| by Sierra Abukins

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Reading list Oppenheimer
Book recommendations from our nuclear and global security experts.

Just saw the Oppenheimer film and hungry for more? 

Our global security faculty and researchers with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) have recommendations. CNS is the largest nongovernmental organization in the United States devoted exclusively to research and training on nonproliferation issues. 

Sig Hecker

Distinguished Professor of Practice

Siegfried (Sig) Hecker was the fifth director of the Los Alamos Laboratory, holding the same role as Oppenheimer. Read more of his thoughts and reflections on the film.

American Prometheus, by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. “The film is about Oppenheimer, not the project and afterwards. If you want to go deeper, I recommend you read the book the movie was based on and think more broadly about the impact of the Manhattan Project.”

The Oppenheimer Issue of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s National Security Science magazine has lots of great stories about Oppenheimer and the laboratory.

Plutonium 1943–1945, by Los Alamos Historical Society. “For someone who wants to go really deep on the science, my colleague and neighbor, Ed Hammel, cast the first hemispheres of plutonium. No one had written up the plutonium story. I urged him to and he wrote it up before he died.”

Sharad Joshi

Professor in the Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies Program

The Day After Trinity, “an Academy Award-winning documentary, which can be viewed for free on the Criterion app, is an excellent first-hand account with interviews of key scientists involved in the Manhattan Project, who knew Oppenheimer closely. This 1981 documentary is a very good complement to the movie, Oppenheimer. Some of the interesting figures interviewed extensively are Robert Oppenheimer’s brother, Frank; the Nobel laureate Hans Bethe; and Freeman Dyson, who were all part of the Manhattan Project. Their recollections of that important period and the underlying debates are invaluable oral histories for researchers and the general public.”

Jeff Knopf

Chair of the Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies Program

Hiroshima “This short book, by John Hersey, is based on what was initially a lengthy article in the New Yorker and was published a couple of years after the atomic bombing. It gave Americans their first description of the actual effects of dropping the bomb. This helps make up for what many critics have felt was an omission in the movie.”

The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes, “is the definitive book account of the Manhattan Project and the science and engineering behind the bomb.”

The Winning Weapon, by Gregg Herken, “is a historian’s review of how the U.S. approached the questions of arms control and a possible arms race in the years right after World War II.”

The Advisors: Oppenheimer, Teller, and the Superbomb, by Herbert York, “is a good account of the dispute between Oppenheimer and Teller over whether to build the H-bomb, which became a key factor in the hearing that led to Oppenheimer losing his security clearance.”

Masako Toki

Senior Education Project Manager and Research Associate (CNS)

Masako Toki has collaborated with hibakusha (survivors of the atomic bomb) to share their stories with youth, and she leads programs educating high school students and undergraduates about nuclear disarmament and peacemaking. Read her latest piece in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in which she quotes a recent speech by the Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki. “We should all understand that the biggest obstacle to a world without nuclear weapons is a mindset that nuclear weapons are essential for peacekeeping.”

Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World, by Lesley M.M. Blume, “is a good companion book of John Hersey’s Hiroshima and was published on the 75th anniversary of the bombing.”

“If you want to add some perspectives from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I would definitely recommend the Hiroshima Memorial Museum Online and the recently developed online No More Hiroshima and Nagasaki Museum.”

“The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Oppenheimer Collection has many good articles with various perspectives.”

Jessica Varnum

Deputy Director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS)

CNS recently updated this Nuclear Testing Tutorial, which was created for the nonprofit Nuclear Threat Initiative.

Testing module
CNS worked with the Nuclear Threat Initiative on tutorials on key issues related to nuclear weapons.