The best books on nuclear weapons 📚

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

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

The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

By Daniel Ellsberg

Why this book?

Russia and the U.S. each possess a Doomsday Machine: a weapon that could wipe out our species. If either launched their thousands of nuclear ICMBs, that would probably doom us, even if the other did not retaliate. So argues Ellsberg, who confesses his role in creating the menace.  (None of the seven other nuclear nations have more than a few hundred, as a deterrent.) The book’s invaluable history includes multiple occasions when either Russia or the U.S. came perilously close to triggering Armageddon. When I was flying in the Strategic Air Command, we launched three times. Barely before it was…

From the list:

The best books on urgent menaces to the human species

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Book cover of The Button: The New Nuclear Arms Race and Presidential Power from Truman to Trump

The Button: The New Nuclear Arms Race and Presidential Power from Truman to Trump

By William J. Perry, Tom Z. Collina

Why this book?

Bill Perry served as Secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton, after a distinguished prior career in science and engineering. There is probably no one better qualified to describe how we got into our current nuclear dilemma, more clear-eyed about the problems we are now confronting, and more realistic in advising how best to get out of it. He emphasizes that in our paranoia to avoid being attacked by a nuclear-armed opponent, we have created a system that, ironically, threatens us far more than any possible “enemy.”

From the list:

The best books about preventing nuclear war

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Book cover of Voices From Ground Zero: Recollections and Feelings of Nuclear Test Veterans

Voices From Ground Zero: Recollections and Feelings of Nuclear Test Veterans

By Lincoln F. Grahlfs

Why this book?

The author of this book was also a Crossroads participant and today is regarded as one of the foremost experts on the effects of ionizing radiation. His book is a collection of interviews with atomic veterans of tests in the Pacific and Nevada. I am grateful to Dr. Grahlfs for agreeing to write the Foreword to my Crossroads memoir.

From the list:

The best books on the first postwar atomic bomb tests at the Bikini Atoll in 1946 (Operations Crossroads)

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

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

By Dan Zak

Why 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.

From the list:

The best books on the Manhattan Project and the making of the atomic bomb

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Book cover of Agent Sonya: Moscow's Most Daring Wartime Spy

Agent Sonya: Moscow's Most Daring Wartime Spy

By Ben Macintyre

Why this book?

Ben Macintyre obtained unique access to diaries and personal letters for this astounding story of one of the most consequential spies in history. Agent Sonya got her start as a Soviet spy in 1930s Shanghai while in her early twenties. On top of spying, she was a wizard with the high technology of her day: long-distance radio communications. On each assignment, she would assemble a high-powered radio from parts acquired at local shops (several different ones, to avoid suspicion), and in no time be transmitting all the way to Moscow. Sonya was in daily danger as she ran agents…

From the list:

The best spy books set in Asia

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Book cover of The Place of Artists' Cinema: Space, Site and Screen

The Place of Artists' Cinema: Space, Site and Screen

By Maeve Connolly

Why this book?

Connolly’s book traces recent historical shifts in artists’ cinema via a number of overlapping trends; multi-screen video projections in galleries, work that ‘references an earlier event through documentation, re-enactment or remaking’ and that which explores the relationship between cinema, screen architecture, and the museum or gallery space. The implications of these trends; the mobile as opposed to seated spectator or the making of work designed to run as continuous short loops, is considered via detailed discussion of works by a small number of key artists. Connolly, unusually and refreshingly, is not afraid to criticise, as in her discussion of Douglas…

From the list:

The best books on artists’ film and video

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