100 books like Red Alert

By Peter Bryant,

Here are 100 books that Red Alert fans have personally recommended if you like Red Alert. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety

Nicholas Mee Author Of Gravity: From Falling Apples to Supermassive Black Holes

From my list on when contemplating the risks of nuclear technology.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always had a passion to engage with the deepest questions of existence, from the interpretation of quantum mechanics to string theory and cosmology. My desire to understand is driven purely by curiosity, and my aim in writing about these topics is to make the wonders of the universe as widely accessible as possible. But scientific knowledge and the advance of technology also has a potentially darker side. It is vital for the future of humanity that science is widely understood so that democratic informed decisions can be made to safeguard against its misuse, and this was the motivation for recommending my list of books.

Nicholas' book list on when contemplating the risks of nuclear technology

Nicholas Mee Why did Nicholas love this book?

Command and Control is the gripping story of an accident at an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile silo in Arkansas in 1980 that resulted in the explosion of a Titan II missile.

The explosion blew the concrete lid off the silo and sent the missile’s nine-megaton thermonuclear warhead hurtling one hundred metres through the air. Fortunately, the warhead, which had 500 times the explosive power of the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, did not explode.

Interwoven with the minute-by-minute account of this accident, Schlosser gives a riveting history of the development of nuclear weapons by the U.S. military and discusses the mechanisms that have been devised to ensure that they are not detonated unintentionally. He also describes numerous other alarming nuclear mishaps that have occurred over the years.

By Eric Schlosser,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Command and Control as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Oscar-shortlisted documentary Command and Control, directed by Robert Kenner, finds its origins in Eric Schlosser's book and continues to explore the little-known history of the management and safety concerns of America's nuclear aresenal.

"A devastatingly lucid and detailed new history of nuclear weapons in the U.S. Fascinating." -Lev Grossman, TIME Magazine

"Perilous and gripping . . . Schlosser skillfully weaves together an engrossing account of both the science and the politics of nuclear weapons safety." -San Francisco Chronicle

A myth-shattering expose of America's nuclear weapons

Famed investigative journalist Eric Schlosser digs deep to uncover secrets about the management of…


Book cover of The Wizards of Armageddon

Paul Lashmar Author Of Britain's Secret Propaganda War

From my list on the madness of the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started researching the way the West’s intelligence services manipulated the public when I was a student in the mid-1970s. I then became an investigative journalist and often returned to the subject in different ways, especially as a national security correspondent. I fully acknowledge the massive manipulation by the Communist Bloc during the Cold War but believe that it is important the public is aware of the manipulation that the West’s Cold Warriors utilized is fully known and recognized as it has left a legacy that has allowed for the rise of ‘fake news’.


Paul's book list on the madness of the Cold War

Paul Lashmar Why did Paul love this book?

Kaplan’s book captured the mindset of the Cold Warriors and how the concept of a nuclear holocaust became accepted. Brilliantly researched and written with a dispassionate eye, it remains one of the most insightful accounts of the nuclear weapons race and how it was exploited by the military to build their own empires. It was a great influence on my film Baiting the Bear about General Curtis 'Bomb them back to the Stone Age’ Lemay that I made for BBC's Timewatch in 1996. I haven’t yet read Kaplan’s latest book, The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War, which looks like a development of Wizards with new declassified material. 

By Fred Kaplan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the untold story of the small group of men who have devised the plans and shaped the policies on how to use the Bomb. The book (first published in 1983) explores the secret world of these strategists of the nuclear age and brings to light a chapter in American political and military history never before revealed.


Book cover of Who Paid the Piper? : CIA and the Cultural Cold War

Paul Lashmar Author Of Britain's Secret Propaganda War

From my list on the madness of the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started researching the way the West’s intelligence services manipulated the public when I was a student in the mid-1970s. I then became an investigative journalist and often returned to the subject in different ways, especially as a national security correspondent. I fully acknowledge the massive manipulation by the Communist Bloc during the Cold War but believe that it is important the public is aware of the manipulation that the West’s Cold Warriors utilized is fully known and recognized as it has left a legacy that has allowed for the rise of ‘fake news’.


Paul's book list on the madness of the Cold War

Paul Lashmar Why did Paul love this book?

This may be over 20 years old but it is still the best account of the CIA’s massive interventions in culture and politics across the world and domestically in the Cold War. Detailed research and authoritatively written. The full story of the CIA’s intervention in the UK is still not fully told, with its covert operations in the Labour Party and we still do not know who the 50 British journalists were who were paid salaries by the CIA.

James Oliver and I covered the UK’s Information Research Department’s (IRD) mirror operation from 1947-1977 in Britain’s Secret Propaganda War. What this shows was that many ‘leading’ journalists, academics, politicians, and artists were not the best of their generation but were elevated by secret funding, publishing, and promotion because they suited the agenda of Anglo-US intelligence agencies. 

By Frances Stonor Saunders,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Who Paid the Piper? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During the Cold War, writers and artists were faced with a huge challenge. In the Soviet world, they were expected to turn out works that glorified militancy, struggle and relentless optimism. In the West, freedom of expression was vaunted as liberal democracy's most cherished possession. But such freedom could carry a cost. This book documents the extraordinary energy of a secret campaign in which some of the most vocal exponents of intellectual freedom in the West became instruments - whether they knew it or not, whether they liked it or not - of America's secret service.


Book cover of The History Thieves: Secrets, Lies and the Shaping of a Modern Nation

Paul Lashmar Author Of Britain's Secret Propaganda War

From my list on the madness of the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started researching the way the West’s intelligence services manipulated the public when I was a student in the mid-1970s. I then became an investigative journalist and often returned to the subject in different ways, especially as a national security correspondent. I fully acknowledge the massive manipulation by the Communist Bloc during the Cold War but believe that it is important the public is aware of the manipulation that the West’s Cold Warriors utilized is fully known and recognized as it has left a legacy that has allowed for the rise of ‘fake news’.


Paul's book list on the madness of the Cold War

Paul Lashmar Why did Paul love this book?

Ian Cobain is an exceptional British investigative journalist and was on the staff of The Guardian and is now with Middle East Eye. This book is broader than the Cold War but is a brilliant analysis of how the state uses secrecy to hide the truth of how the public is governed. He has done some groundbreaking work on how Foreign Office’s Information Research Department methods have been incorporated into modern anti-terrorism techniques.

By Ian Cobain,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1889, the first Official Secrets Act was passed, creating offences of 'disclosure of information' and 'breach of official trust'. It limited and monitored what the public could, and should, be told. Since then a culture of secrecy has flourished. As successive governments have been selective about what they choose to share with the public, we have been left with a distorted and incomplete understanding not only of the workings of the state but of our nation's culture and its past.

In this important book, Ian Cobain offers a fresh appraisal of some of the key moments in British history…


Book cover of DEFCON-2: Standing on the Brink of Nuclear War During the Cuban Missile Crisis

Francis Gary Powers Jr.

From my list on the Cuban Missile Crisis and aerial reconnaissance.

Why am I passionate about this?

Both my parents worked for the CIA in the 1950s and 1960s. On May 1, 1960 my father was shot down over the Soviet Union while on a CIA U-2 spy flight and spent nearly 2 years in a Soviet prison before being exchanged for Soviet KGB Spy Colonel Rudolph Abel in 1962 as recently depicted in Steven Spielberg’s Cold War thriller, Bridge of Spies. As a result of growing up in this family I have always been interested in espionage and the Cold War. In 1996, I founded The Cold War Museum to honor Cold War veterans, preserve Cold War history, and educate future generations about this time period.

Francis' book list on the Cuban Missile Crisis and aerial reconnaissance

Francis Gary Powers Jr. Why did Francis love this book?

Norman Polmar and I have been colleagues and friends for over 20 years. Not only have we served together on several Cold War history panels including the DIA’s 60th-anniversary conference on the Cuban Missile Crisis in 2022, but we also co-authored the Epilog for my father’s book, Operation Overflight, when it was republished in 2004. Polmar’s book is an in-depth study of the personalities that orchestrated the Cuban Missile Crisis. Even the title, DEFCON-2, emphasizes exactly how close we came to launching an all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union in October 1962.

By Norman Polmar, John D. Gresham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked DEFCON-2 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The closest we've ever come to the end of the world

"DEFCON-2 is the best single volume on the Cuban Missile Crisis published and is an important contribution to the history of the Cold War. Beyond the military and political facts of the crisis, Polmar and Gresham sketch the personalities that created and coped with the crisis. They also show us how close we came to the edge without becoming sensationalistic."—Larry Bond, bestselling author of Dangerous Ground

Spy-satellite and aerial-reconnaissance photos reveal that one of the United States's bitterest enemies may be acquiring weapons of mass destruction and the means…


Book cover of The Revolution that Failed: Nuclear Competition, Arms Control, and the Cold War

Paul C. Avey Author Of Tempting Fate: Why Nonnuclear States Confront Nuclear Opponents

From my list on nuclear weapons’ implications for politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

It’s common to talk about why you love the subject you research. I have no love for nuclear weapons. They are, however, central to understanding international politics since 1945. The nuclear age is one of inconsistencies. Nuclear weapons drive many crises but may make major wars between nuclear states less likely. They generate reassurance and anxiety among allies in almost equal measure. The books in this list all grapple with the nuclear shadow’s shape and scale. Most combine an analytical framework with historical study, but all are attuned to theory and strategy. As for me, I’m an associate professor at Virginia Tech, where I research and teach on international relations. 

Paul's book list on nuclear weapons’ implications for politics

Paul C. Avey Why did Paul love this book?

I got this book for the incisive presentation and critique of the nuclear revolution thesis. I stayed for the original theory and detailed history. The chapters on the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations provided me with a new understanding of that era. For the nuclear revolution, the superpower behavior of the late Cold War was either irrational or driven by domestic pathologies. Green shows that there was a cold strategic logic and domestic political awareness behind U.S. policy. American leaders tailored arms control in ways that allowed them to continue competing and indeed gain an advantage against the Soviet Union.

By Brendan Rittenhouse Green,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The study of nuclear weapons is dominated by a single theory - that of the nuclear revolution, or mutual assured destruction (MAD). Although such theorists largely perceive nuclear competition as irrational and destined for eventual stalemate, the nuclear arms race between superpowers during the second half of the Cold War is a glaring anomaly that flies in the face of this logic. In this detailed historical account, Brendan Green presents an alternate theoretical explanation for how the United States navigated nuclear stalemate during the Cold War. Motivated by the theoretical and empirical puzzles of the Cold War arms race, Green…


Book cover of The Cold War: A World History

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

From my list on the Cold War from a journalist who lived it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began my career as a foreign correspondent in Cold War Eastern Europe, under communist domination. I lived in Greece, a Cold War battleground, in the 1980s, from where I made regular forays into the Balkans and Central Europe. Those journeys left a vivid, lifelong impression on me.

Robert's book list on the Cold War from a journalist who lived it

Robert D. Kaplan Why did Robert love 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.

By Odd Arne Westad,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Cold War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Odd Arne Westad's daring ambition, supra-nationalist intellect, polyglot sources, masterly scholarship and trenchant analysis make The Cold War a book ofresounding importance for appraising our global future as well as understanding our past' Richard Davenport-Hines, TLS, Books of the Year

As Germany and then Japan surrendered in 1945 there was a tremendous hope that a new and much better world could be created from the moral and physical ruins of the conflict. Instead, the combination of the huge power of the USA and USSR and the near-total collapse of most of their rivals created a unique, grim new environment: the…


Book cover of The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain

Polly Farquhar Author Of Lolo Weaver Swims Upstream

From my list on middle-grade books where setting makes the story.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love books where the setting is just as big and alive as the characters. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s a familiar place or someplace new: if a vivid setting is a key element of the story, I’m in. I think it’s because I grew up in one of those small towns in the beautiful middle of nowhere where if someone asks where you’re from, it’s just easier to say someplace else. I wanted to see the world, and books let me do that. I also wanted validation in reading—and writing—about the small places I knew, and books let me do that, too.  

Polly's book list on middle-grade books where setting makes the story

Polly Farquhar Why did Polly love this book?

This middle-grade memoir written and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin is hands down one of my favorite books in any category, period.

It is a short but rich story with layers of setting, from the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the courtyard of the narrator’s communal apartment building, to his private world under the family table in their one-room apartment. I laughed out loud, except for when I was crying.

By Eugene Yelchin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Genius Under the Table as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

An Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Honor Winner

With a masterful mix of comic timing and disarming poignancy, Newbery Honoree Eugene Yelchin offers a memoir of growing up in Cold War Russia.

Drama, family secrets, and a KGB spy in his own kitchen! How will Yevgeny ever fulfill his parents’ dream that he become a national hero when he doesn’t even have his own room? He’s not a star athlete or a legendary ballet dancer. In the tiny apartment he shares with his Baryshnikov-obsessed mother, poetry-loving father, continually outraged grandmother, and safely talented brother, all Yevgeny has is his…


Book cover of George F. Kennan: An American Life

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

From my list on the Cold War from a journalist who lived it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began my career as a foreign correspondent in Cold War Eastern Europe, under communist domination. I lived in Greece, a Cold War battleground, in the 1980s, from where I made regular forays into the Balkans and Central Europe. Those journeys left a vivid, lifelong impression on me.

Robert's book list on the Cold War from a journalist who lived it

Robert D. Kaplan Why did Robert love 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.

By John Lewis Gaddis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Biography

Widely and enthusiastically acclaimed, this is the authorized, definitive biography of one of the most fascinating but troubled figures of the twentieth century by the nation's leading Cold War historian. In the late 1940s, George F. Kennan—then a bright but, relatively obscure American diplomat—wrote the "long telegram" and the "X" article. These two documents laid out United States' strategy for "containing" the Soviet Union—a strategy which Kennan himself questioned in later years. Based on exclusive access to Kennan and his archives, this landmark history illuminates a life that both mirrored and shaped…


Book cover of The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War

Ann Hagedorn Author Of Sleeper Agent: The Atomic Spy in America Who Got Away

From my list on bringing you close to what deeply drives people to become spies.

Why am I passionate about this?

Writing narrative nonfiction books is, for me, quite an adventure. My quest is to discover remarkable stories of deep significance and find answers to long-lingering questions, such as why a spy was never caught. For my six books, I have travelled worldwide to interview key players, dig through archives, and see first-hand the stories’ settings. With master’s degrees in journalism (Columbia University) and library science (University of Michigan), I use the research skills of both professions. Designing the best story structure is my passion because that’s the bridge writers must construct to artfully deliver true stories to readers. And I am inspired by reading excellent books.

Ann's book list on bringing you close to what deeply drives people to become spies

Ann Hagedorn Why did Ann love this book?

I read this unforgettable, true story, cover to cover while sitting for hours in the Denver airport waiting for a long-delayed flight to Seattle.

Thanks to Ben Macintyre’s brilliance, my day of stress became a meaningful and hugely informative adventure into the double life of Oleg Gordievsky. How this man, like his father and brother, joined the KGB; why certain realities and events during his KGB assignments changed him; what motivated his decision to become a double agent for British intelligence; and how he survived it all filled this saga with astute lessons about espionage.

There’s a simple yet profound line that stuck with me about the double life, something like: You love those around you while you conceal your true inner self.

By Ben Macintyre,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Spy and the Traitor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The celebrated author of Double Cross and Rogue Heroes returns with a thrilling Americans-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the end of the Cold War.

“The best true spy story I have ever read.”—JOHN LE CARRÉ

Named a Best Book of the Year by The Economist • Shortlisted for the Bailie Giffords Prize in Nonfiction

If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky. The son of two KGB agents and the product of the best Soviet institutions, the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in presidential biography, the Cold War, and the Soviet Union?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about presidential biography, the Cold War, and the Soviet Union.

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