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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Book cover of The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War

The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War

By Peter Englund,

Why this book?

The Swedish historian stitches together diaries and letters from twenty unknown people - from a Hungarian cavalryman to a German schoolgirl, the American wife of a Polish aristocrat to an English nurse – to tell the history of the First World War as an epic tapestry, with dizzying novelistic shifts from banal human moments to a wide scope of political and military affairs. Riveting and emotional.

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The best books about memories of war

Book cover of Before Enigma: The Room 40 Codebreakers of the First World War

Before Enigma: The Room 40 Codebreakers of the First World War

By David Boyle,

Why this book?

This is a short punchy book that provides a great introduction to the topic of codebreaking in England during the Great War, giving a sweeping overview and then some entertaining and tantalizing stories about the people involved. At just over a hundred pages, this is a quick read that serves as a fun introduction to the topic.

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The best books about British intelligence in WW1

Book cover of The Doughboys: The Story of the AEF, 1917-1918

The Doughboys: The Story of the AEF, 1917-1918

By Laurence Stallings,

Why this book?

Stallings was there, on the frontlines, fighting. He was wounded, lost a leg. He received the Croix de Guerre from the French government and the Silver Star and Purple Heart from his government. Reading his book, you’re right there with the first Americans landing in France and then following them and those who came after right up until the armistice on November 11, 1918. He also published an award-winning photographic history of the war, wrote a novel about his experiences and, in 1924, with playwright Maxwell Anderson, co-wrote the famous play that twice was turned into a movie, “What Price…

From the list:

The best books on World War I and America's role in it

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.

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