I’ve recently begun researching nuclear risk for Rethink Priorities, but the views in this comment are just my personal views. These views are also pretty tentative, as I'm still at the early stages of learning about these topics.
I’ve read two books focused on nuclear risk:
- Command and Control
- The Doomsday Machine
- I’d recommend this for someone who’s pretty interested in nuclear risk.
- Has a narrative feel, which made it quite easy to read.
- I’m somewhat skeptical of a decent portion of what’s in the book.
- E.g., if I recall correctly, Ellsberg seemed to imply that there was scientific consensus that nuclear winter would be very likely in most nuclear exchanges, and would have very severe consequences (e.g., the death of the vast majority of the global population). But my impression - partly based on this Wikipedia article - is that there’s still substantial scientific debate on these points.
- But I still think that reading the book was useful.
- One of Rob Wiblin’s top 9 book recommendations.
- See here for a review from an EA.
I’ve read one book focused on great power war:
- Destined for War
- I'd recommend this, including for people who are just generally interested in things like war and global catastrophic risk, rather than very specifically interested in nuclear risk.
- Recommended by Rob Wiblin.
I’ve read one book focused on trends and drivers of violence more generally, with some parts on/relevance to great power war:
- This is of course Better Angels of Our Nature
- I think this is in general more useful than the above three books. But it’s very long, and much of it isn’t very focused on great power war or nuclear risk.
- Highly recommended by Nick Beckstead and by Luke Muehlhauser, and recommended by Rob Wiblin.
And I’ve read one book focused on existential risks but with ~10 pages on nuclear risk (at the start of chapter 4):
- The Precipice
- This’d perhaps be my #1 recommended book for most EAs and EA-inclined people in general.
- I think the ~10 pages on nuclear war was probably more useful for that topic per page than the above three books. So I might recommend reading those pages before reading the other books.
- I list things I've written relevant to The Precipice, and some reviews/interviews about The Precipice by others, here.
I’m also aware of but haven’t (yet) read these books focused on nuclear risk, WMDs, and/or great power war:
- The Dead Hand
- Atomic Obsession
- I learned of this via the post Notes on 'Atomic Obsession' (2009), which I think is itself worth reading, as are Max Daniel’s comments on that post.
- Seems to be focused on nuclear risk.
- After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000
- Feeding Everyone No Matter What
- I believe this is mostly focused on interventions to mitigate how bad nuclear winter would be, if it happened.
- Some of the books Luke Muehlhauser lists/recommends here
I think that all of the above books are available as audiobooks except Atomic Obsession. But I’d recommend reading The Precipice as an ebook or physical book rather than as an audiobook, as the audiobook doesn’t contain the (huge number of!) interesting footnotes.
(If you want a list of all the EA-relevant books I've read since learning about EA, in roughly descending order of how useful I perceive/remember them being to me, that’s available here.)
I also (really) liked The Doomsday Machine and The Dead Hand, and felt that The Making of the Atomic Bomb was a bit of a disappointment. Haven't read the other books Ryan mentions.
I also recommend American Prometheus, a biography of Oppenheimer (although it focuses too little on the science, relative to the politics). The author has just published another relevant book, Gambling with Armageddon, which I'm looking forward to reading.
Not a book, but the multi-part CNN documentary, Cold War, is excellent. So is The Day after Trinity.