The best World War 1 books 📚

Browse the best books on World War 1 as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Testament of Youth

Testament of Youth

By Vera Brittain

Why this book?

Just before World War I began, Vera Brittain finally got permission from her father to attend Oxford - then watched as her brother and all his friends went off to serve in the war. Vera left school to volunteer in the war herself, joining the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) as a nurse. Women in the VAD, like Brittain, largely had no medical backgrounds and learned their nursing skills on the job, trying - at times, frantically - to help put back the pieces as they watched the world shatter around them. Brittain's world was never the same, and her autobiography…

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The best books that are all about womanpower

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Book cover of Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I

Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I

By Michael Neiberg

Why this book?

This book provides a radically alternative perspective on what this event meant for ordinary people. Using a wide range of letters, diaries, and memoirs, Neiberg reveals that most people had no idea what the war was about and saw no good reason for it, while the soldiers were often confused as to whom they were fighting and which part of the world they were in. It is a short book but an enlightening read.

From the list:

The best books to truly understand the First World War

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Book cover of The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century

The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century

By David Reynolds

Why this book?

David Reynolds is simply one of the smartest and most original historians operating today. Do we imagine that no one thought much about the poems of Wilfred Owen until the 1960s? Do we think about how important the fiftieth anniversary of the Somme was for the politics of Ireland? This book is packed full of perceptive and original insights about the Great War’s very long legacy.

From the list:

The best books on the legacy of the First World War

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Book cover of All Quiet on the Home Front: An Oral History of Life in Britain During the First World War

All Quiet on the Home Front: An Oral History of Life in Britain During the First World War

By Richard Van Emden, Steve Humphries

Why this book?

Wonderfully readable, and full of first-hand accounts via interview and letter, this book tells you what it was really like for the people of Britain during WW1 – the rationing, the blackout, the Blitz, the shortages; how the women took over the men’s jobs, from driving railway engines to ploughing the fields; the emotional impact of dealing with the flood of wounded and the deaths; and the hardship and increasing mental problems as the war seemed never to be going to end.

From the list:

The most readable books on World War 1

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Book cover of 1914 Days Of Hope

1914 Days Of Hope

By Lyn MacDonald

Why this book?

Lyn Macdonald is my go-to historian for WW1, and I only pick out this volume – she has written one for each year of the war – because if you want a thorough, detailed account of the war you will want to start at the beginning. She is a fine writer, and very readable, and her books are full of extracts from letters and diaries of the men at the front, and their families back home, which give you the genuine, authentic flavour of how people thought and spoke at the time, and allows you to feel you were really…

From the list:

The most readable books on World War 1

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Book cover of Mr. Britling Sees It Through

Mr. Britling Sees It Through

By H.G. Wells

Why this book?

H. G. Wells coined the wildly optimistic phrase “A war to end wars” in l914, but four bitter years later he would sadly admit “This war is the worst thing that’s ever happened to mankind.” His autobiographical novel traces the emotional and intellectual arc of this journey from idealism to disillusionment; a bestseller in l916, it still packs a punch, the testament of a compassionate, highly-civilized man powerless to stop the world’s agony.

From the list:

The best books that are unjustly forgotten from World War One

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