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Szilard features prominently in Richard Rhodes' "The Making of the Atomic Bomb." Definitely worth the read if you have an interest in early nuclear science. Really filled in a lot of details about scientists that I remember learning about in school but never knew much about personally. Highly recommend it!



Superb book, perhaps the finest non-fiction book I've had the pleasure of reading. I love the way he is able to create a narrative that goes all the way back to H. G. Wells to find its roots.

Rhodes' follow-up, "Dark Sun: The Making Of The Hydrogen Bomb", basically continues the story where TMAB left off. The narrative gets a bit more fractured and factual, focused on the question of how to safeguard nuclear weapons and what their political/military/diplomatic purpose is. But it does wrap up the J. Robert Oppenheimer story.

Once one has read these two, I strongly recommend "American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer" [2] by Bird and Sherwin. Also extremely well written.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Sun-Making-Hydrogen-Bomb/dp/0684...

[2] https://www.amazon.com/American-Prometheus-Triumph-Tragedy-O...


we have the same bookshelf apparently! have you read any other non-fiction greatest hits tomes, like Power Broker?


as we all have the same bookshelf here, the next brick over on mine is Daniel Yergin's "The Prize". amazing work on the history of oil


"The Prize" is fantastic, as is the associated (7 hour!) PBS-produced documentary that's available in its entirety on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1stQW6i1Ko The actual in-person interviews with oil execs who were in the room during nationalization are amazing!


The Power Broker is a great, huge read.

Another good one that I got recently is Arabia Felix [1], a rather obscure Danish book from 1962 from NYRB. A minor classic.

I'm not a war buff by any stretch, but I can recommend Antony Beevor. Sometimes his books devolve into exhausting, never-ending play-by-plays of tank and troop movements, but both Stalingrad and The Fall of Berlin [3] and were fascinating just for his ability to conjure up the time and place. Inside the Third Reich was similarly interesting, even it's known to be a flawed narrative.

I also recently read Bad Blood, about Theranos, which was excellent. Literary-wise not quite on the same level, though.

Got any recommendations?

[1] https://www.npr.org/2017/06/17/531929925/in-the-refrains-of-...

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Stalingrad-Fateful-1942-1943-Antony-B...

[3] https://www.amazon.com/Fall-Berlin-1945-Antony-Beevor


I got the impression from Richard Rhode's books that Szilard, for all his ability and achievements, was a pretty pretentious 'know it all' with a (possibly justified) powerful sense of his own importance. This article kind of hints at this nature as well. I think it's largely this that has prevented his name being perhaps as widely known as Oppenheimer, Teller, Fermi etc when one thinks of the Manhattan Project, as those who retell these events often appeared not to like the man particularly much. Fermi of course chose never to work with Szilard ever again.




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