Intrigue, spying, resistance fighters working behind enemy lines to sabotage the Nazis—Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World's Most Dangerous Weapon, by Steve Sheinkin, has it all. The story is true, but it reads like a spy thriller.
When the United States realizes that Nazi Germany is trying to build an atomic bomb, the race is on. American scientists disappear to a top secret site in the desert where they work long hours to try to build the bomb before the Nazis do. Meanwhile, Norwegian resistance fighters train for a daring mission into occupied territory to destroy a heavy water plant and cripple the German nuclear project.
But there's another player in this drama—the KGB. When the Soviet Union learns that the Americans are building a nuclear bomb, they decide they cannot afford to fall behind in the arms race. But the Soviets have a problem. Their scientists aren't at all close to being able to build such a weapon and it would take too long to build up their own nuclear program from scratch. Their answer: steal the plans from the Americans.
If you think history is dull, this book will change your mind. Sheinkin includes stories that are better than anything an author could dream up, like a young scientist babysitting the new atomic bomb during a thunder storm the night before the first full test. Or the bumbling attempts of a scientist and his wife to sow disinformation about the project by visiting local bars. The fact that you know the ending—it is history after all—does not lessen the thrill of the tale.