Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World (2011)
The story of 1940s Hollywood superstar Hedy Lamarr, an amateur inventor who invented a fundamental modern technology, frequency-hopping radio, to help the Allied war effort in the early years of the Second World War. She donated the patent to the U.S. Navy, which made no use of it until the mid-1950s, when it was revived and applied to ship-to-ship communications, radio control of missiles and much more. Declassified in the late 1970s, it was then applied to digital wireless in the form of satellite uplinks and downlinks, wireless telephones, Bluetooth and more. Hedy never made a penny on it, but she did eventually receive several awards in recognition of her inventive gifts.
"Rhodes's talent is making the scientifically complex accessible to the proverbial lay reader without dumbing down the essentials of his topics....Along the way he expertly weaves social and cultural commentary into his narrative....Behind the uniqueness of this story lie deeper themes that Rhodes touches upon: the gender biases against beautiful and intelligent women, the delicate interpersonal politics of scientific collaboration, and the neverending, implacable conflict between art and Mammon in American culture." - JOHN ADAMS, The New York Times Book Review.
The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986)
(Volume One of The Making of the Nuclear Age)
A history of the discovery of how to release nuclear energy and the development of the first atomic bombs–the science, the fascinating people, the politics and the consequences. Winner of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction, and the 1987 National Book Award.
"Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb is the best, the richest, and the deepest description of the development of physics in the first half of [the 20th] century that I have yet read, and it is certain the most enjoyable." –ISAAC ASIMOV
"One of the one hundred best nonfiction books of the 20th century." –Modern Library
"It is the comprehensive history of the bomb–and also a work of literature." –TRACY KIDDER
The Twilight of the Bombs (2010)
(Volume Four of The Making of the Nuclear Age)
A final volume of nuclear history, narrating the events following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union: The search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, 1991 - 1998; the effort to secure the nuclear arsenals and nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union; the near-war with North Korea in 1994, averted at the last minute by the personal intervention of former President Jimmy Carter; the proliferation of nuclear weapons to India, Pakistan and North Korea; the successful extension of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the failure of the US Senate to ratify the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; the real reason the Bush administration decided to go to war with Iraq in 2003; an assessment of the risk of nuclear terrorism; and a thorough examination of the prospects for nuclear abolition.
Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race (2007)
(Volume Three of The Making of the Nuclear Age)
A narrative of the entire postwar superpower nuclear 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.
Arsenals of Folly is also a prehistory of neocon influence on American government, with early appearances by Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz promoting dubious intelligence and threat inflation. It draws on personal interviews, newly-available documents, the memoir literature and oral history to recreate what actually happened in the final years of the Cold War that led to its dramatic end.
"Rhodes accomplishes what neither American nor Soviet political cultures could manage over a half-century of 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
"Paralleling the careers of Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan, Rhodes builds up to a detailed account of the 1986 Reykjavik summit, at which the two leaders--both eager to achieve peace--nearly came to an agreement on eliminating their nuclear arsenals....The clarity of the historical record reinforces Rhodes's fiercely held political convictions, ensuring widespread attention as he returns to this critically and commercially successful subject." - PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb (1995)
(Volume Two of The Making of the Nuclear Age)
The definitive, often shocking story of the politics and the science behind the development of the hydrogen bomb and the birth of the Cold War. One of three finalists for a Pulitzer Prize in History.
"Dark Sun demonstrates the same ambition; literary skill; unrelenting research; talent for portraiture; understanding of the links between science, war and politics; willingness to stand up to large historical questions; and sound judgment that distinguished Richard Rhodes' 1987 book The Making of the Atomic Bomb. But this is the more important volume, not only because of its influence on the way we think about a half-century of world history, but because the hydrogen bomb continues to cast a shadow on the world today." –MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Los Angeles Times
John James Audubon: The Making of an American (2004)
A new biography of the legendary 19th-century American artist and naturalist that explores as well the era of national expansion during which he lived.
"Rhodes has managed to do for Audubon what Audubon did for birds.... In this splendid biography, Rhodes has produced nothing less than a portrait of the United States in its formative years." –The New York Times Book Review
The Ungodly: A Novel of the Donner Party (1973, 2007)
"In the year 1846," The Ungodly begins, "men took their families west to California and a new life. The families of the Donner Party went among them." Received with critical acclaim and long out of print, this first novel of the infamous covered-wagon pioneers who were caught in the high Sierra by early snow and forced eventually to eat their dead to survive is a scrupulously accurate reconstruction of their ordeal.
"Certainly [Rhodes] has created an atmosphere as stark and gloomy as an old graveyard in an abandoned town. And certainly he has made a replica of the American past that often sets us pondering the American present. But somehow none of these points quite does justice to this strange, accomplished book. So let me just admit that it is a grim, unpleasant story--a 'hard, hard case,' as the narrator sighs while describing the ghoulish sights that greeted the relief parties. But unpleasant as it is, it is also beautiful. And one keeps reading it." — CHRISTOPHER LEHMANN-HAUPT, New York Times.
Masters of Death: The SS Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust (2002)
The first full history in English of the SS Einsatzgruppen, the "special task forces" that followed the Germany army into Poland and the U.S.S.R. early in the Second World War, the agents of the first phase of the Final Solution. The Einsatzgruppen, backed by German police and SS soldiers, murdered more than 1.5 million Jewish men, women and children between 1941 and 1943 by shooting them into killing pits, as at Babi Yar.
"To read Richard Rhodes' book on the infamous SS murder squads is to follow him to the brink of absolute evil and its cold, calculated and blood-chilling brutality. What made normal citizens, some of them with college degrees, into mass murderers of children and their parents? This haunting question fills these pages with pain and anguish. This is an important and enormously powerful book." –ELIE WIESEL
Why They Kill: The Discoveries of a Maverick Criminologist (1999)
By interviewing, in depth, hundreds of men and women imprisoned for violent crimes, the criminologist Lonnie Athens identified a pattern of social development common to all seriously violent people. This book introduces Athens, reviews his violent socialization model, applies it to such violent careers as those of Perry Smith, Mike Tyson and Lee Harvey Oswald, supports it with historical and contemporary evidence and challenges theories that violence is impulsive, unconsciously motivated and predetermined.
"In Mr. Rhodes's summary, [Athens's] theory offers a commanding perspective on human violence. It provides a coherent explanation of human development, one that can be seen to dovetail with both psychoanalysis and anthropology. Wherever you look, it explains things. It surprises you not unpleasantly with its promise that 'violentization has nothing to do with race–or with poverty, for that matter.' And it makes a lot of useful if scary sense....The way Mr. Rhodes has combined biography, theory and intellectual history makes his presentation irresistible." –CHRISTOPHER LEHMANN-HAUPT, The New York Times
How To Write: Advice and Reflections (1995)
A guide for experienced as well as beginning writers to the larger and deeper questions writers face: How do I dare? Where do I begin? What do I do with this story I have to tell that fills and breaks my heart? Examples and anecdotes drawn from more than thirty-five years of experience as a professional writer for magazines and newspapers as well as of novels, history and letters.
"This is a remarkable book of self-revelation.... How generous Rhodes is with his mind and his heart. Buy this book, buy it. It's a handbook on how to live." –Washington Post
"How To Write is as useful a study of craft, or the professional conduct of a writing career, as I've seen." –FREDERICK BUSCH, Los Angeles Times
A Hole in the World: An American Boyhood (1990)
A personal memoir of an American boyhood during and after the Second World War, including climbing trees, fireworks, beatings and starvation, a brave older brother and recovery at a benevolent boys' home that was also a working farm.
"Unlike too much of what is offered for public edification (and titillation) in this our age of confession, A Hole in the World comes straight from the heart with no apparent self-serving motives.... [It demonstrates] that it is possible to escape, to rise above hurt and rage, to live a life that is useful and good." –JONATHAN YARDLEY, Washington Post
The Inland Ground: An Evocation of the American Middle West (1969; Revised Edition 1991)
Including chapters on coyote-hunting and cockfighting in western Kansas, growing wheat, Harry Truman, a ride on a diesel freight train, the mountain man James Clyman, Dwight Eisenhower, a visit to an Iowa pig slaughterhouse, the Mayo Clinic, the annual Osage dances in Oklahoma, the Iowa Writers Workshop.
"[Rhodes' first book is] a very American book, written with a warm and compelling intelligence." –Harper's Magazine