In the 1980s, I joined the crowds of anti-nuclear demonstrators, driven into a state of terror by the last years of the Cold War. Ronald Reagan, a man we held to be a warmonger and a religious fanatic, had matched the deployment of short-range missiles in Eastern Europe with short-range missiles in Western Europe.

COMMAND AND CONTROL, by Eric Schlosser. Penguin, 2013, 640 pp., $36 (hardcover)

We could imagine Armageddon coming by accident and design and describe how the world would die. Scientists did not warn of global warming 30 years ago, but of a nuclear winter falling as the debris from thermonuclear war blocked out the sun.