29 books directly related to the Western Front (WW1) 📚

All 29 Western Front (WW1) books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

The Swordbearers: Supreme Command in the First World War

By Correlli Barnett,

Book cover of The Swordbearers: Supreme Command in the First World War

Why this book?

Published almost sixty years ago, this compelling study of four senior commanders who served (mostly) on the Western Front remains as fresh as when it was first written. Barnett’s prose is exquisite, bringing us directly into the world of Helmuth von Moltke, John Jellicoe, Philippé Pétain, and Erich Ludendorff, telling us how they coped (or not) with the enormous stresses and strains they encountered as ‘supreme commanders’. It is a stunning portrait of men (and their command systems) at war. 


Paul Nash: Outline, An Autobiography

By David Boyd Haycock,

Book cover of Paul Nash: Outline, An Autobiography

Why this book?

Nash never managed to finish his autobiography, and it was originally published with notes, letters and fragments edited into the second half to attempt to complete his story. This new edition adds his wife Margaret’s Memoirs of Paul Nash, 1913-1946, from a surviving type manuscript held at the Tate, to add many more colours and details to this fascinating portrait of an artist and his genius loci – sense of place. I’d also recommend James King’s biography Interior Landscapes.


The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle That Changed the World

By Holger H. Herwig,

Book cover of The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle That Changed the World

Why this book?

Holger Herwig sheds new light on the Battle of the Marne (September 1914) in his exhaustively researched, yet fast-paced and readable account. For English readers, the Marne does not always gain the attention it deserves (British participation being relatively minor), but Herwig shows just how terrible the fighting was and why the French were able to snatch victory ‘from the jaws of defeat’. Because Herwig was able to utilise both German and French sources, it presents a fully rounded, three-dimensional portrait of one of the most decisive battles of the modern world, which ended Germany’s hopes of victory in the west in 1914. 


Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

By Karl Marlantes,

Book cover of Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

Why this book?

Karl Marlantes' deeply personal and gritty account of combat in Vietnam is rivaled only by Eugene Sledge’s Pacific War classic With the Old Breed. Filled with action, emotion, and inner reflection, Matterhorn sweeps the reader along with a Marine platoon plunging into the dark and dangerous jungle where seasoned guerrillas and North Vietnamese Army troops seek to destroy them. The author Karl Marlantes, a Yale graduate, left his Rhodes scholarship to go on active duty with the Marines in Vietnam.


Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age

By Modris Eksteins,

Book cover of Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age

Why this book?

Another timeless classic. Inspired by Fussell’s The Great War in Modern Memory, Modris Eksteins produced a daring new attempt to explain the First World War in cultural terms over a decade later. Rites of Spring took analysis of the cultural meaning of the war in another direction in terms of understanding what was true and how such understandings impacted the material world. Whereas Fussell had shown how Anglophone culture had been changed by the war, Eksteins implied that the artistic imagination was in some sense responsible for the war. Whereas Fussell focused upon memoirists who had fought, Eksteins chose to emphasise someone who had fictionalized his experience. He presented the emotional truths relayed in Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 bestseller All Quiet on the Western Front as being of more significance than any set of “facts”. For Eksteins, the war marked the point in human development when Art “had become more important than history”.


All Quiet on the Western Front

By Erich Maria Remarque, Arthur Wesley Wheen (translator),

Book cover of All Quiet on the Western Front

Why this book?

It’s always good to see a story told from both sides, to look at the tragedy and futility of war from every point of view. This book is a poignant and true psychological insight into the mind of a man who holds tight to his vow to fight against the principles of hate and the farce of young men of one mind, yet in different uniforms, pitting themselves against each other for no real reason at all.

By the time I read this book, I was pretty much set on my path of writing books about various wars and the mistaken, pre-conceived ideas history has given us in regard to the famous people who fought in them. That, and the false, grand and glorious illusion that war is worthwhile. It was so good to know that a fine author such as Remarque was thinking the same way… and long before I did!


A Killing for the Hawks

By Frederick E. Smith,

Book cover of A Killing for the Hawks

Why this book?

Smith served in WW2 in the RAF and is more famous for his 633 Squadron series set in WW2, which coincidentally is one of the best WW2 flying movies. The flying scenes are as good as they get, the aircraft details and performance are accurate, the plot twisting, and the love relationships are…complicated. But in this book, you will identify with the hero and find yourself rooting for him as he battles Germans in the air and an enemy in his own squadron while on the ground. Gripping and fast-moving.


Hell's Bells and Mademoiselles: A True Story of Life, Love and Larrikinism on the Western Front

By Joe Maxwell,

Book cover of Hell's Bells and Mademoiselles: A True Story of Life, Love and Larrikinism on the Western Front

Why this book?

Joe Maxwell was an Australian Soldier in WW1 who wrote this story of his time in the 18th Battalion (same battalion as my Grandfather, Stan Dunkley). Chances are they knew each other. Joe wrote the story from his own perspective and told of his mates and the fun they had behind the lines. Interestingly, when it came to the actual fighting, he tended to write little; perhaps because it was too horrible to write about but his bravery is well documented. He was the only soldier of the 18th BN to win the Victoria Cross after single-handedly taking a German machine gun nest. He also had the rare distinction of fighting the entire war without gaining so much as a scratch. I highly recommend this for its personal account of one man’s experience.


Mr Standfast (1919).

By John Buchan,

Book cover of Mr Standfast (1919).

Why this book?

The most influential spy novelist of them all, John Buchan, had the Germans planning to disable the British army with anthrax germs. While an admittedly small part of all the various plots in the complex novel, Buchan’s Richard Hannay touched all the bases in the five books in which he starred. For another example, in 1924 The Three Hostages, international demigods stirred up trouble with brainwashing and hypnotism. This device was a popular weapon employed by the likes of Fu Manchu.


Brothers in Arms: John and Paul Nash and the Aftermath of the Great War

By Paul Gough,

Book cover of Brothers in Arms: John and Paul Nash and the Aftermath of the Great War

Why this book?

A thoroughly researched visual study of two brothers, close and highly imaginative playmates as children, but then gradually divergent adults as they came to terms with their war experiences. John had a tougher war, yet seems to have been able to leave the horror behind as he embarked on a brighter, more decorative illustrative style. Paul would be haunted his entire life by shadows of death and depression, but would become one of this country's most important and powerful artists.


Death of a Hero

By Richard Aldington,

Book cover of Death of a Hero

Why this book?

Perhaps the finest and least well-known novel to come out of the First World War. Imagist poet Richard Aldington takes his own experiences of the home and Western Fronts and turns both barrels on the sanctimony of Edwardian society and its parade of sycophants, socialites, and fools. Unusually, it is a book by a poet that resists turning war into poetry. Unafraid to use realistically coarse military language, it divided the critics at the time and has divided readers ever since. It is a howl of rage that speaks across the century, a timeless reminder that there is no romance in the needless carnage of war.


The Great War and Modern Memory

By Paul Fussell,

Book cover of The Great War and Modern Memory

Why this book?

This brilliant and original book is one of my favorites of any genre. It’s the perfect bookend to The Guns of August in that it illustrates the war’s effects on Europe’s people and culture, though the landscape it examines is literary and psychological rather than historical and political.

The war produced great literature because of the way it bridged the “old” complacent Europe with a “new” one that was pitiless and mechanized, Fussell posits. The effect of this sudden evolution constituted a psychological war-within-a-war for those who fought it. 

Writers such as Sassoon and Owen were able to let go of the past and face the war’s terrible “present” without flinching — to, as Lewis put it, blast their “way through all the poetic bric-a-brac” that defined that former age. 

The result was a depiction of the war’s truth that transcends its mere facts and forever changed the way we think about war.


Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front

By Richard Holmes,

Book cover of Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front

Why this book?

What was war like for the average British soldier – ‘Tommy’ - taken from civilian life and sent into the inferno of battle? This magisterial study is the best book about British soldiers and their wartime experiences. It explores reasons for enlistment, training, tactics, life in the trenches, and experience of battle. Although vast in scope, it never loses sight of the human side of war. This book presents presents a nuanced, fascinating, and touching study of the common soldier.


Survivors of a Kind: Memoirs of the Western Front

By Brian Bond,

Book cover of Survivors of a Kind: Memoirs of the Western Front

Why this book?

This is the kind of book that I wish I had written. In a series of individual essays, Brian Bond considers a variety of memoirs written by British participants of the Great War, detailing the author’s life and assessing the themes of their work. Some of the memoirs are familiar, such as Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves, whereas others are long forgotten. The result is a fascinating book that reveals the sheer diversity of wartime experience and how the authors struggled to cope with it.


The First Day on the Somme

By Martin Middlebrook,

Book cover of The First Day on the Somme

Why this book?

There is little that has not been said about this readable, engaging, and deeply moving account of the disaster on 1 July 1916 – the worst day in the history of the British Army. Middlebrook’s book was a revelation when it first appeared; utilising recollections and stories from veterans, whom Middlebrook met and interviewed, giving it an immediacy and power that captivated readers. The book charts the birth and development of Britain’s New Armies and their subsequent destruction on the Somme. Piece-by-piece Middlebrook examines how the battle was planned and prepared, before going on to detail the progress of the fighting at set-times, allowing us to grasp the ebb and flow of the battle. This remains a much-loved classic. 


Haig's Enemy: Crown Prince Rupprecht and Germany's War on the Western Front

By Jonathan Boff,

Book cover of Haig's Enemy: Crown Prince Rupprecht and Germany's War on the Western Front

Why this book?

Boff’s book, impressively researched with extensive use of rare primary sources, and winner of two impressive British book awards, examines the war life and times of Bavarian Crown Prince Rupprecht. In high command on the Western Front for the entire war, Rupprecht remained in position to witness the limitations of Prussian generalship, especially in 1914 and 1918; the growing preponderance of allied strength after U.S. entry in 1917; and divisive home front politics throughout Germany. He lost not only the war, but also a son, as well as his throne, which was swept away in the revolutionary upheaval at the war’s end. 


The Defeat of Imperial Germany, 1917-1918

By Rod Paschall,

Book cover of The Defeat of Imperial Germany, 1917-1918

Why this book?

Paschall brings to this book his insightful experience of army organizations and war as an infantry officer and veteran of the Vietnam conflagration. Readers can follow in detail the allied offensives of 1917, Germany’s last gasp effort to win on the Western Front in 1918 after Russia’s collapse in the east, and the retreat and breakdown of the once impressive German army in the waning months of the war.  


War of Attrition: Fighting the First World War

By William Philpott,

Book cover of War of Attrition: Fighting the First World War

Why this book?

This brilliant book pulls together many strands of the war, as presented through the lens of attrition. In his sweeping narrative, Philpott focuses on the land war – how it was fought and why, and how it evolved over 4 years – but War of Attrition also examines the politics and diplomacy of war, and the war at sea, in the air, and at home. Pound for pound, the best book yet written on the war-fighting years.


The Old Front Line

By John Masefield,

Book cover of The Old Front Line

Why this book?

Masefield, before his 50-year tenure as Britain’s Poet Laureate, spent the war writing dispatches from the front. This slim book from l917 is his honest, soberly graphic description of what the Somme battlefield looked like after the fighting moved on—an approach that conveys war’s horrors without any moralizing or exaggeration.


Morale: A Study of Men and Courage

By John Christopher Malcolm Baynes,

Book cover of Morale: A Study of Men and Courage

Why this book?

What enabled soldiers to maintain their morale in the inferno of the Western Front? This unique book explores the question by studying the soldiers of the elite 2nd Scottish Rifles at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915. It presents a fascinating micro-history of how a British battalion functioned in peace and in war. What type of men served in an elite unit? Where had they come from? What rules did they follow? Where did their loyalties lie? How did they maintain their spirit in the face of dreadful conditions and severe casualties? This book answers these questions and many more.


Fallen

By Lia Mills,

Book cover of Fallen

Why this book?

Set in the period 1914-1916, it follows the life of Kate Crilly, a young girl whose brother Liam has just been killed in the Great War. This loss binds Kate to Liam’s comrade in arms, Hubie Wilson. Meanwhile, the tensions of the Rising are at boiling point and Dublin is turning into a battleground as Kate doubles back and across the River Liffey checking on her family, her friends and her desperately ill sister. Mills excels at describing the nature of grief and how one lives with it, rather than dwelling on the immediate impact of the loss per se. Beautiful, limpid prose and imagery, really enjoyed.


Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars

By George L. Mosse,

Book cover of Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars

Why this book?

This may be the book that started it all. Mosse has many books that try to explain the rise of the Nazis in Germany who Mosse and his parents fled in the 1930s. Here Mosse describes how Nazis used the war dead from the First World War in an explicit attempt to harness the nationalism of Germans to support Nazi politics. Winter disagrees with Mosse and developed arguments that are probably more accepted by historians today but, for me, that doesn’t take away from the power of Mosse’s argument. Even though I don’t always agree with Mosse’s analysis, I can’t help but be engrossed by his writing, his passion, and his ability to describe how the war dead could be used as political weapons. 


Monash: The Outsider Who Won a War

By Roland Perry,

Book cover of Monash: The Outsider Who Won a War

Why this book?

John Monash was a master tactician and instrumental in some of the great Allied victories in 1918 on the Western Front. He was of German/Jewish heritage which didn’t sit well with some very powerful people. Famous journalist, Keith Murdoch along with Australian WW1 historian, CEW Bean were great critics and tried to convince the Prime Minister, Billy Hughes to relieve Monash of command. Even so, Monash held sway and developed tactics that British Commanders thought unworkable, and yet, they were very successful. His approach to fighting certainly shortened the war and gained him the respect of a nation. More importantly, he developed tactics to preserve the lives of his men, something that British commanders never considered. I certainly support efforts to have him posthumously promoted to the rank of Field Marshall, so great was his contribution to Australia in WW1.


A Whispered Name

By William Brodrick,

Book cover of A Whispered Name

Why this book?

A mystery novel, that tells a haunting, captivating story of the cost paid by one individual soldier at the battle of Messines Ridge. Impeccably researched, the reader is given a firm historical grounding of the physical, psychological, and geophysical costs of being at the explosive, bloody cutting edge of warfare on the Western Front.


Berlin at War

By Roger Moorhouse,

Book cover of Berlin at War

Why this book?

For most of us, wartime Berlin calls to mind sensational stories of Hitler and his henchmen, devastating Allied bombing, and of course, the terror and deportations that led to genocide. Without ignoring any of that, Moorhouse gives us a broader picture. Making liberal use of diaries, memoirs, and interviews, he shows us the war through the eyes of ordinary Berliners, revealing the surprising normality of most of their daily lives amid destruction, scarcity, and fear.


The Great War

By Les Carlyon,

Book cover of The Great War

Why this book?

I read this book cover to cover. It was incredible, full of well-researched detail and analysis. Les really got into the nuts and bolts of the Western Front and why things happened the way they did. It must have been exhausting to research, but well worth it. I found it invaluable in researching my own story. This book chronicles the reality of war in the trenches and goes much deeper than anything I’ve read before. Truly brilliant.


Somme Mud: The War Experiences of an Infantryman in France 1916-1919

By E.P.F. Lynch,

Book cover of Somme Mud: The War Experiences of an Infantryman in France 1916-1919

Why this book?

This is a first-person account of life in the trenches in France and Belgium in WW1. It’s actually a difficult read in places because his writing style is quite unusual and by no means eloquent, but once you get used to it, it’s truly intriguing. He wrote the book with a pencil on exercise books after the war, probably to try and exorcise his demons. It wasn’t until his family found it and took it to a publisher that his story came to light, a very frank and occasionally morbid description of war at its very worst but an essential read.


War Horse

By Michael Morpurgo,

Book cover of War Horse

Why this book?

This novel tells the same story that the film and the brilliant stage play are based on, with one important difference – the book is written from the point of view of the horse. Joey takes us from his foal hood, through his developing relationship with his owner’s son and eventually to the terrifying battles of the First World War. Michael Morpurgo uses the connection between Joey and the humans he meets to show the dreadful price that horses and people alike paid in that conflict and the fact that there were good people on both sides. I’m sure it deserves to be as much a classic as Black Beauty


My Ancestors' Wildest Dreams

By Ava Corinne Holloway, Amanda Loraine Lynch, Bonnie Lemaine (illustrator)

Book cover of My Ancestors' Wildest Dreams

Why this book?

This book shows young girls, especially young Black girls, that you can be a ballerina and that you can be anything you set your mind/heart to. I personally enjoyed it because it showcased young Black ballerinas having fun. It taught me that we can be just about anything in life. I would prefer this book to a friend or a parent to give to their young daughter(s) and teach them that being a ballerina is beautiful.