The best 18 The Cold War books

The Cold War was a significant period in world history that shaped the political, social, and economic landscape for decades. Its impact is still felt today, making it a crucial subject to explore and understand. That's where our thoughtfully curated book list comes in.

This list offers a comprehensive look at various aspects of the Cold War, helping you gain a deeper understanding of this complex era. So, why not immerse yourself in these informative books and unravel the intricacies of the Cold War?
The best 18 The Cold War books
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1
The Cold War Books: The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens

The Trial of Henry Kissinger

Christopher Hitchens
4.4 (118 ratings)
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What's The Trial of Henry Kissinger about?

In The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Hitchens shows a side of Henry Kissinger few would have imagined possible. He delves into the dark side of American foreign policy and shows first-hand examples of Kissinger’s criminal activities in Vietnam, Bangladesh and East Timor, and of his human rights violations and war crimes.

Who should read The Trial of Henry Kissinger?

  • Anyone interested in the dark side of US foreign policy
  • Anyone interested in human rights
  • Anyone interested in the twentieth-century and Cold War history

2
The Cold War Books: World Order by Henry Kissinger

World Order

Henry Kissinger
Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History
4.2 (161 ratings)
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What's World Order about?

World Order (2014) is a guide to the complex mechanisms that have governed international relations throughout history. These blinks explain how different countries conceive of different world orders and how they are held in balance or brought into conflict.

Who should read World Order?

  • Anyone who wants to learn more about the intricacies of global politics
  • Students of political science, governance and international relations
  • Everyone with an interest in globalization and clashes of cultures

3
The Cold War Books: Back Channel to Cuba by William M. LeoGrande & Peter Kornbluh

Back Channel to Cuba

William M. LeoGrande & Peter Kornbluh
The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana
4.7 (28 ratings)
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What's Back Channel to Cuba about?

With unprecedented access to declassified documents, Back Channel to Cuba (2014) reveals the long and bumpy road of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. Find out how 50 years of unsuccessful foreign policy have kept Cuba and the United States at odds despite the efforts of secret, back-channel negotiations that have been taking place since the Eisenhower administration.

Who should read Back Channel to Cuba?

  • History buffs interested in one of the longest US conflicts
  • Politicos wanting a behind-the-scenes look at foreign policy
  • Aspiring diplomats in search of the dos and don’ts of diplomacy

4
The Cold War Books: Command and Control by Eric Schlosser

Command and Control

Eric Schlosser
Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety
4.8 (35 ratings)
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00:00

What's Command and Control about?

Command and Control (2013) uncovers the disturbing truth behind the troubled and accident-prone US nuclear weapons program. Find out what’s really been going on since World War II, when the first nuclear bomb was invented, and how lucky we are to still be here despite numerous accidents and close calls that could have kicked off Armageddon. If you think the stockpile of nuclear weapons in the United States has always been safely stored under lock and key – think again!

Who should read Command and Control?

  • Readers interested in nuclear threats past and present
  • History buffs
  • Anti-nuke advocates

5
The Cold War Books: A World in Disarray by Richard Haass

A World in Disarray

Richard Haass
American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order
4.0 (91 ratings)
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What's A World in Disarray about?

A World in Disarray (2017) is an overview of the major transformations in global politics since World War Two. These blinks describe an evolution from a non-interventionist order of nation states to one of globalization and international involvement.

Who should read A World in Disarray?

  • Diplomats and politicians interested in foreign policy
  • Students of international relations, history and politics
  • Historians interested in the wars of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries

6
The Cold War Books: Hue 1968 by Mark Bowden

Hue 1968

Mark Bowden
A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam
4.4 (63 ratings)
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00:00

What's Hue 1968 about?

The Vietnam War is remembered as one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts of the twentieth century. At the end of 1967, the US government was assuring the public the war was almost won; by February 1968, that was no longer the case. In Hue 1968 (2017) Mark Bowden examines the battle in the city of Hue which changed the way the American public viewed the war.

Who should read Hue 1968?

  • Anyone interested in modern American history
  • Students of politics or international relations
  • Soldiers and veterans

7
The Cold War Books: A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre

A Spy Among Friends

Ben Macintyre
Philby and the Great Betrayal
4.2 (52 ratings)
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What's A Spy Among Friends about?

A Spy Among Friends (2014) details the life of Kim Philby, a highly respected operative who rose through the ranks of the British secret services during World War II and the Cold War. Though a seeming paragon of British values, he actually spent his career working as a double agent for the Russians.

Who should read A Spy Among Friends?

  • Fans of John Le Carré and other spy novelists
  • People interested in the history of the Cold War
  • Espionage enthusiasts and would-be spies

8
The Cold War Books: The Doomsday Machine by Daniel Ellsberg

The Doomsday Machine

Daniel Ellsberg
Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner
4.4 (46 ratings)
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What's The Doomsday Machine about?

The Doomsday Machine (2017) follows famed whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg on his journey from learning about nuclear bombs in school to rewriting the national security policy for the United States of America. It explores the use of nuclear systems throughout history and how close we came to ending the human race.

Who should read The Doomsday Machine?

  • Modern history buffs with a particular interest in wars
  • International relations students
  • People interested in US nuclear strategy

9
The Cold War Books: Shoot for the Moon by James Donovan

Shoot for the Moon

James Donovan
The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11
4.6 (34 ratings)
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00:00

What's Shoot for the Moon about?

Shoot for the Moon (2019) provides you with a riveting, wide-ranging account of the early space race, culminating with Apollo 11 – the mission that first landed humanity on the moon. Blasting through twelve years of space exploration, these blinks guide you through Apollo 11’s historic mission and the preparatory ones that made it happen.

Who should read Shoot for the Moon?

  • Anyone interested in the space race and the Cold War
  • Science geeks interested in NASA’s early endeavors
  • Future astronauts who need to do their homework

10
The Cold War Books: The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre

The Spy and the Traitor

Ben Macintyre
The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War
4.6 (101 ratings)
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00:00

What's The Spy and the Traitor about?

The Spy and the Traitor (2018) details the real-life spy story of Oleg Gordievsky, the Soviet double-agent whose efforts contributed to the end of the Cold War. These blinks trace Gordievsky’s progress through the KGB and his years spying for MI6, the British secret service, before his final daring escape to the West.

Who should read The Spy and the Traitor?

  • Fans of espionage and spy stories
  • History buffs looking for a fresh perspective on the Cold War
  • Political science nerds who want to see realpolitik in action

11
The Cold War Books: Chernobyl by Serhii Plokhy

Chernobyl

Serhii Plokhy
The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe
4.6 (214 ratings)
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00:00

What's Chernobyl about?

Chernobyl (2018) documents the 1986 nuclear meltdown that shook the Soviet Union. It is an insightful and meticulously researched work of history, drawing from newly opened archives to shed fresh light on the disaster. Piecing together the entire episode, Plokhy takes us from the fateful minutes before the disaster to the cleanup operation and, finally, the disintegration of the USSR.

Who should read Chernobyl?

  • Fans of the HBO miniseries who want to dig deeper
  • Those born after the disaster, trying to make sense of its consequences
  • Nuclear power plant operators

12
The Cold War Books: Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism by Kristen Ghodsee

Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism

Kristen Ghodsee
And Other Arguments for Economic Independence
3.7 (41 ratings)
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00:00

What's Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism about?

Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism (2018) makes an argument that’s even more provocative than its title suggests. More than just better sex, it claims that women have better lives in general under socialism. To prove this claim, it compares and contrasts women’s lives under state socialism, democratic socialism, and neoliberal capitalism. 

Who should read Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism?

  • Socialists wanting ammunition for their next argument 
  • Capitalists wanting food for thought 
  • Women and men wanting a fresh take on gender equality

13
The Cold War Books: Agent Sonya by Ben Macintyre

Agent Sonya

Ben Macintyre
Moscow’s Most Daring Wartime Spy
4.5 (60 ratings)
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00:00

What's Agent Sonya about?

Agent Sonya (2020) is the biography of a respectable housewife, who also just happened to be one of Soviet intelligence’s most intrepid and high-ranking spies. The book traces the life of Ursula Kuczynski, code-name Sonya, from her birth in Berlin, through her radicalization as a communist and her career as a spy who both foiled the Nazis and arguably kicked off the Cold War.

Who should read Agent Sonya?

  • World War II history buffs
  • Espionage enthusiasts
  • Anyone who loves the thrill and suspense of a good spy story

14
The Cold War Books: Bedtime Biography: Stasiland by Anna Funder

Bedtime Biography: Stasiland

Anna Funder
Scenes From Behind the Berlin Wall
4.6 (291 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's Bedtime Biography: Stasiland about?

Read to you by Karen Cass.

In East Germany, a spy agency called the Stasi built the most sophisticated surveillance network the world has ever seen. For almost 30 years, East Germans were confined physically by the Berlin Wall, but the Stasi’s network of spies and informers was responsible for keeping them in check mentally. It’s hard to imagine what everyday life is like for victims of a surveillance state. Stasiland is their story.

Who should read Bedtime Biography: Stasiland?

  • Cold War buffs
  • People interested in true-life espionage
  • History fans

15
The Cold War Books: After the Fall by Ben Rhodes

After the Fall

Ben Rhodes
Being American in the World We've Made
3.9 (232 ratings)
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What's After the Fall about?

After the Fall (2021) takes a sobering look at the rise of nationalism and authoritarianism in places like Hungary, China, Russia, and the United States of America. It examines how the standing and influence of the US changed in the years following the Cold War, and how this has led to the current challenges facing democracy around the world. 

Who should read After the Fall?

  • Political junkies
  • Fans of democracy
  • Students of modern history

16
The Cold War Books: The Cold War by Robert J. McMahon

The Cold War

Robert J. McMahon
A Very Short Introduction
4.5 (230 ratings)
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What's The Cold War about?

The Cold War (2003) provides an overview of the conflict that defined the second half of the twentieth century. Beginning in the immediate aftermath of World War Two, it traces the Cold War’s development through the rest of the century, laying out its underlying causes and overall contours.

Who should read The Cold War?

  • History buffs
  • Students of military strategy and foreign relations 
  • Those who want to understand one of the twentieth century’s defining conflicts

17
The Cold War Books: The End of the World Is Just the Beginning by Peter Zeihan

The End of the World Is Just the Beginning

Peter Zeihan
Mapping the Collapse of Globalization
4.4 (232 ratings)
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What's The End of the World Is Just the Beginning about?

The End of the World Is Just Beginning (2022) asks what happens if or when the United States stops policing the global order it established after the Second World War. The short answer is that the world as we know it will come to a grinding, potentially violent halt. The longer answer takes us on a thrilling ride through the politics and economics of trade, energy, and foreign policy. 

Who should read The End of the World Is Just the Beginning?

  • History buffs 
  • Politicos with an interest in foreign policy
  • Anyone trying to figure out global events

18
The Cold War Books: Thirteen Days by Robert F. Kennedy

Thirteen Days

Robert F. Kennedy
A Memoir Of The Cuban Missile Crisis
3.4 (95 ratings)
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00:00

What's Thirteen Days about?

Thirteen Days (1969) offers an inside look into the Cuban Missile Crisis, revealing the intense deliberations and decision-making processes of the U.S. government at the time. It chronicles the 13-day standoff between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. Through its pages, readers gain insight into the high-stakes diplomacy and behind-the-scenes actions that took place during this critical period.

Who should read Thirteen Days?

  • History buffs eager to delve deeper into the Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Political enthusiasts curious about U.S. decision-making during crises
  • Those intrigued by pivotal moments in twentieth-century history

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The Cold War Books
 FAQs 

What's the best The Cold War book to read?

While choosing just one book about a topic is always tough, many people regard The Trial of Henry Kissinger as the ultimate read on The Cold War.

What are the Top 10 The Cold War books?

Blinkist curators have picked the following:
  • The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens
  • World Order by Henry Kissinger
  • Back Channel to Cuba by William M. LeoGrande & Peter Kornbluh
  • Command and Control by Eric Schlosser
  • A World in Disarray by Richard Haass
  • Hue 1968 by Mark Bowden
  • A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre
  • The Doomsday Machine by Daniel Ellsberg
  • Shoot for the Moon by James Donovan
  • The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre

Who are the top The Cold War book authors?

When it comes to The Cold War, these are the authors who stand out as some of the most influential:
  • Christopher Hitchens
  • Henry Kissinger
  • William M. LeoGrande & Peter Kornbluh
  • Eric Schlosser
  • Richard Haass