The best books about major events that changed the 20th century

Simon Adams Author Of Eyewitness Titanic
By Simon Adams

Who am I?

I only ever enjoyed one subject at school, and that was history. I read history books for pleasure, and then studied the subject at university, along with politics. As an adult, I worked in publishing and then began to write history books for myself, books to be read by both children and adults. History has remained my passion all my life, and the five books I have chosen here are just some of the many fine history books that deal with the major events of the recent 20th century. I hope you enjoy my selection.

I wrote...

Eyewitness Titanic

By Simon Adams,

Book cover of Eyewitness Titanic

What is my book about?

The sinking of the Titanic in the North Atlantic in April 1912 sent shockwaves around the world. The liner was on its maiden voyage and was the most luxurious ship afloat. Above all, it was considered to be “virtually unsinkable.” But a fatal collision with an iceberg sent the ship to the bottom of the sea, killing more than 1,500 passengers and crew. My book on the tragedy is part of the bestselling Eyewitness series and is written for children, although adults will enjoy it too!

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege

Why did I love this book?

The epic battle of Stalingrad in 1942–43 changed the direction of World War II as the invading armies of Nazi Germany were eventually surrounded and defeated in the city of Stalingrad by the defending Red Army of the Soviet Union. At times, the fighting was so fierce that the two sides fought each other from different floors of the same building. Anthony Beevor’s magnificent book captures the intensity and horror of this epic battle.

By Antony Beevor,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Stalingrad as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This authoritative and well written book recreates the battle for Stalingrad that became the focus of Hitler and Stalin's determination to win the gruesome and vicious war for the Eastern front. A detailed examination of the most pitiless, and perhaps the most important battle in WW2 history. Focusing on the experiences of soldiers on both sides, driven beyond the limits of physical and mental endurance this work stands as a testament to human endeavour and to the vital role of the Soviet wareffort. This will be the classic book on the subject,

Book cover of The Long March: The True History of Communist China's Founding Myth

Why did I love this book?

In 1934 more than 200,000 members of the Chinese Communist Party left their bases in southern China and marched 8,000 miles across country to escape the Nationalist forces of Chiang Kaishek. The march is the founding myth of the Chinese Communist Party, but the reality, as brilliantly exposed in this book, was brutal and savage: just one-fifth survived a march that need never have taken place and which was mainly designed as a propaganda exercise to promote the leadership of Mao Zedong.

By Sun Shuyun,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Long March as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Long March, Sun Shuyun uncovers the true story behind the mythic march of Mao's soldiers across China, exposing the famine, disease, and desertion behind the legend.In 1934, in the midst of civil war, the Communist party and its 200,000 soldiers were forced from their bases by Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist troops. Led by Mao Tse Tung, they set off on a strategic retreat to the barren north of China, thousands of miles away. As Sun Shuyun travels along the march route, her interviews with survivors and villagers show that the forces at work during the days of…

Guilty Men

By Cato,

Book cover of Guilty Men

Why did I love this book?

In May 1940, as Britain fought for its survival against Nazi Germany, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned to be replaced by the determined and forceful Winston Churchill. Chamberlain had been the face of appeasement, negotiating peace with the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in the hope of buying him off. Many felt that he had brought Britain to the brink of disaster. Two months later three journalistsMichael Foot, Peter Howard, Frank Owen—writing anonymously as Cato, published this scathing attack on Chamberlain and the other appeasers, naming and shaming the guilty men responsible for betraying their country.

By Cato,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Guilty Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In his preface to the 1998 reissue, Michael Foot wrote, 'Guilty Men was conceived by three London journalists who had formed the habit of meeting on the roof of the Evening Standard offices in Shoe Lane, Fleet Street, just after the the afternoon paper had been put to bed and, maybe, just before the Two Brewers opened across the road.'

The book's genesis and publication could hardly have been swifter. Its writing took four days from the 1st to the 4th June 1940: it was published on the 5th July. It is an angry book, indeed, a devastatingly effective polemic.…

Book cover of The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream

Why did I love this book?

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, leader of the American Civil Rights movement, addressed the 250,000-strong crowd that had gathered in Washington DC to support the civil and economic rights of African Americans. As ever, his speech was good, but at a crucial point, prompted by the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, he put aside his written notes and stated: “I have a dream.” And so followed the famous words of perhaps the most famous speech in history, a speech that transformed the civil rights movement and led to major civil rights and voting reforms in the next two years. Gary Younge’s book tells the story of that fine speech.

By Gary Younge,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"[In] this slim but powerful book . . . Younge is adept at both distilling the facts and asking blunt questions."-Boston Globe

"Unequivocal."-Financial Times

"Gary Younge's meditative retrospection on [the speech's] significance reminds us of all the micro-moments of transformation behind the scenes-the thought and preparation, vision and revision-whose currency fed that magnificent lightning bolt in history."-Patricia J. Williams

Gary Younge explains why Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech maintains its powerful social relevance by sharing the dramatic story surrounding it. Fifty years later, "The Speech" endures as a defining moment in the Civil Rights movement and…

Book cover of The Republic: The Fight For Irish Independence

Why did I love this book?

In January 1919 the newly elected Sinn Fein MPs in Ireland met in Dublin and set up Dail Eireann, the assembly of the self-proclaimed independent Irish republic. As the new government, they took control of the local authorities, the administration of justice, the tax system, and other aspects of government, and ruled Ireland as if it were totally independent of British rule. Charles Townshend tells the remarkable story of the early years of the Irish Republic, and how the parallel Sinn Fein state came to effectively run the new country.

By Charles Townshend,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A gripping narrative of the most critical years in modern Ireland's history, from Charles Townshend

The protracted, terrible fight for independence pitted the Irish against the British and the Irish against other Irish. It was both a physical battle of shocking violence against a regime increasingly seen as alien and unacceptable and an intellectual battle for a new sort of country. The damage done, the betrayals and grim compromises put the new nation into a state of trauma for at least a generation, but at a nearly unacceptable cost the struggle ended: a new republic was born.

Charles Townshend's Easter…

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