After yesterday’s World War II fiction post, now it’s time for the non-fiction. Once again culling from the excellent comments left in my original post on the topic from a while back, here are the books:
Many readers suggested Anthony Beevor’s books Stalingrad and The Fall of Berlin 1945. Writes Steve: “Beevor’s Stalingrad is the better of his two books on the war. Stalingrad was the true turning point in the European war (although you will see many smart folks argue that the turning point was Pearl Harbor, the Russian Front broke the Wehrmacht and Stalingrad, with Kursk following, was the breaking point). The scale of the battle is just amazing. I loved Atkinson’s book, but reading about Stalingrad makes you wonder whether we could have won a battle like that and thankful we did not have to find out.” Tripp writes, “Fall of Berlin 1945 is great, but is also terribly depressing. The end of the catastrophic Russo-German conflict is described in all its brutal horror.” Also fans of the Beevor books were CHatten and S. Dougherty.
Tripp also recommends Eric Bergerud’s Touched With Fire: “It concerns the land war in New Guinea and the Solomons. The fighting differed from Europe in a number of ways. For one it is tropical, making the fight somewhat similar to Vietnam. For another the two sides were more closely matched in air and sea power which forced the US to fight differently. It’s an excellent read.” Steve also suggests Russia’s War by Richard Overy, “a very good overview of the Russian Front” and Five Days in London by John Lukacs “about the period immediately following Dunkirk, when any sane nation would have sued for peace and the British decided to fight on alone,” and says that “William Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich sets the standard and rightly so. For a thousand page tome it is incredibly readable and never less than fascinating.” Sand Storm also recommends Shirer, but S. Dougherty says “it was poor history by the time it was published.”
Another controversial pick is Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose, which Sand Storm liked, but S. Dougherty suggests steering clear. Sand Storm also liked a pair of biographies, Patton by Ladislas Farago and American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur by William Manchester, as well as In Harms Way by Doug Stanton about the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis in shark-infested waters. Bryan D. Catherman suggests Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley. Don Napoli recommends Serenade to the Big Bird by Bert Stiles who was killed in action during the war. Kate S. likes Paul Fussell’s Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War as well as Uwe Timm’s In My Brother’s Shadow: A Life and Death in the SS, “an extraordinarily powerful memoir that has to do more with the aftermath in Germany than with the war itself.” “For a more personal look at the war,” CRwM recommends Studs Terkel’s The Good War: “I’m a sucker for almost any Terkel book, but this one stands out even that body of excellent works.”
CHatten has “a couple of other suggestions on the eastern front, a side of the war which Americans tend to not know much about. Years ago I read a book by a German war correspondent: it’s just called Stalingrad by Heinz Schroter. It’s doubtless out of print and it’s journalism more than history and only from the German side. But still, it’s worth reading. The author was at the battle and the horrific stories and sheer immediacy conveyed by the book gives you a real sense of what it was like to endure this military disaster from the German side. I recently also read Writer at War by Vasily Grossman. Grossman was a Russian writer who worked as a war correspondent; most of the book is excerpts from his journals and reporting. Again, there’s some vivid writing about the unbelievably horrible eastern front, and the entire book gives you a sense of the mixture of idealism and brutality which characterized the Soviet side of that monumental conflict.” Grossman’s newly rereleased novel also appears on our fiction list. S. Dougherty has four suggestions, The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer, “an engrossing memoir written by a German soldier.” “Ian Kershaw’s recent biography of Hitler is excellent — though there are other good ones, his is bifurcated and the second volume deals with the 1936-1945 time period, which fits your bill nicely.” A World at Arms by Gerhard Weinberg is “massive and slow-going, but comprehensive).” Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning is about “the banality of evil — a look at the killing squads that moved through Poland in the wake of the fighting.”
Really great suggestions everybody. I’ll be bookmarking this post as well. Obviously this list could go on forever, but if you have anything to add, please leave us suggestions in the comments.
Update: Lynne Scanlon suggests the first book on the list by a female author. To War with Whitaker by The Countess of Ranfurly is “a diary of an audacious woman who manages to follow her soldier husband to the Middle East. Whitaker is the “faithful servant” who accompanies them. Fascinating. Funny. Fraught.” It was recommended to her by Grumpy Old Bookman.
See Also: World War 2 Fiction