The Best Books On Spies and Radicals

Seth Rosenfeld Author Of Subversives: The FBI's War on Student Radicals, and Reagan's Rise to Power
By Seth Rosenfeld

The Books I Picked & Why

Last Second in Dallas

By Josiah Thompson

Last Second in Dallas

Why this book?

In some ways, the current epidemic of crackpot “deep state” conspiracy theories can be traced to the miasma surrounding one of the greatest unsolved murders of our time, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas’s Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963. Thompson’s new book is an antidote: a rigorous, transparent and compelling investigation of acoustic, photographic, and medical evidence. The philosophy professor turned San Francisco private eye interweaves his own fascinating personal journey with the story of how he came to find, examine, and re-examine forensic evidence that, he concludes, proves Kennedy was killed not by a lone assassin as the Warren Commission found, but in a cross-fire from at least two shooters.


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Secrets: The CIA's War at Home

By Angus MacKenzie

Secrets: The CIA's War at Home

Why this book?

Starting with his experience as publisher of an anti-war newspaper in the 1970s, and relying on official records released under the Freedom of Information Act, Mackenzie reveals how the CIA used undercover operatives to sabotage the dissident press and developed a system of secrecy agreements and pre-publication review boards that spread throughout the federal government in efforts to silence former intelligence agents and other would-be whistle-blowers. This brilliant book is the last work by the late Mackenzie, who dedicated his life to defending the First Amendment. He was a long-time associate of the Bay Area’s Center for Investigative Reporting, which with his wife, Jane Hundertmark, completed it after his untimely death.


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Rebel Cinderella: From Rags to Riches to Radical, the Epic Journey of Rose Pastor Stokes

By Adam Hochschild

Rebel Cinderella: From Rags to Riches to Radical, the Epic Journey of Rose Pastor Stokes

Why this book?

This gem of narrative non-fiction tells the improbable story of an utterly impoverished immigrant woman who married into one of the wealthiest “establishment” families of New York City and became one of the nation’s most prominent radical activists in the early 1900s. The unlikely marriage of Rose Pastor and Graham Stokes made many national headlines -- and attracted attention from federal agents. Hochschild brings this odd couple to life in all their ups and downs, introduces us to their circle of famous fellow activists, and illuminates their fights for social justice, struggles that remain relevant to this day.


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Red Joan

By Jennie Rooney

Red Joan

Why this book?

Inspired by the true story of Melita Norwood, who was exposed in 1999 as the KGB’s longest-running British spy, Red Joan is an enthralling novel that vividly reconstructs her life and explores with great authorial compassion her conflicting emotions and unsettling ambiguities as she is drawn deeper and deeper into atomic espionage by a college lover at the dawn of the Cold War.


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The Agitator: William Bailey and the First American Uprising Against Nazism

By Peter Duffy

The Agitator: William Bailey and the First American Uprising Against Nazism

Why this book?

In this deft work of nonfiction, Duffy tells the life and times of William Bailey, a rough-hewn, big-hearted longshoreman turned Communist activist, and how on one summer day in 1935 he and several compatriots came to stage a remarkable protest by hauling down a swastika flag from the SS Bremen, the flagship of Hitler’s commercial fleet. Events unfold as the deluxe passenger liner, which was heartily patronized by many Americans and Europeans, hosted a glitzy party while docked in Manhattan harbor. It was years before the outbreak of World War II, but Hitler already had commenced his anti-Semitic and other repressive initiatives. The trial and acquittal of Bailey et al., and the diplomatic fallout, was what Duffy describes as “the first blow landed against the Third Reich by foreign adversaries, delivered without guns or bombs.”


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