Staying engaged in the effort to prevent nuclear war requires an understanding of the history of nuclear weapons and the impact their use and production has had on people and the planet. View this list from Ploughshares Fund of some of the best books about nuclear weapons. From well-loved classics to warnings from the past few years, we hope that this selection sheds some light on the need to prevent the spread and further use of nuclear weapons.
Not for the Faint of Heart: Lessons in Courage, Power, and Persistence, Amb. Wendy R. Sherman. The lead negotiator of the Iran nuclear agreement takes readers inside the world of international diplomacy. An autobiography of one of our most effective negotiators — often the only woman in the room. She shows how we can learn to apply core skills of diplomacy to the challenges in our own lives and to the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons.
Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom, Elaine Scarry. Literary critic and social theorist makes the case that the US president’s unchecked power to order a nuclear weapons launch is a violation of the Constitution, and is fundamentally incompatible with the deliberative principles of democracy.
The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States: A Speculative Novel, Jeffrey Lewis. Middlebury College professor, nuclear expert and Ploughshares Fund grantee explores a hypothetical nuclear war involving the United States, North Korea, South Korea and Japan rooted in real historical events, quotes, and facts about nuclear weapons technology. This work of fiction is presented in the style of a report from a government commission charged with investigating the events.
The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, Daniel Ellsberg. Former United States military analyst offers his recollections and analysis of a cache of secret documents related to the US nuclear arsenal. The book contains chilling details about narrowly-avoided disasters, flawed launch protocols, and philosophies and strategies regarding the true purpose of the US nuclear arsenal.
My Journey at the Nuclear Brink, William J. Perry. The 19th US Secretary of Defense tells the story of his coming of age during the nuclear era, and reflects on how his experiences over the past 70 years have shaped his thinking about the threat posed by nuclear weapons.
Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats, Kristen Iversen. The author, who grew up near the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility, presents a detailed account of the government’s efforts to hide the effects of the toxic and radioactive waste released by Rocky Flats, and of local residents’ attempts to seek justice in court.
Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, Eric Schlosser. Acclaimed author and producer explores the history of nuclear weapons systems in the United States. Sobering accounts of nuclear accidents, near misses, and technological developments raise questions about the management and safety of the US nuclear arsenal. Eric Schlosser is a member of the Ploughshares Fund Board of Directors.
African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement, Vincent Intondi. Associate Professor of African-American Studies at Montgomery College chronicles the history of African-American involvement in the nuclear disarmament movement. and explores the connection between nuclear issues and the fight for racial equality.
Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race, Richard Rhodes. This Pulitzer Prize-winning author chronicles events during the Ronald Reagan administration that led to the US and the Soviet Union coming within minutes of nuclear war, setting the stage for the 1986 summit in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Able Archer 83: The Secret History of the NATO Exercise That Almost Triggered Nuclear War, Nate Jones. National Security Archive staffer writes about a NATO military exercise that the Soviet Union initially mistook for a real nuclear first-strike.
Hiroshima, John Hersey. Required reading for any aspiring journalist, nuclear policy analyst, or anyone interested in the history, this short book collects essays originally published in the New Yorker written about survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.