For thirteen days in October 1962 the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war. This is a blow-by-blow account of how the United States and the Soviet Union got there and the many missteps that could have led to the end of the world as we know it. Award-winning historian Serhii Plokhy tells the riveting story of those weeks, tracing the tortuous decision-making that produced and then resolved it, involving John Kennedy and his advisers, Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro, and their commanders on the ground. More often than not, the Americans and Soviets misread each other, operated under false information and came terrifyingly close to nuclear catastrophe. Despite these mistakes, nuclear war was avoided thanks to one central reason: fear.