An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

These books take a deep dive into the context surrounding the Jan. 6 insurrection


As you heard earlier, the hearings over what exactly happened on January 6 will continue this week. With all the wall-to-wall coverage and all the new details coming out of these hearings, it can be easy to get lost in the weeds, to get bogged down by each new shocking revelation. But some of the folks at NPR's Culture Desk have put together a reading list to help us take a step back and get some context on how exactly we got here. Here to talk with us now about it is NPR's Andrew Limbong, reporter and host of NPR's Book Of The Day podcast. Hey, Andrew.


KURTZLEBEN: So every book on this list has its own angle and area of interest when it comes to the riots and the attempts to steal the election, and there's a lot of stuff to plow through there. But if you had to pick one book that would serve as a general primer for these hearings, what would it be?

LIMBONG: I think that would have to be a book by these two journalists, Mark Bowden and Matthew Teague. And the book is called "The Steal: The Attempts To Overturn The 2020 Election And The People Who Stopped It." It's a look at some of the major players who, you know, were trying to convince people that the election was stolen. Here's Bowden talking to NPR back in January, describing Rudy Giuliani's so-called blunderbuss strategy of just jumping on any accusation of fraud.

MARK BOWDEN: And I think that the point was less to win the argument than it was to amass such a volume of complaint directed toward the election that they could convince people across the country that there was something that smelled about that election.

LIMBONG: And again, that book is called "The Steal" by Mark Bowden and Matthew Teague.

KURTZLEBEN: Like I mentioned, there are a lot of different angles to get at here. And we know that at the storming of the Capitol, there were far-right militia members plotting to pull off some truly heinous acts. We're talking about the Proud Boys here, the Oath Keepers, Three Percenters. I'm wondering, is there a book that can help us get a better sense of where those groups even came from and how they grew?

LIMBONG: Yeah. So I think for most people who weren't paying attention to the far right prior to President Trump's rise in politics, these groups seem to have come up out of nowhere. But David Neiwert's "Alt-America" makes the case that these groups have actually been gaining power for a while. He spent decades tracking far-right extremists, and he makes the argument that these people live in a so-called alternate America with its own set of quote-unquote "facts" that are just, like, not rooted in any actual reality.

KURTZLEBEN: Right. Well, we've talked a lot about what happened that day and how we got there. What do you suggest for a reader who wants to know where we go from here, something that points toward the future?

LIMBONG: Yeah. That would probably be "This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, And The Battle For American Democracy." It's by these two New York Times reporters, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns. And, you know, a decent amount of the book is devoted to the aftermath of January 6 - you know, how Republicans only sort of kind of repudiated President Trump's involvements while, you know, trying to make sure they're in his good graces. But they also ask this kind of deep question of, like, is American democracy really working right now?

KURTZLEBEN: A good reading list to help us answer some upsetting big questions.


KURTZLEBEN: Thank you, Andrew. That's Andrew Limbong from NPR's Book Of The Day podcast.

LIMBONG: Yeah. Thanks, Danielle. And just real quick, a big shoutout to our Culture Desk intern Maison Tran, who put in a lot of work researching these books. And you can find the full list at

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.