After nearly a year-long hiatus, new episodes of The Americans are officially around the corner. For five seasons, we've seen two married KGB agents pose as everyday Americans during the Cold War—and get into a whole lot of trouble because of it. The sixth season, which premieres March 28th, is unfortunately the show's last, but the espionage action doesn't have to stop there.
Whether you're fascinated by the Russian-American conflict, or if you simply love books about undercover operations, pick up one of the reads below. Each one features thrills, twists, and Cold War adventure that will make saying farewell to Philip and Elizabeth a little less difficult.
With cheek and surprising tenderness, David Evanier’s irreverent novel revisits the notorious execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg—two U.S. citizens charged as Soviet Union spies. Evanier corresponded with many figures connected to the case, hoping to determine the question on everyone's minds: Were the Rosenbergs truly guilty, or innocent? The result is this darkly humorous novel that, despite its dreary ending, is ultimately about love: the love between two Jewish underdogs, and the misguided love for a political system whose grand promises masked terrible, irreconcilable truths.
The Troubled Air
Like The Americans, Shaw’s novel explores the consequences of Cold War paranoia. Clement Archer is the director of a hit radio show—and he's being blackmailed. His best employees are suspected communists, and unless he fires them, their treasonous loyalties will be taken to the press. Loath to lose his top staff members, Archie launches his own investigation to prove their innocence. As the fear grips the station, The Troubled Air reveals the human cost of the political extremism that characterized the McCarthy Era.
The Groves of Academe
Literature professor Henry Mulcahy is blindsided when he's told he cannot return to his post the following semester. Known for his divisive opinions and independent thinking, Henry realizes he may be the target of the government's communist witch hunt. With this in mind, Henry sets out to save his future by any means possible—but will his quest backfire on him completely?
The Naked God
The Naked God is Howard Fast’s memoir about finally leaving the Community Party. For years, he had been an active champion of the communist cause, using his writing to garner support and further the Soviets' goals. As time passed, however, Fast became unsettled by the leaders' grievous abuses of power and anti-Semitic sentiments. Here, he explains his motives for joining and leaving, describes his time within the Party, and reflects on the value of beauty and justice.
May Man Prevail?
Due to the threat of nuclear bomb in the early 1960s, the world constantly feared its imminent annihilation. In May Man Prevail, Eric Fromm uses social psychiatry to examine the fears of Russians and Americans during the Cold War, revealing how this combination of politics and paranoia was a dangerous combination. It's a fantastic read for The Americans fans to understand the environment in which Elizabeth and Philip were first married and worked together.
Between East and West
This classic narrative history of Russia was the first to encompass the myth-befogged beginnings of the nation-state, the rise and cataclysmic fall of tsarism, and the Spartan years of the U.S.S.R. R.D. Charques emphasizes three points of view: that autocracy has played a dominant role throughout all of Russian history; that serfdom is the fabric of Russia’s social history; and that it is of paramount importance to recognize Russia’s present regime under Putin and Medvedev as the latest phase in a long history of oppression. A good pick for background on The Americans and our current political situation.
Set at the end of the 19th century, First Papers is a richly detailed novel about a couple's emigration to the United States. We witness the struggle of Stefan and Alexandria—two married Russian socialists—as they try to establish themselves in America without losing a grip on their heritage. It's a fascinating story that closely parallels Elizabeth and Philips', as both husband and wife contend with their pasts and the future of their growing family.
The year is 1962, and a defected Russian spy gives Michael Nordstrom, an American intelligence officer, word of a covert KGB operation. Based on the real-life “Martel Affair," Nordstrom learns of Russia’s plan to infiltrate French intelligence—and soon. Meanwhile, another threat is quickly developing, and Topaz expands into a tale of espionage and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Putting credence to USA Today’s praise that Uris is “a master at weaving historical fact and fiction,” the bestselling author draws from history to create an exciting thriller about the conflicts between America, Russia, France, and Cuba during the Cold War.
Featured photo: Poster of "The Americans" (2013), via FX