The best books on history and practice of war

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by war since I was literally a toddler. True story, I was the only two-and-a-half-year-old in South Boston, Massachusetts with an adult library card. I had to get one, and to get it to prove to the librarian that I could read, in order to check out certain books that I wanted. I only recall one title, The Battle of Midway. Since then, though I’ve done other things like practice law and become a novelist, most of my adult life was still spent as an enlisted man, non-commissioned officer, and company grade and field grade infantry officer in the Army.  


I wrote...

The Romanov Rescue

By Tom Kratman, Justin Watson, Kacey Ezell

Book cover of The Romanov Rescue

What is my book about?

1918, the last year of the greatest war in human history, to date. All the belligerents stagger on their feet. Starvation and disease are ever-present realities. In Russia an imprisoned family—Father, Mother, four beautiful young girls, and a brave but sickly boy—await their own fate, shivering and hungry in the dark. Even strong fabrics have flaws. An escaped and recaptured prisoner of war might be one. An airship, at loose ends might be another. A German general, taking a wrong turn on his nightly walk would be a third.

Follow as the general gives the orders, the prisoner of war raises the men, and the airship launches itself forward, to contest fate, to tear the fabric of time, to rescue the Romanovs.

The books I picked & why

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The Campaigns of Napoleon

By David G. Chandler,

Book cover of The Campaigns of Napoleon

Why this book?

This one is pricey, but is perhaps the best single source on war as carried out by Napoleon. Why does this matter? Because—less logistics, for the most partwe are still locked into an essentially Napoleonic system of making war. I love this book because the author was patient and thorough, didn’t take shortcuts, assumed the reader had a lot to learn on the subject, and taught just about everything there was to teach.

The Campaigns of Napoleon

By David G. Chandler,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Campaigns of Napoleon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Describes every campaign and every battle which Napoleon personally conducted. It contains descriptions of tactics, logistics, topography, weaponry, casualties, the roles of individuals under Napoleon's command or against him. Has pull-out map of Napoleon's 1798 voyage to Egypt and Nelson's chase.

Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton

By Martin Van Creveld,

Book cover of Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton

Why this book?

Everyone’s surely heard the old saw, “Amateurs study tactics while professionals study logistics.” It’s not exactly true; real professionals study everything, down to and including the plastic arts, because war is the art that subsumes all other arts and sciences. That said, while studying everything, the real professional still gives pride of place to logistics. Van Creveld explains in this brief volume how that has historically worked or failed, and why.

Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton

By Martin Van Creveld,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Supplying War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why did Napoleon succeed in 1805 but fail in 1812? Could the European half of World War II have been ended in 1944? These are only two of the many questions that form the subject-matter of this meticulously researched, lively book. Drawing on a very wide range of sources, van Creveld examines the specifics of war: namely, those formidable problems of movement and supply, transportation and administration, so often mentioned - but rarely explored - by the vast majority of books on military history. In doing so he casts his net far and wide, from Gustavus Adolphus to Rommel, from…

The Peloponnesian War

By Thucydides, P.J. Rhodes, Martin Hammond (translator)

Book cover of The Peloponnesian War

Why this book?

Written around twenty-five centuries ago, this remains the seminal work of history, political science, man as he is, war, and diplomacy. The author expressly intended that it be “a work for all time,” and so it remains. Moreover, it serves still as an example of a civilization ruining itself, as Europe did in the Great War. Thus, it continues to warn.

The Peloponnesian War

By Thucydides, P.J. Rhodes, Martin Hammond (translator)

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Peloponnesian War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The greatest historian that ever lived'

Such was Macaulay's verdict on Thucydides (c. 460-400 BC) and his history of the Peloponnesian War, the momentous struggle between Athens and Sparta as rival powers and political systems that lasted for twenty-seven years from 431 to 404 BC, involved virtually the whole of the Greek world, and ended in the fall of Athens. Thucydides himself was a participant in the war; to his history he brings an awesome intellect, brilliant narrative, and penetrating analysis of the nature
of power, as it affects both states and individuals.

Of his own work Thucydides wrote: 'I…

The War for the Union, Vol. 1: The Improvised War, 1861-1862

By Allan Nevins,

Book cover of The War for the Union, Vol. 1: The Improvised War, 1861-1862

Why this book?

Yes, I know: “Eight volumes? Are you mad, Kratman?” 

This is unquestionably the greatest single history on the American Civil War ever written. There are over sixty thousand books about the Civil War in existence. You cannot hope to read them all. This being true, if the subject interests you—and it ought, because the Civil War made the United States what it is—if you can read only eight, make this series the eight. Think of it as a really long single volume work.

The War for the Union, Vol. 1: The Improvised War, 1861-1862

By Allan Nevins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The War for the Union, Vol. 1 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

By Jonathan Haidt,

Book cover of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Why this book?

If war is “politics with an admixture of other means,” then politics is war with fewer means. Currently “we are engaged in a great [cultural] civil war.” The core reason behind that is pair of very different views of the nature of Man. The extreme left’s core article of faith is in the malleability of man, for good or ill, via nurture, which is to say training, education, propagandization, relentless nagging, and a taste of terror, as needed. The extreme right is a mirror image, except based on genetics rather than environment. Haidt shows that man is not only not especially malleable for any good purpose, but is, in fact, rather than being a rational, thinking creature, largely an irrational, emotional, and instinctive one. 

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

By Jonathan Haidt,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Righteous Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A landmark contribution to humanity's understanding of itself' The New York Times

Why can it sometimes feel as though half the population is living in a different moral universe? Why do ideas such as 'fairness' and 'freedom' mean such different things to different people? Why is it so hard to see things from another viewpoint? Why do we come to blows over politics and religion?

Jonathan Haidt reveals that we often find it hard to get along because our minds are hardwired to be moralistic, judgemental and self-righteous. He explores how morality evolved to enable us to form communities, and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in France, the Peloponnesian War, and the American Civil War?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about France, the Peloponnesian War, and the American Civil War.

France Explore 647 books about France
The Peloponnesian War Explore 10 books about the Peloponnesian War
The American Civil War Explore 210 books about the American Civil War

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like A Journal of the Plague Year, The Hot Zone, and Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) if you like this list.