The Paradoxes of Nuclear War

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In 1983, the journalist Fred Kaplan published his first book, “The Wizards of Armageddon,” about think tanks and the early days of nuclear strategy. And though Kaplan says on this week’s podcast that he “really never thought that I would write another book abut nuclear war,” much has happened since 1983, and he is on the podcast to talk about his new book: “The Bomb.”

“The bomb in a way is the protagonist,” Kaplan says. “It is the overriding force, and the story — which is the subtitle, ‘Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War’ — is how different people at different times with different conceptions dealt with it, how they came to grips with it.”


Sarah Lyall visits the podcast this week to discuss her recent review of four new thrillers — including Nina Sadowsky’s “The Empty Bed” and Chris Hauty’s “Deep State” — as well as to share the general qualities she looks for in the genre.

“Some people don’t really care how the book is written, and they just care about plot, so they like a lot of excitement, they like a lot of plot twists, they like maybe danger, almost like watching a movie,” Lyall says. “That’s not my favorite. I actually would prefer a psychological thriller. I like things that have secrets from the past that bubble up in the present. But that’s a very common thriller trope, and I think it’s very hard to do it really, really well.”

Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Dwight Garner, Parul Sehgal and Jennifer Szalai talk about the books they’ve recently reviewed. Pamela Paul is the host.

Here are the books discussed by The Times’s critics this week:

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