The best books about Great Britain

305 authors have picked their favorite books about Great Britain and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of The Making of a Legionnaire: My Life in the French Foreign Legion Parachute Regiment

This tome was the size of a phone book but it has relevance even today. It's one of the slightly obscure classics but it speaks to the profound spiritual questions that transcend time. Parris was an idealist Englishman who served in the legion in the early 90s. but this was not a story of glory and medals. Parris saw action in Chad and had to spill blood. This chilling act never left him and he was haunted by his actions for years to come. The author passed from illness but dedicated the book to his son.

The Making of a Legionnaire

By Bill Parris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Penniless, divorced and AWOL from the British forces, Bill Parris volunteered for the French Foreign Legion in the early 1980s. Unlike many British volunteers to the Legion, Bill did not desert. He endured a horrendous training regime and, despite a fear of heights (!) joined the elite Foreign Legion Parachute Regiment. He discovered how women from all over the world flock to Corsica where the Legion is based - so his R&R was almost as exhausting as the jungle warfare school he was later sent to. This is more than a war story - it is a personal journey too,…

Who am I?

In 1999, I followed my childhood dreams and enlisted in the French Foreign Legion. In 2005, I published my first work, Legion of the Lost, which chronicles my swashbuckling experience serving in the French Foreign Legion. This is my story. 


I wrote...

Legion of the Lost: The true experience of an American in the French Foreign Legion

By Jaime Salazar,

Book cover of Legion of the Lost: The true experience of an American in the French Foreign Legion

What is my book about?

Since 1831, the French Foreign Legion has been a renowned symbol of discipline and solidarity. Made up completely of foreign volunteers, the French Foreign Legion gives men a new lease on life, and a chance to test their limits both physically and mentally. And in 1999, the Foreign Legion was just what American Jaime Salazar was looking for.

From the harrowing physical rigors of Legion basic training to his posting in the 2e REG outside of the tiny village of Saint Christol, from his fierce competitiveness and pride to his ultimate disillusionment with the French Foreign Legion and dramatic desertion, this is the story of Salazar's quest for honor and sacrifice. Legion of the Lost is a compelling, first-hand account of the contemporary French Foreign Legion, sure to dispel myths while, at the same time, add to the legend of the finest trained army of mercenaries the world has ever seen.

Elsie and Mairi Go to War

By Diane Atkinson,

Book cover of Elsie and Mairi Go to War

Atkinson’s book tells the story of Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm who were friends and motorcycle enthusiasts. When war broke out they joined a voluntary medical unit heading for France and set up a first aid post near the frontline. They were fearless, sometimes reckless, and always cheerful as they saved the wounded. I loved the way Atkinson’s book captured their youthful exuberance and gung-ho courage.

Elsie and Mairi Go to War

By Diane Atkinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Elsie and Mairi Go to War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When they met at a motorcycle club in 1912, Elsie Knocker was a thirty year-old motorcycling divorcee dressed in bottle-green Dunhill leathers, and Mairi Chisholm was a brilliant eighteen-year old mechanic, living at home and borrowing tools from her brother. Little did they know, theirs was to become one of the most extraordinary stories of the First World War.

In 1914, they roared off to London 'to do their bit', and within a month they were in the thick of things in Belgium driving ambulances to distant military hospitals. Frustrated by the number of men dying of shock in the…


Who am I?

Wendy Moore is a journalist and author of five non-fiction books on medical and social history. Her writing has appeared in the Guardian, Times, Observer and Lancet. Her new book is about Endell Street Military Hospital which was run and staffed by women in London in the First World War.


I wrote...

Book cover of No Man's Land: The Trailblazing Women Who Ran Britain's Most Extraordinary Military Hospital During World War I

What is my book about?

No Man’s Land tells the story of the pioneering women who set up and ran a major military hospital in the heart of London in the First World War. Apart from a handful of men Endell Street Military Hospital was entirely staffed by women. The staff treated 24,000 men sent back from the frontline and when war ended the hospital stayed open to care for the victims of the Spanish flu pandemic. I wrote it to give voice to the women who worked there and the men who were treated there.

Female Tommies

By Elisabeth Shipton,

Book cover of Female Tommies: The Frontline Women of the First World War

Shipton’s book is a brilliantly researched account of the thousands of incredible women who refused to sit at home knitting socks when war began. Using diaries, letters and memoirs, she tells the story of the women who put on uniforms of various hues to drive ambulances, carry stretchers, nurse the wounded and even to bear arms close to the frontlines of World War One. They included the wonderful Flora Sandes who went to Serbia to nurse casualties and ended up joining the Serbian Army. It’s a testimony to women’s bravery, daring and refusal to take no for an answer.

Female Tommies

By Elisabeth Shipton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The First World War saw one of the biggest ever changes in the demographics of warfare, as thousands of women donned uniforms and took an active part in conflict for the first time in history. Female Tommies looks at the military role of women worldwide during the Great War and reveals the extraordinary women who served on the frontline.

Through their diaries, letters and memoirs, meet the women who defied convention and followed their convictions to defend the less fortunate and fight for their country. Follow British Flora Sandes as she joins the Serbian Army and takes up a place…

Who am I?

Wendy Moore is a journalist and author of five non-fiction books on medical and social history. Her writing has appeared in the Guardian, Times, Observer and Lancet. Her new book is about Endell Street Military Hospital which was run and staffed by women in London in the First World War.


I wrote...

Book cover of No Man's Land: The Trailblazing Women Who Ran Britain's Most Extraordinary Military Hospital During World War I

What is my book about?

No Man’s Land tells the story of the pioneering women who set up and ran a major military hospital in the heart of London in the First World War. Apart from a handful of men Endell Street Military Hospital was entirely staffed by women. The staff treated 24,000 men sent back from the frontline and when war ended the hospital stayed open to care for the victims of the Spanish flu pandemic. I wrote it to give voice to the women who worked there and the men who were treated there.

The Winter King

By Bernard Cornwell,

Book cover of The Winter King

This trilogy presents a clever reimagination of the Arthurian legend which I found delightful, of irreverent. It presents Arthur as a talented warlord protector of the infant King Mordred. Successful at first, Arthur devolves into an anti-hero when he is betrayed by power-hungry Guinevere and Lancelot, and again when Mordred comes of age. Merlin’s magic appears as a combination of plausible manipulation of the physical and the metaphysical with a healthy dose of credulity among the populace.

The pure creativity in this series makes it a keeper and I often refer to these pages for inspiration when writing. The author once declared that this was his personal favorite of the several series he has in publication, and as a fellow author, I can understand why.

The Winter King

By Bernard Cornwell,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Winter King as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Uther, the High King of Britain, has died, leaving the infant Mordred as his only heir. His uncle, the loyal and gifted warlord Arthur, now rules as caretaker for a country which has fallen into chaos - threats emerge from within the British kingdoms while vicious Saxon armies stand ready to invade. As he struggles to unite Britain and hold back the Saxon enemy, Arthur is embroiled in a doomed romance with beautiful Guinevere.

Who am I?

Epic war novels follow traditions that trace to the earliest civilizations. An amateur historian since high school, I would nook away for hours reading the great campaigns of the past. As a combat veteran, I still love diving into a lengthy tome about Caesar versus the Gauls or the heroic Russian stand at Borodino. Retirement provided the time to indulge this passion by concentrating on the Western Theater of the American Civil War (ACW), an interest I have researched since the ACW Centennial. I enjoy writing rigorously researched stories to give more accurate descriptions of the events, attitudes, prejudices, and consequences of this critical period in American history.


I wrote...

Harper's Donelson

By Sean K. Gabhann,

Book cover of Harper's Donelson

What is my book about?

February 1862. The War of the Rebellion is a year old and the Federal armies have suffered repeated defeats on all fronts. In this first volume of the Shiloh Trilogy, three lives intertwine against the backdrop of battle. Gabhann reveals the perils faced by the common people caught in the American Civil War.

Lieutenant Jamie Harper must recover his position and the trust of the men in his regiment. Naïve Katie Malloy must settle into her new life as a “soiled dove” while her friend Eleanor promises to help her become an independent woman of means. The opportunities presented at Forts Henry and Donelson go awry when Harper is captured by Confederates operating under Bedford Forrest, yet, Corporal Gustav Magnusson is where the captured men look for leadership.

Anglo-Saxon England

By Sir Frank Stenton,

Book cover of Anglo-Saxon England

This is the granddaddy of history books about the Anglo-Saxons. Much of the history has evolved and moved on since its original publication in the 1940s, but Sir Frank Stenton is comprehensive and thorough and the resulting tome is jam-packed with information.

Anglo-Saxon England

By Sir Frank Stenton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Anglo-Saxon England as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discussing the development of English society, from the growth of royal power to the establishment of feudalism after the Norman Conquest, this book focuses on the emergence of the earliest English kingdoms and the Anglo-Norman monarchy in 1087. It also describes the chief phases in the history of the Anglo-Saxon church, drawing on many diverse examples; the result is a fascinating insight into this period of English history.

Who am I?

Matthew Harffy is the author of ten novels set in the early medieval world. His Bernicia Chronicles, follow the saga of Beobrand as he moves through the echelons of Anglo-Saxon society, fighting in many battles and dealing with the intrigues of the ever-increasingly powerful men and women with whom he mixes. Recently, with Wolf of Wessex and the A Time for the Swords series, Harffy has covered the early Viking Age with his usual eye for detail, historical realism and a gripping plot.


I wrote...

A Time for Swords

By Matthew Harffy,

Book cover of A Time for Swords

What is my book about?

When the Vikings attack, a novice monk's life is changed forever. There had been portents – famine, whirlwinds, lightning from clear skies, serpents seen flying through the air. But when the raiders came, no one was prepared. They came from the North, their dragon-prowed longships gliding out of the dawn mist as they descended on the kingdom's most sacred site. It is 8th June AD 793, and with the pillage of the monastery on Lindisfarne, the Viking Age has begun.

Gabrielle Petit

By Sophie de Schaepdrijver,

Book cover of Gabrielle Petit: The Death and Life of a Female Spy in the First World War

British people have often heard of Edith Cavell, who has been commemorated in Britain as a national heroine of the war after she was executed by the Germans in 1915 for her role in running an escape network in Belgium for Allied Soldiers. But Cavell was only one individual amongst hundreds who resisted the authorities in occupied France and Belgium. Like Cavell, young Belgian woman Gabrielle Petit was remembered as a national heroine after her execution during the war. De Schaepdrijver’s book vividly brings her story to life, explaining how she was became involved in espionage, as well as showing how a cult of remembrance grew around her in the decades following the 1918 armistice.

Gabrielle Petit

By Sophie de Schaepdrijver,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In central Brussels stands a statue of a young woman. Built in 1923, it is the first monument to a working-class woman in European history. Her name was Gabrielle Petit. History has forgotten Petit, an ambitious and patriotic Belgian, executed by firing squad in 1916 for her role as an intelligence agent for the British Army. After the First World War she was celebrated as an example of stern endeavour, but a hundred years later her memory has faded.

In the first part of this historical biography Sophie De Schaepdrijver uses Petit's life to explore gender, class and heroism in…

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by the First World War ever since I read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth at the age of 19. When I lived in France in my twenties I started to read French nurses’ memoirs and diaries, and for the last fifteen years or so have continued to read and write about women’s experiences during and after the war as a university academic researcher, often from a comparative perspective. Men’s stories and memories of the First World War still dominate our understanding of it, but I believe that women’s perspectives give us a vital and often overlooked insight into the war and its consequences.


I wrote...

Women as Veterans in Britain and France After the First World War

By Alison Fell,

Book cover of Women as Veterans in Britain and France After the First World War

What is my book about?

This is the story of how women in France and Britain between 1915 and 1933 appropriated the cultural identity of female war veterans in order to have greater access to public life and a voice in a political climate in which women were rarely heard on the public stage. The 'veterans' covered by this history include former nurses, charity workers, secret service agents, and members of resistance networks in occupied territory, as well as members of the British auxiliary corps.

What unites these women is how they attempted to present themselves as 'female veterans' in order to gain social advantages and give themselves the right to speak about the war and its legacies. Alison S. Fell also considers the limits of the identity of war veteran for women, considering as an example the wartime and post-war experiences of the female industrial workers who led episodes of industrial action.

The Glamour Boys

By Chris Bryant,

Book cover of The Glamour Boys: The Secret Story of the Rebels who Fought for Britain to Defeat Hitler

The untold true story of how a group of gay MPs lobbied the British government to stop its policy of appeasing Hitler in the run up to WWII. It’s a book about patriotic heroes who are criminals in their own land because of their sexuality. It moved me deeply and inspired my own fictional thriller set in Berlin in 1933.

The Glamour Boys

By Chris Bryant,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Glamour Boys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A STORY OF UNSUNG BRAVERY AT A DEFINING MOMENT IN BRITAIN'S HISTORY

'Superb' Stephen Fry
'Thrillingly told' Dan Jones
'Fascinating' Neil MacGregor
'Astonishing' Peter Frankopan

We like to think we know the story of how Britain went to war with Germany in 1939, but there is one chapter that has never been told. In the early 1930s, a group of young, queer British MPs visited Berlin on a series of trips that would change the course of the Second World War.

Having witnessed the Nazis' brutality first-hand, these men were some of the first to warn Britain about Hitler, repeatedly…

Who am I?

I’ve read a lot of books that feature gay characters. These characters often partition into two main groups: angsty men who are victims of oppression or illness, or camp stereotypes who provide the light relief. I prefer to read about heroes who happen to be gay. That’s why I started writing novels. My recent books are historical novels inspired by real gay heroes. The feedback I get from readers indicates that there are a lot of people who want the same as I do.


I wrote...

A Death in Berlin

By David C. Dawson,

Book cover of A Death in Berlin

What is my book about?

Berlin 1933: When the parties stop...the dying begins

The city that’s been a beacon of liberation during the 1920s is about to become a city of deadly oppression. Simon Sampson, the BBC’s first foreign correspondent, is recruited by British intelligence services. When he is ordered to spy on an old college friend, his loyalties are brought into question. Who are his real enemies? And how much can he trust his masters? This is the second in the Simon Sampson mystery series. The first, A Death in Bloomsbury, was hailed as "a good old-fashioned John Buchan-esque mystery reworked for the twenty-first century."

Book cover of Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War, 1941-1945

A thrilling personal account by the brilliant cryptographer, Leo Marks, who was only 22 when employed by the SOE. It was Marks who gave the special codes to famous SOE agents like Violette Szabo, Noor Inayat Khan, and Nancy Wake before they left for the field. An insight into how the code war between Germany and England played out, often with disastrous consequences.

Between Silk and Cyanide

By Leo Marks,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Synopsis coming soon.......

Who am I?

I am a writer of Indian origin and have always been passionate about telling the story of the involvement of Indians in both World Wars. Very few people know that 2.5 million Indian volunteered for the Second World War, the largest volunteer force in history. I have always enjoyed reading stories of intelligence operations in wartime, the role of the Resistance in occupied countries and particularly the role of women in the Second World War. I was drawn to the story of Noor Inayat Khan from all these perspectives.


I wrote...

Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan

By Shrabani Basu,

Book cover of Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan

What is my book about?

This is the riveting story of Noor Inayat Khan, the descendant of an Indian ruler, Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore, who became a British secret agent for SOE during World War II. Shrabani Basu tells the moving story of Noor's life from her birth in Moscow - where her father was a Sufi preacher - to her capture by the Germans. Noor was the first woman radio operator to be infiltrated into occupied France, and worked in one of the most dangerous areas in the field. She was betrayed, captured, tortured, but revealed nothing, not even her name. Kept in solitary confinement, chained between hand and feet and unable to walk upright, Noor existed on bowls of soup made from potato peelings. Ten months after she was captured, she was taken to Dachau Concentration Camp and, on 13 September 1944, she was shot. Her last word was 'Liberte'. She was posthumously awarded the George Cross and the Croix de Guerre.

The Hut Six Story

By Gordon Welchman,

Book cover of The Hut Six Story: Breaking the Enigma Codes

The Enigma story and Bletchley Park are now legitimate subjects for academic study, but modern books are necessarily written by people without first-hand experience of wartime Intelligence work. As a publisher, I have always been keen to record the experiences of those people personally involved in such things, and Welchman was not just a leading codebreaker at Bletchley Park throughout the whole war, he was also instrumental in transforming a random collection of a hundred academics into a non-stop production line of codebreaking and Intelligence, employing over ten thousand people. This, our best-selling book, continues to intrigue readers worldwide.

The Hut Six Story

By Gordon Welchman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Book by Welchman, Gordon

Who am I?

Dr. Mark Baldwin – aka Dr. Enigma – is a world expert and speaker on the Enigma machine and has delivered over 700 presentations and demonstrations (using his own, genuine wartime Enigma machine) to some 70,000 people around the world. He has spoken to a wide range of audiences, from cybersecurity experts and software developers at leading Silicon Valley tech companies such as Facebook, Dropbox, and PayPal, to academic audiences at universities, executives at business conferences, and the general public in a couple of hundred one-man theatre shows.


My project is...

Book Dr. Enigma For An Event

Dr. Mark ‘Enigma’ Baldwin is an international expert and professional speaker on the Enigma machine, the History of Cryptography, and the Special Operations Executive, and has delivered more than 800 talks on these topics, all over the world. His Enigma machine talks and demos offer a rare opportunity for the audience to see and even play with a genuine, wartime Enigma machine.

Finding Thoroton

By Philip Vickers,

Book cover of Finding Thoroton: The Royal Marine Who Ran British Naval Intelligence in the Western Mediterranean in World War One

British Intelligence during the First World War is most known for the work of Room 40, which led to the more famous Bletchley Park in the next World War; however, another crucial part of the operation was all the agents in the field that reported to the same man who spearheaded the codebreaking. Those in the Mediterranean were under the command of Charles “the Bold” Thoroton, and this book, written by his granddaughter’s husband, is an enthralling peek into the life of an agent on the ground. From fascinating stories of how unnamed agents found the information the Admiralty was desperate for to being targeted by counter-agent femme fatales, Finding Thoroton reveals information not to be found in any other book, compiled through careful research. A fascinating read.

Finding Thoroton

By Philip Vickers,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

Roseanna M. White is a historical fiction writer whose bestselling stories always seem to find their way to war, espionage, and intrigue. A fascination with her family’s heritage led her to tales set in Edwardian and Great War England, and she’s spent the last seven years studying that culture and how the era’s events intersected with things like faith, family, the arts, and social reforms. Of course, she does all this study and writing about war and mayhem from the safety of her home in West Virginia, where life is blessedly ordinary and no one expects her to actually crack any codes in order to survive...which is definitely a good thing.


I wrote...

The Number of Love

By Roseanna M. White,

Book cover of The Number of Love

What is my book about?

Three years into the Great War, England's greatest asset is their intelligence network--field agents risking their lives to gather information, and codebreakers able to crack every German telegram. Margot De Wilde thrives in the environment of the secretive Room 40, where she spends her days deciphering intercepted messages. But when her world is turned upside down by an unexpected loss, for the first time in her life numbers aren't enough.

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