98 books like The Button

By William J. Perry, Tom Z. Collina,

Here are 98 books that The Button fans have personally recommended if you like The Button. 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 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 The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War

David P. Barash Author Of Threats: Intimidation and Its Discontents

From my list on preventing nuclear war.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have worn two hats for many decades: evolutionary biology and antinuclear activism. The former appeals to my scientific self and the latter, to my political and emotional passions (although I pride myself in applying science and reason to my antinuclear work as well). The danger of nuclear war has NOT disappeared — or even notably diminished — with the end of the Cold War, and yet, public awareness of this situation has plummeted. Fortunately, there are many technically accurate and yet accessible book-based treatments of this topic, which I am happy to recommend ... my own not least!

David's book list on preventing nuclear war

David P. Barash Why did David love this book?

Kaplan does a marvelous job describing, as the subtitle indicates, “the secret history of nuclear war.” It is in a sense a sequel to Kaplan’s earlier The Wizards of Armageddon, which examined theorists of nuclear annihilation. In The Bomb, Kaplan takes us on a deep dive into the bowels of actual doomsday planning; an unforgettable and darkly educational trip!

By Fred Kaplan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the author of the classic The Wizards of Armageddon and Pulitzer Prize finalist comes the definitive history of American policy on nuclear war-and Presidents' actions in nuclear crises-from Truman to Trump.

Fred Kaplan, hailed by The New York Times as "a rare combination of defense intellectual and pugnacious reporter," takes us into the White House Situation Room, the Joint Chiefs of Staff's "Tank" in the Pentagon, and the vast chambers of Strategic Command to bring us the untold stories-based on exclusive interviews and previously classified documents-of how America's presidents and generals have thought about, threatened, broached, and just barely…


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

László Borhi Author Of Hungary in the Cold War, 1945-1956: Between the United States and the Soviet Union

From my list on the search for truth in history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I come from a small country, Hungary, the past of which was consciously falsified in the political system under which I grew up. Some chapters of it, like the cold war period, Soviet rule, the revolution of 1956 couldn't even be discussed. I was lucky because communism collapsed and archives were gradually opened just as I started my career as a historian. Books on international history are usually written from the perspective of the powerful states, I was interested in looking at this story from the perspective of the small guy. Writing this book was both a professional challenge and a personal matter for me. I'm currently a professor at Indiana University-Bloomington.

László's book list on the search for truth in history

László Borhi Why did László love this book?

I was privileged to know Marty Sherwin in person. He was the friendliest person ever with a tremendous sense of humour – and a magnificent, honest scholar.

He was the friendliest person ever with a tremendous sense of humour – and a magnificent, honest scholar. History, as Paul Ricoeur has reminded, is not a record to be played. The Cold War nuclear standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union, and mainly, the Cuban missile crisis did not have to end as they did, peacefully.

When two A bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945, a genie was released that the world will not be able to get rid of any time soon. Martin J. Sherwin, the doyen of American nuclear historians always argued that this did not have to be so. Nuclear technology could have been placed under international supervision and arms race and proliferation could have been…

By Martin J. Sherwin,

Why should I read it?

4 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…


Book cover of Hiroshima

Rhys Crilley Author Of Unparalleled Catastrophe: Life and Death in the Third Nuclear Age

From my list on nuclear war and how to stop it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I currently spend my time researching (and worrying about) nuclear war and how to stop it from ever happening. I live about 25 miles away from where the UK’s nuclear weapons are based, so I have a very personal interest in making sure that nuclear war never becomes a reality! As a lecturer at the University of Glasgow I’m also embarking on a four-year research fellowship with over £1 million in funding where I will be leading a team of experts to research how to improve nuclear arms control and disarmament. So keep in touch if you want to reduce the risk of nuclear war and ban the bomb!

Rhys' book list on nuclear war and how to stop it

Rhys Crilley Why did Rhys love this book?

I really enjoyed Christopher Nolan’s Academy Award-winning Oppenheimer movie, and this book is the perfect book to read after watching it. Hiroshima was the first widespread account of what Oppenheimer’s creation – the atomic bomb – did to the people of Hiroshima.

Written in the immediate aftermath of the nuclear bombing, Hiroshima tells the story of six men and women who survived amidst the destruction that killed over 100,000 other people. By focusing on these six survivors, Hersey makes the almost unimaginable scale of destruction achingly real and relatable. At one point, he describes "the wounded as silent as the dead around them," and this line sends shivers down my spine. 

Few writers can conduct such detailed investigative reporting and tell the story in such a human way that still resonates today, nearly 80 years after it was first published. 

By John Hersey,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Hiroshima as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“One of the great classics of the war" (The New Republic) that tells what happened in Hiroshima through the memories of survivors—from a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. 

On August 6, 1945, Hiroshima was destroyed by the first atom bomb ever dropped on a city. This book, John Hersey's journalistic masterpiece, tells what happened on that day. Told through the memories of survivors, this timeless, powerful and compassionate document has become a classic "that stirs the conscience of humanity" (The New York Times).

Almost four decades after the original publication of this celebrated book, John Hersey went back to Hiroshima in search…


Book cover of Nuclear War: A Scenario

James Graham Wilson Author Of America's Cold Warrior: Paul Nitze and National Security from Roosevelt to Reagan

From my list on reducing nuclear war risk Cold War to present.

Why am I passionate about this?

Even before recently becoming a dad, I was passionate about reducing the risks of nuclear war. I am also firmly committed to pursuing—yet never fully knowing—the answers when it comes to achieving that. I think that trying to figure out why things happened as they did in the Cold War can sometimes help illuminate partial answers. The late Michael Krepon referred to the period 1985–1992 as the high tide of nuclear agreements and risk reduction, and I retain optimism that it can happen again. Deterrence is equally important. I have spent the past decade working on historical projects covering national security and negotiating sides of the Cold War equation.

James' book list on reducing nuclear war risk Cold War to present

James Graham Wilson Why did James love this book?

Love is probably not the term I would use for this book. I am glad that Annie Jacobsen wrote it, and I think anyone interested in the real threat of nuclear war should read it. There are moments in it—particularly one very consequential decision that the U.S. president makes—that are highly implausible and have generated criticism from people who have devoted their careers to nuclear deterrence.

However, it is worth noting that no one actually knows how the leader of a nuclear-armed state would react to the news of an incoming nuclear attack because that scenario has never happened before. I think it is worth emphasizing this book’s subtitle: “A Scenario”—which is not “The Scenario” or “All Scenarios.” There are many scenarios that do not end as definitively as in Jacobsen’s scenario.

I include this book in the topic of reducing the risk of nuclear war because it so vividly…

By Annie Jacobsen,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of Banning the Bomb, Smashing the Patriarchy

Rhys Crilley Author Of Unparalleled Catastrophe: Life and Death in the Third Nuclear Age

From my list on nuclear war and how to stop it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I currently spend my time researching (and worrying about) nuclear war and how to stop it from ever happening. I live about 25 miles away from where the UK’s nuclear weapons are based, so I have a very personal interest in making sure that nuclear war never becomes a reality! As a lecturer at the University of Glasgow I’m also embarking on a four-year research fellowship with over £1 million in funding where I will be leading a team of experts to research how to improve nuclear arms control and disarmament. So keep in touch if you want to reduce the risk of nuclear war and ban the bomb!

Rhys' book list on nuclear war and how to stop it

Rhys Crilley Why did Rhys love this book?

A lot of people are consigned to the belief that nuclear weapons are here to stay and that nuclear disarmament is a naïve pipe dream. Ray Acheson’s book is the perfect remedy to this pessimistic malady, as it lays out the case for nuclear disarmament in an accessible way.

I love how Acheson grounds the book in academic research and gives a fascinating insider's account of how activists and diplomats worked together to make the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons a reality. Acheson also demonstrates how the existence of nuclear weapons is reliant on the injustices of capitalism, sexism, colonialism, and racism.

I read this book and felt optimistic that ordinary people like you and me can challenge these injustices and achieve seemingly impossible things if we work together.

Book cover of Disarming Doomsday: The Human Impact of Nuclear Weapons since Hiroshima

Rhys Crilley Author Of Unparalleled Catastrophe: Life and Death in the Third Nuclear Age

From my list on nuclear war and how to stop it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I currently spend my time researching (and worrying about) nuclear war and how to stop it from ever happening. I live about 25 miles away from where the UK’s nuclear weapons are based, so I have a very personal interest in making sure that nuclear war never becomes a reality! As a lecturer at the University of Glasgow I’m also embarking on a four-year research fellowship with over £1 million in funding where I will be leading a team of experts to research how to improve nuclear arms control and disarmament. So keep in touch if you want to reduce the risk of nuclear war and ban the bomb!

Rhys' book list on nuclear war and how to stop it

Rhys Crilley Why did Rhys love this book?

Nuclear weapons are not just dangerous if they are used in a nuclear war. Their development, testing, production, deployment, and decommissioning are all harmful to the planet. My favourite thing about this book is how this fact is explored and examined at the global and local levels.

With a geographer’s attention to the specifics of space and place, Alexis-Martin takes us on a journey around the world and through history that illuminates how all parts of the nuclear weapon production cycle have harmed people whose stories we often don’t hear. From indigenous communities displaced by nuclear weapons production facilities to the British veterans who were used as lab rats and exposed to nuclear tests by the state, this book uncovers the often hidden history of nuclear weapons.

I really enjoyed this, especially as Alexis-Martin then reflects on how we can prevent nuclear war in the future.

By Becky Alexis-Martin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

***Winner of the L.H.M. Ling Outstanding First Book Prize 2020***

***Shortlisted for the Bread and Roses Award 2020***

Since the first atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima, the history of nuclear warfare has been tangled with the spaces and places of scientific research and weapons testing, armament and disarmament, pacifism and proliferation. Nuclear geography gives us the tools to understand these events, and the extraordinary human cost of nuclear weapons.

Disarming Doomsday explores the secret history of nuclear weapons by studying the places they build and tear apart, from Los Alamos to Hiroshima. It looks at the legacy of nuclear imperialism…


Book cover of Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era: Regional Powers and International Conflict

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?

A lot of work on nuclear politics focuses on the policies and strategies of the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia. This book goes beyond that. The scope of Narang’s Nuclear Strategy is immense. It’s really two books in one. The first tells me why states adopt the nuclear posture—the doctrine and number of weapons—that they do. It’s a one-stop shop for learning about the origins and evolution of nuclear policy in China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, and South Africa. Then I read on and find Narang goes further. The second book shows me the consequences of those decisions for conflict. The lessons of the book travel, and I find myself applying the nuclear posture categories that Narang identifies when thinking about nuclear developments today. 

By Vipin Narang,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The world is in a second nuclear age in which regional powers play an increasingly prominent role. These states have small nuclear arsenals, often face multiple active conflicts, and sometimes have weak institutions. How do these nuclear states--and potential future ones--manage their nuclear forces and influence international conflict? Examining the reasoning and deterrence consequences of regional power nuclear strategies, this book demonstrates that these strategies matter greatly to international stability and it provides new insights into conflict dynamics across important areas of the world such as the Middle East, East Asia, and South Asia. Vipin Narang identifies the diversity of…


Book cover of The Absolute Weapon: Atomic Power And World Order

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 struggled to balance recent books that explore nuclear politics with the benefit of decades of history and earlier foundational books. Picking only one from the latter category may be a mistake. Thomas Schelling’s Strategy of Conflict, Robert Jervis’s Theory of the Nuclear Revolution, and many others deserve mention. I included Absolute Weapon because it was the earliest attempt to explore what nuclear weapons meant for international politics. It is best remembered for Brodie’s contention that victory in nuclear war is meaningless, and so the central purpose of nuclear weapons is deterrence. Yet Brodie grapples—at times suggesting divergent answers—with many enduring questions: the requirements for deterrence, the prospects for meaningful superiority, and the potential for superiority (to say nothing of monopoly) to offer political advantages or spur aggression. 

By Bernard Brodie,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Here is the 214 pg 1st Edition of the privately owned hardcover by Frederick Dunn, Bernard Brodie, Arnold Wolfers, Percy Corbett and William Fox as edited by Bernard Brodie from Harcourt, Brace and Co., and copyrighted 1946. Contents of the book include the Intro entitled The Common Problem and 3 Parts entitled: Part I: The Weapon: War in the Atomic Age and Implications for Military Policy; Part II: Political Consequences: The Atomic Bomb in Soviet-American Relations and Effect on International Organization; and Part III: International Control of Atomic Weapons. The book has no dust cover. The khaki colored boards has…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in nuclear weapons, nuclear warfare, and international relations?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about nuclear weapons, nuclear warfare, and international relations.

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