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10 Best Books About the Manhattan Project (2024)

Best Books About the Manhattan ProjectThe Manhattan Project is a broad topic with a lot of history. Above all else, this was indeed a project that involved research and development of nuclear weapons in the United States. This occurrence took place during the Second World War. It started as a result of a piece of information involving the Germans and that Adolf Hitler was building a nuclear weapon that he was more than prepared to use.

Hearing Everyone’s Story

There were many people involved in this project. The books that we’re about to review include many names, events, secrets, and much more that may surprise you. The story is a broad one with many versions told by different people. However, this project wasn’t a secret for long and there is so much to discover about it after the time that has passed.

Why Was the Manhattan Project Called That?

For such a dangerous and secret project you would think that the name meant more. In fact, the simplest of reasons why the Manhattan Project was named like that is simply because of the location where it mostly took place.

At first, it was called the Manhattan Engineer District, but it was layered shortened to the name we all know now. We will leave the rest up to the 10 books about the Manhattan Projects that will teach you all you need to know.

Best Books About the Manhattan Project

The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes


From Start to Finish

The first book we have to show you focuses on explaining the entire journey of this event and all of the crucial steps that resulted in everything that took place back then. Richard Rhodes has written one of the best books about the atomic bomb and has researched enough to show this process step by step to his readers.

It’s one of the most comprehensive books on the topic you can ever hope to read. You’ll have plenty of hours to enjoy everything this book has to offer, as the contents inside are neatly organized and written within almost 900 pages.

An Award-Winning Story

Thanks to the story inside this book, its author, Richard Rhodes, received several amazing awards that are well-deserved. This list of prestigious awards includes the National Book Award, a Pulitzer Prize, Jason’s 5 Star, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. All of that praise is well-deserved as well.

So, what can you expect from The Making of the Atomic Bomb? This book tells you about the Manhattan Project, it’s all backed by facts and a lot of research. The story alone was exciting enough to learn about, however, Richard’s expertise makes it a lot more worthwhile to read. If you’re searching for the best-rated Manhattan Project books, then look no further.

109 East Palace by Jennet Conant


Through the Eyes of Dorothy McKibben

The best thing about each of these books is that all of them offer a different perspective of this entire historical event. 109 East Palace is the perfect example of this as it describes the same event as all of these other books but yet it tells an entirely different story in terms of characters and perspective.

One of the most significant characters in this nonfiction book is Dorothy, the person who will be showing us around Los Alamos and introducing us to many of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project. Dorothy is the one who ran this project’s office in Santa Fe and is a person who can give us a lot of valuable insights.

The People of Santa Fe

One of the best parts about this book is that it also focuses a lot on the people involved with the original scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project. This book by Jennet Conant also talks about many of the families who lived in Santa Fe during the war. Most of these characters are friends and family to the scientists working on the project.

We also get to meet J. Robert Oppenheimer, also known as Oppie. He was the person in charge of the Manhattan Project and the initiator of the entire thing. This is one among many characters who make this one of the best Manhattan Project books out there.

Now It Can Be Told by Leslie R. Groves


The Story Told First Hand

Now It Can Be Told is probably the most thrilling Manhattan Project history book mainly because it was written by a person deep inside the entire operation. This person is known as Leslie R. Groves, the person in charge of the Manhattan Project alongside Robert Oppenheimer. Leslie R. Groves was a General and an engineer, working hard to finish this operation.

Each of these best-selling Manhattan Project books is worthwhile reading and can tell you a lot about this historical event. However, this is a book that may give you the most insights, as General Leslie R. Groves tells us much more of what he witnessed while the project was progressing. Leslie shares and talks about the involvement of foreign governments, the construction of huge plants, crucial press complications, and the stress of racing to build an atomic bomb before the Nazis.

The Truth Finally Revealed

The Manhattan Project initially started in 1939 and lasted throughout the Second World War. This book, written by General Leslie, was published in 1983. It took the General a while but he was finally ready to sit down and tell the story. This is part of the reason why Now It Can Be Told may very well be the best book on the Manhattan Project out there. In any case, that is up to you to decide.

Manhattan Project by Cynthia C. Kelly


Transcribing Old Documents

While some of the top Manhattan Projects books tell stories of certain events involving the project, this book by Cynthia C. Kelly focuses on spreading more facts, such as the number of people that came to work on this, the time it took to progress, the amount of money spent, and much more.

The information in this book contains a collection of writings, documents, statistics, and more that were written down during the Manhattan Project. Like most of the other books on this topic, the author starts at the beginning, in 1939. This is the year of the birth of the Manhattan Project. Cynthia tells the story chronologically and explains how the project eventually reached to employ around 130.000 people.

Information That Was Once Secret

The information discussed in this book was once worth killing for, back in the days during this entire operation. Now, with a little hard work and research, the author has managed to uncover some amazing insights into this historical event. A little taste of what’s inside includes that the Manhattan Project cost the country nearly $2 billion.

She shares how the people in charge struggled to keep this operation top secret. Cynthia also mentions a few crucial events that may or may haven’t been turning points for the Manhattan Project. You have around 400 pages of information to explore and maybe even get astonished by. It’s up to you to uncover this historical enigma.

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan


The Secret Town of Oak Ridge

This is another one of the top Manhattan Project books in which you read about a certain character and see the entire story from their perspective. Even though it’s fun learning about the facts and details about this atomic bomb operation, hearing stories of people who lived during that time and witnessed so much is worthwhile as well.

This is the story of the women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. You’re going to read about how they were a very important part of the operation and what it all means as you discover more about their lives. But first, Oak Ridge was a town that didn’t appear on any map until 1949. Its creation was a result of the Manhattan Project. Oak Ridge was created in 1942 as a secret city that would serve valuable to the operation involving the creation of an atomic bomb.

The Secrets of Oak Ridge

This town quickly became populated and was mostly made up of young women who were brought there from the South. Their jobs and purpose in Oak Ridge were secret, and even whispering about the details resulted in eviction from the town. After a while, the secret started leaking and more and more residents caught on to what their true purpose in Oak Ridge has been all along.

We won’t spoil any of these crucial secrets, as that may be one of the most exciting moments of this book. The bottom line is if you’re looking for one of the most popular Manhattan Project books out there, then you’ve found the perfect choice. This is the true story of the women of Oak Ridge, and the roles they played in building the atomic bomb.

American Prometheus by Kai Bird


Into the Life of Oppenheimer

The next book from our list of the best books on the Manhattan Project takes a different approach to explain how things went down back then. This is a biography of the man who contributed so much to this project, the one, and only J. Robert Oppenheimer.

The book isn’t small, as it spans just a bit over 700 pages. Despite that, the author doesn’t talk much about Robert’s early life and childhood and focuses more on his achievements, his years during University, and everything building up towards his life’s biggest project.

The Journey to Becoming Head of the Manhattan Project

The content in this book is not merely well researched. The author writes one of the most compelling stories about this man’s life based on countless hours of research. To give you an idea of what he went through, it took Kai 25 years to finally have enough to write it.

It took him long interviews with 112 people who had any type of relationship with the Manhattan Project, it took him 256 books to read gathering intel, 83 full pages of all kinds of notes, reading through manuscript collections, articles, dissertations, and basically anything he could get his hands on.

Brighter than a Thousand Suns by Robert Jungk


Studying Different Scientific Minds

This may be the oldest book we have to offer from our list of a few of the best atomic bomb books out there. Brighter than a Thousand Suns was written during the 1950s and was published in 1970 by Robert Jungk. The author tells us an exciting story about the views and perspectives of different scientists and physicists who had some sort of part to play in and around the Manhattan Project.

On the surface, this is another book about the Manhattan Project, about the process it took to create the atomic bomb, and about the consequences. However, when you dive deeper you will learn that there is much more to it. You get to meet some of the key players in this entire operation like Oppie but there are also a few intriguing appearances as well. This includes Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, and a few more.

Deep Behind the Scenes

The book quickly introduces you to the key characters inside this story. First, you learn the way they think about this entire process, about the knowledge and work it would take to create such a catastrophic weapon, the science behind it all, and much more. Then, as the story progresses, you read about how the same scientists struggle to prevent this weapon from ever being used, as the results would be disastrous, obviously. Overall, a deeply insightful book worth reading for anyone interested in learning more about the Manhattan Project and the names behind it.

Trinity by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm


Visualizing the Manhattan Project

Let’s make learning about the Manhattan Project and about the atomic bomb even more exciting by featuring a book that’s filled with countless illustrations. This book is by the amazing illustrator Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, featuring 150 pages of pure fun and fact. The book may not be as detailed or well-researched as many others on our list, but the content inside is far from being incorrect.

Jonathan’s book on the Manhattan Project is a unique one, sharing the original story of how things went down and featuring some exciting graphic illustrations to make sure readers imagine this historical event much better.

The Ultimate Graphic History Novel

For many readers, this way of learning about the atomic bomb is much more exciting than many others. The book is filled with many short boxes of texts next to thrilling and simple illustrations, making sure you never get bored and learn at the same time. Jonathan is a real storyteller, and his book is a true graphic novel masterpiece.

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages


The Manhattan Project – A Children’s Book

Finally, we have our first fiction book that takes the reality of the Manhattan Project to a whole other level. Some of the characters may be fictional, the story may be made up and customized to some extent, but the basis of the entire tale is very true and real. Everything you’re about to discover, everyone you’re about to meet, are all related to the very real historical event known as the Manhattan Project.

Searching for the Truth

The main character in this thrilling book is an 11-year-old girl named Dewey Kerrigan. She decides to go searching for her father, a brilliant scientist who is working on a top-secret and extremely dangerous project. Dewey gets on a train and heads for Los Alamos, New Mexico. The hunt for her father will not be an easy one, and it will take some time for her to find him and discover the truth.

No one is kind enough to point her in the right direction. A few years pass and you get to watch Dewey discover more and more, meet several scientists, tinker with her own mechanical projects, and finally uncover the truth of the atomic bomb. This is truly one of the top atomic bomb books for children and even adults.

The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit


Carving a Life During Chaos

We have a book of similar topics somewhere within our Manhattan Project book review that talks about the women of Los Alamos. Even though the topics may be similar, this is still a different and very unique book. This one is a bit more in-depth and has much more to tell you regarding the women who were forced to live a life of difficulties and war hardship.

This is another fiction book that is based on a very real story. The only thing that is made up may be the names of the characters and small details to make things a bit more interesting. At the end of the day, the story inside is far from being false and focuses on how the women in Los Alamos experienced their daily lives during the construction of the atomic bomb. Learn how these women made a living for themselves during one of the most notable historical events.

Michael Englert

Michael is a graduate of cultural studies and history. He enjoys a good bottle of wine and (surprise, surprise) reading. As a small-town librarian, he is currently relishing the silence and peaceful atmosphere that is prevailing.