100 books like How War Came, The Immediate Origins of the Second World War 1938-1939

By Donald Cameron Watt,

Here are 100 books that How War Came, The Immediate Origins of the Second World War 1938-1939 fans have personally recommended if you like How War Came, The Immediate Origins of the Second World War 1938-1939. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of 1939: The Alliance That Never Was and the Coming of World War II

James A. W. Heffernan Author Of Politics and Literature at the Dawn of World War II

From my list on the origin of World War II.

Who am I?

I was born on April 22, 1939, just over four months before the start of World War II, and the very first words I can remember reading were a big black headline in August 1945: The War is Over. Ever since, I’ve been fascinated with that war, and about 75 years after it ended, I felt moved to write a book about how it began. Since I hold a PhD in English from Princeton, taught English at Dartmouth for nearly forty years, and I’ve been studying, teaching, and writing about literature for sixty years, I decided to make it a book about literature: the fiction, poetry, and drama inspired by World War II.

James' book list on the origin of World War II

James A. W. Heffernan Why did James love this book?

Irresistibly clear and readable, this book explains the biggest mistake that France and Britain made before war broke out. Gripped by “ideological anti-Communism,” they simply could not bring themselves to forge an alliance with the Soviet Union against Hitler’s Germany. As a result, Hitler beat them to the punch. After he struck his own deal with Stalin and thus neutralized any Soviet threat to his belligerence, Germany and the Soviets carved up Poland between them. And even though Britain and France had pledged to defend Poland, the only thing they did for that poor, brave nation after Hitler invaded it was to declare war on Germany—and then do nothing for the next seven months of what came to be known as the “joke war.”

By Michael Jabara Carley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 1939 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At a crucial point in the twentieth century, as Nazi Germany prepared for war, negotiations between Britain, France, and the Soviet Union became the last chance to halt Hitler's aggression. Incredibly, the French and British governments dallied, talks failed, and in August 1939 the Soviet Union signed a nonaggression pact with Germany. Michael Carley's gripping account of these negotiations is not a pretty story. It is about the failures of appeasement and collective security in Europe. It is about moral depravity and blindness, about villains and cowards, and about heroes who stood against the intellectual and popular tides of their…


Book cover of German Resistance Against Hitler: The Search for Allies Abroad, 1938-1945

James A. W. Heffernan Author Of Politics and Literature at the Dawn of World War II

From my list on the origin of World War II.

Who am I?

I was born on April 22, 1939, just over four months before the start of World War II, and the very first words I can remember reading were a big black headline in August 1945: The War is Over. Ever since, I’ve been fascinated with that war, and about 75 years after it ended, I felt moved to write a book about how it began. Since I hold a PhD in English from Princeton, taught English at Dartmouth for nearly forty years, and I’ve been studying, teaching, and writing about literature for sixty years, I decided to make it a book about literature: the fiction, poetry, and drama inspired by World War II.

James' book list on the origin of World War II

James A. W. Heffernan Why did James love this book?

Absolutely gripping and sometimes heartbreaking account of the Widerstand—the German Resistance to Hitler, Before reading this book I never knew that just before the fateful signing of the Munich Agreement on October 30, 1938, fifty anti-Nazi commandoes led by Captain Freidrich Heinz were all set to take Hitler out before he ordered the invasion of Czechoslovakia. But once the agreement was signed, the coup was off, and General Franz Halder—the operational leader of the coup—was utterly demoralized. When he learned what Chamberlain and French prime minister Édouard Daladier had done at Munich, he reportedly “collapsed over his desk.” With Hitler now politically invincible, the resistance lost heart, and the assault squad was dispersed. “What are we supposed to do now?” Halder asked. “Hitler succeeds in everything!”

By Klemens von Klemperer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked German Resistance Against Hitler as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Klemens von Klemperer's scholarly and detailed study uncovers the beliefs and activities of numerous individuals who fought against Nazism within Germany, and traces their many efforts to forge alliances with Hitler's opponents outside the Third Reich. Measured by conventional standards of diplomacy, the foreign ventures of the German Resistance ended in failure. The Allied agencies, notably the British Foreign Office and the US State Department, were ill prepared to deal with the unorthodox approaches of the Widerstand. Ultimately, the Allies' policy of 'absolute silence', the Grand Alliance with the Soviet Union, and the demand for 'unconditional surrender' pushed the war…


Book cover of Witness to History, 1929-1969

James A. W. Heffernan Author Of Politics and Literature at the Dawn of World War II

From my list on the origin of World War II.

Who am I?

I was born on April 22, 1939, just over four months before the start of World War II, and the very first words I can remember reading were a big black headline in August 1945: The War is Over. Ever since, I’ve been fascinated with that war, and about 75 years after it ended, I felt moved to write a book about how it began. Since I hold a PhD in English from Princeton, taught English at Dartmouth for nearly forty years, and I’ve been studying, teaching, and writing about literature for sixty years, I decided to make it a book about literature: the fiction, poetry, and drama inspired by World War II.

James' book list on the origin of World War II

James A. W. Heffernan Why did James love this book?

Here is the ultimate insider’s story of what led up to the deal that Hitler made with Stalin in late August of 1939. At 34, a dashing Harvard graduate named Charles “Chip” Bohlen had just become the senior Russian-language officer in charge of political reporting at the American Embassy. Though his chief job was to find out if the Soviets were making a deal with Hitler, Bohlen couldn’t get a word out of the Russians. So he turned to a young German diplomat named “Johnny” Herwarth who was secretly in touch with the German resistance. This book is the fascinating story of their covert communications on the eve of the “Non-Aggression Agreement” between Hitler and Stalin—the deal that led directly to their joint invasion of Poland in September.

By Charles E Bohlen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Witness to History, 1929-1969 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“At the end of the 1920’s the Foreign Service of the United States... introduced a program of regional specialization. It was a fortunate innovation, for... it provided the Service with a group of well‐trained Russian‐language specialists just... when the United States was beginning its new and troubled association with the Soviet Union.

One of the first of these was Charles E. Bohlen, and for the next 40 years he was to be involved in every major development in Soviet American relations, serving under William C. Bullitt in the Moscow embassy in 1934, acting as interpreter and adviser at the wartime…


Book cover of The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War

Carly Schabowski Author Of All the Courage We Have Found

From my list on WWII that shed light on Polish history.

Who am I?

My passion for writing historical fiction set mainly in Poland, or including Polish protagonists is born from my own familial history. My grandfather was forced into the Wehrmacht as a young man, who managed to escape to the UK and join the Polish Army in exile, eventually going back to fight against the Germans. His story set me on a course to become a historical fiction author; reimagining the past and bringing little-known stories to a wider audience. I find that the best way to gain a basic understanding of Polish life during WWII is to read widely – try historical accounts, memoirs, second-hand accounts, and of course, historical fiction. 

Carly's book list on WWII that shed light on Polish history

Carly Schabowski Why did Carly love this book?

This book is, I think, the cornerstone of understanding Polish history during WWII. Indeed, it is my ‘go-to' book before I even think about writing anything! It gives such a comprehensive view of all Poles – those forced into the Wehrmacht, those sent to camps, those sent out of their own country, and much, much more. When you have read this fact-based book, it gives you a greater understanding when you come to read historical fiction.

By Halik Kochanski,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Second World War gripped Poland as it did no other country in Europe. Invaded by both Germany and the Soviet Union, it remained under occupation by foreign armies from the first day of the war to the last. The conflict was brutal, as Polish armies battled the enemy on four different fronts. It was on Polish soil that the architects of the Final Solution assembled their most elaborate network of extermination camps, culminating in the deliberate destruction of millions of lives, including three million Polish Jews. In The Eagle Unbowed, Halik Kochanski tells, for the first time, the story…


Book cover of Hitler's War and the Germans

Neil Gregor Author Of How to Read Hitler

From my list on biographical studies of Hitler.

Who am I?

I am Professor of Modern European History at the University of Southampton, UK, and publish widely on diverse aspects of Nazi Germany. The first history book that I ever read was Alan Bullock’s Hitler. A Study in Tyranny - the first scholarly biography of Hitler to appear. I still recall the fascination of reading this as a teenager: it sparked a curiosity that formed the basis of a scholarly career that has spanned nearly three decades. The desire to make sense of the phenomenon of Nazism was never purely academic, however – my own family origins in Germany, and the stories elderly relatives told of their wartime experiences, gave the history texture, immediacy, and urgency.

Neil's book list on biographical studies of Hitler

Neil Gregor Why did Neil love this book?

This is not a full biography – the biography Steinert wrote later in her career is not available in English – but many of the ideas in Steinert’s biography can also be found in this earlier work, which has faded into posterity slightly but can be read with great profit. Here, Steinert is concerned to give texture to a hitherto often two-dimensional image of German society and its attitudes to Hitler’s War. The result is an interesting, differentiated account of public opinion in Nazi Germany. In many respects, it was pioneering and opened up questions surrounding the relationship between state and society that other historians went on to explore further in the 1980s. Steinert’s Francophone background, and perhaps the fact that she was a female writer working in a profession that was then very male-dominated, probably account for the fact that her work is less well-known in the English-speaking world…

By Marlis G Steinert,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hitler's War and the Germans as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Text: English, German (translation)


Book cover of The Good German

Johanna van Zanten Author Of The Imposter

From my list on how the Second World War affected regular people and their families.

Who am I?

As a child with older sisters, I read their books beyond my age level under the blankets with a flashlight in bed at night. I became a reading addict. Raised in The Netherlands with the Second World War casting its large shadow on our lives, I only became interested, after my parents were gone, in how people survived and had to find their courage under impossible circumstances. They would never talk about those occupation years. My search into history led me to find the answers.

Johanna's book list on how the Second World War affected regular people and their families

Johanna van Zanten Why did Johanna love this book?

This book fascinated me with its title, a contradiction in my Dutch mind. It proved to be a rewarding and intriguing read.

I loved to be on the other side and be in the mind of the child, affected by the cruel history of WW2, and feel how to make a life afterward. It made me grateful for my own life in Canada. 

By Dennis Bock,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In November 1939, a German anti-fascist named Georg Elser came as close to assassinating Adolf Hitler as anyone ever had. In this gripping novel of alternate history, he doesn’t just come close—he succeeds. But he could never have imagined the terrible consequences that would follow from this act of heroism. 

Hermann Göring, masterful political strategist, assumes the Chancellery and quickly signs a non-aggression treaty with the isolationist president Joseph Kennedy that will keep America out of the war that is about to engulf Europe. Göring rushes the German scientific community into developing the atomic bomb, and in August 1944, this…


Book cover of Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power

Robert Teigrob Author Of Four Days in Hitler's Germany: MacKenzie King's Mission to Avert a Second World War

From my list on eyewitnesses to the rise of Adolf Hitler.

Who am I?

Since 2011 I have taught a summer course at Freie Universität Berlin, and have grown fond of the city, including its admirable efforts to acknowledge and atone for its former status as the capital of the Nazi empire. I’ve seen pictures of Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King touring the city and interacting (cheerfully) with Reich officials, and a couple of years ago I made a point of retracing his steps to observe the vestiges (very little) of prewar Berlin. This compelled me to dig deeply into what motivated King to break bread with Nazis, and how the prime minister’s trip was viewed by Canadians and the world – at the time, and since.

Robert's book list on eyewitnesses to the rise of Adolf Hitler

Robert Teigrob Why did Robert love this book?

As the title suggests, this is a compendium of American visitors’ impressions of Nazism in the 1930s. Their reactions varied from confusion to rage to applause, but Nagorski notes that, sooner or later, most came to the realization that Germany was “a society undergoing a horrific transformation in the name of a demented ideology,” and feared the implications for humanity. Another useful reminder of the essential role of solid, independent journalism, and of the methods by which seemingly decent people and entire societies can be devoured by hatred and tribalism. It seems, sadly, that we need a lot of reminding about such things…

By Andrew Nagorski,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

World War II historian Andrew Nagorski recounts Adolf Hitler’s rise to and consolidation of power, drawing on countless firsthand reports, letters, and diaries that narrate the creation of the Third Reich.

“Hitlerland is a bit of a guilty pleasure. Reading about the Nazis is not supposed to be fun, but Nagorski manages to make it so. Readers new to this story will find it fascinating” (The Washington Post).

Hitler’s rise to power, Germany’s march to the abyss, as seen through the eyes of Americans—diplomats, military officers, journalists, expats, visiting authors, Olympic athletes—who watched horrified and up close. “Engaging if chilling…a…


Book cover of In the Ruins of the Reich

Keith Lowe Author Of Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II

From my list on the aftermath of World War 2.

Who am I?

Keith Lowe is the author of several works on postwar history. His international bestseller, Savage Continent, won the English PEN/Hessell Tiltman Prize and Italy’s Cherasco History Prize. His book on the long-term legacy of World War II, The Fear and the Freedom, was awarded China’s Beijing News Annual Recommendation and was shortlisted for the Historical Writers Association Non-Fiction Crown. His books have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Keith's book list on the aftermath of World War 2

Keith Lowe Why did Keith love this book?

There are dozens of excellent books about Germany and Germans in the wake of defeat – I could mention Giles MacDonogh’s After the Reich, or R.M. Douglas’s Orderly and Humane – but Douglas Botting’s book is by far the most engaging history of the subject that I’ve ever read. It was written in the 1980s, so it is not quite as up-to-date as the more recent histories, but what it lacks in cutting-edge research it more than makes up for in narrative immediacy. It is impossible not to be moved by Botting’s descriptions of postwar chaos, of orphans hiding in the ruins, of lawlessness, starvation, desperation and retribution. An absolute classic.

By Douglas Botting,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Ruins of the Reich as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in Britain in 1985, In the Ruins of the Reich is a classic account of Nazi Germany after her fall to the Allies in May 1945. Douglas Botting concentrates on the defining events that took place in the period between the collapse of the Third Reich and the foundation of the new Germanys to create the prevailing atmosphere of a most unusual and little-charted time in history. This was a period when four of the strongest industrial nations to emerge from the Second World War attempted to work together to govern the once strong Germany, now prostate, impoverished…


Book cover of Wolfram: The Boy Who Went to War

Karen McMillan Author Of The Paris of the East

From my list on World War II that may surprise you.

Who am I?

I’m an author from New Zealand, and I’ve always been drawn to the personal stories from WWII. I am interested in the moral and ethical decisions made by ordinary people in those extraordinary times. I often wonder if I would have made the right choices in the same situation. I gravitate towards reading books about the Second World War, especially books that include previously unknown information, view the war from a different angle, or offer a new insight. I’ve been fortunate to travel the world with my career, and my novel, The Paris of the East was inspired after visiting Poland on an author tour. I’ve also written other novels, non-fiction books, and children’s books.

Karen's book list on World War II that may surprise you

Karen McMillan Why did Karen love this book?

Giles Milton is an extraordinary historian whose history books read like novels. Wolfram tells the story of a young German soldier who was only nine years old when Hitler came to power, raised by free-thinking parents who were not Nazi supporters, his formative years living under the most brutal regimes in history. This book explores a subject this is often ignored, ordinary German people trying to live normal, decent lives and who suffered the consequences of Hitler’s war. "I’d rather be anywhere else in the world," Wolfram writes to his parents from the fighting in Ukraine in 1942. This is a story of a decent young man caught up in the German war machine, and it is a reminder that people on all sides of the war suffered. 

By Giles Milton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Allied bombers screamed in from the sea, spilling hundreds of shells onto the troops below. As the air filled with exploding shrapnel, one young German soldier flung himself into a ditch and prayed that his ordeal would soon be over. Wolfram Aichele was nine years old when Hitler came to power: his formative years were spent in the shadow of the Third Reich. He and his parents - free-thinking artists - were to have first hand experience of living under one of the most brutal regimes in history. Wolfram: The Boy Who Went to War overturns all the cliches…


Book cover of The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War

Peter Grose Author Of A Good Place to Hide: How One French Community Saved Thousands of Lives in World War II

From my list on World War 2 from several different perspectives.

Who am I?

I’ve now written three histories of World War 2. A Very Rude Awakening tells the story of the Japanese midget submarine raid into Sydney Harbour on the night of 31 May 1942. An Awkward Truth deals with the Japanese air raid on the town of Darwin in northern Australia on 19 February 1942. (The raid was carried out by the same force that hit Pearl Harbor ten weeks earlier.) These two books have both been filmed. My third book A Good Place To Hide is my pick for this page. Read more about it elsewhere. Last but not least, if you want a signed copy of my books then do my friend Gary Jackson and me a favour by going here and clicking on the link ‘Buy Books and DVDs’.

Peter's book list on World War 2 from several different perspectives

Peter Grose Why did Peter love this book?

There’s an expression among investigative journalists: follow the money. That’s exactly what the historian Andrew Roberts has done in this highly original and brilliant history of World War 2, full of economic insights. How about this, for instance? “Hitler’s anti-Semitism  .. did nothing to aid Germany’s chances of winning the war, and possibly a great deal to retard them. The Holocaust was a mistake, tying up railway stocks … but above all denuding Germany of millions of potentially productive workers and potential soldiers.” In other words, if railway trucks heading east through Germany had been full of soldiers heading for the eastern front instead of hapless Jews heading for Auschwitz and death, then Hitler’s invasion of Russia might have stood a better chance of success. So if following the money strikes you as an essential way of getting to the truth, even when the subject is the economics of war,…

By Andrew Roberts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On 2 August 1944, in the wake of the complete destruction of the German Army Group Centre in Belorussia, Winston Churchill mocked Adolf Hitler in the House of Commons by the rank he had reached in the First World War. 'Russian success has been somewhat aided by the strategy of Herr Hitler, of Corporal Hitler,' Churchill jibed. 'Even military idiots find it difficult not to see some faults in his actions.'

Andrew Roberts's previous book Masters and Commanders studied the creation of Allied grand strategy; The Storm of War now analyses how Axis strategy evolved. Examining the Second World War…


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