The best books on the Battle of France (WW2)

2 authors have picked their favorite books about the Battle of France and why they recommend each book.

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Wine and War

By Don Kladstrup, Petie Kladstrup,

Book cover of Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure

You don’t need to know about wine or WWII to enjoy the story of how French wine was ingeniously protected from pillaging Germans during the Occupation. It reads like a war movie, about wine. Some anecdotes with a touch of James Bond about them, with others more Allo Allo. Sadly, the heroism involved continues to this day, but now with Lebanese wine producers. Indeed, there is another more recent book covering this very topic too.

Who am I?

I became intensely interested in wine while working in a Michelin Star kitchen where understanding how flavours work together, developing nuances in my palate, and an interesting wine list combine. Enthusiasm and passion led to success in wine examinations at the highest levels, working in wine retail, travelling the globe visiting amazing vineyards, and wineries, meeting iconic winemakers, influential vineyards managers, as well as other luminaries in the world of wine. The greatest benefit being many new friends and lifelong special memories. Along with the wine tastings I give, The Periodic Table of Wine is a way to share discovering wine and the joy it brings to new audiences.


I wrote...

The Periodic Table of Wine

By Sarah Rowlands,

Book cover of The Periodic Table of Wine

What is my book about?

The Periodic Table of Wine is sold globally to wine drinkers looking for adventure as well as beginner sommeliers starting out on their careers. Designed as a fun and quick way to give wine lovers more confidence in picking different wines they enjoy without being intimidated? The easy-to-use table, in an accessible pictorial format, shows how different wines relate, guiding you to new wines to discover and love.

Strange Defeat

By Marc Bloch,

Book cover of Strange Defeat

An extraordinary account of the fall of France by a leading historian of the time, written in its aftermath. Both a first-person account of the debacle and a profound meditation on the structural problems of French state, army and society that led to defeat. All the more moving because Bloch was removed from his academic post as a Jew by Vichy and shot by the Germans as a resister in 1944.


Who am I?

I am a historian of France, seduced since I did an exchange with a French family aged fourteen and was a student in Paris in my gap year, aged eighteen, in the aftermath of 1968. Since then I have been fascinated by the tension between la France profonde and revolutionary France. France in the Second World War is a wonderful place to study both, shattered by defeat, foreign occupation and division, and generating huge amounts of literature and film, myth-making, historical research and controversy.


I wrote...

Marianne in Chains: Daily Life in the Heart of France During the German Occupation

By Robert Gildea,

Book cover of Marianne in Chains: Daily Life in the Heart of France During the German Occupation

What is my book about?

In France, the German occupation is called simply the "dark years." There were only the "good French" who resisted and the "bad French" who collaborated. Marianne in Chains, a broad and provocative history drawing on previously unseen archives, firsthand interviews, diaries, and eyewitness accounts, uncovers the complex truth of the time. Robert Gildea's groundbreaking study reveals the everyday life in the heart of occupied France; the pressing imperatives of work, food, transportation, and family obligations that led to unavoidable compromise and negotiation with the army of occupation.

The Pilot and the Little Prince

By Peter Sis,

Book cover of The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Let me start by saying that Peter Sís is a genius and his books are like no one else’s. This story about Antoine Saint-Exupéry, the author of the beloved classic, The Little Prince, is original in every possible way. Maps and mountains are transformed into creatures smiling at each other. In a scene describing the German invasion of France in 1940, his careful tiny crosshatching gives way to loose watercolor, red paint that spreads across the page like fire or blood. At the end, where Saint-Exupéry dreams of the Little Prince, is a stunning double-page spread with no words, just an expanse of blue with prince-like golden stars on the far horizon. The book is sheer perfection.

Who am I?

I have always loved history—not so much the politics, the kings and wars and battles, but the remarkable, often eccentric people who stood out in the age in which they lived. When I started writing books for children, I fell naturally into writing biographies. Each book I’ve written has been an adventure, with research that took me into vanished worlds and introduced me to remarkable people, from Shakespeare and Joan of Arc to Peter the Great, Michelangelo, Cleopatra, and Leonardo da Vinci. I got to read their letters, learn little personal details about their lives, and live vicariously in their worlds. It’s been my life’s joyful work, and I appreciate the brilliant work of other authors who write biography too.


I wrote...

Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer

By Diane Stanley, Jessie Hartland (illustrator),

Book cover of Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer

What is my book about?

Two hundred years ago, a daughter was born to the famous poet, Lord Byron, and his mathematical wife, Annabella. Like her father, Ada had a vivid imagination and a creative gift for connecting ideas in original ways. Like her mother, she had a passion for science, math, and machines. Ada hoped that one day she could do something important with her creative and nimble mind. She got her chance when she met Charles Babbage, the inventor of the Analytical Engine, the first fully-programmable, all-purpose, digital computer ever envisioned. Though it was never built, Ada wrote an article about it, explaining to the world how such a machine would work. In doing so, a hundred years before the dawn of the digital age, Ada Lovelace became the first computer programmer.

Diane Stanley’s lyrical writing and Jessie Hartland’s vibrant illustrations capture the spirit of Ada Lovelace and bring her fascinating story vividly to life.

The Fall of France

By Julian Jackson,

Book cover of The Fall of France: The Nazi Invasion of 1940

Also for historical context, this is a more traditionally constructed history—though also a masterful synthesis of sources—and among those that view the refugee crisis as having a role in France's defeat. Clear, concise and comprehensive; if you read one book about the fall of France, read this.


Who am I?

Twenty years ago I nearly married a French woman and emigrated. I prepared vigorously to become an honorary Frenchman, cramming French history, language, and culture. Ultimately, I neither married nor emigrated, but the passion for that cultural acquisition project never left me, meaning many years of trips, reading, and language study. For the last decade, I've supplemented that interest by looking for historically significant French texts to translate (primarily contemporaneous texts about the World Wars and the interwar period). I have degrees in history and international affairs, plus professional experience in military affairs (including the Office of Secretary of Defense) and editing magazines (for Time, Inc.).


I wrote...

33 Days: A Memoir

By Leon Werth, Austin Denis Johnston (translator),

Book cover of 33 Days: A Memoir

What is my book about?

When Germany attacked westward in May 1940, eight million civilians fled their homes; Léon Werth was one of them. Air attacks and shortages of food, water, shelter, and medical care killed 100,000. When the six-week battle ended, nearly one in five people in France were displaced. The French call this refugee crisis l'Éxode (the exodus), reflecting its biblical proportions.

Werth was a famous novelist, journalist, and art critic—and a Jewish leftist. He was banned from publishing in France under Vichy race laws. His close friend Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (The Little Prince is dedicated to Werth) smuggled 33 Days out of France for publication in the West, but the manuscript was "lost" until 1992. Now Werth's book is in French high school's curriculum to preserve l'Éxode in national memory.

France Under Fire

By Nicole Dombrowski Risser,

Book cover of France Under Fire: German Invasion, Civilian Flight and Family Survival During World War II

A more specialized account focused on the role of women, who made up the vast majority of refugees, in petitioning government for civilian protection and assistance before and after the crisis, and their unique experiences on the road. Dombrowski Risser finds that women initiated an expansion of universal human rights in wartime to include refugees' rights. Her insightful and masterfully informed analysis of primary source materials—women's letters to government officials—brings them to life, adding illuminating, and heartrending, substance and texture.


Who am I?

Twenty years ago I nearly married a French woman and emigrated. I prepared vigorously to become an honorary Frenchman, cramming French history, language, and culture. Ultimately, I neither married nor emigrated, but the passion for that cultural acquisition project never left me, meaning many years of trips, reading, and language study. For the last decade, I've supplemented that interest by looking for historically significant French texts to translate (primarily contemporaneous texts about the World Wars and the interwar period). I have degrees in history and international affairs, plus professional experience in military affairs (including the Office of Secretary of Defense) and editing magazines (for Time, Inc.).


I wrote...

33 Days: A Memoir

By Leon Werth, Austin Denis Johnston (translator),

Book cover of 33 Days: A Memoir

What is my book about?

When Germany attacked westward in May 1940, eight million civilians fled their homes; Léon Werth was one of them. Air attacks and shortages of food, water, shelter, and medical care killed 100,000. When the six-week battle ended, nearly one in five people in France were displaced. The French call this refugee crisis l'Éxode (the exodus), reflecting its biblical proportions.

Werth was a famous novelist, journalist, and art critic—and a Jewish leftist. He was banned from publishing in France under Vichy race laws. His close friend Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (The Little Prince is dedicated to Werth) smuggled 33 Days out of France for publication in the West, but the manuscript was "lost" until 1992. Now Werth's book is in French high school's curriculum to preserve l'Éxode in national memory.

The Fall of Paris

By Herbert R. Lottman,

Book cover of The Fall of Paris: June 1940

The fall of France is essential historical context for the refugee crisis, and this book is "history with a flair." Focused on Paris—through which millions of refugees were routed and from which two million embarked—Lottman weaves micro-histories (think Eduardo Galeano), culled from an encyclopedic range of accounts, into a panoramic, propulsive day-by-day narrative that prominently features the refugee crisis. A compelling read.


Who am I?

Twenty years ago I nearly married a French woman and emigrated. I prepared vigorously to become an honorary Frenchman, cramming French history, language, and culture. Ultimately, I neither married nor emigrated, but the passion for that cultural acquisition project never left me, meaning many years of trips, reading, and language study. For the last decade, I've supplemented that interest by looking for historically significant French texts to translate (primarily contemporaneous texts about the World Wars and the interwar period). I have degrees in history and international affairs, plus professional experience in military affairs (including the Office of Secretary of Defense) and editing magazines (for Time, Inc.).


I wrote...

33 Days: A Memoir

By Leon Werth, Austin Denis Johnston (translator),

Book cover of 33 Days: A Memoir

What is my book about?

When Germany attacked westward in May 1940, eight million civilians fled their homes; Léon Werth was one of them. Air attacks and shortages of food, water, shelter, and medical care killed 100,000. When the six-week battle ended, nearly one in five people in France were displaced. The French call this refugee crisis l'Éxode (the exodus), reflecting its biblical proportions.

Werth was a famous novelist, journalist, and art critic—and a Jewish leftist. He was banned from publishing in France under Vichy race laws. His close friend Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (The Little Prince is dedicated to Werth) smuggled 33 Days out of France for publication in the West, but the manuscript was "lost" until 1992. Now Werth's book is in French high school's curriculum to preserve l'Éxode in national memory.

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