10 books like The Bomb

By Fred Kaplan,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like The Bomb. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Command and Control

By Eric Schlosser,

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

More recent than Kaplan’s Wizards and more episodic but making it clear how close we came to destruction in the Cold War. With journalistic flair, he drives the narrative with real hair-raising episodes most notably a blow-by-blow account of an accident at a Titan II missile silo in Arkansas, in 1980. It’s a book that every student should read as the new generation needs to know how close to disaster we came in between 1947 and 1991 and the world could easily revert into a new Cold War. 

Command and Control

By Eric Schlosser,

Why should I read it?

3 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…


The Doomsday Machine

By Daniel Ellsberg,

Book cover of The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

Russia and the U.S. each possess a Doomsday Machine: a weapon that could wipe out our species. If either launched their thousands of nuclear ICMBs, that would probably doom us, even if the other did not retaliate. So argues Ellsberg, who confesses his role in creating the menace.  (None of the seven other nuclear nations have more than a few hundred, as a deterrent.) The book’s invaluable history includes multiple occasions when either Russia or the U.S. came perilously close to triggering Armageddon. When I was flying in the Strategic Air Command, we launched three times. Barely before it was too late, we were recalled. But that was before ICMBs; ICMBs can not be recalled. Read this book and spread its message.

The Doomsday Machine

By Daniel Ellsberg,

Why should I read it?

2 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…


Gambling with Armageddon

By Martin J. Sherwin,

Book cover of Gambling with Armageddon: Nuclear Roulette from Hiroshima to the Cuban Missile Crisis

This book reveals the secrets of the 1962 Cuba missiles crisis when America discovered that the Soviet Union has installed nuclear missiles in Cuba. President Kennedy imposed a siege on Cuba. The American military and the CIA were eager to launch a nuclear war against Cuba, but neither Kennedy nor Gorbachev, the Soviet leader wanted to start a war. Kennedy and Gorbachev exchanged letters, Gorbachev made his letters public, Kennedy kept his secret. Gorbachev asked for an American commitment not to invade Cuba and to remove its missiles from Turkey. Kennedy asked Dean Rusk to indirectly suggest to UN Secretary General to call for removing the Soviet missiles from Cuba in exchange for America removing its missiles from Turkey. And this is how the crisis ended.

Gambling with Armageddon

By Martin J. Sherwin,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Gambling with Armageddon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Prometheus comes the first effort to set the Cuban Missile Crisis, with its potential for nuclear holocaust, in a wider historical narrative of the Cold War—how such a crisis arose, and why at the very last possible moment it didn't happen.

In this groundbreaking look at the Cuban Missile Crisis, Martin Sherwin not only gives us a riveting sometimes hour-by-hour explanation of the crisis itself, but also explores the origins, scope, and consequences of the evolving place of nuclear weapons in the post-World War II world. Mining new sources and materials, and going…


The Button

By William J. Perry, Tom Z. Collina,

Book cover of The Button: The New Nuclear Arms Race and Presidential Power from Truman to Trump

Bill Perry served as Secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton, after a distinguished prior career in science and engineering. There is probably no one better qualified to describe how we got into our current nuclear dilemma, more clear-eyed about the problems we are now confronting, and more realistic in advising how best to get out of it. He emphasizes that in our paranoia to avoid being attacked by a nuclear-armed opponent, we have created a system that, ironically, threatens us far more than any possible “enemy.”

The Button

By William J. Perry, Tom Z. Collina,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The President has the power to end the world in minutes. Right now, no one can stop him.

Since the Truman administration, America has been one "push of a button" away from nuclear war-a decision that rests solely in the hands of the President. Without waiting for approval from Congress or even the Secretary of Defense, the President can unleash America's entire nuclear arsenal.

Almost every governmental process is subject to institutional checks and balances. Why is potential nuclear annihilation the exception to the rule? For decades, glitches and slip-ups have threatened to trigger nuclear winter: misinformation, false alarms, hacked…


With Enough Shovels

By Robert Scheer,

Book cover of With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush, and Nuclear War

If Jonathan Schell’s Fate of the Earth examined the scientific, ecological, and social impacts of nuclear war, Robert Scheer’s With Enough Shovels is a direct inquiry into the Reagan Administration about their initial thoughts on the subject. Those thoughts, frankly, are frightening. As the title implicates, then-Deputy Under Secretary of Defense T.J. Jones literally suggested that surviving thermonuclear war was easy: “Dig a hole, cover it with a couple of doors and then throw three feet of dirt on top…it’s the dirt that does it…if there are enough shovels to go around, everybody’s going to make it.” Comments by Reagan, Vice President Bush, Defense Secretary Weinberger, and an increasing contingent of “Neo-Conservatives” writing in journals such as Commentary echoed these sentiments. In part, Scheer’s book began a long process of the Reagan Administration scaling back their bravado and recognizing the real dangers of the atomic age. 

With Enough Shovels

By Robert Scheer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

If there are enough shovels to go around, everybody's going to make it."" Scheer, a Los Angeles Times reporter and former Ramparts editor, got that assessment of American civil defense capabilities from T. K. Jones, current Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Strategic and Theater Nuclear Forces, and a former Boeing manager. What ""T.K."" meant was that, with a shovel, anyone can dig a fallout shelter--a simple hole in the ground with a door over the top and three feet of earth on top of that. ""It's the dirt that does it,"" he said. The fact that…


No Good Men Among the Living

By Anand Gopal,

Book cover of No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes

I have been teaching about the wars in Afghanistan since 2004 and this book is the best at showcasing how individual lives are indelibly affected by armed conflict. Gopal is fabulous in humanizing his characters—a Taliban commander, a member of the US-backed Afghan government, or a village housewife. And he demonstrates how none of these people fit neatly into the preconceived categories applied to them by Americans.

Perhaps better than any other book on Afghanistan after 9/11, Gopal also reveals the limits of US military power overseas. In many ways, the presence of American soldiers exacerbated local conflict rather than ameliorating it. A powerful book arguing against those who extol the value of “generational wars” to achieve US foreign policy objectives.

No Good Men Among the Living

By Anand Gopal,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Good Men Among the Living as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Through their dramatic stories, Gopal shows that the Afghan war, so often regarded as a hopeless quagmire, could in fact have gone very differently. Top Taliban leaders actually tried to surrender within months of the US invasion, renouncing all political activity and submitting to the new government. Effectively, the Taliban ceased to exist - yet the Americans were unwilling to accept such a turnaround. Instead, driven by false intelligence from their allies and an unyielding mandate to fight terrorism, American forces continued to press the conflict, resurrecting the insurgency that persists to this day. With its intimate accounts of life…


The Insurgents

By Fred Kaplan,

Book cover of The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War

The insurgents of the title are a group of military officers, many of whom had taught at West Point’s Department of Social Sciences, who attempted to help the Army and the nation come to terms with the war in Iraq. Ironically, most had been opposed to the invasion of Iraq in 2003; nonetheless, they worked with great urgency to understand the conflict and produce better policies to minimize the suffering and harm to U.S. interests it caused. The team, led by Army General David Petraeus and Marine General James Mattis, created the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual that Petraeus implemented when he took command of the Iraq war effort in 2007, changing the course of the war and America’s understanding of the future of conflict.

The Insurgents

By Fred Kaplan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE INSURGENTS unfolds against the backdrop of two wars waged against insurgencies-- wars which the Pentagon's top generals didn't know how to fight. But a small group of soldiers and scholars did have a plan for fighting these kinds of wars, people like General David Petraeus and Colonels John Nagl, David Kilcullen, and H.R. McMaster. In order to push the idea of "counterinsurgency" warfare, they behaved like insurgents within their own army-and very self-consciously so. Fred Kaplan explains where this idea came from, and how the men and women who latched onto this idea created a community (some would refer…


Scales on War

By Bob Scales,

Book cover of Scales on War: The Future of America's Military at Risk

Quite a lot about what the defining forces in today’s world of work became clear to our military leaders many decades ago. Warfare was once centralized, linear, and choreographed. Modern war is fragmented, dynamic, and unpredictable. The term VUCA itself came from the military.

Scales is one of our greatest military thinkers leading the way on how we should be approaching soldier readiness in this new reality. We need to think much more about psychological agility and resilience so that the front lines are enabled to respond to an unforeseeable challenge. He’s ahead of the corporate curve in this thinking, but just by a hair. 

Scales on War

By Bob Scales,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Scales on War is a collection of ideas, concepts, and observations aboutcontemporary war taken from over thirty years of research, writing, andpersonal experience by retired Major General Bob Scales. Scales' unique styleof writing utilizes contemporary military history, current events, and hisphilosophy of ground warfare to create a very personal and expansive view ofthe future direction of American defense policies.

Each chapter in the book addresses a distinct topic facing the upcomingprospects of America's military, including tactical ground warfare, future gazing,the draft, and the role of women in the infantry. Fusing all of these topicstogether is Scales' belief that, throughout its…


Uncertain Ground

By Phil Klay,

Book cover of Uncertain Ground: Citizenship in an Age of Endless, Invisible War

Nothing is more American than making war in other countries, and Phil Klay’s collection of essays investigates that line between those Americans who fight in our current wars and those who get to stay home and eventually forget that there’s even a war taking place somewhere. Klay knows about what he writes. He’s a former marine who was stationed in Iraq, and while not seeing combat himself, he did see firsthand the complex relationship between occupied and occupier. Upon his return home, he was plunged into an even more surreal place: a country that had long since stopped paying attention. Bonus reading: Klay’s National Book Award-winning short story collection, Redeployment, where you can see how fiction becomes transmuted into nonfiction and vice versa.

Uncertain Ground

By Phil Klay,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the National Book Award-winning author of Redeployment and Missionaries, an astonishing fever graph of the effects of twenty years of war in a brutally divided America.

When Phil Klay left the Marines a decade ago after serving as an officer in Iraq, he found himself a part of the community of veterans who have no choice but to grapple with the meaning of their wartime experiences—for themselves and for the country. American identity has always been bound up in war—from the revolutionary war of our founding, to the civil war that ended slavery, to the two world wars that…


Marching Masters

By Colin Edward Woodward,

Book cover of Marching Masters: Slavery, Race, and the Confederate Army During the Civil War

Most Confederate soldiers were not slaveholders, but as historian Colin Woodward argues, all of them were products of a slaveholding culture and, as a result, fought to maintain the rigid racial hierarchy that had come to define their respective communities. Appreciating the central place that the defense of slavery occupied for most Confederates helps us to better understand why the war lasted as long as it did. Some of the most interesting chapters in this book explore the roles played by thousands of body servants that accompanied officers from the slaveholding class. Enslaved men performed a wide range of jobs, including cooking meals, washing clothes, and digging ditches. Their presence served as a constant reminder of the army’s reliance on enslaved labor and its broader significance as the Confederacy’s “cornerstone.”

Marching Masters

By Colin Edward Woodward,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Confederate army went to war to defend a nation of slaveholding states, and although men rushed to recruiting stations for many reasons, they understood that the fundamental political issue at stake in the conflict was the future of slavery. Most Confederate soldiers were not slaveholders themselves, but they were products of the largest and most prosperous slaveholding civilization the world had ever seen, and they sought to maintain clear divisions between black and white, master and servant, free and slave.

In Marching Masters Colin Woodward explores not only the importance of slavery in the minds of Confederate soldiers but…


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