The Guardian - Notable Books of 2013


Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety (2013)

Written by Eric Schlosser

Famed investigative journalist Eric Schlosser digs deep to uncover secrets about the management of America’s nuclear arsenal. A ground-breaking account of accidents, near-misses, extraordinary heroism, and technological breakthroughs, Command and Control explores the dilemma that has existed since the dawn of the nuclear age: how do you deploy weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them? That question has never been resolved—and Schlosser reveals how the combination of human fallibility and technological complexity still poses a grave risk to mankind.

Written with the vibrancy of a first-rate thriller, Command and Control interweaves the minute-by-minute story of an accident at a nuclear missile silo in rural Arkansas with a historical narrative that spans more than fifty years. It depicts the urgent effort by American scientists, policymakers, and military officers to ensure that nuclear weapons can’t be stolen, sabotaged, used without permission, or detonated inadvertently. Schlosser also looks at the Cold War from a new perspective, offering history from the ground up, telling the stories of bomber pilots, missile commanders, maintenance crews, and other ordinary servicemen who risked their lives to avert a nuclear holocaust. At the heart of the book lies the struggle, amid the rolling hills and small farms of Damascus, Arkansas, to prevent the explosion of a ballistic missile carrying the most powerful nuclear warhead ever built by the United States.

Drawing on recently declassified documents and interviews with men who designed and routinely handled  nuclear weapons, Command and Control takes readers into a terrifying but fascinating world that, until now, has been largely hidden from view. Through the details of a single accident, Schlosser illustrates how an unlikely event can become unavoidable, how small risks can have terrible consequences, and how the most brilliant minds in the nation can only provide us with an illusion of control.  

Audacious, gripping, and unforgettable, Command and Control is a tour de force of investigative journalism, an eye-opening look at the dangers of America’s nuclear age. (Copyright © Penguin Press. All rights reserved.)

Source:  Penguin Random House Company.

Eric Schlosser, an award-winning journalist, has written for Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, the Nation, and The New Yorker, among others. He has received a National Magazine Award and a Sidney Hillman Foundation Award for reporting. All three of his books (Reefer Madness, Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, and Chew on This) have been national bestsellers. Fast Food Nation is assigned reading at universities across the country and was adapted to film in 2006. 

Schlosser has addressed the United States House of Representatives and Senate about the risk to the food supply from bioterrorism and has lectured at universities across the country, including his alma mater Princeton University, the University of California at Berkeley, Yale University, College of the Holy Cross, and Claremont College.

Schlosser now lives in northern California with his wife, who is a painter, and their two children.


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