The best books on the First and Second World Wars

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a lifetime interest in military events of the First and Second World Wars, and my current status as an Associate Professor teaching military history within the Royal Military College of Canada’s RMC History Department allows me to live my dream of exploring past conflicts for a living. I am currently also a contracted author at Casemate Publishing of Havertown, PA, and I am very lucky to have this company support me and publish my work.


I wrote...

Bloody Verrières: The I. SS-Panzerkorps Defence of the Verrières-Bourguebus Ridges: Volume II: The Defeat of Operation Spring and the Battles of Tilly-la-Campagne, 23 July–5 August 1944

By Arthur W. Gullachsen,

Book cover of Bloody Verrières: The I. SS-Panzerkorps Defence of the Verrières-Bourguebus Ridges: Volume II: The Defeat of Operation Spring and the Battles of Tilly-la-Campagne, 23 July–5 August 1944

What is my book about?

South of the Norman city of Caen, Verrières Ridge was seen as a key stepping-stone for the British Second Army if it was to break out of the Normandy bridgehead in late July 1944. Imposing in height and containing perfect terrain for armored operations, the Germans viewed it as the lynchpin to their defenses south of the city of Caen and east of the Orne River.

Following the failure of British Operation Goodwood on 18–20 July and the containment of the Canadian Operation Atlantic, further Allied attacks to seize the ridge would have to defeat arguably the strongest German armored formations present in Normandy. In this second volume, the fighting of 23 July–3 August chronicles in detail the premier Anglo-Canadian operation to capture Verrières Ridge, Operation Spring on 25 July. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Clash of Arms: How the Allies Won in Normandy

Arthur W. Gullachsen Why did I love this book?

This is the best book out there to introduce the reader to the 1944 Normandy Campaign. 

Clash of Arms examines how the Western Allies improved their battlefield combat effectiveness in order to defeat the forces of the Third Reich and break out of the Normandy bridgehead.

Critically, Hart also examines the German way of war and how the Germans stubbornly sought to adapt in the face of Allied superiority. Packed with detail and superb analysis, this book examines in detail the military campaign of each army within the Normandy bridgehead.

By Russell A Hart,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This volume examines how the Western Allies learned - on the battlefield - how to defeat the Nazi war machine. Beginning with an investigation of the interwar neglect that left the Allied militaries incapable of defeating Nazi aggression at the start of World War II, Russell Hart examines the wartime paths the Allies took toward improved military effectiveness. Central to his comparative study is the complex interplay of personalities, military culture, and wartime realities that determined how accurately the combatants learned the lessons of war, and how effectively they enhanced their battle capabilities.


Book cover of One Day in August: Ian Fleming, Enigma, and the Deadly Raid on Dieppe

Arthur W. Gullachsen Why did I love this book?

This is a new and interesting exploration of the reasons behind the disastrous Second World War Anglo-Canadian Dieppe Raid of 19 August 1942.

O’Keefe investigates newly available British archival material to reveal the designs British naval intelligence had on the port of Dieppe and how the resulting raid revolved around the capture of a highly important German Enigma encryption device and codebooks. 

These materials were desperately needed to produce ULTRA intelligence, vital for Allied efforts in the Battle of the Atlantic. 

By David O'Keefe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One Day in August as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A lively and readable account' Spectator

'A fine book ... well-written and well-researched' Washington Times

In less than six hours in August 1942, nearly 1,000 British, Canadian and American commandos died in the French port of Dieppe in an operation that for decades seemed to have no real purpose. Was it a dry-run for D-Day, or perhaps a gesture by the Allies to placate Stalin's impatience for a second front in the west?

Historian David O'Keefe uses hitherto classified intelligence archives to prove that this catastrophic and apparently futile raid was in fact a mission, set up by Ian Fleming…


Book cover of The U-Boat War: A Global History 1939-45

Arthur W. Gullachsen Why did I love this book?

The majority of books written about the German U-boat naval campaign in the Second World War focus on the Battle of the Atlantic.

A new approach by Lawrence Paterson challenges this narrative and makes the argument that the German U-boat Wolfpacks fought a truly global naval campaign, one that occurred during the entire wartime period 1939-1945.

Paterson also makes the argument that the operations by the U-Boats were not separate from the activities of other German service branches, but in concert with them to attain larger strategic goals.

He concludes that the ultimate failure of the U-Boats was due to this overreaching global strategy, combined with the impact of overpowering Allied anti-submarine warfare resources directed against them.

By Lawrence Paterson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The accepted historical narrative of the Second World War predominantly assigns U-boats to the so-called 'Battle of the Atlantic', almost as if the struggle over convoys between the new world and the old can be viewed in isolation from simultaneous events on land and in the air. This has become an almost accepted error. The U-boats war did not exist solely between 1940 and 1943, nor did the Atlantic battle occur in seclusion from other theatres of action. The story of Germany's second U-boat war began on the first day of hostilities with Britain and France and ended with the…


Book cover of Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea

Arthur W. Gullachsen Why did I love this book?

This book is an amazing summary of naval strategy and warfare during the First World War and begins where Robert K. Massie’s last book, Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War, ended.  

All key events, strategies, personalities, and technological developments of the Great War at sea are analyzed in detail, and the book also delves into the U-Boat Campaign of the First World War, which often escapes historical focus in overviews on the war at sea 1914-18.

The reader is presented with a fast-moving narrative that illustrates in understandable terms just how the Allies dominated the oceans during the First World War, and exactly how the German High Seas Fleet failed to prevail against the might of the British Royal Navy.

By 0679456716,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Castles of Steel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In August 1914 the two greatest navies in the world confronted each other across the North Sea. At first there were skirmishes, then battles off the coasts of England and Germany and in the far corners of the world, including the Falklands. The British attempted to force the Dardanelles with battleships - which led to the Gallipoli catastrophe. As the stalemate on the ground on the Western Front continued, the German Navy released a last strike against the British 'ring of steel'. The result was Jutland, a titanic and brutal battle between dreadnoughts. The knowledge, understanding and literary power Robert…


Book cover of From the Realm of a Dying Sun: IV. SS-Panzerkorps and the Battles for Warsaw, July-November 1944

Arthur W. Gullachsen Why did I love this book?

This book is an excellent summary of the WWII Eastern Front battles from July to November 1944 near Warsaw, Poland, through the lens of the Germans defending the front there, specifically the IV. SS-Panzerkorps, an armored (tank) corps consisting of two Waffen-SS Panzer Divisions (The Waffen-SS being the military arm of the Nazi Party in wartime Germany).

Author Douglas E. Nash’s analysis is excellent, and his experience as a retired US Army armored officer allows him to provides insights few others can regarding Eastern Front combat in 1944.

On top of this, his German language skills allowed him to carry out a higher degree of historical research than other books on the Eastern Front, utilizing primary German wartime documents to delve into events.

This book provides the reader with a clear understanding of how the June 1944 Russian Operation Bagration offensive was stopped by desperately fighting German units attempting to halt the red steamroller. 

By Douglas E. Nash, Sr.,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From the Realm of a Dying Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During World War Two, the armed or Waffen-SS branch of the Third Reich's dreaded security service expanded from two divisions in 1940 to 38 divisions by the end of the war, eventually growing to a force of over 900,000 men until Germany's defeat in May 1945. Not satisfied with allowing his nascent force to be commanded in combat by army headquarters of the Wehrmacht, Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS, began to create his own SS corps and army headquarters beginning with the SS-Panzerkorps in July 1942. As the number of Waffen-SS divisions increased, so did the number of corps…


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Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

Book cover of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

Gabrielle Robinson Author Of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Retired english professor

Gabrielle's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Gabrielle found her grandfather’s diaries after her mother’s death, only to discover that he had been a Nazi. Born in Berlin in 1942, she and her mother fled the city in 1945, but Api, the one surviving male member of her family, stayed behind to work as a doctor in a city 90% destroyed.

Gabrielle retraces Api’s steps in the Berlin of the 21st century, torn between her love for the man who gave her the happiest years of her childhood and trying to come to terms with his Nazi membership, German guilt, and political responsibility.

Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

What is this book about?

"This is not a book I will forget any time soon."
Story Circle Book Reviews

Moving and provocative, Api's Berlin Diaries offers a personal perspective on the fall of Berlin 1945 and the far-reaching aftershocks of the Third Reich.

After her mother's death, Robinson was thrilled to find her beloved grandfather's war diaries-only to discover that he had been a Nazi.

The award-winning memoir shows Api, a doctor in Berlin, desperately trying to help the wounded in cellars without water or light. He himself was reduced to anxiety and despair, the daily diary his main refuge. As Robinson retraces Api's…


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