The Cold War

Understanding the global struggle that defined half a century.

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety

By Eric Schlosser

Americans were well aware of the threat of nuclear warfare during the twentieth century, but few know today how close our country came to destruction — all because of simple human error on our own soil. Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, takes a close and unsettling look at the precarious nature of our nation’s radioactive arsenal, and finds countless examples of nuclear accidents and close calls whose resolution suggests unbelievable luck, rather than any human skill or sound judgment.

Yalta: The Price of Peace

By S. M. Plokhy

In a resort town on the Black Sea in 1944, FDR, Churchill, and Stalin partitioned the globe and sowed the seeds of global struggle for decades to come. With the help of newly declassified Soviet documents, Harvard historian S. M. Plokhy examines the questions that continue to reverberate today: Did FDR give away too much? Did Churchill realize he was laying the foundation for a bipolar world where England was an afterthought? Most of all, did these three leaders realize how important the eight days they spent together would prove?

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

By John le Carré

Le Carré’s seminal work, hailed for its authenticity, dispenses with the glamor of James Bond and delivers a spy novel taut and troubling with its moral ambiguities and myriad betrayals. At the center is Alec Leamas, a stalwart servant of British intelligence who must sacrifice everything he holds dear and venture back into the East to discredit his Soviet counterpart. But is he a pawn in larger plans beyond his comprehension? Notable for one of the most devastating final scenes you’ll ever read, as the balance of Leamas’s fate teeters, literally, atop the Berlin Wall.

Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis

By Robert F. Kennedy

The Cuban Missile Crisis is understood as the height of Cold War hostility. Placing missiles less than 100 miles from US shores, the Soviet Union upped the ante in the competition to gain an edge in the nuclear arms race, with a move that threatened to upend the delicate balance between the two nations’ rocket arsenals. America’s only recourse was diplomacy of an unprecedented intensity. Here RFK offers a gripping first-person account of America’s behind-the-scenes negotiations that somehow averted catastrophe.

You Are One of Them

By Elliott Holt

During the peak of Cold War hysteria in the early 1980s, best friends Jenny and Sarah write covert letters to the Kremlin requesting a political truce. Jenny’s letter receives a reply, and she’s invited to visit the USSR — without Sarah. A few years later, Sarah gets word that Jenny and her entire family died in a plane crash. But when Sarah receives a cryptic note from abroad that says Jenny may not be dead, she sets off for Russia to find her former best friend and the truth behind the enigmatic conflict of the century. A highly original debut from Elliott Holt, You Are One of Them takes a pivotal era of modern history and gives it an intimate and insightful edge.