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Extended Audio Sample Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race Audiobook, by Richard Rhodes Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (187 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Richard Rhodes Narrator: Robertson Dean Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2007 ISBN: 9781415943304
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From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb: the story of the entire postwar superpower arms race, climaxing during the Reagan-Gorbachev decade when the United States and the Soviet Union came within scant hours of nuclear war—and then nearly agreed to abolish nuclear weapons.

In a narrative that moves like a thriller, Rhodes sheds light on the Reagan administration’s unprecedented arms buildup in the early 1980s, as well as the arms-reduction campaign that followed, and Reagan’s famous 1986 summit meeting with Gorbachev. Rhodes’s detailed exploration of events of this time constitutes a prehistory of the neoconservatives, demonstrating that the manipulation of government and public opinion with fake intelligence and threat inflation that the administration of George W. Bush has used to justify the current “war on terror” and the disastrous invasion of Iraq were developed and applied in the Reagan era and even before.

Drawing on personal interviews with both Soviet and U.S. participants, and on a wealth of new documentation, memoir literature, and oral history that has become available only in the past ten years, Rhodes recounts what actually happened inthe final years of the Cold War that led to its dramatic end. The story is new, compelling, and continually surprising—a revelatory recreation of a hugely important era of our recenthistory.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Every age finds the writers it needs, and the nuclear age has found Richard Rhodes. The Nation
  • Throughout his assiduously researched work, Rhodes cites stunning statistics to support his contention that the nuclear competition has run amok . . . dense with crucial, revealing information obtained from personal interviews and newly declassified documents, Rhodes’s Arsenals of Folly is a dramatic and penetrating investigation of the nuclear arms race and its eventual end. The Philadelphia Inquirer
  • A terrifying overview of the global potential for killing. The Economist
  • Rhodes performs the remarkable feat of reconstructing all the niggling, the misunderstanding, the moments of obtuseness in a way that proves dramatic precisely in its repetitiveness and frustration. Newsday
  • His artful narrative contains some real gems. New York Times Book Review
  • Highly detailed and gripping . . . a chilling conclusion. Scientific American
  • Rich and riveting . . . a splendid writer . . . harrowing. Los Angeles Times Book Review
  • “Using an impressive range of sources, clean writing and a clear sense of the dramatic, Rhodes triumphs. Rocky Mountain News
  • As a contribution to our understanding of the latter half of the 20th century, Rhodes’s achievement is on a par with Taylor Branch’s America in the King Years trilogy and Robert Caro’s monumental ongoing biography of Lyndon B. Johnson. The Mercury News (San Jose, CA)
  • Rhodes is not only an outstanding researcher and historian, he is a superb writer who enraptures the reader with a gripping narrative. Upon reading this important book, one will walk away ruminating on the unspeakable horror of the nuclear apocalypse that was, it often seems miraculously, avoided during the Cold War. The Sunday Star-Ledger
  • Stylistically, Arsenals of Folly is often quite distinguished. The impressive opening chapter–which describe the Chernobyl disaster in a controlled but morbidly involving tone–is an achievement . . . as an allegory of manipulated intelligence, miscalculation, and fatal ideology, it is alarmingly relevant. The Tennessean
  • No finer manual for learning from the mistakes of our past than [this] valuable book. Seed magazine
  • Detailed and dramatic . . . devastating commentary on the perilous nature of the nuclear arms race. Houston Chronicle
  • Intriguing insight . . . Rhodes masterfully dissects decades of what he considers reckless and misguided policy decisions that led the United States and the Soviet Union to expand their nuclear arsenals beyond all logic . . . The author’s deftly painted character portraits–he mentions Gorbachev’s “southern Russian accent and hillbilly grammar make for an engrossing narrative.
  • Absorbing . . . “
    -The Seattle Times
  • With skillful insight, Richard Rhodes has woven accounts by Soviet and American insiders into a dark and troubling history of superpower insanity. He makes you wonder when we'll wake up, since some of the American villains keep coming back to haunt us: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle. David Shipler, Russia: Broken Idols, Solemn Dreams
  • Richard Rhodes, our leading historian of nuclear weapons, has written a powerful, clear-eyed account of the nuclear arms race, focusing on Mikhail Gorbachev as the heroic figure in the history of mankind’s 20th Century flirtation with oblivion. Rhodes gives the still-neglected happy ending to that flirtation the sweeping, insightful, and compelling treatment it deserves. So yes, this is an “important” book, but it reads like a political thriller. Robert G. Kaiser, Why Gorbachev Happened
  • Compelling . . . an insightful chronicle of epoch-shaping events. Booklist
  • Rhodes accomplishes what neither American nor Soviet political cultures could manage over a half-century of nuclear cold war–to find the flesh-and-blood human reality on both sides. Rich with revelation, insight and detail, riveting as a powerful novel, Arsenals of Folly is transcendent history, haunting our memory and experience. Roger Morris, Partners in Power: The Clintons and Their America
  • One of the 2007 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Scott | 12/28/2013

    " A tremendous, often infuriating, always briskly told history of the USA/USSR nuclear arms race--the whys and hows of the ridiculously mammoth buildup, the tension and close calls it caused, and the eventual massive reduction of both strategic and tactical forces--with an emphasis on the Gorbachev and Reagan years. Richard Rhodes knows how to tell a good anecdote, and is astonishly both brief and clear in relaying this epic. And in case you need two more despicable, smug, self-serving right-wingers to hate, look no further than Paul Nitze and Richard Pearle. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Josh | 12/5/2013

    " Richard Rhodes should stick to science writing. While he can lucidly explain a scientific idea in colloquial terms, he does not have the ability or the stomach to lay out policy arguments, as his moralizing gets in the way. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mk100 | 11/20/2013

    " Rhodes is a wonderful writer, and he makes the complexities of the nuclear arms race understandable and the follies of that race seem almost inevitable, with an internal logic that propelled it forward against what any outside observer would recognize as foolishness. Great quote from Bismarck included: "Fools learn from experience. Wise men learn from the experience of others." "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Patrick | 10/25/2013

    " Not his best work, but certainly worth a read. If you understand the cold war in terms of the west, especially Reagan toppling the Soviet Union, then this is a must read. Rhodes paints a pretty scary picture of the Reagan administration, especially the Neo-Cons like Pearle and Cheney whose world views pushed the expansion of the military industrial complex to new frightening heights. The hero of this book is certainly Gorbachev, and Rhodes describes the collapse of the Soviet Union as much more an internal economic matter,rather than with outside interference from the United States. This book gets you thinking about power,politics, the effects of accepted lies, as well as parallels between the Soviet system and ours. Oh yeah, this book also does a superb job of explaining the folly of SDI, the so-called Star Wars initiative, an idea in Reagan's fantasy which almost single-handedly destroyed the peace process that unfolded in the later 1980s. I am a huge fan of this Richard Rhodes-do not be dissuaded by my words at the beginning of this review. Anything by him is meaty, scholarly and vividly rendered. I just feel that other works like "Masters of Death," "Why They Kill?," and "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" are quite simply superior. I would like to meet the man. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 C M Carroll | 10/20/2013

    " What Ike meant when he asked what the military cost. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 R | 9/23/2013

    " Sufficiently complete history of the Cold War. Becomes a bit tedious when discussing negotiations between Gorbachev and Reagan, but leaves out no details otherwise. As for the writing, I don't know if there are many better than Rhodes. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joe Fowler | 8/8/2013

    " Another excellent book in Richard Rhodes' series on the history of the nuclear age. It was dismaying to learn how many alternatives to the massive nuclear arms race were open to the US and the Soviet Union for the last sixty years. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linda Lipko | 2/21/2012

    " excellent! It is obvious Rhodes did his research! Well written! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 R | 8/4/2009

    " Sufficiently complete history of the Cold War. Becomes a bit tedious when discussing negotiations between Gorbachev and Reagan, but leaves out no details otherwise. As for the writing, I don't know if there are many better than Rhodes. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ethan | 4/14/2009

    " The Russians dumped sand and lead onto Chernobyl because water poured on the meltdown site would ignite the water's elements, creating an explosion far greater than the meltdown itself. "

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About the Author

Richard Rhodes is the author of numerous books and the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and National Book Critics Circle Award. He graduated from Yale and received fellowships from the Ford Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

About the Narrator

Robertson Dean has played leading roles on and off Broadway and at dozens of regional theaters throughout the country. He has a BA from Tufts University and an MFA from Yale. His audiobook narration has garnered numerous AudioFile Earphones Awards. He now lives in Los Angeles, where he works in film and television in addition to narrating.