The best Cuban Missile Crisis books

4 authors have picked their favorite books about the Cuban Missile Crisis and why they recommend each book.

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

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

By Martin J. Sherwin,

Why this book?

This book is the culmination of the late Professor Sherwin’s lifetime legacy of scholarship on the development, use against Japan in August 1945, and subsequent proliferation of nuclear weapons. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for an authoritative biography of Robert Oppenheimer, Sherwin deftly reconstructs the thinking, expectations, miscalculations, and blunders of policy makers and politicians from the end of World War II to the Cuban missile crisis. He also warns that the continued presence of nuclear arms in the post-Cold War world presents even greater dangers (such as acquisition by terrorists). Sherwin recalls former secretary of state Dean Acheson’s conclusion…

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The best books on the Cuban Missile Crisis since the opening of JFK's White House tape recordings

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

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

By Michael Dobbs,

Why this book?

Michael Dobb’s book describes a pivotal and potentially catastrophic episode of the Cold War. In October 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union came to the brink of nuclear conflict over Khrushchev’s decision to base Soviet missiles in Cuba. Dobbs recounts the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis as a nail-biting chronicle of the Cold War’s most dangerous point of crisis. It includes a gripping account of Khrushchev's plan to destroy America’s Guantanamo naval base and the story of a missing spy plane over Siberia. Solid history, but written like a thriller.

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Book cover of Negotiating the Impossible: How to Break Deadlocks and Resolve Ugly Conflicts (Without Money or Muscle)

Negotiating the Impossible: How to Break Deadlocks and Resolve Ugly Conflicts (Without Money or Muscle)

By Deepak Malhotra,

Why this book?

I am recommending this book because Malhotra et al take on a series of very difficult negotiations that look like they are impossible to solve and they show you how it was done. The book is very practical and demonstrates to the reader that many negotiations can be solved with the right frame of mind, creativity, and persistence. 

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Book cover of The Silent Guns of Two Octobers: Kennedy and Khrushchev Play the Double Game

The Silent Guns of Two Octobers: Kennedy and Khrushchev Play the Double Game

By Theodore Voorhees,

Why this book?

Voorhees' assessment of John F. Kennedy's leadership during the Cuban missile crisis is strikingly different from most books on the subject. He examines JFK's decision-making through the lens of the president's domestic political concerns and use of back-channel diplomacy with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev rather than through the conventional workings of his foreign and national security policy establishments. He also challenges the prevailing view that Kennedy's ultimate strategy for resolving the crisis was primarily shaped by the “ExComm” or by the top officials at the Pentagon, State Department, and CIA. Voorhees insists, supported by an impressive array of evidence, that…

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The best books on the Cuban Missile Crisis since the opening of JFK's White House tape recordings

Book cover of Blind Over Cuba: The Photo Gap and the Missile Crisis

Blind Over Cuba: The Photo Gap and the Missile Crisis

By David M. Barrett, Max Holland,

Why this book?

In 1960, a planned summit meeting in Paris between the US, the USSR, England, and France was suddenly jeopardized when an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over Russia and the pilot captured. Khrushchev demanded an end to the flights and an apology. President Eisenhower agreed to suspend flights until the end of his term (nine months later), but the Soviet leader angrily denounced the offer and returned to Moscow. Ironically, President Kennedy’s concern in 1962 about “another U-2 crisis” convinced him to suspend U-2 flights over Cuba—a pause that lasted from late August to early October. JFK did…

From the list:

The best books on the Cuban Missile Crisis since the opening of JFK's White House tape recordings

Book cover of Awaiting Armageddon: How Americans Faced the Cuban Missile Crisis

Awaiting Armageddon: How Americans Faced the Cuban Missile Crisis

By Alice L George,

Why this book?

At the height of the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy met with the Pentagon’s head of civil defense, Steuart Pittman, to assess plans for protecting the American civilian population in the event of nuclear war. JFK mistakenly claimed that rural America could be better protected from radiation than urban America; Pittman, however, bluntly told the president that he was wrong: insisting that, “the only protection today is in the cities and there is little or no protection in the rural areas.” Kennedy became quite irritated, but unfortunately, his harsh reply was largely lost because the sound quality of the tape…

From the list:

The best books on the Cuban Missile Crisis since the opening of JFK's White House tape recordings

Book cover of The Soviet Cuban Missile Crisis: Castro, Mikoyan, Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Missiles of November

The Soviet Cuban Missile Crisis: Castro, Mikoyan, Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Missiles of November

By Sergo Mikoyan, Svetlana Savranskaya (editor),

Why this book?

The books discussed above concentrate on the missile crisis in the US, but there was also a crisis in Moscow and Havana. Americans called this event “the Cuban missile crisis,” the Soviets called it “the Caribbean Crisis,” and the Cubans “the October crisis”—because conflict with the US had become a recurring fact of life in Cuba. The Kennedy administration had also been sponsoring sabotage and political assassination in Cuba kept secret from the American people but well known to the Russians and the Cubans. The Soviet Cuban Missile Crisis opens a window into Castro’s fury at not being informed or…

From the list:

The best books on the Cuban Missile Crisis since the opening of JFK's White House tape recordings

Book cover of The Spy Who Saved the World: How a Soviet Colonel Changed the Course of the Cold War

The Spy Who Saved the World: How a Soviet Colonel Changed the Course of the Cold War

By Jerrold L. Schecter, Peter S. Deriabin,

Why this book?

Schecter, a journalist, and Deriabin, a KGB officer who defected to the U.S., tell the inside story of Oleg Penkovsky, the history-changing Soviet GRU colonel who delivered critical information that helped the CIA and President John F. Kennedy avoid nuclear disaster during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The inside account delivers fascinating details about Penkovsky’s motivations, actions, and tragic demise, as well as a gripping narration of how the CIA handled one of the Cold War’s most important intelligence operations.

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