100 books like Russia at War, 1941-1945

By Alexander Werth,

Here are 100 books that Russia at War, 1941-1945 fans have personally recommended if you like Russia at War, 1941-1945. 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 The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II

Sarah Percy Author Of Forgotten Warriors: The Long History of Women in Combat

From my list on women in combat.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an academic, writer, and broadcaster, and I’ve always been fascinated by the big questions of who fights wars and why. A puzzle caught my eye: the only profession (short of maybe priest) where women were actively banned in the 1980s and as late as the 2010s, was combat. How could Western democracies ban women from an entire profession? This was especially odd, given that the plentiful historical evidence that women were perfectly capable of combat. So I wrote a book explaining how women in combat fit into the broader sweep of military history, and how the suppression and dismissal of their stories has had a profound social and cultural impact. 

Sarah's book list on women in combat

Sarah Percy Why did Sarah love this book?

If you didn’t know that between 800,000 and a million Soviet women fought in combat during World War II, this book will blow your mind.

Even for those aware of the history of Soviet female combatants – Soviet women fought in every imaginable military role, from fighter pilots to snipers to tank units – Alexievich’s astonishing oral history brings their stories to life. It’s especially profound to hear from the women themselves because after the war was over, women were told to never speak of their military service and got very little recognition for it.

By the time Alexievich recorded their stories, these women were getting old – and without her work many of these stories would have been lost. 

By Svetlana Alexievich, Larissa Volokhonsky (translator), Richard Pevear (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A must read' - Margaret Atwood

'It would be hard to find a book that feels more important or original' - Viv Groskop, Observer

Extraordinary stories from Soviet women who fought in the Second World War - from the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

"Why, having stood up for and held their own place in a once absolutely male world, have women not stood up for their history? Their words and feelings? A whole world is hidden from us. Their war remains unknown... I want to write the history of that war. A women's history."

In the late…


Book cover of Life and Fate

Paul Clark Author Of The Price of Dreams

From my list on life in the Soviet Union.

Why am I passionate about this?

At the age of 16, I briefly joined the International Socialists, a small British Trotskyist party. Though I soon became disillusioned, it was a formative experience that left me with a lifelong fascination with communism and the Soviet Union. Over the following decades, I read everything I could about the subject, both fiction and non-fiction. In the years after the fall of communism, the ideas that eventually culminated in the writing of this book began to form in my head.

Paul's book list on life in the Soviet Union

Paul Clark Why did Paul love this book?

Grossman consciously attempted to write the War and Peace of the Second World War, and in this panoramic masterpiece, he pulled it off. Like War and Peace, the book focuses both on the travails of a single family and the broader sweep of history, as we witness events from the perspective of persecuted Jewish scientists, soldiers (both Soviet and German), partisans, peasants, and generals.

This is an intensely personal work – Grossman covered the battle of Stalingrad for the Soviet press and knew his subject matter firsthand. Writing it was also an extremely courageous act. The KGB confiscated the manuscript and Grossman never lived to see the book published.

By Vasily Grossman,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Life and Fate as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based around the pivotal WWII battle of Stalingrad (1942-3), where the German advance into Russia was eventually halted by the Red Army, and around an extended family, the Shaposhnikovs, and their many friends and acquaintances, Life and Fate recounts the experience of characters caught up in an immense struggle between opposing armies and ideologies. Nazism and Communism are appallingly similar, 'two poles of one magnet', as a German camp commander tells a shocked old Bolshevik prisoner. At the height of the battle Russian soldiers and citizens alike are at last able to speak out as they choose, and without reprisal…


Book cover of Ivan's War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945

Harold J. Goldberg Author Of D-Day in the Pacific: The Battle of Saipan

From my list on on World War II according to my students.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 1974 I started my full-time teaching career at a small liberal arts college and realized how much I love teaching and discussing historical events with students. With Russian and Soviet history as my areas of specialization, expanding my course offerings to include World War II was a natural addition. My World War II class became extremely popular and led to demands that I take students to Europe to visit many of the places we discussed in class. Every summer for about ten years I led study-abroad trips to England, France, and Germany. Watching student reactions to Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery made every trip worthwhile.

Harold's book list on on World War II according to my students

Harold J. Goldberg Why did Harold love this book?

Merridale uses archival material and interviews with Soviet war veterans to personalize the war on the Eastern Front. This work moves beyond the number of combatants and tanks to focus on real life at the frontlines. She talks about issues that help the reader “feel” the war: what did soldiers eat given the well-known shortages and privations throughout the USSR; how did soldiers get warm clothes and boots; how did they obtain ammunition and artillery shells and new guns despite the long supply lines; was stealing accepted in the army; what behaviors were tolerated and which ones were punished; how did hierarchy allow officers to get first choice of captured enemy equipment. She reveals how officers might not report all the dead in their unit so they would not lose the lost soldier’s food ration. While Alexander Werth’s Russia at War provides a sweeping view of Soviet organization, suffering, and…

By Catherine Merridale,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A powerful, groundbreaking narrative of the ordinary Russian soldier's experience of the worst war in history, based on newly revealed sources.

Of the thirty million who fought in the eastern front of World War II, eight million died, driven forward in suicidal charges, shattered by German shells and tanks. They were the men and women of the Red Army, a ragtag mass of soldiers who confronted Europe's most lethal fighting force and by 1945 had defeated it. Sixty years have passed since their epic triumph, but the heart and mind of Ivan -- as the ordinary Russian soldier was called…


Book cover of The Stuff of Soldiers: A History of the Red Army in World War II Through Objects

Francine Hirsch Author Of Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg: A New History of the International Military Tribunal After World War II

From my list on The experience of Soviet Soldiers in WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

Francine Hirsch is Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she teaches courses on Soviet History, Modern European History, and the History of Human Rights. She spent fifteen years researching and writing about the Soviet Union’s experience in World War II and the role that it played in the Nuremberg Trials. Her recently published Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg was awarded the 2021 Certificate of Merit for a Preeminent Contribution to Creative Scholarship from the American Society of International Law.

Francine's book list on The experience of Soviet Soldiers in WW2

Francine Hirsch Why did Francine love this book?

This fascinating history of the Red Army in World War II examines the material objects—the overcoat, the boots, the “thing bag,” the spade, the spoon, the bayonet, and other items—that helped turn civilians into Soviet soldiers. By focusing in on “the quotidian details of provisioning,” Schechter provides a unique view of the Red Army and of soldiers’ everyday lives.

By Brandon M. Schechter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Stuff of Soldiers uses everyday objects to tell the story of the Great Patriotic War as never before. Brandon Schechter attends to a diverse array of things-from spoons to tanks-to show how a wide array of citizens became soldiers, and how the provisioning of material goods separated soldiers from civilians.

Through a fascinating examination of leaflets, proclamations, newspapers, manuals, letters to and from the front, diaries, and interviews, The Stuff of Soldiers reveals how the use of everyday items made it possible to wage war. The dazzling range of documents showcases ethnic diversity, women's particular problems at the front,…


Book cover of Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege

Cathal J. Nolan Author Of Mercy: Humanity in War

From my list on how wars are won and lost.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an award-winning teacher and writer who introduces students and readers to war in a profession that today is at best indifferent to military history, and more often hostile. That gives me a wry sense of irony, as colleagues would rather teach about fashion than fascism and truffles over tragedy. Having written a multiple award-winning book that covered 2,000 years of war, frankly I was sickened by how the same mistakes were made over and again. It has made me devoted to exploring possibilities for humane behavior within the most inhumane and degraded moral environment humanity creates; where individuality is subsumed in collective violence and humanity is obscured as a faceless, merciless enemy.

Cathal's book list on how wars are won and lost

Cathal J. Nolan Why did Cathal love this book?

Beevor has a rare gift of presenting war at the level of both the ordinary soldier and the generals and distant leadership making decisions both good and bad. His sources range from letters home, to diaries, to dispatches on both the Soviet and German side. He writes without flinching about the horrors of war, or too overtly playing the cheerleader as so many military histories do, to their detriment. 

By Antony Beevor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This authoritative and well written book recreates the battle for Stalingrad that became the focus of Hitler and Stalin's determination to win the gruesome and vicious war for the Eastern front. A detailed examination of the most pitiless, and perhaps the most important battle in WW2 history. Focusing on the experiences of soldiers on both sides, driven beyond the limits of physical and mental endurance this work stands as a testament to human endeavour and to the vital role of the Soviet wareffort. This will be the classic book on the subject,


Book cover of Modernization from the Other Shore: American Intellectuals and the Romance of Russian Development

John Philipp Baesler Author Of Clearer Than Truth: The Polygraph and the American Cold War

From my list on Russia in Western eyes.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in West Germany, surrounded by American soldiers and with a father who had escaped communist East Germany, the Cold War always fascinated me. What was it about? Would it ever end? When it did, it took everybody by surprise. This lesson, that nothing is certain and that history can always make a turn when you least expect it, stayed with me as I pursued my degrees in history, first in Heidelberg and then at Indiana University Bloomington. As an immigrant to the United States, I study the United States from the outside and the inside. How Americans see themselves, and how they see others, is my main interest that I keep exploring from different angles.

John's book list on Russia in Western eyes

John Philipp Baesler Why did John love this book?

American observers were endlessly fascinated by Russia long before the Cold War began and before supposed Russian election interference became a news item. However, they could never make up their minds about what made the Russian people tick. In this eye-opening book, David Engerman shows how American journalists, diplomats, and social scientists romanticized and ridiculed Russian peasants, praised or condemned the attempts by the Tsar and the Bolsheviks to modernize Russia by force, and marbled at the Russian “national character.” Engerman in a masterly fashion reveals how prejudices have shaped American views of Russia.

By David C. Engerman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Modernization from the Other Shore as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the late nineteenth century to the eve of World War II, America's experts on Russia watched as Russia and the Soviet Union embarked on a course of rapid industrialization. Captivated by the idea of modernization, diplomats, journalists, and scholars across the political spectrum rationalized the enormous human cost of this path to progress. In a fascinating examination of this crucial era, David Engerman underscores the key role economic development played in America's understanding of Russia and explores its profound effects on U.S. policy.

American intellectuals from George Kennan to Samuel Harper to Calvin Hoover understood Russian events in terms…


Book cover of Thunder in the East: The Nazi-Soviet War 1941-1945

David Stahel Author Of Operation Barbarossa and Germany's Defeat in the East

From my list on Operation Barbarossa.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was a young man reading my first books about the Second World War I was struck by the dimensions of Germany’s war in the East. Battles at El Alamein, Monte Cassino, and Normandy were familiar to me, but suddenly there emerged dozens of new battlefields in the East, most dwarfing the Anglo-American experience of the war, which I’d never heard of. My curiosity drove my reading and, as the saying goes, the more I knew, the more questions I had. Thirty years on, and ten books under my belt, has not yet satisfied that curiosity, but at least, thanks to Shepherd, I can share some of it.

David's book list on Operation Barbarossa

David Stahel Why did David love this book?

The final recommendation I’d make is only partly related to Operation Barbarossa, but deserves inclusion in that discussion as well as the wider coverage of the war (for those seeking to go further). Mawdsley covers the war from many angles (economic, political, military as well as the experience of occupation) and provides insightful analysis for each turn of events. The endnotes and bibliography are exhaustive, providing a useful guide for whatever subject of interest a reader exploring the vast historiography of the Nazi-Soviet war might have. A first-rate read for both Operation Barbarossa and the wider war in the East.

By Evan Mawdsley,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Thunder in the East as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The battles in Russia played the decisive part in Hitler's defeat. Gigantic, prolonged, and bloody, they contrasted with the general nature of the fighting on other fronts. The Russians fought on their own in "their" theater of war and with an indepedent strategy. Stalinist Russia was a country radically different from its liberal democratic allies. Hitler and the German high command, for their part, conceived and carried out the Russian campaign as a singular "war of annihilation." This riveting new book is a penetrating, broad-ranging, yet concise overview of this vast conflict. It investigates the Wehrmacht and the Red Army…


Book cover of When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler

Andrew Monaghan Author Of Russian Grand Strategy in the Era of Global Power Competition

From my list on Russia and why the Kremlin does what it's doing.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by different cultures. I started to learn Russian in 1998, and intrigued by the language, I began to study Russia more—delving into history and politics and then doing a PhD in Russian foreign policy. Ever since, trying to learn about and understand Russia has been my professional focus. Alongside books in Russian, these books are all to hand on my reference shelf, well-thumbed and marked up, as I try to write my own work. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have! 

Andrew's book list on Russia and why the Kremlin does what it's doing

Andrew Monaghan Why did Andrew love this book?

The Great Patriotic War is central to Russian politics and thinking about international affairs today. It is important as a symbolic and political reference, but senior military figures often point to the war’s relevance to how Russia should think about war today. There are so many good books to read on this, but I think David Glantz is the doyen of Western historians of the Russian military, and this book is the ideal overview guide to understanding the trajectory and key features of the war: a concise but highly informative examination of one of the most catastrophic wars. Essential reading, I think, and shows why history is important to understanding where we are today.

By David M. Glantz, Jonathan M. House,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On first publication, this uncommonly concise and readable account of Soviet Russia's clash with Nazi Germany utterly changed our understanding of World War II on Germany's Eastern Front, immediately earning its place among top-shelf histories of the world war. Revised and updated to reflect recent Russian and Western scholarship on the subject, much of it the authors' own work, this new edition maintains the 1995 original's distinction as a crucial volume in the history of World War II and of the Soviet Union and the most informed and compelling perspective on one of the greatest military confrontations of all time.…


Book cover of A Russian Journal

Lisa Dickey Author Of Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys Across a Changing Russia

From my list on the Russian people.

Why am I passionate about this?

Lisa Dickey is an author and book collaborator who’s helped write 20+ nonfiction books, including 10 New York Times Best Sellers. She’s also a Russophile from way back:  her first post-college job was working as a nanny at the U.S. embassy in Moscow during the last days of the Soviet Union. Lisa began her writing career in St. Petersburg in the mid-1990s, writing for the Moscow Times and USA Today, and she’s the author of Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys Across a Changing Russia.

Lisa's book list on the Russian people

Lisa Dickey Why did Lisa love this book?

While sipping cocktails in a New York City bar in the late 1940s, John Steinbeck and the famed war photographer Robert Capa began musing about Russia. “What do the people wear there? What do they serve at dinner? Do they have parties?... How do they make love, and how do they die?” Though gallons of ink were routinely spilled in newspaper stories about the political situation there, no one covered the private lives of the Russian people, which is what these two great artists wanted to know about. So, they decided to find out for themselves. They detail the fruits of their fascinating and frequently madcap journey in A Russian Journal.

By John Steinbeck,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Steinbeck and Capa’s account of their journey through Cold War Russia is a classic piece of reportage and travel writing.

A Penguin Classic

Just after the Iron Curtain fell on Eastern Europe, Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Steinbeck and acclaimed war photographer Robert Capa ventured into the Soviet Union to report for the New York Herald Tribune. This rare opportunity took the famous travelers not only to Moscow and Stalingrad – now Volgograd – but through the countryside of the Ukraine and the Caucasus. Hailed by the New York Times as "superb" when it first appeared in 1948, A Russian Journal…


Book cover of The German Army and Nazi Policies in Occupied Russia, 1941-45

Antonio J. Muñoz Author Of Nazi Occupation Policies in the East, 1939-1944

From my list on the Holocaust and the Nazi Occupation of Eastern Europe.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Cuban refugee. I came with my family in the early 1960s a few years after the Cuban revolution. I served 4 years in the U.S. Marines. I went to school and in 1982 married. Both of my daughters became college professors. The younger works for the CUNY system, while the oldest teaches at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. I have always had a passion for modern European history. It grew from an interest in military history when I was a Marine.

Antonio's book list on the Holocaust and the Nazi Occupation of Eastern Europe

Antonio J. Muñoz Why did Antonio love this book?

Professor Theo J. Schulte has written a well-documented, well researched study of the Ostheer (German Army in the East) covering the Russian campaign.

I loved this book because, like almost all of the recommendations that I have listed, it is a single volume with a concise yet thorough enough study of the German Army and its connection to the Genocide and Democide in the Soviet Union.

The book taught me that there was a reason why, during the war, out of the approximately twenty-five million Soviet citizens who died in the war, thirteen million were civilians. The reason, Schulte points to, is the purposeful targeting of the civilian population for murder (Democide).

The book made me realize that the study of Nazi policies in the East should not only include the Holocaust, but should also cover the “other” deaths that occurred as well.

By Theo J. Schulte,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The German Army and Nazi Policies in Occupied Russia, 1941-45 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Whereas it is now generally accepted that the Wehrmacht leadership became deeply implicated in Nazi war crimes and atrocities in occupied Soviet Russia during the Second World War, little is known about the responses of the lower ranks to these policies. This study of two rear areas examines these responses in respect of such issues as POW treatment, partisan warfare, relations with the civilian populations, economic policy and attitudes towards the SS. Above all it moves into the territory of the social history of the Wehrmacht, based on documents and statistical data.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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