Summary and book reviews of K Blows Top by Peter Carlson

K Blows Top

A Cold War Comic Interlude Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America's Most Unlikely Tourist

by Peter Carlson

K Blows Top by Peter Carlson X
K Blows Top by Peter Carlson
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2009, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2010, 352 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Micah Gell-Redman
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

This hilarious account of Khrushchev's 1959 U.S. tour is also a supremely entertaining evocation of the history and atmosphere of Cold War America

Khrushchev's 1959 trip across America was one of the strangest exercises in international diplomacy ever conducted - "a surreal extravaganza," as historian John Lewis Gaddis 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. As Khrushchev kept reminding people, he was a hot-tempered man who possessed the power to incinerate America.

Excerpt
K Blows Top

Khrushchev’s first meal in America was a sumptuous lunch at Blair House, the official presidential guest residence—fillet of beef with truffles, potatoes, string beans, and a Charlotte Russe praline with raspberry sauce. He was just finishing when he received his first visitor—Henry Cabot Lodge, the American ambassador to the United Nations and the man Ike had selected to be Khrushchev’s tour guide on his odyssey across America.

Few men on earth had less in common: Khrushchev was a short, pudgy, uneducated Russian peasant who’d climbed to power by tenacity and brutality; Lodge was a tall, thin, Harvard-educated Boston Brahmin who’d been born into America’s aristocracy, scion of one of the families immortalized in an old New England toast:

Here’s to good old Boston,
Home of the bean and the cod,
Where the Lowells speak only to the Cabots
And the Cabots speak only to God.


Lodge’s ancestors included...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

All in all, this is a well-executed, pleasant piece of historical reportage about a crucial and colorful slice of the twentieth century.   (Reviewed by Micah Gell-Redman).

Full Review (629 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

Media Reviews

The Boston Globe
I plan to dedicate the second half of my life to a new cause: books that are fun to read... K Blows Top fits the bill.

The Washington Post - Jacob Heilbrunn
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.

Publishers Weekly
Hilarious … In Carlson’s hands the cold war is a surprisingly laughing matter.

Kirkus Reviews
A high-spirited, often hilarious account of a forgotten moment in Cold War history. A fast-paced work of political history, peppered with references to Shirley MacLaine's knickers, Iowa corn, Dwight Eisenhower’s frown, Nina Khrushchev’s sidelong glances at Frank Sinatra and all the other makings of mutually assured destruction.

Booklist
Starred Review. 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.

Library Journal
Starred Review. For anyone interested in this remarkable moment in the long history of U.S.-Soviet relations, Carlson's book is a treat!

Author Blurb Daniel Schorr
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.

Reader Reviews

Thomas Riley

Fun and frothy history
Great read! Even tho' I'm not old enough to remember Kruschchev and much of the cold war, I enjoyed these history of Nikita's visit to US in 1959. Surprisingly funny. Great background info on how foreign dignitaries are handled or, in K's instance...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book


Vice president Richard Nixon spars with Nikita Khrushchev during the former's visit to Moscow.

On the set of the film Can-Can, Shirley MacLaine and Frank Sinatra gave the communist dictator a taste of good old fashioned American titillation.

K and wife Nina pose with the family of Iowa corn farmer Robert Garst whose deft salesmanship influenced the development of Soviet agriculture.

Khrushchev embraces the victorious Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro in New York city during a meeting of the United Nations. An explosive alliance between the Caribbean nation and the Soviet Union would soon solidify and send the world to the brink of Armageddon.

more images from K's tour

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked K Blows Top, try these:

  • The Secret Speech jacket

    The Secret Speech

    by Tom Rob Smith

    Published 2010

    About this book

    More books by this author

    Former state security officer Leo Demidov is struggling to change as the Soviet Union changes around him. The two young girls he adopted have yet to forgive him for his part in the death of their parents, and they are not alone; now that the truth is out, Leo and his family are in grave danger from someone consumed by the dark legacy of Leo's past...

  • The Irregulars jacket

    The Irregulars

    by Jennet Conant

    Published 2009

    About this book

    More books by this author

    An extraordinary tale of deceit, double-dealing, and moral ambiguity - an insider's view of the counterintelligence game played by the British in Washington during the early days of World War II.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Liar
    The Liar
    by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
    The Liar is a book that will make its readers uncomfortable by design; set in modern-day Israel, it ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dutch House
    The Dutch House
    by Ann Patchett

    There are a few times in life when you leap up and the past that you'd been standing on falls away ...

  • Book Jacket: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
    The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
    by Kim Michele Richardson
    A loyal animal companion, treks through gorgeous but forbidding wilderness, glimpses of larger ...
  • Book Jacket: Where the Light Enters
    Where the Light Enters
    by Sara Donati
    In this thrilling follow-up to The Gilded Hour, doctors Sophie and Anna Savard take on a baffling ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Shadow King
    by Maaza Mengiste

    "A brilliant novel, lyrically lifting history towards myth. It's also compulsively readable."
    —Salman Rushdie
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Motherhood So White
    by Nefertiti Austin

    A heartwarming memoir of motherhood and adoption told through an African American lens.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Girl Who Reads on the Métro

The Girl Who Reads on the Métro

An enchanting story for fans of The Little Paris Bookshop and The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

L, Damn L, A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.