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Extended Audio Sample K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude, Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America’s Most Unlikely Tourist, by Peter Carlson Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (253 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Peter Carlson Narrator: Malcolm Hillgartner Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Khrushchev’s 1959 trip across America was one of the strangest exercises in international diplomacy ever conducted—“a surreal extravaganza,” as one historian called it. Khrushchev told jokes, threw tantrums, sparked a riot in a San Francisco supermarket, wowed the coeds in a home-economics class in Iowa, and ogled Shirley MacLaine as she filmed a dance scene in Can-Can. He befriended and offended a cast of characters including Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe.

Published for the fiftieth anniversary of the trip, K Blows Top is a work of history that reads like a Vonnegut novel. This cantankerous communist’s road trip took place against the backdrop of the fifties in capitalist America, with the shadow of the hydrogen bomb hanging over his visit like the Sword of Damocles.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Carlson seems to have sought and discovered every piece of arcana associated with the Soviet leader’s American sojourn. A deft and amusing writer, Carlson does a marvelous job of recounting it.”

    Washington Post

  • “Peter Carlson’s K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude, Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America’s Most Unlikely Tourist may be the most entertaining historical account you’ll ever read.”

    Washington Post’s Express

  • “The linked sketches of Khrushy’s boozy, mercurial meanderings through New York, Hollywood, and the Iowa State Fair are jaw-dropping in an era of stage-managed diplomacy. Well beyond travelogue, the book is also a portrait of a more naive, optimistic nation in the heat of the nuclear age.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Fast-paced, delightfully sardonic, and thoroughly enjoyable…It’s a revealing portrait of a treacherous decade when the media—especially nascent television, whose news departments seldom questioned the views of the government that controlled their broadcast licenses—were almost as innocent as they were influential.”

    Boston Phoenix

  • K Blows Top by Peter Carlson is a hilarious, accomplished account of this epic journey of ‘a stranger in a strange land’ as he puts it, one of the most important and, inadvertently, one of the funniest state visits of all time.”

    Financial Times

  • “Hilarious…due in equal parts to Khrushchev’s outsized provocateur personality and the bizarre and thoroughly American reaction to his visit…In Carlson’s hands the Cold War is a surprisingly laughing matter.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “The book is consistently informative and funny, but there are episodes that are strangely surreal…a fine example of popular history at its most engaging—anecdotal but informative and written with great feeling for the comedic side of current events.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “For anyone interested in this remarkable moment in the long history of US–Soviet relations, Carlson’s book is a treat!”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “This book recreates in vivid detail one of the most astonishing figures in our recent history. The Communist leader’s storming of America can be enjoyed by everyone but especially those with memories of that singular episode in the winding down of the Cold War.”

    Daniel Schorr, senior news analyst, National Public Radio

  • “[An] entertaining and informative story about ‘inviting the enemy into our camp.’ Both the humorous and explosive sides of the Russian leader’s personality give narrator Malcolm Hillgartner ample material for his clever impersonation and faux accent. A studied parody of Nixon’s unmistakable muttering chimes in here and there as well. Hillgartner’s appropriate humor and announcer’s voice act like a tour guide to American life and politics during the Cold War of the 1950s.”


  • “Carlson’s account is extremely well researched and includes interviews with a number of participants, most notably Khrushchev’s son, Sergei. Many of the accounts and memos he quotes are from State Department historical documents. His book is enlivened by many direct quotes from Khrushchev and others. Anyone interested in cultural exchange, international diplomacy and fine writing should enjoy this unique book.”


Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Kristin Farren | 2/15/2014

    " great, funny historical read. i am not usually a fan of history non-fiction, which is often accurate at the expense of being dense. this book might treat it's subject too lightly at times but it is a very compelling and quick read about a fascinating historical figure and a very interesting time in 20th century America. i have a special interest in post-WWII soviet union/cold war goings-on but i would recommend this book to anyone. my only complaint is that the author really turns kruschev into a caricature and glosses over some of the important contributions he actually made. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Anita Williamson | 2/13/2014

    " What a horrible narcissistic man. Why did waste so much time reading about him? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Don Fox | 2/5/2014

    " At the height of the cold war Dwight Eisenhower, President of the United States, "accidentally" invited Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, to tour America, and what a long, strange trip it became. Khrushchev was an extremely interesting, highly complex, and ebulliently charming man who, during his trip, horrified, amazed, and utterly captivated the country. It's a terrific story, and competently told. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Stephen Burrows | 2/5/2014

    " A really enjoyable book, not as laugh out loud funny as many reviewers have mentioned but it is incredibly entertaining and fascinating for a reader born 1975. "

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