobsen put her sweet investig
Sean Wilson
Dec 28, 2015 Sean Wilson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
- Cold War paranoia
- Military aviation
- UFOs
- The Roswell Incident
- The infamous 'War of the Worlds' radio broadcast
- Conspiracy theories
- Experimental aircrafts
- Atomic bomb testing
- Government cover-ups
- Military espionage
- Top secret testing
- Project Orion

If you're like me and relish this list of untrustworthiness of the world, then it's simply full of fascinating facts. If you're like me and grew up watching films and TV shows like the X-Files, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Inv
May 31, 2011 Ian rated it it was amazing
Nothing to Placate Mulder Here

Firstly: put away that tin-foil hat, Clarence, this has nothing to do with telling you about the bodies of alien visitors. The Roswell, NM 'incident' is debunked in this book as being nothing more than a demented attempt by the then Soviet leader Stalin to create panic among the American public akin to the 1938 "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast. Had the original USAF Press Release not been replaced in a matter of hours, he might have succeeded. The craft was a cre
Erik Graff
May 23, 2013 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to Erik by: Erik Badger
Shelves: history
A great deal has been written about the Nevada Test and Training Range, much of it disinformation, much of it rumor or nonsense. Jacobsen's Area 51, based in part on public record, in part on interviews, is an accessible and generally accurate history of the area and what has occurred there since 1951, all of it originally secret, much of it profoundly disquieting.

Running as a leit motif throughout the book is reference to what happened outside Roswell, NM in 1947, an event finally explained in
Annie Jacobsen concludes this ambitious and mostly very good alternative history epic with a bizarre misinterpretation of Occam's razor that has plenty of readers, UFO buffs and others up in arms, but even so, I don't believe this preposterous final chapter invalidates the good, valuable and fascinating overview of the most secret "black project" weapons research conducted by the United States in the Nevada desert during the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the War on Terror.

The *real
Oct 10, 2011 Thad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jacobsen, a national security reporter for the LA Times, spends much of the book demystifying Area 51, using exhaustive research to show that it was the key testing ground for everything from nukes to the SR-71 Blackbird to today's drones. Then she drops a theory on the Roswell crash that's nothing short of revolutionary: it all was a Soviet psy ops mission designed to freak the American people out and make them distrust the government (if so, it sure as hell worked).

It sounds far-fetched at fir
Dec 19, 2011 Tony rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
AREA 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base. (2011). Annie Jacobsen. **.
I made it halfway through this recent book and stopped. There were just too many factual errors that I was able to catch that affected my credibility about anything else the author might have to say about her subject. Her claim to fame for this book was that she was able to interview nineteen people who actually worked at or for Area 51 – people who were willing to share information with her not oth
Marc Weitz
Dec 22, 2011 Marc Weitz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not the Area 51 book for those of you who wear tin foil on your head. Written by a real reporter for the LA Times Magazine, this book examines fact-based accounts of Area 51. Mainly this book explains that all the crazy alien and UFO stories were the development and testing of advanced planes such as the U-2 and the SR-71 Blackbird. We know these planes exist today, but it understandable that when these planes were being developed top-secretly in the 1950's and 1960's, a plane like the B ...more
Alias Pending
Dec 13, 2012 Alias Pending rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Short review: "I've been saying for years: The Shadow Government already has scare-goat related disinfo hypnology.“ – Schaeffer T. Darklord

Medium review: I want to call this book pure propaganda. But, it is not. It’s highly muddled propaganda and disinformation. I'll try to ravel this poorly told tale in the Long Review.

Long review: 1) This book is not about Area 51. It is about the A-12 Oxcart. If you want to read about the Oxcart program, I recommend you seek more coherent information elsewher
Lisa A. Carlson
Aug 22, 2011 Lisa A. Carlson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: experienced readers
Recommended to Lisa A. by: read a review
Shelves: memoir
This book gives complete credibility to the statement; "We have no idea of what we really don't know." Understandably, there are going to be people who think this book is worthless but what caught me is the power of the very few who go unchecked; including Presidents. To me this is more alarming than any possible alien sightings. Jacobsen begins her story with how things began and who oversees Area 51 which is located 75 miles from Las Vegas. The Air Force and Government will not acknowledge its ...more
Chris Dietzel
Sep 19, 2015 Chris Dietzel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a book specifically about Area 51, this might fall a little short due to only half of it actually being about Area 51 and the other half being about interesting side stories. But what interesting stories they are! This could really be subtitled "An Uncensored History of Military Surveillance and Aviation" instead and it would work even better. Jacobsen does a great job of providing sources to validate all of her claims, citing when she is relying on declassified documents, face-to-face interv ...more
May 31, 2011 Grumpus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ufos, audiobook
Not what I thought it would be…but still surprisingly better!

I had anticipated a book about UFOs and the secret testing and/or cover up of alien beings. Instead this is basically a biography of Area 51 and its environs. Well researched and documented with people who were willing to talk to set the record straight about what happens there. Some of it more mundane and some scary, but all very interesting.

The stories told are compelling and the narration by the author, professional. It made for a h
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A history of lying.

Annie Jacobsen's book is more a solid and factual history of the Cold War (and the beginnings of the perpetual "War on Terror") based on previously classified documents and personal interviews with actual employees than an expose of real mysteries of Area 51. That is, until the the last chapter and the Epilogue, when the author reveals details of her 18 months of interviews with the last surviving witness to know what really happened at Roswell. Without providing any spoilers,
Well, I grabbed this one I'm hopes of an "out-there" and interesting read. Area 51, why not? It's fun. The first chapters were promising: everything was veiled in mystery, even if it was, at times, ridiculous. But then, it turned into a bunch of side stories and a history chat about the Cold War...not that it was uninteresting, but it was conveyed in a very poor, "and then this happened, and you won't believe it!" style. This book may have been called, Area 51 and Other Undercover Operations You ...more
Mar 11, 2016 Lucybelle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military
This entire book is written in fluent clickbait. "Here's what the CIA will never tell you about their top secret drone program...number five will shock you!!!"

I can sort of forgive Jacobsen for milking the scandal factor so hard. Aviation history doesn't exactly fly off the shelves (hurr, hurr), and there's nothing wrong with sexing up the dry source material to hook in readers. Plenty of what's in this book is interesting and informative, if you're into the history of America's military-industr
Jul 13, 2011 Aaron rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Early on, I was going to give this book 4 stars. The opening chapters are exciting and while they may or may not be true, they inspire a sense of the mystery that has surrounded Area 51.

Unfortunately, the wheels begin to come off in the middle of the book.

(view spoiler)
May 19, 2011 Emily marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Review from NPR:

Seventy-five miles north of Las Vegas sits a land parcel in the middle of the desert. Called Area 51, the parcel is just outside of the abandoned Nevada Test and Training Range, where more than 100 atmospheric bomb tests were conducted in the 1950s. Officially, the U.S. government has never acknowledged the existence of Area 51. Unofficially, it has become a place associated with conspiracy theories, alien landings and tiny spaceships.

Journalist Annie Jacobsen tells Fresh Air's T
Jonathan Hutchins
Right up to the last chapter this was really interesting, detailed and plausible. Time brings many secrets to light, either through lapse from their secret status, in response to direct FOI requests, or when a witness decides to spill the beans, and the biggie here is saved till last. Jacobsen is interesting in her accounts of the U-2 and A-12 ('Oxcart') projects, especially the power struggles over control of the latter. She has no time for the reality of UFOs, but we are invited to consider th ...more
Jonathan Kamp
Aug 08, 2013 Jonathan Kamp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was 3/4 of the way done with the book before I began to read the Amazon reviews, and began scratching my head, wondering: What the *Heck* is Going On?! This is the best nonfiction book I've read since I read "The Lost City of Z," and that's saying a lot, because "Z" is the best nonfiction book I've read in many years - and then I stumbled across my own thought process: Everyone's a critic! All the fact checkers writing the Amazon reviews need to take a few years out of their "busy" lives and w ...more
Alfonso D'agostino
Ok, ok, sono il primo a rendermene conto: il titolo non prometteva nulla di buono. “Area 51, la verità senza censure” suonava sinistramente simile ad un libro iper-complottista, di quelli che spiegano come l’uomo non sia mai andato sulla Luna, dettagliano come l’aereo che si schiantò sul Pentagono nel 2001 fosse in realtà un drone pilotato dalla CIA e affermano senza timore di smentite che la tombola di Natale organizzata dall’oratorio sotto casa faccia parte di un complesso esperimento di contr ...more
Jul 31, 2011 Monica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good thorough history, and she gave a lot of humanity to the people she interviewed, which made the story more compelling. Still, book thinks of itself as more important as it is, and the "reveal" at the end is far-fetched at best.
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Annie Jacobsen is a journalist and author of the New York Times Bestsellers AREA 51 and OPERATION PAPERCLIP. She writes about war, weapons, and U.S. national security.

Her newest book, THE PENTAGON'S BRAIN: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America's Top Secret Military Research Agency, publishes September 22, 2015.

OPERATION PAPERCLIP was chosen as one of the best non-fiction books of 2014 by The Bo
More about Annie Jacobsen...

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