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Summary

In his audiobook, A Higher Loyalty, former FBI director James Comey shares his never-before-told experiences from some of the highest stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of power and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader. 

Mr. Comey served as director of the FBI from 2013 to 2017, appointed to the post by President Barack Obama. He previously served as US attorney for the Southern District of New York and the US deputy attorney general in the administration of President George W. Bush. From prosecuting the mafia and Martha Stewart to helping change the Bush administration's policies on torture and electronic surveillance and overseeing the Hillary Clinton email investigation as well as ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Comey has been involved in some of the most consequential cases and policies of recent history.  

©2018 James Comey (P)2018 Macmillan Audio

Critic reviews

"Comey's conversational tone instantly connects with the listener, and hearing him deliver the book's highly charged contents in his own voice brings authenticity and immediacy to the presentation...This greatly anticipated, revelatory memoir needs to be heard." (AudioFile)

"It was essential that Comey himself narrate this book, not only because his absence would have distracted listeners familiar with his voice but also because only the author could credibly convey the range of raw emotions emanating from the experiences he shares from this most eventful of lives." - Booklist, Starred Review

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  • Gillian
  • 17-04-18

More Than Trump: All Comey's Life/Working Years--

Actually, this is a really, really good book by a man who winds up coming off as someone who has walked a fine non-partisan line for a long, long time.
I truly expected to come away from listening to A Higher Loyalty, rolling my eyes. Not because I'm a big Trump fan or anything, but coming so soon after his high-profile firing, I thought it would be bashing and filled with self-sanctimonious tirades. And it's anything but.
Wow. Comey has been through it all: From Martha Stewart, through surveillance and torture programs; from coming from an agency that borders on almost totally white, through keeping a memo authorizing the surveillance of MLK (okayed by Robert Kennedy) as a reminder that that which is not looked at carefully could lead good people far, far astray.
Cheney comes off as hideous, Hillary is a piece of work, Obama could be vastly over-confident but was willing to listen and learn (which surprised Comey; he thought that, coming as an appointment from a Republican president, a Democrat would dislike him grievously).
And yes, there's the utter outrage that happened with the Russians, and quite a bit to do with Trump.
Just don't come into this book thinking it's a vast tell-all about Trump with bashing thrown in for good measure. This is about a kid who avoided bullies (tho' he once joined their ranks to his forever shame), a young man who lost an infant son, a hard worker who tried to give Alberto Gonzales a backbone, somebody who has tried to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the black citizens who are unfairly targeted.
To someone who is raising a red flag about what went on and what continues to go on today. Sprinkled throughout it a touch of ribald language with a heavy dose of humor.
Another reviewer expressed that they couldn't multitask whilst listening to this, and I found that to be true for me as well. I was up all night.

510 of 639 people found this review helpful

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  • med/PA student
  • 02-05-18

Not what I expected

I didn’t have much of an opinion regarding James Comey before listening. At the end I feel much different. Vastly entertaining, well written, beautifully narrated,surprisingly detailed. This is a great read regardless of your political affiliation.

109 of 139 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathy
  • 28-04-18

An Honorable and Honest Man

When I got this book, my feeling toward James Comey was primarily distrust, being quite sure he handled the Clinton email investigation in a way to enable Trump to be elected.

I am so glad curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to listen to Comey's story. I learned that I had been misguided and largely ignorant of what really occurred when the announcement was made that the Clinton email investigation was being reopened right before the election. My eyes were opened to the true character of the author and I now believe his behavior was non-partisan and very above board.

Comey does a wonderful narration of his book, and never for a moment did I lose interest or suspect any duplicity on his part. I was so engrossed, I had no idea if I was in the beginning, middle, or nearing the end of the book, and yet I found no need at all to track my progress (which is unusual for me.) Comey describes his childhood days, his career history, the Martha Stewart episode, the post 9-11 wire-tapping controversy, etc, etc, in addition to a detailed history of the Clinton email case. His impressions of working with three presidents, Bush, Obama, and Trump, was particularly amusing and interesting and sometimes saddening.

I come away from this book with a strong admiration for James Comey and a knowledge and understanding that I did not have before. I am sure he will be successful in his next career venture, and I wish him the best.

Highly recommended--you need to get this book!

30 of 42 people found this review helpful

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  • J. McDole
  • 17-04-18

Very illuminating

Well written, well read. I listened to it all in one day. I laughed, I sighed, I rolled my eyes, and I got teary eyed. This book explores Comey's history as a civil servant and sheds light on his goal to be truly the best at his job and follow the laws of this country. Addresses Clinton scandals as well as Trump in the end. The epilogue is truly beautiful! Hopeful and sharp at the same time.

102 of 145 people found this review helpful

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  • Cariola
  • 18-04-18

Not What You're Expecting

After my experience with Fire and Fury, I wasn't sure if I would regret purchasing James Comey's much-anticipated book. I don't. The issue I had with Michael Woolf's book was simply that there were no surprises by the time the cable news networks had done their interviews and discussions. There are no Trump bombshells in Comey's book that haven't also been made public in his testimony or his interview with George Stephanopoulos--but the 2016 election and the Trump presidency make up only the last 20-25% of the book, and the rest is very interesting indeed. A Higher Loyalty is an honest memoir, one that looks back at the events and individuals that shaped the former FBI Director's character and values and his concept of what makes a good leader.

In addressing his childhood, Comey talks about a devastating move from a familiar school and neighborhood (his grandfather had been the local police commissioner) where he had been one of the popular kinds to another where he suffered bullying. He tells us about a terrifying incident when, as a teenager, he and his brother were held at gunpoint by a home invader later identified as a serial rapist. He recounts some stupid mistakes he made as a grocery stockboy, and of the owner, a man whose example gave him some important lessons in what makes a good leader. Later, we see him discovering the work of Reinhold Niebuhr in a college religion class. (You may have seen Comey's tweets under Neibuhr's name, many of them using the theologist's own words.) He gives us insights into his long marriage to a supportive wife and their tragic loss of an infant son. Along the way, he remembers teachers, colleagues, and others who set an example for the man he hoped to become.

And, of course, there is his long and fascinating career. After a stint as law clerk to a federal judge in Manhattan and a short stint with a private law firm, Comey joined the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York--the same office currently investigating Michael Cohen, President Trump's "fixer." One of the cases he worked on was the Gambino crime family prosecution, and he has a lot of intriguing stories to tell about that experience. He was deputy special counsel to the Whitewater investigation--his first run-in with Hillary Clinton--and, as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, investigated President Clinton's pardon of fugitive Marc Rich, a Clinton campaign contributor facing federal charges of violating trade sanctions against Iran. I had no idea that Comey was the lead prosecutor in the case against Martha Stewart. His discussion of the case and the dilemmas he faced are a fine example of the way he uses his legal experiences to demonstrate his sense of ethics. Years earlier, he had upheld the conviction of a young black assistant pastor who had lied to the FBI in attempting to protect his mentor. If this man served time for his crime, why should Martha Stewart be shown leniency for the same crime and others?

Comey's first headlong plunge into Washington politics came when he opposed the Bush regime's extension of the NSA's domestic wiretapping program, which had been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The story of his visit to John Ashcroft's hospital bedside, accompanied by three trusted colleagues, including then-FBI Director Robert Mueller. They persuaded Ashcroft, the Attorney General, to uphold the discontinuation of the wiretaps, thwarting the wishes of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez. This was not Comey's last run-in with these politicos and others, including Condoleeza Rice. He opposed the interrogation procedures--waterboarding, sleep deprivation, humiliation, etc.--as forms of both physical and mental torture, and he was involved in the investigation of Scooter Libby for lying to the FBI, obstructing justice, and outing CIA agent Valerie Plame. (Is it possible this is yet another reason, in addition to sending a message to cronies under investigation, for Trump's recent pardon of Libby?) Again and again, he stands up for his belief that members of the Justice Department, once appointed, must work independently and not be steered by the Executive Office. He addresses the criticism he received for appearing sympathetic to the concerns of Black Lives Matters and recounts his efforts to increase the percentage of minority personnel working for the FBI, encouraging employees to recruit talented people by telling them about the opportunities the department offers and by "finding joy" in their own work.

And there are the last few years: the issue of Hillary Clinton's private server and lost emails, the concerns about Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and the exchanges with Trump that resulted in Comey's firing. Comey is nothing if not honest about his personal faults and the mistakes he has made, but he attempts to explain the internal conflicts he faced and the rationale behind his decisions. You may not agree with him, but you can't help but agree that he thought he was doing his job to the best of his ability, holding fast to the truth he still believes will set us all free and following the example of his lifelong mentors. (Once his book tour is over, he will be returning to the classroom, teaching courses in effective and ethical leadership.)

I listened to this book on audio and recommend it in that format. Comey is a good writer and a very good reader, and hearing him tell his own story adds credence to it. I enjoyed A Higher Loyalty not as an exposé or even a self-justification, but simply as the story of one man's life and its challenges. I only wish I shared his optimism about our country's future. He ends with a metaphor: when forest fires burn themselves out, there is room for more and better things to emerge from the scorched earth, resulting in a forest that is even stronger than before.

106 of 151 people found this review helpful

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  • George
  • 30-04-18

Refreshing, interesting, and inspiring.

After the seemingly endless reporting of Trump's day to day expressions of incompetence, I had become sick of even reading the news. Part of me feared this would be a book that focused on those more "entertaining" topics. Instead, Jim gives us a refreshingly logical, intelligent, and professional account of his life and experiences leading up to and throughout his time working in the Trump administration. Not only did this teach me a lot about the political universe but it also gave me a huge amount of respect for Jim.

In additional to being informative in terms of Jim's experiences, the book also gives amazing advice on how to be a good leader. As a young professional constantly grappling with this, I thought the book did a great job of weaving this advice into the fabric of the narrative.

It would be a mistake not to read/listen to this.

35 of 53 people found this review helpful

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  • Prolific Writer
  • 17-04-18

Excellent audio book, not JUST headlines

If you could sum up A Higher Loyalty in three words, what would they be?

Surprising good book.

No, it's not just the stuff you saw on the news, but the back story behind a man's entire life.

Yes, you will hear all the other interesting details that you saw in the television interviews and in the media hype BUT you also get to hear about a normal kid, a regular guy, and how he got there in the first place. Even if Comey never had become the Director of the F.B.I., he still would have had a fascinating life.

Any additional comments?

This book is a keeper. And Comey himself is a very good narrator as well.

130 of 200 people found this review helpful

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  • Oceans
  • 18-04-18

From another in Justice

There is a big difference between rating Comey's actions over the past year and rating a book.

This book starts very strong, with a gripping near death experience and an inside view to the mafia, and it never really let's up. The over arching theme, the importance of Truth in leadership and justice, is predictable but very applicable to this part biography part contemporary commentary. If you are interested in studying leadership or justice, this book is for you.

The performance of the narrator in reading (Jim himself) hits very hard. It makes the personal perspective so much more tangible.

A reader might be upset at Comey's decisions to announce the reopening of the email case or his comments on the President. Another reader might imagine that leader that chaffes both sides of the eisle might embody the true non partisan objectivity that Justice requires. It does not matter. What matters is the book, by itself, delivers substantial, well thought commentary on leadership and integrity, and on its own, it is excellent.

65 of 101 people found this review helpful

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  • Wendy
  • 01-05-18

Must Read

I was very angry at James Comey when I thought he lost the election for Hillary. But I sense a man of honor, integrity, and his words help me see another perspective. These are difficult times and I Appreciate the manner in which he helps the reader see a perspective, his perspective, his reality. Everyone who formed an opinion about what happened, should at least give James Comey their attention to hear some of the realities he faced. I loved thus book.

22 of 34 people found this review helpful

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  • AJ
  • 26-04-18

awesome book, changed my mind about Comey.

Awesome book, as a person that blamed Comey for Cliton loss in 2016 I approached this book with scepticism. But I see I was wrong about him, I find him an honorable person. I find him a person that tried to do the right thing in a challenging time.

16 of 25 people found this review helpful