499 books directly related to World War 1 📚

All 499 World War 1 books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Testament of Youth

By Vera Brittain,

Book cover of Testament of Youth

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 will give you a glimpse of World War I like you've never seen before.


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

By Peter Englund,

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

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.


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

By David Boyle,

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

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.


A Rifleman Went to War

By Herbert Wes McBride,

Book cover of A Rifleman Went to War

Why this book?

An excellent narrative of the experiences of a Canadian infantry officer who served in France and Belgium from Sept. 1915 to April 1917. There is a lot of emphasis on the sniping weapons utilized by the Allied forces during the early part of the war.


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

By Laurence Stallings,

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

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 Glory.” If you want to know what World War I was like for America, it’s well worth the read.


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

By Michael Neiberg,

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

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.


Enduring the Great War: Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies

By Alexander Watson,

Book cover of Enduring the Great War: Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies

Why this book?

Amid the industrial war of fire and fury, a key question remains on how the soldiers survived. Watson’s book explores the experience for British and German soldiers, drawing upon their letters and diaries. Enduring the Great War offers new ways to understand the war of the trenches, how morale was sustained, and it provides an inner portrait into the men who took in the grinding warfare.


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.


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

By Richard Van Emden, Steve Humphries,

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

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.


1914 Days Of Hope

By Lyn MacDonald,

Book cover of 1914 Days Of Hope

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 there.


Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War

By Jerry White,

Book cover of Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War

Why this book?

Having grown up in London in the aftermath of WW2, and playing on its bomb sites, I was well aware of the WW2 Blitz. But like most people, I had no idea that London was heavily bombed during the first war as well. This book is detailed and fascinating, and as well as the raids themselves, it goes into a lot of related topics, such as the black-out, prostitution, munitions factories, pub closing hours and the drive for teetotalism, refugees, women’s work, and the aftermath. Well-written and illustrated with photographs, it’s an excellent look at how London fared through the darkest days of its history.


Suicide of the Empires: The Battles on the Eastern Front, 1914-18

By Alan Clark,

Book cover of Suicide of the Empires: The Battles on the Eastern Front, 1914-18

Why this book?

This book brings to life a part of the war Western readers know far too little about: the vast battles that ranged back and forth across Eastern Europe and Russia. Two of the three armies involved, those of Tsarist Russia and Austria-Hungary, were spectacularly incompetent, and saw their soldiers needlessly slaughtered by the millions before these two empires dissolved under the war’s impact.


A Hilltop on the Marne

By Mildred Aldrich,

Book cover of A Hilltop on the Marne

Why this book?

The good news? After a long career as an editor in Boston, Ms. Aldrich retired to her beloved France in June l914. The bad news? The cottage she bought was only a few miles behind the front lines once the war started later that summer. This is her eyewitness account of what the Great War does to her adopted village, and memorably combines two literary genres that would seem to be incompatible: a book of simple rural pleasures with a book on war.


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.


The Real Dope

By Ring Lardner,

Book cover of The Real Dope

Why this book?

How’s this for a challenge? Write a humorous book during World War One that can still make readers laugh 100 years later. That’s exactly what Lardner does here, when he turns his famous character Jack Keefe, the semi-literate, big-talking baseball pitcher into a soldier and sends him boasting and bragging to “Nobody’s Land,” where he hilariously ducks every dangerous situation he’s put in.


The Guns of August

By Barbara Wertheim Tuchman,

Book cover of The Guns of August

Why this book?

If you want one book to understand how the first month or so of World War 1 played out, there is only one place to turn. Tuchman’s book is beautifully written, with a rich tapestry of characters and events, it covers the major events in Europe in August and early September 1914. It is largely seen through the eyes of ‘great men’the military and political leaders of the daywhich makes it slightly dated by today’s standards, but the skill and humanity of the reader and the sheer scope of the narrative will keep you in their thrall.


Caporetto 1917

By Cyril Falls,

Book cover of Caporetto 1917

Why this book?

Some books, like Alistair Horne’s The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916, have stood the test of time. The same is true of this work, first published in 1965. Caporetto (Karfreit to the Germans) was an epic mountain struggle, brutal and deadly. It was fought in October and November 1917 in the 2,000-meter-high Julian Alps. Snow, sleet, rain, fog, and poisonous gas dominated the battlefield. Otto von Below’s German Fourteenth Army, using new innovative infiltration tactics, surprised Luigi Capello’s Italian Second Army. By the end of October, the Italians had been driven south to the Piave River. Only the hasty dispatch of five British and six French divisions helped stabilize the front. Rome’s postwar investigation of the disaster revealed that there had been 43,000 casualties, 265,000 to 275,000 prisoners of war taken and 3,000 artillery pieces lost. Most shockingly, roughly 350,000 deserters and civilian stragglers clogged the roads. The adversary had sustained fewer than 70,000 casualties. At Rapallo, the Allies created a Supreme War Council to improve military cooperation and to devise a common strategy.

The legacy of Caporetto is both military and literary. As Italy’s worst ever battlefield catastrophe, it created the myth of Italian military ineptness as well as the tactical brilliance of a Württemberg infantry captain named Ernst Rommel: Infantry Attacks (1944). And on the literary front, the first-person 1929 fictional account of the battle from the ambulance driver Frederic Henry established Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms as the “premier American war novel” of the First World War.


World War One: A Short History

By Norman Stone,

Book cover of World War One: A Short History

Why this book?

This is undoubtedly the best overview of the war. It really is short and takes the reader on a brisk, witty, and thoroughly enjoyable canter through the events. Yet it is by no means superficial. Thoughtful and insightful, it is the work of a master.


No Man's Land: 1918 The Last Year of the Great War

By John Toland,

Book cover of No Man's Land: 1918 The Last Year of the Great War

Why this book?

Pulitzer-Prize winning author Toland, in a riveting style, gives us a detailed account of what it was like on the Western Front in 1918 for the British and French armies, their leaders and their soldiers, but more importantly for America, its crucial role and for its men, from President Wilson and General Pershing down to the mud-splattered private on the frontlines. He also delves into the Russia Revolution. When you finish this book, you get a full understanding of the war and what it was like during that last year.


The Illusion Of Victory: America In World War I

By Thomas Fleming,

Book cover of The Illusion Of Victory: America In World War I

Why this book?

The late historian, Thomas Fleming, was a friend. It was an article he wrote for American Heritage magazine in 1968, “Two Argonnes,” about his father, a lieutenant in the 78th Division, that inspired me to write my first World War I book centered on my great uncle as the main character, Duty, Honor, Privilege: New York’s Silk Stocking Regiment and the Breaking of the Hindenburg Line. The author of 19 books, The Illusion of Victory, his last book, Fleming paints a different picture of America’s role in the war, showing how President Wilson and our country were “duped” by Great Britain and France to enter the war, thinking the war was almost won. He not only writes about the Western Front, but goes into detail about the home front. After reading his book, you’ll get a different perspective on World War I. In 2020, to honor one of our most imminent historians, Military History Quarterly magazine inaugurated the annual Thomas Fleming Award for outstanding military history writing.


Borrowed Soldiers, Volume 17: Americans Under British Command, 1918

By Mitchell A. Yockelson,

Book cover of Borrowed Soldiers, Volume 17: Americans Under British Command, 1918

Why this book?

A leading archivist at the Modern Military Records Branch at the National Archives, Yockelson, another good friend, tackled a subject rarely covered, United States troops attached to the British where they fought with very little recognition back home for their valor on the battlefields of Flanders and the Somme. Two National Guard divisions, the 27th from New York State and the 30th from North and South Carolina and Tennessee, formed the American II Corps. They took part in some of the bloodiest battles of the war. The 27th Division’s 107th Regiment from New York’s wealthy Upper East Side broke through the vaunted Hindenburg Line and in doing so lost more men on a single day of fighting than any regiment in United States history. I write about that regiment in my book, Duty, Honor, Privilege. Yockelson’s book covers it all for those Yankee troops fighting alongside the Brits.


Parade's End

By Ford Madox Ford,

Book cover of Parade's End

Why this book?

Ford Madox Ford's magnificent multi-volume novel about British society up to and through the First World War was written out of the author's own experience and appeared in 1924. It was Ford's belief that a novelist should be a "historian of his own time". In this, he brilliantly succeeded. The events he chronicled are now 100 years in the past, but the trilogy is still a wonderfully complex set of psychological novels with an intricate plot that traces the consequences of a lie through British society before and during WWI. It is also a moving and delicate love story, and an exposé of the kinds of self-serving alliances and maneuvers still so unfortunately characteristic of the upper reaches of governments, even in democracies.

For those interested in military history Volume 3: A Man Could Stand Up is one of the most powerful descriptions of life in the trenches ever written. It is based on Ford's own experience serving with a Welsh Regiment, in which he enlisted in 1915 at the age of 45. Suspenseful, thoughtful, beautifully written, and profound.


The Ghost Road

By Pat Barker,

Book cover of The Ghost Road

Why this book?

The culmination of the trilogy, The Ghost Road, continues Barker’s exploration of the morality of war as the war draws to an end.  Dr. Rivers’ successful treatment of Billy Prior has resulted in Prior’s return to the front where he prepares to enter the war’s final battles, detailing his experiences in a diary.  Rivers’ himself continues to care for patients while revisiting pivotal scenes from his own past.  


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.


Poilu: The World War I Notebooks of Corporal Louis Barthas, Barrelmaker, 1914-1918

By Louis Barthas,

Book cover of Poilu: The World War I Notebooks of Corporal Louis Barthas, Barrelmaker, 1914-1918

Why this book?

A day-to-day chronicle of a remarkably observant Frenchman who served from the beginning to the end of the war, this fascinating book is full of minute observations, perceptive insights, and the real, gritty texture of military life, service at the front, visits home, and confrontations with civilian life and politics. Barthas recounts all of this with an engaging immediacy and passion that makes the reader sad to part company with him at the war’s end.


Goodbye to All That

By Robert Graves,

Book cover of Goodbye to All That

Why this book?

This book is poet Robert Graves’ personal memoir of his service with the British Army during and just after the First World War. This book really moved me. What you really get from it is a sense of how war can completely change someone's psyche. It is full of insight and pathos and unsettling imagery, as depicted when Graves sees the ghosts of dead soldiers that he recently fought with as he marches down the road. Later, after he is sent back to England, he looks at the peaceful landscape and his mind tries to work out where in this setting he would deploy his machine guns, the war and its demands having gotten to the bottom of his soul.


Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany

By Isabel V. Hull,

Book cover of Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany

Why this book?

No one has dissected the military culture of the German Army with such a sharp analytical scalpel as Isabel Hull. This book, “a study in institutional extremism,” takes us deep into the mind of the German military. Hull argues that since the Franco-German War of 1870, German military leaders began to conceive of war as not over until complete military victory was obtained. This insight led her to the controversial contention that Germany’s large-scale slaughter of the Herero and Nama in Southwest Africa was not primarily a result of racism or of genocidal impulses in German culture generally, but of operational doctrine.


Le Grand Meaulnes

By Alain Fournier,

Book cover of Le Grand Meaulnes

Why this book?

Clumsy peasant schoolboy, Meaulnes, and his friend – the narrator of this haunting story – get lost, and happen upon a great house, deep in the woods, where a phantasmagorical fancy dress party is underway. Everything at ‘the lost domain’ is topsy-turvy. Children are in charge. The passage of time is suspended. Social inequality has been erased.   The time the boys spend there is dream-like, disconcerting, life-spoiling because nothing can ever be so strange and marvelous again.  

Later, after much searching, Meaulnes make his way back, but the domain is like youth itself. If you return, it will be to find everything drabber than you remembered,  and the people you adored merely human. 

This book is even greater than its reputation.  Generally thought of as one of the last works of romanticism, a celebration of illusion, it is actually clear-eyed, tough-minded, bracingly truthful about the inevitably of disillusion. Alain-Fournier was killed in action in the first weeks of World War I at the age of twenty-seven. No going back for him.


In the Mountains

By Elizabeth von Arnim,

Book cover of In the Mountains

Why this book?

Immediately after the war, a bereaved woman returns alone to her family’s summer home in the Swiss Alps. It is a beautiful place, but she’s terrified of the memories it stirs, and haunted by the ghosts of those she’s lost. When a couple of lost English widows happen upon her house, she seizes eagerly on their company and the distraction they provide. She invites them to stay, and quickly forms an intense and rather desperate attachment to them. This novel gives a fine evocation of a time when so many felt displaced, when it was as if the tectonic plates of civilised existence had shifted the safe ground from beneath their feet. We see the journey of (eventually) a quartet of bereaved and war-shattered people towards a sort of healing, wholeness, and peace – as well as a new tolerance towards the differences of others.


Antic Hay

By Aldous Huxley,

Book cover of Antic Hay

Why this book?

Set in London in the early 1920s, Huxley’s Antic Hay follows a cast of young bohemian and artistic characters, all affected in various ways by the Great War, as they search for SOMETHING to give meaning to their lives. London has changed, the world has changed, and they are lost. Cripplingly shy Theodore Gumbril, the main character, (inventor of Gumbril's Patent Small-Clothes, trousers which contain an inflatable cushion in the seat) searches for love, and meaning, in the shattered society following the end of the war. His search for love – including the donning of a false, confidence-boosting beard, makes for an absurd kind of comedy. Antic Hay is a savage satire, a switchback of emotions, swooping between humour and despair – though the slight plot does sometimes get rather side-lined by intellectual discussions and I admit to skipping the odd page. However, it gives an excellent flavour of the mind-set of what is sometimes known as the ‘Lost Generation’.


The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War

By Bill Gammage,

Book cover of The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War

Why this book?

Bill Gammage was a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University in the early 1970s, when military history was so unfashionable he had to find a PhD supervisor among academics with whom he played football. He was the first to realise the value of the Australian War Memorial’s collection of soldiers’ letters and diaries, collected from the 1920s but which, astonishingly, no one had used. Bill used them to write a thesis published in 1974 as The Broken Years, which revealed that to Australians in the Great War it meant ‘nationhood, brotherhood, and sacrifice’. The Broken Years has appeared in several editions by several publishers, the most recent (lavishly produced and illustrated) in 2010, and it has stimulated approaches to the writing of Australia’s military history that remain standard today.


I Spied for France

By Marthe Richer,

Book cover of I Spied for France

Why this book?

Marthe Richer’s memoir is a bookend to Mata Hari’s story because her wartime French spy handler, Captain Georges Ladoux, was the man who had framed Mata Hari. A prostitute before the war, Richer was recruited by Ladoux to spy for France, which she did effectively. After the war, however, she claimed to have been a double agent who passed French secrets to a German official (no one really knows the truth). Richer observed that Mata Hari “was exactly what I was myself, however, I was decorated with the Legion d’honneur and Mata Hari was executed.” Later she pursued a political career and campaigned to close French brothels.


Lars Porsena: On the Future of Swearing

By Robert Graves,

Book cover of Lars Porsena: On the Future of Swearing

Why this book?

No one has ever heard of this book, but it is hilarious! Written by the inimitable poet, critic, author, and wit Robert Graves, it is a rumination on the future of swearing and improper language. Graves had a wonderful ability to talk about things of the utmost gravity in a way that, while not displacing their significance, allowed us to laugh about them. His were, as someone once said, “jests too deep for laughter”. Perhaps at no time in history was such a capability more culturally appropriate and important than during the First World War. Swearing bursts onto the mainstream in this era because, as Graves puts it in Lars Porsena with typical wry insouciance, “Silence under suffering is usually impossible.”


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”.


Ottoline Morrell: Life on a Grand Scale

By Miranda Seymour,

Book cover of Ottoline Morrell: Life on a Grand Scale

Why this book?

Miranda Seymour sits at the head of critical and biographical writing on the literary elite at the time of the war. This book about an outrageously flamboyant aristocrat who knew intimately the cream of literary and political society in Britain is a must. Ottoline was rumoured to have had a long-term dalliance with H. H. Asquith, the Prime Minister who took the empire into war. She cultivated (and was said to have had affairs with) almost all the great minds of the era. Miranda Seymour’s elegant writing gives us an unforgettable window on the world at a point of profound change- sexually, creatively, and perhaps most importantly, across boundaries of class and race. A delight!


The Roses of No Man’s Land

By Lyn MacDonald,

Book cover of The Roses of No Man’s Land

Why this book?

This is the very best book on nursing during the First World War. Packed with first-hand accounts of the ‘roses’ and their heroic efforts to nurse the wounded during and after that ghastly war that killed so many and destroyed the lives of many more who survived. Expertly contextualized, the author included the memories of the soldiers who were nursed and comforted by these extraordinary women who rose to the Government’s plea to ‘do their bit’. It is a profoundly moving book that should be read by anyone interested in the First World War and its painful aftermath.


Land of Aching Hearts: The Middle East in the Great War

By Leila Tarazi Fawaz,

Book cover of Land of Aching Hearts: The Middle East in the Great War

Why this book?

Understanding the First World War is fundamental to understanding today’s Middle East. The book offers us an impressive account of the Greater Syria at war, the region that encompasses Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, and Southern Turkey. Viewing the war from a social history perspective, we read various experiences of the fishermen, peasants, deserters, migrants, entrepreneurs, profiteers, and foreign soldiers from the colonial army of Britain against the backdrop of a “changing Middle East.”


War and State Formation in Syria: Cemal Pasha's Governorate During World War I, 1914-1917

By M. Talha Çiçek,

Book cover of War and State Formation in Syria: Cemal Pasha's Governorate During World War I, 1914-1917

Why this book?

Based on a wide array of archival sources, the book discusses the Ottoman governance of Greater Syria during the First World War. During the war, the Ottoman government-appointed Cemal Pasa, one of the chief names of the ruling Committee of Union and Progress, as the commander of the Fourth Army and the military governor of Ottoman Arab provinces to lead a campaign against in the British-held Suez Canal. However, in addition to the military aim of this appointment, there was also a political and social one that can briefly be summarized as further centralization of the state through the “iron fist” of the governor. The book presents us the power struggle in the region between the Ottoman government, Arab leaders, Zionists, and the Central Powers (the allies of the Ottoman Empire during the war) who attempted to increase their influence in the region after the British and French were declared enemies.


Demian

By Hermann Hesse,

Book cover of Demian

Why this book?

Self-realization and the duality of human nature are the dominant themes of this coming-of-age story. Emil Sinclair, the narrator, and protagonist of the book, struggles between light and dark, good and bad, and Damian, Sinclair’s mysterious classmate, and friend, helps Sinclair reach eventual self-awareness. Damien is a fascinating psychological analysis of a vulnerable youthful soul in search of its own true identity and that’s why it’s perfect for young adults and/or individuals who aim to discover their own unique path in life. As an addict of such themes, I read this book in college and still re-read it (now and then) when in self-doubt.


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.


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.


Goodbye, Mr. Chips

By James Hilton,

Book cover of Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Why this book?

Goodbye, Mr. Chips is supposed to be a sentimental paean to a lost England. I am here to say that this is wrong. The sentiment in Goodbye, Mr. Chips is a true sentiment: a sentiment for what was lost – the ideal of the gentleman – and grief for what those good, earnest teachers turning out schoolboys had done: turned boys, with all their enthusiasm and courage and hope, into meat for the grinder of the First World War. Goodbye, Mr. Chips is not the story people think it is. Read it and see.


Perilous Love

By Jan Selbourne,

Book cover of Perilous Love

Why this book?

Perilous Love by Jan Selbourne is an unforgettable World War I romance novel that pulled my heartstrings and brought me to tears. Adrian Bryce has a hot and steamy affair with his mistress—instead of being with his estranged wife, Gabrielle, and their children. However, circumstances bring Adrian and Gabrielle together, and he must keep his wife safe in the midst of the dangers of war. I was intrigued by the themes of trust and forgiveness, and how Adrian chooses to let go of the past and fall in love again with the person he married. I was glad I gave this bad boy a chance, and I felt emotionally attached to Adrian and Gabrielle’s ‘second chance’ romance story. 


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!


Mrs. Dalloway

By Virginia Woolf,

Book cover of Mrs. Dalloway

Why this book?

No great events, nothing unusual happens in Mrs. Dalloway’s 140-odd pages. It took my breath away, though, because of Virginia Woolf’s microscopic examination of her main characters’ personalities through their own thoughts. You reach a point where it’s hard to believe the writer knows so much about them, knows how their minds work. And all this takes place in a single day in central London. Clarissa Dalloway, wife of an MP, is putting on a dinner party that night and she needs flowers. What a ridiculously creaky springboard from which to launch one of the world’s greatest novels! But it works, rewarding the persistent, avid reader. First published in 1925, Mrs. Dalloway will be read forever.


Frankreichs Außenpolitik in Der Julikrise 1914: Ein Beitrag Zur Geschichte Des Ausbruchs Des Ersten Weltkrieges

By Stefan Schmidt,

Book cover of Frankreichs Außenpolitik in Der Julikrise 1914: Ein Beitrag Zur Geschichte Des Ausbruchs Des Ersten Weltkrieges

Why this book?

Conventional histories give the French a free pass concerning the causes of World War I: the French leadership is commonly described as being literally out-of-touch (on a battleship coming back to France). Schmidt’s brilliant archival research shows that the French were fully aware that the Austrians were going to issue an ultimatum to the Serbs and encouraged the Russians to support a Serb refusal and a Russian military attack on Austria. (My addendum: the French plan is a mirror image of the Russian plan – the French would tie down the Germans in the West and the Russians hordes would overwhelm the Germans in the East.)


Contesting the Origins of the First World War: An Historiographical Argument

By Troy R. E. Paddock,

Book cover of Contesting the Origins of the First World War: An Historiographical Argument

Why this book?

Paddock brings together the work of three revisionist historians, myself, McMeekin, and Schmidt, in one slim (136 pages) volume. In particular, Paddock gives access to Schmidt’s important work on French planning for those who do not read German. Paddock not only presents German, Russian, and French military planning, but correlates them. The result is a fundamentally new and convincing picture of pre-war military planning and diplomacy.


The Watermelon Boys

By Ruqaya Izzidien,

Book cover of The Watermelon Boys

Why this book?

Again set in the Middle East, this novel about Ahmad and Carwyn, Arab and Welsh, who are both drawn into the war on its Eastern Front, is an absorbing story from a part of the world that has been neglected in World War I fiction. The two men are both betrayed by the English in different ways, and Izzidien’s Iraqi-Welsh heritage allows her to draw a compassionate picture of both protagonists. It also shows how the rapacious European colonialist mentality that underpinned the entire war created the conditions for terrorism and strife in the region today.


German Strategy and the Path to Verdun: Erich Von Falkenhayn and the Development of Attrition, 1870-1916

By Robert T. Foley,

Book cover of German Strategy and the Path to Verdun: Erich Von Falkenhayn and the Development of Attrition, 1870-1916

Why this book?

Foley’s solid analysis of “the path to Verdun,” a horrible battle in 1916 that inflicted a million casualties, opens with an informative discussion of recent work on the Schlieffen Plan that brings Ritter’s book up to date. Next, he provides an in-depth look at General Staff Chief Erich von Falkenhayn’s attempt to win a sweeping victory on the Eastern Front in 1915. Like Tannenberg, however, extensive gains could not eliminate a vexing enemy. Thus Falkenhayn turned to the west with operational plans almost as ingenious as Schlieffen’s. He wanted to smash through the seemingly impregnable fortress zone of Verdun in a week or so, and then unleash additional forces held in reserve against the British farther north. But the French held; the British unleashed a preemptive offensive of their own astride the Somme River; and the Germans had to desperately hold onto their own lines.   


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.  


Julia's Gifts

By Ellen Gable,

Book cover of Julia's Gifts

Why this book?

Sometimes what we seek is right in front of us, while we’re looking and wondering elsewhere. That’s what happens to the heroine of Julia’s Gifts by Ellen Gable. She’s so determined to bring a daydream to life that she almost misses the real thing. This first book in the Great War Great Love series takes place during World War I. The story reminds readers that the light and hope of love remain bright even amid the horrors of war. You’ll cheer for the hero and heroine to stay connected when the war threatens their love just as it starts to grow. A special element in this book is the inclusion of beautiful, original sonnets, something I’ve never before encountered in a historical romance.


A Farewell to Arms

By Ernest Hemingway,

Book cover of A Farewell to Arms

Why this book?

A Farewell to Arms is a great read, even today. Dialogue is Hemingway’s strength and the story of two star-crossed lovers who experience an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and ends in tragedy puts the reader right in the middle of the war. Lt Fredric Henry is an American who enlists in the Italian army as a Red Cross ambulance driver before the US formally entered the war. Nurse Catharine Barkley is a British nurse he falls in love with. Published in 1928, this novel deals with taboo subjects for that time in history (such as unwed pregnancy) and desertion, so certain parts were censored in the first edition. The most faithful version of this book is the 1957 Rock Hudson/Jennifer Jones movie.


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. 


Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea

By 0679456716,

Book cover of Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea

Why this book?

Massie is a university-trained “popular” historian, that is, he writes especially for the broad, history-loving public audience rather than for professorial specialists. In Castles of Steel, his term for the biggest ships of that day, he succeeds in surveying the entire war at sea in World War One: the Pacific, the South Atlantic, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, the U-boat (i.e. submarine) - infested sea lanes to Britain and France, and of course the critical North Sea, where Britain and Germany squared off against one another for the entire war (1914-1918), not just at Jutland. His fine, very well-written work serves as a lengthy introduction for readers wishing later to probe deeper into the various theaters of the war at sea.


The Escape of the Goeben: Prelude to Gallipoli

By Redmond McLaughlin,

Book cover of The Escape of the Goeben: Prelude to Gallipoli

Why this book?

When war erupted in August 1914, Germany stationed two ships, battlecruiser Goeben and light cruiser Breslau in the Mediterranean to reinforce the fleets of her allies, Italy and Austria-Hungary. Together they planned to overwhelm outmatched British and French vessels and clear the way for an Italian invasion of southern France. In a shocking development, however, Italy remained neutral, Austria-Hungary’s lesser squadrons remained in port, and Goeben and Breslau were forced to flee from British pursuers. In an exciting chase – somewhat of a story twist on the Royal Navy’s hunt and sinking of Hitler’s battleship Bismarck in May 1941 – British ships failed this time and the German escapees fled through the Dardanelles to Istanbul, joined the navy of the Ottoman Empire, and facilitated Turkey’s entry to the war on Germany’s side.     


The Red Gods Call

By Paul L. Errington,

Book cover of The Red Gods Call

Why this book?

This book is less about Biology and more about becoming a biologist. Errington spent his youth outside, hunting, trapping, and fishing in the still largely pristine environment of South Dakota. Although hunting later "became ritualistic" he then continued the rest of his life feeling "called" into the wild and learning about nature there, leading him to go to graduate studies, but continuing all his life to long "for the authentic." It was a romantic activity to be close to nature, and a joy to learn that there are rules of order driving the complexity of "natural relationships." He validated for me loving the wild and wanting to be part of it all, noticing and savoring it, imprinting on it, being one with it. It made getting close to the land to feel the freedom of it in the wild outdoors, as from the 1893 Rudyard Kipling poem, "The Young Men's hearts are troubled for the whisper of the Trees" and the Red Gods make their medicine.

Errington's love of the wild was mirrored in my own and amplified it because I identified with the "natural state" of authenticity, and with getting something from the land that then bound me to it.


Mary Bridgette

By Dannie Roan,

Book cover of Mary Bridgette

Why this book?

Mary Bridgette is a story of World War I, and the main character joins the Salvation Army to go overseas to serve. What drew me to the heroine and the book was the premise that someone who has never left the tiny town in which she lives would travel thousands of miles into a war zone to help strangers. Before reading the story, I didn’t know much about The Great War, and the author weaves information throughout the story to educate and inform the reader. I finished the book admiring the women who volunteered to serve despite personal danger.


1919: Volume Two of the U.S.A. Trilogy

By John Dos Passos,

Book cover of 1919: Volume Two of the U.S.A. Trilogy

Why this book?

Dos Passos’ USA trilogy was a project of the 1930s with 1919 at its center. In its time, the trilogy was a literary precursor of multimedia as we know it today, a mix of fictional narrative and non-fiction documentary.  For me at college age, it was a revelatory journey into the human layers between the 20th-century events of the larger world that I would be entering in search of who I was and would be. Centered on World War I, an industrializing America, and an exotic Paris, it would give me my first effective exposure to the places in which I would live and travel, and the stories I would not begin to tell with my own writing until fifty years later. 


From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, Volume I: The Road to War, 1904–1914

By Arthur J. Marder,

Book cover of From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, Volume I: The Road to War, 1904–1914

Why this book?

Anyone interested in the Royal Navy before 1914 has to read this book. It is the only book on the run-up to the First World War written following discussions with figures from the time and based upon original research on unreleased materials in the Admiralty Record Office. Many of the sources it uses have since been destroyed. It, thus, has a unique view of what went on and why. It is beautifully written, too.


Britain and the Mine, 1900-1915: Culture, Strategy and International Law

By Richard Dunley,

Book cover of Britain and the Mine, 1900-1915: Culture, Strategy and International Law

Why this book?

Underwater weapons of all types have had a major influence on naval warfare in the twentieth century. Despite this, studies of them to date have not been all they might be either in terms of quantity or quality. Richard Dunley rectifies this in respect of the mine with a major evaluation of its place in Royal Navy thinking and planning in the first decade and a half of the twentieth century. As a result, this is an important book and a major contribution to the literature.


Memoirs of an Infantry Officer: The Memoirs of George Sherston

By Siegfried Sassoon,

Book cover of Memoirs of an Infantry Officer: The Memoirs of George Sherston

Why this book?

Sassoon chronicled the war’s psychological, emotional, and physical landscape in several books of poetry and a three-part, partly-novelized memoir in which he cast himself as a typical well-off Englishman, George Sherston. The tale — of which Memoirs of an Infantry Officer is the second installment — follows Sassoon’s/Sherston’s evolution from a dreamy, poetic youth into a brave and loyal officer who eventually comes to publicly oppose the war. (An act that famously landed in him a psychiatric hospital, where he met a budding poet named Wilfred Owen.) 

Sassoon’s matter-of-fact depiction of life in the British trenches, with its wild and sudden swings between boredom and terror, is indispensable. His literal description of that life gradually takes on the quality of a hallucination as the reality of the war hardens in his mind and in the reader’s.


The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen

By Wilfred Owen,

Book cover of The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen

Why this book?

Like Sassoon, Owen entered the war as a “dreamy” youth interested in literature and art. Unlike Sassoon, though — whom Owen idolized — Owen did not survive the war. He was killed in action on November 4, 1918, a week before the war ended.

Owen wrote all of the poems for which he is remembered between August 1917 and September 1918. His experience of the war turned him from “ a very minor poet to something altogether larger,” writes C. Day Lewis. “…It was a forced growth, a revolution in his mind which, blasting its way through all the poetic bric-a-brac, enabled him to see his subject clear — ‘War, and the pity of War.’ The subject made the poet: The poet made the poems, which radically changed our attitude toward war.”

The hallmarks of Owen’s poetry are his compassion for the frontline soldier and the precision and clarity with which he deploys metaphor to — ironically — render an unflinching portrait of the war’s destruction.

“Red lips are not so red/As the stained stones kissed by the English dead,” begins “Greater Love,” my favorite from the collection. The poem’s title summons the romanticism and optimism of the pre-war world, as does its opening words, “Red lips.” But the couplet flips that pretense and ends with “the English dead” lying face down and bloodied in the mud.  Red, a color often used in connection with the idea of “life” and “love” has been eternally corrupted, as has England and Europe and what Owen termed its “doomed youth,” their vitality drained from them in senseless slaughter.


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


Till We Meet Again

By Julie Muller,

Book cover of Till We Meet Again

Why this book?

I was very pleased to read that book. It comforts us to know that the people we lost are living through us, through our actions I share the author's view that the world we live in is not our home. Like the author, I think we're just passing through this world, which means we will all see each other again when the time comes.


The Green Rust

By Edgar Wallace,

Book cover of The Green Rust

Why this book?

One of the most prolific thriller writers of the early 20th century, Edgar Wallace wasn't alone in writing speculative fiction employing new technology that reflected concerns over the First World War. He wasn't alone in fearing biological weapons as in the Green Rust in which Germany planned to use to release germs that would wipe out much of earth's wheat, giving Germany domination after their surrender at the end of the Great War.

The biological weapon in the Green Rust wasn't Wallace's first use of a concept that would be employed countless times ever since; his 1913 The Fourth Plague had an Italian gang called the Red Hand blackmailing England with their own biological threat much in the spirit of what Blofeld and his Spectre would try out in the thrillers of Ian Fleming.

Later, Wallace’s Little Green Man and Other Stories also anticipated the technology of the future, including a computer-controlled hidden camera and infrared photography.


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.


Good-Bye to All That: An Autobiography

By Robert Graves,

Book cover of Good-Bye to All That: An Autobiography

Why this book?

Best known as the author of I, Claudius, poet Robert Graves writes movingly about his experience in World War I. He began as a patriotic young officer of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, but life in the trenches, class conflict, bureaucracy, and loss of friends in combat made him a different man. A shell fragment pierced his lung at the Battle of the Somme; he was expected to die but somehow survived. His experience can be compared with Keegan’s account of the Somme. After the war he suffered from what today would be called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder—startled at loud noises and any smell that reminded him of poison gas in the trenches. I love this book because it brings poetic sensitivity to the experience and effect of combat.


War and Nature: Fighting Humans and Insects with Chemicals from World War I to Silent Spring

By Edmund Russell,

Book cover of War and Nature: Fighting Humans and Insects with Chemicals from World War I to Silent Spring

Why this book?

War and Nature is an innovative and thought-provoking look at the relationship between chemical warfare and insecticides that intersects military history, environmental history, and cultural history. Edmund Russell weaves together many disparate threads of inquiry into a cohesive and compelling story about how military tools can transition into commercial uses. War and Nature convinced me to study chemical warfare in my academic career more than any other book.


In the Foreign Legion

By Erwin Rosen,

Book cover of In the Foreign Legion

Why this book?

This is the ultimate in precise, deliberate, and informed military nonfiction writing. I related to the protagonist as he is a young german who is curious to see the world in 1905. He makes the fateful decision to join the legion and lives through the horrors of service therein, all the while describing the glory, valor, and traditions of this mysterious corpos. The author manages to describe very real events, organize them in a compelling manner, and elucidates a special moment in history.


Female Tommies: The Frontline Women of the First World War

By Elisabeth Shipton,

Book cover of Female Tommies: The Frontline Women of the First World War

Why this book?

Shipton’s book is a brilliantly researched account of the thousands of incredible women who refused to sit at home knitting socks when war began. Using diaries, letters and memoirs, she tells the story of the women who put on uniforms of various hues to drive ambulances, carry stretchers, nurse the wounded and even to bear arms close to the frontlines of World War One. They included the wonderful Flora Sandes who went to Serbia to nurse casualties and ended up joining the Serbian Army. It’s a testimony to women’s bravery, daring and refusal to take no for an answer.


Finding Thoroton: The Royal Marine Who Ran British Naval Intelligence in the Western Mediterranean in World War One

By Philip Vickers,

Book cover of Finding Thoroton: The Royal Marine Who Ran British Naval Intelligence in the Western Mediterranean in World War One

Why this book?

British Intelligence during the First World War is most known for the work of Room 40, which led to the more famous Bletchley Park in the next World War; however, another crucial part of the operation was all the agents in the field that reported to the same man who spearheaded the codebreaking. Those in the Mediterranean were under the command of Charles “the Bold” Thoroton, and this book, written by his granddaughter’s husband, is an enthralling peek into the life of an agent on the ground. From fascinating stories of how unnamed agents found the information the Admiralty was desperate for to being targeted by counter-agent femme fatales, Finding Thoroton reveals information not to be found in any other book, compiled through careful research. A fascinating read.


Make the Kaiser Dance: Living Memories of a Forgotten War: The American Experience in World War I

By Henry Berry,

Book cover of Make the Kaiser Dance: Living Memories of a Forgotten War: The American Experience in World War I

Why this book?

Numerous fascinating first-hand accounts of American “Doughboys” who saw front-line service in World War I. Many of the stories are poignant and personal.


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.


Your Death Would Be Mine: Paul and Marie Pireaud in the Great War

By Martha Ann,

Book cover of Your Death Would Be Mine: Paul and Marie Pireaud in the Great War

Why this book?

One of the very best books in English about France during this time, Hanna mines a treasure trove of letters between a married peasant couple from southwest France to tell an intimate history of the war, of its effects on families, women, villages, men, and the countryside. War stories take place on battlefields, of course, but also in homes and in hearts. Anyone wanting to understand the experience of the Great War at the front, on the home front, and everywhere in between, should start here.


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.


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.


Spike Island: The Memory of a Military Hospital

By Philip Hoare,

Book cover of Spike Island: The Memory of a Military Hospital

Why this book?

A biography of an extraordinary building: the biggest hospital ever built, to contain the casualties of Britain's biggest and worst wars from Crimea to World War Two. Perhaps the most original work of medical historical writing in the English language, as the ghosts of the nurses, doctors, and their broken shell-shocked patients haunt its pages and its writer through his family connections.


The Whistlers' Room

By Paul Alverdes, Basil Creighton,

Book cover of The Whistlers' Room

Why this book?

A small and beautiful story of three young soldier casualties who lie in a German hospital ward as the Great War grinds its way to an end. They've survived the bullet wounds to their throats and faces that have reduced each of their voices to a whispering whistle. But there is little left of their lives beyond survival, despite the efforts of their dedicated surgeon and their devotion to each other. A novella, based on the real-life experiences of the author, his comrades, and the English PoW they met in the Whistlers Room.


Mud, Blood and Poppycock: Britain and the Great War

By Gordon Corrigan,

Book cover of Mud, Blood and Poppycock: Britain and the Great War

Why this book?

The shout line on the jacket is “This will overturn everything you thought you knew about…The First World War”, and it certainly delivers. No other conflict has been so misrepresented, and for most people, their idea of it comes straight from Blackadder Goes Forth. But men did not spend months at a time in the trenches; a whole generation did not die; the generals were not cowardly, incompetent fools.

When I first began to write about WW1 for my Morland Dynasty series, I knew as little as anyone, and what I thought I knew was all wrong! By the time I was researching for War At Home, I knew a lot more, but Corrigan opens my eyes to many more subjects. Informative, well-researched, but above all wonderfully readable, this book should be required reading for anyone who is interested in what really happened, not just the made-for-tv version.


Hell's Foundations: A Town, Its Myths and Gallipoli

By Geoffrey Moorhouse,

Book cover of Hell's Foundations: A Town, Its Myths and Gallipoli

Why this book?

A striking look at the devastating impact the war had on one English town, hundreds of whose young men died in the disastrously bungled Gallipoli campaign.


Mr. Britling Sees It Through

By H.G. Wells,

Book cover of Mr. Britling Sees It Through

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.


The Winds Of War

By Herman Wouk,

Book cover of The Winds Of War

Why this book?

Although a war novel, in essence, Herman’s second book in the trilogy is infused with a great deal of history. Wartime offers an author a wide spectrum of events, be they political or economic, philosophical or psychological, or personal challenges, which add dimension and emotional impact. In this regard, Herman’s novel offers readers a riveting rollercoaster ride on The Winds of War.


Blood on the Snow: The Carpathian Winter War of 1915

By Graydon A. Tunstall,

Book cover of Blood on the Snow: The Carpathian Winter War of 1915

Why this book?

The book is a stunning tale of death and disaster. In February 1915 one Austro-Hungarian army and one German army tried to relieve the Russian-besieged Habsburg fortress of Przemyśl and its 120,000-man garrison. The Austro-Hungarian troops advanced along the 1,200-meter high ridges of the Carpathian Mountains in snowstorms and dense fog. Intermittent sleet, snow, wind, and ice battered the men. Temperatures plummeted to -25 degrees Celsius. Sudden thaws turned the battlefields into seas of mud. Men either froze to death or drowned in the ooze. Hunger, starvation, disease (typhus and cholera), frostbite, and wolves took their toll. Horses and dogs became a dietary staple. Life expectancy was down to five or six weeks. Countless troopers committed suicide.

The butcher’s bill was astronomical: 800,000 casualties, more men than would fall at Verdun or the Somme one year later. Despite the deadly relief effort, the Przemyśl garrison surrendered to the Russians on 23 March 1915. The Habsburg Army had lost its most experienced officers and noncommissioned officers. The Austrian official history referred to the once-proud Royal and Imperial Army after February 1915 as little more than a “militia” force. Its vaunted commander, Conrad von Hötzendorf, lost both respect and reputation. In the author’s words, the Carpathian Winter War was the “Stalingrad of World War I.”


The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916

By Alistair Horne,

Book cover of The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916

Why this book?

Although originally published almost 60 years ago, this work remains a classic account of the longest battle of the war, a battle that still stands as the most symbolic of the war for France. The only book on my list that is not focused on an individual’s experiences, or those of a few people, this broader account of the huge battle nonetheless captures the many ways individuals experienced its horrors. Horne is a vivid writer and skilled historian, and this work has stood the test of time as a key work not only about the Great War but also about the modern French nation as a whole.


Second Harvest

By Jean Giono, Louis William Graux, Henri Fluchere, Geoffrey Myers

Book cover of Second Harvest

Why this book?

A bit of a cheat, this one. It’s probably my favourite French novel, precisely because it is timeless and seems to ignore everything about French history. I don’t think there’s one mention or symptom of the Revolution, no scar of the First World War, no French over-intellectualizing. It’s just nature and humankind going head-to-head in a brutally realistic, but starkly beautiful, Provençal landscape. By the way, I don’t like the English title – Regain means regrowth, the first signs of recovery. Personally, I’d prefer a title like Signs of Life. And this novel is all about a tiny hamlet in southern France that is on the verge of death. Only one man of working age remains amongst the ruined houses; the fields are fallow; there are no women. Then a tinker comes through, dragging his unwilling, abused femme with him. She catches the lone male peasant’s eye, cosmic chemistry occurs, and from then on everything is an explosion of primeval forces: hormones, sprouting seeds, bodily fluids, cruel nature harnessed by a man and woman determined to forge a new existence. And it’s all told in a subdued, sparse, non-intellectual way that is a bit like a baguette – flour, water, salt and yeast are all you really need for a tasty, satisfying loaf.


The Fortress: The Siege of Przemysl and the Making of Europe's Bloodlands

By Alexander Watson,

Book cover of The Fortress: The Siege of Przemysl and the Making of Europe's Bloodlands

Why this book?

This book not only tells the fascinating story of the great siege in 1914-15 of the supposedly impregnable fortress of Przemyśl. It is a highly readable and often darkly humorous account, based on an extraordinary array of sources in several languages, paints a vivid picture of the political and military shambles into which the Austro-Hungarian Empire had fallen. With chilling precision, it also identifies the presence of many of the germs which would flourish into the horrors which visited the same area in the following decades.


The Secret Battle

By A.P. Herbert,

Book cover of The Secret Battle

Why this book?

Herbert served as a junior infantry officer in Gallipoli and captured his experiences in one of the grittiest and most credible accounts of the horrors of that campaign in this early anti-war novel. His hero is a brilliant young Oxford graduate (Herbert was himself an Oxford man and served as MP representing the University of Oxford from 1925 – 1940) named Harry Penrose who suffered fear, doubt, and mental illness on both the Ottoman and Western Fronts – like so many of his contemporaries. Herbert captures the injustice of wartime courts-martial in which gallant officers were condemned for failing to carry out unreasonable orders. “That is the gist of it,” the narrator concludes in the novel, “that my friend Harry was shot for cowardice – and he was one of the bravest men I ever knew.”


Sea and Sardinia

By D.H. Lawrence,

Book cover of Sea and Sardinia

Why this book?

“COMES over one an absolute necessity to move.” Has there ever been a more appropriate opening line to any travel book? D H Lawrence moved to Sicily right after the First World War and from there got the itch to board a ship and visit Sardinia to the north with his wife Frida. He was hoping to find a primitive, pre-modern society, where men were men and women were women. He did indeed find them and was appalled. But delighted too. It’s hard to think of a book with more fun in it, more self-mockery, more pathos, and more poetry. Not to mention the descriptions of Sardinia. To die for.


Orson Welles's Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind

By Josh Karp,

Book cover of Orson Welles's Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind

Why this book?

I’ve been a fan of Josh Karp’s for years. So much so, that at this point I just blindly trust his taste. If he thinks something is worth writing about, I tend to end up agreeing. In Orson Welles’ Last Movie, he puts on his private-eye hat and starts digging into the legendary Citizen Kane director’s unfinished final film, The Other Side of the Wind (it was completed after Karp’s book was published and aired on Netflix). Yes, the story is about an auteur’s quest to realize his vision against crushing odds, but it’s also about something much larger—a promising young genius who tragically flamed out too soon and battled with every last breath and cent to do what he was born to do. Parts of it almost read like a Shakespearian tragedy.


Hitler's First War: Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment, and the First World War

By Thomas Weber,

Book cover of Hitler's First War: Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment, and the First World War

Why this book?

Weber is another outstanding and original historian. Here he takes apart all the myths that have accumulated around Hitler’s military service in the First World War, showing that Hitler was a mediocre soldier with a relatively safe job who got medals because the officers knew who he was. Weber also shows how crucial a (legendary) version of Hitler’s war service was to his rise to power.


Sagittarius Rising

By Cecil Lewis,

Book cover of Sagittarius Rising

Why this book?

Pilots in World War One were a breed apart. They had embarked on the creation of an entirely new dimension of warfare and, in many aspects, leaped off the earth like gods while the Tommies, poilus and doughboys battled in the trenches and mud below. But these warriors were doing so in the most harrowing conditions, in flimsy wood and canvas biplanes, risking hypoxia and hypothermia, anti-aircraft fire, and deadly dogfights, and, on the Allies’ side, being shot down without parachutes. Little wonder that fighter pilots lived on average for less than three weeks at the front. Cecil Lewis describes the exultation and the brutality of this war in sharply etched, often lyrical prose. The extraordinary thing is how he loved the air war: “To be alone, to have your life in your own hands, to use your own skill, single-handed, against the enemy. It was like the lists of the Middle Ages, the only sphere in modern warfare where a man saw his adversary and faced him in mortal combat, the only sphere where there was still chivalry and honour,” The air war was violent and deadly; in Lewis’ hands, it was also beautiful and moving.


Behind the Enigma: The Authorized History of Gchq, Britain's Secret Cyber-Intelligence Agency

By John Ferris,

Book cover of Behind the Enigma: The Authorized History of Gchq, Britain's Secret Cyber-Intelligence Agency

Why this book?

This is the long-anticipated authorized history of GCHQ, one of Britain’s most top-secret intelligence agencies that was published in 2020. John Ferris was granted rare access to the majority of the archives at GCHQ headquarters in Cheltenham.  This volume of over 800 pages provides an open assessment of the crucial role of GCHQ in the most important defining moments of the 20th and 21st centuries; from the codebreakers of the First World War, to breaking of the German Enigma codes in the Second World War, and to contemporary times with the betrayal by whistleblower Edward Snowdon in 2013. Ferris has not been tempted to glamourize GCHQ’s contribution and legacy but provides an honest account that acknowledges that much intelligence work can be laborious. But this does not deflect from the agency’s achievements and fascinating history.


Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East

By Scott Anderson,

Book cover of Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East

Why this book?

T.E. Lawrence, best known from David Lean’s monumental film, is the centerpiece, but this book goes well beyond biography. It has the pace and feel of a thriller, but the research and analytical thinking of a serious historic account. Anderson, a novelist and war correspondent, finds the roots of today’s Middle East turmoil in World War I. He finds alliances, intrigue, and deceit that foreshadowed the turbulent future. His story provides valuable insight into the international politics that shaped the Mid-East after World War I, and set the stage for the dissonant future.


Adventures of a Bystander

By Peter F. Drucker,

Book cover of Adventures of a Bystander

Why this book?

Peter F. Drucker is the most famous and influential management thinker of the 20th century. He grew up in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which fell at the end of the First World War. His classic education, his knowledge of history, his broad horizons, his understanding of business processes make him unique among management thinkers. He outshines them all. And he is an outstanding, captivating writer. Anyone who wants to learn and understand about management must read this book. I have read it three times. I mourn this late friend.


The History of the American Expedition Fighting the Bolsheviki Campaigning in North Russia 1918-1919

By Joel R. Moore, Harry H. Mead, Lewis E. Jahns

Book cover of The History of the American Expedition Fighting the Bolsheviki Campaigning in North Russia 1918-1919

Why this book?

The best account of the futile Allied attempts to keep Russia in the war.   Largely ignored, mainly because it was politically embarrassing and.  Still worse, through no fauly of the army, it was militarily unsucessful.  But the intervention left lasting scars, and consequences were fatal for the remainder of the century. 


Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War

By Tammy M. Proctor,

Book cover of Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War

Why this book?

I’d always imagined the femme fatale, Mata Hari, as the female spy of WWI, but in this well-researched book by Tammy Proctor, I was fascinated to learn there were quite a few women agents in the Great War. Proper ladies, in long dress skirts or nurses’ uniforms, each playing her part in a dangerous game of subterfuge against the enemy to help the Allies win. They knew the risks, yet were willing to sacrifice their lives for what they saw as the greater good; and it was these women who inspired me to create the heroine in my book, Evelyn Marche. Her bravery and daring in the novel are a tribute to them.


Women and the First World War

By Susan R. Grayzel,

Book cover of Women and the First World War

Why this book?

This is an excellent introduction to the varied experiences of women in the war, both those on active service as workers or volunteers, those who were victims of the war, fleeing their homes as refugees, and those who remained at home, carrying out domestic roles as wives and mothers in what were often difficult circumstances. It is a book I regularly recommend to my students. Although no book could cover all nations and contexts in a four-year global war, it shows not only how the war had an impact on millions of women’s lives, but also how women’s actions had significant impacts on the war and its legacies. It has a useful chronology of the war, and a good bibliography for further reading.


Sunset Song

By Lewis Grassic Gibbon,

Book cover of Sunset Song

Why this book?

I received this as a prize at school when I was fifteen and passages like this spoke to me: “...you wanted the words they'd known and used, forgotten in the far‑off youngness of their lives, Scots words to tell to your heart, how they wrung it and held it.” My Ayrshire community spoke Scots so it was life changing to read this message by an author from a different time and a different place who was  intensely relevant to my own situation. Being discouraged or even punished for speaking Scots in school, led us to learn English pretty quickly and this bi-lingual tension gave us an advantage learning other languages like French and German which I studied at University. But I will always be grateful to Sunset Song for making me aware of how important the Scots language was to our identity as Scots: “And the next minute that passed from you, you were English, back to the English words so sharp and clean and true ‑ for a while, for a while, till they slid so smooth from your throat you knew they could never say anything that was worth the saying at all.”


The Russian Army in the Great War: The Eastern Front, 1914-1917

By David R. Stone,

Book cover of The Russian Army in the Great War: The Eastern Front, 1914-1917

Why this book?

There is a shortage of good books on the military aspect of the war on the Eastern Front, with some of the most prominent books in English (and for that matter in Russian) dating back nearly fifty years. Stone’s volume is a prominent exception in this regard. Stone is thoughtful, concise, and judicious throughout. Readers will emerge with a comprehensive view of combat operations – and more.


When the War Came Home: The Ottomans' Great War and the Devastation of an Empire

By Yiğit Akın,

Book cover of When the War Came Home: The Ottomans' Great War and the Devastation of an Empire

Why this book?

The book is a well-written account on the Ottoman home front detailing the Ottoman experience of the Great War from a perspective of social history. It deals not only with the difficulties of the Ottoman conscription and the provisions, but also provides deep insight into the lives of women, Armenian deportees, and refugees. The book tells us that besides the political and military defeats it was the home front that mattered when it came to the legitimacy of the empire; after all the suffering that the population had to endure, people were alienated from the state and began to question the very idea of the empire itself.


Tower of the Winds: Works on Paper

By Weimin He,

Book cover of Tower of the Winds: Works on Paper

Why this book?

Weimin was the university's artist-in-residence recording the restoration of the C18th Observatory and Radcliffe hospital, the bulldozing of the site, and the building of the Maths Institute and Blavatnik School of Government near Jericho. This historic collection of art evokes past, present, and future, and Town and Gown. The artist comes from Manchuria so to me, it represents Oxford as an international city.

This book is only available from the author, email Weimin He for a signed copy for £20 plus postage. 


Bloody Victory: The Sacrifice on the Somme and the Making of the Twentieth Century

By William Philpott,

Book cover of Bloody Victory: The Sacrifice on the Somme and the Making of the Twentieth Century

Why this book?

The Battle of the Somme 1916 was the longest and bloodiest battle ever fought by the British Army. In popular imagination, the battle tends to focus on its first day – 1st July 1916 – when British forces suffered almost 60,000 casualties. Yet the battle was much more than this single, dreadful day and the fighting would rage for another 140 days. What happened? This meticulously researched book tells the full story of the Somme campaign and shows how it was planned and fought. It is immense in scope, taking the reader from the corridors of high politics to the smoldering shell holes of no-man’s land. Ultimately, it reaches provocative conclusions that may change your thinking about the battle.


Traveler's Companion to Montana History

By Carroll Van West,

Book cover of Traveler's Companion to Montana History

Why this book?

The author, a history professor and Tennessee State Historian, provides an in-depth look into Montana history, region by region. The academic tone is nicely balanced by the people and events presented on the pages – plain folk to preachers and everything in between. A great companion to Jonathan Raban’s Badland.


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. 


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. 


Johnny Got His Gun

By Dalton Trumbo,

Book cover of Johnny Got His Gun

Why this book?

War sucks, man. And strangely, there aren’t many books about war! I can’t think of a single one. Really a missed opportunity on the part of the writer community at large. I mean, just think of the movies that could be made on the topic! Hollywood, take notes.

/s, as the kids say. More seriously: this book is claustrophobic on a cellular level. Reading it feels like suffocating in the dark. Extrapolate the ending of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream into an entire book about the horrors of war, and that’s Johnny Got His Gun.


Fear: A Novel of World War I

By Gabriel Chevallier, Malcolm Imrie (translator),

Book cover of Fear: A Novel of World War I

Why this book?

Not as well known as Henri Barbusse’s great novel Under Fire (Le feu), Chevalier’s book should be on everyone’s shelf of works on the Great War. This aptly titled novel is very obviously based on Chevalier’s own experiences serving as a soldier at the front. The writing is haunting and evocative of the extreme trauma of combat, the miseries of life in the trenches, and the emotional responses of young soldiers to the broader society that sent them to war. 


The Living Unknown Soldier: A Story of Grief and the Great War

By Jean-Yves Le Naour, Penny Allen (translator),

Book cover of The Living Unknown Soldier: A Story of Grief and the Great War

Why this book?

With some 1.5 million men dead, and several million more wounded, the story of France and the Great War is in many ways simply the story of grief, and this work captures that beautifully. Through the tragic, true story of a wounded amnesiac veteran whose name and family are unknown, Le Naour tells the crucial story of women, families, and an entire culture in mourning, in many ways hopelessly. Yet the veteran and the people who try to help him or claim him as their own retain their dignity and humanity in this account.


Catch a Kiss

By Deborah Diesen, Kris Aro McLeod (illustrator),

Book cover of Catch a Kiss

Why this book?

It’s a special sadness children have when they lose something given to them by someone they love. Izze misses a kiss blown to her by her mother. No matter how hard she tries to catch it, she can’t. Her mother is wise and doesn’t just tell her it will be alright. Instead, she tells Izze a story and soon Izze is blowing kisses into the wind. The interaction is heartwarming.


A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic

By Walter Lord,

Book cover of A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic

Why this book?

After the sinking of the Titanic, public interest in the disaster ended abruptly with the all-consuming tragedy of the First World War. It wasn’t until 1955 when Walter Lord wrote the definitive account of the sinking, A Night To Remember, that interest in Titanic was reignited across the world. Lord had sailed on the Titanic’s sister ship Olympic as a child and developed a fascination with the Titanic, collecting old newspaper cuttings and memorabilia. His parents thought him very odd.  

Lord carried his preoccupation with Titanic into adult life. While working in an advertising agency in New York in the 1950s, some forty years after the sinking, Lord realised that many survivors would soon be reaching the end of their lives and would no longer be able to tell their stories. He took out advertisements inviting survivors to get in touch, interviewing sixty passengers and crew.

A Night To Remember became an immediate bestseller and to this day is considered to be the definitive account of the sinking – as is the black-and-white movie of the same name, based on Lord’s book. As Newsweek put it at the time, "It tells you what it’s like to be on a sinking ocean liner."


Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era

By Chad L. Williams,

Book cover of Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era

Why this book?

Torchbearers is a pathbreaking history of the fight for American democracy during World War I, told from the perspective of African American servicemen who joined, fought, and returned from battle. Already engaged in conflict over civil rights in the US, African Americans took seriously the call to “make the world safe for democracy.” Through writing, activism, and organizing, they linked their domestic fight to the foreign fight against democracy’s enemies. Perhaps no other group in the US, Williams shows, was poised to engage the very biggest questions that animated the war – questions of citizenship, rights, freedom, and empire – as were African Americans. And their wartime service, he shows, was the crucible for the long freedom movement that followed.  


Highland River

By Neil M. Gunn,

Book cover of Highland River

Why this book?

I choose this book because it gives me the most haunting sense of landscape and place. The author was from the northeast corner of Scotland and it was in his blood. I find it incredible that he’s able to capture it so deeply. We can feel these things, but to put them on paper is something else, a different skill. But somehow he manages to take you with him and to bring that landscape to life in the most incredible and powerful way. I suppose my greatest compliment to this book is that I wish I’d written it myself.


The Directorate

By Berthold Gambrel,

Book cover of The Directorate

Why this book?

While The Directorate follows a fairly typical path for sci-fi thrillers, its characters are what stand out. The Earth and human colonies on the moon and Mars have united after years of war and created one military/police force. Lieutenant Theresa Gannon is a loyal, young officer suddenly thrust into stardom as the person who foiled a terrorist attack. But as a broiling rebellion heats up and Gannon is now rubbing shoulders with generals and politicians, she starts questioning where her loyalties truly lie. 


Those Splendid Girls: The Heroic Service of Prince Edward Island Nurses in the Great War

By Kathleen Dewar,

Book cover of Those Splendid Girls: The Heroic Service of Prince Edward Island Nurses in the Great War

Why this book?

More than 115 PEI women served as nurses in the First World War, and this book provides rich details about their individual and collective experiences. The author carried out meticulous research to gather the nurses’ stories from a wide range of sources and she writes about that service with admiration. Helping to convey the nurses’ varied experiences are a large number of photos and several maps which locate the overseas hospitals and other facilities where they served. Despite all they accomplished, the PEI nurses—like nurses from other parts of North America—were largely greeted by a “great silence” when they returned from overseas. Those Splendid Girls makes an important contribution to the history of women and nursing during the First World War. 


A Mathematician's Apology

By G.H. Hardy,

Book cover of A Mathematician's Apology

Why this book?

I read this in one gulp at the age of sixteen, but it has remained part of my mental furniture to this day. There is a story from the First World War of a Cambridge don accosted in the street with a demand to explain why he was not at the front. "Madam, I am the civilisation they are fighting to preserve." Written in a very dark time, it is a celebration of the value of intellectual endeavour independent of practical utility. Beautifully written it gives genuine insight into the nature of mathematical thought.


The Thirty-Nine Steps

By John Buchan,

Book cover of The Thirty-Nine Steps

Why this book?

I could never forget the name of Richard Hannay from this book as it’s chiselled into my heart. The first review I had on the first novel I wrote came from a Scottish woman, who was a school headmistress, comparing my protagonist to John Buchan’s (a Scottish Writer) Richard Hannay in his The Thirty-Nine Steps. That review caught the eye of a film producer and the rest, as they say, is history. I had a great time doing about twenty-five or more Waterstone’s Book shop signings and having a six-year paid option for the book to become a thirty-million-dollar film. 


Titanic: Minute By Minute

By Jonathan Mayo,

Book cover of Titanic: Minute By Minute

Why this book?

I can’t tell you how many times I consulted Jonathan Mayo’s Titanic: Minute By Minute book, checking that the Titanic’s timeline fit in with what my characters were doing at any given time. It’s non-fiction, and it’s nail-bitingly intense. The book is written in present tense, giving you a sense of urgency as Mayo tells you where everyone is, and what is happening at varying parts of the ship at that exact moment. It helps ground you in reality: The truth was, many of Titanic’s crew and passengers didn’t know the ship was sinking. And many of those who did genuinely believed another ship would arrive long before anything serious could actually happen. Mayo uses both accounts from passengers who survived the sinking, as well as the crew member’s testimony from the British and American Titanic inquiries. 

If you’ve ever wanted to know exactly what happened the night Titanic sank, don’t look any further. Just read Titanic: Minute by Minute.


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.


Birdsong

By Sebastian Faulks,

Book cover of Birdsong

Why this book?

This is the most touching love story I have ever read. I do not tend to read period dramas, and so I was hesitant to read a book set during the first world war. However, this book had me in tears so many times. I read this book over ten years ago, yet it is still my favorite love story of all time to date. Beautiful, just beautiful.


Megiddo's Shadow

By Arthur Slade,

Book cover of Megiddo's Shadow

Why this book?

Several things drew me to Megiddo's Shadow: 1.) It is based on author Arthur Slade’s research of his grandfather’s experience as a teenager—age 16—in the Canadian-British calvary. 2.) It takes place in 1917 during World War I. 3.) Much of the action takes place in the Middle East. Even though this story does take place on the battlefield at times, the primary story is not about military campaigns. Rather, it’s about a young man who begins his journey as a patriot with visions of grandeur, yet has his ideals of heroism and courage turned upside after his experiences in war.


The Parisian

By Isabella Hammad,

Book cover of The Parisian

Why this book?

This is a recent first novel, set mostly in France, about a young Palestinian man who goes there to study medicine and falls in love with the daughter of his host. I’m still reading it, and admiring the sureness of touch, the knowledge of history, and above all the sense of the period – it’s set before World War 1 and continues through the 20th century. Brava, Isabella Hammad!


Biggles of 266

By Captain W.E. Johns,

Book cover of Biggles of 266

Why this book?

Johns wrote nearly 100 Biggles books, with this one published amongst the first in 1932. He actually fought in WW1 as a pilot, then was shot down, and became a prisoner of war. So he certainly knows whereof he speaks, and this carries through in his descriptions of fighting in the air and the loss of friends. Nevertheless, this book is essentially light-hearted despite its moments of pathos, being aimed primarily at what would be called today “young adults.” I loved them as a boy and love them today as an adult. The plot and characters are not complex, but if you want to be entertained while finding out how a pilot who fought in the conflict approached WW1 flying, this is an excellent and enjoyable read by someone who was there.


The God of All Small Boys

By Joseph Lamb,

Book cover of The God of All Small Boys

Why this book?

James is sent away to live with his mill-town relatives in this nostalgic, coming-of-age novel set against the backdrop of Dundee during WW1.

Some summers were made for growing up…

Dundee, 1917. When his father goes to fight in the war, 11-year-old James is sent to live with his mill-town relatives and his cousin, Billy. At first, James feels lost and alone: his cousin hates him, the school bully is after him, and he is worried about his father’s safety. Gradually, he finds a new world of friendship, freedom, fun, and The God of All Small Boys, in a summer that will change his life forever...

I found this story both funny and sad, and altogether emotionally gripping. Highly engaging, and full of historical details of Dundee during the First World War – a sure favourite for middle grade readers.


Feet in Chains

By Kate Roberts, Katie Gramich (translator),

Book cover of Feet in Chains

Why this book?

My father was Welsh, and so I’m drawn to Welsh stories and history. Feet in Chains is about Jane and Ifan Gruffydd’s struggle to keep body and soul together on their small holding near Caernarfon, and raise their children. Ifan is a quarryman, at the mercy of powerful employers who can lower wages or increase hours at will. Kate Roberts was herself the daughter of a quarryman and was brought up on her parents’ smallholding in Caernarfonshire. Like two of the Gruffydd children, she won a scholarship enabling her to attend school. She became a teacher, but had to give up her career when she married because of the marriage bar on women. Her personal experiences give the novel much of its power. 


After Jutland: The Naval War in Northern European Waters, June 1916-November 1918

By James Goldrick,

Book cover of After Jutland: The Naval War in Northern European Waters, June 1916-November 1918

Why this book?

Also published by the Naval Institute Press, Goldrick’s work smashes the widely held view that the German navy, allegedly so demoralized by its lesser losses at Jutland – but casualties that included flagship battlecruiser Lützow – that it never ventured to sea again. On the contrary, the German fleet, emboldened by inflicting much greater losses on the British, set to sea again in August 1916 reinforced with two new 15-inch-gun battleships. Even stronger in April 1918, it went out again, this time with Lützow’s replacement, Hindenburg. Jutland-like engagements almost occurred, but interesting circumstances prevented the two fleets from missing one another and another slugfest. Goldrick also details operations in the Baltic Sea as well as many other aspects of North Sea warfare after Jutland (e.g. mining campaigns) left out of other works.  


The Secret Life of Violet Grant

By Beatriz Williams,

Book cover of The Secret Life of Violet Grant

Why this book?

Williams is another of my absolute favorite authors. I love anything she writes, but I chose to showcase the Schuler Sisters series because, again, it consists of an overarching saga with some fantastic mystery elements. Williams’ strength is that she is able to place the reader directly in the scene with her perfect attention to detail without overdoing it. She expertly weaves multiple storylines in different eras to produce one delicious book.  


Why the Whales Came

By Michael Morpurgo,

Book cover of Why the Whales Came

Why this book?

There are only a few characters, and a very distinct, small setting (the Scilly Isles), but as always Morpurgo packs a great deal in.

 Family relations, small-minded community prejudice, the effect and impact of war, myth, the power of land and seascape, the meaning of nationhood, all wonderfully threaded into a simple tale that builds and builds to a perfect ending.

 And of course, being a Morpurgo tale, it is beautifully written.


The Toymakers

By Robert Dinsdale,

Book cover of The Toymakers

Why this book?

Set in 1917, during an era that I have always been particularly drawn to, The Toymakers is one of those rare books that manages to capture magic in a way that feels both whimsical as well as deeply poignant – it truly reads like a fairy tale for adults set against the tragic backdrop of the First World War. Reading this book was like reading the first Harry Potter book – I was totally captivated and transported back in time to London and the Emporium (a wonderful magical toy shop). This book had me spellbound – both in terms of the enchanting forms of magic employed by the toy-makers as well as the darker aspects of their lives and the secrets uncovered.


Gallipoli

By L.A. Carlyon,

Book cover of Gallipoli

Why this book?

As a researcher and Historian, L.A. Carlyon was a genius. Gallipoli was a WW1 campaign that failed for the Allies; the brainchild of Winston Churchill and a complete disaster. And yet, it was the first big battle fought by Australians under a National identity and has been written into folklore. Many saw this as the blooding of our nation. What I really loved about this book is that it went into the deep truth about Gallipoli, things I never imagined could have happened, and a land offensive that was never supposed to happen. What we were taught at school was a long way from the truth and it really opened my mind.


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.


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.


Of Human Bondage

By W. Somerset Maugham,

Book cover of Of Human Bondage

Why this book?

This book’s magic comes from its plot. I would say it is the most unputdownable book I have ever read. But once again, it deals with a simple human experiencein this case, of a young man obsessed by a woman. There are times when you feel like shouting at the main male character: “Don’t do it! Don’t do it!” And of course he does do it, and you want to find out what happens. I remember that I recommended this novel to a friend, who didn’t believe it could be so unputdownablebut he found himself staying up until the early hours of the morning, unable to stop reading this novel. In a way, I think Of Human Bondage will influence me more as a writer in the future than it has so farbecause one day I would like to write a heavily plot-driven novel. 


The End of War

By John Horgan,

Book cover of The End of War

Why this book?

There is little time to read and so I prefer short, pithy books. In this one, Horgan examines the various theories of war, finding most of them wanting. Reducing inequality, improving food production, and providing security all help reduce violence, but there is, he concludes, no single, magic cure. Instead, we have to work, hard, smart, and tirelessly, to create non-violent means to resolve disputes and punish trespassers. “If we want peace badly enough, we can have it…”


Fighter Heroes of WWI: The Extraordinary Story of the Pioneering Airmen of the Great War

By Joshua Levine,

Book cover of Fighter Heroes of WWI: The Extraordinary Story of the Pioneering Airmen of the Great War

Why this book?

Barely a decade after The Wright brothers’ first tentative take-off, flying machines were thrown into the scorching crucible of war in Europe. The men who flew them were pioneers, members of what many saw as a military flying club. But the flying club soon developed into a bear-pit of mortal combat, fought behind synchronised machine guns without the solace of a parachute. Levine paints his pictures with the personal accounts and anecdotes of the pilots that fought these battles, seeking to understand the feelings and motivations of the young men who volunteered to risk all in the frightening new theatre of aerial warfare. These truths, are in many instances, stranger than fiction, forged, as they were, on the cutting edge of the new aviation technology.


Cockatoos

By Quentin Blake,

Book cover of Cockatoos

Why this book?

As a young boy, I always loved Quentin Blake. Although Quentin Blake’s style is very different from mine, I have always admired how much expression and humor he can convey in so few marks. 

This book taught me that you can learn to count in a fun way, with a story that is not ostensibly about counting, but actually, that is what you end up doing. I love the element of surprise on each page. I have always loved books that challenged me through pictures, making me spot differences or hidden elements on the page.


Beyond The Moon

By Catherine Taylor,

Book cover of Beyond The Moon

Why this book?

This is Taylor’s debut novel and like my book, the time slip element takes us back to World War 1 in 1916. Louisa is admitted to Coldbrook Hall Psychiatric hospital after an accident in which she is believed to have tried to commit suicide. Whilst there she slips back to her days at a hospital treating wounded soldiers and falls in love with Robert Lovett. Not only must she find a way to remain with him, but she must find him when he is taken prisoner on the Western Front. The detailed descriptions of life in the trenches really brought the horrors of WW1 to life. Taylor has researched this area thoroughly and her vivid writing style allows the reader to experience the cold, muddy, and rat-infested conditions for themselves. 

The author’s observations on everyday life during the war add interest and are sometimes surprising, for instance, the fact that West End shows were still running, the attitudes towards women undertaking war work, and the consequences of shell shock for those returning to normal life. I also liked that Louisa finds an ally who believes her story and helps her rather than dismissing her as delusional. 

This book contrasts with many time slips in that Louisa is mistaken for a woman from the past and takes on her identity, living her life when it is tragically cut short. 

My only reservation with this story is the portrayal of Coldbrook Hall in the present. Louisa is admitted against her will and whilst we know this is entirely possible, I found it unlikely she would be considered suicidal it would be clear to anyone involved that the landslide was a natural occurrence and not a suicide attempt. That aside, the love story element and the historical detail will keep readers turning the pages and if you sign up for the author’s newsletter you get bonus content too.


Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest

By Wade Davis,

Book cover of Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest

Why this book?

For anyone interested in George Mallory and the famous first three British Everest expeditions, it doesn’t get any better than Into the Silence. The research here is unparalleled and unprecedented, yielding a level of detail not found in any other books on this topic. If you think you’ve read all there is to say about these expeditions, you may be surprised. It’s a real stunner.


The Lights That Failed: European International History 1919-1933

By Zara Steiner,

Book cover of The Lights That Failed: European International History 1919-1933

Why this book?

This might seem an odd choice for my list at first glance. Lights is a highly detailed, traditional sort of history. But the title is revealing. Most accounts of these fourteen years look back on the horrors of the Second World War and argue either that the Versailles Treaty, ending the first, was fatally flawed and made the second inevitable, or that the First World War itself failed to resolve the German question and it made the second inevitable. The strength of Steiner’s story is how much nations managed to accomplish—including but hardly limited to the now-derided League of Nations—despite the horrendous bloodletting of 1914-1918.


No Parachute: A Classic Account of War in the Air in WWI

By Arthur Gould Lee,

Book cover of No Parachute: A Classic Account of War in the Air in WWI

Why this book?

I grew up on Air Force bases, and like most kids, I wanted to fly planes. Arthur Lee gave me the chance to not just fly, but to experience the thrilling life of a pilot during the first world war. His description of life for a fighter pilot in those early days of military aviation captured my heart. The way they lived and the realities they faced revealed on those pages I devoured without sleep. I couldn’t put it down.


Hellfire Boys: The Birth of the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service and the Race for the World's Deadliest Weapons

By Theo Emery,

Book cover of Hellfire Boys: The Birth of the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service and the Race for the World's Deadliest Weapons

Why this book?

Hellfire Boys is the story of the U.S. Army Chemical Warfare Service during the First World War, written by a journalist who brings his skills as an investigator and a storyteller to this tale. Theo Emery became interested in chemical warfare in 2012 while covering the U.S. Army’s excavation of buried WWI chemical weapons beneath the Spring Valley neighborhood of Washington, DC. Well researched and readable, I literally could not put Hellfire Boys down.


Bloodline

By Kate Cary,

Book cover of Bloodline

Why this book?

Being a Dracula fan, I was intrigued when I heard that Bloodline was its unofficial sequel. Bloodline is written in the form of journal entries and letters. While that isn’t my preferred writing style, it worked for this one. The story begins during World War I. The main character, John, sees some disturbing things concerning his regiment commander, Quincey. He doesn’t know why Quincey is so cruel but will understand in time. The mood was similar to the mood in Dracula. The vampire was the typical, evil vampire while the main character had to figure out what was going on and try to save the day. While not everything was resolved the way I wanted it to, I definitely enjoyed this novel and read the sequel also. I recommend it to people who like Dracula.


The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant-Garde in France, 1885 to World War I

By Roger Shattuck,

Book cover of The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant-Garde in France, 1885 to World War I

Why this book?

A perpetually useful and inspiring book. Shattuck’s study of modern art in France came out in 1955 and remains a lively source for understanding how key artists—Alfred Jarry, Henri Rousseau, Erik Satie, and Guillaume Apollinaire—absorbed and reshaped traditions in writing, painting, and music, and launched the ethos of avant-garde aesthetics in the 20th century. A master storyteller, Shattuck situates his artists in their time, place, and culture with novelistic flair.


The Good Soldier Svejk and His Fortunes in the World War

By Jaroslav Hasek, Josef Lada (illustrator), Cecil Parrott (translator)

Book cover of The Good Soldier Svejk and His Fortunes in the World War

Why this book?

The rollicking adventures of a dimwit recruit in the armies of World War I. A classic demonstration of why military intelligence is a contradiction in terms—and indirectly, one of the greatest anti-war novels of all time. Yet you can’t stop smiling at the poor oaf and laughing with him at the outrageous things that go on in times of conflict.


Gabrielle Petit: The Death and Life of a Female Spy in the First World War

By Sophie de Schaepdrijver,

Book cover of Gabrielle Petit: The Death and Life of a Female Spy in the First World War

Why this book?

British people have often heard of Edith Cavell, who has been commemorated in Britain as a national heroine of the war after she was executed by the Germans in 1915 for her role in running an escape network in Belgium for Allied Soldiers. But Cavell was only one individual amongst hundreds who resisted the authorities in occupied France and Belgium. Like Cavell, young Belgian woman Gabrielle Petit was remembered as a national heroine after her execution during the war. De Schaepdrijver’s book vividly brings her story to life, explaining how she was became involved in espionage, as well as showing how a cult of remembrance grew around her in the decades following the 1918 armistice.


The Fighting at Jutland

By H.W. Fawcett, G.W.W. Hooper,

Book cover of The Fighting at Jutland

Why this book?

My grandfather fought in the Battle of Jutland, as a young gunnery lieutenant; the hero of The Redeemed, Leo, would do likewise as a boy seaman. I needed insight into men’s experience and found it above all in this book (put together by two naval officers who’d themselves taken part.) It is composed of sixty personal accounts from men of all ranks and is edited to give a gripping chronology of what remains the largest naval battle in history.


'Blinker' Hall: Spymaster: The Man Who Brought America into World War I

By David Ramsay,

Book cover of 'Blinker' Hall: Spymaster: The Man Who Brought America into World War I

Why this book?

Any research into the codebreaking arm of British Intelligence during the Great War will quickly point to one man as the mastermind: Admiral Sir Reginald “Blinker” Hall. He is, at a glance, one of the most intriguing historical figures you’ll ever come across…and the more you learn, the more convinced you’ll be of that. In Blinker Hall, Spymaster, Ramsay delivers not only a thorough look into intelligence and codebreaking, using documents that have been declassified only recently to his writing, but also an insightful look into the man who orchestrated one of the most complex intelligence systems of the modern era. For anyone interested in intelligence, cryptography, or even just the invisible world behind a war that spanned continents, this book delivers it all, and does it in an engaging, entertaining style.


The Crowded Hours: The Story Of 'Sos' Cohen

By Anthony Richardson,

Book cover of The Crowded Hours: The Story Of 'Sos' Cohen

Why this book?

The Crowded Hours tells the story of ‘Sos’ Cohen, whose eclectic military career began as an eighteen-year-old during the Matabele Wars of 1887, and then as a soldier in the Boer War. During the First World War, he first served with the Army and then transferred to the Royal Navy Air Service as a pilot. And in 1939, he joined the RAF at the age of 64, flying with RAF Coastal Command till the end of the Second World War.

Crowded Hours is a really interesting book in its own right, but in a more personal sense, it resonates with me because I’ve also served in the Army, the Navy, and the RAF, and I’m fascinated to read about the other men who’ve done this and try to understand what makes them tick.


The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century

By David Reynolds,

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

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.


The Woman Who Saved the Children

By Clare Mulley,

Book cover of The Woman Who Saved the Children

Why this book?

The life story of Eglantine Jebb, founder of Save the Children, who fought for the millions of children left destitute and starving in the ruins of Europe's Great War and, along the way, changed the mind of the British nation about the costs, consequences and responsibilities of victory.


A Very Long Engagement

By Sebastien Japrisot,

Book cover of A Very Long Engagement

Why this book?

Unable to walk since childhood, Mathilde Donnay never lets her limitations get in her way. She is on the search for her fiancé who was reported killed in the Great War, but whom she believes might still be alive. Mathilde is feisty, caring, strategic, and driven—all things I’d like to be.


History of United States Naval Operations in World War II

By Samuel Eliot Morison,

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

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.


The Razor's Edge

By W. Somerset Maugham,

Book cover of The Razor's Edge

Why this book?

The hero of Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, Larry Darrell, is a classic seeker. Crushed by his time in the war, he leaves his family and fiancé behind and heads to Paris—then Germany—and finally India. He’s not really sure what he’s looking for, but he knows that the answers lie down a path far different from the one he’s left behind. Larry’s friends back home feel sure that he’s lost his way; only when their own worlds begin to crumble do they start to realize what he’s attained. The Razor’s Edge makes it clear that the spiritual journey may lead you far from what’s familiar to you. But the journey is worth every sacrifice.


Jutland: The Unfinished Battle

By Nicholas Jellicoe,

Book cover of Jutland: The Unfinished Battle

Why this book?

On 31 May 1916, the greatest naval battle in history took place at the Skagerrak, the waters between Denmark and Norway. John Jellicoe commanded 28 battleships and 8 battle cruisers of the British Grand Fleet; opposing him were Reinhard Scheer’s 16 battleships and 5 battle cruisers of the German High Sea Fleet. There were four distinct phases of the battle: first, Franz Hipper attempted to lure David Beatty’s battle cruisers onto the High Sea Fleet; Beatty then turned north and sought to lure the High Sea Fleet onto Jellicoe’s Grand Fleet; next, Jellicoe attempted to cut Scheer’s battleships off from their home base; and finally, a confused night engagement between light craft brought the battle to an end. The British had lost 3 battle cruisers and 6,784 men, the Germans 1 battle cruiser and 3,039 men. Almost fifty warships had been damaged. The next morning Scheer limped home.

The British public saw the battle as a defeat. There had not been the expected “second Trafalgar” of 1805. Still, while a German tactical victory, Jutland was a British strategic triumph. Scheer never challenged the entire Grand Fleet again, and instead recommended unrestricted submarine warfare to Kaiser Wilhelm II—a course of action that brought the United States into the war on the Allied side in April 1917.

The author, Jellicoe’s grandson, suggests a double entendre in the subtitle. Not only was the actual naval battle “unfinished,” but the postwar war of words over who had “lost” Jutland, Jellicoe or Beatty, also remained “unfinished.” The author apportions equal blame to both British admirals. The issue at stake, he concludes, “had been sea power” rather than a single battle. After Jutland, the Royal Navy exercised sea power; the Germans still sought it.


Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World

By Margaret MacMillan,

Book cover of Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World

Why this book?

The complicated business of tidying up after the defeat of the Central Powers and the attempt to put in place a lasting peace is nowhere better covered than in this book. It performs the far from easy feat of explaining the myriad conflicting interests with a detached understanding, which helps one understand the power of the forces unleashed by the war and just how insoluble were the problems these had created.


Malaga Burning: An American Woman's Eyewitness Account of the Spanish Civil War

By Gamel Woolsey,

Book cover of Malaga Burning: An American Woman's Eyewitness Account of the Spanish Civil War

Why this book?

Gamel Woolsey was the wife of Gerald Brenan, who has written many books about Spain. They were living in Málaga when the Civil War broke out. This is a book of her experiences and the people she met then.


The Doom Pussy

By Ben Shephard,

Book cover of The Doom Pussy

Why this book?

Elaine Shepard wrote Doom Pussy in 1967 and explained in her introduction that only the pilots who flew on missions at night to North Vietnam were entitled to wear the Doom Pussy patch on their left shoulders. On the patch was a cat with an eye patch eating an airplane, and in Vietnamese were the words “Trong miệng của con mèo của định mạng” and literally translated means, “I have flown into the jaws of the cat of death.” Most American fliers just said, “I have seen the Doom Pussy.” This was another one of those amazing stories about a woman that competes with distinction in what was then considered a man’s world, journalism. She flew into combat on a Huey slick with Lieutenant Colonel Chuck Honour. Col. Honour was killed three months after Ms. Shepard flew with him. She has chronicled her exploits and those of the pilots she flew with reverence in this novel.

Elaine Shepard’s story embodies the essence of the “Renaissance Woman.” She lived a full and amazing life, or should I say three lives. Her first life involved being a contract actress for R.K.O. studios, where she shared the screen with actors such as Clark Gable. Later, she changed directions and became a reporter. Contemporary reports from a couple of generations ago on her career as a journalist focused as much on Shepard's made-for-television face and figure as on her reporting - "Elaine, blonde and calm, moves like Marilyn Monroe, talks like Ava Gardner and writes like Ernie Pyle," wrote one critic. Of course, Elaine eventually ended up in Vietnam and earning the Doom Pussy Patch. When she left Vietnam. The Air Force pilots at Da Nang gave her a cigarette lighter with the inscription, “The Last of the Great Broads.” It seems appropriate that her third career would be as an author who immortalized these pilots and their courage under fire in her timeless novel, Doom Pussy.


The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East

By Eugene Rogan,

Book cover of The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East

Why this book?

Until recently, most histories written on the First World War in the Middle East only considered the “European” perspective. However, as the book rightly emphasizes, it was the entry of the Ottoman Empire into the war that turned a “European” conflict into a world war. At the end of four years, an old empire of over six centuries was dissolved into many states. The book not only details the political and military history of the Middle East at war, but also presents the human side of the story. The book discusses the wartime Middle East from the view of different actors including those of the British, Anzac, Ottoman, Arab, and Armenian. While presenting a comprehensive account of the events, Rogan also documents the experiences of soldiers.


The Eye in the Door

By Pat Barker,

Book cover of The Eye in the Door

Why this book?

The Eye in the Door continues Barker’s exploration of the morality of war through its impacts on human beings.  While she continues the journeys of Dr. W. H. R. Rivers and Siegried Sassoon, she explores in great detail the experience of Lieutenant Billy Prior, a complex character who works as a domestic intelligence agent.  Prior is torn between his own antiwar feelings and his working class and bisexual identities as he spies on pacifists, homosexuals, and government critics.


Imagining the Unimaginable: World War, Modern Art, and the Politics of Public Culture in Russia, 1914-1917

By Aaron J. Cohen,

Book cover of Imagining the Unimaginable: World War, Modern Art, and the Politics of Public Culture in Russia, 1914-1917

Why this book?

Fully abstract art was a Russian invention, but until this remarkable book by Aaron Cohen came out, there was no treatment of the subject that explained the historical context in which it emerged in the work of Kandinsky, Malevich, Tatlin, and others. Other art historians have traced the aesthetic process that led, seemingly ineluctably, toward abstraction, but Cohen shows us how closely linked it was to the despair felt during the First World War. In this short but accessible work that makes extensive use of previously untouched Russian sources, he brings to life the debates over the issue among Russian artists and critics and details the response of the art market to the turmoil of the period and the birth of avant-garde movements that revolutionized art worldwide.


Germans Into Nazis

By Peter Fritzsche,

Book cover of Germans Into Nazis

Why this book?

Fritzsche shows here how, from 1914 to 1933, middle class Germans were welded into the political block that supported Hitler. Another spellbindingly original book – among other things, Fritzsche shows very persuasively that the Great Depression had little to do with the rise of Hitler – the Nazis’ recipe of egalitarian but nationalist politics was already doing its work before 1929.


The Lost Crown

By Sarah Miller,

Book cover of The Lost Crown

Why this book?

It is generally not easy to find quality historical fiction, and this goes tenfold for fiction about the last Russian imperial family. This book is a definite exception to the rule. Historically accurate down to minute details, and at the same time very well written, the story in The Lost Crown starts just before the revolution and covers the events that lead up to the assassination of the Russian imperial family.

Seen through the eyes of the four historically neglected daughters of the last Tsar - Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia (OTMA), who are usually treated as a collective whole (unless you count trashy novels like Tsarina's Daughter or Anastasia-"survivor"-pseudo-non-fiction, which of course you shouldn't). In this novel, the sisters are portrayed sensitively and realistically, and most importantly as individuals. They are depicted as neither saints, nor as brats, but as normal girls/young women, as they most certainly were. The novel is told from the perspective of each individual sister, each takes a turn with the narrative. Their personalities develop as each chapter unfolds, and it is all based on historical descriptions of those who knew the girls personally, so it will satisfy even the most "purist" Romanov-phile. OTMA are presented, atypically, as multi-dimensional characters, with numerous factual anecdotes effectively incorporated into each girl's narrative, which adds a lot of reality to the story. At times they are funny, at other times - touching or sad, but they are all very real. IMO, this is arguably the best depiction, fiction or non-fiction, of the ill-fated OTMA sisters. 

George C. Marshall, Vol. 1: Education of a General, 1880-1939

By Forrest C. Pogue,

Book cover of George C. Marshall, Vol. 1: Education of a General, 1880-1939

Why this book?

Few Americans remember the Marshall Plan that helped make western Europe the economic powerhouse it is today. Fewer still remember the man behind the Marshall Plan, who led the U.S. military during World War II, and later became Secretary of State. Pogue’s four-volume biography isn’t your usual military biography with a long recitation of battles, dates, and minutiae about guns and ships. It’s about how an obscure career officer who never went to West Point became the confidant of two presidents and the mentor of a future one, Dwight Eisenhower (who later betrayed him during the Trump-like McCarthy era). When political integrity is in short supply, Pogue reminds us of a time when a politically astute general kept his.


The Golden Age of the Great Passenger Airships: Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg

By Harold Dick, Douglas Robinson,

Book cover of The Golden Age of the Great Passenger Airships: Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg

Why this book?

Harold Dick, a young American engineer, was seconded to the Zeppelin Company between 1934 and 1938, putting him in the unique position of being the only outsider ever allowed within its secretive hangars for a prolonged time. While he was there, he collected data, photos, and reports, compiled a diary, and was on excellent terms with the greatest airshipman of all time, Hugo Eckener, who had been Count von Zeppelin’s protégé and had run the company since before the First World War. All of that, plus the fact that he made no fewer than 22 transatlantic voyages on the Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg, makes Dick’s 1985 memoir an extraordinary one.


A Stroll Through Borneo

By James Barclay,

Book cover of A Stroll Through Borneo

Why this book?

This book, by a well-born English friend of mine, was written when he was young and fancy free; he was then (in 1978) accurately described on the book jacket as a cheerful young man “who greets each new acquaintance and experience with enormous enthusiasm” as he makes his way alone, without fuss (while making local indigenous friends along the way) for five months through what was then one of the last remaining wild spots in the world. 


The Eastern Front 1914-1917

By Norman Stone,

Book cover of The Eastern Front 1914-1917

Why this book?

Not only does Stone demolish the many false ideas held about this part of the war, but he provides us with insights that allow us to understand the important connections among the three fronts of the war that impacted decisions in Paris and London—and vice versa.


Wilhelm II (2 vols)

By Lamar Cecil,

Book cover of Wilhelm II (2 vols)

Why this book?

Wilhelm II, the last Hohenzollern kaiser of Germany, and the last King of Prussia, bears perhaps more than any other single individual the onus of causing World War I, the most industrial and catastrophic conflict ever seen on earth to that point. His flamboyant personality, erratic thought processes, and often uncontrollable outbursts of temper, disjointed the European political arena on a sometimes weekly basis, causing instability, confusion, and uncertainty in the minds of diplomats throughout Europe. His abdication of the throne in 1918 proved the end of the Hohenzollern dynasty, with East Prussia detached geographically from the rest of Germany by the Polish Corridor, a sore point almost as annoying to contemporary Germans as the Versailles Treaty, and a flashpoint that would ignite again in 1939. Cecil's very well-written and enlightening biography will not be replicated anytime soon.


End of Globalization: Lessons from the Great Depression

By Harold James,

Book cover of End of Globalization: Lessons from the Great Depression

Why this book?

Financial crises are not only catastrophic because of their devastating economic consequences. They also unleash radical political forces undermining the foundations of our free and open society. Widely praised for his work on Germany in the interwar years, Harold James is the best historian to describe the vicious circle of crisis, radicalization, and national isolation in the 1930s and to discuss the question: can it happen again?


The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931

By Adam Tooze,

Book cover of The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931

Why this book?

The book of Adam Tooze is a masterful synthesis of global history and offers an original reinterpretation of the interwar years. Readers not only gain intriguing insights about the relationships between military, financial, political, and diplomatic events. They will also be surprised by a new and well-founded view of US hegemony after 1916 that contradicts almost everything they learned in school or in other historical books.


The Return of the Soldier

By Rebecca West,

Book cover of The Return of the Soldier

Why this book?

Chris, a shell-shocked soldier who suffers from amnesia, returns from the front expecting life to be as he remembered. But he’s lost fifteen years of his memory and doesn’t recognise his wife Kitty, is horrified by how his cousin Jenny has aged, and longs only for Margaret, the girl he loved all those years ago. Despairing for his sanity, Kitty and Jenny summon Margaret, sure he’ll come to his senses when he sees her, only to find that he still adores her, dowdy, careworn, and poor as she is. The war is only glancingly mentioned here but its loss and damage aches between the lines. Told by Jenny, who loves Chris but starts to see Kitty in a new light, the dreadful snobbishness of the times is laid clear. The Return of the Soldier is a brief novel, romantic and witty, moving and bitter – I devoured it in one sitting.


History of London Transport: The Twentieth Century to 1970

By T.C. Barker, Michael Robbins,

Book cover of History of London Transport: The Twentieth Century to 1970

Why this book?

This is one of the only comprehensive books on the history of London’s transport system and though long out of print and written in the 1960s, it is still the best explanation of how the network developed. It is the starting point for anyone seeking to research this field.


Liverpool

By George Chandler,

Book cover of Liverpool

Why this book?

Published originally in 1957, this is a definitive history of the Town and later City of Liverpool. It gives a detailed overview of the many facets of Liverpool’s history, in a well-researched, fully referenced, and eminently readable form. It gives details that cannot be found in other publications, and provides the researcher, historian, or simply interested reader an exciting and informative insight into the place and its people.

I love this book because George Chandler loved and cared for the City, and yet was an unbiased observer. He writes with clarity and detail that is informed and driven by that love, and it is a joy to read. It is also well illustrated with many unique images, maps, and sketches.


Femme Fatale: Love, Lies, and the Unknown Life of Mata Hari

By Pat Shipman,

Book cover of Femme Fatale: Love, Lies, and the Unknown Life of Mata Hari

Why this book?

The image of the female spy should have been Marthe McKenna and women spies like her.  Instead, because of a nude dancer from The Netherlands, the popular but unfair image of a spy in spy thrillers and Hollywood films is often that of a devious seductress. The nude dancer’s stage name was Mata Hari, who became the mistress to senior French officers and officials during the war. She may have pretended to spy for both sides to earn money, but revealed no significant secrets. Nonetheless in 1917, the French accused her of being a German spy who had used her seductive talents to obtain secrets that sent tens of thousands of French soldiers to their deaths. The evidence at her trial came nowhere close to proving the accusation, but the French needed a scapegoat for the mutiny and collapse of much of their army. She was convicted, executed by firing squad---and became a legend.


They Fought for the Motherland: Russia's Women Soldiers in World War I and the Revolution

By Laurie S. Stoff,

Book cover of They Fought for the Motherland: Russia's Women Soldiers in World War I and the Revolution

Why this book?

Although they are largely forgotten now, the five to six thousand Russian women who enlisted as soldiers were amongst the most photographed and written about women in the First World War, especially the charismatic but tyrannical leader of the 1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death, Maria Bochkareva. Stoff’s book gives a highly readable and fascinating account of their formation, their military action, their ill-fated involvement in the defence of the Winter Palace when it was stormed by the Bolsheviks in November 1917, and their reception by the rest of the world as the only battalions of women to carry out officially sanctioned combat roles in the war.

Stoff uses their own memoirs alongside other first-hand accounts by American, British, and French diplomats stationed in Russian in the tumultuous year of 1917, and her book provides a balanced and nuanced analysis.


Winter: The Tragic Story of a Berlin Family 1899-1945

By Len Deighton,

Book cover of Winter: The Tragic Story of a Berlin Family 1899-1945

Why this book?

While technically a prequel to Deighton’s well-known Cold War Game, Set, Match trilogy, Winter can certainly be read as a standalone novel. As the subtitle indicates, this is a book about a family. But really, this is a novel about two brothers, Peter and Pauli. The evolution of their relationship over the course of nearly half a century, 1900-1945, is the foundation on which Deighton explores this tumultuous period of German history. From their innocent and carefree youth in the late Wilhelmine period, to the trauma of their military service during the First World War, through the rise and rule of the Nazi party – can the ties that bind the Winter brothers survive?  


A Whole Empire Walking: Refugees in Russia During World War I

By Peter Gatrell,

Book cover of A Whole Empire Walking: Refugees in Russia During World War I

Why this book?

There has been a revival of the study of the Russian experience in World War I over the last twenty-five years. Much of this can be explained by the opening of archives after 1991 and by the centennial of the war in 2014-2018. But the publication of this book was also enormously important. It recast the impact of the war by focusing on the experience of regular individuals rather than Petrograd elites and labor leaders. It also highlighted the massive scale of social dislocation – more than six million uprooted Russian subjects in all.


Mobilizing the Russian Nation: Patriotism and Citizenship in the First World War

By Melissa Kirshcke Stockdale,

Book cover of Mobilizing the Russian Nation: Patriotism and Citizenship in the First World War

Why this book?

One of the most pernicious myths surrounding the Russian population in the years of the war is that the subjects of the tsar were too provincial and ignorant to really have a sense of what was going on or why. This myth was perpetuated above all by political and military elites after the war as a way of explaining the reasons they had lost the war. Stockdale’s work makes this myth almost impossible to maintain. In chapters on the effectiveness of mass media, on the role of the church, on the heartfelt hatred of the enemy, and more, she shows how regular Russians were mobilized for the war. If some were unpatriotic, this was not the result of ignorance but of knowing too well how the regime was failing the people it was supposed to protect.


The Charity of War: Famine, Humanitarian Aid, and World War I in the Middle East

By Melanie S. Tanielian,

Book cover of The Charity of War: Famine, Humanitarian Aid, and World War I in the Middle East

Why this book?

During the war, Beirut and Mount Lebanon were heavily impacted by a famine because of several factors, including the Allied blockade of the Mediterranean, bad harvests, heat waves, shortage of workers, and a destructive locust invasion. As a result, even though the area did not witness any battles on its territory, hundreds of thousands of people died due to famine and disease. Fiction or real, the horrors reached to a degree that “mothers eating their children” stories carved in the collective memory of the war. Drawing on the reality of famine, the book deals with how war relief and welfare activities acted as forces that opened a new political space for civilian provisioning, eventually leading to the emergence of a new political space in the post-war period.


When You & I Were Young, Whitefish

By Dorothy M. Johnson,

Book cover of When You & I Were Young, Whitefish

Why this book?

Dorothy M. Johnson wrote three short stories that were made into Western movies: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance; The Hanging Tree; and A Man Called Horse. But this collection is a light-hearted visit to her childhood, growing up near Glacier National Park. A quick but delightful read to balance out some of the chewier reading I’ve suggested.


Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man: The Memoirs of George Sherston

By Siegfried Sassoon,

Book cover of Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man: The Memoirs of George Sherston

Why this book?

This first of Sassoon’s semi-biographical Sherston trilogy is a nostalgic amble along Edwardian English lanes, across its village greens, and over its hedges, tracing the early years of likeable, witty George Sherston before the Great War. It depicts a bygone era of pearl-clutching maiden aunts, rumbustious village cricket matches, and the rigours of the hunting field, in which enthusiastic recruit George is a terrific observer of the larger-than-life characters he encounters. He is winningly grateful to his horses for being so much better at it than him, from flighty first pony Sheila to trusty hunter Harkaway, and ‘bargain’ point-to-pointer Cockbird who is gifted to the cavalry at the book’s close, just as George accepts his commission to the Flintshire Fusiliers to fight in the Great War, saying farewell to his halcyon childhood. Sassoon, famous for his war poetry, is such a warm and intelligent writer that his affection for charactersboth human and animal – is timeless.


Donald Thompson in Russia

By Donald C. Thompson,

Book cover of Donald Thompson in Russia

Why this book?

Thompson was a photographer from Kansas who went to Europe to cover the First World War and found himself in Russia as 1917 dawned. His book is drawn from letters he wrote home to his wife Dot, and his eyewitness reporting is better than his analysis. His account of the day police opened fire on protesters in Petrograd with machine guns is chilling. Thompson believed that the Germans were behind the revolution, which wasn’t the case, but his photos of soldiers and barricades and protesters amount to a great visual document of the moment. Read this in conjunction with Runaway Russia, by Florence MacLeod Harper, a magazine reporter with whom he teamed up to cover the revolution.


Oblivion's Forge

By Simon Williams,

Book cover of Oblivion's Forge

Why this book?

This author is a ‘master’ at creating fantasy worlds; his writing is intelligent and gripping. This particular series focuses on a battle between two immense powers with amazing descriptions, yet it is character-driven, making it relatable and believable. It’s thought-provoking and immerses you into a world that feels very real, its descriptions potent, its characters intriguing – I loved it. 


Stronger Than Dirt

By Juliann Sivulka,

Book cover of Stronger Than Dirt

Why this book?

Americans believe advertisements, especially those that promise cleanliness. Europeans, who are much less obsessed with soaps, deodorants, creams, and other cleansing products, find this naive. As described by Sivulka, Americans see ads for personal hygiene products as allies in their quest never to “offend,” to borrow one of advertising’s favorite words. Advertising and toilet soap (as opposed to laundry or housecleaning soap) grew up together, beginning in the late 19th century, and ads made brilliant use of Americans’ worries about finding Mr. Right and getting ahead in business. Sivulka’s enlightening book is copiously illustrated by a fascinating anthology of the ads themselves.

A Local Habitation (Life And Times, Volume 1: 1918-1940)

By Richard Hoggart,

Book cover of A Local Habitation (Life And Times, Volume 1: 1918-1940)

Why this book?

Another memoir, but very different to Waterhouse. An academic, Hoggart had already drawn on his Leeds childhood for the seminal text, The Uses of Literacy. This expands on that, fleshing out the bones of the other work. It paints a broader picture of Leeds, overlapping a decade with City Lights. Hoggart has a prodigious memory, and while he can tend to paint the poor, working-class past with rosy colours sometimes, he certainly does evoke a time, seeing the events of the days through a child’s – and adolescent’s – eyes. He made good, going on to university, and getting a grant to travel abroad, but for those times he was a true exception. Between this and City Lights, there’s a full picture of early 20th century Leeds.


A Lasting Moment: Marc Riboud Photographs Leeds 1954 and 2004

By Marc Riboud,

Book cover of A Lasting Moment: Marc Riboud Photographs Leeds 1954 and 2004

Why this book?

Riboud was already famous when he first arrived in Leeds to document the city in 1954. What his black and white images startlingly portray, though, is a place that could easily still be in the 19th century. He doesn’t go for the great and the good, but searches out ordinary people and children playing in the streets. It’s life among emotional and physical rubble, a contrast to the shiny, bright colours 50 years later (and now also a part of history as time speeds by). It’s searing, starkly beautiful, and the essay by Leeds-born playwright Caryl Phillips adds another dimension. Through the right eye, an image can be worth a thousand words in seeking the soul of a town and its people.


Out of the Everywhere and Other Extraordinary Visions

By James Tiptree Jr.,

Book cover of Out of the Everywhere and Other Extraordinary Visions

Why this book?

This anthology has one of my favorite stories by Tiptree, it is called "We who stole the dream". The Joilani have long been enslaved and abused by humans. So has another race, of “delicately winged creatures”, whose sweat is a powerful intoxicant to humans. It is most potent when the donor experiences pain and fear, so humans have taken to torturing mated pairs of them, so the partners can watch each other suffer. The resulting sweat is a drug called Star Tears. Although that unnamed race plays no active role in the story, they are on my list because of the powerful manner in which they influence other species, invoking the darkest and most brutal aspects of human nature simply by existing.

The diminutive, weak, and peace-loving Joilani make a desperate break for freedom. Stealing a spaceship called The Dream, they seek out the mythical planet of their ancestors. But when they find it, they discover that the darkness of humanity is not unique to our species, and their own history has equally terrible demons. Like Fire Upon the Deep, this graphic and disturbing story questions whether humanity’s darkest traits are uniquely human, or might arise in any sentient species.


Age of Pandemics (1817-1920) : How They Shaped India and the World

By Chinmay Tumbe,

Book cover of Age of Pandemics (1817-1920) : How They Shaped India and the World

Why this book?

It manages to leverage the world history of coping with pandemics over the last couple of centuries by focusing on India’s Experience with them. A readable academic book with frequent reference to the author's own life experience. It uses the history of public health to illuminate all aspects of the nation’s history


The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend

By Dan Santat,

Book cover of The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend

Why this book?

An unnamed imaginary friend waits and waits for a child to choose him; but when he has waited long enough, he sets out on an adventure into the real world to find his Alice. The sweetness of Alice and Beekle’s new friendship is heartwarming, made all the sweeter by the wait. Beekle won the Caldecott Medal, so it won’t surprise you that the illustrations are brilliant. Santat’s use of shadow and color is just mesmerizing.


Anne of Avonlea

By Lucy Maud Montgomery,

Book cover of Anne of Avonlea

Why this book?

Anne is one of the most lovable female characters in the whole literature. When I read about her I feel like I’m her good friend and I’m excited about her along with the story. Anne is now 16 years old and she begins her job as the new schoolteacher in this book. It was a great continuation of her story and I love seeing Anne starts to become an adult while still keeping her positive personality. And I really appreciate the very special romantic storyline too. Anne always stays Anne, a great girl.


Out of the Ashes

By Keren Hughes,

Book cover of Out of the Ashes

Why this book?

In Out of the Ashes our heroine, Jenna Morgan, is another great example of the strength needed…this time to preserver. She starts over, which can be scary, but does it with confidence. She enjoys her newfound freedom and gets a new tattoo…which leads to meeting our hero, Nate. Drama and tension ensue, Jenna proving she’s a strong, confident woman. 


All Among the Barley

By Melissa Harrison,

Book cover of All Among the Barley

Why this book?

Is this historical fiction or is it sublime nature writing?  Answer: it's both. Melissa Harrison completely immersed me into the rural Sussex world of Edie in 1933, a world unchanged for centuries. It is described in achingly beautiful, hypnotic, poetic language: the kind of prose I'd hoped I would write when I turned from poetry to fiction, but which has so far escaped me. I was utterly captivated by the multi-textured world she creates, and the shock of the ending, and the darkness which lies beneath. I loved the way she trusted the reader to understand what was going on, without spelling it out. Superbly controlled and crafted. I can only stand back and applaud.


The Fountain Overflows

By Rebecca West,

Book cover of The Fountain Overflows

Why this book?

Toward the end of her career, Rebecca West wrote an unusually autobiographical novel, retelling her Edwardian childhood with the wisdom and sadness of hindsight. The Fountain Overflows, published in 1956, describes the struggles of an artistic family with a fiercely devoted mother and an impossibly wayward father. West brilliantly describes the hard work and ambitions of gifted children, but the book is mainly memorable for its strange, semi-magical atmosphere and the sense it gives readers of revisiting a lost world—for hanging over this book is the shadow of the First World War, a cataclysm that finally arrives in the sequel, This Dark Night.


A Countess Below Stairs

By Eva Ibbotson,

Book cover of A Countess Below Stairs

Why this book?

This is my favorite comfort read, the perfect book for days when life has too many sharp corners. I must have read this one at least twenty times. It has all the virtues of a classic fairytale: a pure-hearted, brave heroine; an honorable, steadfast hero; and a happy ending earned through suffering and effort and against all the odds. It tells the story of Countess Anna Grazinsky, a young refugee from the Russian Revolution, who finds work as a maid at a stately home in the English countryside, where she falls in love with the gallant war hero who owns the house. But the Earl of Westholme is promised to another woman. Heartwarming, triumphantly romantic, wise, and funny, A Countess Below Stairs is one of those rare books that makes the world seem a better place.  


Flowers from the Storm

By Laura Kinsale,

Book cover of Flowers from the Storm

Why this book?

Laura Kinsale is another magnificently individual voice, and her unusual, complex, emotional stories are among the best in the genre. Flowers from the Storm is probably her masterpiece. I’m in awe of how she brings off this heartrending story of a humble Quaker girl and a duke. Maddy’s religious conviction is woven into her personality in a way that’s true to the time but rarely explored in romantic fiction. Even more unusual, while rakish dukes are a staple of the genre, rakish dukes who suffer a stroke and end up in a madhouse are less common! What lifts this Cinderella story above most entries in the category is how true to life it is, how the characters genuinely suffer to achieve their happy ending, and how Kinsale leaves her characters no easy choices. 


Slippery Creatures

By KJ Charles,

Book cover of Slippery Creatures

Why this book?

I’m stretching this category because neither of the protagonists here are actually cops, but Kim Secretan does work for a shadowy government agency and there’s a real mystery in this three-book series, though there is also a lovely romance between Kim and World War I veteran and bookseller Will Darling. KJ Charles is one of my all-time favorite authors, and everything she publishes becomes a must-read for me.


The Hunger Between Us

By Marina Scott,

Book cover of The Hunger Between Us

Why this book?

Marina Scott’s The Hunger Between Us fills a curious gap in YA fiction about World War II: This is the only YA novel I’ve ever read that deals with the Siege of Leningrad. But it’s not really about the Siege of Leningrad; it’s about a girl searching doggedly for her lost friend, refusing to give up hope in a city where hunger has turned neighbor against neighbor, father against daughter, and nobody can be trusted. A profoundly character-driven war novel.

The Hunger Between Us will be released on November 1, 2022.


The Accident Man: A Novel (A Samuel Carver Novel)

By Tom Cain,

Book cover of The Accident Man: A Novel (A Samuel Carver Novel)

Why this book?

This is the first book in Tom Cain’s series about the assassin Samuel Carver. It’s full of believable action and has a great storyline. Do you remember the conspiracy rumours surrounding the death of Dianna Princess of Wales? Well, in this story, Carver was responsible for the car crash that killed her, having been tricked into setting it up.

It’s a great thriller, full of exciting action from start to finish as he tries to work out who set him up. Carver then becomes the target himself when those who tricked him realise he is learning too much and has to be silenced.


SAS: Rogue Heroes - The Authorized Wartime History

By Ben Macintyre,

Book cover of SAS: Rogue Heroes - The Authorized Wartime History

Why this book?

A well-researched account of the genesis of the SAS in the Desert War featuring many interviews with veterans. And this is what particularly commends this book – telling the story in the words of those who were actually there, makes for compulsive and highly readable storytelling.


The Russian Origins of the First World War

By Sean McMeekin,

Book cover of The Russian Origins of the First World War

Why this book?

Conventional histories blame Germany for starting the First World War by “turning a Balkan Quarrel into a European war.” McMeekin shows both Germany and Austria-Hungary wanted a quick, isolated Austrian-Serbian war. It was Russia that wanted a general European war in order to seize Constantinople and the Bosporus Straits and give Russia access to the Mediterranean. Therefore, the Russians wanted France and Great Britain to tie down Germany, while Russia crushed the Austrians and seized the Balkans and the Bosphorous. And the Russians knew about the Serb plot to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand in advance. McMeeken’s archival research in proving his case is impressive.


Anyush

By Martine Madden,

Book cover of Anyush

Why this book?

Anyush’s eponymous heroine is a young Armenian girl whose life is turned upside-down by the genocide carried out by the Ottomans under the Young Turks during fighting in World War One. I was only vaguely aware of the genocide before picking up the novel and it combines a beautiful love story between Anyush and Turkish captain Jahan with a vivid account of the horrors people faced. Beautifully researched and written by Martine Madden, it’s a book that both enthralled and humbled me.