The most recommended books on the arms race

Who picked these books? Meet our 9 experts.

9 authors created a book list connected to the arms race, and here are their favorite arms race books.
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Book cover of The Zap Gun

Robert Zwilling Author Of Asteroid Fever

From my list on science fiction books where the big break doesn't change anything.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been fascinated by science and everything mysterious. I love to read science fiction and mystery stories. I use art and literature to explore reality. Writing or painting allows me to link seemingly unrelated topics together to create my own explanations for why things are the way they appear to be. The biggest things in the universe are replicated on Earth right down to sub-atomic size. I call that life imitating stars. Life is an endless resource found everywhere in the universe, and it's not restricted to just light or heat to grow; it only needs energy.

Robert's book list on science fiction books where the big break doesn't change anything

Robert Zwilling Why did Robert love this book?

As we continue our journey into the future, things that people thought would change to our advantage have not turned out the way. I like P. K. Dick's stories because he was a master at understanding how the future would upend traditional lifestyles, jobs, and housing.

This book is about a man who makes highly creative weapons for the government designed to keep the country in power. The kicker is that none of the weapons actually work. On the other side, his counterpoint is doing the same thing, making ridiculous super weapons. When real aliens show up, they find themselves trying to work together to make something that works for real while still superstitiously battling each other under the guise of a white flag.

By Philip K Dick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Scaldingly sarcastic yet enduringly empathetic, THE ZAP GUN is Dick's remarkable novel depicting the insanity of the arms race.

Lars Powderdry and Lilo Topchev are counterpart weapons fashion designers for a world divided into two factions - Wes-bloc and Peep-East. Since the Plowshare Protocols of 2002, their job has been to invent elaborate weapons that only seem massively lethal.

But when alien satellites hostile to both sides appear in the sky, the two are brought together in the dire hope that they can create a weapon to save the world, a task made all the more difficult by Lars falling…

Book cover of The Wizards of Armageddon

Paul Lashmar Author Of Britain's Secret Propaganda War

From my list on the madness of the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started researching the way the West’s intelligence services manipulated the public when I was a student in the mid-1970s. I then became an investigative journalist and often returned to the subject in different ways, especially as a national security correspondent. I fully acknowledge the massive manipulation by the Communist Bloc during the Cold War but believe that it is important the public is aware of the manipulation that the West’s Cold Warriors utilized is fully known and recognized as it has left a legacy that has allowed for the rise of ‘fake news’.

Paul's book list on the madness of the Cold War

Paul Lashmar Why did Paul love this book?

Kaplan’s book captured the mindset of the Cold Warriors and how the concept of a nuclear holocaust became accepted. Brilliantly researched and written with a dispassionate eye, it remains one of the most insightful accounts of the nuclear weapons race and how it was exploited by the military to build their own empires. It was a great influence on my film Baiting the Bear about General Curtis 'Bomb them back to the Stone Age’ Lemay that I made for BBC's Timewatch in 1996. I haven’t yet read Kaplan’s latest book, The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War, which looks like a development of Wizards with new declassified material. 

By Fred Kaplan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the untold story of the small group of men who have devised the plans and shaped the policies on how to use the Bomb. The book (first published in 1983) explores the secret world of these strategists of the nuclear age and brings to light a chapter in American political and military history never before revealed.

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 Stem Cell Dilemma: Beacons of Hope or Harbingers of Doom?

Jonathan Slack Author Of Stem Cells: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on stem cells from a scientist who studies them.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent my career in developmental biology: the science of how embryos develop. My main discovery was the discovery of one of the signals that controls development, called the fibroblast growth factor. Stem cell biology grew up on the basis of previous discoveries in developmental biology, and now, every day, people around the world use fibroblast growth factor among other substances to control the development of their stem cells. From 2007-2012 I was Director of the Stem Cell Institute at the University of Minnesota, so I got a good inside view of the whole field.

Jonathan's book list on stem cells from a scientist who studies them

Jonathan Slack Why did Jonathan love this book?

This is a popular book, focusing on human interest but still scientifically reputable. Its main theme is the ethics, law, and politics of stem cells, mostly from a US perspective. It describes the debate in the USA about embryonic stem cells and how it polarized the nation. It covers many examples of political maneuvering to establish rules and regulations. It also has an international dimension and describes the legal position in countries around the world. I like it because I was in the USA during many of these debates and feel the book nicely captures the atmosphere of the controversy.

By Leo Furcht, William Hoffman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Today's scientists are showing us how stem cells create and repair the human body. Unlocking these secrets has become the new Holy Grail of biomedical research. But behind that search lies a sharp divide, one that has continued for years. Stem cells offer the hope of creating or repairing tissues lost to age, disease, and injury. Yet, because of this ability, stem cells also hold the potential to incite an international biological arms race.

The Stem Cell Dilemma illuminates everything you need to know about stem cells, and in this new edition the authors have included up-to-date information on scientific…

Book cover of Bomb: The Race to Build--And Steal--The World's Most Dangerous Weapon

William L. McGee Author Of Operation Crossroads - Lest We Forget!: An Eyewitness Account, Bikini Atomic Bomb Tests 1946

From my list on the atomic bomb tests at the Bikini Atoll in 1946.

Why am I passionate about this?

William L. McGee is an award-winning World War II Pacific war historian. His writing career has spanned six decades and his writing style has been described as journalistic and spare. Bill currently has nine titles in print; six with his co-author and wife, Sandra V. McGee.

William's book list on the atomic bomb tests at the Bikini Atoll in 1946

William L. McGee Why did William love this book?

Many books have been written about the development of the atomic bomb, most of them more technical than the average reader wants or needs. That is why I’m recommending this book. Don’t let the “Perfect for middle grade readers” in the Amazon book description put you off. The book was factual, yet read like a spy thriller. The only thing I missed was a cast of characters in the front matter, so I created a list as I read.

By Steve Sheinkin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bomb as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

In December of 1938, a chemist in a German laboratory made a shocking discovery: when placed next to radioactive material, a Uranium atom split in two. That simple discovery launched a scientific race that spanned three continents. In Great Britain and the United States, Soviet spies worked their way into the scientific community; in Norway, a commando force slipped behind enemy lines to attack German heavy water manufacturing; and deep in the desert, one brilliant group of scientists was hidden away at Los Alamos. This is the story of the plotting, risk taking, deceit, and genius that created the world's…

Book cover of The German Wife

Stephanie Landsem Author Of Code Name Edelweiss

From Stephanie's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Historian Christian Reader Mom

Stephanie's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Stephanie Landsem Why did Stephanie love this book?

I grew up loving the culture and language of Germany and my own German heritage. Still, I've always been haunted by the question of how so many Germans went along with -- or at the very least allowed -- Adolph Hitler to carry out his horrific plan for world domination and genocide.

The German Wife is a deeply moving story that answers the question of how one family was inexorably ensnared by the Nazi party and forced into compliance with evil.

The parallel story in this dual-timeline novel was an equally compelling view of the complicity of the United States in the 1950s arms race. Both storylines were thought-provoking, and the ending was equally heartbreaking and hopeful.

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…