The most recommended books on the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Who picked these books? Meet our 8 experts.

8 authors created a book list connected to the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and here are their favorite Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki books.
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The Machineries of Joy

By Ray Bradbury,

Book cover of The Machineries of Joy: Short Stories

Harrison Demchick Author Of Reptiles: A Short Story

From the list on short horror stories on why my brain works this way.

Who am I?

I'm perhaps the inevitable result of a lifetime spent on a steady diet of magical realism, literary fiction, science-fiction, and Spider-Man comics. Fortunately I’ve been able to channel my simultaneous loves of storytelling and structure into a life as a developmental editor. And where my own work is concerned, I’ve been able to do a lot of those things my childhood self might have hoped for: a novel in The Listeners, a feature film in Ape Canyon, and a litany of strange and usually distressing short stories. These days I do those things from my Washington, D.C. apartment with my wife and our two cats with a combined seven legs.

Harrison's book list on short horror stories on why my brain works this way

Why did Harrison love this book?

"The One Who Waits," one of my favorite stories in this collection, would be regarded more commonly as science fiction, as it takes place during an Earth expedition to Mars. But Ray Bradbury’s story also pioneers the classic horror trope of a small group of people falling one by one to a mysterious creature they cannot see—and with a means of disguise highly imaginative, beautifully written, and fundamentally terrifying. Bradbury is a phenomenal writer and it’s difficult to recommend any one story without feeling certain you’ve dropped the ball in not recommending another--you really can't go wrong with this entire collection--but the quick, clever, nuanced "The One Who Waits" is one of the best sci-fi/horror hybrids ever written.

By Ray Bradbury,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Machineries of Joy Short Stories

Book cover of The Japanese Merchant Marine in World War II

Malcolm H. Murfett Author Of Naval Warfare 1919-1945: An Operational History of the Volatile War at Sea

From the list on Asian theatre in the Second World War.

Who am I?

I lived and taught in Asia for over 30 years and love the place to bits. Leaving Oxford for Singapore may have seemed like a daring adventure in 1980, but it complemented my doctoral research and introduced me to a wonderful set of students who have enriched my life ever since. Asia has a fascination for me that I can’t resist. I have written and edited 15 books on naval and defence themes, much of which have been set in the Asian continent. An associate editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for the past 25 years, I am also the editor for the series Cold War in Asia. 

Malcolm's book list on Asian theatre in the Second World War

Why did Malcolm love this book?

This book doesn’t have a catchy title and sounds rather pedestrian, but we are told never to judge a book by its cover and in this case it’s true about the title as well! Mark Parillo’s magisterial thesis taught me a great deal about why the Japanese lost the Pacific War. He explains why they stubbornly refused to convoy their merchant fleet even when, by failing to do so, they were aiding the enemy’s cause. Japan needed to import most of its war material, but once the US submarine campaign began to decimate the ships that were bringing in those vital supplies in 1944-45 the game was essentially up. Therefore, a case can be made that the war was effectively lost before the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

By Mark P. Parillo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Japanese Merchant Marine in World War II as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Making extensive use of Japanese and U.S. sources, including wartime intelligence reports from the National Defense Archives in Tokyo and recently declassified U.S. documents, this book examines the reasons for Japan's failure to protect its merchant fleet.

A Bell for Adano

By John Hersey,

Book cover of A Bell for Adano

Joseph Guzzo Author Of Mousetrap, Inc.

From the list on inspired me to become a writer and my son a reader.

Who am I?

My first job upon graduating from college was working for an invention-marketing firm. This wasn’t my intention; armed with a degree in journalism, I was ready to take on the world. Unfortunately, the country was enduring a recession, and after six months of unemployment, I was happy to be offered a copywriting position. So often during the two years I spent there, I would think to myself, “This could make such a great novel.” It took me a while—and with more than a few rejections along the way—but inspired by the writers and books I’ve included in my collection, I finally got around to penning my own tale.

Joseph's book list on inspired me to become a writer and my son a reader

Why did Joseph love this book?

I was a senior in high school, and my English teacher gave us customized reading recommendations. He thought I might like this book. He had no idea. Though often a serious work—it’s set in World War II Italythis novel exudes charm like nothing I’d ever read. There are books, TV shows, plays, and movies that you may like or even love, but when they charm you? You never forget them. Also, there’s a minor character in the book who shares my last name. I returned the favor in my novel by giving my protagonist the last name Adano.

By John Hersey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Bell for Adano as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This classic novel and winner of the Pulitzer Prize tells the story of an Italian-American major in World War II who wins the love and admiration of the local townspeople when he searches for a replacement for the 700-year-old town bell that had been melted down for bullets by the fascists. Although stituated during one of the most devastating experiences in human history, John Hersey's story speaks with unflinching patriotism and humanity.

My True Course

By Suzanne Simon Dietz,

Book cover of My True Course: Dutch Van Kirk Northumberland to Hiroshima

Robert O. Harder Author Of The Three Musketeers of the Army Air Forces: From Hitler's Fortress Europa to Hiroshima and Nagasaki

From the list on the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Who am I?

In May 1968, I arrived at my first duty station as a new B-52 navigator-bombardier. Later, at the bar, I was hailed by a booming voice from behind the beer taps. "Hi ya, lieutenant!" Moments later, he asked what I thought of the USAF so far. I said I was career-minded. ‘‘Hell, only the pilots get promoted; navigators get diddley-squat. Get out as soon as you can.” After he departed, the bartender came over. “Know who that was, lieutenant? He’s Tom Ferebee, the man who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima." The colonel had both underscored my dismal career prospects and instilled a lifelong passion for the subjects discussed in this book.

Robert's book list on the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Why did Robert love this book?

When Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk, the Enola Gay’s crack navigator, decided to self-publish his memoirs, he was over 90. He told me he wanted it as a legacy to his family. Many of his friends, however, said he waited until everyone else was dead so he could have the last word! Knowing Dutch’s impish sense of humor, I suspect it was a little of both.

No matter. Sue Dietz has done a wonderful job of chronicling Van Kirk’s long and eventful life. Further, it allowed me a clearer window into the life of bombardier Tom Ferebee—Dutch’s lifelong best friend. Just as important, Sue was extremely generous in allowing me to liberally quote from her work; my book is the better for it. 

By Suzanne Simon Dietz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On an early August morning in 1945, a Boeing Silverplate B-29 Superfortress took-off from the Tinian airfield amidst an unpublicized Hollywood-like atmosphere for the first atomic strike mission in the history of civilization. The young captain made his first notation, Time Takeoff 0245, as he again performed his duties to keep the pilot on course across the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. So began Special Mission No. 13 with hopes to bring an end to the devastation and killing of millions that occurred during World War II. The aerial navigator’s name was Theodore Jerome Van Kirk, a self-described Huck…

Ghosts of the Tsunami

By Richard Lloyd Parry,

Book cover of Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan's Disaster Zone

Peter Popham Author Of Tokyo: The City at the End of the World

From the list on modern Japan.

Who am I?

As a teenager, I became fascinated by Japan – by the mysteries of Zen, the exotic atmosphere cooked up by its great novelists, the serene beauty of the countryside captured in old photographs. Then I moved to Tokyo and for eleven years was immersed in Japanese culture. It was like getting to know a complex human being, I went from bafflement and revulsion through fascination and infatuation, arriving at a degree of understanding and affection. I love Japan and feel I know it quite intimately. But the variety of books on my list give an idea of how many different ways this great, elusive civilization can be approached.

Peter's book list on modern Japan

Why did Peter love this book?

Northern Japan was struck by one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded in 2011, followed by a disastrous tsunami in which thousands died. Lloyd Parry spent years visiting and interviewing the survivors, bringing back riveting accounts of what it means to have your life shattered by such a catastrophe and to live among the debris. These include one man’s description of being swallowed alive by the giant wave then spat out into the house of a relative which reads like a modern myth.

By Richard Lloyd Parry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


'The definitive book on the quake which killed more than 15,000 people.' Mail Online
'You will not read a finer work of narrative non-fiction this year.' Economist
'A breathtaking, extraordinary work of non-fiction.' Times Literary Supplement
'A future classic of disaster journalism.' Observer

On 11 March 2011, a massive earthquake sent a 120-foot-high tsunami smashing into the coast of north-east Japan. By the time the sea retreated, more than 18,500 people had been crushed, burned to death, or drowned.

It was Japan's greatest single loss of life since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. It…

The Rising Sun

By John Toland,

Book cover of The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945

Michael Schuman Author Of Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World

From the list on Asian history.

Who am I?

Michael Schuman is the author of three history books on Asia, most recently Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World, released in 2020. He has spent the past quarter-century as a journalist in the region. Formerly a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and Time magazine, he is currently a contributor to The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion.

Michael's book list on Asian history

Why did Michael love this book?

The masterful Toland weaves a narrative of jaw-dropping detail, drama and complexity that tells the grand and harrowing story of the Pacific War between the United States and Japan from the perspective of the Japanese. The tale takes the reader from Tokyo cabinet meetings to the deck of warships to the frontline of critical battles, to share the experiences of everyone from national leaders to top generals to ordinary soldiers. It’s one of those books that’s so good it leaves you wondering how it was even written.

By John Toland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“[The Rising Sun] is quite possibly the most readable, yet informative account of the Pacific war.”—Chicago Sun-Times

This Pulitzer Prize–winning history of World War II chronicles the dramatic rise and fall of the Japanese empire, from the invasion of Manchuria and China to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Told from the Japanese perspective, The Rising Sun is, in the author’s words, “a factual saga of people caught up in the flood of the most overwhelming war of mankind, told as it happened—muddled, ennobling, disgraceful, frustrating, full of paradox.”

In weaving together the historical facts and human drama leading…

Black Rain

By Masuji Ibuse, John Bester (translator),

Book cover of Black Rain

Constance Hays Matsumoto Author Of Of White Ashes

From the list on beyond Oppenheimer: the truth, reality, and horror.

Who am I?

I write stories and poetry intended to influence positive change in our world. Since marrying Kent 25 years ago and then growing to know and love his parents, something stirred in me to learn more and to write Of White Ashes. In our research, we relied on over 50 primary Hiroshima sources, visited the family home in Hiroshima, saw the bomb shelter my father-in-law dug into the side of a hillside, visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the few buildings that still stand, and walked where my father-in-law walked. Researching and writing Of White Ashes changed me—forever. My article, "How the History of Nuclear Violence Shapes Our Present", was published in CrimeReads.

Constance's book list on beyond Oppenheimer: the truth, reality, and horror

Why did Constance love this book?

A few weeks ago, I saw the Oppenheimer movie, now widely praised for igniting conversation and debate on the topic of nuclear weapons and criticized for failing to show the devastating impact of the bomb on the Japanese. Books like Black Rain tell that story.

The title Black Rain denotes horror. Indeed, being among those Japanese on whom the black rain fell was a horror unimaginable to most of us. Soon after the bomb exploded, thunderous inky clouds released sticky black raindrops over the city. People suffering from desperate thirst opened their mouths to the heavens and drank the deadly droplets. Later, they would learn these droplets were gifts of radioactive poison.

Written with superb attention to detail and vivid descriptions, Black Rain helps us understand the devastating impact of nuclear war on humanity.

By Masuji Ibuse, John Bester (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Black Rain is centered around the story of a young woman who was caught in the radioactive black rain' that fell after the bombing of Hiroshima. lbuse bases his tale on real-life diaries and interviews with victims of the holocaust; the result is a book that is free from sentimentality yet manages to reveal the magnitude of the human suffering caused by the atom bomb. The life of Yasuko, on whom the black rain fell, is changed forever by periodic bouts of radiation sickness and the suspicion that her future children, too, may be affected.
lbuse tempers the horror of'

Jonathan Schell

By Jonathan Schell,

Book cover of Jonathan Schell: The Fate of the Earth, the Abolition, the Unconquerable World

William Knoblauch Author Of Nuclear Freeze in a Cold War: The Reagan Administration, Cultural Activism, and the End of the Arms Race

From the list on the Cold War in the 1980s.

Who am I?

My interest in the decade and in the Cold War came during graduate school. This was where I discovered Carl Sagan’s theory of a nuclear winter: that after a nuclear war, the debris and smoke from nuclear bombs would cover the earth and make it inhabitable for life on earth. Tracing debates between this celebrity scientist and U.S. policymakers revealed a hesitancy on either side to even consider each other’s point of view. This research made me reconsider the pop culture of my youth—films like The Day After and Wargames, music like “Shout” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and books from Don DeLillo’s White Noise to Dr. Seuss’ Butter Battle Book—and ultimately see them as part of a political contest in which lives—our lives—were in the balance.  

William's book list on the Cold War in the 1980s

Why did William love this book?

In the 1940s, journalist John Hersey wrote an eye-opening expose on the effects of the atomic bombing of Japan with Hiroshima. In doing so, Hersey began to shape the already-contested memory of why America dropped “the bomb.” Following in Hersey’s footsteps, in the early 1980s Jonathan Schell penned a straightforward warning about the atomic age. After interviewing scientists, policymakers, and intellectuals, he began to pen an accessible essay exposing of what would happen to earth after a nuclear war. The result was Fate of the Earth, and it went on to become one of the most impactful pieces of non-fiction of the decade. It helped to validate scientist Carl Sagan’s controversial “nuclear winter” hypothesis, and inspired an untold number of the public to engage in antinuclear activism. To appreciate the early 1980s as a period of intense nuclear fear, this is a must-read.

By Jonathan Schell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

75 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a collected edition of three classic accounts of our nuclear predicament and the way forward to a peaceful world, by the Rachel Carson of the antiwar movement.

Brave, eloquent, and controversial, these classic works by Jonathan Schell illuminate the nuclear threat to our civilization, and envision a way forward to peace. In The Fate of the Earth--an international bestseller that inspired the nuclear freeze movement--Schell distills the best available scientific and technical information to imagine the apocalyptic aftereffects of nuclear war. Dramatizing the stakes involved in abstract discussions of military strategy, when first published…

The Wild Shore

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Book cover of The Wild Shore

Carla Gardina Pestana Author Of The World of Plymouth Plantation

From Carla's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author 17th-century archives lover Teacher 20-year yoga devotee Native Californian Historian

Carla's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Carla love this book?

Books that imagine the future fascinate me—Station Eleven was a favorite a few years ago—and The Wild Shore imagines a strange future for my native Southern California.

Written in 1984, it presents a world of isolated communities without modern conveniences and with only vague and fading recollections of the past. Living by harvesting local resources and bartering with other small communities, the young residents of this village hope for change and toy with joining a resistance movement.

The older village member who teaches reading and recounts his own version of history is brilliantly drawn. I was most intrigued by this of the three books in the trilogy, although they are all worthwhile (and the historian figure recurs cleverly across all three). 

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Wild Shore is the first novel in Kim Stanley Robinson's highly-acclaimed Three Californias Trilogy.

2047: For the small Pacific Coast community of San Onofre, life in the aftermath of a devastating nuclear attack is a matter of survival, a day-to-day struggle to stay alive. But young Hank Fletcher dreams of the world that might have been, and might yet be--and dreams of playing a crucial role in America's rebirth.