Chosen by David Maraniss
The Washington Post’s David Maraniss is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and a best-selling biographer. His new book, A Good American Family, revisits the Red Scare era by telling the story of his father’s blacklisting.
Spain in Our Hearts by Adam Hochschild (2016). Hochschild offers a vivid and heartbreaking history that evokes the idealism and violence of the Spanish Civil War through stories of American volunteers and journalists. This largely forgotten war is essential to understanding the ideological struggles that played out during World War II and the Red Scare. Read Hochschild’s account in tandem with George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.
The Crucible by Arthur Miller (1953). The playwright’s dramatic re-enactment of the Salem witch trials is a study in the manipulation of fear and hysteria, which he saw recurring during the McCarthy era. Years after Miller wrote the timeless play, he was cited by the House Un-American Activities Committee for refusing to name names—life imitating art imitating life.
Naming Names by Victor Navasky (1980). A troubling account of why witnesses called before HUAC informed on friends and associates, and how that affected their lives and the lives of those they named. I also recommend Witness, the memoir of perhaps the most famous ex-Communist informer, Whittaker Chambers, and Inside Out, a moving memoir by screenwriter Walter Bernstein, who endured the blacklist.
High Noon by Glenn Frankel (2017). Frankel takes readers inside the making of the classic 1952 Western about a sheriff who stands alone when his town’s citizens are paralyzed by fear. Made during the height of Red Scare hysteria, the movie starred Gary Cooper, who despite his own anti-Communist views refused to disparage a screenwriter called before HUAC and blacklisted.
Stalin: Volume II—Waiting for Hitler, 1929–1941 by Stephen Kotkin (2017). Kotkin’s latest installment of his multivolume biography is a deeply reported and vividly written account of the Soviet despot’s leading role in turning the egalitarian ideal of communism into an apparatus of paranoia and murder on a massive scale.
The Fifties by David Halberstam (1993). A kaleidoscopic look at postwar American politics and culture during the decade that brought this country the fearmongering of Joseph McCarthy and the promise of Martin Luther King Jr.—along with the comfortable conformity of Holiday Inn and McDonald’s. ■