100 books like The Cold War

By Odd Arne Westad,

Here are 100 books that The Cold War fans have personally recommended if you like The 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 A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal

Merle Nygate Author Of The Righteous Spy

From my list on spy books that spies read and sometimes wrote themselves.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve written and script edited in a lot of different genres, from factual drama to sitcom, children’s TV to fantasy. I’ve always loved spy stories, and I’ve always wanted to write one. Recently, at the University of East Anglia I studied for an MA in Crime Fiction, and that’s where I finally got the chance to study espionage and write a spy novel myself. I hope you enjoy my selection of books if you haven’t already read them. Or even if you have. They’re all so good that I feel like re-reading them right now. 

Merle's book list on spy books that spies read and sometimes wrote themselves

Merle Nygate Why did Merle love this book?

This is a non-fiction book but it reads like a novel and explores one of the great mysteries of the spy world: how on earth did Kim Philby manage to betray not only his country but also his friends over so many years? 

A former spy I had the privilege of interviewing described Philby as a shit, so maybe there’s the answer. I think this is a terrific read, and although Macintyre probably isn’t a spy, like Deighton, he knows them. 

By Ben Macintyre,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked A Spy Among Friends as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kim Philby was the most notorious British defector and Soviet mole in history. Agent, double agent, traitor and enigma, he betrayed every secret of Allied operations to the Russians in the early years of the Cold War.

Philby's two closest friends in the intelligence world, Nicholas Elliott of MI6 and James Jesus Angleton, the CIA intelligence chief, thought they knew Philby better than anyone, and then discovered they had not known him at all. This is a story of intimate duplicity; of loyalty, trust and treachery, class and conscience; of an ideological battle waged by men with cut-glass accents and…


Book cover of Bridge of Spies

Giles Milton Author Of Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown That Shaped the Modern World

From my list on the insanity of the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

Giles Milton is the internationally bestselling author of twelve works of narrative history. His most recent book is Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown That Shaped the Modern World. His previous work, Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, is currently being developed into a major TV series. Milton’s works—published in twenty-five languages—include Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, serialized by the BBC. He lives in London and Burgundy.

Giles' book list on the insanity of the Cold War

Giles Milton Why did Giles love this book?

Giles Whittell’s narrative history tells the true story of three colorful Cold War characters, revealing much about the extraordinary tension and paranoia of that febrile time. William Fisher, aka Rudolf Abel, was a British-born KGB agent arrested in New York City and jailed for his attempt to steal America’s nuclear secrets; Gary Powers was the American pilot captured when his plane was shot down while on a reconnaissance mission over Russia; Frederic Pryor was a young American student in Berlin arrested and held without charge by East Germany’s secret police, the Stasi. Whittell skilfully narrates the interwoven stories of these three men, highlighting the political tensions that brought the United States and the Soviet Union so close to nuclear war.

By Giles Whittell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Who were the three men the Soviet and American superpowers exchanged on Berlin's Glienicke Bridge on February 10, 1962, in the first and most legendary prisoner exchange between East and West? Bridge of Spies vividly traces the journeys of these men, whose fate defines the complex conflicts that characterized the most dangerous years of the Cold War. Bridge of Spies is a true story of three men - Rudolf Abel, a Soviet Spy who was a master of disguise; Gary Powers, an American who was captured when his spy plane was shot down by the Russians; and Frederic Pryor, a…


Book cover of One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War

FX Holden Author Of Aggressor

From my list on war stories you probably haven’t read yet.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a former journalist and intelligence officer turned writer, so I seek out authenticity in my reading, especially when it comes to war stories. I look for fiction from people who have been there or know how to listen to those who have, and be their voice. When I write, I always put together a team of veterans and specialists in their fields to challenge my work and make sure I get it right, too!

FX's book list on war stories you probably haven’t read yet

FX Holden Why did FX love this book?

I was researching a novel and wanted to know more about the Cuban Missile Crisis. This non-fiction book reads like an action thriller, going hour by hour, sometimes minute by minute.

I finished this one in a single weekend and felt almost physically sick at the thought of how close the world had come to Armageddon in those few tense days and how lucky we were the leaders of the time were so determined to avoid it.

Would our leaders today be as level-headed? You judge!

By Michael Dobbs,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked One Minute to Midnight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

October 27, 1962, a day dubbed Black Saturday in the Kennedy White House. The Cuban missile crisis is at its height, and the world is drawing ever closer to nuclear apocalypse.

As the opposing Cold War leaders, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, mobilize their forces to fight a nuclear war on land, sea and air, the world watches in terror. In Bobby Kennedy's words, 'There was a feeling that the noose was tightening on all of us, on Americans, on mankind, and that the bridges to escape were crumbling.'

In One Minute to Midnight Michael Dobbs brings a fresh…


Book cover of 1946: The Making of the Modern World

Giles Milton Author Of Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown That Shaped the Modern World

From my list on the insanity of the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

Giles Milton is the internationally bestselling author of twelve works of narrative history. His most recent book is Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown That Shaped the Modern World. His previous work, Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, is currently being developed into a major TV series. Milton’s works—published in twenty-five languages—include Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, serialized by the BBC. He lives in London and Burgundy.

Giles' book list on the insanity of the Cold War

Giles Milton Why did Giles love this book?

The year 1946 marked a turning point in world affairs: the Cold War began, the state of Israel was conceived and the independence of India was all but decided upon. It was also the year in which the Chinese Communists gained the upper hand in their fight for power.

Historian and foreign correspondent, Victor Sebestyen, draws on contemporary archival documents to analyse the behind-the-scenes political decision-making. His book is particularly interesting for its wide-reach: the book covers London, Paris, Berlin, and the Soviet Union, as well as the US, Israel, India, and China.

By Victor Sebestyen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 1946 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nineteen forty-six is the year that would signal the beginning of the Cold War, the end of the British Empire, and the beginning of the rivalry between the United States and the USSR. Victor Sebestyen reveals the year’s events by chronologically framing what was taking place in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, with seminal decisions made by heads of state that would profoundly change the old order forever. The map of Eastern Europe would be redrawn, Chinese communists would gain decisive victories in their fight for power, and the world would witness the birth of Israel. 1946 was a…


Book cover of The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution

Kermit Roosevelt III Author Of The Nation That Never Was: Reconstructing America's Story

From my list on understanding America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved America and our Constitution. I went to law school, I clerked at the Supreme Court, and I ended up teaching Constitutional law at Penn. But as I learned more about the Constitution and our history, I realized that the story I’d absorbed growing up about what our values were and where they came from didn’t ring true. Things were a little more complicated. And so I did my own research. I read dozens of books, including the ones listed here. And in the end, I found a story that was both more true and more inspiring than the one we learned in school. 

Kermit's book list on understanding America

Kermit Roosevelt III Why did Kermit love this book?

Eric Foner is our nation’s foremost historian of Reconstruction, the author of dozens of books and articles. This is my favorite—it takes the research and thought of a monumental career and packages it for maximum impact. In just over 200 pages, it takes you through the changes of the Civil War and Reconstruction and their relevance for America today. 

By Eric Foner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Declaration of Independence announced equality as an American ideal but it took the Civil War and the adoption of three constitutional amendments to establish that ideal as law. The Reconstruction amendments abolished slavery, guaranteed due process and the equal protection of the law, and equipped black men with the right to vote. By grafting the principle of equality onto the Constitution, the amendments marked the second founding of the United States.

Eric Foner conveys the dramatic origins of these revolutionary amendments and explores the court decisions that then narrowed and nullified the rights guaranteed in these amendments. Today, issues…


Book cover of Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World

Joseph Vogl Author Of The Ascendancy of Finance

From my list on the political power of contemporary finance.

Why am I passionate about this?

How did I – as a scholar of German literature – turn to economic topics? That had a certain inevitability. When I left for Paris in the early nineties, reading traces of anthropological knowledge in literature and aesthetics of the 18th century, I came across economic ideas on almost every page, in natural history, in medicine, in philosophy, in encyclopedias, in the theories of signs and in the teachings of beauty. There was circulation, communication, flows of exchange all over the place, and the Robinsons were the model. This reinforced the impression that the human being was engaged in aligning himself with homo oeconomicus. The question of  modern economics has therefore become unavoidable for me.

Joseph's book list on the political power of contemporary finance

Joseph Vogl Why did Joseph love this book?

Focusing on the financial crisis of 2008 Adam Tooze’s book shows the transition from a geopolitical to a geo-economic world order in which the political destiny of old nation states is determined by the needs of international financial industry – including the rearrangement of global governance and the erosion of democracies.

I admire the way in which Adam Tooze demonstrates the entanglement between financial capitalism, crises, and the rise of populist and right-wing movements in Europe and the US.

By Adam Tooze,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE LIONEL GELBER PRIZE
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2018
ONE OF THE ECONOMIST'S BOOKS OF THE YEAR
A NEW YORK TIMES CRITICS' TOP BOOK

"An intelligent explanation of the mechanisms that produced the crisis and the response to it...One of the great strengths of Tooze's book is to demonstrate the deeply intertwined nature of the European and American financial systems."--The New York Times Book Review

From the prizewinning economic historian and author of Shutdown and The Deluge, an eye-opening reinterpretation of the 2008 economic crisis (and its ten-year aftermath) as a global event that directly…


Book cover of Into Battle, 1937-1941

Reed Hundt Author Of A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining Decisions

From my list on history relevant to the present and near future.

Why am I passionate about this?

I wrote A Crisis Wasted precisely with the goal of changing the way government makes decisions at inflection points in history, when change is happening at a 10x scale. That was the situation between the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 and the inauguration of the new president in January 2009. I felt at the time and later that the way problems were analyzed, options created and decisions made were tragically disappointing, not because the people involved were badly motivated but because of the assumptions and convictions to which they were firmly bound before they approached the problems. I had no idea in 2019 that the next crisis would be the pandemic and only had only hope that the next Administration would include many of the same people involved in 2008-9. But as history unfolded the lessons of 2008-9, as I decoded them, applied with uncanny accuracy to the decisions made by the Biden team in 2020-21. So far at least, their ability to learn from history has served the country well.

Reed's book list on history relevant to the present and near future

Reed Hundt Why did Reed love this book?

Book 1 of these 2 is perhaps a better read because it explains, as the young Jack Kennedy famously wrote, “Why England Slept,” and that topic is more intriguing than the tactics of the Second World War itself, treated in Book 2. Nevertheless, if you have time read both books. You’ll conclude that Kennedy (and his ghostwriter) didn’t know what was up, and you’ll wonder if the United States is now repeating Britain’s history as its status as a great power is put under pressure by the rise of China.

By Daniel Todman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Into Battle, 1937-1941 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'An energetic, ambitious, provocative work by a young historian of notable gifts, which deserves a wide readership' Max Hastings, The Sunday Times

'Bold and breathtaking... I have never read a more daringly panoramic survey of the period' Jonathan Wright, Herald Scotland

The most terrible emergency in Britain's history, the Second World War required an unprecedented national effort. An exhausted country had to fight an unexpectedly long war and found itself much diminished amongst the victors. Yet the outcome of the war was nonetheless a triumph, not least for a political system that proved well adapted to the demands of a…


Book cover of The Plot Against America: A Novel

Keith Madsen Author Of The Bridles of Armageddon

From my list on fiction about insurrection and threat to democracy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised in Kansas, a conservative, Republican state. My parents were conservative Republicans. We went to a fundamentalist church, where the minister preached about Revelation and warned against the dangers of “humanism”. He said the Bible predicted an end time where God would violently destroy the evil world. I have grown away from such ideas, but I understand the cultural milieu out of which such Christian extremism comes. Fortunately, I also learned from my parents the values of honesty and love for all people. Those values call me to look at today’s right-wing authoritarianism, and to find the hope that will lead us to something better. 

Keith's book list on fiction about insurrection and threat to democracy

Keith Madsen Why did Keith love this book?

Recent authoritarian trends and attempts to re-establish white supremacy are not new in America.

In this novel, Philip Roth envisions an alternate history where Charles Lindbergh has defeated Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 Presidential election. He then proceeds to collude with Adolph Hitler and seeks to establish anti-Semitism throughout the country.

The novel is based on the actual attitudes which Lindbergh had toward Jews and other minorities. Of course, this is not truly an insurrection. Still, it is a portrayal of how extreme right-wing attitudes can seek to rob people of our hard-won democracy.

I was raised with a deep respect for freedom for all people in this country. My family had several Jewish friends and we loved and learned from them.

By Philip Roth,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Plot Against America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'He captures better than anyone the collision of public and private, the intrusion of history into the skin, the pores of every individual alive' Guardian

'Though on the morning after the election disbelief prevailed, especially among the pollsters, by the next everybody seemed to understand everything...'

When celebrity aviator, Charles A. Lindbergh, wins the 1940 presidential election on the slogan of 'America First', fear invades every Jewish household. Not only has Lindbergh blamed the Jews for pushing America towards war with Germany, he has negotiated an 'understanding' with the Nazis promising peace between the two nations.

Growing up in the…


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 Armed Truce: The Beginnings of the Cold War 1945-1946

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 somewhat obscure work, a massive book that apparently did not sell well. But it offers a blow-by-blow description by a great British historian about how the Cold War started, and demonstrates how it was principally Stalin's actions that led to World War II morphing into a cold war.

By Hugh Thomas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Provides an account of the first years of the Cold War, with insights into the state of the world after the Second World War and vivid portraits of such personalities as Stalin, Beria, Churchill, Roosevelt, deGaulle, and Truman


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Cold War, the Soviet Union, and the Industrial Revolution?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Cold War, the Soviet Union, and the Industrial Revolution.

The Cold War Explore 233 books about the Cold War
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The Industrial Revolution Explore 74 books about the Industrial Revolution