Recommend books on WW1 & WW2. Please.

My FIL is going in for surgery in a about 11 days. His entire recovery will be spent in bed for 6 weeks. At home. :eek:

My MIL might go insane.

He loves the WW2 time period ( being that he was born in 1941 in Prussia and lived in Germany his whole life) .

I need book recommendations for books about the First and Second world war. Fiction, Bio’s, Mystery, Factual Compendiums & whatnot. Links appreciated.

Danke :slight_smile:

Why the Allies Won - Richard Overy

How Hitler Could have Won WW II - Bevin Alexander

The Atlantic Campaign - Dan van der Vat

Dirty Little Secrets of World War II - James F. Dunnigan

Duel of Eagles - Peter Townsend

The German Navy in World War II - Edward P. Von der Porten

(All WWII books; WWI bores me to tears.)

Very readable and fun books. Anything by James Dunnigan or John Keegan will be an interesting read. (Dunnigan more fun, Keegan more informative.)
My local Barnes and Noble tends to have pretty high prices on the good war books, so hit Amazon (or favorite online store) and save a few bucks.

Len Deighton, has both non fiction and fiction on WW2, Jack Higgins has a few good ones out there. Daniel Silva is a good read too. Fiction, he goes back and forth between WW2 and present day.

WW2 fanatic checking in. Commiserations and best wishes for your FIL’s speedy recovery (this might sound more sincere if I knew what an FIL was!)
Well, if I was to spend six weeks in bed, and I was allowed say 5 WW2 books, I’d choose these for myself, in no particular order (if I hadn’t already read them, obviously :smiley: )…


  1. A Piece of Cake by Derek Robinson. Novel about a squadron of British fighter pilots in the early part of the war. The only book I’ve ever finished and gone straight back to the start to read again.

  2. Night over day over night by Paul Watkins. Novel about a young German soldier in the Battle of the Bulge. Like Robinson, Watkins writes amazing fiction, good enough for both of them to have been linked to the literary Booker Prize.


  1. Actually, Why the Allies Won as suggested by Brutus is pretty darn good, it really makes you think about the course the war took.

  2. The Desert Generals by Correlli Barnett. Classic account of the war in North Africa, full of controversial conclusions and wrapped in Barnett’s elegant prose.

  3. Six Armies in Normandy by John Keegan. A good account of UK, US, Polish, German etc soldiers’ experience on D-Day and beyond.

Doh, FIL=Father In Law, right? :smack:

WWI nonfiction:

The Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman

Enemy at the Gates, a really excellent book about the seige of Stalingrad in WWII. It’s nothing like the movie - instead of concentrating on the sniper battle, which it spends all of five pages on, it’s more a history of the entire thing. How many men Hitler threw at the problem, how the Soviets countered, and how they ultimately won.

It’s fascinating. It also has a large cast, but once you get sucked in, you’re hooked.

Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne From Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest - Stephen Ambrose

The best WWI book (and one of the best history books ever written is The Price of Glory by Alastair Horne. Amazon is bundling it with the Tuchman (also a fine book). Get it.

Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, and The Ghost Road by Pat Barker, and The Wars by Timothy Findley.

They’re all absolutely brilliant. :slight_smile:

Winston Churchill’s 6 volume history of the Second World War is a must-read for all armchair generals.
[li]Hitler kept no diary, & did not share his innermost thoughts.[/li][li]Stalin was utterly paranoid, & never wrote anything down, in a non-official capacity.[/li][li]Hirohito was smart to keep his mouth shut.[/li][li]Mussoloni was executed. His (purported) journals were lost or burned (allegedly).[/li][li]Roosevelt died in office.[/li][li]Truman was a non-entity for 80%+ of the war.[/li][li]What little DeGaul wrote, post-war, merely Flamed his old Allies, often for little cause.[/li][li]Who else is left, other than Churchill? :confused: [/li][/ul]

Thanks for all the suggestions. I will happily accept more for my Father In Law

I love Tuchman as much as anybody, but there’s been a whole generation, maybe two, of scholarship since she wrote. Specifically, while all the papers of Germany’s Gen. Helmuth von Moltke had been thought to have been destroyed, a trove of documents have recently been discovered, giving insight into his role in deliberately instigating the war.

A good popular history incorporating these papers is Europe’s Last Summer: Who Started The Great War in 1914? by David Fromkin, which debunks almost all the facts you think you know about the immediate causes of the war. I have a higher opinion of the book than most of the reviewers on Amazon, BTW, whom I think have misread his meaning. I also find it hard to take Niall Ferguson’s The Pity of War as seriously as they do.

John Keegan is as good as analyst on the military and war as there is, and he also has a recent book, The First World War, that has been getting impressive reviews, although I haven’t read it yet to check.

BTW, what’s wrong with Amazon this morning? Is someone doing a DoS attack on them? I’ve never seen it this slow.

Three by A.J.P Taylor, The First World War; The Origins of the Second World War; The Warlords (studies of the five main leaders during WWII).

John Keegan, The First World War.

Ewen Montagu, The Man Who Never Was - about one of the most ghoulish counter-intelligence ops ever - dropping a dead body in the sea with fake info about where the Allies would invade in the Med.

Two by John Lukacs: The Duel: The Eighty-Day Struggle Between Churchill and Hitler, focusing on the period between Churchill assuming power and the fall of Dunkirk; and Five Days in London - an account of the power struggle that led to Chamberlain’s resignation and the choice of Churchill over the Duke of Halifax as the Prime Minister; Churchill, with a “civilization is in the balance - fight to the end” policy, and Halifax with a more traditional “balance of power - should we reach an accomodation?” approach.

Ballard, the guy who found the Titanic, later searched for and found the Bismarck, then wrote about it: The Discovery of the Bismarck: Germany’s Greatest Battleship Surrenders Her Secrets. Interesting mixture of a day-by-day account of the chase, and the technology that went into finding the ship.

And for light humour, set in the war: Whiskey Galore, by Compton Mackenzie - about a ship laden with Scotch that founders on a Scottish island where whiskey is under strict war-time rationing.

Okay, it’s not based on WWII and it’s set mostly in America, but

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

is set during that time period and involves the war in the storyline. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read…I actually started rereading it last night.

I’m pulling a NEAR jinty with this one–it’s been a few weeks since I finished it but there is so much to digest.

It’s rare that I find a book to be too short. This one is a treat and a quick, easy read.

If only Princess Margaret had been able to marry him…

Too bad. It was a total horrorshow. Millions killed for, basically, no reason at all. And you cannot ignore that, as was concluded here a couple years ago, it gave us the better poetry of the two.

I started Keegan’s book but will have to buy it because I read at talking speed (when I say something is a quick read that’s SAYING something :frowning: ) and it’s too long to be taking out of the library. (Hmmmm, Amazon has it used from $4.20 and I have a gift certificate! But Amazon is, like EM says, very slow today.)

What bores me is most war non-fiction by British authors. Yes, they are thoroughly, even obsessively, researched but they are as dry as the sands of El Alamein. If you know which unit Dad was in you can follow his military career day by day but there is a point where you have to throw away the charts, statistics, and lists of which petty nobleman ran which unit and start blowing things up. Speaking of blowing things up, is there a good book on the Long Range Desert Group (you may remember them from “The Rat Patrol”) and the Special Boat Service, including after the the North Africa campaign and the LRDG stopped getting to use Jeeps loaded up with more machine guns than a '60s TV budget could show and the SBS stopped using boats?

Dry books may help FIL sleep but he’ll need something lighter to stay awake and the same British attention to detail that makes their nonfiction so boring does the opposite for their fiction, which often has a verisimilitude that keeps a reader going when the action slows. For mindrotting fun I recommend the WWII novels of Alistair MacLean, including “The Guns of Navarone” and “Where Eagles Dare.” “The Key to Rebecca,” by Ken Follett, is an exciting spy story in WWII Cairo.

I found Martin Gilbert’s The First World War: A Complete History excellent, very readable and moving. He’s also written one on WWII, which I’ve not read.

I forgot to mention that for good short overviews for wars you’re not already familiar with, there are two series I find immensely readable.

One is by the historian James L. Stokesbury, whose produced A Short History of…
the American Revolution, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea and of air power.

There’s also the American Heritage histories of the various wars. These are each done by a historian specializing in the period. A downside is that these have been around forever, and even the millions of updated, revised, and reorganized editions don’t have the latest specialty research available. But they are written to be narrative histories of the most classic, i.e. readable, kind.

Aaarrgghh! who’s, not whose.

Just finishing reading Tommy, by Richard Holmes; excellent, not at all dry (Dropzone!) social history of the British soldier in WWI;

also Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World, by Margaret MacMillan, which should be required reading in every senior high school in the English-speaking world, IMHO;

Anthony Beevor’s Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege, 1942-1943 is superb, based on new material (new to the West, anyway) from former Soviet archives. His The Fall of Berlin 1945 is good, but not as much so as “Stalingrad.”

I’ve flogged this round the boards before, but don’t miss George MacDonald Fraser’s autobiographical Quartered Safe Out Here; possibly the best personal WW2 memoir I’ve read; entertaining, moving, thought-provoking (and extremely well-written!)