The best books on the Cold War

Robert D. Kaplan Author Of In Europe's Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond
By Robert D. Kaplan

The Books I Picked & Why

George F. Kennan: An American Life

By John Lewis Gaddis

George F. Kennan: An American Life

Why this book?

This is the comprehensive, definitive biography of the greatest Soviet area specialist whose strategy of containment was successfully employed by American presidents throughout the entire length of the Cold War. It is both compelling and highly readable. A great strategy is never obvious at the time it is adopted. It only looks great from hindsight.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Armed Truce: The Beginnings of the Cold War 1945-1946

By Hugh Thomas

Armed Truce: The Beginnings of the Cold War 1945-1946

Why this book?

This is a somewhat obscure work, a massive book that apparently did not sell well. But it offers a blow-by-blow description by a great British historian about how the Cold War started, and demonstrates how it was principally Stalin's actions that led to World War II morphing into a cold war.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Cold War: A World History

By Odd Arne Westad

The Cold War: A World History

Why this book?

This is a thick history of the Cold War that breaks new ground in that it shifts the emphasis from Europe, where the Cold War started and ended, to the Third World where it was actually fought in a bloody manner through a series of proxy wars, large and small.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Eisenhower: The White House Years

By Jim Newton

Eisenhower: The White House Years

Why this book?

This is a deft, economical, and readable biography of Eisenhower's years in the White House, when the Cold War was at its most tense and dangerous, and how it wasn't inevitable that it would stay cold. Eisenhower, in fact, it could be argued, put his stamp on the style and tenor of the Cold War like no other U. S. president.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Smiley's People: A George Smiley Novel

By John Le Carré

Smiley's People: A George Smiley Novel

Why this book?

John Le Carre's novels will over time become literary treasures defining the style, atmospherics, and morality of the 44-year-long struggle between the end of World War II and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The moral ambiguity of the Cold War in comparison to World War II is best explained and manifested by Le Carre's fiction. I picked Smiley's People for this list but my favorite three books of his genre also include The Spy Who Came Into The Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists

Distantly Related Book Lists

Random Book Lists