The best books about real people struggling to understand the tragedy of Pearl Harbor

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2013, I found a red suitcase under my mother’s guestroom bedroom filled with letters and radiograms. I shipped it home, combined its contents with her brother’s papers, and my family’s Pearl Harbor story emerged but questions remained. Seven years later, after a lot of research which included the books I’ve listed for your consideration, and the help of many people, I was able to answer the question of why Pearl Harbor was taken by surprise. I also unpacked my family’s story, long-buried for fear of prosecution. My book shows the civilian Pearl Harbor story as it weaves its way through the world of cryptology, spies, and 1941 radio technology


I wrote...

Pearl Harbor's Final Warning

By Valarie J. Anderson,

Book cover of Pearl Harbor's Final Warning

What is my book about?

On 7 December 1941, Washington sent a message to its Pacific outposts about a potential Japanese attack. All but Pearl Harbor received it in time to prepare. New information from the archives of George Street, District Manager of RCA-Honolulu, exposes the fatal flaws that resulted in the surprise attack. Operational snafus, collusion, and spies weave a web of misdirection that entangles George Street and his children in one of history’s biggest mistakes. Pearl Harbor’s Final Warning amends the historical record by presenting unpublished material, including the original copy of General Marshall’s coded message.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of December 1941: 31 Days That Changed America and Saved the World

Valarie J. Anderson Why did I love this book?

December 1941 is an important contribution to the history of WWII that reads more like a novel than dry, historical non-fiction. Craig summarizes each day in December of 1941, grounding the reader with a worldview of the ongoing wars and political arenas in Europe and Asia before delving into America’s mindset and current events.

By Craig Shirley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked December 1941 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, eyes in America were focused on the war in Europe or distracted by the elevated mood sweeping the country in the final days of the Great Depression. But when planes dropped out of a clear blue sky and bombed the American naval base and aerial targets in Hawaii, all of that changed. December 1941 takes readers into the moment-by-moment ordeal of a nation waking to war.

Best-selling author Craig Shirley celebrates the American spirit while reconstructing the events that called it to shine with rare and piercing light. By turns nostalgic…


Book cover of Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision

Valarie J. Anderson Why did I love this book?

Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision is the baseline for researchers interested in the story of early cryptology and why the surprise attack happened at Pearl Harbor. She reveals who knew what, when, and exposes the disasters reaped by hubris and uncoordinated intelligence often quoting original communiques and cables.

By Roberta Wohlstetter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For decades the controversy has raged: Was the Pearl Harbor disaster a result of criminal negligence by military officers in the Pacific theater? Was it, as some have claimed, a deliberate plot by the President in Washington?

It seems unlikely that a country could have so many warnings pointing to the danger, and yet be so unprepared for the event itself. American intelligence could read top-secret Japanese codes and the U.S. was therefore in a posistion to transmit vital information to American commanders throughout the world. Most of the time Washington was able to predict both Japan's diplomatic moves and…


Book cover of Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy

Valarie J. Anderson Why did I love this book?

Japan 1941 peels back the layers of Japan’s national ideology before the Pearl Harbor attack. Well researched, her bold and insightful exposé explains the brewing conflict between military and political leaders, their decisions, drive, and devotion to their country, and their influence on an isolated nation of hyper-patriotic citizens.

By Eri Hotta,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Japan 1941 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A groundbreaking history that considers the attack on Pearl Harbor from the Japanese perspective and is certain to revolutionize how we think of the war in the Pacific.

When Japan launched hostilities against the United States in 1941, argues Eri Hotta, its leaders, in large part, understood they were entering a war they were almost certain to lose. Drawing on material little known to Western readers, and barely explored in depth in Japan itself, Hotta poses an essential question: Why did these men—military men, civilian politicians, diplomats, the emperor—put their country and its citizens so unnecessarily in harm’s way? Introducing…


Book cover of Pearl Harbor: Final Judgement

Valarie J. Anderson Why did I love this book?

This book describes the Clausen investigation that prompted the Congressional hearing into Pearl Harbor. Its spellbinding revelations leave the reader on the edge of their seat. Clausen details the U.S.’s ability to break codes but shows how they did not the common sense to know what to do with the information.  

By Henry C. Clausen, Bruce Lee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This account of the top secret investigation is “essential history . . . the authoritative appraisal of why American armed forces met the Japanese attack asleep” (The Christian Science Monitor).

On December 6, 1941, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, commander in chief of the United States Pacific Fleet, assured his staff that the Japanese would not attack Pearl Harbor. The next morning, Japanese carriers steamed toward Hawaii to launch one of the most devastating surprise attacks in the history of war, proving the admiral disastrously wrong. Immediately, an investigation began into how the American military could have been caught so unaware.…


Book cover of Pearl Harbor Ghosts: The Legacy of December 7, 1941

Valarie J. Anderson Why did I love this book?

This book is based on first-hand interviews and newspaper accounts of ordinary people thrown into the chaos of the extraordinary surprise attack at Pearl Harbor. Clarke begins the narrative on December 5th discussing everyday people going about their business against the background of spies, counterintelligence missteps, and growing bias.

By Thurston Clarke,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pearl Harbor Ghosts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A landmark book published to rave reviews a decade ago, PearlHarborGhosts has now been updated to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the surprise attack that forever changed the course of history.

Full of gripping drama and vibrant details, here is the intimate human story of the events surrounding that fateful day of December 7, 1941–the glamorous tropical city that seemed too beautiful to suffer devastation . . . the stunned naval personnel whose lives would permanently be divided into before and after Pearl Harbor . . . the ordinary Honolulu residents who were tragically unprepared to be the first target…


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A Particular Man

By Lesley Glaister,

Book cover of A Particular Man

Lesley Glaister Author Of A Particular Man

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

About myself: As a novelist I’m crazy for detail. I believe it’s the odd and unexpected aspects of life that bring both characters and story worlds to life. This means that I try to be an observer at all times, keeping alert and using all five – and maybe six – senses. My perfect writing morning begins with a dog walk in the woods or on a beach, say, while keeping my senses sharp to the world around me and listening out for the first whisper of what the day’s writing will bring.

Lesley's book list on relationships and sexuality in post-World War II Britain

What is my book about?

This book is a literary historical novel. It is set in Britain immediately after World War II, when people – gay, straight, young, and old - are struggling to get back on track with their lives, including their love lives. Because of the turmoil of the times, the number of losses, and the dangerous and peculiar circumstances people find themselves in, sexual mores have become shaken and stirred.

But what happened after the war, in the time of healing and settling down? This novel examines the emotional, romantic, and sexual lives of three characters searching for a way to proceed.

A Particular Man

By Lesley Glaister,

What is this book about?

Love never dies in this novel by “a writer of addictive emotional thrillers” (The Independent).

Told from three perspectives A Particular Man is about love, truth and the unpredictable consequences of loss.

When Edgar dies in a Far East prisoner-of-war camp it breaks the heart of fellow prisoner Starling. In Edgar’s final moments, Starling makes him a promise. When, after the war, he visits Edgar’s family, to fulfil this promise, Edgar's mother Clementine mistakes him for another man.

Her mistake allows him access to Edgar’s home and to those who loved him, stirring powerful and disorientating emotions, and embroiling him…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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