Jólabókaflóðið 2019: Books about Totalitarianism and Rightwing Movements

Each year from Thanksgiving to Christmas, 606 offers up suggestions for books to tide you through the long winter nights. Pick them up at your library, buy them through your local bookstore, give them for a gift, or pick one up for yourself. We think that books are the best gifts. 

Today’s suggestions are from my wishlist of books about totalitarian and right-wing regimes. Share them with your grandpa and uncles who enjoy military history, especially if they are conservatives. Give them something to think about this holiday season. 



The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen won the National Book Award for journalist Gessen’s tale of four Russians who were born at a time of hopefulness but who have seen their nation surrender to autocratic rule.

The Future is History would be great to pair with Dancing Bears: True Stories of People Nostalgic for Life Under Tyranny by Witold Szbalowki. The book focuses on Eastern European nations and Cuba and helps us understand why people find comfort in authoritarianism.

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Nancy MacLean examines rightwing attacks on labor organizations, voting rights, public education, and more. This is specifically a history of James McGill Buchanan, an economist who gave intellectual heft to libertarianism.

Enemies of the State: The Radical Right in American from FDR to Trump by Darren J. Mulloy is a historical survey of rightwing political movements in the US.

Gangs and the Military: Gangsters, Bikers, and Terrorists with Military Training by Carter F. Smith ought to inspire us to think more carefully about how we recruit and train soldiers. Consider paring it with Kathleen Belew’s Bring the War HomeThe White Power Movement and Paramilitary America.

American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good by Colin Woodard. If you like that map that circulates on social media of the 11 nations within the US, you’ll probably like this.


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