The most readable books on World War 1

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles Author Of Goodbye, Piccadilly: War at Home, 1914
By Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Who am I?

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles is the author of the internationally acclaimed Morland Dynasty books. Five volumes of this comprehensive historical series focus on WW1, covering the military campaigns and the politics behind them. With the approach of the WW1 centennials, she was asked to write about the period again, this time from the point of view of the people who stayed at home. The result was the six-volume series, War At Home, which views the war from a more personal perspective, through the eyes of the fictional Hunter family, their servants, and friends.


I wrote...

Goodbye, Piccadilly: War at Home, 1914

By Cynthia Harrod-Eagles,

Book cover of Goodbye, Piccadilly: War at Home, 1914

What is my book about?

In 1914, Britain faces a new kind of war. For Edward and Beatrice Hunter, their children, servants, and neighbours, life will never be the same again. For David, the eldest, war means a chance to do something noble; but enlisting will break his mother's heart. His sister Diana, nineteen and beautiful, longs for marriage. She has her heart set on Charles Wroughton, son of Earl Wroughton, but Charles will never be allowed to marry a banker's daughter. Below the stairs, Cook and Ada, the head housemaid, grow more terrified of the German invasion with every newspaper atrocity story. Ethel, under housemaid, can't help herself when it comes to men and now soldiers add to the temptation; yet there's more to this flighty girl than meets the eye.

The books I picked & why

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Mud, Blood and Poppycock: Britain and the Great War

By Gordon Corrigan,

Book cover of Mud, Blood and Poppycock: Britain and the Great War

Why this book?

The shout line on the jacket is “This will overturn everything you thought you knew about…The First World War”, and it certainly delivers. No other conflict has been so misrepresented, and for most people, their idea of it comes straight from Blackadder Goes Forth. But men did not spend months at a time in the trenches; a whole generation did not die; the generals were not cowardly, incompetent fools.

When I first began to write about WW1 for my Morland Dynasty series, I knew as little as anyone, and what I thought I knew was all wrong! By the time I was researching for War At Home, I knew a lot more, but Corrigan opens my eyes to many more subjects. Informative, well-researched, but above all wonderfully readable, this book should be required reading for anyone who is interested in what really happened, not just the made-for-tv version.

Mud, Blood and Poppycock: Britain and the Great War

By Gordon Corrigan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mud, Blood and Poppycock as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The true story of how Britain won the First World War.

The popular view of the First World War remains that of BLACKADDER: incompetent generals sending brave soldiers to their deaths. Alan Clark quoted a German general's remark that the British soldiers were 'lions led by donkeys'. But he made it up.

Indeed, many established 'facts' about 1914-18 turn out to be myths woven in the 1960s by young historians on the make. Gordon Corrigan's brilliant, witty history reveals how out of touch we have become with the soldiers of 1914-18. They simply would not recognize the way their generation…


All Quiet on the Home Front: An Oral History of Life in Britain During the First World War

By Richard Van Emden, Steve Humphries,

Book cover of All Quiet on the Home Front: An Oral History of Life in Britain During the First World War

Why this book?

Wonderfully readable, and full of first-hand accounts via interview and letter, this book tells you what it was really like for the people of Britain during WW1 – the rationing, the blackout, the Blitz, the shortages; how the women took over the men’s jobs, from driving railway engines to ploughing the fields; the emotional impact of dealing with the flood of wounded and the deaths; and the hardship and increasing mental problems as the war seemed never to be going to end.

All Quiet on the Home Front: An Oral History of Life in Britain During the First World War

By Richard Van Emden, Steve Humphries,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All Quiet on the Home Front as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The truth about the sacrifice and suffering on the home front during World War I is rarely discussed. In this book, some of the oldest men and women in the country speak about experiences and events that have remained buried for 85 years. Their testimony shows the same candour and courage we have become accustomed to hearing from veterans of the western front. Those interviewed include a survivor of a Zeppelin raid on Hull in 1915, a Welsh munitions worker recruited as a girl, and a woman rescued from a bombed school after five days. There are also accounts of…


1914 Days Of Hope

By Lyn MacDonald,

Book cover of 1914 Days Of Hope

Why this book?

Lyn Macdonald is my go-to historian for WW1, and I only pick out this volume – she has written one for each year of the war – because if you want a thorough, detailed account of the war you will want to start at the beginning. She is a fine writer, and very readable, and her books are full of extracts from letters and diaries of the men at the front, and their families back home, which give you the genuine, authentic flavour of how people thought and spoke at the time, and allows you to feel you were really there.

1914 Days Of Hope

By Lyn MacDonald,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 1914 Days Of Hope as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is an account of the first few months of the Great War, from the build-up of the fighting to the first Battle of Ypres, written by the author of "Somme", "They called it Passchendaele" and "The Roses of No Man's Land".


Great War Fashion: Tales from the History Wardrobe

By Lucy Adlington, L.J. Adlington,

Book cover of Great War Fashion: Tales from the History Wardrobe

Why this book?

On a lighter note, this book is a wonderful journey through what everyone wore, not just the fashions but the uniforms, the make-do-and-mend, maternity wear, underclothes, knitting for the soldiers, wartime washing-day, trousers for women (shock! horror!), a kit for lady footballers and lady drivers, and how the war changed women’s clothing along with their lives. Full of illustrations, delicious cartoons, and WW1 advertisements, this book is quite simply a wonderful read, as well as wonderfully informative.

Great War Fashion: Tales from the History Wardrobe

By Lucy Adlington, L.J. Adlington,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Imagine 'stepping into someone else's shoes'. Walking back in time a century ago, which shoes would they be? A pair of silk sensations costing thousands of pounds designed by Yantonnay of Paris or wooden clogs with metal cleats that spark on the cobbles of a factory yard? Will your shoes be heavy with mud from trudging along duckboards between the tents of a frontline hospital... or stuck with tufts of turf from a football pitch? Will you be cloaked in green and purple, brandishing a 'Votes for Women' banner or will you be the height of respectability, restricted by your…


Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War

By Jerry White,

Book cover of Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War

Why this book?

Having grown up in London in the aftermath of WW2, and playing on its bomb sites, I was well aware of the WW2 Blitz. But like most people, I had no idea that London was heavily bombed during the first war as well. This book is detailed and fascinating, and as well as the raids themselves, it goes into a lot of related topics, such as the black-out, prostitution, munitions factories, pub closing hours and the drive for teetotalism, refugees, women’s work, and the aftermath. Well-written and illustrated with photographs, it’s an excellent look at how London fared through the darkest days of its history.

Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War

By Jerry White,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Zeppelin Nights is social history at its best... White creates a vivid picture of a city changed forever by war' The Times

2018 marks the centenary of the end of the First World War. In those four decisive years, London was irrevocably changed. Soldiers passed through the capital on their way to the front and wounded men were brought back to be treated in London's hospitals. At night, London plunged into darkness for fear of Zeppelins that raided the city. Meanwhile, women escaped the drudgery of domestic service to work as munitionettes. Full employment put money into the pockets of…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in World War 1, clothing, and the United Kingdom?

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