One of the true bummers about the fabric of reality and the nature of spacetime is that time travel isn’t possible. But humanity’s urge to experience the past and foresee the future is a strong one, and since when have we ever let something like scientific impossibility or astronomical odds stop us? Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention. In lieu of a literal time machine, humans, clever creatures that we are, invent, recreate and reimagine history while also crafting and projecting the future through storytelling.

In this blog series, we’ll travel through time in the fictional dimension. Each post will recommend works of fiction set in a specific historical (or future) time and/or place. Explore different perspectives of the past and forecasts of the future in Stacks to the Future.

Today’s Destination: The Cold War

The Cold War, officially spanning from the 1947 establishment of the Truman Doctrine to 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved, was a period of geopolitical and military tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. Stories written during and about the Cold War often deal in tales of espionage, the ever-present threat of nuclear warfare and the pitting of American capitalism versus Soviet communism. But the truth of the era probably resides somewhere in between the lines of these stories, perhaps just out of sight.

You can find these titles either in person in our library stacks or in our digital collection. Title descriptions are provided by the publisher.

Stacks to the Future: The Cold War, Fountaindale Public Library

A Classic Spy Thriller

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carré

The man he knew as Control is dead, and the young Turks who forced him out now run the Circus. But George Smiley isn’t quite ready for retirement, especially when a pretty, would-be defector surfaces with a shocking accusation: a Soviet mole has penetrated the highest level of British Intelligence. Relying only on his wits and a small, loyal cadre, Smiley recognizes the hand of Karla, his Moscow Centre nemesis, and sets a trap to catch the traitor.


Stacks to the Future: The Cold War, Fountaindale Public Library

A Black Woman’s Perspective

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

What if your sense of duty required you to betray the man you love? It’s 1986, the heart of the Cold War, and Marie Mitchell is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She’s brilliant, but she’s also a young black woman working in an old boys’ club. Her career has stalled out, she’s overlooked for every high-profile squad and her days are filled with monotonous paperwork. So when she’s given the opportunity to join a shadowy task force aimed at undermining Thomas Sankara, the charismatic revolutionary president of Burkina Faso whose Communist ideology has made him a target for American intervention, she says yes. Yes, even though she secretly admires the work Sankara is doing for his country. Yes, even though she is still grieving the mysterious death of her sister, whose example led Marie to this career path in the first place. Yes, even though a furious part of her suspects she’s being offered the job because of her appearance and not her talent. In the year that follows, Marie will observe Sankara, seduce him and ultimately have a hand in the coup that will bring him down. But doing so will change everything she believes about what it means to be a spy, a lover, a sister and a good American.

Stacks to the Future: The Cold War, Fountaindale Public Library

All’s Fair in Love and Cold War

Atomic Love by Jennie Fields

Chicago, 1950. Rosalind Porter has always defied expectations—in her work as a physicist on the Manhattan Project and in her passionate love affair with colleague Thomas Weaver. Five years after the end of both, her guilt over the bomb and her heartbreak over Weaver are intertwined. She desperately misses her work in the lab, yet has almost resigned herself to a more conventional life. Then Weaver gets back in touch—and so does the FBI. Special Agent Charlie Szydlo wants Roz to spy on Weaver, whom the FBI suspects of passing nuclear secrets to Russia. Roz helped to develop these secrets and knows better than anyone the devastating power such knowledge holds. But can she spy on a man she still loves, despite her better instincts? At the same time, something about Charlie draws her in. He’s a former prisoner of war haunted by his past, just as her past haunts her. As Rosalind’s feelings for each man deepen, so too does the danger she finds herself in. She will have to choose: the man who taught her how to love … or the man her love might save?

Stacks to the Future: The Cold War, Fountaindale Public Library

In an Alternate Reality

First Cosmic Velocity by Zach Powers

A stunningly imaginative novel about the Cold War, the Russian space program and the amazing fraud that pulled the wool over the eyes of the world. It’s 1964 in the USSR, and unbeknownst even to Premier Khrushchev himself, the Soviet space program is a sham. Well, half a sham. While the program has successfully launched five capsules into space, the Chief Designer and his team have never successfully brought one back to earth. To disguise this, they’ve used twins. But in a nation built on secrets and propaganda, the biggest lie of all is about to unravel. Because there are no more twins left. Combining history and fiction, the real and the mystical, First Cosmic Velocity is the story of Leonid, the last of the twins. Taken in 1950 from a life of poverty in Ukraine to the training grounds in Russia, the Leonids were given one name and one identity, but divergent fates. Now one Leonid has launched to certain death (or so one might think . . .), and the other is sent on a press tour under the watchful eye of Ignatius, the government agent who knows too much but gives away little. And while Leonid battles his increasing doubts about their deceitful project, the Chief Designer must scramble to perfect a working spacecraft, especially when Khrushchev nominates his high-strung, squirrel-like dog for the first canine mission. By turns grim and whimsical, fatalistic and deeply hopeful, First Cosmic Velocity is a sweeping novel of the heights of mankind’s accomplishments, the depths of its folly and the people—and canines—with whom we create family.

Stacks to the Future: The Cold War, Fountaindale Public Library

Post-War Queer Realities

Little Foxes Took Up Matches by Katya Kazbek (On order)

When Mitya was two years old, he swallowed his grandmother’s sewing needle. For his family, it marks the beginning of the end. As he grows, his life mirrors the uncertain future of his country, which is attempting to rebuild itself after the collapse of the Soviet Union, torn between its past and the promise of modern freedom. Mitya finds himself facing a different sort of ambiguity: is he a boy, as everyone keeps telling him, or is he not quite a boy, as he often feels? After suffering horrific abuse from his cousin, Vovka, who has returned broken from war, Mitya embarks on a journey across underground Moscow to find something better, a place to belong. His experiences are interlaced with a retelling of a foundational Russian fairy tale, Koschei the Deathless, offering an element of fantasy to the brutal realities of Mitya’s everyday life. Told with deep empathy, humor and a bit of surreality, Katya Kazbek’s Little Foxes Took Up Matches is a revelation about the life of one community in a country of turmoil and upheaval, glimpsed through the eyes of a precocious and empathetic child whose heart and mind understand that there are often more than two choices.