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Left of Boom: How a Young CIA Case Officer Penetrated the Taliban and Al-Qaeda

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,188 ratings  ·  121 reviews
On September 11, 2001, Doug Laux was a freshman in college, on the path to becoming a doctor. But with the fall of the Twin Towers came a turning point in his life. After graduating he joined the Central Intelligence Agency, determined to get himself to Afghanistan and into the center of the action. Through persistence and hard work he was fast-tracked to a clandestine ope ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 5th 2016 by St. Martin's Press
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Heather Clitheroe
Apr 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
I'll echo another reviewer's comment that the book is uneven -- it is very much an unfinished, unpolished narrative. There is a wealth of experience in Doug Laux's recounting of his work as a case officer for the CIA, but the telling of it is flawed. Conversations are stilted. Descriptions are lacking. The women in his life are presented as shrewish and irrational.

What is truly frustrating is the vast sections of text that are 'redacted.' Within the book, sections are blacked out. It's a nifty
Bob Woodley
Apr 08, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a very uneven book. When he describes his work for the CIA it is fascinating and rich with detail. The narrator is both a party-hard bro and someone who is quite sensitive to other cultures. He interacts fruitfully with locals in Afghanistan and the middle east and is able to build a functioning network of agents. He seems quite competent and was given a high degree of trust and responsibility.

In short his description of what its like to work inside the CIA as an overseas operative is gr
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting memoir, mostly focused on the author’s operations against IED networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan and his operations in support of rebels in Syria.

Lax does a great job driving home the sacrifices made by DO officers. The narrative is personal and engaging, and Lax does a great job describing his own evolution from recruit to officer and the toll it took, and how he struggled to balance his profession with his personal life. Lax also describes how little the US seemed to know abou
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was ok
There is too much time spent by the author on his personal love life and problems with alcohol and substance abuse. I did enjoy the operational aspects of the Agency’s work in the Middle East though.
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Everything I didn't know that I wanted to know about the covert ops of the war on terror.

Not only did the material spark my interest, but the fact that it is written by a former CIA officer made me pick up this title. And while I do enjoy non-fiction occasionally, it is not my go-to as it can often be dry. This is not the case here. I blew through this book faster than any other non-fiction book of its kind that I think I've ever read. It is so easy to read and intriguing, that I found myself r
While in his senior year at Indiana University, Douglas Laux applied for a job online with the Central Intelligence Agency. He aspired to build a challenging career that would take him outside of rural eastern Indiana where he grew up. He was surprised and excited when the CIA offered him a position.

Bright, articulate, fresh out of college and full of optimism for the future, Doug began training for his job. As a CIA employee, Doug was informed that he was not at liberty to discuss his employmen
May 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
The story is interesting enough, but the author's gimmick of redacting lines from the book- sometimes almost entire pages- is extremely annoying. I get it- top-secret CIA stuff. Can't expose govt secrets, puts lives in danger.
But reword the sentence to avoid the specifics that must be redacted.
For example, "I finally flew out on a ⬛️⬛️⬛️⬛️ plane to Kandahar."
WHAT IS WRONG WITH "I finally flew out on a plane to Kandahar"????
Apr 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: laux
finished this one this evening, 4/23/17, good read, i liked it and then some, so 3.5 stars. just read that other one no good men among the living and i wanted more, so this one.

makes one wonder how an individual...a country...can be so incredibly advanced and so incredibly focking stupid at the same time. how did we survive?

reads fast, this. and as some have noted and complained about, there are redacted parts. a few are small enough to entice puzzling...until you see a line of words, readable
Tadas Talaikis
Apr 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book can be great if not censored by CIA. It became almost unreadable. If you want to cover details, then cover,why provide this classical music nonsense on over 60% (of entire book).
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book and I really wanted to enjoy it, but unfortunately I was disappointed. I've read quite a few of the previous reviews and found that most of the issues I had with the book have already been mentioned by other readers. The things that really bothered me were:

1. The author - I first heard of Douglas Laux on a TV show called 'Finding Escobar's Millions'. After watching the show and hearing his backstory I was intrigued to read Left of Boom. I found him likeable on the
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
My dear brother brought this book for me to read during his Christmas visit. He thought that I needed to be more knowledgeable about world events. Although the Central Intelligence Agency required quite a number of parts to be redacted, the true tales nevertheless proved very interesting. The author, Douglas Laux, is definitely an alpha male [like my brother!] and has a fairly high opinion of himself. However, he does seem to accurately convey what it is like to be a successful CIA case officer ...more
Justin Tapp
Left of Boom: How a Young CIA Case Officer Penetrated the Taliban and Al-Qaeda
(This book was one of several I reviewed in 2016 related to the US war on terror. See list below.)

This book had a lot to do with why I couldn't vote for Evan McMullin, even as a protest vote, in the 2016 election. I recommend reading it with Ali Soufan's Black Banners, which details the FBI's run-in with the CIA and their illegal, ineffective methods at interrogation and complicitness in terrorist activities by way of
Eric Funk
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
Was interested to read this book after seeing the author's Reddit AMA. I really enjoy non-fiction accounts of the intelligence community so I was really hoping to like this but overall was not impressed in the end. There did not seem to be much a central plot. They tried to use the take-down of the Wolverine network as the central plot line but it really just felt like a bunch of haphazard stories thrown together. It was interspersed with lots of accounts of his lackluster romantic pursuits that ...more
Bradley West
Jul 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Left of Boom left me with mixed emotions, the strongest of which was frustration toward the CIA for the bureaucratic, risk averse politicking culture that missed so many opportunities and ultimately chased the author out of the Agency. The futility of the war in Afghanistan isn't a major theme (as, say, in The Operators). Doug Laux sees lots he can do for the Good Guys, and as one of the few (if only) Pashtun speakers in the Agency, he is a novelty among both his colleagues and potential informa ...more
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
"Left of Boom" is an expression that means you are on the "safe" side of a catastrophic event. However, reading the book, I'm not sure that Douglas Laux was all that safe.

The book is fascinating because it gives a true picture to know what a case officer (CO) in the CIA does on a day-to-day basis. How they develop human assets to better the state of the country and mitigate upcoming issues.

I am impressed by the work of men and women who take this thankless and impossible job to work in the defe
Paul moved to LibraryThing
I genuinely can't tell if this is fiction or not. For one this is blatant propaganda for the CIA. Secondly the character writes in a style that is incongruent with his own description of himself.

If it is genuine then I guess this is why everyone hates the CIA. It's staffed by people like this who have no conscience or even self-awareness. As long as they are having a blast and fulfilling their patriotic fantasies the rest of the world can (and will) burn. Unless you're American you're not even c
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book. I understand this is one persons account of working in the CIA, I also understand this person was young during his tenure and there is question of his maturity . But the story he tells in his book fascinated me. It opens your mind up to bureaucracies that most of us will never understand. The only downside that i will not ding my rating on is the amount of blacked out sections there are from C.I.A. sensors. I'm sure for good reason? it just made me want to know more. While readin ...more
Sep 04, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a quick and enjoyable biography that mingled a period of the author's personal life with his professional life. Mr. Laux gives an insightful account of his experiences as a CIA case officer working primarily with human intelligence. While a full explanation of methods is redacted, some of the fundamental attributes of intelligence-gathering are covered in fantastic detail. The story loses steam for the last 20% or so (the main thrust focuses on the author's time in Afghanistan), but tha ...more
Mark D.
Nov 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a very interesting read. This book gives insight into those who make great sacrifices to protect the freedoms we enjoy in this country. Most of us have no idea the sacrifices made by those who work in the shadows, behind enemy lines, finding assets, compiling data, and making strategies in times of conflict.
I encourage you to pick up this book to gain a little insight into how our government works to ensure our safety as citizens of the United States. There is much more that happens tha
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to really like this book, and I thought the story itself was okay. However, there were so many redacted passages, which started out as simply annoying, then became increasingly infuriating to listen to. I felt like I was missing a lot of important information that would really help to flesh out the story better.

I read a lot of epic fantasies, which are much longer than this book, but for as short as this audiobook was, it felt like a real chore to finish it.
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fast paced and action packed, this book is an excellent window into the secrecy of the CIA. It's hard to know whether to sympathize with the author or wonder if he's telling the truth, but his story is fascinating. It's a quick read (helped along by a lot of redaction), and it gives some insight into a world even well-informed Americans can't understand. If nothing else, it's a lesson in futility with the best of intentions. ...more
Jennifer Ebert
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
I thought this was a great memoir. The book takes you into the personal struggles of a CIA officer and deep undercover as he penetrates the Taliban. It allows you to comprehend some of the dangers our Agents and military deal with and the risk they take every day abroad to keep us safe on the home front. You are offered a glimpse into some of the missions which border on the verge of classified. It was insightful and I really enjoyed reading the personal side of his life, too.
May 14, 2017 rated it liked it

I enjoyed reading it and all, but where were the takeaways? I don't think this book quite knew what it wanted to be, because it seemed like a weird mashup of travelogue, dating recollection, critique of the CIA, and "I'm such an idiot badass look at me". But none of that put together made for a complete book. It was missing something, and a key something.
Dawn Delle
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most Interesting

I first found this book by watching a show on Discovery Channel called Finding Escobar's Millions. One of the guys on that show wrote this book. I thought this was really quite an eye opening read. I do recommend it if you want to know how the Government Agencies work or don't work by someone who was actually there.
Adam Colby
Apr 18, 2019 rated it liked it
The most interesting parts of the book are heavily redacted. The book provides a general overview of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and an in-depth view into the author's psyche. As I finished it, I joked to myself, "so this is the CIA from a millennial's view." A decent book for a mindless read. ...more
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
to be honest i really enjoyed reading doug’s book. even i didnt understand every military term (english is not my native language) it was very interessting and gave me a good look into the life of someone who works so hard on multiple frontlines...private & in the cia. ive seen him on television and thought he is a kool guy, later found his book. glad that i bought it. can recommend!
A little disappointing, to be honest. But maybe my expectations were too high.
While this book was certainly interesting, it seemed to be very held back by the poor writing of the author, with far too little description, though some can be excused.
Contrary to many complaints, the blacked out text did not bother me. It’s understandable why it must be utilized, and I commend the author for choosing to leave it in rather than try to work around it. I would rather know that things are being hidden
Kait Vanderlaan
Feb 07, 2021 rated it liked it
This is not my typical read or a book I ever thought I’d enjoy, but I actually found it pretty interesting. I know it’s a memoir of a CIA agent but the long redacted sections seemed redundant. I get it contains classified information but I wish the author just left out the sometimes entire page worth of blacked out writing. Other than that this was a pretty good read!
Chase Metcalf
Jan 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Entertaining look at the relatively short but exciting career of a CIA case officer. Unfortunately the book is highly redacted which is annoying and distracting at times. That said the author sacrificed a lot to serve and his story reads like a good war story just lacking certain key details.
Conor Cook
Sep 05, 2017 rated it liked it
I get national security & secrecy but so much of this book was redacted it was almost frustrating wanting to know what was going on. Still would recommend reading it. Hope Doug Laux is enjoying his next chapter in life.
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