100 books like Secrets

By Daniel Ellsberg,

Here are 100 books that Secrets fans have personally recommended if you like Secrets. 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 The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

Aurélie Basha i Novosejt Author Of 'I Made Mistakes': Robert McNamara's Vietnam War Policy, 1960-1968

From my list on the life and times of Daniel Ellsberg.

Why am I passionate about this?

My research permitted amazing conversations with some of McNamara’s former colleagues and their children, including Daniel Ellsberg. Ellsberg informed the direction of my research and shared my excitement about the sources I was looking for, especially the secret diaries of his former (and beloved) boss, John McNaughton. He is both a window into and a foil to McNamara. On substance, they were in basic agreement on most issues (from Vietnam to nuclear issues), but they chose very different paths to address their moral qualms. I think the questions they asked–including on the moral responsibility of public officials–are as urgent today as they were in the 1960s.

Aurélie's book list on the life and times of Daniel Ellsberg

Aurélie Basha i Novosejt Why did Aurélie love this book?

Ellsberg’s last book focused more clearly on his work on nuclear planning within the Department of Defense, where Secrets had mostly concerned itself with Vietnam.

The book provides a chilling account of how tenuous and fragile a system based on nuclear deterrence remains. Much more than that, the book is a clarion call for all of its readers to be alive to the morality of the very existence of nuclear weapons.

By Daniel Ellsberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Non-Fiction

From the legendary whistle-blower who revealed the Pentagon Papers, the first insider expose of the awful dangers of America's hidden, seventy-year-long nuclear policy that is chillingly still extant

At the same time former presidential advisor Daniel Ellsberg famously took the top-secret Pentagon Papers, he also took with him a chilling cache of top-secret documents related to America's nuclear program in the 1960s. Here for the first time he reveals the contents of those now-declassified documents and makes clear their shocking relevance for today.

The Doomsday Machine is Ellsberg's hair-raising…


Book cover of Crises of the Republic: Lying in Politics; Civil Disobedience; On Violence; Thoughts on Politics and Revolution

Hannah Gurman and Kaeten Mistry Author Of Whistleblowing Nation: The History of National Security Disclosures and the Cult of State Secrecy

From my list on U.S. national security culture and the exposure of secrets.

Why are we passionate about this?

We are historians of U.S. foreign relations who have written extensively on the Cold War and national security. Both of us were interested in whistleblowing yet knew relatively little about its history. Turns out, we were not alone. Despite lots of popular interest in the topic, we soon discovered that, beyond individual biographies, barely anything is known about the broader history of the phenomenon. With funding from the UK’s Arts and Humanities Council, we led a collaborative research project, which involved historians, literary scholars, and political theorists, as well as whistleblowers, journalists, and lawyers. One of the fruits of the project, Whistleblowing Nation, is the first comprehensive, interdisciplinary history of U.S. national security whistleblowing.


Hannah's book list on U.S. national security culture and the exposure of secrets

Hannah Gurman and Kaeten Mistry Why did Hannah love this book?

At its core, whistleblowing is an act of truth-telling, often in response to official misrepresentation and lies. While not explicitly about whistleblowing, Hannah Arendt’s 1971 essay, “Lying in Politics” is an indispensable read for anyone interested in the subject. Written in the wake of the Pentagon Papers disclosure, it situates the official lies of the Vietnam War within a broader phenomenon of political propaganda. Exploring how propaganda aimed at the public ultimately took hold within senior policymaking circles, it reveals the blurry line between official lies and self-deception. Challenging simple precepts about whistleblowing and public transparency, Arendt explores whether or not and why knowledge of the facts actually makes a difference. Along with the broader collection of essays in Crises of the Republic, this piece offers uncanny insight into post-truth politics and the breakdown of democracy in our day.

By Hannah Arendt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A collection of studies in which Arendt, from the standpoint of a political philosopher, views the crises of the 1960s and early 1970s as challenges to the american form of government. Index.


Book cover of Secrecy: The American Experience

Hannah Gurman and Kaeten Mistry Author Of Whistleblowing Nation: The History of National Security Disclosures and the Cult of State Secrecy

From my list on U.S. national security culture and the exposure of secrets.

Why are we passionate about this?

We are historians of U.S. foreign relations who have written extensively on the Cold War and national security. Both of us were interested in whistleblowing yet knew relatively little about its history. Turns out, we were not alone. Despite lots of popular interest in the topic, we soon discovered that, beyond individual biographies, barely anything is known about the broader history of the phenomenon. With funding from the UK’s Arts and Humanities Council, we led a collaborative research project, which involved historians, literary scholars, and political theorists, as well as whistleblowers, journalists, and lawyers. One of the fruits of the project, Whistleblowing Nation, is the first comprehensive, interdisciplinary history of U.S. national security whistleblowing.


Hannah's book list on U.S. national security culture and the exposure of secrets

Hannah Gurman and Kaeten Mistry Why did Hannah love this book?

A Democrat patriarch and long-time Senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan led a congressional committee in the early 1990s recommending dramatic reductions in the size and scale of government secrecy. Moynihan even penned an opinion piece in the New York Times questioning whether there was still a need for the CIA. Secrecy is an offshoot of Moynihan's committee report that delves into the history of state secrecy in the United States from the early twentieth century, showing its corrosive effect on Cold War policymaking and society as a whole. The book is part of an unprecedented attempt by a political establishment heavyweight to change the debate on national security secrecy. That it had no meaningful impact is profoundly telling.

By Daniel Patrick Moynihan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, chairman of the bipartisan Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy, here presents an eloquent and fascinating account of the development of secrecy as a mode of regulation in American government since World War I-how it was born, how world events shaped it, how it has adversely affected momentous political decisions and events, and how it has eluded efforts to curtail or end it. Senator Moynihan begins by recounting the astonishing story of the Venona project, in which Soviet cables sent to the United States during World War II were decrypted by the U.S. Army-but were…


Book cover of The Georgetown Set: Friends and Rivals in Cold War Washington

Hannah Gurman and Kaeten Mistry Author Of Whistleblowing Nation: The History of National Security Disclosures and the Cult of State Secrecy

From my list on U.S. national security culture and the exposure of secrets.

Why are we passionate about this?

We are historians of U.S. foreign relations who have written extensively on the Cold War and national security. Both of us were interested in whistleblowing yet knew relatively little about its history. Turns out, we were not alone. Despite lots of popular interest in the topic, we soon discovered that, beyond individual biographies, barely anything is known about the broader history of the phenomenon. With funding from the UK’s Arts and Humanities Council, we led a collaborative research project, which involved historians, literary scholars, and political theorists, as well as whistleblowers, journalists, and lawyers. One of the fruits of the project, Whistleblowing Nation, is the first comprehensive, interdisciplinary history of U.S. national security whistleblowing.


Hannah's book list on U.S. national security culture and the exposure of secrets

Hannah Gurman and Kaeten Mistry Why did Hannah love this book?

Whistleblowers rely on the press to disseminate their disclosures. In matters of national security, however, the press has a long history of close personal and professional bonds with the government that has curbed revelations. The Georgetown Set offers a fascinating glimpse into the small circle of elite officials, journalists, publishers, and public intellectuals who gathered for cocktail and dinner parties in their high-end neighborhood of Washington, DC. In addition to giving a fly-on-the-wall sense of how Cold War policies and public opinion were made, Herken’s book illuminates the individual and cultural shifts that contributed to the rise of national security disclosures in the 1960s and 1970s. This history is essential for understanding how the evolving dynamics between elite politicians and the press continue to shape the culture of whistleblowing and accountability today.

By Gregg Herken,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the years after World War II, Georgetown’s leafy streets were home to an unlikely group of Cold Warriors who helped shape American strategy. This coterie of affluent, well-educated, and connected civilians guided the country, for better and worse, from the Marshall Plan through McCarthyism, Watergate, and Vietnam. The Georgetown set included Phil and Kay Graham, husband-and-wife publishers of The Washington Post; Joe and Stewart Alsop, odd-couple brothers who were among the country’s premier political pundits; Frank Wisner, a driven, manic-depressive lawyer in charge of CIA covert operations; and a host of other diplomats, spies, and scholars. Gregg Herken gives…


Book cover of Irreparable Harm: A Firsthand Account of How One Agent Took on the CIA in an Epic Battle Over Free Speech

Hannah Gurman and Kaeten Mistry Author Of Whistleblowing Nation: The History of National Security Disclosures and the Cult of State Secrecy

From my list on U.S. national security culture and the exposure of secrets.

Why are we passionate about this?

We are historians of U.S. foreign relations who have written extensively on the Cold War and national security. Both of us were interested in whistleblowing yet knew relatively little about its history. Turns out, we were not alone. Despite lots of popular interest in the topic, we soon discovered that, beyond individual biographies, barely anything is known about the broader history of the phenomenon. With funding from the UK’s Arts and Humanities Council, we led a collaborative research project, which involved historians, literary scholars, and political theorists, as well as whistleblowers, journalists, and lawyers. One of the fruits of the project, Whistleblowing Nation, is the first comprehensive, interdisciplinary history of U.S. national security whistleblowing.


Hannah's book list on U.S. national security culture and the exposure of secrets

Hannah Gurman and Kaeten Mistry Why did Hannah love this book?

CIA officer Frank Snepp was one of the last American officials to leave Vietnam in 1975. But when he published a damning critique of the U.S. war effort in a book (A Decent Interval), it ignited a controversy that was widely covered in the press and led all the way to the Supreme Court. Snepp was charged with causing 'irreparable harm' to national security and ordered to surrender all profits from the publication. His account of the events around the court case are of course subjective but nonetheless speaks to a central paradox around the first amendment: freedom of speech is essentially suspended for national security officials. The legacy of Snepp’s case continues to cast a long shadow, affecting individuals as varied as Edward Snowden and John Bolton in our day.

By Frank Snepp,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Among the last CIA agents airlifted from Saigon in the waning moments of the Vietnam War, Frank Snepp returned to headquarters determined to secure help for the Vietnamese left behind by an Agency eager to cut its losses. What he received instead was a cold shoulder from a CIA that in 1975 was already in turmoil over congressional investigations of its operations throughout the world.

In protest, Snepp resigned to write a damning account of the agency’s cynical neglect of its onetime allies and inept handling of the war. His expose, Decent Interval, was published in total secrecy, eerily evocative…


Book cover of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

Joel Bakan Author Of The New Corporation: How "Good" Corporations Are Bad for Democracy

From my list on revealing the inhumanity of authoritarianism and fascism.

Why am I passionate about this?

A decade ago, we could not have imagined a world where democracy would be in existential crisis. Perhaps it’s overly dramatic to think that way – I hope so – but it does seem realistic at this moment. That is why I am so passionate about wanting to defend democracy and the kind of society it makes possible and why I am so drawn to works that express that passion through artful writing and story-telling. With authoritarian and totalitarian regimes dangerously on the rise, books that demonstrate the profound inhumanity and injustice of such regimes and how they extinguish democracy and human rights are needed now more than ever.

Joel's book list on revealing the inhumanity of authoritarianism and fascism

Joel Bakan Why did Joel love this book?

It is no surprise this book won a Pulitzer Prize. Particularly compelling is how, through a deeply personal and beautifully crafted story of a complex life and mind, it offers profound insight into the uneasy relationship among politics, science, war, and morality.

Oppenheimer, one of the greatest and most influential physicists of the 20th century, spearheaded not only the invention of the atomic bomb but also the quantum theory that made it possible and the policies governing its use and development. A left-wing thinker and sometimes communist sympathizer in his youth, and driven throughout his life by strong humanistic impulses, his work on the atomic bomb was motivated by a desire to defeat fascism in Europe.

Yet, in his work thereafter – which included opposing the development of the much more powerful hydrogen bomb – he was tragically undone by another authoritarian force: McCarthyism. The multiple Oscar-award winning film based…

By Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked American Prometheus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Physicist and polymath, 'father of the atom bomb' J. Robert Oppenheimer was the most famous scientist of his generation. Already a notable young physicist before WWII, during the race to split the atom, 'Oppie' galvanized an extraordinary team of international scientists while keeping the FBI at bay. As the man who more than any other inaugurated the atomic age, he became one of the iconic figures of the last century, the embodiment of his own observation that 'physicists have known sin'.

Years later, haunted by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer became a staunch opponent of plans to develop the hydrogen bomb.…


Book cover of The Essence of Security: Reflections in Office

Aurélie Basha i Novosejt Author Of 'I Made Mistakes': Robert McNamara's Vietnam War Policy, 1960-1968

From my list on the life and times of Daniel Ellsberg.

Why am I passionate about this?

My research permitted amazing conversations with some of McNamara’s former colleagues and their children, including Daniel Ellsberg. Ellsberg informed the direction of my research and shared my excitement about the sources I was looking for, especially the secret diaries of his former (and beloved) boss, John McNaughton. He is both a window into and a foil to McNamara. On substance, they were in basic agreement on most issues (from Vietnam to nuclear issues), but they chose very different paths to address their moral qualms. I think the questions they asked–including on the moral responsibility of public officials–are as urgent today as they were in the 1960s.

Aurélie's book list on the life and times of Daniel Ellsberg

Aurélie Basha i Novosejt Why did Aurélie love this book?

This book is not McNamara’s most famous nor original–it essentially weaves together his speeches to provide reflections about war and nuclear weapons–but is arguably his most compelling.

The shadow of Ellsberg and his colleagues who wrote many of these speeches is present and shows a distinct subculture that existed around McNamara, who was far more refined than the warmonger stereotype suggests and also dedicated to educating the American people about national security. It shows a man sitting atop the world’s most powerful defense establishment, grappling with important moral dilemmas, including its enormous capacity for human destruction and institutional pressures toward war.

By Robert S. McNamara,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Published shortly after leaving the Pentagon, the author discusses various aspects of his tenure and position on basic national security issues; including policy statements from the author's public addresses and reports to Congress during his tenure as Secretary of Defense.


Book cover of Papers on the War

Aurélie Basha i Novosejt Author Of 'I Made Mistakes': Robert McNamara's Vietnam War Policy, 1960-1968

From my list on the life and times of Daniel Ellsberg.

Why am I passionate about this?

My research permitted amazing conversations with some of McNamara’s former colleagues and their children, including Daniel Ellsberg. Ellsberg informed the direction of my research and shared my excitement about the sources I was looking for, especially the secret diaries of his former (and beloved) boss, John McNaughton. He is both a window into and a foil to McNamara. On substance, they were in basic agreement on most issues (from Vietnam to nuclear issues), but they chose very different paths to address their moral qualms. I think the questions they asked–including on the moral responsibility of public officials–are as urgent today as they were in the 1960s.

Aurélie's book list on the life and times of Daniel Ellsberg

Aurélie Basha i Novosejt Why did Aurélie love this book?

A collection of essays that show that Ellsberg’s decision to reveal the Pentagon Papers was not an emotional impulse but a rational culminating point.

He went to Vietnam on several occasions, including as an advisor on pacification programs, and devoured official documents: he was the first–possibly only–person to read the full set of the Pentagon Papers at least once. It was on the basis of this new evidence that he revised his thinking, concluding that the war was “first… a problem; then… a stalemate; then… a crime.” Also, he trained as an economist, and there’s a kind of game theory logic that plays out in these essays. As his reading of the war incrementally changes, he understands that “optimal” outcomes require a different response from him. 

By Daniel Ellsberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In his second public contribution to ending the American intervention in Vietnam, Daniel Ellsberg brings together and revises his papers that best explain US policy and strategies during the war.

Drawing upon his virtually unique range of experience as a participant, field observer, analyst, and critic, Papers on the War shares a selection of Daniel Ellsberg's writings as he critiques the presence of US policies in Vietnam.

With the major contribution of a greatly expanded and redefined version of his crucial study "The Quagmire Myth and the Stalemate Machine," Ellsberg reveals consistent patterns of decision-making with respect to Indo-china that…


Book cover of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War

Mohamed Rabie Author Of The Global Debt Crisis and Its Socioeconomic Implications: Creating Conditions for a Sustainable, Peaceful, and Just World

From my list on serving humanity and revealing misleading secrets.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a retired professor, was raised in a refugee camp, one of a family of 9 living in one tent. studied in Palestine, Egypt, Germany, and America, have Ph.D. in economics; scholarships financed my education journey. I lived a life no human has lived or can live, because some of the times I lived had come and gone and cannot come back again. I taught at 11 universities on 4 continents, published 60 books in Arabic and English: books on economics, politics, culture, history, conflict resolution, philosophy, racism, novels, and poetry. True intellectuals cannot stay in one area because issues that shape mankind's history and man’s destiny are interconnected. 

Mohamed's book list on serving humanity and revealing misleading secrets

Mohamed Rabie Why did Mohamed love this book?

This book shows that America, since its inception, has followed an imperialistic policy to dominate the world; it built the strongest army in history, and the most advanced military industry. To project power and be able to intervene anywhere, America built about 750 military bases overseas in 80 countries. However, America’s relative decline due to China’s rise, lead America’s policymakers to transform many states into failed states that cannot control all their territories, weak for America to dominate, but unstable to create headaches for their neighbors as the cases of Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen demonstrate. America’s military budget for 2023 is $858 billion, the equivalent of 1/3 of the combined gross domestic product of the 54 African countries. Does this scare you, or comfort you?

By Andrew Bacevich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For the last half century, as administrations have come and gone, the fundamental assumptions about America's military policy have remained unchanged: American security requires the United States (and us alone) to maintain a permanent armed presence around the globe, to prepare our forces for military operations in far-flung regions, and to be ready to intervene anywhere at any time. In the Obama era, just as in the Bush years, these beliefs remain unquestioned gospel. In a vivid, incisive analysis, Andrew J. Bacevich succinctly presents the origins of this consensus, forged at a moment when American power was at its height.…


Book cover of The Peacemaker: Ronald Reagan, the Cold War, and the World on the Brink

Mark G. Pomar Author Of Cold War Radio: The Russian Broadcasts of the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

From my list on critical world events from a new angle.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I read George Kennan’s award-winning memoirs when I was still in high school, I have been fascinated by world history in general and specifically by the Soviet Union (Russia) and Central/Eastern Europe. I have a PhD in Russian studies and my 40+ year career has included academia, government, non-profit organizations, and the foundation sector. My professional experience has reinforced my belief that to understand today’s world and to formulate effective national security strategy one must study the roots of political, economic, or social events.   

Mark's book list on critical world events from a new angle

Mark G. Pomar Why did Mark love this book?

In The Peacemaker, William Inboden draws on declassified materials, interviews with high-level government officials, and on Reagan’s personal diary to write the most thorough, fair, and scrupulously researched account of Reagan’s foreign policy and the successful end of the Cold War.

And he does this with such aplomb that his history reads like a novel. I worked in the US government in the 1980s and thought I knew Reagan’s foreign policy well, but I discovered much that was new and couldn’t put the book down.

By William Inboden,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the Wall Street Journal’sbest political books of 2022

A masterful account of how Ronald Reagan and his national security team confronted the Soviets, reduced the nuclear threat, won the Cold War, and supported the spread of freedom around the world.

“Remarkable… a great read.”—Robert Gates • “Mesmerizing… hard to put down.”—Paul Kennedy • “Full of fresh information… will shape all future studies of the role the United States played in ending the Cold War.”—John Lewis Gaddis • “A major contribution to our understanding of the Reagan presidency and the twilight of the Cold War era.”—David Kennedy

With decades…


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