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

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  3,175 ratings  ·  568 reviews
Area 51 is the most famous military installation in the world--& it doesn't exist. Located 75 miles outside of Las Vegas in Nevada's desert, it's never been acknowledged by the government, but it's captivated imaginations for decades. Myths & hypotheses about it have long abounded, thanks to the enveloping secrecy. Some claim it is home to aliens, underground tunne ...more
Hardcover, 540 pages
Published May 17th 2011 by Little, Brown & Company (Boston) (first published 2011)
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Community Reviews

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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
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,
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
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
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
Scott Gilbert
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
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
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
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
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
Erik Graff
May 23, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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
Alias Pending
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
LA Carlson
Aug 22, 2011 LA Carlson rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: experienced readers
Recommended to LA by: read a review
Shelves: historial-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
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
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 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
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
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.
D Books
I listened to the audio book version and heard the words "classified" and "need-to-know" used by the author one too many times. I am pleased she DID NOT take the "aliens at 51" approach to her book and really made more sense of what was being tested (new (aircraft) technology and nuclear testing) at the site. After completing the book you will not feel like Area 51 is all that mysterious and it is quite common for our government as well of other foreign governments to need to have some secluded ...more
Lynn Pribus
Really enjoyed this explanation of what went on out there in the Nevada desert. Many recently unclassified details and stories. For instance, who knew Beatty had been such a hotbed of technology? When we were there while visiting Death Valley, our lodging was in the Library Room in half a trailer. (I think the other half was Elvis on Black Velvet.)

Evidently much of the UFO flap in the 70s and 80s was the result of secret aircraft being tested. They were so high up, they would catch the sun, even
Jacobsen launches into a history of black operations, painting a detailed story of a lonely piece of land in the desert where the only people who knew what was going on there besides the men who actually worked there were a handful of high-ranking U.S. officials and the spies planes and later, satellites) from the Soviet Union, while weaving the personal stories of the men involved in keeping the mysterious activities of the top-secret base secret. I found the whole book to be extremely interest ...more
Randy Auxier
I don’t know. I mean that. According to Annie Jacobsen, that’s because I don’t “have a need to know.” Probably no phrase is repeated quite as often (in any book I have ever read) as that phrase in this book. It’s forgivable. Jacobsen explains how this concept of the “need to know” has safeguarded information since the Manhattan Project. If this book has a thesis, it is: It’s bad to have government agencies operating wholly beyond the reach of reasonable oversight.

Apparently, even the President,
Holy crap Batman! I am sorry for the use of the expletive but I felt it was necessary.
Here is how this book was written: This woman read several books on the early years of nuclear weapons development in the United States. Than she said, "That was interesting, I wish I could have written that." Next she read several books on the early development of spy aircraft by the United States. Again she thought, "Man I wish I could have written that". Then she sat down to lunch.
Living in California she of
I’ve never been a fan of the idea that the government is hiding space aliens from us. Partly it’s because the people who espouse this particular brand of paranoia always strike me as two hairs away from batshit insane. Mostly though it’s because I’ve never seen any good evidence for it. I haven’t seen good evidence that any U.F.O. is alien in origin. The locus of most of these theories is the mythical military base Area 51, a place I’ve wanted to know more about, but without having to wade throu ...more
2011 Book 95/100

I read the first 180 or so pages of the book and wondered if I could continue - largely because the information contained in that first 180 pages was only moderately engaging historical data about the secret, "black operations" that have gone on at Area 51 since the beginning of the Cold War - the development of reconnaissance and combat planes by both the CIA and Air Force (with little to no governmental oversight, by the by). The U-2, then the A-12 / SR-71 were both developed t
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Gwinnett County P...: Is it History, Mystery, or Conspiracy? 1 2 Aug 23, 2012 10:36AM  
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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.

OPERATION PAPERCLIP was chosen as one of the best non-fiction books of 2014 by The Boston Globe, Apple iBooks, and Publishers Weekly, Starred Reviews.

Her 2011 non-fiction bestseller, "AREA 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top
More about Annie Jacobsen...
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