Area 51 by Annie Jacobsen is a good effort in collating the various pieces of history regarding the ranch (most of which is still classified). Note that I had read this book via the kindle app on my ipad.
I had learnt about Area 51 from a couple of Discovery Channel shows that create a lot of viewer interest and awe regarding the activities that are believed to be going on there. This book tries to weave the accounts of various people who worked there and presents it in a chronological order of sorts. It is very informative regarding the role of US establishments such as the CIA, the Airforce and the Department of Energy (which has its origins probably in the Manhattan Project during the development of the first nuclear weapon). This book also serves as a good account of major events during the cold war.
The author take good care to skip the usual stuff that most of us might know and focuses only on key stories that have been declassified recently or learnt during invetigations by the author.
The author states concerns regarding the usage of humans for carrying out various tests at Area 51 and other clandestine sites. She tries to establish (with a possiblility of exaggeration) that there is very little information available in public domain and that various departments mentioned above seem to be hiding “majority of the iceberg”.
As a reader if you even an iota of interest in military, politics or science; you will get glued to the book from page one and soak it up in minimal number of sittings. There is also a section of photos towards the end of the book which contain photos from Area 51 and a couple of unreleased photographs.
One thing about the writing style that I sometimes found teasing and sometimes annoying was that whenever the author was reaching a point significant out come or a major issue, she would delay that part and move into the background of the persons involved, spend a page or so on it and only then disclose whatever happened. However, I am sure she has a good reason for pouring over the background in such detail, possibly to make the reader empathise with the character in that situation.
I recommend this book for anyone with slight interest in the topic or even if some one wants to read up a bit on the cold war period.