Some Suggested Reading         

 

I’m often asked which books I’d recommend on the various themes I offer tours on.  Here is a current snapshot of which books I’ve found the most interesting, inspiring, challenging, and well-written - it should go without saying that this is a very personal list, and doesn’t seek to be comprehensive. Updated March 2019

 

World War I Overview 

World War I 

Winter, Jay

An illustrated volume in Chancellor Press’ History of the 20th Century, 1993 (first published Andromeda Oxford 1988)

Excellent summary, divided into The Politicians War, The Generals’ War, The Soldiers’ War, and The Civilians’ War - each section then dealing with each of the years of the war in sequence. Clever, and stimulating

 

World War One - a Short History 

Stone, Norman (Penguin 2008)

Truly short, but biting and interestingly done

 

The Western Front 

Holmes, Richard (BBC 1999)

Gets the soldier’s perspective into an excellent all-round short summary

 

1914 1918 

Stevenson, David (Penguin 2002, 2012)

600 page epic, the best big book on the entire war.  Great author

 

France & World War I 

France and the Great War 1914-18 

Smith, Leonard, Audoin-Rouzeau, Stéphane, and Becker, Annette (Cambridge 2003)

Three of the top experts on the French experience, one American, two French.  Parallel volume to one on Germany’s experience

 

Pyrrhic Victory 

Doughty, Robert (Harvard 2005)

Best book on the overall French fighting, by American historian; weighty but good

 

Verdun 1916 

Prost, Antoine and Krumeich, Geri (Tallandier 2015)

In French- a unique Franco-German look at the climactic battle, a century on

 

Germany & World War I 

Imperial Germany and the Great War 

Chickering, Roger (Cambridge 1998, 2004)

Sister volume to the one on France above.  Short

 

Ring of Steel: Germany & Austria-Hungary at War 

Watson, Alexander (Penguin 2014)

600 page epic, with an eye-opening perspective on ‘the other side’ of the story.

 

Britain & World War I 

The First Day of the Somme 

Middlebrook, Martin (Allen Lane 1971, countlessly reprinted)

Best short book to read on Britain and WWI, assumes no prior knowledge; follows ten men through the day

 

With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory & Defeat in 1918 

Stevenson, David (Penguin 2011)

Another blockbuster from Stevenson.  Whilst about the all-nations story of 1918, this has much to say on Britain - and fascinating thoughts on just how wars can end

 

The Myriad Faces of War 

Wilson, Trevor (Blackwell 1986)

Australian historian analyses Britain and the Great War in depth (& at length): powerful

 

The Long Shadow: the Great War and the 20th Century 

Reynolds, David (Simon & Schuster 2013)

Mostly, though not all, about Britain and the shadow cast by WWI

 

ANZACs & World War I 

The Great War 

Carlton, Les (Macmillan 2006)

700-page whopper that puts the ANZAC story into the overall picture well (many ANZAC accounts don’t!)

 

Monash 

Perry, Roland. (Random House 2004)

Good bio of fascinating man, an excellent prism through which to see the whole Australian story

 

Somme Mud 

Lynch, EPF (Doubleday 2008)

Gripping firsthand account edited - maybe too liberally ? - by Will Davies.  Some of the best what-it-was-like-to-be-there writing I’ve read.

 

Canada & World War I 

In the Footsteps of the Canadian Corps 

Brown, Angus and Gimblett, Richard (Magic Light Publishing 2006)

Picture and maps short book that brings the battlefields to life and tells the story succinctly

 

Vimy Ridge: a Canadian Reassessment 

Hayes, Geoffrey and other editors (Wilfred Laurier Univ Press 2007)

In-depth academic study of the Vimy story 90 years on; excellent

 

At the Sharp End 1914-16

Shock Troops 1917-18 

Cook, Tim. (Penguin 2007 and 2008)

2-volume detailed history of “Canadians Fighting the Great War”.  Excellent blend of personal stories, strategy and the detail of each battle.

 

The US & World War I 

The Doughboys 

Mead, Gary (Allen Lane 2000)

British author gives excellent overview of the story.  Best introduction (along with John Eisenhower’s Yanks)

 

The AEF Way of War 

Grotelueschen, Mark (Cambridge 2007)

Excellent study of how the US Army actually learned (& very well) in the field, leaving behind Pershing’s platitudes about open warfare

 

A Fraternity of Arms: America & France in the Great War 

Bruce, Robert (Kansas UP 2003)

Helps you understand how very differently Americans viewed the world in 1917

 

The Long Way Home 

Larkin, David (Harper 2010)

Tracing the lives of a dozen immigrants to the US who then served the US in the war

 

European History - overall 

The Two Cities: Medieval Europe 1050-1320 

Barber, Malcolm (Routledge 1992)

Fascinating look at the High Middle Ages, cleverly broken down, with theme of the two worlds spiritual and secular and the relationship between them

 

The Age of Catastrophe: a History of the West 1914-45 

Winkler, Heinrich (Yale 2015)

Second part of an epic history of the West by a top German historian, the first volume of which has not yet been translated into English.

 

Postwar: a history of Europe since 1945 

Just, Tony (Heinemann 2005)

A masterpiece from one of the best British historians

 

Voyage en Europe: de Charlemagne à nos jours  

Reynaert, François (Fayard 2019)

In French.  Witty, pithy, clever, told with feeling - I learnt so much about how to summarise this sweeping story.

 

These six volumes in the Penguin History of Europe series (Renaissance volume still to appear):

The Inheritance of Rome - Chris Wickham (2009)

Europe in the High Middle Ages - William Chester Jordan (2001)

Christendom Destroyed: Europe 1517-1648 - Mark Greengrass (2014)

The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815 - Tim Blanning (2007)

The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914 - Richard Evans (2016)

To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949 - Ian Kershaw (2015)

 

France 

France since 1870 

Sowerwine, Charles (2nd edition Macmillan 2009)

Fascinating synthesis, going right up to 2008

 

Nos Ancêtres les Gauls et actress fardaises 

Reynaert, François (Fayard 2010)

Another masterpiece from Reynaert (see Europe above).  In French

 

Germany 

Germania 

Winder, Simon (Picador 2010)

Laugh out loud funny look at Germany, our warped perceptions of it, and its history

 

History of Germany 1780-1918 - the Long 19th Century 

Blackbourn, David (2nd edition, Blackwell 2003)

History of Germany 1918-2000 - the Divided Nation 

Fulbrook, Mary (2nd edition, Blackwell 2002)

Comprehensive two-part history of Germany by two of the best British historians of Germany

 

The Shortest History of Germany 

Hawes, James (Old St Publishing 2017)

Provocative but excellent - and truly short

 

My Father’s Country: the story of a German family 

Bruhns, Wilkes (Heinemann 2008)

Her father was executed for his part in the 20 July 1944 plot against Hitler - she retraces his story.  Amazing read, helps to explain the draw of the Nazis to some

 

The Collapse: the accidental opening of the Berlin Wall

Sarotte, Mary Elise (Basic Books 2014)

Fascinating human story of the 1989 protests and then their climax in Berlin

 

World War II 

World War II 

An illustrated volume in Chancellor Press’ History of the 20th Century, 1993 (first published Andromeda Oxford 1988)

Excellent summary, good maps.  Hard to find as has no named lead author.

 

The End: Hitler’s Germany 1944-45 

Kershaw, Ian (Penguin 2011)

Superb account of why the war continued right to the bitter end, by one of Britain’s best historians

 

Inside Hitler’s Bunker 

Fest, Joachim (Macmillan 2004)

Story of the last days by one of Germany’s best historians

 

The Rocket and the Reich 

Neufeld, Michael (Harvard 1995)

Best summary of the V2 story and the Von Braun team’s involvement with the regime.  Neufeld’s Von Braun biography is first-class also.

 

Why the Allies Won 

Overy, Richard (Pimlico 2006)

Clever analysis, challenging lots of our prefixed ideas

 

The Fall of France: the Nazi Invasion of 1940 

Jackson, Julian (Oxford 2003)

Fairest account of 1940 I’ve seen - very interesting (& short!)

 

Choices in Vichy France 

Sweets, John (Oxford 1984)

Looks at exactly what choices different people had in one French town (Clermont Ferrand)

 

Three masterpieces by Antony Beevor, the best British WWII historian today:

    D-Day (Penguin 2009)

    Ardennes 1944 (Penguin 2015)

    Berlin (Penguin 2002) 

 

The Guns at Last Light: the War in Western Europe 1944-45 

Atkinson, Rick (Little Brown 2013)

Last of a trilogy, best and fairest American account of the NW Europe fight by far

 

Decision in Normandy 

D’Este, Carlo (Collins 1983)

Pithy stimulating account of the whole Normandy campaign

 

A Bridge Too Far 

Ryan, Cornelius (1974 originally)

Superb storytelling, and looks at the whole of Market-Garden not just Arnhem like most British books

 

Company Commander 

Macdonald, Charles (1947 originally)

Gripping account of what it’s like to be a 22-year-old American officer when the German attack in the Ardennes kicked off

 

The Longest Winter 

Kershaw, Alex (Da Capo Press 2004)

From recruitment to battle to prisoner camp and back home - moving portrayal of the platoon that fought at Lanzerath on the opening day of the Battle of the Bulge

 

The Battle of the Bulge 

Parker, Danny (Da Capo Press 1991)

The best detailed account of the whole of the battle, not just the first 10 days which most books limit themselves to

 

Those who hold Bastogne 

Schrijvers, Peter (Yale 2014)

Non-American account of the whole Bastogne story, including the January fight too, and the civilians.  Great maps.

 

KL: a history of the Nazi Concentration Camps 

Wachsmann, Nicolaus (Farrar, Strauss and Groux 2015)

Comprehensive account of the whole system; incredible detail.

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Last updated March 2019

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