This book is full of meticulous research and, thanks to access to newly unclassified documents, a bit of intrigue as well. From beginning to end, even knowing what is going to happen, Berlin 1961 tells an interesting story. Personally I think that some of the asides that included personal facts about Krushchev and Kennedy (especially Kennedy) were a bit unnecessary, as were the additional short chapters on random people of the era - the sniper, the beauty queen, the would-be refugee smuggler, etc. In general I would normally enjoy reading excerpts about everyday people dealing with life in Berlin, but I think the ones in this book were a bit disjointed and threw off the general story that Kempe was trying to tell.
That said, if one is looking to learn more about the Cold War period and especially the situation in and regarding Berlin - which I have never seen described in such detail until this book - I highly recommend Berlin 1961. 4/5 stars
"...men of ideas [have] to collaborate with men of power to achieve noble purposes."