10 books like Stalin’s Secret War

By Nikolai Tolstoy,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Stalin’s Secret War. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Stalin

By Simon Sebag Montefiore,

Book cover of Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

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.

Stalin

By Simon Sebag Montefiore,

Why should I read it?

1 author 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…


Thunder in the East

By Evan Mawdsley,

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

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.

Thunder 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…


Stalin's Drive to the West, 1938-1945

By R.C. Raack,

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

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.

Stalin's Drive to the West, 1938-1945

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…


Racing the Enemy

By Tsuyoshi Hasegawa,

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

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 –…

Racing the Enemy

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…


Stumbling Colossus

By David M. Glantz,

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

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.

Stumbling Colossus

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…


Graffiti Knight

By Karen Bass,

Book cover of Graffiti Knight

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.

Graffiti Knight

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.

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…


Armed Truce

By Hugh Thomas,

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

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.

Armed Truce

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


Stolen Girl

By Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch,

Book cover of Stolen Girl

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.

Stolen Girl

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.

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…


Traitor

By Gudrun Pausewang, Rachel Ward (translator),

Book cover of Traitor

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.

Traitor

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.

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…


All Hell Let Loose

By Max Hastings,

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

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

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…


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