The best books to read when fascism is creeping in the window

Who am I?

I’m President of the Writers Guild Initiative, with a mission of giving a voice to populations not being heard (LGBT asylum seekers, exonerated death row prisoners, Dreamers, etc.). In our writing workshops I see how marginalized communities are deprived of their rights and how insidiously minority rule is seizing power. Fascism depends on demonizing the Other, which was weaponized during the Trump years and is exploding on the right. This issue animates my life and work as a writer, mentor, speaker, and teacher. In the USA, democracy is hanging by a thread. My book takes a deep dive into what this means for an American family over the next fifteen years.

I wrote...

It Happened Here

By Richard Dresser,

Book cover of It Happened Here

What is my book about?

In 2035, fourteen-year-old Louise is interviewing her family members to find out what went wrong—for the family and the nation. It seems both started falling apart around 2019. Then the 2020 elections were canceled, and the president remained in power for sixteen years. This is the story of one family divided by ideology, and of undying hope in the direst of circumstances.

In 1935, Sinclair Lewis challenged readers to imagine an America hijacked by a totalitarian president whose message was fueled by fear, division, and “patriotism.” Richard Dresser’s It Happened Here delivers a modern vision of just such an America. Told through the interwoven voices of eight different characters, it reveals how the Weeks family navigates the slow death of democracy in the country they all love.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

Why did I love this book?

This is a short, urgently written handbook for the heart-stopping moments when you hear the sounds of fascism downstairs and realize you forgot to lock the window. “To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blazing light.” Fake news, Fox News, alternative facts, the Big Lie, QAnon, the replacement theory, the MAGA movement, evangelical theocracy, and fascism have made their way into our house and are creeping up the stairs and we wait, foolishly believing it will listen to reason.

By Timothy Snyder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On Tyranny as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'A sort of survival book, a sort of symptom-diagnosis manual in terms of losing your democracy and what tyranny and authoritarianism look like up close' Rachel Maddow

'These 128 pages are a brief primer in every important thing we might have learned from the history of the last century, and all that we appear to have forgotten' Observer

History does not repeat, but it does instruct.

In the twentieth century, European democracies collapsed into fascism, Nazism and communism. These were movements in which a leader or a party claimed to give voice to the people, promised…


By Jason Lutes,

Book cover of Berlin

Why did I love this book?

Jason Lutes spent decades creating this masterpiece—a graphic novel that brilliantly reconstructs life in Berlin in the years before Hitler became Chancellor. The characters are fully dimensional, a diverse and compelling collection of individuals, reeling from World War I, struggling to face the fall of Weimar and the cold hands of fascism tightening around their necks. This is a perfect melding of art, narrative, and political urgency that speaks eloquently to our perilous age.

By Jason Lutes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Berlin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Berlin is one of the high-water marks of the comics medium. For twenty years, Jason Lutes toiled on this intimate, sweeping epic before the collected Berlin was published in 2018 to widespread acclaim, including rave reviews in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Nation, Vulture, Washington Post, and many other outlets. Lutes s historical fiction about the decline of the Weimar Republic and the rise of fascism is seen through the eyes of the Jews and the Nazis; the socialists and the socialites; the lavishly decorated queer clubs and the crumbling tenement apartments. Marthe Muller is an aspiring artist…

Trump: The Art of the Deal

By Donald J. Trump, Tony Schwartz,

Book cover of Trump: The Art of the Deal

Why did I love this book?

This is the first book that credits Donald Trump as “author,” and it may well be one of the few books he has ever read. The actual “writing” was performed by Tony Schwartz, with one hand on the keyboard and the other holding his nose. This is the sacred text that introduced the term “truthful hyperbole” (lying) which later metastasized into the Big Lie, as the author slithered inexorably from real estate conman (six bankruptcies) to reality show host to, naturally, leader of the formerly free world. Tony Schwartz’s decades of mea culpas can’t erase the hideous trajectory launched by The Art of the Deal, which author Trump called his second favorite book after The Bible, and set him on his course toward overthrowing American democracy. 

By Donald J. Trump, Tony Schwartz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Trump as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

President Donald J. Trump lays out his professional and personal worldview in this classic work—a firsthand account of the rise of America’s foremost deal-maker.

“I like thinking big. I always have. To me it’s very simple: If you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big.”—Donald J. Trump

Here is Trump in action—how he runs his organization and how he runs his life—as he meets the people he needs to meet, chats with family and friends, clashes with enemies, and challenges conventional thinking. But even a maverick plays by rules, and Trump has formulated time-tested guidelines for…

It Can't Happen Here

By Sinclair Lewis,

Book cover of It Can't Happen Here

Why did I love this book?

Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel was inspired by European fascism and serves as a bridge between Hitler/Mussolini and the blustery, bloviating, red-faced American version, Huey Long and Donald Trump. After winning the Presidency on a populist platform, Lewis’s demagogue, Buzz Windrip, outlaws the opposition, puts his political enemies in concentration camps, sets up The Minute Men, a personal paramilitary force, eliminates the power of Congress, and restricts rights for women and minorities. A huge number of American voters back these fascist measures as necessary to make the country great again. Sound familiar?

Full disclosure: this book was an inspiration for my own novel, which tells the story of an American family from 2020-2035 as the country careens off the rails into fascism.

By Sinclair Lewis,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked It Can't Happen Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“The novel that foreshadowed Donald Trump’s authoritarian appeal.”—Salon

It Can’t Happen Here is the only one of Sinclair Lewis’s later novels to match the power of Main Street, Babbitt, and Arrowsmith. A cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, it is an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America.

Written during the Great Depression, when the country was largely oblivious to Hitler’s aggression, it juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a president who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, sex, crime, and a liberal press.

Called “a…

Book cover of Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present

Why did I love this book?

Strongmen reads like a Wanted: For Demagoguery all-points bulletin, so we can identify the qualities that are present in totalitarian rulers. There are specific traits that these men—and they are all men—share, like corruption, deceit, propaganda, violence, exaggerated machismo, and misogyny. Their road to power is launched by apparent idealism in reclaiming the lost power of both the country and their followers. She writes, “The strong man’s trick is to seem exceptional and yet to embody the everyman, with all his endearing flaws.” Subjects range from Mussolini and Franco to the authoritarians of today: Putin, Trump, and Erdogan. The author reveals the shockingly similar playbooks of these self-proclaimed saviors of their nation, with a goal of enabling us to see who these men are and what to do when we find that they have crept into our home.

By Ruth Ben-Ghiat,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Strongmen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ruth Ben-Ghiat is the expert on the "strongman" playbook employed by authoritarian demagogues from Mussolini to Putin-enabling her to predict with uncanny accuracy the recent experience in America and Europe. In Strongmen, she lays bare the blueprint these leaders have followed over the past 100 years, and empowers us to recognize, resist, and prevent their disastrous rule in the future.

For ours is the age of authoritarian rulers: self-proclaimed saviors of the nation who evade accountability while robbing their people of truth, treasure, and the protections of democracy. They promise law and order, then legitimize lawbreaking by financial, sexual, and…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in totalitarianism, fascism, and Latin America?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about totalitarianism, fascism, and Latin America.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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