The most recommended Cuban Missile Crisis books

Who picked these books? Meet our 16 experts.

16 authors created a book list connected to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and here are their favorite Cuban Missile Crisis books.
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Book cover of Has Man a Future?

Nayef R.F. Al-Rodhan Author Of The Role of the Arab-Islamic World in the Rise of the West: Implications for Contemporary Trans-Cultural Relations

From my list on the frontier risks facing humanity in the 21st Century.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a philosopher, neuroscientist, geostrategist, and futurologist. My work at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, St. Antony’s College, and the World Economic Forum (as a member of the Global Future Council on the Future of Complex Risks) focuses on transdisciplinarity, with an emphasis on the interplay between philosophy, neuroscience, strategic culture, applied history, technology, and global security. I am particularly interested in the exponential growth of disruptive technologies, and how they have the potential to both foster and hinder the progress of human civilization. My mission is rooted in finding transdisciplinary solutions to identify, predict and manage frontier risks, both here on earth and in Outer Space.

Nayef's book list on the frontier risks facing humanity in the 21st Century

Nayef R.F. Al-Rodhan Why did Nayef love this book?

On a basic level, this is a book about nuclear weapons and why humanity ought to eschew them. But it is also much more than that.

Published on the eve of the Cuban Missile Crisis, this masterpiece examines three foreseeable scenarios for the human race: the end of human life, a decline to barbarism after a disastrous decrease of the world’s population, and a unification of the world under a single government.

Russell describes how “pride, arrogance and fear of loss of face have obscured the power of judgment.” This is sadly no less true today, as the emotionality of human beings continues to strongly influence international relations.

By Bertrand Russell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Has Man a Future? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First Printing


Book cover of Eyeball to Eyeball: The Inside Story of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Francis Gary Powers Jr.

From my list on the Cuban Missile Crisis and aerial reconnaissance.

Why am I passionate about this?

Both my parents worked for the CIA in the 1950s and 1960s. On May 1, 1960 my father was shot down over the Soviet Union while on a CIA U-2 spy flight and spent nearly 2 years in a Soviet prison before being exchanged for Soviet KGB Spy Colonel Rudolph Abel in 1962 as recently depicted in Steven Spielberg’s Cold War thriller, Bridge of Spies. As a result of growing up in this family I have always been interested in espionage and the Cold War. In 1996, I founded The Cold War Museum to honor Cold War veterans, preserve Cold War history, and educate future generations about this time period.

Francis' book list on the Cuban Missile Crisis and aerial reconnaissance

Francis Gary Powers Jr. Why did Francis love this book?

This book was written by one of the leading photographic interpreters of the Cold War. He worked directly under Art Lundahl at the National Photographic Interpretive Center (NPIC) in preparing and briefing President Kennedy on the high-altitude U-2 and low-level RF-8A Crusader's photoreconnaissance imagery that confirmed Soviet missiles in Cuba. Dino Brugioni was a family friend and a mentor to me as a young adult. He personally escorted me thru the CIA headquarters in 1977 when I was 12 years old shortly after my father’s death earlier that year. When I founded The Cold War Museum in 1996, Dino agreed to serve as an Advisory Board Member. Dino is a great writer and researcher. This book really helps the reader to learn about the importance of photographic reconnaissance, Cuban Missile Crisis, and how close we came to nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

By Dino A. Brugioni,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Offers a day-to-day account of the crisis, drawing on interviews and inside knowledge to discuss how the Russian missiles were actually discovered, what the United States told foreign leaders, and more


Book cover of Countdown to 13 Days and Beyond: U.S. Marine Aerial Reconnaissance Operations Against Castor’s Cuba 1960-1990

Francis Gary Powers Jr.

From my list on the Cuban Missile Crisis and aerial reconnaissance.

Why am I passionate about this?

Both my parents worked for the CIA in the 1950s and 1960s. On May 1, 1960 my father was shot down over the Soviet Union while on a CIA U-2 spy flight and spent nearly 2 years in a Soviet prison before being exchanged for Soviet KGB Spy Colonel Rudolph Abel in 1962 as recently depicted in Steven Spielberg’s Cold War thriller, Bridge of Spies. As a result of growing up in this family I have always been interested in espionage and the Cold War. In 1996, I founded The Cold War Museum to honor Cold War veterans, preserve Cold War history, and educate future generations about this time period.

Francis' book list on the Cuban Missile Crisis and aerial reconnaissance

Francis Gary Powers Jr. Why did Francis love this book?

I first met Colonel Whitten in October 2012 when he attended the Cuban Missile Crisis 50th Anniversary conference that I organized for The Cold War Museum and George Mason University. His book is a nonfiction narrative about the Marine Composite Reconnaissance Squadron 2 (VMCJ-2) that flew low-level photographic reconnaissance flights over Cuba before, during, and after the Crisis in their F8U-1P (RF-8A) Crusaders. As a result of these missions, the VMCJ-2 squadron was awarded a Navy Unit Commendation for the period September 1, 1960 – December 1, 1962. According to USMC Brigadier General William A. Bloomer (ret) who wrote the forward, this book not only gives an account of the Marine Corps role in the Crisis but also, “recounts Castro’s rise to power, the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and his build up in military capabilities courtesy of the Soviet Union.”

Book cover of Blue Moon Over Cuba: Aerial Reconnaissance during the Cuban Missile Crisis

Francis Gary Powers Jr.

From my list on the Cuban Missile Crisis and aerial reconnaissance.

Why am I passionate about this?

Both my parents worked for the CIA in the 1950s and 1960s. On May 1, 1960 my father was shot down over the Soviet Union while on a CIA U-2 spy flight and spent nearly 2 years in a Soviet prison before being exchanged for Soviet KGB Spy Colonel Rudolph Abel in 1962 as recently depicted in Steven Spielberg’s Cold War thriller, Bridge of Spies. As a result of growing up in this family I have always been interested in espionage and the Cold War. In 1996, I founded The Cold War Museum to honor Cold War veterans, preserve Cold War history, and educate future generations about this time period.

Francis' book list on the Cuban Missile Crisis and aerial reconnaissance

Francis Gary Powers Jr. Why did Francis love this book?

Kenneth Jack and I first met in July 2012 when I was in the process of organizing the 50th Anniversary Conference on the Cuban Missile crisis for The Cold War Museum and George Mason University. As a result of his interest in preserving a firsthand account of the Cuban Missile Crisis he was able to get Captain Ecker’s memoir published in 2012 (3 years after Capt Ecker’s death) just in time for the 50th anniversary of the crisis. Captain Ecker was the commanding officer of the US Navy Light Photographic Squadron (VFP-62) during the Crisis. Under heavy enemy fire, he and his fellow pilots flew numerous low-level photo reconnaissance missions over Cuba in their RF-8A Crusaders.

As a result of these flights over the missile launch sites in Cuba and high-altitude photos taken by the U-2, President Kennedy was able to show the world irrefutable proof that the Soviets were…

By William B. Ecker, Kenneth V. Jack,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Blue Moon Over Cuba as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Most books on the Cuban Missile Crisis tell the story using the memoirs of those who advised President Kennedy as he struggled to avoid World War III. This book is the only known personal account of the lead photographic reconnaissance squadron's scouting dangerous low-level operations, flying the supersonic RF-8A Crusader, during the classified Operation Blue Moon. Captain Ecker was the commanding officer of US Navy Light Photographic Squadron 62 (VFP-62, otherwise known as "Fightin' Photo") during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a team created for reconnaissance and aerial photography, and consulted on the movie Thirteen Days, which included dramatic scenes of…


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

Steve Vogel Author Of Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War's Most Audacious Espionage Operation

From my list on accurate non-fiction about Cold War espionage.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author and veteran journalist who reported for The Washington Post for more than two decades, and I write frequently about military history and intelligence. My father worked for the CIA, and I was born in Berlin when he was stationed there as a case officer. Later I was based in Germany as a foreign correspondent when the Berlin Wall came down. So it’s not too surprising that I am interested in Cold War espionage and history. As a reporter, author, and reader, I’ve always been attracted to stories off the beaten track, the ones that most people know little or nothing about. 

Steve's book list on accurate non-fiction about Cold War espionage

Steve Vogel Why did Steve love 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.

By Jerrold L. Schecter, Peter S. Deriabin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Spy Who Saved the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Examines how Oleg Penkovsky provided U.S. intelligence with data on Soviet nuclear capabilities


Book cover of DEFCON-2: Standing on the Brink of Nuclear War During the Cuban Missile Crisis

Francis Gary Powers Jr.

From my list on the Cuban Missile Crisis and aerial reconnaissance.

Why am I passionate about this?

Both my parents worked for the CIA in the 1950s and 1960s. On May 1, 1960 my father was shot down over the Soviet Union while on a CIA U-2 spy flight and spent nearly 2 years in a Soviet prison before being exchanged for Soviet KGB Spy Colonel Rudolph Abel in 1962 as recently depicted in Steven Spielberg’s Cold War thriller, Bridge of Spies. As a result of growing up in this family I have always been interested in espionage and the Cold War. In 1996, I founded The Cold War Museum to honor Cold War veterans, preserve Cold War history, and educate future generations about this time period.

Francis' book list on the Cuban Missile Crisis and aerial reconnaissance

Francis Gary Powers Jr. Why did Francis love this book?

Norman Polmar and I have been colleagues and friends for over 20 years. Not only have we served together on several Cold War history panels including the DIA’s 60th-anniversary conference on the Cuban Missile Crisis in 2022, but we also co-authored the Epilog for my father’s book, Operation Overflight, when it was republished in 2004. Polmar’s book is an in-depth study of the personalities that orchestrated the Cuban Missile Crisis. Even the title, DEFCON-2, emphasizes exactly how close we came to launching an all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union in October 1962.

By Norman Polmar, John D. Gresham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked DEFCON-2 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The closest we've ever come to the end of the world

"DEFCON-2 is the best single volume on the Cuban Missile Crisis published and is an important contribution to the history of the Cold War. Beyond the military and political facts of the crisis, Polmar and Gresham sketch the personalities that created and coped with the crisis. They also show us how close we came to the edge without becoming sensationalistic."—Larry Bond, bestselling author of Dangerous Ground

Spy-satellite and aerial-reconnaissance photos reveal that one of the United States's bitterest enemies may be acquiring weapons of mass destruction and the means…


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 Love & Saffron: A Novel of Friendship, Food, and Love

Ellie Alexander Author Of Muffin But the Truth

From my list on heartwarming foodies to cozy up with this winter.

Why am I passionate about this?

I wrote my first mystery in second grade, thinking I was writing a page-turning thriller when in reality I penned a sweet, little cozy where everything turns out okay in the end and everyone always has a cup of hot chocolate and a vanilla cookie in hand. Somehow, I’ve managed to turn my love of baking and writing into a long-term career. With over 30 mysteries and counting I’m not sure if I’m going to run out of recipes or ways to kill someone off first. 

Ellie's book list on heartwarming foodies to cozy up with this winter

Ellie Alexander Why did Ellie love this book?

This sweet gem is like a salve for any food-loving reader’s soul. I devoured it on a stormy weekend, curled up on my couch with a cup of tea and it has stayed with me ever since. The story is set in the 1960s and written entirely in letters between an aspiring food writer in LA and a food columnist in the Puget Sound. Who knew that you couldn’t find garlic in the grocery store back in the 60s or that a simple gift of saffron would lead to a lasting friendship. Love & Saffron is a tender novel about friendship and how food connects us. I have literally given this book to all of my friends. It will warm your heart and leave you hungry for more. 

By Kim Fay,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Instant National Bestseller and #1 Indie Next Pick

In the vein of the classic 84, Charing Cross Road, this witty and tender novel follows two women in 1960s America as they discover that food really does connect us all, and that friendship and laughter are the best medicine.

When twenty-seven-year-old Joan Bergstrom sends a fan letter--as well as a gift of saffron--to fifty-nine-year-old Imogen Fortier, a life-changing friendship begins. Joan lives in Los Angeles and is just starting out as a writer for the newspaper food pages. Imogen lives on Camano Island outside Seattle, writing a monthly column for…


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…