100 books like Towards the Flame

By Dominic Lieven,

Here are 100 books that Towards the Flame fans have personally recommended if you like Towards the Flame. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I

Adam Zamoyski Author Of Warsaw 1920: Lenin’s Failed Conquest of Europe

From my list on to truly understand the First World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

Adam Zamoyski is a British historian of Polish origin. He is the author of over a dozen award winning books. His family originates in Poland. His parents left the country when it was invaded by Germany and Russia in 1939, and were stranded in exile when the Soviets took it over at the end of World War II. Drawn to it as much by the historical processes at work there as by family ties, Zamoyski began to visit Poland in the late 1960s. His interest in the subject is combined with a feel for its connections to the history and culture of other nations, and a deep understanding of the pan-European context.

Adam's book list on to truly understand the First World War

Adam Zamoyski Why did Adam love this book?

This book provides a radically alternative perspective on what this event meant for ordinary people. Using a wide range of letters, diaries, and memoirs, Neiberg reveals that most people had no idea what the war was about and saw no good reason for it, while the soldiers were often confused as to whom they were fighting and which part of the world they were in. It is a short book but an enlightening read.

By Michael Neiberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The common explanation for the outbreak of World War I depicts Europe as a minefield of nationalism, needing only the slightest pressure to set off an explosion of passion that would rip the continent apart. But in a crucial reexamination of the outbreak of violence, Michael Neiberg shows that ordinary Europeans, unlike their political and military leaders, neither wanted nor expected war during the fateful summer of 1914. By training his eye on the ways that people outside the halls of power reacted to the rapid onset and escalation of the fighting, Neiberg dispels the notion that Europeans were rabid…


Book cover of World War One: A Short History

Adam Zamoyski Author Of Warsaw 1920: Lenin’s Failed Conquest of Europe

From my list on to truly understand the First World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

Adam Zamoyski is a British historian of Polish origin. He is the author of over a dozen award winning books. His family originates in Poland. His parents left the country when it was invaded by Germany and Russia in 1939, and were stranded in exile when the Soviets took it over at the end of World War II. Drawn to it as much by the historical processes at work there as by family ties, Zamoyski began to visit Poland in the late 1960s. His interest in the subject is combined with a feel for its connections to the history and culture of other nations, and a deep understanding of the pan-European context.

Adam's book list on to truly understand the First World War

Adam Zamoyski Why did Adam love this book?

This is undoubtedly the best overview of the war. It really is short and takes the reader on a brisk, witty, and thoroughly enjoyable canter through the events. Yet it is by no means superficial. Thoughtful and insightful, it is the work of a master.

By Norman Stone,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The First World War was the overwhelming disaster from which everything else in the twentieth century stemmed. Fourteen million combatants died, four empires were destroyed, and even the victors' empires were fatally damaged. World War I took humanity from the nineteenth century forcibly into the twentieth,and then, at Versailles, cast Europe on the path to World War II as well. In World War One , Norman Stone, one of the world's greatest historians, has achieved the almost impossible task of writing a terse and witty short history of the war. A captivating, brisk narrative, World War One is Stone's masterful…


Book cover of The Fortress: The Siege of Przemysl and the Making of Europe's Bloodlands

Adam Zamoyski Author Of Warsaw 1920: Lenin’s Failed Conquest of Europe

From my list on to truly understand the First World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

Adam Zamoyski is a British historian of Polish origin. He is the author of over a dozen award winning books. His family originates in Poland. His parents left the country when it was invaded by Germany and Russia in 1939, and were stranded in exile when the Soviets took it over at the end of World War II. Drawn to it as much by the historical processes at work there as by family ties, Zamoyski began to visit Poland in the late 1960s. His interest in the subject is combined with a feel for its connections to the history and culture of other nations, and a deep understanding of the pan-European context.

Adam's book list on to truly understand the First World War

Adam Zamoyski Why did Adam love this book?

This book not only tells the fascinating story of the great siege in 1914-15 of the supposedly impregnable fortress of Przemyśl. It is a highly readable and often darkly humorous account, based on an extraordinary array of sources in several languages, paints a vivid picture of the political and military shambles into which the Austro-Hungarian Empire had fallen. With chilling precision, it also identifies the presence of many of the germs which would flourish into the horrors which visited the same area in the following decades.

By Alexander Watson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


A prizewinning historian tells the dramatic story of the siege that changed the course of the First World War

In September 1914, just a month into World War I, the Russian army laid siege to the fortress city of Przemysl, the Hapsburg Empire's most important bulwark against invasion. For six months, against storm and starvation, the ragtag garrison bitterly resisted, denying the Russians a quick victory. Only in March 1915 did the city fall, bringing occupation, persecution, and brutal ethnic cleansing.

In The Fortress, historian Alexander Watson tells the story of the battle for Przemysl, showing how it marked the…


Book cover of Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World

Charlotte Gray Author Of Passionate Mothers, Powerful Sons: The Lives of Jennie Jerome Churchill and Sara Delano Roosevelt

From my list on history books by women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I recall my younger self looking at the reading lists on Oxford University history courses, and asking, “Where are all the women?” I have always wanted to know what it was like to be there, in any century up to the present. How did families form and pass on their values, what did people wear and eat, when (and if) children learned to read, and what were people’s daily routines? Political, military, and economic history is important, but I have flourished in the social history trenches. I discovered women writers and historians have more acute antennae for the details I wanted, even when writing about wars and dynasties.

Charlotte's book list on history books by women

Charlotte Gray Why did Charlotte love this book?

Until I read this book, I had thought of the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference in yawn-inducing terms of maps and endless documents. But MacMillan gave me a new angle of vision, with her brilliant descriptions of the statesmen’s personalities, the corridor conspiracies, the exotic characters on the conference’s fringes, and the high-handed manner in which a tiny clique of national leaders imposed unrealistic solutions.

I finally understood why World War I was not the “war to end all wars,” as the peacemakers hoped, but only a prelude to World War II and many of the conflicts still raging today.

By Margaret MacMillan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Paris 1919 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

National Bestseller

New York Times Editors’ Choice

Winner of the PEN Hessell Tiltman Prize

Winner of the Duff Cooper Prize

Silver Medalist for the Arthur Ross Book Award
of the Council on Foreign Relations

Finalist for the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award

For six months in 1919, after the end of “the war to end all wars,” the Big Three—President Woodrow Wilson, British prime minister David Lloyd George, and French premier Georges Clemenceau—met in Paris to shape a lasting peace. In this landmark work of narrative history, Margaret MacMillan gives a dramatic and intimate view of those fateful days, which…


Book cover of 1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe

Sarah B. Snyder Author Of Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network

From my list on the end of the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by Russian history and American-Soviet relations since high school. Now at American University’s School of International Service, I teach courses on the history of U.S. foreign relations, the Cold War, as well as human rights and U.S. foreign policy. I have written two books on the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, including Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network and From Selma to Moscow: How U.S. Human Rights Activists Transformed U.S. Foreign Policy. When I’m not working, I love a good Cold War TV series (Deutschland 83 or The Americans).

Sarah's book list on the end of the Cold War

Sarah B. Snyder Why did Sarah love this book?

Writing about the end of the Cold War, Mary Sarotte argues the fall of the Berlin Wall was not inevitable and that the United States was not the dominant player. She focuses instead on the West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s drive for German reunification and a new architecture for post-Cold War Europe. More significantly, her book was one of the first to treat 1989 not as an endpoint in international relations but as a beginning.

By Mary Elise Sarotte,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 1989 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

1989 explores the momentous events following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the effects they have had on our world ever since. Based on documents, interviews, and television broadcasts from Washington, London, Paris, Bonn, Berlin, Warsaw, Moscow, and a dozen other locations, 1989 describes how Germany unified, NATO expansion began, and Russia got left on the periphery of the new Europe. This updated edition contains a new afterword with the most recent evidence on the 1990 origins of NATO's post-Cold War expansion.


Book cover of The Russian Origins of the First World War

Terence Zuber Author Of The Real German War Plan, 1904-14

From my list on new revisionist military history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been interested in military history and wanted to become a professional soldier. I benefitted especially from three years as the American liaison officer on the staff of the German 12th Panzer Division. German Army organization, planning and decision-making, troop leadership, and training are outstanding and made a deep impression on me. I received a superb education as a historian at the University of Wuerzburg, Germany, which required history to be written from original source documents, not secondary sources uncritically accepted. My standards emphasize attention to detail in military planning and operations, and archival work in English, German, and French. As do the authors that I have selected.

Terence's book list on new revisionist military history

Terence Zuber Why did Terence love this book?

Conventional histories blame Germany for starting the First World War by “turning a Balkan Quarrel into a European war.” McMeekin shows both Germany and Austria-Hungary wanted a quick, isolated Austrian-Serbian war. It was Russia that wanted a general European war in order to seize Constantinople and the Bosporus Straits and give Russia access to the Mediterranean. Therefore, the Russians wanted France and Great Britain to tie down Germany, while Russia crushed the Austrians and seized the Balkans and the Bosphorous. And the Russians knew about the Serb plot to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand in advance. McMeeken’s archival research in proving his case is impressive.

By Sean McMeekin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Russian Origins of the First World War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The catastrophe of the First World War, and the destruction, revolution, and enduring hostilities it wrought, make the issue of its origins a perennial puzzle. Since World War II, Germany has been viewed as the primary culprit. Now, in a major reinterpretation of the conflict, Sean McMeekin rejects the standard notions of the war's beginning as either a Germano-Austrian preemptive strike or a "tragedy of miscalculation." Instead, he proposes that the key to the outbreak of violence lies in St. Petersburg.

It was Russian statesmen who unleashed the war through conscious policy decisions based on imperial ambitions in the Near…


Book cover of Roads to Glory: Late Imperial Russia and the Turkish Straits

Gordon Martel Author Of The Origins of the First World War

From my list on why the First World War happened.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of diplomacy, war, and empire. A founding editor of The International History Review, I have written books on ‘Imperial Diplomacy’, on the origins of the First World War, and on the July Crisis. I have edited: the 5-volume Encyclopedia of War and the 4-volume Encyclopedia of Diplomacy; the journals of A.L. Kennedy for the Royal Historical Society; numerous collections of essays, and the multi-volume Seminar Studies in History series. I am currently working on a two-volume study of Political Intelligence in Great Britain, 1900-1950, which is a group biography of the men who made up the Department of Political Intelligence in Britain, 1917-1919

Gordon's book list on why the First World War happened

Gordon Martel Why did Gordon love this book?

One of the most enduring explanations for the outbreak of war in 1914 is that of ‘imperialism’. The argument that competition for resources beyond the ‘natural’ frontiers of European states created bitter rivalries among the Great Powers had been made many times before 1914, whenever a crisis in Africa, Asia, or the Middle East threatened to turn into a shooting war. But disentangling the complex motives, strategies, and tactics that intersected Great Power politics is a daunting task.

One of the finest case studies of the imperial mentalité can be found in Bobroff’s fascinating book. Not only does he break new ground in this study, but he has mined the Russian archives to great effect, moving the subject along from grand, unproven assertions concerning Russian policies to a detailed and persuasive understanding of both their ambitions and their fears.

By Ronald P. Bobroff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Until now, it has been accepted that the Turkish Straits - the Russian fleet's gateway to the Mediterranean - were a key factor in shaping Russian policy in the years leading to World War I. Control of the Straits had always been accepted as the major priority of Imperial Russia's foreign policy. In this powerfully argued revisionist history, Ronald Bobroff exposes the true Russian concern before the outbreak of war: the containment of German aggression. Based on extensive new research, Bobroff provides fascinating new insights into Russia's state development before the revolution, examining the policies and personal correspondence of its…


Book cover of Tannenberg: Clash of Empires, 1914

Eric Dorn Brose Author Of The Kaiser's Army: The Politics of Military Technology in Germany During the Machine Age, 1870-1918

From my list on the German army in World War One.

Why am I passionate about this?

I retired from Drexel University in 2015 after thirty-six years as a professor of German and European History of the 19th and 20th Centuries. My sub-specialty in the History of Technology carried over into publications that over the years focused increasingly on the Prussian/German Army (The Politics of Technological Change in Prussia [1993] and The Kaiser’s Army [2001]) and naval conflict (Clash of the Capital Ships [2021]).  

Eric's book list on the German army in World War One

Eric Dorn Brose Why did Eric love this book?

In this beautifully written, well-researched book, Showalter explains how German generals won a spectacular victory on the eastern front. Although able to deploy only one army group – while seven were deployed in the west – they prevailed in the famous Battle of Tannenberg (1914) against two ineptly led and poorly armed Russian armies. Germany achieved the kind of success that eluded them in the west, but was unable to knock Russia out of the war – in fact, the victors had only bought time against enemy forces increasing in number. Not until the communist revolution three years later would Germany wriggle free of enemies in the east.

By Dennis E. Showalter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The battle of Tannenberg (August 27-30, 1914) opened World War I with a decisive German victory over Russia-indeed the Kaiser's only clear-cut victory in a non-attritional battle during four years of war. In this first paperback edition of the classic work, historian Dennis Showalter analyzes this battle's causes, effects, and implications for subsequent German military policy. The author carefully guides the reader through what actually happened on the battlefield, from its grand strategy down to the level of improvised squad actions. Examining the battle in the context of contemporary diplomatic, political, and economic affairs, Showalter also reviews both armies' social…


Book cover of Putin's Wars: From Chechnya to Ukraine

Ursula Wong Author Of Amber Wolf

From my list on books that changed my perspective on Eastern Europe and Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about Eastern Europe, both past and present, and what it means to have Russia as a neighbor. I write historical fiction and historical thrillers with a soupcon of espionage. I talk about the politics of the day, whether the story is set during WWII or in modern times. While my stories and characters are fictional, I constantly strive to accurately reflect time, place, and, most of all, history. I hope that my novels entertain and inform about a corner of the world folks may not know much about. 

Ursula's book list on books that changed my perspective on Eastern Europe and Russia

Ursula Wong Why did Ursula love this book?

Mr. Galeotti makes Russia’s ever-changing military status read like a spy novel. You might think information about drones, tanks, aircraft, and MANPADS is boring. I beg to differ.

Starting with the disarray caused by the breakup of the Soviet Union, Mr. Galeotti tells us who changed things, who failed to, and why. He matches the retooling of the Russian military to war lessons learned in Chechnya, Georgia, Crimea, and Syria.

Mr. Galeotti has intimate knowledge of history, personal connections with individuals in the Russian military, and a brilliant way of putting it all together. He asked a Russian soldier his opinion of a photograph of Putin, who never served in the military, sitting at the controls of a fighter aircraft. The soldier said it was like being married to a virgin; the concept was good, but the experience wasn’t there.

This book is amazing.

By Mark Galeotti,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Financial Times - Best books of 2022: Politics 'The prolific military chronicler and analyst Mark Galeotti has produced exactly the right book at the right time.' The Times A new history of how Putin and his conflicts have inexorably reshaped Russia, including his devastating invasion of Ukraine. Putin's Wars is a timely overview of the conflicts in which Russia has been involved since Vladimir Putin became prime minister and then president of Russia, from the First Chechen War to the two military incursions into Georgia, the annexation of Crimea and the eventual invasion of Ukraine itself. But it also…


Book cover of Anglo-Russian Rivalry in Central Asia 1810-1895

Riaz Dean Author Of Mapping the Great Game: Explorers, Spies and Maps in 19th-Century Asia

From my list on the Great Game.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have travelled much of the area described in this book, including the two halves of what was once Turkestan, and on the Roof of the World which divides them. I collect old maps and books (including historical fiction titles) about the exploration of the region and the machinations of the Great Game. My book is the result of four years of research and writing.

Riaz's book list on the Great Game

Riaz Dean Why did Riaz love this book?

This is a medium-length book by another well-established historian, who writes in a reasonably accessible manner. His is a more in-depth treatment of the Great Game, aided by Geoffrey Wheeler, an expert on Central Asia, who wrote the book’s Epilogue. It contains three maps and appendices (but no illustrations).

By Gerald Morgan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Anglo-Russian Rivalry in Central Asia 1810-1895 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Published in 1981, Anglo-Russian Rivalry in Central Asia 1810-1895 is a valuable contribution to the field of Middle Eastern Studies.


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