100 books like America's Cold War

By Campbell Craig, Fredrik Logevall,

Here are 100 books that America's Cold War fans have personally recommended if you like America's Cold War. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security--From World War II to the War on Terrorism

Andrew Payne Author Of War on the Ballot: How the Election Cycle Shapes Presidential Decision-Making in War

From my list on the politics of war.

Why am I passionate about this?

I take great pride in having somehow turned a passion for visiting presidential libraries into an academic career. I’ve now conducted extensive research at eight of them, and have future projects lined up to get me to the rest. This experience means I can and frequently do ruin family gatherings by challenging distant relations to quizzes about obscure details involving presidential pets. But it has also left me well-placed to write a number of articles and books exploring how domestic politics shapes the development and execution of U.S. foreign policy. I’ve done this while affiliated with the University of Oxford and, more recently, at City, University of London. 

Andrew's book list on the politics of war

Andrew Payne Why did Andrew love this book?

This book expands the horizon to include coverage of many of the crises and conflicts of the post-Cold War era. In doing so, it draws on an unusually rich range of primary sources for a book of this scope.

Its treatment of the role played by Congress is particularly notable, which should perhaps be no surprise given the author’s expertise in chronicling several of the major legislative battles in U.S. history. Somehow still coming in around the 500-page mark, the book’s briskly paced narrative makes it possible to devour it in one sitting. Indeed, you might find it hard not to. 

By Julian E. Zelizer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Arsenal of Democracy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Arsenal of Democracy , historian and public intellectual Julian Zelizer shows how internal politics have influenced American foreign policy since the Cold War. Rejecting the notion that, prior to the presidency of George W. Bush, politics stopped at the water's edge," Zelizer exposes the partisan fighting that shaped the foreign policies of presidents from FDR to Kennedy to Reagan, revealing the extent to which the GOP and Democratic party have alternately sought to define themselves as the party of war and the party of peace as the political mood shifted. Republicans, he shows, have not always been hawks during…


Book cover of Selling the Korean War: Propaganda, Politics, and Public Opinion in the United States, 1950-1953

Andrew Payne Author Of War on the Ballot: How the Election Cycle Shapes Presidential Decision-Making in War

From my list on the politics of war.

Why am I passionate about this?

I take great pride in having somehow turned a passion for visiting presidential libraries into an academic career. I’ve now conducted extensive research at eight of them, and have future projects lined up to get me to the rest. This experience means I can and frequently do ruin family gatherings by challenging distant relations to quizzes about obscure details involving presidential pets. But it has also left me well-placed to write a number of articles and books exploring how domestic politics shapes the development and execution of U.S. foreign policy. I’ve done this while affiliated with the University of Oxford and, more recently, at City, University of London. 

Andrew's book list on the politics of war

Andrew Payne Why did Andrew love this book?

If you want to go a little deeper, you can’t do much better than this outstanding study of how Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower sought to sustain public support for the Korean War.

Written by a historian who knows his sources like the back of his hands, this book is jam-packed with evidence of the ways in which presidents try to control the narrative about an ongoing war. And beyond its impressive use of archival materials, it also challenges the conventional wisdom about a president’s ability to lead public opinion using the “bully pulpit.”

Presidents can and do try to do that. But the Korean case illuminates the unique challenges of selling a limited war, in which the administration struggled to calibrate its mobilization campaign with the complex politics of waging war. 

By Steven Casey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Selling the Korean War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How presidents spark and sustain support for wars remains an enduring and significant problem. Korea was the first limited war the U.S. experienced in the contemporary period - the first recent war fought for something less than total victory. In Selling the Korean War, Steven Casey explores how President Truman and then Eisenhower tried to sell it to the American public.

Based on a massive array of primary sources, Casey subtly explores the government's selling activities from all angles. He looks at the halting and sometimes chaotic efforts of Harry Truman and Dean Acheson, Dwight Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles.…


Book cover of The Insiders' Game: How Elites Make War and Peace

Andrew Payne Author Of War on the Ballot: How the Election Cycle Shapes Presidential Decision-Making in War

From my list on the politics of war.

Why am I passionate about this?

I take great pride in having somehow turned a passion for visiting presidential libraries into an academic career. I’ve now conducted extensive research at eight of them, and have future projects lined up to get me to the rest. This experience means I can and frequently do ruin family gatherings by challenging distant relations to quizzes about obscure details involving presidential pets. But it has also left me well-placed to write a number of articles and books exploring how domestic politics shapes the development and execution of U.S. foreign policy. I’ve done this while affiliated with the University of Oxford and, more recently, at City, University of London. 

Andrew's book list on the politics of war

Andrew Payne Why did Andrew love this book?

Unlike the other recommendations on my list, this is a work of political science. But the qualitative components of this text rival that of any work of history.

In fact, it was this author’s first book that provided the model for my own, blending deeply researched case studies with conceptual innovations in the study of foreign policy decision-making. Her latest contribution, The Insiders’ Game, will set the agenda for the next generation of scholarship on the politics of war.

It reminds us that the public is not the only audience that leaders need to worry about when making decisions to initiate, escalate, or conclude a war. Maintaining the support of advisers, legislators, and military officials is also essential. As a result, it is often the bargains struck with these small groups of political elites that determine how democratic leaders wage war.

By Elizabeth N. Saunders,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Insiders' Game as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How elites shape the use of force in American foreign policy

One of the most widely held views of democratic leaders is that they are cautious about using military force because voters can hold them accountable, ultimately making democracies more peaceful. How, then, are leaders able to wage war in the face of popular opposition, or end conflicts when the public still supports them? The Insiders' Game sheds light on this enduring puzzle, arguing that the primary constraints on decisions about war and peace come from elites, not the public.

Elizabeth Saunders focuses on three groups of elites-presidential advisers, legislators,…


Book cover of Command: The Politics of Military Operations from Korea to Ukraine

Andrew Payne Author Of War on the Ballot: How the Election Cycle Shapes Presidential Decision-Making in War

From my list on the politics of war.

Why am I passionate about this?

I take great pride in having somehow turned a passion for visiting presidential libraries into an academic career. I’ve now conducted extensive research at eight of them, and have future projects lined up to get me to the rest. This experience means I can and frequently do ruin family gatherings by challenging distant relations to quizzes about obscure details involving presidential pets. But it has also left me well-placed to write a number of articles and books exploring how domestic politics shapes the development and execution of U.S. foreign policy. I’ve done this while affiliated with the University of Oxford and, more recently, at City, University of London. 

Andrew's book list on the politics of war

Andrew Payne Why did Andrew love this book?

Every book this author produces feels like a magnum opus. In this latest tour de force, Freedman surveys decades of history across several continents to shed light on the deeply intertwined relationship between the development of military strategy and the politics of command.

Thanks to this vast scope, the case studies in this book provide portraits of a wonderfully eclectic cast of characters, demonstrating how civilian leaders and military officials battled over authority, autonomy, and resources in a wide range of contexts.

By Lawrence Freedman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Command as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Using examples from a wide variety of conflicts, Lawrence Freedman shows that successful military command depends on the ability not only to use armed forces effectively but also to understand the political context in which they are operating.

Command in war is about forging effective strategies and implementing them, making sure that orders are appropriate, well-communicated, and then obeyed. But it is also an intensely political process. This is largely because how wars are fought depends to a large extent on how their aims are set. It is also because commanders in one realm must possess the ability to work…


Book cover of Russian Foreign Policy in the Twenty-First Century and the Shadow of the Past

Andrei P. Tsygankov Author Of Russia's Foreign Policy: Change and Continuity in National Identity

From my list on Russia’s foreign policy after the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Russian academic living in the West and a contributor to both Western and Russian academia. I move between the two and try to build bridges by explaining the two sides’ differences and areas of potential cooperation. I do it in my teaching and research on international politics, which I understand through the lens of culture and politics. Most of my books analyze Russian and Western patterns of thinking formed through history and interaction with each other. I love reading good books about these topics and hope you enjoy my selected list!

Andrei's book list on Russia’s foreign policy after the Cold War

Andrei P. Tsygankov Why did Andrei love this book?

Russia’s foreign policy has followed different historical trajectories and relations with the outside world. This excellent collection of works by historians and social scientists focuses on the long “shadows of the past” as a lens through which to assess the country’s international behavior and moments of transformation. The explored themes include the impact of Russian foreign policy on domestic political structures, imperial identity, geographic settings, position within the global economy, and others. 

By Robert Legvold,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Russian Foreign Policy in the Twenty-First Century and the Shadow of the Past as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Because the turbulent trajectory of Russia's foreign policy since the collapse of the Soviet Union echoes previous moments of social and political transformation, history offers a special vantage point from which to judge the current course of events. In this book, a mix of leading historians and political scientists examines the foreign policy of contemporary Russia over four centuries of history. The authors explain the impact of empire and its loss, the interweaving of domestic and foreign impulses, long-standing approaches to national security, and the effect of globalization over time. Contributors focus on the underlying patterns that have marked Russian…


Book cover of The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s

Lindsay M. Chervinsky Author Of The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution

From my list on American presidents who left their mark on history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by power and how people use it. From the time I was tiny, I’ve loved reading about how people left their fingerprint on history, and boy, do presidents leave their mark. Given these interests, it’s unsurprising that I’ve been my career this far examining how early presidents crafted the executive branch. The president’s oversized role in American life is also at the heart of my podcast work (I cohost The Past, The Promise, The Presidency with the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University. Each season we explore a different element of the presidency and its relationship to history). In my future scholarship, I plan to continue this exploration long after George Washington left office. Stay tuned for more, and in the meantime enjoy these great reads!

Lindsay's book list on American presidents who left their mark on history

Lindsay M. Chervinsky Why did Lindsay love this book?

After Eisenhower left office, he was routinely ranked in the bottom ten on the presidential rankings. Now, he’s regularly voted into the top five. This book helps explain why Eisenhower deserves to be at the top, why he left such an indelible mark on the nation, and why the second half of the 20th century was the age of Eisenhower. It’s also beautifully written and a joy to read.

By William Hitchcock,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Age of Eisenhower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times bestseller, this is the "outstanding" (The Atlantic), insightful, and authoritative account of Dwight Eisenhower's presidency.

Drawing on newly declassified documents and thousands of pages of unpublished material, The Age of Eisenhower tells the story of a masterful president guiding the nation through the great crises of the 1950s, from McCarthyism and the Korean War through civil rights turmoil and Cold War conflicts. This is a portrait of a skilled leader who, despite his conservative inclinations, found a middle path through the bitter partisanship of his era. At home, Eisenhower affirmed the central elements of the New…


Book cover of Latin America and the Global Cold War

Lorenz M. Lüthi Author Of Cold Wars: Asia, the Middle East, Europe

From my list on Cold War history published recently.

Why am I passionate about this?

During the later Cold War, I grew up in neutral and peaceful Switzerland. My German mother’s family lived apart in divided Germany. I knew as a child that I would become a historian because I wanted to find out what had happened to my mother’s home and why there was a Cold War in the first place. My father’s service as a Swiss Red Cross delegate in Korea after 1953 raised my interest in East Asia. After learning Russian and Chinese, I wrote my first book on The Sino-Soviet Split. When I was finishing the book, I resolved to reinvent myself as a global historian, which is why I wrote my second book as a reinterpretation of the global Cold War as a series of parallel regional Cold Wars in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

Lorenz's book list on Cold War history published recently

Lorenz M. Lüthi Why did Lorenz love this book?

An edited collection, Latin America and the Global Cold War actually does what the field of Cold War studies has talked about for decades—decentering the Cold War. Breaking with the long-standing idea that Latin America was merely the backyard of U.S. imperialism, the 14 contributions show how deeply Latin American countries were connected to other parts of the Global South. Bringing together junior and senior scholars from three continents, the volume is a refreshing and a much-needed eye-opener for all historians of international relations.

By Thomas C. Field (editor), Stella Krepp (editor), Vanni Pettinà (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Latin America and the Global Cold War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Latin America and the Global Cold War analyzes more than a dozen of Latin America's forgotten encounters with Africa, Asia, and the Communist world, and by placing the region in meaningful dialogue with the wider Global South, this volume produces the first truly global history of contemporary Latin America. It uncovers a multitude of overlapping and sometimes conflicting iterations of Third Worldist movements in Latin America, and offers insights for better understanding the region's past, as well as its possible futures, challenging us to consider how the Global Cold War continues to inform Latin America's ongoing political struggles.

Contributors: Miguel…


Book cover of War with Russia?: From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate

John Philipp Baesler Author Of Clearer Than Truth: The Polygraph and the American Cold War

From my list on Russia in Western eyes.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in West Germany, surrounded by American soldiers and with a father who had escaped communist East Germany, the Cold War always fascinated me. What was it about? Would it ever end? When it did, it took everybody by surprise. This lesson, that nothing is certain and that history can always make a turn when you least expect it, stayed with me as I pursued my degrees in history, first in Heidelberg and then at Indiana University Bloomington. As an immigrant to the United States, I study the United States from the outside and the inside. How Americans see themselves, and how they see others, is my main interest that I keep exploring from different angles.

John's book list on Russia in Western eyes

John Philipp Baesler Why did John love this book?

For readers following coverage of Russia in the American press, this treatment of recent US-Russian relations will be a revelation. Historian Stephen Cohen, while never downplaying the serious shortcomings of Russia under Vladimir Putin, provides a much-needed correction of the widespread idea that the dangerous decline of US-Russian relations is simply the fault of one man. Cohen meticulously chronicles the many American missteps since the end of the Cold War that any Russian leader would have had to consider acts of U.S. aggression. I love this book because it holds a mirror to American views of innocence and benevolence and paints a much more realistic picture of great power conflict than is presented in the news.

By Stephen F. Cohen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked War with Russia? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Prescient and even more relevant than when originally released in 2019, this Memorial Edition of War With Russia ? provides keen perspective to help readers understand the current Ukraine crisis. Are we in a new Cold War with Russia? Does Vladimir Putin really want to destabilize the West? War With Russia? answers these questions and more.

America is in a new Cold War with Russia even more dangerous than the one the world barely survived in the twentieth century. The Soviet Union is gone, but the two nuclear superpowers are again locked in political and military confrontations, now from Ukraine…


Book cover of Latin America's Cold War

Russell C. Crandall Author Of "Our Hemisphere"? The United States in Latin America, from 1776 to the Twenty-First Century

From my list on U.S. involvement in Latin America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been interested in U.S.-Latin American relations ever since my junior year in college when I studied abroad in Chile, a country that had only two years prior been run by dictator Augusto Pinochet. Often referred to as America’s “backyard,” Latin America has often been on the receiving end of U.S. machinations and expansions. In terms of the history of American foreign policy, it's never a dull moment in U.S. involvement in its own hemisphere. I have now had the privilege to work inside the executive branch of the U.S. government on Latin America policy, stints which have forced me to reconsider some of what I had assumed about U.S. abilities and outcomes. 

Russell's book list on U.S. involvement in Latin America

Russell C. Crandall Why did Russell love this book?

Lucidly written and soberly considered, Latin America’s Cold War is one top-five pick for a host of reasons, not least of which is that it forces us to consider that the usually potent Uncle Sam did mean that Latin American actors did not have influence, for good or ill. Rightist Latin American militaries, for a searing case, had their reasons for combatting leftist guerrillas, not just serving Washington’s bidding. 

By Hal Brands,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Latin America's Cold War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For Latin America, the Cold War was anything but cold. Nor was it the so-called "long peace" afforded the world's superpowers by their nuclear standoff. In this book, the first to take an international perspective on the postwar decades in the region, Hal Brands sets out to explain what exactly happened in Latin America during the Cold War, and why it was so traumatic.

Tracing the tumultuous course of regional affairs from the late 1940s through the early 1990s, Latin America's Cold War delves into the myriad crises and turning points of the period-the Cuban revolution and its aftermath; the…


Book cover of Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam

Wendell Affield Author Of Muddy Jungle Rivers: A river assault boat cox'n's memory journey of his war in Vietnam

From my list on the Vietnam war that explore waste and loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

As I write this, I massage aching bits of shrapnel still embedded beneath silvered scars. I’ve read many Vietnam War stories—praising the war, glorifying combat, condemning the war. My stories are 1st person limited POV, voice of a twenty-year-old sailor. My title is a spin-off of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. By the time I wrote my memoir, I realized that our national goals in Vietnam had been Muddy from the beginning. I too, traveled Jungle Rivers. During my time on the riverboat, I witnessed Rivers of blood—rivers of life, trickle across our deck. And yes, Jungle is a fitting metaphor for our life at that time.

Wendell's book list on the Vietnam war that explore waste and loss

Wendell Affield Why did Wendell love this book?

McMaster’s book confirms the corruption, lies, and hubris of national leaders, including the military during the Vietnam era. As a high-ranking officer in the army, I found his in-depth analysis of deception at the top levels very troubling. This is a must-read for every person interested in our history—especially to understand the mistakes of the Vietnam War—the quagmire that pulled us in. 

By H R McMaster,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Dereliction of Duty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The war in Vietnam was not lost in the field, nor was it lost on the front pages of the New York Times or the college campuses. It was lost in Washington, D.C." -H. R. McMaster (from the Conclusion) Dereliction Of Duty is a stunning analysis of how and why the United States became involved in an all-out and disastrous war in Southeast Asia. Fully and convincingly researched, based on transcripts and personal accounts of crucial meetings, confrontations and decisions, it is the only book that fully re-creates what happened and why. McMaster pinpoints the policies and decisions that got…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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