An eccentric millionaire. A brilliant woman. A world of espionage and codes and ciphers. Two world wars, more than a dozen dinner parties, a plethora of correspondence, and a legacy left hidden in archives and libraries for decades. All of these pieces describe this year’s Adams County Reads One Book selection, “The Woman Who Smashed Codes,” by Jason Fagone.

“The Woman Who Smashed Codes” follows the legacy of Elizebeth Friedman, a vivacious woman whose brilliance in codebreaking helped the United States decipher various intelligences from enemy forces and saved countless Allied Forces lives in World War I and World War II. With her husband William, they contributed so much to peace efforts, and yet William’s accomplishments became more well known. Journalist Fagone follows Elizebeth’s writings to flush out her contributions and to give voice to the many accomplishments achieved by her. The result is a touching, narrative nonfiction account about a woman seeking adventure and equal standing amongst men, and yet a woman who also wished for her husband to achieve success and accolades in all of their joint endeavors. A mother, an inventor, a scientist, and a mathematician, her writings and correspondence left behind show just a small amount of her assignments from the United States government.
Says Kirkus Reviews, “The Woman Who Smashed Codes” is “an engaging resurrection of a significant player in the world of cryptology.” Says the New York Times, “Not all superheroes wear capes, and Elizebeth Smith Friedman should be the subject of a future Wonder Woman movie.” NPR notes, this book is “a study of the sort of extraordinary events that consume the world, and the abilities – and limits – of a few extraordinary people.”

Copies of the book are now available to place on hold through the Adams County Library System website,, or by calling your local Adams County Library and speaking to a staff member. eBook and eAudiobook copies are also available through cloudLibrary.

Each Adams County library plans to host programs and book discussions throughout the month of October. Watch for more information to appear in September.
The Adams County Reads One Book program is an opportunity for the Adams County community to read and discuss the same book. Past selections included “A Piece of the World” by Christina Baker Kline; “What the Dead Leave Behind” by Rosemary Simpson; “In the Garden of Beasts” by Erik Larson; and “Destiny of the Republic” by Candice Millard. The One Book is chosen every year by a committee featuring Adams County Library staff, volunteers, and Adams County community members. Beginning with a list of roughly 30 titles, the committee reads each book and bases the final selection on readability; programming possibilities; interest to the Adams County community; and availability of copies in various formats that best fit the needs of the Adams County community. The One Book Committee welcomes suggestions for titles to consider for future One Book programs. To offer a suggestion, contact staff at your local library. 

We hope you have an opportunity to grab a copy of the book and join us for this year’s celebration. It is a book that has much heart and hope, as well as endurance and ingenuity. Happy Reading!

Submitted by Jessica Laganosky, Public Services Librarian