The best books on the most misunderstood men in history's wars and most famous tragedies

Paula Astridge Author Of Deep Sleep
By Paula Astridge

Who am I?

I've written and been published for the last 15 years and am an award-nominated author. I started with a book seeing the other side of Benedict Arnold that led to a stream of others: Killing the Fuhrer about the plot to assassinate Hitler; In The Way of the Reich, a true account of Hermann Goering’s good brother, Albert who saved thousands of Jews; Bad Hand, on the Bounty Mutiny story to Bligh’s benefit; Scallywag, on WW2’s underground and the real James Bond; Rocket Man; an expose of the famous Werhner von Braun; and Waltzing Dixie—a true story of the Australians who fought in the American Civil War. 


I wrote...

Deep Sleep

By Paula Astridge,

Book cover of Deep Sleep

What is my book about?

The lives of those on the Titanic hinged on the tying of a shoelace and the taking of a nap—two tiny details that made all the difference and dictated the actions of those steamships’ respective captains—Arthur Rostron and Stanley Lord. One rushed to save those drowning, while the other, to his life-long dishonour, appeared to turn his back on the whole disaster. Some said the shame rested with those who accused Captain Lord unfairly in deliberate defiance of the facts. This story gets right to the bottom of the Titanic and beyond.

Astridge has pieced together the careers of these two captains to uncover who was to blame, who was to benefit, and to what depths some were prepared to sink when it came to cover-ups, cowardice, and courage.

The books I picked & why

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Gates of Fire

By Steven Pressfield,

Book cover of Gates of Fire

Why this book?

The Battle of Thermopylae is the story that first set off my profound interest in history. Nothing surpasses the courage and drama of King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans who stood against Xerxes’ overwhelming force during the Persian Wars of 480BC. As far as I’m concerned, the only author who has done the stirring tale true justice is Pressfield.

I heard this story for the first time when I was a child of five, oddly enough at Sunday School, and was awestruck.  It was repeated by chance when I was 13 watching the Hollywood movie, The 300 Spartans with Robert Taylor in the lead as King Leonidas. When the 10,000 Persian Immortals, with their torrent of arrows, finished off the last of the Spartans who’d formed a small circle to protect their wounded king, I was dismayed and inspired for the rest of my life.


The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945

By Wladyslaw Szpilman, Anthea Bell (translator),

Book cover of The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945

Why this book?

It’s fair to say that I could not put this book down. I read it in one sitting and when I had to get up and walk around, I took it with me, reading as I went. The movie was brilliant, but hard as it is to believe, the book was even better. It is a major tribute to human endurance, of forgiveness, and the redemptive power of beautiful music.

Apart from being a page-turner, I believe that it’s a very fine work that for ethical and moral reasons should be read and remembered. The strength it took him to survive and to continue on for the rest of his life after what he’d seen and lost is awe-inspiring and a lesson to all of us given that he still persisted, with his exquisite music, to show the post-war world that in the end love and beauty will always win out.


All Quiet on the Western Front

By Erich Maria Remarque, Arthur Wesley Wheen (translator),

Book cover of All Quiet on the Western Front

Why this book?

It’s always good to see a story told from both sides, to look at the tragedy and futility of war from every point of view. This book is a poignant and true psychological insight into the mind of a man who holds tight to his vow to fight against the principles of hate and the farce of young men of one mind, yet in different uniforms, pitting themselves against each other for no real reason at all.

By the time I read this book, I was pretty much set on my path of writing books about various wars and the mistaken, pre-conceived ideas history has given us in regard to the famous people who fought in them. That, and the false, grand and glorious illusion that war is worthwhile. It was so good to know that a fine author such as Remarque was thinking the same way… and long before I did!


Inside the Third Reich

By Albert Speer,

Book cover of Inside the Third Reich

Why this book?

This book is gripping from first to last page, giving the reader the inside running on what really went on behind the scenes of Nazi Germany. Although it looks like a tome, I read through it at the rate of knots, because who could help being fascinated by what such a man as Speer had to say? It was the book that inspired me to write my own—the story of Speer’s Life.

So here we shift to the Second World War, but the sentiment’s the same. Speer was a highly educated and most interesting man whose point of view counts more than most because he had his finger right on the pulse and knew exactly what made Hitler and his evil tick. The problem was that by the time Speer realized the extent of that evil and how much he’d allowed himself to be drawn in, it was too late to escape. So, presuming that he was, in fact, a decent man at heart, the rest of his life became an altogether different hell. 


The Red Badge of Courage

By Stephen Crane,

Book cover of The Red Badge of Courage

Why this book?

Another classic… and with good reason. It’s a masterpiece that puts a whole new slant on the American Civil War, its story and hero being far from the wonderful Gone With the Wind epic, but equally as riveting. It may not stir the juices of gallantry, but it makes you think and impels you to read it again and again.

I think it’s easy to see that there’s a prevailing theme in my choices of the best books I’ve read for here again, we have a controversial hero that tests the reader’s way of thinking and willingness to side with what is not the norm. In other words, it’s so refreshing to see any author put a whole new spin on things and turn conventional beliefs upside down.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Germany, Warsaw, and World War 1?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Germany, Warsaw, and World War 1.

Germany Explore 297 books about Germany
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World War 1 Explore 499 books about World War 1

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