The best books about 20th century conflict

Stewart Binns Author Of Barbarossa: And The Bloodiest War In History
By Stewart Binns

Who am I?

Stewart Binns is a former academic, soldier, and documentary filmmaker, who became a writer quite late in life. He has since written a wide range of books in both fiction and non-fiction. His passions are history and sport. He has completed a medieval quartet called the Making of England Series, two books about the Great War and a novel set during Northern Ireland’s Troubles. His latest work of non-fiction, Barbarossa, tells the story of the Eastern Front (1945 to 1944) from the perspective of the peoples of Eastern Europe. He is now working on a history of modern Japan.

I wrote...

Barbarossa: And The Bloodiest War In History

By Stewart Binns,

Book cover of Barbarossa: And The Bloodiest War In History

What is my book about?

On June 22nd 1941, the largest military invasion in human history was launched - an attack on the Soviet Union by almost four million men of Nazi Germany's brutal war machine. Operation Barbarossa led to the bloodiest military campaign mankind has ever known. The statistics of death and destruction are almost impossible to believe. The cruelty, suffering and destitution it wrought are unimaginable . . . over forty million people lost their lives.

Yet, the real story of the Eastern Front is still not truly understood outside of Germany and Eastern Europe. Little is known of those who suffered in the horror of Hitler's 'War of Annihilation' - the soldiers and civilians of Eastern Europe who fought and died trying to save their homelands and their loved ones.

The books I picked & why

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The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany

By William L. Shirer,

Book cover of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany

Why this book?

I read this extraordinary book as a young man. It is a captivating account of how and why Germany came to be ruled by the man whose deeds were the most reprehensible in modern history. There are moments in the book, like Hitler’s famous meeting with Hindenburg in January 1933, which make you shiver when you read Shirer’s account.

The Origins of the Second World War

By A.J.P. Taylor,

Book cover of The Origins of the Second World War

Why this book?

Taylor’s book was controversial in many ways. He contradicted many of the conventional wisdoms about the war, but more importantly, he annoyed the stuffy world of historical academia by writing popular history which was accessible to a wide readership. He certainly led me to realise that history can be immediate and compelling rather than distant and dry.

The Face of Battle

By John Keegan,

Book cover of The Face of Battle

Why this book?

There are many military histories. However, Keegan’s account talks about what battle is really like for those who fight them. Although he only dwells on the Battle of the Somme in the twentieth century, his telling of it is compelling. There are few battles as tragic and heroic as the Somme.

Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63

By Taylor Branch,

Book cover of Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63

Why this book?

I was a young boy living in a small town in the North of England when I watched the new phenomenon of television news as it brought me the awful traumas of the fight for civil rights in America. The scenes shaped my attitudes and philosophy for the rest of my life. Branch’s account is a stunningly evocative analysis of an issue in America that, as I move into the twilight of my days, is still not resolved.

Japan at War: An Oral History

By Haruko Taya Cook, Theodore F. Cook,

Book cover of Japan at War: An Oral History

Why this book?

Oral history sources have always been central to my work, both as an author and a documentary-maker. Cook’s account of the experiences of ordinary Japanese people during the Second World War is one of the best. It is both powerful and a lesson about the utter tragedy of war.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in World War 2, Japan, and Germany?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about World War 2, Japan, and Germany.

World War 2 Explore 886 books about World War 2
Japan Explore 299 books about Japan
Germany Explore 267 books about Germany

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Hitler's War and the Germans, In the Ruins of the Reich, and Wolfram: The Boy Who Went to War if you like this list.