The best books on human struggle and achievement in war

Who am I?

Scott McGaugh is a former journalist, founding marketing director (2004-2020) of the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, CA, and the author of 10 nonfiction books, including the New York Times bestselling Civil War biography, Surgeon in Blue. His current project is The Brotherhood of the Flying Coffin about the volunteer combat glider pilots of World War II. He has appeared on NPR, the History Channel, and elsewhere.


I wrote...

Honor Before Glory: The Epic World War II Story of the Japanese American GIs Who Rescued the Lost Battalion

By Scott McGaugh,

Book cover of Honor Before Glory: The Epic World War II Story of the Japanese American GIs Who Rescued the Lost Battalion

What is my book about?

The riveting true story of Japanese Americans who volunteer In World War II from behind internment camp barbed wire for a segregated army commanded by white officers, and who become the most-decorated unit of its size in the war. The book focuses on the rescue of a “lost battalion” after other units had failed and its movie rights have been optioned.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Winds Of War

Scott McGaugh Why did I love this book?

Though a novel, the research and factual basis of this classic oozes from almost every page. A book that examines the people, innocent and otherwise, who make World War II a compelling subject and a worthy, thought-provoking read to this day.

By Herman Wouk,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Herman Wouk's sweeping epic of World War II, which begins with THE WINDS OF WAR and continues in WAR AND REMEMBRANCE, stands as the crowning achievement of one of America's most celebrated storytellers.

Like no other books about the war, Wouk's spellbinding narrative captures the tide of global events - the drama, the romance, the heroism and the tragedy of World War II - as it immerses us in the lives of a single American family drawn into the very centre of the maelstrom.

"First-rate storytelling." - New York Times

"Compelling . . . A panoramic, engrossing story." - Atlantic…


Book cover of With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa

Scott McGaugh Why did I love this book?

An unvarnished memoir of war in the Pacific that inspires and horrifies. The deeply personal horrors witnessed and exacted by young men on both sides makes it almost a character study of the battlefield. A compulsory read for anyone who wants to understand true sacrifice in uniform far beyond the headlines of the day.

By E.B. Sledge,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked With the Old Breed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The inspiration behind the HBO series THE PACIFIC

This was a brutish, primitive hatred, as characteristic of the horror of war in the Pacific as the palm trees and the islands...

Landing on the beach at Peleliu in 1944 as a twenty-year-old new recruit to the US Marines, Eugene Sledge can only try desperately to survive. At Peleliu and Okinawa - two of the fiercest and filthiest Pacific battles of WWII - he witnesses the dehumanising brutality displayed by both sides and the animal hatred that each soldier has for his enemy.

During temporary lapses in the fighting, conditions on…


Book cover of The Guns of August

Scott McGaugh Why did I love this book?

The classic Pulitzer Prize book about the outbreak of World War I. This book weaves detail that pulls the reader in, without distraction. A groundbreaking distillation of historical research into a storytelling style that captivates both readers and authors.

By Barbara W. Tuchman,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Guns of August as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

PULITZER PRIZE WINNER • “A brilliant piece of military history which proves up to the hilt the force of Winston Churchill’s statement that the first month of World War I was ‘a drama never surpassed.’”—Newsweek
 
Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time

In this landmark account, renowned historian Barbara W. Tuchman re-creates the first month of World War I: thirty days in the summer of 1914 that determined the course of the conflict, the century, and ultimately our present world. Beginning with the funeral of Edward VII, Tuchman traces each step…


Book cover of The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II

Scott McGaugh Why did I love this book?

This book shines a spotlight on the humanitarian side of war, seemingly mutually exclusive concepts. Yet those who suffer the most often raise to the greatest heights of sacrifice in rescuing others. A riveting tale, thoroughly researched and hard to put down.

By Gregory A. Freeman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Forgotten 500 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The astonishing, never before told story of the greatest rescue mission of World War II—when the OSS set out to recover more than 500 airmen trapped behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia...

During a bombing campaign over Romanian oil fields, hundreds of American airmen were shot down in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia. Local Serbian farmers and peasants risked their own lives to give refuge to the soldiers while they waited for rescue, and in 1944, Operation Halyard was born. The risks were incredible. The starving Americans in Yugoslavia had to construct a landing strip large enough for C-47 cargo planes—without tools, without alerting…


Book cover of Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission

Scott McGaugh Why did I love this book?

This book reads as a gripping thriller rooted in gruesome fact in the Philippine jungle. I’ve read this book several times for inspiration in crafting my books. A great balance between the necessary detail to establish the context and the laser focus on remarkable devotion to duty.

By Hampton Sides,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Ghost Soldiers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • “The greatest World War II story never told” (Esquire)—an enthralling account of the heroic mission to rescue the last survivors of the Bataan Death March.

On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected U.S. troops slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March thirty rugged miles to rescue 513 POWs languishing in a hellish camp, among them the last survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March. A recent prison massacre by Japanese soldiers elsewhere in the Philippines made the stakes impossibly high and left little time to plan the complex operation.

In Ghost Soldiers Hampton Sides vividly…


You might also like...

The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

By Ashley Rubin,

Book cover of The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

Ashley Rubin Author Of The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

New book alert!

Who am I?

I have been captivated by the study of prisons since my early college years. The fact that prisons are so new in human history still feels mind-blowing to me. I used to think that prisons have just always been around, but when you realize they are actually new, that has major implications. This is nowhere more clear than at the beginning: how hard it was to get to the point where prisons made sense to people, to agree on how prisons should be designed and managed, and to keep on the same path when prisons very quickly started to fail. It’s still puzzling to me.

Ashley's book list on the origins of American prisons

What is my book about?

What were America's first prisons like? How did penal reformers, prison administrators, and politicians deal with the challenges of confining human beings in long-term captivity as punishment--what they saw as a humane intervention?

The Deviant Prison centers on one early prison: Eastern State Penitentiary. Built in Philadelphia, one of the leading cities for penal reform, Eastern ultimately defied national norms and was the subject of intense international criticism.

The Deviant Prison traces the rise and fall of Eastern's unique "Pennsylvania System" of solitary confinement and explores how and why Eastern's administrators kept the system going, despite great personal cost to themselves. Anyone interested in history, prisons, and criminal justice will find something to enjoy in this book.

The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

By Ashley Rubin,

What is this book about?

Early nineteenth-century American prisons followed one of two dominant models: the Auburn system, in which prisoners performed factory-style labor by day and were placed in solitary confinement at night, and the Pennsylvania system, where prisoners faced 24-hour solitary confinement for the duration of their sentences. By the close of the Civil War, the majority of prisons in the United States had adopted the Auburn system - the only exception was Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary, making it the subject of much criticism and a fascinating outlier. Using the Eastern State Penitentiary as a case study, The Deviant Prison brings to light…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in World War 1, concentration camps, and Japan?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about World War 1, concentration camps, and Japan.

World War 1 Explore 857 books about World War 1
Concentration Camps Explore 34 books about concentration camps
Japan Explore 462 books about Japan