The best books on nuclear warfare 📚

Browse the best books on nuclear warfare as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War

The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War

By Fred Kaplan

Why this book?

Kaplan does a marvelous job describing, as the subtitle indicates, “the secret history of nuclear war.” It is in a sense a sequel to Kaplan’s earlier The Wizards of Armageddon, which examined theorists of nuclear annihilation. In The Bomb, Kaplan takes us on a deep dive into the bowels of actual doomsday planning; an unforgettable and darkly educational trip!

From the list:

The best books about preventing nuclear war

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Book cover of Swan Song

Swan Song

By Robert McCammon

Why this book?

Saving the best for last. This was published after and said to be inspired by Stephen King’s The Stand, but I feel it far surpasses it. This book has the same scenario of a desolate end of everything with the remaining humans in a fight of good versus evil, but in this book, I feel the characters are more believable. The evil ones are despicable, and the good ones are likable. Especially Swan, whose innocence shines from the page.
From the list:

The best books about the end of the world and being the last person on earth

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Book cover of With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush, and Nuclear War

With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush, and Nuclear War

By Robert Scheer

Why this book?

If Jonathan Schell’s Fate of the Earth examined the scientific, ecological, and social impacts of nuclear war, Robert Scheer’s With Enough Shovels is a direct inquiry into the Reagan Administration about their initial thoughts on the subject. Those thoughts, frankly, are frightening. As the title implicates, then-Deputy Under Secretary of Defense T.J. Jones literally suggested that surviving thermonuclear war was easy: “Dig a hole, cover it with a couple of doors and then throw three feet of dirt on top…it’s the dirt that does it…if there are enough shovels to go around, everybody’s going to make it.” Comments by Reagan,…

From the list:

The best books on the Cold War in the 1980s

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Book cover of The Explorers

The Explorers

By C.M. Kornbluth

Why this book?

I first read The Explorers when I was a child. I delighted in it then and still do. Its style got to me first. A real literary style. Some of the stories are hard-boiled, Raymond Chandler in space. Some poetic. But so much better than most clunky SF. And also, so unconventional This is not Azimov. Rather than space opera, we get a scientist drunk, bemoaning his “contributions” to space flight. Instead of wondrous inventions, we get cheesy computer art. Brainless generals celebrate nuclear war. Well-written, unusual, simultaneously funny and sad, The Explorers is a masterpiece of 50s SF.

From the list:

The best short story/short novel collections

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Book cover of The Camel Club

The Camel Club

By David Baldacci

Why this book?

The Camel Club took me away from the massive technical details that Clancy wrote to a more intimate spy character…and his cadre of retired spies. Whereas Clancy's writings were broader in scope, Baldacci narrowed the field and presented characterization at a closer level, one the reader can readily relate to. As I discovered David Baldacci's books, I fell in love with his style of writing. His novels have probably had the greatest influence on my writings above any other author.

From the list:

The best spy thriller books

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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…

From the list:

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

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