The most recommended books on the Empire of Japan

Who picked these books? Meet our 8 experts.

8 authors created a book list connected to the Empire of Japan, and here are their favorite Empire of Japan books.
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Book cover of Guadalcanal Diary

Johnnie M. Clark Author Of Guns Up!: A Firsthand Account of the Vietnam War

From my list on war and the Marines.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a combat Marine, I believe these books honor the brave men who served and died for America. I joined the Marine Corps at 17 years of age after graduating from St. Petersburg High School. I served as a machine gunner with the famed 5th Marine Regiment during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. I was wounded 3 times by mortar round, grenade, and gunshot. I've written nine books around these subjects as well as an off-Broadway stage play titled The Battle For Nong Son. Many of my books are recommended reading for all newly commissioned officers at The Basic School. I am the recipient of the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association Brigadier General Robert L. Denig Memorial Distinguished Service Award for writing, as well as the Silver Star, 3 Purple Hearts, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm, the Civil Action Combat Medal, and the Marine Combat Ribbon among other decorations.

Johnnie's book list on war and the Marines

Johnnie M. Clark Why did Johnnie love this book?

Written by a war correspondent who landed on Guadalcanal with the Marines, this book is another must-read for history buffs and every Marine. It is an accurate story of this critical and now legendary battle. 

By Richard Tregaskis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This celebrated classic gives a soldier's-eye-view of the Guadalcanal battles--crucial to World War II, the war that continues to fascinate us all, and to military history in general. Unlike some of those on Guadalcanal in the fall of 1942, Richard Tregaskis volunteered to be there. An on-location news correspondent (at the time, one of only two on Guadalcanal), he lived alongside the soldiers: sleeping on the ground--only to be awoken by air raids--eating the sometimes meager rations, and braving some of the most dangerous battlefields of World War II. He more than once narrowly escaped the enemy's fire, and so…


Book cover of Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire

James Ellman Author Of MacArthur Reconsidered: General Douglas MacArthur as a Wartime Commander

From my list on World War II in the Southwest Pacific.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author and investor living in windward Oahu who has had a lifelong interest in military history ever since I read a biography of Alexander the Great when I was 12 years old. I have written several books including Hitler’s Great Gamble and MacArthur Reconsidered. For my next project I have transcribed, compiled, and edited 1,100 of General Douglas MacArthur’s daily communiques issued by his Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) headquarters from 1942-45. This collection will be published by McFarland in 2024.

James' book list on World War II in the Southwest Pacific

James Ellman Why did James love this book?

All of Richard Frank’s books are excellent, but Downfall is the most important.

We learn about the massive preparations for 39 American divisions to invade the Japanese Home Islands commencing in late 1945, along with Imperial Army and Navy plans to defeat the US landing force with more than four million men and 13,000 aircraft.

Had the invasion gone forward, casualties would have been counted in the millions with the Japanese planning to unleash kamikaze attacks on the US fleet in vast numbers while the Emperor’s fanatical soldiers backed by an armed civilian population readied themselves to kill as many American soldiers as possible before embracing their own honorable deaths.

It is difficult to finish this book and not conclude that the two atomic bombs which ended the war was a blessing for both sides.

By Richard B. Frank,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a riveting narrative that includes information from newly declassified documents, acclaimed historian Richard B. Frank gives a scrupulously detailed explanation of the critical months leading up to the dropping of the atomic bomb. Frank explains how American leaders learned in the summer of 1945 that their alternate strategy to end the war by invasion had been shattered by the massive Japanese buildup on Kyushu, and that intercepted diplomatic documents also revealed the dismal prospects of negotiation. Here also, for the first time, is a comprehensive account of how Japan's leaders were willing to risk complete annihilation to preserve the…


Book cover of Does Conquest Pay? The Exploitation of Occupied Industrial Societies

Julian Spencer-Churchill (Schofield) Author Of Militarization and War

From Julian's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author

Julian's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Julian Spencer-Churchill (Schofield) Why did Julian love this book?

There is a widely held belief that modern educated populations of industrial countries are the most morally assertive societies. Consequently, unlike less democratic peoples, it is the conventional wisdom that these societies would be the least likely to acquiesce to being occupied by a foreign military.

Narratives of resistance and revolution pervade the popular media. Peter Liberman, in his book Does Conquest Pay?, refutes these incorrect sociological understandings of contemporary democracies, and in fact shows how easy it is in fact to occupy urban populations.

Despite the obvious humiliation and agony of contemplating being occupied by a foreign power, Liberman’s case studies of German conquest of France and Soviet occupation of select Warsaw Pact states, shows that contemporary societies are the easiest to occupy because of their actual social fragmentation. 

By Peter Liberman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Does Conquest Pay? The Exploitation of Occupied Industrial Societies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Can foreign invaders successfully exploit industrial economies? Since control over economic resources is a key source of power, the answer affects the likelihood of aggression and how strenuously states should counter it. The resurgence of nationalism has led many policymakers and scholars to doubt that conquest still pays. But, until now, the "cumulativity" of industrial resources has never been subjected to systematic analysis. Does Conquest Pay? demonstrates that expansion can, in fact, provide rewards to aggressor nations. Peter Liberman argues that invaders can exploit industrial societies for short periods of time and can maintain control and economic performance over the…


Book cover of The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945

Michael Schuman Author Of Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World

From my list on Asian history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Michael Schuman is the author of three history books on Asia, most recently Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World, released in 2020. He has spent the past quarter-century as a journalist in the region. Formerly a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and Time magazine, he is currently a contributor to The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion.

Michael's book list on Asian history

Michael Schuman Why did Michael love this book?

The masterful Toland weaves a narrative of jaw-dropping detail, drama and complexity that tells the grand and harrowing story of the Pacific War between the United States and Japan from the perspective of the Japanese. The tale takes the reader from Tokyo cabinet meetings to the deck of warships to the frontline of critical battles, to share the experiences of everyone from national leaders to top generals to ordinary soldiers. It’s one of those books that’s so good it leaves you wondering how it was even written.

By John Toland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“[The Rising Sun] is quite possibly the most readable, yet informative account of the Pacific war.”—Chicago Sun-Times

This Pulitzer Prize–winning history of World War II chronicles the dramatic rise and fall of the Japanese empire, from the invasion of Manchuria and China to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Told from the Japanese perspective, The Rising Sun is, in the author’s words, “a factual saga of people caught up in the flood of the most overwhelming war of mankind, told as it happened—muddled, ennobling, disgraceful, frustrating, full of paradox.”

In weaving together the historical facts and human drama leading…


Book cover of Santo Tomas Internment Camp: STIC in Verse and Reverse, STIC-Toons and Stic-tistics 1942-1945

Bruce E. Johansen Author Of So Far from Home: Manila's Santo Tomas Internment Camp, 1942-1945

From my list on World War II civilian prisoners of the Japanese.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a professor of Communication, Environmental, and Native American Studies, Bruce E. Johansen taught, researched, and wrote at the University of Nebraska at Omaha from 1982 to 2019, retiring to emeritus status as Frederick W. Kayser research professor. He has published 55 books in several fields: history, anthropology, law, the Earth sciences, and others. Johansen’s writing has been published, debated, and reviewed in many academic venues, among them the William and Mary Quarterly, American Historical Review, Current History, and Nature, as well as in many popular newspapers and magazines. He's married to Patricia E. Keiffer, whose father, mother, and older sister were interned in the camp. Patricia was born there shortly before liberation.

Bruce's book list on World War II civilian prisoners of the Japanese

Bruce E. Johansen Why did Bruce love this book?

This book is an on-the scene compilation of statistics and drawings, most of which were gathered at the camp. Some of the statistics seem rather trivial, but taken together they provide a fascinating portrait of life at the camp. The same is true for the simple drawings done with rudimentary tools. This book provides a “picture” of the camp that is not available in other sources.

By James McCall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Santo Tomas Internment Camp as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

G/-, SOFT COVER, BROWN COVER, 146 PAGES


Book cover of Kuma-Kuma Chan, the Little Bear

Sanae Ishida Author Of Little Kunoichi, The Ninja Girl

From my list on Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

My parents were both born and raised in Japan but met in New York and eventually settled in Los Angeles, where I grew up. My first language was Japanese and as a nisei (second generation), I am deeply steeped in my Asian heritage. I am continually inspired by the art and storytelling that originates from Japanese culture and love to incorporate them into my own work.

Sanae's book list on Japan

Sanae Ishida Why did Sanae love this book?

These small, sparsely illustrated books are so charming and quirky! At the surface, there seems to be very little going on, but there is a soothing quality to the simple text that allows you to contemplate the little wonders of life. The naïve artwork works so well with the quiet, short musings by Kuma-Kuma chan and the narrator.

By Kazue Takahashi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kuma-Kuma Chan, the Little Bear as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This lovingly rendered, meditative book on friendship is sure to find a permanent place on the bedside table

With sparse text and a deceptively simple, beautiful design, Japanese author/illustrator Kazue Takahashi brings to life the world of Kuma-Kuma Chan, which loosely translates from the Japanese as “cute little bear.” Making its first appearance in English, this charming book for preschoolers and readers of all ages poses the question, “How might my friend, a solitary bear, choose to spend his days?” The soft, almost dreamlike illustrations are accompanied by single sentences making it easy for emerging readers to follow along. Daily…


Book cover of The Santo Tomas Story

Bruce E. Johansen Author Of So Far from Home: Manila's Santo Tomas Internment Camp, 1942-1945

From my list on World War II civilian prisoners of the Japanese.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a professor of Communication, Environmental, and Native American Studies, Bruce E. Johansen taught, researched, and wrote at the University of Nebraska at Omaha from 1982 to 2019, retiring to emeritus status as Frederick W. Kayser research professor. He has published 55 books in several fields: history, anthropology, law, the Earth sciences, and others. Johansen’s writing has been published, debated, and reviewed in many academic venues, among them the William and Mary Quarterly, American Historical Review, Current History, and Nature, as well as in many popular newspapers and magazines. He's married to Patricia E. Keiffer, whose father, mother, and older sister were interned in the camp. Patricia was born there shortly before liberation.

Bruce's book list on World War II civilian prisoners of the Japanese

Bruce E. Johansen Why did Bruce love this book?

This book is a must-read for any serious student of the Santo Tomas story. It might need to be requested by Interlibrary Loan, but they are worth the wait. I believe that this books put the reader "on the ground" because of the skill of Hartendorp's writing and research, as well as his personal knowledge of the detainees in the camp (and others like it). This book also contains experience that comes with reflection over time, containing interviews with people who survived camp life for several years after their period of captivity that is especially valuable because they were able to place their experience into a later and larger context, such as the resumption of peaceful relations with Japan.

By A. V. H. Hartendorp,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of Enterprise: America's Fightingest Ship and the Men Who Helped Win World War II

Benjamin Hruska Author Of Valor and Courage: The Story of the USS Block Island Escort Carriers in World War II

From my list on the human superpower of teamwork overcoming challenges.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been drawn to narratives where a group of individuals needs to collectively overcome a seemingly insurmountable challenge. And, as someone who loves reasonable outdoor challenges such as whitewater rafting trips, I love stories that combine the two. I have been lucky enough to partake in two private float trips of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. With no internet, or electricity for 16 days at a time, a carefully crafted book list is key for any river descend. All these books at their core are narratives of individuals digging in deep, and cultivating that collective human superpower known as teamwork, to overcome challenges many thought could not be overcome.

Benjamin's book list on the human superpower of teamwork overcoming challenges

Benjamin Hruska Why did Benjamin love this book?

I love this book for at its heart this is a story of the average American sailor waging war in the Pacific during World War II.

As an author of naval history, I understand it is all too easy to get bogged down in the writing about motivations of top commanders and the newest advances in military weaponry. Tillman successfully walks the thin line in telling the individual stories of the sailors of the Enterprise and how this single vessel fits into the greater campaign of the U.S. Navy against the Empire of Japan.

This book demonstrates that detailed military scholarship can retain a human face. 

By Barrett Tillman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Offering a naval history of the entire Pacific Theater in World War II through the lens of its most famous ship, this is the epic and heroic story of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, and of the men who fought and died on her from Pearl Harbor to the end of the conflict.

Pearl Harbor . . . Midway . . . Guadalcanal . . . The Marianas . . . Leyte Gulf . . . Iwo Jima . . . Okinawa. These are just seven of the twenty battles that the USS Enterprise took part in during World War…


Book cover of SENSŌ: The Japanese Remember the Pacific War: Letters to the Editor of "Asahi Shimbun"

Mark Scott Smith Author Of Night Fire Morning Snow: The Road to Chosin

From my list on understanding America and her enemies in wartime.

Why am I passionate about this?

After retiring from academic medicine, I moved to the ocean and learned of WWII Japanese submarine and balloon bomb attacks on Oregon. With extensive research, consultation, and trips to Europe, Latin America, and Asia, I have now published three historical fiction novels on Amazon: Enemy in the Mirror: Love and Fury in the Pacific War, The Osprey and the Sea Wolf: The Battle of the Atlantic 1942, and Night Fire Morning Snow: The Road to Chosin. My website is intended to promote understanding of America and her enemies in wartime.

Mark's book list on understanding America and her enemies in wartime

Mark Scott Smith Why did Mark love this book?

Composed of letters to the editor in Tokyo’s highly respected Asahi Shimbun newspaper from 1986 to 1987, SENSŌ provides vivid insight into wartime life in Imperial Japan. Composed of honest reflections 40 years after the war, the topics covered (often with powerful emotion) include: life in the military, the Sino-Japanese War, Pacific War, home front, the bombing of Japanese cities, and post-war reflections. In the end, I was impressed how the Japanese experience and emotions during the war were not dissimilar to what I might imagine feeling as an American in a similar situation.

By Frank Gibney, Beth Cary (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This acclaimed work is an extraordinary collection of letters written by a wide cross-section of Japanese citizens to one of Japan's leading newspapers, expressing their personal reminiscences and opinions of the Pacific war. "SENSO" provides the general reader and the specialist with moving, disturbing, startling insights on a subject deliberately swept under the rug, both by Japan's citizenry and its government. It is an invaluable index of Japanese public opinion about the war.