The most recommended books about the Eastern Front in World War II

Who picked these books? Meet our 14 experts.

14 authors created a book list connected to the Eastern Front in World War II, and here are their favorite Eastern Front in World War II books.
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Book cover of War Without Garlands: Barbarossa 1941 - 1942

Richard Hargreaves Author Of Hitler's Final Fortress: Breslau 1945

From my list on page-turning narrative history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Narrative history isn’t about dates, kings, and queens. It’s about deeds, actions, experiences, decisions of people great and small. It’s about putting the reader in the middle of a drama and watching events unfold around them as if they were there so they can understand, observe, and perhaps ask: what would I have done? The best history writing shouldn’t just inform, but inspire you, make you feel: laugh, cry, feel angry, flinch at horrific sights, cheer the heroes, boo the villains, because history is made by ordinary people, good and bad, who possess many similar traits to the reader.

Richard's book list on page-turning narrative history

Richard Hargreaves Why did Richard love this book?

I’m an Eastern Front buffespecially the beginning of the war and its end. And this is the very best book on the first six or so months of the titanic clash between Hitler and Stalin. Robert Kershaw is one of the best (largely) WW2 historians because he gives the ordinary soldier a voice. There are other books that go into greater detail on specific actions, and it is more German than Russian focused, but for an overview from Leningrad to the Crimea, with the emphasis on the Moscow axis, it’s the best general read by some distance.

By Robert Kershaw,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked War Without Garlands as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book by Kershaw, Robert J.

Book cover of Suicide of the Empires: The Battles on the Eastern Front, 1914-18

Adam Hochschild Author Of Rebel Cinderella: From Rags to Riches to Radical, the Epic Journey of Rose Pastor Stokes

From my list on the human impact of World War I.

Why am I passionate about this?

Adam Hochschild is the author of ten books. The era of the First World War figures in his latest, Rebel Cinderella: From Rags to Riches to Radical, the Epic Journey of Rose Pastor Stokes, and is the major subject of his To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918. To End All Wars has been translated into seven languages, won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is at work now on a book about the First World War era and its aftermath in the United States.

Adam's book list on the human impact of World War I

Adam Hochschild Why did Adam love this book?

This book brings to life a part of the war Western readers know far too little about: the vast battles that ranged back and forth across Eastern Europe and Russia. Two of the three armies involved, those of Tsarist Russia and Austria-Hungary, were spectacularly incompetent, and saw their soldiers needlessly slaughtered by the millions before these two empires dissolved under the war’s impact.

By Alan Clark,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On the outbreak of war in 1914, the armies of the western front soon became bogged down in the mud at Flanders. But on the wide plains and forests of Eastern Europe the three great Empires - Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary - grappled in a series of battles involving millions of men and hundreds of miles of front. Shortly after the outbreak of war the Russian "steamroller" had lurched into Prussia only to be hurled back amind the marshes of Tannenberg. For the next three years the fighting swung indeterminately back and forth. This work describes the campaigns which provoked…

Book cover of And Where Were You, Adam?

Matthew Murphy Author Of A Beckoning War

From my list on the war within: the mental strain of modern warfare.

Why am I passionate about this?

War has interested–and frightened–me ever since I was a little boy in the latter-day stages of the Cold War, when I learned that the fate of the world depended on a couple of old men who, to paraphrase Carl Sagan, were standing knee-deep in gasoline and holding lit matches. From then I sought to learn about war, why and how it occurs, and what pushes people to fight. I knew from a young age that I was going to become a novelist, and that one of my novels (my first one, it turns out) was going to be about war. The following books helped me in writing Beckoning War.

Matthew's book list on the war within: the mental strain of modern warfare

Matthew Murphy Why did Matthew love this book?

Boll, a Second World War veteran, tells this episodic story from the perspective of a German soldier during the last year of the war. Loosely episodic and propelled by a kind of grim, fatalistic absurdity, it follows the hapless infantryman Feinhals as he lurches from misadventure to misadventure on the Eastern Front. What really stuck with me is the awfulness of the predicaments Feinhals finds himself in, such as the moment when a soldier sets out to surrender a hospital full of wounded men, only to accidentally set off a dud shell beside the hospital’s cesspool. The Soviets, thinking they have been attacked, respond by levelling the place. "This war’s a load of shit," says one cynical character, and with a magnificent kaboom, that statement becomes literal. 

Book cover of The Red Army and the Second World War

Jeremy Black Author Of A History of the Second World War in 100 Maps

From my list on WW2 in Europe.

Why am I passionate about this?

Jeremy Black is a prolific lecturer and writer, the author of over 100 books. Many concern aspects of eighteenth-century British, European, and American political, diplomatic and military history but he has also published on the history of the press, cartography, warfare, culture, and on the nature and uses of history itself.

Jeremy's book list on WW2 in Europe

Jeremy Black Why did Jeremy love this book?

The Eastern Front has not always attracted the most readable scholarship, while two of the major works by British writers are by those who cannot read Russian. Hill is a welcome relief. His scholarship is impeccable and his book is readable. An important contribution.

By Alexander Hill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Red Army and the Second World War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a definitive new account of the Soviet Union at war, Alexander Hill charts the development, successes and failures of the Red Army from the industrialisation of the Soviet Union in the late 1920s through to the end of the Great Patriotic War in May 1945. Setting military strategy and operations within a broader context that includes national mobilisation on a staggering scale, the book presents a comprehensive account of the origins and course of the war from the perspective of this key Allied power. Drawing on the latest archival research and a wealth of eyewitness testimony, Hill portrays the…

Book cover of Russia at War, 1941-1945: A History

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 vivid history of the Soviet Union at war by BBC journalist Alexander Werth is worth picking up for the Stalingrad chapters alone. In January 1943, Werth set out by train from Moscow to Stalingrad with a small group of correspondents. His conversations with Russian soldiers, officers, nurses, and railwaymen about the fighting, the Germans, and the Soviet defense of the city are woven into these chapters and make for extremely engaging reading.

By Alexander Werth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Russia at War, 1941-1945 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1941, Russian-born British journalist Alexander Werth observed the unfolding of the Soviet-German conflict with his own eyes. What followed was the widely acclaimed book, Russia at War, first printed in 1964. At once a history of facts, a collection of interviews, and a document of the human condition, Russia at War is a stunning, modern classic that chronicles the savagery and struggles on Russian soil during the most incredible military conflict in modern history.

As a behind-the-scenes eyewitness to the pivotal, shattering events as they occurred, Werth chronicles with vivid detail the hardships of everyday citizens, massive military operations,…

Book cover of Ardennes 1944: The Battle of the Bulge

John C. McManus Author Of Alamo in the Ardennes: The Untold Story of the American Soldiers Who Made the Defense of Bastogne Possible

From my list on understanding the Battle of the Bulge.

Why am I passionate about this?

John C. McManus, Ph.D., is Curators’ Distinguished Professor of U.S. Military History at Missouri University of Science and Technology, and a recipient of the prestigious Gilder Lehrman Prize for Military History. He is the author of 14 books, including Alamo in the Ardennes: The Untold Story of the American Soldiers who Made the Defense of Bastogne Possible.

John's book list on understanding the Battle of the Bulge

John C. McManus Why did John love this book?

What happens when an author with a remarkable knack for insightful research and a gift for brilliant narrative prose takes on the task of telling a story of such epochal importance? A wonderful book that conveys the desperation of the moment and weaves this together with latter-year perspective. Among Beevor’s many insights, my favorite is his assertion that “the German leadership’s greatest mistake in the Ardennes offensive was to have misjudged the soldiers of an army they had affected to despise.” So very true! The Germans badly underestimated the U.S. Army and they paid the price for their dismissive chauvinism.

By Antony Beevor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ardennes 1944 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The prizewinning historian and bestselling author of D-Day, Stalingrad, and The Battle of Arnhem reconstructs the Battle of the Bulge in this riveting new account

On December 16, 1944, Hitler launched his 'last gamble' in the snow-covered forests and gorges of the Ardennes in Belgium, believing he could split the Allies by driving all the way to Antwerp and forcing the Canadians and the British out of the war. Although his generals were doubtful of success, younger officers and NCOs were desperate to believe that their homes and families could be saved from the vengeful Red Army approaching from the…

Book cover of The Forgotten Soldier

George Bearfield Author Of Foursquare: The Last Parachutist

From my list on real, epic journeys of survival.

Why am I passionate about this?

After my Grandfather died in 2000 I set myself the challenge of building as complete a picture as I could of his incredible life story. He had travelled by foot across occupied Europe and the Middle East in 1940, before fighting on the front line in France, and ultimately behind enemy lines in Czechoslovakia. I envied his life experience and the high stakes he was required to live his life by, whilst also being grateful for the peace that he and others like him had delivered to my generation. Whether reading or writing I’m captivated by true stories of courage and fortitude aiming to immerse myself in them. 

George's book list on real, epic journeys of survival

George Bearfield Why did George love this book?

When I was researching my grandfather’s actions fighting for Czechoslovakia in World War Two, for my own book, including his time of the front line in France in 1940, I grew tired of academic history books and sought out a firsthand account of the realities of combat. Guy Sajer’s story of his experiences as a German soldier on the Eastern Front provided exactly what I was looking for: As I read it, I could feel the mud caked on my fingers, the shrapnel wound stinging my arm, and the trench foot creeping up my leg. The fact that Sajer was fighting, somewhat unwillingly, with the Nazis gives a whole extra layer of interest too.

By Guy Sajer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An international bestseller, this is a German soldier's first-hand account of life on Russian front during the second half of the Second World War.

When Guy Sajer joins the infantry full of ideals in the summer of 1942, the German army is enjoying unparalleled success in Russia. However, he quickly finds that for the foot soldier the glory of military success hides a much harsher reality of hunger, fatigue and constant deprivation. Posted to the crack Grosse Deutschland division, with its sadistic instructors who shoot down those who fail to make the grade, he enters a violent and remorseless world…

Book cover of White Eagles

Amanda McCrina Author Of Traitor: A Novel of World War II

From my list on unusual YA books about WWII.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a degree in history and political science, with a particular interest in military history—especially World War II history, and most especially Eastern Front history. My family has Polish roots, and my own stories tend to focus on the Polish and Ukrainian experiences, but I keenly feel the need for more YA books not only about the Eastern Front but about other, even lesser-known theaters of World War II.

Amanda's book list on unusual YA books about WWII

Amanda McCrina Why did Amanda love this book?

I could have picked any one of Elizabeth Wein’s World War II novels; all are unique and profound, and all consider aspects of the war we don’t read about too often, or that we don’t often consider through the lens of women’s roles. But I chose White Eagles, about a young Polish female pilot modeled closely on Anna Leska, because I appreciate the attention it draws to the air war on the Eastern Front and because this is another story built mainly on the humanity of its characters; pilot Kristina’s poignant relationships both with her brother and with her young passenger are the driving forces of the narrative.

By Elizabeth Wein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked White Eagles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

Summer 1939. With Europe on the brink of war, eighteen-year-old Kristina Tomiak has been called up to join the White Eagles, Poland's valiant air force. When the Nazis reach the town where she is based, Kristina makes a daring escape, but she doesn't realise that she's carrying a stowaway in her plane. Will Kristina be able to navigate the most challenging flight of her life and reach safety amid the turmoil of war? Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 13+

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 Russian Army in the Great War: The Eastern Front, 1914-1917

Joshua A. Sanborn Author Of Imperial Apocalypse: The Great War and the Destruction of the Russian Empire

From my list on Russia in World War I.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professor of history at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, and I’ve been studying Russia ever since visiting the Soviet Union as a college student in 1990. I’ve been particularly interested in seeking connections between violence and other dimensions of historical experience. My first book (Drafting the Russian Nation) explored connections between political ideologies and violence, Imperial Apocalypse is in part a social history of violence, and my current project is examining the connection between literary cultures, professional communities, and the violence of the Cold War.

Joshua's book list on Russia in World War I

Joshua A. Sanborn Why did Joshua love this book?

There is a shortage of good books on the military aspect of the war on the Eastern Front, with some of the most prominent books in English (and for that matter in Russian) dating back nearly fifty years. Stone’s volume is a prominent exception in this regard. Stone is thoughtful, concise, and judicious throughout. Readers will emerge with a comprehensive view of combat operations – and more.

By David R. Stone,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Russian Army in the Great War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A full century later, our picture of World War I remains one of wholesale, pointless slaughter in the trenches of the Western front. Expanding our focus to the Eastern front, as David R. Stone does in this masterly work, fundamentally alters-and clarifies-that picture. A thorough, and thoroughly readable, history of the Russian front during the First World War, this book corrects widespread misperceptions of the Russian Army and the war in the east even as it deepens and extends our understanding of the broader conflict.

Of the four empires at war by the end of 1914-the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, German, and…