Critical Margins (

"Hot Books in the Cold War is an absorbing tale of cloak and dagger derring-do by people who loved books and wanted other people to have access to them. The late Alfred A. Reisch (he died in 2013) tells this story both as a historian and as a one-time participant in the CIA-financed book distribution program in Eastern Europe and the USSR. It really should be made into a movie—there are heroes galore and seldom has a book communicated the risks average people will take on behalf of the right to read and to maintain a life of the mind in the face of a totalitarian state. Reisch makes you feel you are in the room with a nervous dissident receiving a package containing that most dangerous of objects in his society—a book from abroad. One of the most valuable features of Hot Books in the Cold War is the overview of the program provided by Mark Kramer in his introduction to the book. Kramer’s account of the mechanics of the program fascinates. The level of detail in this book about this era is impressive and eye-opening for those of us with little knowledge of the cultural front of the Cold War. Books given to teachers were used in classroom instruction and reading circles facilitated person-to-person transfers. In the age of the e-book it is easy to forget that the book as tangible object symbolized to recipients in the book distribution program such sentiments as, 'I trust you—read this' or simply 'It is not like this everywhere.' Historians of the book should add this book to their reading lists and all academic libraries should contain a copy."
Reviewed book: 
Alfred A. Reisch
$115.00 / €105.00 / £90.00
Kindle edition is available through Amazon