100 books like Stalin’s Secret War

By Nikolai Tolstoy,

Here are 100 books that Stalin’s Secret War fans have personally recommended if you like Stalin’s Secret War. 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 Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

Sean McMeekin Author Of Stalin's War: A New History of World War II

From my list on Stalin and the Second World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 1992, I graduated high school and although I did not then know how to read or speak Russian, I interviewed six Soviet veterans who happened to live in a nursing home in Rochester NY. I was blown away by their stories; each was missing at least one limb and had a tale to tell about it. The timing was fortuitous in that there was an exhibition at the U.S. Library of Congress that summer on “Revelations from the Russian archives,” which has just opened to researchers. Although it took me some years to master Russian, I resolved then and there to go to the source and research Soviet history in Moscow itself. I am a historian now and I have been working in Moscow archives for nearly a quarter-century now. Stalin’s War is my eighth book to date, all of which draw on this work in the Russian archives.

Sean's book list on Stalin and the Second World War

Sean McMeekin Why did Sean love this book?

Sebag Montefiore was the first western historian to really take advantage of the opening of Russian – and Georgian – archival sources on Stalin and his career. Court of the Red Tsar offers a precious glimpse into Stalin’s inner circle and the way the USSR was governed in the 1930s and 1940s. Although gossipy at times, and written in a popular style some professional historians resent, the book is deeply researched and a treasure trove of information which is hard to find elsewhere.

By Simon Sebag Montefiore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the British Book Awards History Book of the Year

Longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize

This thrilling biography of Stalin and his entourage during the terrifying decades of his supreme power transforms our understanding of Stalin as Soviet dictator, Marxist leader and Russian tsar.

Based on groundbreaking research, Simon Sebag Montefiore reveals in captivating detail the fear and betrayal, privilege and debauchery, family life and murderous cruelty of this secret world. Written with extraordinary narrative verve, this magnificent feat of scholarly research has become a classic of modern history writing. Showing how Stalin's triumphs and crimes were the…


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 Stalin's Drive to the West, 1938-1945: The Origins of the Cold War

Sean McMeekin Author Of Stalin's War: A New History of World War II

From my list on Stalin and the Second World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 1992, I graduated high school and although I did not then know how to read or speak Russian, I interviewed six Soviet veterans who happened to live in a nursing home in Rochester NY. I was blown away by their stories; each was missing at least one limb and had a tale to tell about it. The timing was fortuitous in that there was an exhibition at the U.S. Library of Congress that summer on “Revelations from the Russian archives,” which has just opened to researchers. Although it took me some years to master Russian, I resolved then and there to go to the source and research Soviet history in Moscow itself. I am a historian now and I have been working in Moscow archives for nearly a quarter-century now. Stalin’s War is my eighth book to date, all of which draw on this work in the Russian archives.

Sean's book list on Stalin and the Second World War

Sean McMeekin Why did Sean love this book?

Like Sebag Montefiore and Mawdsley, Raack was the first diplomatic historian to re-evaluate Stalin’s foreign policy in light of documents which became available after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. He exploded numerous myths about the supposed Soviet interest in “collective security” in the 1930s, showing that this was mere projection on the part of French and British and Czechoslovak statesmen who saw what they wanted to see in Stalin’s foreign policy, which was just as territorially “revisionist” as that of Italy, Germany, and Japan, just as expansionist – but better camouflaged.

By R.C. Raack,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stalin's Drive to the West, 1938-1945 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Exploiting new findings from former East Bloc archives and from long-ignored Western sources, this book presents a wholly new picture of the coming of World War II, Allied wartime diplomacy, and the origins of the Cold War. The author reveals that the story - widely believed by historians and Western wartime leaders alike - that Stalin's purposes in European diplomacy from 1938 on were mainly defensive is a fantasy. Indeed, this is one of the longest enduring products of Stalin's propaganda, of long-term political control of archival materials, and of the gullibility of Western observers.

The author argues that Stalin…


Book cover of Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan

Sean McMeekin Author Of Stalin's War: A New History of World War II

From my list on Stalin and the Second World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 1992, I graduated high school and although I did not then know how to read or speak Russian, I interviewed six Soviet veterans who happened to live in a nursing home in Rochester NY. I was blown away by their stories; each was missing at least one limb and had a tale to tell about it. The timing was fortuitous in that there was an exhibition at the U.S. Library of Congress that summer on “Revelations from the Russian archives,” which has just opened to researchers. Although it took me some years to master Russian, I resolved then and there to go to the source and research Soviet history in Moscow itself. I am a historian now and I have been working in Moscow archives for nearly a quarter-century now. Stalin’s War is my eighth book to date, all of which draw on this work in the Russian archives.

Sean's book list on Stalin and the Second World War

Sean McMeekin Why did Sean love this book?

Using newly available Soviet sources, along with Japanese and American documents, Hasegawa fills a gaping hole in the vast literature on the dropping of the atomic bombs and the conclusion of the Pacific war in August-September 1945. For too long, western historians have told this story without reference to the immense Soviet role in the drama – or if they mention the Soviets at all, it is to use the Red Army’s last-minute intervention to argue either for or against the necessity of dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to break Japanese resistance. What Hasegawa shows is how central Soviet neutrality – negotiated by Stalin in 1941 and still operative in summer 1945 – was to Japanese decision-making, right up to the moment Tokyo appealed to Stalin for mediation after Hiroshima, only to learn in horror that peace in the Far East was the last thing Stalin –…

By Tsuyoshi Hasegawa,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With startling revelations, Tsuyoshi Hasegawa rewrites the standard history of the end of World War II in the Pacific. By fully integrating the three key actors in the story--the United States, the Soviet Union, and Japan--Hasegawa for the first time puts the last months of the war into international perspective.

From April 1945, when Stalin broke the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact and Harry Truman assumed the presidency, to the final Soviet military actions against Japan, Hasegawa brings to light the real reasons Japan surrendered. From Washington to Moscow to Tokyo and back again, he shows us a high-stakes diplomatic game as…


Book cover of Stumbling Colossus: The Red Army on the Eve of World War

Gerhard Weinberg Author Of A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II

From my list on World War 2.

Why am I passionate about this?

Gerhard Weinberg fled Germany at the end of 1938 and experienced the first year of World War II – including the beginning of the Blitz – in England. He completed his PhD after serving in the US Army of Occupation in Japan, researched the captured German documents, established the program for microfilming them, and after writing an analysis of the origins of World War II decided to prepare a book covering the war as a whole.

Gerhard's book list on World War 2

Gerhard Weinberg Why did Gerhard love this book?

A truly extraordinary examination of the army that would do a majority of the fighting and suffer as well as inflict the largest portion of the military casualties of the European part of World War II. The "Bibliographic Essay and Selective Bibliography" is extraordinarily helpful in its account of the fate of Soviet archives and publications over the years.

By David M. Glantz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Germany's surprise attack on June 22, 1941, shocked a Soviet Union woefully unprepared to defend itself. The day before the attack, the Red Army still comprised the world's largest fighting force. But by the end of the year, four and a half million of its soldiers lay dead. This new study, based on formerly classified Soviet archival material and neglected German sources, reveals the truth behind this national catastrophe.

Drawing on evidence never before seen in the West-including combat records of early engagements-David Glantz claims that in 1941 the Red Army was poorly trained, inadequately equipped, ineptly organized, and consequently…


Book cover of Graffiti Knight

Gabriele Goldstone Author Of Crow Stone

From my list on Stalin and Hitler-era for young people and adults.

Why am I passionate about this?

And, who are you? I write the stories I wish I could have read when I was growing up. As the self-conscious first-born daughter of post-war German/German-Russian immigrants, I looked for my reflection in books. My masters’ degree in 20th German literature only whetted my appetite. I needed more and continued to search for my family’s stories. That search included climbing Hitler's mountain, perusing Soviet secret police files, and cycling through old East Prussia searching for amber. Now I write my own stories even as I continue to read, listen, watch and travel. The past is everywhere.

Gabriele's book list on Stalin and Hitler-era for young people and adults

Gabriele Goldstone Why did Gabriele love this book?

This fast-paced adventure novel, set in Leipzig after the Second World War, tells the story from a German boy’s point of view. The Bass novel explores German guilt and the strained relationships that young people had with their Nazi-era parents. That includes me and my own relationship with my father who was a pilot for the Luftwaffe. Graffiti Knight is inspired by the author’s real-life friendship with the daughter of German immigrants to Canada.

By Karen Bass,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Graffiti Knight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

After a childhood cut short by war and the harsh strictures of Nazi Germany, sixteen-year-old Wilm is finally tasting freedom. In spite of the scars World War II has left on his hometown, Leipzig, and in spite of the oppressive new Soviet regime, Wilm is finding his own voice. It's dangerous, of course, to be sneaking out at night to leave messages on police buildings. But it's exciting, too, and Wilm feels justified, considering his family's suffering. Until one mission goes too far, and Wilm finds he's endangered the very people he most wants to protect.

Award-winning author Karen Bass…


Book cover of Stolen Girl

Gabriele Goldstone Author Of Crow Stone

From my list on Stalin and Hitler-era for young people and adults.

Why am I passionate about this?

And, who are you? I write the stories I wish I could have read when I was growing up. As the self-conscious first-born daughter of post-war German/German-Russian immigrants, I looked for my reflection in books. My masters’ degree in 20th German literature only whetted my appetite. I needed more and continued to search for my family’s stories. That search included climbing Hitler's mountain, perusing Soviet secret police files, and cycling through old East Prussia searching for amber. Now I write my own stories even as I continue to read, listen, watch and travel. The past is everywhere.

Gabriele's book list on Stalin and Hitler-era for young people and adults

Gabriele Goldstone Why did Gabriele love this book?

I love all of Marsha Skrypuch’s YA books. Page-turning plots, engaging characters, inspired by real events. Her novels focus on Ukrainian and Polish young people’s experiences under both Hitler and Stalin. This one stands out to me, first because of the cover and secondly, because of the author’s ability to wrench my heart. The novel focuses on a young Polish girl, deemed Aryan enough, so she can be raised in a Nazi family. It was a story that opened my eyes. These horrendous things happened to innocent kids.

By Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stolen Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

A companion to Making Bombs for Hitler and The War Below, this novel follows a Ukrainian girl who was kidnapped as a child to be raised by a Nazi family.

Nadia is haunted by World War II. Her memories of the war are messy, coming back to her in pieces and flashes she can't control. Though her adoptive mother says they are safe now, Nadia's flashbacks keep coming.Sometimes she remembers running, hunger, and isolation. But other times she remembers living with a German family, and attending big rallies where she was praised for her light hair and blue eyes. The…


Book cover of Armed Truce: The Beginnings of the Cold War 1945-1946

Robert D. Kaplan Author Of In Europe's Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond

From my list on the Cold War from a journalist who lived it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began my career as a foreign correspondent in Cold War Eastern Europe, under communist domination. I lived in Greece, a Cold War battleground, in the 1980s, from where I made regular forays into the Balkans and Central Europe. Those journeys left a vivid, lifelong impression on me.

Robert's book list on the Cold War from a journalist who lived it

Robert D. Kaplan Why did Robert love this book?

This is a somewhat obscure work, a massive book that apparently did not sell well. But it offers a blow-by-blow description by a great British historian about how the Cold War started, and demonstrates how it was principally Stalin's actions that led to World War II morphing into a cold war.

By Hugh Thomas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Provides an account of the first years of the Cold War, with insights into the state of the world after the Second World War and vivid portraits of such personalities as Stalin, Beria, Churchill, Roosevelt, deGaulle, and Truman


Book cover of Traitor

Gabriele Goldstone Author Of Crow Stone

From my list on Stalin and Hitler-era for young people and adults.

Why am I passionate about this?

And, who are you? I write the stories I wish I could have read when I was growing up. As the self-conscious first-born daughter of post-war German/German-Russian immigrants, I looked for my reflection in books. My masters’ degree in 20th German literature only whetted my appetite. I needed more and continued to search for my family’s stories. That search included climbing Hitler's mountain, perusing Soviet secret police files, and cycling through old East Prussia searching for amber. Now I write my own stories even as I continue to read, listen, watch and travel. The past is everywhere.

Gabriele's book list on Stalin and Hitler-era for young people and adults

Gabriele Goldstone Why did Gabriele love this book?

Discovering this German YA writer was a thrill. It focuses on the dilemma a German girl faces when she finds a Russian prisoner of war hiding in her barn. Pausewang has written many books about atrocities during war years and also anti-nuclear novels set in the future. I gobbled up several of her books and read them in the original German, then passed them on to older relatives who find the YA books an easier read with less complicated plots. Pausewang’s books are popular in the German school curriculum and many have now been translated into English. It’s great to read books that explore the German war history, written by Germans.

By Gudrun Pausewang, Rachel Ward (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Traitor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

It's 1944 and Anna's in the Sudetenland, her elder brother is at the front and her younger one is a fanatical member of the Nazi Youth. When she finds an escaped Russian soldier hiding in their barn, nearly dead, humanity conquers fear and she hides him in a disused bunker and continues to feed him despite knowing that if caught she'd be executed as a traitor. She doesn't dare tell even her mother. As the front approaches their village from the east it seems the Russian prisoner will soon be re-united with his comrades - but will Anna's already suspicious…


Book cover of When We Fall

Patrick Larsimont Author Of The Lightning and the Few

From my list on WW2 brought to life through brilliant storytelling.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated with military history, added to which my interest in aviation after serving in Military Intelligence with the Air Force. After a career in advertising, I took to writing during lockdown. My novels uncover forgotten facts and histories, using real characters and their exploits and providing an interpretation of world war events from different perspectives, not just the victors. My recommendations bring the past to life, unpalatable as it might be, with vibrant characters, rich set-building, and beautiful period language, sentiments, and held beliefs. History and conflict, love, loss, tragedy, and forgotten memory are brought to life, full of visceral colour, but importantly always truthfully.

Patrick's book list on WW2 brought to life through brilliant storytelling

Patrick Larsimont Why did Patrick love this book?

A moving WW2 novel set in occupied Poland and beleaguered Britain.

A dual timeline tale of love, intrigue, and the terrible choices made in war, resistance, and collaboration, during occupation. It delves into the often-forgotten contribution of Polish airmen and female ATA pilots to the Allied war effort, the precarious relationship with the invader in conquered Poland, and one of the war’s darkest secrets, the fate of the Polish officer class and the atrocity of the Katyn massacre.

This dark story is of divided loyalties, lost loves, and outcomes that depend on a twist of fate, and fragile truth subject to interpretation, divided loyalties, and clashing ideologies. Beautifully evocative of the times and wartime places, it is a story to make you think of the choices you might have made. 

By Carolyn Kirby,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

England, 1943 Lost in fog, pilot Vee Katchatourian is forced to make an emergency landing where she meets enigmatic RAF airman Stefan Bergel, and then can't get him out of her mind.

In occupied Poland, Ewa Hartman hosts German officers in her father's guest house, while secretly gathering intelligence for the Polish resistance. Mourning her lover, Stefan, who was captured by the Soviets at the start of the war, Ewa is shocked to see him on the street one day.

Haunted by a terrible choice he made in captivity, Stefan asks Vee and Ewa to help him expose one of…


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