The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner by Daniel Ellsberg (Bloomsbury), is one of the most alarming books to appear in this altogether alarming time. Ellsberg’s revelations, both personal and professional, uncloak a litany of disregarded protocol, erroneous assumptions, and near misses pertaining to the start of the nuclear arms race, the buildup of the nuclear arsenal, and the control of nuclear weapons. The books below provide further illumination on this urgent subject.
Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety
by Eric Schlosser
Nuclear bombs must be handled with the proper care, yet that is not always the case, as Schlosser emphasizes in this detailed account of the accidental 1980 explosion of a Titan II missile after a dropped tool punctured its shell. Schlosser also offers an extensive look at nuclear-weapon design and further reporting of other cases of dropped, burned, or lost bombs.
The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors and Their Quest to Ban the Bomb
by Philip Taubman
In 2007, four former Cold Warriors who helped build up the nation’s nuclear arsenal—Henry Kissinger and George Schultz (former secretaries of state), William Perry (former defense secretary), and Sam Nunn (former head of the Senate Armed Services Committee), joined by nuclear physicist Sidney Dell—stunned the world by advocating for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Taubman chronicles their journeys to advocating for nuclear disarmament and analyzes how the threats have multiplied and changed over the decades.
The Twilight of the Bombs: Recent Challenges, New Dangers, and the Prospects for a World without Nuclear Weapons
by Richard Rhodes
Each title in Rhodes’ invaluable nuclear series—The Making of the Atom Bomb (1986); Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb (1995); Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race (2007); and this volume—are worthy read-alikes. Here Rhodes chronicles major developments in nuclear weaponry since the Cold War ended, and, guided by his conviction that the atomic bomb is so dire a hazard it must be abolished, he interviews politicians, diplomats, and technicians involved in nuclear disarmament.
Donna Seaman is Adult Books Editor for Booklist, a recipient of the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award, a member of the Content Leadership Team for the American Writers Museum, and a frequent presenter at literary events and programs. Seaman’s new book is Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists.