100 books like The Doomsday Machine

By Daniel Ellsberg,

Here are 100 books that The Doomsday Machine fans have personally recommended if you like The Doomsday Machine. 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 Making of the Atomic Bomb

Gregg Herken Author Of Brotherhood of the Bomb: The Tangled Lives and Loyalties of Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, and Edward Teller

From my list on who made and thought about using bombs.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an emeritus professor of modern American diplomatic history at the University of California, having previously taught at Oberlin, Caltech, and Yale. I’ve also been chairman of the Division of Space History at the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum, where I was the Curator of Military Space. I’ve been fascinated—and concerned—about nuclear weapons and nuclear war since I was 12, when I saw the movie On the Beach.  Then, as now, nuclear weapons and the (currently-increasing) danger of nuclear war are the most important things on the planet.  

Gregg's book list on who made and thought about using bombs

Gregg Herken Why did Gregg love this book?

Even after almost forty years, Rhodes’s book is still the most detailed, accurate, and readable account of how the atomic bomb came to be. 

The author’s description of the moment Leo Szilard realized the weapon was possible still brings me to tears. Nobody has done this history better.  

By Richard Rhodes,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Making of the Atomic Bomb as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With a brand new introduction from the author, this is the complete story of how the bomb was developed. It is told in rich, human, political, and scientific detail, from the turn-of-the-century discovery of the vast energy locked inside the atom to the dropping of the first bombs on Japan. Few great discoveries have evolved so swiftly -- or have been so misunderstood. From the theoretical discussions of nuclear energy to the bright glare of Trinity there was a span of hardly more than twenty-five years. What began as merely an interesting speculative problem in physics grew into the Manhattan…


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

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?

One of my favourite things about this book is the clarity with which the authors—a former US Secretary of Defense and a leading nuclear policy advisor—diagnose what’s wrong with American nuclear weapons policy and propose solutions that would make us all safer.

I loved how the book is both a great public education resource (here’s what’s wrong with US nuclear policy) and a call to arms (here’s what you can do to make it better!). I also loved how the book makes it clear that the US approach to achieving national security through increasing reliance on nuclear weapons, in fact, makes the US less secure.

By William J. Perry, Tom Z. Collina,

Why should I read it?

2 authors 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…


Book cover of The Ministry for the Future

Akshat Rathi Author Of Climate Capitalism: Winning the Race to Zero Emissions and Solving the Crisis of Our Age

From my list on crash course in our climate choices.

Why am I passionate about this?

Typically, climate journalists share stories of disastrous extreme weather events made more extreme by climate change. But over the past decade, I’ve discovered that every sector of the economy and every country on the planet that I’ve had the privilege to explore has people working on climate solutions. Crucially, in many places, these are now working at scale. 

Akshat's book list on crash course in our climate choices

Akshat Rathi Why did Akshat love this book?

Robinson’s writing project has been to build utopias, but when faced with the climate crisis, he was forced to come up with an optimal outcome rather than an idealistic one.

It transforms a powerful set of ideas into a compelling human story that will undoubtedly influence the real world as it plays out.

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Why should I read it?

22 authors picked The Ministry for the Future as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

ONE OF BARACK OBAMA’S FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR

“The best science-fiction nonfiction novel I’ve ever read.” —Jonathan Lethem
 
"If I could get policymakers, and citizens, everywhere to read just one book this year, it would be Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future." —Ezra Klein (Vox)

The Ministry for the Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, using fictional eyewitness accounts to tell the story of how climate change will affect us all. Its setting is not a desolate, postapocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us. Chosen by Barack Obama as one of his favorite…


Book cover of Parable of the Sower

Alison McBain Author Of The New Empire

From my list on reimagine the past and see a strange new future.

Why am I passionate about this?

My family could never afford vacations when I was growing up, so I had to travel in my imagination through what I read. But that allowed me even greater freedom—I could go back in time, forward into the future, and everything in between. This skill led me to research and write my books today and have a career as an award-winning author and editor. History, to me, is only one side of the story—what about all the people in the past who never had the chance to speak? Alternate history is a way to explore the voices we’ve never heard except through a writer’s imagination.

Alison's book list on reimagine the past and see a strange new future

Alison McBain Why did Alison love this book?

I’ve long been inspired by Butler’s writing, which features BIPOC characters front and center. As a multiracial person, I seldom saw people who looked and thought like me in the older fiction I read.

The notable thing about this book is that it’s technically science fiction, not alternate history, since the novel's beginning in 2024 (this year!). However, much of what Butler wrote has come to pass, raising one question: Has her vision of the future become an alternate version of the past? I love trying to wrap my head around that conundrum.

By Octavia E. Butler,

Why should I read it?

26 authors picked Parable of the Sower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The extraordinary, prescient NEW YORK TIMES-bestselling novel.

'If there is one thing scarier than a dystopian novel about the future, it's one written in the past that has already begun to come true. This is what makes Parable of the Sower even more impressive than it was when first published' GLORIA STEINEM

'Unnervingly prescient and wise' YAA GYASI

--

We are coming apart. We're a rope, breaking, a single strand at a time.

America is a place of chaos, where violence rules and only the rich and powerful are safe. Lauren Olamina, a young woman with the extraordinary power to…


Book cover of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

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 memoir that charts Ellsberg’s journey from committed Cold Warrior to icon of the peace movement. What is so captivating about this account is Ellsberg’s willingness to sacrifice a booming career and his place within the inner sanctum of Washington, DC power, in the service of truth through the publication of the Pentagon Papers.

The story of his moral awakening is moving and compels readers to consider how anyone with even limited power can use their position to act in immoral situations, with the corollary that inaction and silence are often complicity.

By Daniel Ellsberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The true story of the leaking of the Pentagon Papers, the event which inspired Steven Spielberg's feature film The Post

In 1971 former Cold War hard-liner Daniel Ellsberg made history by releasing the Pentagon Papers - a 7,000-page top-secret study of U.S. decision-making in Vietnam - to the New York Times and Washington Post. The document set in motion a chain of events that ended not only the Nixon presidency but the Vietnam War. In this remarkable memoir, Ellsberg describes in dramatic detail the two years he spent in Vietnam as a U.S. State Department observer, and how he came…


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 Star Maker

Howard Bruce Franklin Author Of Crash Course: From the Good War to the Forever War

From my list on urgent menaces to the human species.

Why am I passionate about this?

My twenty books have won top awards for lifetime scholarship in American studies, science fiction, prison literature, the Vietnam war, and marine ecology. My writing is just part of my six decades as an activist for peace and justice, which made me a major target of the FBI’s operation COINTELPRO and led Stanford to fire me from my tenured professorship.  I then taught for 40 years at Rutgers University in Newark as The John Cotton Dana Professor of English and American Studies. 

Howard's book list on urgent menaces to the human species

Howard Bruce Franklin Why did Howard love this book?

No other book has influenced me so deeply. Arthur C. Clarke wrote it is "probably the most powerful work of imagination ever written." As I now reread Star Maker, published in 1937 when I was three years old, I still find passages so profound that they send my mind into orbit. The book takes us through time and space to a future when that entire conscious cosmos yearns to meet its creator. It ends with a prophetic awareness that “the struggle of our age was brewing” and the hope that our species can make it “before the ultimate darkness.”

By Olaf Stapledon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This bold exploration of the cosmos ventures into intelligent star clusters and mingles among alien races for a memorable vision of infinity. Cited as a key influence by science-fiction masters such as Doris Lessing, this classic has left its mark not only in modern literature but also in the fields of social anthropology and philosophy.
Olaf Stapledon's 1937 successor to Last and First Men offers another entrancing speculative history of the future. Its narrator, a contemporary Earthman, joins a community of explorers who travel to the farthest reaches of the universe, seeking traces of intelligence. Along the way, they encounter…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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