The best military books

1 authors have picked their favorite books about military and why they recommend each book.

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The Outsider

By Frederick Forsyth,

Book cover of The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue

In 2015 Forsyth published his autobiography entitled The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue. This is another excellent book written in his usual style - full of intrigue and adventures, only this time the author himself is the main protagonist. Besides, all that Forsyth describes in this book is either true or at least very close to the truth including his admitting that for a certain period of time and in certain countries he had been acting as an agent of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. That doesn’t mean, of course, that Forsyth had ever been a spy, but he is certainly writing his spy novels as an insider.

All his books are extremely well written and must be studied by all intelligence professionals as textbooks. Usually, intelligence officers do not like reading because they think their life is so interesting and full of adventures that nothing can be more fascinating.…

Who am I?

Boris B. Volodarsky is a former intelligence officer, captain of the GRU Spetsnaz, Russian special forces. With the first raising of the Iron Curtain, Boris legally left the Soviet Union with his family. After living in the West for over 30 years, he became a British academic writing books and other academic works on the subject he knew best of all – the history of intelligence. Dr. Volodarsky earned a history degree at the London School of Economics under Professor Sir Paul Preston defending his doctoral thesis there with flying colours. He is contributing articles to the leading newspapers and is often interviewed by television and radio channels in Britain and the USA.

I wrote...

Assassins: The KGB's Poison Factory Ten Years on

By Boris Volodarsky,

Book cover of Assassins: The KGB's Poison Factory Ten Years on

What is my book about?

This book is the second volume of my The KGB’s Poison Factory, first published in 2009 after the infamous poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London by radioactive Polonium-210. It had several reprints in both UK and the USA and was translated into other languages. I was one of the consultants to the British investigation carried out by SO-15 of the Metropolitan police. I also knew both Sasha Litvinenko and his patron, Boris Berezovsky, personally. In the new book I add ten new cases where it was proved without doubt that Russian agents poisoned Kremlin’s opponents in various parts of the world. It covers the time span of several decades.

Why this book is so special? First of all, it presents the Litvinenko case in an entirely new light showing many flaws of the investigation and the following inquest, which made wrong conclusions based on insufficient or manipulated evidence. Another chapter, ‘The Oligarch’, seeks to prove that Boris Berezovsky, a Russian business tycoon who had resided in London for 13 years, did not commit suicide, as the Thames Valley Police investigation wanted to demonstrate, but was murdered by Russian intelligence. My conclusion is supported by Professor Bern Brinkmann, an internationally renowned medico-legal expert and forensic scientist who was employed by members of Berezovsky’s family. Other cases include the murder of the Soviet defector Nikolai Artamonov in Vienna, the poisoning of Sergey Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, and so on, all presented differently from what one can read in popular media.

The Life of Johnny Reb

By Bell Irvin Wiley,

Book cover of The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy

Bell I. Wiley’s The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy (1943) and The Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier of the Union (1952) marked a watershed in scholarship relating to the military history of the Civil War. It is no exaggeration to say that Wiley invented the genre of soldier studies that many decades later witnessed a profusion of works on the topic. The two books, which reflect a close reading of thousands of letters, explore such things as the process of enlistment, motivations to serve and remain in the ranks, what the men ate and wore, how they amused themselves, how they reacted to combat, why and in what numbers they deserted, how they related to people on the home fronts, attitudes toward the enemy, and religious practices. Although subsequent scholarship challenged some of Wiley’s conclusions, all historians who followed in his wake owed…

Who am I?

I have been captivated by the era of the American Civil War since I was ten years old at the beginning of the conflict’s centennial. I have taught at the University of Texas at Austin, Penn State University, and the University of Virginia. I have written, co-written, or edited more than 40 books on the subject. The compelling personalities, dramatic events, and profoundly important issues at stake compel my continuing attention to the war, its antecedents, and its short- and long-term impact. I recommend five classic titles on the Civil War era (one a trilogy, one a two-volume set, and three single volumes) that will reward readers in the third decade of the 21st Century.

I wrote...

The Enduring Civil War: Reflections on the Great American Crisis

By Gary W. Gallagher,

Book cover of The Enduring Civil War: Reflections on the Great American Crisis

What is my book about?

This book explores many aspects of the Civil War, including how its memory has evolved over many decades. It places our contemporary understanding of the Civil War, both popular and academic, in conversation with testimony from people in the United States and the Confederacy who experienced and described it. Put another way, the book investigates how mid-19th-century perceptions align with, or deviate from, some of those we now hold regarding the origins, conduct, and aftermath of the war.

Women Warriors

By Pamela D. Toler,

Book cover of Women Warriors: An Unexpected History

In Women Warriors, the footnotes are every bit as informative and bitingly funny as the text itself. Toler travels across many cultures and eras, from ancient times up until the 20th century, to show that, like it or not, “women have always gone to war.” She covers some women you’ve likely heard of before—like Boudica, Hua Mulan, and Joan of Arc—as well as many others you probably haven’t—like Tomyris, Artemisia II, and Lakshmi Bai. These mini-biographies, taken together, provide an eye-opening and unforgettable corrective about women and warfare.

Who am I?

As a child, I was drawn to the silences in family stories and as a young adult, the gaps in official records. Now I’m a former English professor turned full-time writer who is fascinated with who gets written out of history, and why. I love exploring overlooked lives, especially women’s lives—from Stalin’s female relatives to nineteenth-century shopgirls, and most recently, a pair of early medieval queens.

I wrote...

The Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry That Forged the Medieval World

By Shelley Puhak,

Book cover of The Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry That Forged the Medieval World

What is my book about?

The remarkable, little-known story of two trailblazing women in the Early Middle Ages who wielded immense power, only to be vilified for daring to rule. Brunhild was a foreign princess, raised to be married off. Her sister-in-law Fredegund started out as a lowly palace slave. And yet-in sixth-century Merovingian France, where women were excluded from noble succession these two iron-willed strategists reigned over vast realms. Yet after the queens' deaths—one gentle, the other horrific—their stories were rewritten.

The Dark Queens sets the record straight, resurrecting two very real women in all their complexity, painting a richly detailed portrait of an unfamiliar time and striking at the roots of some of our culture's stubbornest myths about female power. The Dark Queens offers proof that the relationships between women can transform the world.


By Alison Weir,

Book cover of Isabella: She-Wolf of France, Queen of England

Phillip IV of France ‘The Fair’ died in 1314. His three sons ruled after him in turn, and none provided a legitimate heir, so when the youngest son, Charles IV, died in 1328, the Capetian dynasty, which had ruled France for over 300 years, came to an end. But Phillip IV had a daughter, Isabella, who had married Edward II of England, and so their son, the future Edward III, was the nearest male relative to the deceased Charles IV.  Isabella was adamant that her son was the legitimate heir to the French throne, and it was this claim that was pursued throughout the Hundred Years War and which was only relinquished in 1802. Isabella has not had good press. Derided as ‘the she-wolf of France’ she was an adulteress, waged war against her husband, and was probably complicit in his murder. In fairness, she had much to contend with.…

Who am I?

I decided to write this book because while there are many works on the Hundred Years War, they tend to dwell on the political and diplomatic, rather than the military aspects. I considered that this period marked a real revolution in military affairs, led by England. It was England that had the world’s only professional army since the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west in the 5th Century, that used technology (the longbow) as a force multiplier, and while moving on horseback did its fighting on foot. It was these three legs of the revolution that allowed tiny English armies to defeat far larger French feudal ones.

I wrote...

A Great and Glorious Adventure: A Military History of the Hundred Years War

By Gordon Corrigan,

Book cover of A Great and Glorious Adventure: A Military History of the Hundred Years War

What is my book about?

France and England, and then Britain, are traditional enemies. Since the Norman conquest in 1066 English, and then British, soldiers have fought all over the world, but far more time has been spent fighting France than any other enemy. Even today that resentment persists, and one of the reasons for Britain leaving the European Union was French domination of that organisation.

This book is about one of the longest periods of Anglo-French enmity, which later came to be known as the Hundred Years War. The war lasted for rather more than a hundred years, but was not one of continuous fighting.  Rather it was a series of campaigns punctuated by truces, one lasting sixteen years, but in that English aims remained the same throughout the period it is reasonable to consider it as one war. It is an important period in British and European history in that the war turned Anglo-Normans into Englishmen and citizens of semi-autonomous duchies into Frenchmen. While not ignoring the politics, I have concentrated on the military aspects of the various episodes of the war, as many other accounts do not always understand how medieval armies operated.

Starship Troopers

By Robert A. Heinlein,

Book cover of Starship Troopers

This book has a bad reputation. And maybe I am reading it wrong, or maybe others are. I’m not sure. The movie is unlike the book, a satire of fascism. I love the movie for that. But the book is different. It doesn’t show jarheads, but a society that has evolved. Whether it’s for the better or worse is open to interpretation, and in a time of war (it’s not called Starship Repairmen) it deals with the staple of all sci-fi, alien invaders. To me it’s a thoughtful book, despite the power armor and tactical nuclear grenades.

Who am I?

I love history and stories. Over the years I realized stories are part history and part character. I still don’t know in which ratio, but a story without characters or history is boring. A world, any world, needs history as much as characters because the story develops from their interaction. As a writer I always ask why. It’s the quintessential question. Any character is there for a reason that must be linked to history in some form. It’s cheap to say, “they’re there because it suits the plot.” And all of these books give us both history and character(s). And then some.

I wrote...

Shattered Dreams

By Ulff Lehmann,

Book cover of Shattered Dreams

What is my book about?

Epic fantasy, grim and dark. No heroes, no villains, only people confronted with the past, with choices they made, and their consequences. As an ancient enemy stirs in the bowels of a ruined elven city, a country attacks its neighbor, and a broken man turns to face his past.

Experience the events through the eyes of many unique characters. Follow disparate paths as they weave together to reveal the grand tapestry that leaves you reeling. Murder, intrigue, war, seen through the eyes of many.

Cyndere's Midnight

By Jeffrey Overstreet,

Book cover of Cyndere's Midnight

The Auralia Thread is seriously underrated (Cyndere is book two). Of all the fantasy from Christian publishers I read when I first entered the publishing industry, these books were my favorite and the most personally influential. Forbidden color magic? Yes, please. The awakening of a conscience in a cursed “beastman”? Sign me up! Cyndere had an emotional impact on me that still resonates more than a decade after I first read it.

Who am I?

I’m Lindsay, and I never stop falling in love with human creativity. From the moment I first cracked open a library-borrowed copy of The Wizard of Oz as a child, I’ve been asking “What if…?” and I’ve delighted in how other authors imaginatively tackle that question. My interests are eclectic, ranging from history and politics to baking and sparkly things. I read to be swept away and to take a peek inside the storyteller’s mind and heart.

I wrote...

The Story Peddler

By Lindsay A. Franklin,

Book cover of The Story Peddler

What is my book about?

Tanwen doesn’t just tell stories—she weaves them into crystallized sculptures that sell for more than a few bits. But the only way to escape the control of her cruel mentor and claw her way from poverty is to set her sights on something grander: becoming Royal Storyteller to the king.

During her final story peddling tour, a tale of treason spills from her hands, threatening the king himself. Tanwen goes from peddler to prey as the king’s guard hunts her down... and they’re not known for their mercy. As Tanwen flees for her life, she unearths long-buried secrets and discovers she’s not the only outlaw in the empire. There’s a rebel group of weavers... and they’re after her too.

Phule's Company

By Robert Asprin,

Book cover of Phule's Company

Willard J. Phule, the rich son of a millionaire arms manufacturer, reforms a group of misfits in the Space Legion, a fictional organization similar to the French Foreign Legion, into an “elite fighting force.” What I love about this book is the mix of humor and common sense. I’m a big fan of out-of-the-box thinking in tactical situations, and Phule’s Company uses it in spades.

Who am I?

I am a writer of science fiction and fantasy, and a humorist. My husband and I fell in love over Star Trek and puns, and we both share a deep abiding hatred of people acting stupidly to further a plot. I read to escape, so I’m looking for laughs but also compelling characters who live their stories rather than act out the author’s wishes. I will toss a book as soon as it insults my intelligence or bores me. Thus, when I write, I let the characters run the show—and they never fail me.

I wrote...

Space Traipse: Hold My Beer, Season 1

By Karina Fabian,

Book cover of Space Traipse: Hold My Beer, Season 1

What is my book about?

If you love Star Trek and parodies... If the Orville and Galaxy Quest give you as much joy as Wrath of Khan... Then this is the book for you. Join the crew of the HMB Impulsive as we reverse the polarity on cliches, set phasers to Pun, and boldly go where no parody has gone before.

In Book 1 of this series, the Impulsive’s crew plays matchmaker to warring worlds, rescues the Ship’s Sexy from an environmentally paranoid planet, saves an alien ship by reversing its polarity, and nearly gets themselves killed on an amusement planet in a parody of ST: TOS “Shore Leave.” Plus, we follow a janitorial robot for a day.

The Landmark Arrian

By Robert B. Strassler, James Romm,

Book cover of The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander

Arrian is one of the few primary sources used to illuminate the campaigns of Alexander the Great. It is also one of the few primary sources to focus directly on the Scythians – in this case, the Saka (an eastern group of Scythians). After conquering the Bactrian region, Alexander faced war with the Scythians, as well as local rebellions, which the Scythians played a role in. Arrian’s account is an important source for understanding the Scythians as it speaks directly to the clash of an army built for pitched battle against an army build for more mobile warfare.

Who am I?

I'm an author who believes that history contains an endless number of stories of how our past peers dealt with and contributed to the tension, fusion, and reinvention that is human existence. When writing The Greek Prince of Afghanistan, which focuses on the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of ancient Afghanistan, I included a Scythian character, because I felt the novel’s story, like humanity’s story, is best told through multiple perspectives. The above books helped me greatly in that effort.

I wrote...

The Greek Prince of Afghanistan

By David Austin Beck,

Book cover of The Greek Prince of Afghanistan

What is my book about?

The Greek Prince of Afghanistan follows the early life of Demetrius, prince of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of ancient Afghanistan. He lives in a world of cultural fusion and conflict, and he faces threats from every direction. From the west, an army approaches under the banners of Antiochus, a Hellenistic monarch obsessed with ruling the lands once conquered by Alexander. From within, tensions build between the kingdom's Greek elite and non-Greek subjects. In desperate need of allies for the imminent war, Demetrius rides north to secure an alliance with the Scythians, a people rumored to eat their prisoners and feed their elderly to the dogs. But with his kingdom divided, their help may not be enough.

Defeat of Rome in the East

By Gareth C. Sampson,

Book cover of Defeat of Rome in the East: Crassus, the Parthians, and the Disastrous Battle of Carrhae, 53 BC

I purchased this book in 2008, while I was researching The Other Alexander. However, I refused to open it until I had completed my own research over a year later. I did not want it to color my own work surrounding the history of Marcus Crassus. Why do I love it? Because here was a scholar with far more credentials than I who, it turns out, agreed with the premise of my own novels.

Who am I?

I grew up on Long Island, New York, got a BA in English from Stanford, then put that hard-earned degree to dubious use in the family packaging business. After a decade of trying to convince myself to think 'inside the box (lots of them), I fled to Vermont where I attempted to regain my sanity by chopping wood and shoveling snow off my roof for 8 years. (Okay, I came down off the roof every once in a while.) Like a fine cocktail, I was by then thoroughly chilled; what could be better after this than no sunshine for 13 years. That's right - Seattle. Since 2006 I have been taking the cure in Arizona, where my skin has darkened to a rich shade of pallid. Here it was that I finally realized, under the heading of hopefully-better-late-than-never, that I needed to return to my first love - writing. I live in Tempe with my wife, Stephany and our daughter, Allison, crowded into close proximity by hundreds of mineral specimens Steph and I have collected while rockhounding. "They're just a bunch of rocks," says Allison. Ouch.

I wrote...

The Other Alexander

By Andrew Levkoff,

Book cover of The Other Alexander

What is my book about?

The first triumvirate. Most lovers of Roman history are familiar with two of them, Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great, but the third is often given short shrift. He was Marcus Licinius Crassus, the richest man in Rome. Why would a sixty-year-old senator, with more wealth and power than any Roman, leave his lush estates, his loving wife, to tramp fifteen hundred miles to wage war on the mysterious Parthian empire to the east? Why indeed. Historians say greed and jealousy sent him to war, but I believe there was a deeper, more personal reason, which I explore in The Other Alexander.

Rescue Pilot

By Dan McKinnon,

Book cover of Rescue Pilot: Life-Saving At-Sea Navy Helicopter Missions

Dan McKinnon was a navy helicopter pilot who was airborne near an aircraft carrier during flight operations so pilots who had mishaps could be quickly and safely recovered. This is a story about an unusual type of flying, one that provides another layer of safety for naval operations at sea.

Who am I?

I am well qualified to speak of the Vietnam aviation experience because these things happened during my formative years as a pilot, and I was on the “front lines” of seeing and experiencing much of it. In addition, I keep up-to-date with it via reunions and reading stories told by other pilots, and I have met Kenny Fields, George Marrett, and Leo Thorsness.

I wrote...

Firefly: A Skyraider's Story About America's Secret War Over Laos

By Richard E. Diller,

Book cover of Firefly: A Skyraider's Story About America's Secret War Over Laos

What is my book about?

Firefly is the only book written about the night mission over Laos, and I explain how we found targets at night, how we avoided hitting mountains in the dark, what napalm looked like when it hit the ground, or a truck at night; and what AAA looked like when it was coming toward me. My squadron lost seven pilots during my year of combat flying, and I tell of how I dealt with the loss of friends. In addition, I was a newlywed when I went off to war and my wife lived in a high-rise apartment in Bangkok, and I was able to visit her about every six weeks. I tell of many things we did together in the big city.

I flew 203 missions and was an instructor pilot who taught new pilots how to stay safe. I am one of only two air force pilots who flew both the supersonic F-106 and the A-1 Skyraider who wasn’t a career officer, and I make several comparisons between the airplanes. I communicated with my parents via three-inch reel-to-reel audio tapes and my dad saved all of them. Several times I talked about missions as soon as I returned, so the stories are as fresh as if they had just happened this morning.

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