36 books directly related to the Pacific War in WW2 📚

All 36 Pacific War in WW2 books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Book cover of The First Team: Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway

The First Team: Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway

By John B. Lundstrom

Why this book?

First published over thirty-five years ago, The First Team remains the definitive account of the naval air war in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor to Midway. Lundstrom, examined almost every relevant record in the National Archives and Naval Historical Center, arranged for the translation of  Japanese materials, and corresponded with, or interviewed dozens of naval aviation veterans, including the legendary John S. Thach and E. Scott McCluskey.  The book includes seven appendices that provide detailed information on subjects ranging from naval flight training to “Fundamentals of Aerial Gunnery” to a detailed list of the makeup of every fighter squadron embarked…

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The best books to understand the Asia Pacific War from 1937-1945

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Book cover of Song of Survival: Women Interned

Song of Survival: Women Interned

By Helen Colijn

Why this book?

A little-known aspect of the Pacific War was the imprisonment of Allied civilians. While these Japanese-run prison camps were not deliberate death machines, as were the Nazi-run concentration camps, large numbers of women and children died of starvation and disease there, or at least had their health permanently ruined. Many stories would come out of these camps, both horrific and inspiring. Perhaps the most brilliantly creative story of the latter category was the vocal orchestra, a group of imprisoned women who sought to recreate symphonic music with their voices. Colijn’s memoir was made into the film, Paradise Road.

From the list:

The best books on the Pacific Theater of World War II

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Book cover of I Saw The Fall Of The Philippines

I Saw The Fall Of The Philippines

By Carlos P. Romulo

Why this book?

The Philippine resistance of WWII was, in my opinion, the most admirable resistance organization of the war, whether European or Pacific. In fact, resistance among the Philippine people was so widespread, that the Japanese occupiers were almost correct in assuming any civilian they encountered was a resister on some level. Carlos Romulo, a Philippine aide de camp to General MacArthur and a hero to his countrymen, gives his personal account of the war in this excellent memoir.

From the list:

The best books on the Pacific Theater of World War II

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Book cover of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II

History of United States Naval Operations in World War II

By Samuel Eliot Morison

Why this book?

When I began researching and writing for my books this fifteen-volume set by distinguished historian Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison, was one of my first purchases for my World War II library. I consider his series a must-have for any WWII researcher or history buff. I did much of my research and writing on freighters and always took selected volumes with me.

From the list:

The best books on World War II in the Pacific

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Book cover of Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945

Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945

By Ian W. Toll

Why this book?

The third and final book of the epic Pacific War Trilogy, Twilight of the Gods is the story of the crushing of the once venerable Japanese Empire. At just under 800 pages the book describes in the great detail the coming apocalypse for the Japanese war machine. While 1943 was pivotal with the war in the Pacific having essentially been won by the Allies, it was 1944 and 1945 where the real murder of empire happened. In these two years of horrendous fighting, hundreds of thousands died for what was clearly a lost cause. The Japanese tried one last time…

From the list:

The best books on the war in the Pacific 1941-1945

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Book cover of Tower of Skulls: A History of the Asia-Pacific War: July 1937-May 1942

Tower of Skulls: A History of the Asia-Pacific War: July 1937-May 1942

By Richard B. Frank

Why this book?

Until about twenty years ago writers about World War II tended to treat the contest between the United States and Japan as separate from, and more significant than the other conflicts that engulfed China and Southeast Asia between 1937 and 1945. Today many historians, including almost all academic ones, speak of an “Asia-Pacific War” as a more accurate and appropriate description for this destructive era. Tower of Skulls, is the first general history that not only integrates the conflicts in the Pacific with those in mainland Asia but also demonstrates the close interconnection between them.

The first of a…
From the list:

The best books to understand the Asia Pacific War from 1937-1945

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

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

By Frank Gibney, Beth Cary

Why 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.
From the list:

The best books for understanding America and her enemies in wartime

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Book cover of The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II

The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II

By Iris Chang

Why this book?

When this book was first published in 1997, the world (at least the Western world) had all but forgotten the atrocity that had been inflicted on my hometown in the winter of 1937-38. Re-reading the gripping nonfictional account today would serve to remind us that we should not forget that ignoble page in our modern history and more importantly that we are all duty-bound to do all we can so such atrocities will not happen again.

From the list:

The best books about the Pacific Theater in WW2

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Book cover of Emperor Hirohito and the Pacific War

Emperor Hirohito and the Pacific War

By Noriko Kawamura

Why this book?

At last (2015) there is a balanced and carefully researched study of a central figure in the modern history of Japan and the war in the Pacific. The substantial utilization and integration of Japanese sources enhances the work but does not lead to any distortion of the real picture.

From the list:

The best books on WW2 from a military historian

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Book cover of MacArthur at War: World War II in the Pacific

MacArthur at War: World War II in the Pacific

By Walter R. Borneman

Why this book?

In view of the numerous controversies and varied views of General MacArthur’s actions and policies in the Pacific War, it is great to have a balanced and very carefully researched and presented account of a commander who was in it from Japan’s attack on the United States to Japan’s surrender. While dealing fairly with some of the criticisms of the general, Borneman does note his repeated announcements of battles being ended when they were not as well as the hopeless incompetence of his intelligence chief.

From the list:

The best books on WW2 from a military historian

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Book cover of Island Encounters: Black and White Memories of the Pacific War

Island Encounters: Black and White Memories of the Pacific War

By Lamont Lindstrom, Geoffrey M. White

Why this book?

Anyone interested in the War in the Pacific will find this collection of 175 photographs showing the variety of interactions of Islanders and foreign servicemen interesting. It goes beyond official military photos (though there are plenty of those) to include photos from Japanese sources and veterans’ personal photographs. The text gives insight into the conditions of war and how Islanders and foreign fighters perceived and dealt with each other. A beautifully produced book.

From the list:

The best books on indigenous experiences of WW2 in the Pacific Islands

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Book cover of The Official Chronology of the U.S. Navy in World War II

The Official Chronology of the U.S. Navy in World War II

By Robert J. Cressman

Why this book?

Published in 2000, this reference book makes previous chronologies of the Navy at war out-of-date. My co-author and wife, Sandra McGee, uses this chronology to create social media posts, such as “On this day…” or “75 Years Ago Today…”.

From the list:

The best books on World War II in the Pacific

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Book cover of Day of Infamy: The Classic Account of the Bombing of Pearl Harbor

Day of Infamy: The Classic Account of the Bombing of Pearl Harbor

By Walter Lord

Why this book?

Few authors have ever matched Walter Lord for his ability to put a reader inside a historical event as it was unfolding. In Day of Infamy he puts his readers vicariously on the ground, in the air, or aboard a ship during the Pearl Harbor attack, and through his use of eyewitness accounts draws the reader into what becomes an almost visceral experience.  While some details Lord recounts have been invalidated by more recent research (the book is over sixty years old yet is still in print!), that does nothing to detract from how convincingly he conveys the Americans’ feelings…

From the list:

The best books about naval battles in the Second World War

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Book cover of Implacable Foes: War in the Pacific, 1944-1945

Implacable Foes: War in the Pacific, 1944-1945

By Marc Gallicchio, Waldo Heinrichs

Why this book?

This is simply one of the finest books to be written on the final critical two years of the Pacific War, with extensive detail on the Japanese side of the conflict and plenty of new insights into the better-known American story. It is a big book, but this was a large conflict both in terms of space, time, and the resources deployed. It was also chiefly a story of amphibious naval warfare, an original and significant development in modern warfare that too often gets understated. By the end of the conflict, the American armed forces had created the shape that…

From the list:

The best books about key events in World War II and the soldiers who fought in them

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Book cover of Crossing the Line: A Bluejacket's Odyssey in World War II

Crossing the Line: A Bluejacket's Odyssey in World War II

By Alvin Kernan

Why this book?

Though less well known than Eugene Sledge’s With the Old Breed or Richard Tregaskis’ Guadalcanal Diary, this is one of the finest memoirs of World War II and one of the few by an enlisted sailor. At his death at 94, Alvin Kernan was a recognized expert on Shakespeare with long years on the faculties of Yale and Princeton but in 1940 he was a seventeen-year-old boy from the mountains of Wyoming who enlisted in the Navy because he was unable to meet a small cash fee connected to his college scholarship. 

Kernan was aboard the carrier Hornet when…

From the list:

The best books to understand the Asia Pacific War from 1937-1945

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Book cover of The Blossom and the Firefly

The Blossom and the Firefly

By Sherri L. Smith

Why this book?

Unexpected for a book about kamikaze, this is a quiet and gentle story, about two young people—Taro, a kamikaze pilot, and Hana, one of the Nadeshiko Tai, assigned to serve the pilots—who meet through a shared vital love of music. They both know the inevitability and finality of Taro’s upcoming mission; they both are at the mercy of circumstances beyond their control. Yet their hopes and dreams remain larger than the war. This is another one that will stay with you for a long time.

From the list:

The best unusual YA books about WWII

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Book cover of Attack on Pearl Harbor: Strategy, Combat, Myths, Deceptions

Attack on Pearl Harbor: Strategy, Combat, Myths, Deceptions

By Alan Zimm

Why this book?

Zinn uses Japanese sources and modern Operations Research techniques to produce a revisionist account of the attack. The Japanese planning was deeply flawed and the execution of the attack chaotic. The Japanese escaped disaster only because American defensive measures were abysmal. The Japanese attack wasn’t “brilliant,” is commonly maintained – it was dumb luck. Zinn also demolishes numerous hoary myths, for example, that the Japanese could/should have destroyed the American fuel storage tanks. Zinn’s attention to military detail produces a fundamentally new appreciation of the Pearl Harbor attack.

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The best new revisionist military history books

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Book cover of Pacific Payback: The Carrier Aviators Who Avenged Pearl Harbor at the Battle of Midway

Pacific Payback: The Carrier Aviators Who Avenged Pearl Harbor at the Battle of Midway

By Stephen L. Moore

Why this book?

It was the carrier-based dive-bombers that carried the day at Midway, and Moore’s narrative non-fiction account of the battle through the eyes of the actual men who fought at Midway in these dive-bombers is an entertaining and gripping page turner. You learn of their fears, the uncertainty, and of their humble courage. Moore brings you with them in their SBD Dauntless cockpits. These men were what the United States had at the onset of the Pacific War, and Moore’s tribute to them is moving.

From the list:

The best books about the Battle of Midway (from a U.S. Navy Pilot)

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Book cover of Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945

Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945

By Rana Mitter

Why this book?

For many years, American views of the China’s role in World War II were strongly influenced by Barbara Tuchman’s best-selling, Stilwell and the American Experience in China published in 1971. Tuchman painted China’s war effort as brave but costly and ineffective thanks to the incompetence and corruption of Chiang Kai Shek. Portrayed as a kind of Chinese George Washington in the U.S. media, Tuchman saw Chiang as being in fact, far less interested in defeating the Japanese than in ensuring that his regime survived the war in a position to vanquish its domestic rivals, especially Mao Zedong’s Communists 

In contrast,…

From the list:

The best books to understand the Asia Pacific War from 1937-1945

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Book cover of Red Star over China: The Classic Account of the Birth of Chinese Communism

Red Star over China: The Classic Account of the Birth of Chinese Communism

By Edgar Snow

Why this book?

This was a bestseller when it was first published in 1937, when the War of Resistance against Japan (essentially WWII in the Pacific) was on the cusp of going all out. It was a must read for anyone back then who wanted to know what was going on in the Far East and it is still a must read for anyone today who wants to understand China.

From the list:

The best books about the Pacific Theater in WW2

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Book cover of Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle

Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle

By Richard B. Frank

Why this book?

The author provides a most thoughtful and well-presented coverage of the longest battle of the Pacific War and of American history. Covering a war in a part of the world that very few are acquainted with, the author has enhanced his account with a large number of maps that truly help to orient the reader.

From the list:

The best books on WW2 from a military historian

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Book cover of The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father's War

The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father's War

By Louise Steinman

Why this book?

After Steinman’s parents passed away, she found a trove of WWII-era letters her father wrote along with a silk flag inscribed to a man named Yoshio Shimizu. In this book, Steinman recounted her years-long quest to learn who Shimizu was, a search that resulted in a trip to Japan to return the precious artifact. At the same time, by reading her father’s letters, Steinman discovered a tender and expressive side of her father—a side that had been wiped away by trauma. Steinman’s book shines a light on the universal cost of war.

From the list:

The best books on contemporary WWII family searches

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Book cover of Unbroken

Unbroken

By Laura Hillenbrand

Why this book?

This book is so edge-of-your-seat exciting that you would swear it was a well-crafted work of fiction. It’s not. It’s the story of Louis Zamperini whose plane is shot down in World War II. He is left adrift by himself, with thousands of miles of treacherous ocean to cross, just to reach enemy territory and have a chance at survival. Even then he faces captivity and abuse. The only resources he has are the resources he has within himself. He emerges unbroken! Have you ever wondered what you might have inside yourself to face extreme crisis? I have! In…

From the list:

The best adventure stories which also explore the self

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Book cover of The Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War

The Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War

By Samuel Eliot Morison

Why this book?

This book was published in 1963 on the heels of the fifteen-volume set by Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison. I served in the U.S. Navy, Pacific theater of war, and found this supplemental work by Morison to complement particular portions of his fifteen-volume series.

From the list:

The best books on World War II in the Pacific

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Book cover of Guadalcanal Diary

Guadalcanal Diary

By Richard Tregaskis

Why 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. 

From the list:

The best books about war and the Marines

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Book cover of War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War

War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War

By John W. Dower

Why this book?

War Without Mercy is a seminal work in the cultural and military history of the Pacific War. In his aim to understand the formation of public consciousness in the United States and Japan during World War II, which is a consistent theme throughout his many works, Dower uses cultural and empirical sources to provide nuance and greater depth in the historiography on the Japanese modern era.
From the list:

‘The best books on Japanese postwar creative arts in their wider context

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Book cover of Flights of Passage: Recollections of a World War II Aviator

Flights of Passage: Recollections of a World War II Aviator

By Samuel Hynes

Why this book?

Perhaps the very best crafted book of this selection, this is a remarkable story about a relatively unremarkable combat career.  Samuel Hynes—who later taught at Northwestern and Princeton—gives the reader not just a rote recounting of his experiences as a Marine Corps pilot during the war, but he also shares what and how he felt. He is unwaveringly honest, and includes an account of a sexual encounter that at the very least causes the reader to reflect on the morals of that time. His book is a refreshing look behind the façade of “The Greatest Generation,” and reassures the reader…

From the list:

The best personal accounts of World War II air combat

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Book cover of Undersea Victory: The Influence of Submarine Operations on the War in the Pacific

Undersea Victory: The Influence of Submarine Operations on the War in the Pacific

By W. J Holmes

Why this book?

Undersea Victory is the definitive history of submarine warfare in the Pacific during World War II. Holmes was a giant in the field and really knows his stuff. You’ll come away having a much greater appreciation for how sub combat operations were conducted both by the U.S. and Japan. Importantly, Holmes doesn’t hesitate to tell you the good and the bad regardless of which side he’s writing about. No sub enthusiast’s library is complete without it.

From the list:

The best books about submarine warfare during World War II

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Book cover of No Right To Win: A Continuing Dialogue with Veterans of the Battle of Midway

No Right To Win: A Continuing Dialogue with Veterans of the Battle of Midway

By Ronald Russell

Why this book?

Russell, moderator of the Battle of Midway Internet Round Table, goes further than Moore in that his interviews with the participants of the battle delve deeper into the Midway narrative and decision matrix. Up there alongside Parshall and Tully as the top experts on Midway, Russell through his first-hand accounts of Midway survivors – and their human perceptions - explores the controversies of Midway, such as the “Flight to Nowhere” and “eyewitness” testimony proved false by realities of geography and photographic evidence. No Right to Win is highly recommended for advanced students of the battle and is recommended for those…

From the list:

The best books about the Battle of Midway (from a U.S. Navy Pilot)

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Book cover of The Battle of Midway

The Battle of Midway

By Craig L. Symonds

Why this book?

Perhaps the best book on the epic World War II Battle of Midway, Craig Symonds brings together all the pieces that became the turning point in the Pacific War. Looking at the leadup to the battle from both the Japanese and American perspectives, Symonds shows how the Japanese, in their typical style, created a battle plan that was overly complicated for its objective. Symonds explains how American Joe Rochefort and his eclectic band (he even had commissioned naval musicians) worked to bend (but not entirely break) the Japanese naval code. This allowed the Allies to surmise Midway as the Japanese…

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The best books about how to break things (encryption, passwords, etc.)

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Book cover of Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941-1945

Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941-1945

By Evan Thomas

Why this book?

The US Navy at war in the Pacific is the backdrop to a series of high-pressure decisions made by various officers in command. The most striking is the heroic attack of a group of lightly armed US destroyers against the main forces of the Japanese Imperial Navy in the battle of Leyte Gulf. The so-called “Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors” and the heroism in particular of Commander Ernest Evans, a Native American who receives the Medal of Honor for his decisions in the battle. I’ve always been awestruck by Evans, who was a quiet, thoughtful man who had…

From the list:

The best naval books to help you make decisions under extreme pressure

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

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

By John Toland

Why 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.

From the list:

The best Asian history books for a Sunday afternoon

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Book cover of Japan at War: An Oral History

Japan at War: An Oral History

By Haruko Taya Cook, Theodore F. Cook

Why this book?

Oral history sources have always been central to my work, both as an author and a documentary-maker. Cook’s account of the experiences of ordinary Japanese people during the Second World War is one of the best. It is both powerful and a lesson about the utter tragedy of war.
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The best books about 20th century conflict

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Book cover of Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific

Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific

By Ross Leckie

Why this book?

Leckie enlisted in the Marine Corps following the attack on Pearl Harbor. His story is one of the best accounts of life on the ground in combat, from induction to his time on now famous islands, Guadalcanal, New Britain, and finally Peleliu. Leckie lets the reader in on the grinding, miserable combat of New Britain, the joyous affair of Peleliu, and the pet-names he has for the men around him. At the end of it all, Leckie finds himself in the hospital for the tenth time since he entered the Marine Corps, left wondering what it was all for.

From the list:

The best books on the war in the Pacific 1941-1945

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Book cover of Tarawa: The Incredible Story of One of World War II's Bloodiest Battles

Tarawa: The Incredible Story of One of World War II's Bloodiest Battles

By Robert Sherrod

Why this book?

This is the best book on the Pacific campaign in World War 2. Tarawa was a small island the USA wanted to build a landing strip on and the Japanese put 5,000 soldiers in elaborate well built bunkers to defend it. Robert was a war correspondent who was on the beach for the invasion. You are right there with him as he is huddled in fear behind a burned-out tank during the landing. You can feel the bullets pinging near your head and see the dead all around you.

It was a massacre. It started with a rare low tide…

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The best books on war and what it all means

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Book cover of Two Kinds of Time

Two Kinds of Time

By Graham Peck

Why this book?

This book is the comparatively underrated one among my five choices, but I guarantee it worthwhile. Peck went to China in 1935. He served in the U.S. Office of War Information in China throughout the 1940s. This memoir chronicles his life in China from the beginning of the Japanese invasion to the end of the Pacific War, during which the U.S. was the ally of the Nationalists, who lost to the Communists in the following years. The China Peck described was a sleepy, isolated world, characterized by apathetic people, rampant corruption, and senseless internal friction. When the book first came…

From the list:

The best books of the Westerners’ experience in China

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