The best books on World War 2 published after 2000

Glyn Harper Author Of The Battle for North Africa: El Alamein and the Turning Point for World War II
By Glyn Harper

Who am I?

Glyn Harper has been researching and writing military history for over forty years. He is the author of numerous best-selling books on military history and is also an award-winning author of books for children and young adults. A former army officer, Glyn is New Zealand’s only Professor of War Studies.


I wrote...

The Battle for North Africa: El Alamein and the Turning Point for World War II

By Glyn Harper,

Book cover of The Battle for North Africa: El Alamein and the Turning Point for World War II

What is my book about?

In the early years of World War II, Germany shocked the world with a devastating blitzkrieg, rapidly conquered most of Europe, and pushed into North Africa. As the Allies scrambled to counter the Axis armies, the British Eighth Army confronted the experienced Afrika Corps, led by German field marshal Erwin Rommel, in three battles at El Alamein. In the first battle, the Eighth Army narrowly halted the advance of the Germans during the summer of 1942. However, the stalemate left Nazi troops within striking distance of the Suez Canal, which would provide a critical tactical advantage to the controlling force. War historian Glyn Harper dives into the story, vividly narrating the events, strategies, and personalities surrounding the battles and paying particular attention to the Second Battle of El Alamein, a crucial turning point in the war that would be described by Winston Churchill as "the end of the beginning."

The books I picked & why

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All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945

By Max Hastings,

Book cover of All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945

Why this book?

Max Hastings is the author of more than thirty books, many of them about the Second World War. All Hell Let Loose describes the Second World War in considerable detail but focuses on the human experience of what it was like to be a participant in this critical period of history. For its breadth, its power of expression, and penetrating analysis, this book is unsurpassed. There are many excellent single-volume studies of the Second World War, but I rate this as one of the very best.

All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945

By Max Hastings,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All Hell Let Loose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A magisterial history of the greatest and most terrible event in history, from one of the finest historians of the Second World War. A book which shows the impact of war upon hundreds of millions of people around the world- soldiers, sailors and airmen; housewives, farm workers and children.

Reflecting Max Hastings's thirty-five years of research on World War II, All Hell Let Loose describes the course of events, but focuses chiefly upon human experience, which varied immensely from campaign to campaign, continent to continent.

The author emphasises the Russian front, where more than 90% of all German soldiers who…


The Fall of Berlin 1945

By Antony Beevor,

Book cover of The Fall of Berlin 1945

Why this book?

In a selection of books on the Second World War, it would be a serious omission not to include one on the war on the Eastern Front - the decisive theatre of war in Europe. Antony Beevor’s best book Stalingrad (1998) falls outside the timeframe I have set but his next book Berlin is almost as good. Berlin: the Downfall 1945 examines the war’s final months as a rampaging Red Army exacted its revenge on an overwhelmed Nazi Germany. As The Guardian newspaper so eloquently wrote of this book: "The result is a masterpiece of modern historical writing, which does not shy away from the bad taste left in the mouth as one form of totalitarianism trampled over another while calling it “liberation”." Berlin: the Downfall 1945 is a compelling, if very unpleasant, must-read book.

The Fall of Berlin 1945

By Antony Beevor,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Fall of Berlin 1945 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A tale drenched in drama and blood, heroism and cowardice, loyalty and betrayal."-Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

The Red Army had much to avenge when it finally reached the frontiers of the Third Reich in January 1945. Frenzied by their terrible experiences with Wehrmacht and SS brutality, they wreaked havoc-tanks crushing refugee columns, mass rape, pillage, and unimaginable destruction. Hundreds of thousands of women and children froze to death or were massacred; more than seven million fled westward from the fury of the Red Army. It was the most terrifying example of fire and sword ever known.

Antony Beevor, renowned…


The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944

By Rick Atkinson,

Book cover of The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944

Why this book?

The Day of Battle was Volume Two of Rick Atkinson’s acclaimed Liberation Trilogy. While all three volumes of this series are well worth reading, Atkinson was at his best in the second volume which deals with the much-neglected campaigns of Sicily and Italy. The doyen of British military history and a veteran of the Italian campaign, the late Sir Michael Howard wrote that The Day of Battle was ‘one of the truly outstanding records of the Second World War’. I think it is too.

The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944

By Rick Atkinson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In An Army at Dawn - winner of the Pulitzer Prize - Rick Atkinson provided a dramatic and authoritative history of the Allied triumph in North Africa. Now, in The Day of the Battle, he follows the strengthening American and British armies as they invade Sicily in July 1943 and then, mile by bloody mile, fight their way north. The Italian campaign's outcome was never certain; in fact, Roosevelt, Churchill and their military advisors engaged in heated debate about whether an invasion of the so-called soft underbelly of Europe was even a good idea. But once underway, the commitment to…


Pendulum of War: The Three Battles of El Alamein

By Niall Barr,

Book cover of Pendulum of War: The Three Battles of El Alamein

Why this book?

This was the book that established Niall Barr’s reputation as one of the United Kingdom’s leading historians of the Second World War. Meticulously researched, thoroughly readable, and compelling, Niall Barr’s Pendulum of War has become the recognised standard work on the desert war in 1942. Anyone interested in the battles of El Alamein must read this book.

Pendulum of War: The Three Battles of El Alamein

By Niall Barr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In late June 1942, the dispirited and defeated British Eighth Army was pouring back towards the tiny railway halt of El Alamein in the western desert of Egypt. Tobruk had fallen and Eighth Army had suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Rommel's Panzerarmee Afrika. Yet just five months later, the famous bombardment opened the Eighth Army's own offensive which destroyed the Axis threat to Egypt. Explanations for the remarkable change of fortune have generally been sought in the abrasive personality of the new army commander Lieutenant-General Bernard Law Montgomery. But the long running controversies surrounding the commanders of…


The Blood of Free Men: The Liberation of Paris, 1944

By Michael Neiberg,

Book cover of The Blood of Free Men: The Liberation of Paris, 1944

Why this book?

Michael Neiberg is a Professor of History at the US Army War College. Neiberg is the author of numerous books and is one of America’s leading historians of the First World War. However, Professor Neiberg also researches and writes on various aspects of the Second World War and his skill as a scholar of French history is clearly evident in this book. This is a fast-paced, meticulously researched, and gripping account of the liberation of Paris in August 1944. How the City of Light finally regained its freedom is a complex but compelling story. That story is brilliantly presented in The Blood of Free Men.

The Blood of Free Men: The Liberation of Paris, 1944

By Michael Neiberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As the Allies struggled inland from Normandy in August of 1944, the fate of Paris hung in the balance. Other jewels of Europe,sites like Warsaw, Antwerp, and Monte Cassino,were, or would soon be, reduced to rubble during attempts to liberate them. But Paris endured, thanks to a fractious cast of characters, from Resistance cells to Free French operatives to an unlikely assortment of diplomats, Allied generals, and governmental officials. Their efforts, and those of the German forces fighting to maintain control of the city, would shape the course of the battle for Europe and colour popular memory of the conflict…


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