12 Books on Nuclear Weapons That We're "(Summer) Loving"

Summer’s here! Time to kick back and… brush up on nuclear policy? Whether you’re looking for a beach read, or are from San Francisco like us – where summer proved to be Mark Twain’s “coldest winter” – these summer months are a great time to dive into a good book. Did our New Year’s list leave you hungry for more? These 12 books - from Shute’s science-fiction to Alibek’s science-all-too-real – should do the trick:

1. A Canticle for Leibowitz. Walter M. Miller, Jr. In this post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel, a monastery in the southwestern U.S. must preserve what is left of man’s scientific knowledge for thousands of years as civilization struggles to rebuild itself after the devastation of nuclear war.

2. George F. Kennan: An American Life. John Lewis Gaddis. A New York Times Book Review “Notable Book of the Year,” and Pulitzer prize winner, this biography uses interviews and exclusive access to Kennan’s archives to paint a captivating picture of the man behind the Cold War.

3. My American Journey: An Autobiography. Colin Powell. The former Secretary of State recounts his journey from the South Bronx to the White House, analyzing national and international affairs – and his own role in them – along the way.

4. Brotherhood of the Bomb: The Tangled Lives and Loyalties of Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence and Edward Teller. Gregg Herken. Don’t let the long title scare you off. Herken grippingly illuminates the lives of the men behind the beginning of the nuclear age.

5. On the Beach. Nevil Shute. You might have seen the movie adaptation, starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, and Fred Astaire. In the chilling novel, Australians await the radioactive cloud that is headed their way after WWIII has destroyed the northern hemisphere.

6. Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World--Told from Inside by the Man Who Ran It. Ken Alibek. The mastermind behind Russia’s biological warfare effort reveals the chilling truth about the Cold War’s scientific underworld, where AIDS and smallpox became weapons of mass destruction.

7. The Emergency State: America's Pursuit of Absolute Security at All Costs. David Unger. Unger, a senior New York Times journalist, explores the network of ineffective security services that have accumulated in the United States since WWII. He traces the missed opportunities for rethinking national security and, in pointing out America’s mistakes and vulnerability, illuminates a path towards true security.

8. Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power. Rachel Maddow. An important read that raises questions about the purpose of war. Maddow explores how the United States has become perilously comfortable with war, endangering the very ideals upon which the nation was founded.

9. A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran. Trita Parsi. With the Moscow talks coming up and the papers filled with news about Iran, it’s a great time to read Parsi’s book, which analyzes the Obama administration’s diplomatic approach and looks ahead for the best way to move forward.

10. Z for Zachariah. Robert C. O’Brien. What would it be like to be the last person on Earth? Sixteen-year-old Ann Burden thinks she knows after a nuclear war ravages the planet – until a distant campfire signals another survivor. 

11. Showdown: The Inside Story of How Obama Fought Back Against Boehner, Cantor, and the Tea Party. David Corn. The 2010 midterm elections were a game-changer. Find out how Obama and his administration responded in Corn’s gripping behind-the-scenes account.

12. Radioactivity: A History of a Mysterious Science. Marjorie C. Malley. From Marie Curie to Fukushima, we’ve been fascinated and repelled by the power of radioactivity to cure and kill. In under 250 pages, this book gives an overview of the complicated history of humanity’s quest for radioactivity.

Image credit: Spirit-Fire on Flickr