By Anna Bernasek

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Warning: Reading The Price of Loyalty, by Ron Suskind, an account of Paul O'Neill's time in the current Bush Administration, is a bit like peering into the kitchen of a restaurant you frequent--it'll make you queasy.

This look inside the highly secretive Bush White House has generated a lot of buzz, and deservedly so. Yes, there are the much-hyped quotes: O'Neill describes Bush as a "blind man in a roomful of deaf people," and Cheney makes the astonishing remark that "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." But the book is also valuable for its frank sketches of insiders and glimpses of the policymaking process.

Suskind provocatively describes a White House where Dick Cheney and Karl Rove run the show--but in a way that's opaque even to high-ranking cabinet members. According to O'Neill, some cabinet members took little part in any actual policymaking involving their fields of supposed authority. O'Neill feels that he was used, along with other moderates such as Colin Powell and Christine Whitman, as "cover" for an ideological agenda (there's a vivid account suggesting Cheney hijacked environmental policy and masterminded the President's stance on global warming). The book also contains rare glimpses of other peripheral figures. One surprise: Alan Greenspan comes across as a closet critic of the Administration.

Although far from a balanced history of the period, this is a fascinating insider account for anyone curious about how Bush and his advisors are running the country. --Anna Bernasek