The most recommended military policy books

Who picked these books? Meet our 32 experts.

32 authors created a book list connected to military policy, and here are their favorite military policy books.
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What type of military policy book?


Book cover of How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon

David J. Dunford Author Of From Sadat to Saddam: The Decline of American Diplomacy in the Middle East

From the list on understanding how to fix U.S. diplomacy.

Who am I?

My passion is fixing our diplomacy. Relatively late in my career, I found a new home working with and for some of the Foreign Service’s most talented people. My assignments in Egypt and Saudi Arabia (during the 1990-91 Gulf War) led to my appointment as ambassador in Oman. After retirement I returned to Cairo to set up a regional multilateral development bank (we were unsuccessful) and later rebuild Iraq’s foreign ministry. I experienced the negative and frustrating impact of politicization and militarization on our foreign policy. Knowing we can and must do better motivated me to write From Sadat to Saddam and to commend to you the five books below.    

David's book list on understanding how to fix U.S. diplomacy

Why did David love this book?

This book entertains while recounting the militarization of our foreign policy. Post-retirement, I worked briefly for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and later as a contractor helping to train military units headed for Iraq and Afghanistan. Our professional military is a superb fighting machine but the decisions to invade Iraq and Afghanistan inevitably resulted in challenges diplomats and development workers are best equipped to handle. The budget-slashing reinvention of government during the Clinton years meant there weren’t enough trained civilians to handle existing priorities much less a surge to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan. As Rosa Brooks writes, from the perspective of both an insider and a superb reporter, the military became everything. The military had the money while civilian agencies like State and USAID were underfunded.

By Rosa Brooks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A dynamic work of reportage" (The New York Times) written "with clarity and...wit" (The New York Times Book Review) about what happens when the ancient boundary between war and peace is erased.

Once, war was a temporary state of affairs. Today, America's wars are everywhere and forever: our enemies change constantly and rarely wear uniforms, and virtually anything can become a weapon. As war expands, so does the role of the US military. Military personnel now analyze computer code, train Afghan judges, build Ebola isolation wards, eavesdrop on electronic communications, develop soap operas, and patrol for pirates. You name it,…

Reign of Terror

By Spencer Ackerman,

Book cover of Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump

Jordan Neben Author Of A Lot of Questions, with No Answers

From the list on thinking about history and how we understand it.

Who am I?

Like many people, my passions were first ignited when I was a toddler, and I mainly have my maternal grandfather to thank what for interests me. I remember coming to my grandparent’s house when I was young and watching WWII documentaries that my grandfather had on VHS (yes, I’m that old). Since then, I’ve always had a passion for history. It doesn’t really matter the subject, I’m interested in everything; from the Ottoman Empire to the Vietnam War, to the Spanish Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula, to the US-backed coup in Guatemala during the Cold War. I hope that passion for history comes through when readers explore my book.  

Jordan's book list on thinking about history and how we understand it

Why did Jordan love this book?

I’ll never forget how enthralled I was from the very beginning of Reign of Terror. Ackerman begins the book with a fascinating contrast in behavior that demonstrates that Americans have not abandoned nearly as much of their race prejudices as we like to pretend. In 1995, when Timothy McVeigh (with the help of many white supremacist groups) bombed the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, he was put through all of the standard legal procedures required under the law. When the United States was hunting extremists in the war on terror, we created places such as Guantanamo Bay and other CIA black sites to extrajudicially hold and torture people. The way Ackerman frames America’s behavior during the war on terror makes Reign of Terror a must-read in my opinion. 

By Spencer Ackerman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New York Times Critics' Top Book of 2021

"An impressive combination of diligence and verve, deploying Ackerman's deep stores of knowledge as a national security journalist to full effect. The result is a narrative of the last 20 years that is upsetting, discerning and brilliantly argued." -The New York Times

"One of the most illuminating books to come out of the Trump era." -New York Magazine

An examination of the profound impact that the War on Terror had in pushing American politics and society in an authoritarian direction

For an entire generation, at home and abroad, the United States…

Berlin in the Balance

By Thomas Parrish,

Book cover of Berlin in the Balance: The Blockade, the Airlift, the First Major Battle of the Cold War

Helena P. Schrader Author Of Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

From the list on the Russian blockade of Berlin and the Allied Airlift.

Who am I?

I first went to Berlin after college, determined to write a novel about the German Resistance; I stayed a quarter of a century. Initially, the Berlin Airlift, something remembered with pride and affection, helped create common ground between me as an American and the Berliners. Later, I was commissioned to write a book about the Airlift and studied the topic in depth. My research included interviews with many participants including Gail Halvorsen. These encounters with eyewitnesses inspired me to write my current three-part fiction project, Bridge to Tomorrow. With Russian aggression again threatening Europe, the story of the airlift that defeated Soviet state terrorism has never been more topical. 

Helena's book list on the Russian blockade of Berlin and the Allied Airlift

Why did Helena love this book?

Parris’ book provides a “peek behind the curtains” to look at the decision-making process, particularly in Washington.

He uses eye-witness reports to highlight the differences between the various actors, and underlines disagreements within governments. Truman, for example, was not only often at odds with his generals and diplomats, he was also considered a “lame duck” president, destined for electoral defeat during the critical early months of the blockade and airlift.

Understanding his relationships with his cabinet officials is thus extremely illuminating and well handled by Parrish. The weakness of the book is that its focus on American politics and issues results in a comparative neglect of British, German, and Soviet perspectives.   

By Thomas Parrish,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In June 1948, Soviet authorities in Germany announced a land blockade of the American, British, and French sectors of Berlin. Isolated more than one hundred miles within Soviet-occupied territory, western Berlin was in danger of running out of coal, food, and the courage to stand up to Joseph Stalin.As Berlin in the Balance recounts, this crisis was a turning-point for U.S. policy. Just three years earlier, the Soviet Union had been an ally and Berlin the target of American bombers. In 1946 Winston Churchill had ignited protests by calling for an Anglo-American alliance against the USSR. The Berlin blockade made…

Arms and Influence

By Thomas C. Schelling,

Book cover of Arms and Influence: With a New Preface and Afterword

Martin Van Creveld Author Of The Privileged Sex

From the list on on war, full stop.

Who am I?

As a professor emeritus of history at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, over the years I’ve been widely mentioned as one of the world’s foremost experts on military theory and history. On these and other topics I have written 34 books, which between them have been published in 19 languages. I’ve also consulted with defense departments, taught and lectured all over the world, etc., etc.

Martin's book list on on war, full stop

Why did Martin love this book?

In the whole of military history, no year was more important than 1945. Why? Because it introduced nuclear weapons to the world and the world to nuclear weapons. Both before and after Hiroshima new weapons have always affected the way war is waged; whereas nuclear ones, by threatening to turn even the “victor” into a radioactive desert, have cast doubt on the purpose for which may be waged and even whether it can be waged at all. 

As the current war in Ukraine has shown once again, provided both sides have a credible second-strike capability using nuclear weapons to win a war is impossible. So what can they be used for and how? Proceeding step by step Schelling, a Nobel-Prize winning professor of game theory, provides the answers in ways that not only have not been improved upon since the book was published in 1965 but are easy to understand…

By Thomas C. Schelling,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Traditionally, Americans have viewed war as an alternative to diplomacy, and military strategy as the science of victory. Today, however, in our world of nuclear weapons, military power is not so much exercised as threatened. It is, Mr. Schelling says, bargaining power, and the exploitation of this power, for good or evil, to preserve peace or to threaten war, is diplomacy-the diplomacy of violence. The author concentrates in this book on the way in which military capabilities-real or imagined-are used, skillfully or clumsily, as bargaining power. He sees the steps taken by the U.S. during the Berlin and Cuban crises…


By Stephen G. Fritz,

Book cover of Ostkrieg: Hitler's War of Extermination in the East

Richard Overy Author Of Blood and Ruins: The Great Imperial War 1931-1945

From the list on key moments in World War II and the soldiers who fought in them.

Who am I?

I am a professional historian who has been writing books for more than forty years. Most of the books have been about war and dictatorship in the first half of the twentieth century. My last book, The Bombing War: Europe 1939-1945, developed my long interest in air war history, which goes back to my first major book written in 1980 on air warfare in World War II.

Richard's book list on key moments in World War II and the soldiers who fought in them

Why did Richard love this book?

There are a great many books written on the Soviet-German conflict. In this volume, Fritz makes the most of all the recent research and his familiarity with Hitler’s military career, to create a vibrant narrative of the largest conflict in World War II. What makes this account different is Fritz’s ability to weave together the story of the campaigns and the murderous, genocidal strategies pursued by the German invader. Hitler waged two wars, against the Red Army and against the Jews. Fritz charts their twin course, making greater sense of the nature of a savage and merciless war.

By Stephen G. Fritz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On June 22, 1941, Germany launched the greatest land assault in history on the Soviet Union, an attack that Adolf Hitler deemed crucial to ensure German economic and political survival. As the key theater of the war for the Germans, the eastern front consumed enormous levels of resources and accounted for 75 percent of all German casualties. Despite the significance of this campaign to Germany and to the war as a whole, few English-language publications of the last thirty-five years have addressed these pivotal events. In Ostkrieg: Hitler's War of Extermination in the East, Stephen G. Fritz bridges the gap…

Arming Mother Nature

By Jacob Darwin Hamblin,

Book cover of Arming Mother Nature: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism

Simo Laakkonen Author Of The Long Shadows: A Global Environmental History of the Second World War

From the list on the environmental history of war.

Who am I?

Simo Laakkonen is director of Degree Program in Digital Culture, Landscape and Cultural Heritage, University of Turku, Finland. He is an environmental historian who has specialized among other things on the global environmental history of warfare during Industrial Age. He has coedited on this theme two special issues and three books, the latest one is The Resilient City in World War II: Urban Environmental Histories. He has selected five books that cover some main phases of the long environmental history of wars and mass violence.

Simo's book list on the environmental history of war

Why did Simo love this book?

After Hiroshima and Nagasaki no one knew, with certainty, the outcomes of Western techno-scientific progress.

If governmental laboratories had been able to develop in secrecy bombs that could wipe out an entire city, then how sanguine could anyone be of fruits of scientific research?

Dr. Hamblin shows how scientists in Western laboratories exceeded even the most outlandish sci-fi fantasies of the Cold War.

In addition to developing biological and radiological weapons, scientists explored various ways to exploit crop destruction, massive fires, artificial earthquakes and tsunamis, ocean current manipulation, sea level tinkering, weather control, and even climate change in the coming World War III.

By Jacob Darwin Hamblin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Arming Mother Nature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Famines. Diseases. Natural catastrophes. In 1945, scientists imagined these as the future faces of war. The United States and its allies prepared for a global struggle against the Soviet Union by using science to extend "total war" ideas to the natural environment. Biological and radiological weapons, crop destruction, massive fires, artificial earthquakes and tsunamis, ocean current manipulation, sea level tinkering, weather control, and even climate change-all
these became avenues of research at the height of the Cold War. By the 1960s, a new phrase had emerged: environmental warfare.

The same science-in fact, many of the same people-also led the way…

Book cover of No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes

Gregory A. Daddis Author Of Pulp Vietnam: War and Gender in Cold War Men's Adventure Magazines

From the list on war and society.

Who am I?

I am the USS Midway Chair in Modern US Military History at San Diego State University. I’ve been teaching courses on the relationships between war and society for years and am fascinated not just by the causes and conduct of war, but, more importantly, by the costs of war. To me, Americans have a rather peculiar connection with war. In many ways, war has become an integral part of American conduct overseas—and our very identity. And yet we often don’t study it to question some of our basic assumptions about what war can do, what it means, and what the consequences are for wielding armed force so readily overseas.

Gregory's book list on war and society

Why did Gregory love this book?

I have been teaching about the wars in Afghanistan since 2004 and this book is the best at showcasing how individual lives are indelibly affected by armed conflict. Gopal is fabulous in humanizing his characters—a Taliban commander, a member of the US-backed Afghan government, or a village housewife. And he demonstrates how none of these people fit neatly into the preconceived categories applied to them by Americans.

Perhaps better than any other book on Afghanistan after 9/11, Gopal also reveals the limits of US military power overseas. In many ways, the presence of American soldiers exacerbated local conflict rather than ameliorating it. A powerful book arguing against those who extol the value of “generational wars” to achieve US foreign policy objectives.

By Anand Gopal,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Good Men Among the Living as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Through their dramatic stories, Gopal shows that the Afghan war, so often regarded as a hopeless quagmire, could in fact have gone very differently. Top Taliban leaders actually tried to surrender within months of the US invasion, renouncing all political activity and submitting to the new government. Effectively, the Taliban ceased to exist - yet the Americans were unwilling to accept such a turnaround. Instead, driven by false intelligence from their allies and an unyielding mandate to fight terrorism, American forces continued to press the conflict, resurrecting the insurgency that persists to this day. With its intimate accounts of life…

The Fear of Invasion

By David G. Morgan-Owen,

Book cover of The Fear of Invasion: Strategy, Politics, and British War Planning, 1880-1914

Matthew S. Seligmann Author Of Rum, Sodomy, Prayers, and the Lash Revisited: Winston Churchill and Social Reform in the Royal Navy, 1900-1915

From the list on Churchill’s First World War Navy.

Who am I?

I am a British naval historian and winner of the Sir Julian Corbett Prize for Naval History. My main area of interest is the Anglo-German naval race before the First World War. I have written numerous books on this topic including Rum, Sodomy, Prayers, and the Lash Revisited: Winston Churchill and Social Reform in the Royal Navy, 1900-1915 (2018); The Naval Route to the Abyss: The Anglo-German Naval Race, 1895-1914 (2015); The Royal Navy and the German Threat, 1901-1914 (2012); Naval Intelligence from Germany (2007); and Spies in Uniform: British Military and Naval Intelligence on the Eve of the First World War (2006). 

Matthew's book list on Churchill’s First World War Navy

Why did Matthew love this book?

This book genuinely changes our understanding of British defence policy before the First World War. It is often assumed that the German challenge to British naval supremacy before 1914 was a mirage and that fears that Germany might launch an invasion of the British Isles were simple scaremongering. The reality was different. The Royal Navy may have been bigger and stronger than its German counterpart, but its task was harder and its leaders were not confident that they could prevent German soldiers from landing on British soil. Based on first-rate research, this book explains why.

By David G. Morgan-Owen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Fear of Invasion presents a new interpretation of British preparation for War before 1914. It argues that protecting the British Isles from invasion was the foundation upon which all other plans for the defence of the Empire were built up. Home defence determined the amount of resources available for other tasks and the relative focus of the Army and Navy, as both played an important role in preventing an invasion. As politicians were reluctant to
prepare for offensive British participation in a future war, home defence became the means by which the government contributed to an ill-defined British 'grand'…

War with Russia

By General Sir Richard Shirreff,

Book cover of War with Russia: An Urgent Warning from Senior Military Command

Chris Wimpress Author Of Weeks in Naviras

From the list on speculative fiction that blew my mind.

Who am I?

I was a political journalist in London for the BBC and HuffPost for many years, so thinking about our current politics, and where we are headed kind of fixates me! From the day I read 1984 as a twelve-year-old, I’ve been obsessed with how novels set in the near future or an alternate past can be intensely political, and instructive. I enjoy sci-fi, but it’s the extrapolation of our world into a similar yet different one that can tell us so much about our own society. 

Chris' book list on speculative fiction that blew my mind

Why did Chris love this book?

Published in 2016, the provocative title of this novel seemed outlandish at the time, but regrettably, some of what it predicted has now come to pass. As you’d expect from a novel written by such a senior Army officer, this is a military novel delivered with technical accuracy and an eye on strategy, but also contains some interesting political elements – and how military chiefs interact with them. The politicians have often been renamed, but it’s not too hard to draw a dotted line to the real world. Owing to the author’s closeness to the events he describes, sometimes this doesn’t feel like a novel at all, more like a work of military history viewed from an unknown future, particularly when viewed through the lens of the horrors we’ve seen in Ukraine. 

By General Sir Richard Shirreff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked War with Russia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller

'You fail to read this book at your peril' - Admiral James G Stavridis, US Navy, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

Closely modelled on his NATO experience of war gaming future conflicts, 2017 War With Russia is a chilling account of where we are heading if we fail to recognise the threat posed by the Russian president.

Written by the recently retired Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe and endorsed by senior military figures, this book shows how war with Russia could erupt with the bloodiest and most appalling consequences if the necessary steps are not…

Japan 1941

By Eri Hotta,

Book cover of Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy

Valarie J. Anderson Author Of Pearl Harbor's Final Warning

From the list on real people struggling to understand Pearl Harbor.

Who am I?

In 2013, I found a red suitcase under my mother’s guestroom bedroom filled with letters and radiograms. I shipped it home, combined its contents with her brother’s papers, and my family’s Pearl Harbor story emerged but questions remained. Seven years later, after a lot of research which included the books I’ve listed for your consideration, and the help of many people, I was able to answer the question of why Pearl Harbor was taken by surprise. I also unpacked my family’s story, long-buried for fear of prosecution. My book shows the civilian Pearl Harbor story as it weaves its way through the world of cryptology, spies, and 1941 radio technology

Valarie's book list on real people struggling to understand Pearl Harbor

Why did Valarie love this book?

Japan 1941 peels back the layers of Japan’s national ideology before the Pearl Harbor attack. Well researched, her bold and insightful exposé explains the brewing conflict between military and political leaders, their decisions, drive, and devotion to their country, and their influence on an isolated nation of hyper-patriotic citizens.

By Eri Hotta,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Japan 1941 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A groundbreaking history that considers the attack on Pearl Harbor from the Japanese perspective and is certain to revolutionize how we think of the war in the Pacific.

When Japan launched hostilities against the United States in 1941, argues Eri Hotta, its leaders, in large part, understood they were entering a war they were almost certain to lose. Drawing on material little known to Western readers, and barely explored in depth in Japan itself, Hotta poses an essential question: Why did these men—military men, civilian politicians, diplomats, the emperor—put their country and its citizens so unnecessarily in harm’s way? Introducing…

The China Challenge

By Thomas J. Christensen,

Book cover of The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power

Warren I. Cohen Author Of East Asia at the Center: Four Thousand Years of Engagement with the World

From the list on understanding the coming war with China.

Who am I?

I’ve spent all of my adult life writing about American foreign policy, especially Chinese-American relations.  My America’s Response to China, the standard text on the subject, has gone through 6 editions. I served as a line officer in the Pacific Fleet, lived in Taipei and Beijing. I also served as chairman of the State Department Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation and have been a consultant on Chinese affairs to various government organizations. And I cook the best mapo toufu outside of Sichuan. (where I negotiated the Michigan-Sichuan sister-state relationship in 1982). It was probably my love of Chinese food that accounts for most of the above.

Warren's book list on understanding the coming war with China

Why did Warren love this book?

Tom was a deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs in the administration of George W. Bush. After many years at Princeton, he now heads the East Asian Institute at Columbia.

I selected him to be the chief editor of the Nancy Bernkopf Tucker and Warren I. Cohen Books on American-East Asian Relations series published by Columbia University Press. He’s written a scholarly and exceptionally thought and balanced book, highly critical of the Obama administration’s public diplomacy, especially the rolling out of the “pivot”. 

By Thomas J. Christensen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Many see China's rise as a threat to US leadership in Asia and beyond. Thomas J. Christensen argues instead that the real challenge lies in dissuading China from regional aggression while eliciting its global cooperation. Drawing on decades of scholarship and experience as a senior diplomat, Christensen offers a deep perspective on China's military and economic capacity. Assessing China's political outlook and strategic goals, Christensen shows how nationalism and the threat of domestic instability influence the party's decisions about regional and global affairs. Articulating a balanced strategic approach along with perceptive historical analysis, Christensen describes how we might shape China's…

Rome and the Enemy

By Susan P. Mattern,

Book cover of Rome and the Enemy: Imperial Strategy in the Principate

Laurence W. Marvin Author Of The Occitan War: A Military and Political History of the Albigensian Crusade, 1209–1218

From the list on premodern western warfare.

Who am I?

From my earliest memories I’ve always been interested in military history, and as a young man I served in the U.S. Navy on a nuclear submarine. As an ardent bibliophile, my home and office overflows with books. As a professor, for the past 25 years I’ve been fortunate enough to teach a broad survey on western military history, which gives me the opportunity to experiment with many books for my own and the students’ enjoyment. The books on this list are perennial favorites of the traditional-age undergraduates (18-22) I teach, but will appeal to any reader interested in premodern military history. 

Laurence's book list on premodern western warfare

Why did Laurence love this book?

Mattern’s book is as much about Roman attitudes and mindset as it is about warfare. 

Even though planning and implementing “strategy” is sometimes seen as a modern thing, clearly the Romans had one, though, as Mattern phrases it, was more akin to our stereotypes of the mafia: Rome wanted respect more than anything, and went to great lengths to ensure it received it. The Romans and their empire had an incredibly long memory, and they didn’t forget slights.

When a people or country dissed the Romans in some way, Rome came after them, even if doing so took decades.  

By Susan P. Mattern,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How did the Romans build and maintain one of the most powerful and stable empires in the history of the world? This book draws on the literature, especially the historiography, composed by the members of the elite who conducted Roman foreign affairs. From this evidence, Susan P. Mattern reevaluates the roots, motivations, and goals of Roman imperial foreign policy especially as that policy related to warfare. In a major reinterpretation of the sources, Rome and the Enemy shows that concepts of national honor, fierce competition for status, and revenge drove Roman foreign policy, and though different from the highly rationalizing…

The Stupidity of War

By John Mueller,

Book cover of The Stupidity of War: American Foreign Policy and the Case for Complacency

Christopher J. Fettweis Author Of The Pursuit of Dominance: 2000 Years of Superpower Grand Strategy

From the list on unconventional stories on US national security.

Who am I?

I’m a political scientist who specializes in US foreign policy. I’ve been interested in war and peace – and avoiding the former – for as long as I can remember. More than anything else, I wish I could convince Americans of how safe they are, relatively speaking, and how safe they can remain if only we make wise decisions moving forward. The future is brighter than we think.

Christopher's book list on unconventional stories on US national security

Why did Christopher love this book?

In this book, the closest thing we have to a traditional work of national security on this list, the brilliant (and funny) iconoclast John Mueller asks a simple question: Why don’t more people realize just how stupid war is?

Why, for instance, as Greek soldiers loaded into boats to attack Troy because of a kidnapping, did no one comment on the sheer stupidity of the whole operation? Mueller reviews the history of this stupidity and recommends that his country give more consideration to steering clear of them in the future.

All wars the United States fights are, to use the common parlance, “wars of choice.” We always have the option to not engage, a choice that would usually leave us better off.

By John Mueller,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It could be said that American foreign policy since 1945 has been one long miscue; most international threats - including during the Cold War - have been substantially exaggerated. The result has been agony and bloviation, unnecessary and costly military interventions that have mostly failed. A policy of complacency and appeasement likely would have worked better. In this highly readable book, John Mueller argues with wisdom and wit rather than ideology and hyperbole that aversion to international war has had considerable consequences. There has seldom been significant danger of major war. Nuclear weapons, international institutions, and America's super power role…


By Dan Zak,

Book cover of Almighty: Courage, Resistance, and Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age

Denise Kiernan Author Of The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

From the list on The Manhattan Project and the making of the atomic bomb.

Who am I?

Denise Kiernan is a multiple New York Times bestselling author of narrative nonfiction books including The Girls Of Atomic City, The Last Castle, and We Gather Together. While writing The Girls Of Atomic City, Kiernan not only tracked down and interviewed countless individuals who worked directly on the Manhattan Project, she also consumed virtually every book ever written on the subject and spent endless days in the bowels of the National Archives deep-diving into the institution’s Atomic Energy Commission holdings. She served as a member of the Manhattan Project National Historic Park Scholars Forum in Washington, D.C., helping shape the topics and interpretive planning for this new national park. She has spoken at institutions across the country on topics covered in her book.

Denise's book list on The Manhattan Project and the making of the atomic bomb

Why did Denise love this book?

Zak is an award-winning reporter for the Washington Post where his gift for prose is on regular display. When he turned his skillful journalist’s eye toward nuclear weaponry and present-day anti-nuclear activism, the result was a book that takes readers through the night and aftermath of a break-in at one of the most secure facilities in the country, and a look at the moments and forces in history that shaped the people involved.

By Dan Zak,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On July 28, 2012, three senior citizens broke into one of the most secure nuclear-weapons facilities in the world. An 82 Catholic nun, a Vietnam veteran, and a house smeared the walls with human blood and spray-painted quotes from the Bible. Then they waited to be arrested. This simple act spawned a complex discussion. In Almighty, Washington Post writer Dan Zak examines how events over the past 70 years led to this act, one of the most successful and high-profile demonstrations of anti-nuclear activism.

A Terrible Glory

By James Donovan,

Book cover of A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn - The Last Great Battle of the American West

James Mueller Author Of Ambitious Honor: George Armstrong Custer's Life of Service and Lust for Fame

From the list on George A. Custer and the Little Bighorn.

Who am I?

As a journalist, the Little Bighorn fascinates me because it has all the elements of a great story: larger-than-life characters, conflict, fighting against the odds, and mystery. I turned that fascination into research when I left newspapering to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Texas. I wrote a number of articles about press coverage of Custer and the Last Stand, and this research eventually led to two books, most recently a biography of Custer focusing on his artistic personality, especially his writing career. I’ve continued to explore the history of war reporting, always looking for topics that make good stories.

James' book list on George A. Custer and the Little Bighorn

Why did James love this book?

James Donovan combined impeccable research with an engaging style to produce the best book about the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The battle is the subject of more books than just about any other fight in American history, but Donovan’s has set a new standard. I referred to the book regularly while writing my biography of Custer. You can’t really begin to understand a complex battle like the Little Bighorn without a seasoned guide. But Donovan doesn’t just explain the battle. He writes in a way that gives his book the feel of a novel rather than a dry recitation of facts. A Terrible Glory will take you on an exciting ride and teach you everything you need to know about Custer’s Last Stand.

By James Donovan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In June of 1876, on a hill above a river called the Little Bighorn, George Armstrong Custer and all 210 men under his direct command were annihilated by 2,000 Sioux and Cheyenne. The news of this stunning defeat caused an uproar, and those involved promptly began to point fingers in order to avoid responsibility. Custer, who was conveniently dead, took the brunt of the blame. The truth, however was far more complex. A TERRIBLE GLORY is the first book to tell the entire story of this fascinating battle, and the first to call upon new findings of the last 25…

Obama's Wars

By Bob Woodward,

Book cover of Obama's Wars

Ethan Chorin Author Of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

From the list on how partisan politics is destroying American foreign policy.

Who am I?

I have spent the majority of my 25-year career working across the Middle East and Africa. From 2004-2006, I was one of a small group of American diplomats posted to Libya following the 2003 US deal with Gaddafi. During Libya's 2011 revolution, I returned to Libya as a private citizen to help build and became a witness to the 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi. I am particularly interested in the impact of domestic political warfare on US foreign policy and national security. My work has appeared in Foreign Affairs, Salon, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, the Financial Times, and Forbes, among others.

Ethan's book list on how partisan politics is destroying American foreign policy

Why did Ethan love this book?

Bob Woodward spares no president his unvarnished critique.

I found the most interesting part of the book not about Obama, per se, but the circumstances that led to Senator Hillary Clinton’s appointment as his Secretary of State, despite her known and strong disagreements with him on foreign policy.

In one part, Woodward relates a conversation between Clinton and a senior campaign advisor, in which she expresses deep concern that by accepting the position she might someday be caught between loyalty to the President and a hard place.

Fast forward to the 2012 Benghazi attack, which Republicans used to scuttle her 2016 Presidential bid, and in turn, allowed Donald Trump to dismantle much of Obama’s hoped-for legacy.

By Bob Woodward,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Obama's Wars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Drawing on hundreds of interviews with key administration officials, their deputies, and other first-hand sources, Woodward takes listeners deep into the national security state and shows how Obama debates, decides, and balances the enormous pressures facing the modern president. As always, Woodward also bases his work on extensive documentation, including internal memos, letters, detailed chronologies, and meeting notes that reveal the behind-the-scenes realities of the Obama era. Obama has learned that he is not commander-in-chief of the economy. Many of his high-profile domestic reforms - healthcare, education, and energy - were largely turned over to Congress. But the president has…

Washington Rules

By Andrew Bacevich,

Book cover of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War

Mohamed Rabie Author Of The Global Debt Crisis and Its Socioeconomic Implications: Creating Conditions for a Sustainable, Peaceful, and Just World

From the list on serving humanity and revealing misleading secrets.

Who am I?

I am a retired professor, was raised in a refugee camp, one of a family of 9 living in one tent. studied in Palestine, Egypt, Germany, and America, have Ph.D. in economics; scholarships financed my education journey. I lived a life no human has lived or can live, because some of the times I lived had come and gone and cannot come back again. I taught at 11 universities on 4 continents, published 60 books in Arabic and English: books on economics, politics, culture, history, conflict resolution, philosophy, racism, novels, and poetry. True intellectuals cannot stay in one area because issues that shape mankind's history and man’s destiny are interconnected. 

Mohamed's book list on serving humanity and revealing misleading secrets

Why did Mohamed love this book?

This book shows that America, since its inception, has followed an imperialistic policy to dominate the world; it built the strongest army in history, and the most advanced military industry. To project power and be able to intervene anywhere, America built about 750 military bases overseas in 80 countries. However, America’s relative decline due to China’s rise, lead America’s policymakers to transform many states into failed states that cannot control all their territories, weak for America to dominate, but unstable to create headaches for their neighbors as the cases of Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen demonstrate. America’s military budget for 2023 is $858 billion, the equivalent of 1/3 of the combined gross domestic product of the 54 African countries. Does this scare you, or comfort you?

By Andrew Bacevich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For the last half century, as administrations have come and gone, the fundamental assumptions about America's military policy have remained unchanged: American security requires the United States (and us alone) to maintain a permanent armed presence around the globe, to prepare our forces for military operations in far-flung regions, and to be ready to intervene anywhere at any time. In the Obama era, just as in the Bush years, these beliefs remain unquestioned gospel. In a vivid, incisive analysis, Andrew J. Bacevich succinctly presents the origins of this consensus, forged at a moment when American power was at its height.…

The Doomsday Machine

By Daniel Ellsberg,

Book cover of The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

Nicholas Mee Author Of Gravity: From Falling Apples to Supermassive Black Holes

From the list on when contemplating the risks of nuclear technology.

Who am I?

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

Why did Nicholas love this book?

Few topics are more important than the survival of humanity.

Daniel Ellsberg was a strategic military analyst and presidential advisor who worked for the RAND Corporation and later the Pentagon. His book The Doomsday Machine focuses on how the United States planned for nuclear war in the 1950s and 1960s and offers his first-hand account of the Cold War arms race and how the world teetered on the brink of nuclear annihilation during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

It is a stark reminder that for the foreseeable future we are condemned to live in a world where a small number of individuals wield the power to effectively end human civilization. There is no better account of how lucky we are to be here.

By Daniel Ellsberg,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Doomsday Machine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Non-Fiction

From the legendary whistle-blower who revealed the Pentagon Papers, the first insider expose of the awful dangers of America's hidden, seventy-year-long nuclear policy that is chillingly still extant

At the same time former presidential advisor Daniel Ellsberg famously took the top-secret Pentagon Papers, he also took with him a chilling cache of top-secret documents related to America's nuclear program in the 1960s. Here for the first time he reveals the contents of those now-declassified documents and makes clear their shocking relevance for today.

The Doomsday Machine is Ellsberg's hair-raising…

Bamboo and Blood

By James Church,

Book cover of Bamboo and Blood

Kenneth Dekleva Author Of The Negotiator's Cross

From the list on espionage/spy thrillers that tell very human stories.

Who am I?

I am a psychiatrist and former American diplomat, who served overseas in Europe, Russia, Mexico, and India. My regional diplomatic travels took me to over 70 countries over several decades. I have always loved spy thrillers because they highlight the intrigue, drama, psychology, and history of different cultures, which brings out the humanity, courage, and tragedy of the characters therein. Good spy thrillers also capture a sense of place, culture, and history, and possess an authenticity that gives them a broader, universal appeal.

Kenneth's book list on espionage/spy thrillers that tell very human stories

Why did Kenneth love this book?

A wonderful book! James Church is former intelligence officer, and in Bamboo and Blood, he weaves a tale of murder and missile deals, set in the context of North Korea's famine. 

With its evocation of cold, snow, and death, Inspector O encounters a giggling Israeli agent; a solitary, lonely North Korean general; a former colleague from a failed mission; a bevy of North Korean diplomats; and a Swiss counterintelligence officer. The tale ends with Inspector O's caveat to the Israeli agent: "Belief is easy. It's doubting that causes difficulties." 

Inspector O survives the famine, and another winter, as does North Korea. This novel by Church, like his debut spy thriller/mystery, A Corpse in the Koryo: An Inspector O Novel, is one to be savored.

By James Church,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It's the late 1990s, and a younger Inspector is working in Pyongyang as the North's nuclear missile program - and international relations are heating up. In Pakistan, the wife of a North Korean diplomat is found dead under suspicious circumstances. Inspector is assigned to the investigation with strict instructions to stay away from anything to do with the missile program. That proves impossible, though, when realizes the woman's death provides him an entry point into a larger conspiracy,Once again, James Church opens a window onto a society where nothing is quite as it seems. The story serves as the reader's…

The Insurgents

By Fred Kaplan,

Book cover of The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War

John A. Nagl Author Of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam

From the list on the exorbitant cost of America’s War in Iraq.

Who am I?

I am a retired Army officer who served in a tank unit in Operation Desert Storm. After that war, I became convinced that the future of warfare looked more like America’s experience in Vietnam than like the war in which I had just fought. I taught at West Point and then served in another tank unit early in the war in Iraq before being sent to the Pentagon where I helped Generals David Petraeus and Jim Mattis write the Army and Marine Corps doctrine for counterinsurgency campaigns. I am now studying and teaching about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a professor at the U.S. Army War College.  

John's book list on the exorbitant cost of America’s War in Iraq

Why did John love this book?

The insurgents of the title are a group of military officers, many of whom had taught at West Point’s Department of Social Sciences, who attempted to help the Army and the nation come to terms with the war in Iraq. Ironically, most had been opposed to the invasion of Iraq in 2003; nonetheless, they worked with great urgency to understand the conflict and produce better policies to minimize the suffering and harm to U.S. interests it caused. The team, led by Army General David Petraeus and Marine General James Mattis, created the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual that Petraeus implemented when he took command of the Iraq war effort in 2007, changing the course of the war and America’s understanding of the future of conflict.

By Fred Kaplan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE INSURGENTS unfolds against the backdrop of two wars waged against insurgencies-- wars which the Pentagon's top generals didn't know how to fight. But a small group of soldiers and scholars did have a plan for fighting these kinds of wars, people like General David Petraeus and Colonels John Nagl, David Kilcullen, and H.R. McMaster. In order to push the idea of "counterinsurgency" warfare, they behaved like insurgents within their own army-and very self-consciously so. Fred Kaplan explains where this idea came from, and how the men and women who latched onto this idea created a community (some would refer…