National security may be defined in several ways. In the broadest view, national security encompasses the state of the economy, access to necessary raw materials, the strength of governmental institutions, and public morale. Viewed most narrowly, national security is largely limited to the capability of our military and intelligence services and their interaction with the world around us. In this recap of the 28 good nonfiction books about national security I’ve reviewed to date on this topic, I’ve hewed to a narrower definition.
The books listed below are arranged in alphabetical order by the authors’ last names. Each title is followed by a link to the review I’ve posted on this site.
The 5 good nonfiction books about national security at the top of my list
The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner by Daniel Ellsberg – Daniel Ellsberg’s dramatic second act
Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA by Amaryllis Fox—Life undercover in the CIA chasing suitcase nukes
The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War by Stephen Kinzer – They shaped US foreign policy for decades to come
Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin – Concerned about NSA surveillance? Read this book!
The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government by David Talbot – When America’s secret government ran amok
24 other good nonfiction books about national security
The Longest War: Inside the Enduring Conflict Between America and Al-Qaeda by Peter L. Bergen – The conflict between the U.S. and Al Qaeda
The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI’s Hunt for America’s Stolen Secrets by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee – Before Edward Snowden was “The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell”
In the Enemy’s House: The Secret Saga of the FBI Agent and the Code Breaker Who Caught the Russian Spies by Howard Blum – How the Soviet atomic spies were caught
Worm: The First Digital World War by Mark Bowden – How hackers almost brought down the Internet—and still could
Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It by Richard. A. Clarke and Robert K. Knake – An authoritative insider’s take on the threat of cyber war
The Twilight War: The Secret History of America’s Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran by David Crist – The ugly US-Iran war, past, present, and future
National Security and Double Government by Michael J. Glennon – Who makes national security decisions? Not the President!
A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order by Richard A. Haass – American foreign policy in a “nonpolar” world
The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding – Edward Snowden in context: the inside story
The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies by Michael V. Hayden – Donald Trump’s war on the intelligence community: a view from the inside
Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden by Mark Hertsgaard – National security or insecurity?
The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal by David E. Hoffman – A gripping true-life tale of Cold War spycraft
The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top-Secret Military Research Agency by Annie Jacobsen – The mind-boggling story of America’s top-secret military research
Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War by Fred Kaplan – The secret history of cyber war
Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific by Robert D. Kaplan – US-China competition through the lens of geopolitics
Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power by Robert D. Kaplan—The geopolitical reality behind the “pivot to Asia”
Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet by Yasha Levine – Shocking revelations: the secret military history of the Internet
The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth by Mark Mazzetti – Drones, mercenaries, and targeted murder: the new CIA strategy
Patriotic Betrayal: The Inside Story of the CIA’s Secret Campaign to Enroll American Students in the Crusade Against Communism by Karen M. Paget – How the CIA infiltrated the National Student Association
My Journey at the Nuclear Brink by William J. Perry – A cold hard look at the enduring nuclear threat
Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power by David E. Sanger – The surprising emergence of Barack Obama’s secret wars
The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America by Robert Scheer – Pentagon waste and fraud, and who’s really responsible for them
Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker – Understanding the secret American campaign against Al Qaeda
Operation Shakespeare: The True Story of an Elite International Sting by John Shiffman – How Homeland Security went abroad to capture an Iranian arms dealer
For further reading
You might also care to see 19 eye-opening books about terrorism or 13 good recent books about American foreign policy.
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