The best books about the fragile peace after the Great War

Who am I?

Mary Doria Russell is the New York Times best-selling and award-winning author of The Sparrow, Children of God, A Thread of Grace, Dreamers of the Day, Doc, Epitaph, and The Women of the Copper Country. Widely praised for her meticulous research, fine prose, and compelling narrative drive.


I wrote...

Dreamers of the Day

By Mary Doria Russell,

Book cover of Dreamers of the Day

What is my book about?

A novel about the making of the modern Middle East. A schoolteacher still reeling from the tragedies of the Great War and the influenza epidemic travels to the Middle East in this memorable and passionate novel. With prose as graceful and effortless as a seductive float down the Nile, Mary Doria Russell illuminates the long, rich history of the Middle East with a story that brilliantly elucidates a few pivotal days in Cairo that changed the world.

The books I picked & why

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The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

By John M. Barry,

Book cover of The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

Why this book?

A wonderfully researched and written account of both the Influenza of 1918-1919 and of America's entry into the Great War. Barry included the only mention I had come across about the catastrophic illness of President Wilson on the eve of the Versailles treaty negotiations. We can only wonder what might have been, had Wilson caught influenza just a few weeks later.


Assignment: Churchill

By Walter Henry Thompson,

Book cover of Assignment: Churchill

Why this book?

It will take some digging, but do try to hunt this down. Thompson was assigned as Churchill's bodyguard just a week before the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference began. His account of his boss's attitudes and habits is refreshingly irreverent. (While smoking a cigar, Churchill “looked like an upholstered toad, slowly incinerating himself.”) Thompson also provides an important contemporaneous description of how T. E. Lawrence was regarded by Arabs in 1921, before either he or Churchill became enveloped in mythology.


Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia

By Michael Korda,

Book cover of Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia

Why this book?

This wasn't available to me when I was writing Dreamers of the Day, but it deepened my compassion and respect for Lawrence, despite and because of his complexity. IMO, this is the best and most complete biography with much detail not available to prior biographers, particularly about Lawrence's later work as a marine engineer and technical writer.


Death of a Hero

By Richard Aldington,

Book cover of Death of a Hero

Why this book?

An ironic, sarcastic, ferocious, and funny novel about the Great War by one who fought in the trenches of the Western Front. Aldington became a venomous critic of Lawrence in later years – possibly because Lawrence seemed to have had a much easier war and had become a hero, whereas Aldington never quite got the attention he hoped for as a veteran or a writer.


Testament of Youth

By Vera Brittain,

Book cover of Testament of Youth

Why this book?

A beautiful autobiography by a young Englishwoman who came of age as a nurse on the Western Front. Taken together with Death of a Hero, the books of these two young adults gives a sense of a generation whose lives were blighted by the war. Their stories are all the more heartbreaking when you realize that the Great War would be followed by the Great Influenza and the Great Depression, and all that it would all lead to the Second World War.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in World War 1, T. E. Lawrence, and pandemics?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about World War 1, T. E. Lawrence, and pandemics.

World War 1 Explore 499 books about World War 1
T. E. Lawrence Explore 5 books about T. E. Lawrence
Pandemics Explore 25 books about pandemics

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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