Second World War History Books

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Second World War History Books

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jul 9, 2010, 7:30am

Hello everyone,

I'd like to read a good history book about the second world war. I'm thinking about something rather generic, to refresh and somewhat deepen my knowledge about it.

There are so many books on this topic on the market that it's really hard to make a choice.

What are your favorites?

Thank you!

jul 9, 2010, 11:48am

My husband has a good collection of books on the subject of the Second World War but the most comprehensive and 'global' is A World at Arms by Gerhard L. Weinberg published originally in 1994 by Cambridge University Press.

jul 9, 2010, 11:55pm

Anything by Stephen E. Ambrose.

Also I have enjoyed the The Liberation Trilogy by Rick Atkinson. So far only the first two are out, but the 3rd and final should be along fairly soon.

Hope these help.

Bill Masom

jul 14, 2010, 5:38pm

Loved this one: The Winds of War by Herman Wouk

Redigerat: jul 15, 2010, 2:11am

If you are looking for a generic history of WWII beginning with the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, that doesn't extend to 1,000+ pages, which achieves a good 'global' balance, with plenty of illustrations, maps and boxes of ancillary information, then you might like to check out World War II: A New History by Evan Mawdsley. Mawdsley is a Professor of International History at University of Glasgow, and has also written extensively on Russian history. This "new history" was published in 2009 by Cambridge University Press, and runs to about 450 pages of text.

In the excellent chapter by chapter selective shortlist of "Further Reading" at the end of the book, Mawdsley recommends two general histories; namely A War To Be Won: Fighting the Second World War by Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett, and A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II by Gerhard L. Weinberg, which he acknowledges as "being especially good on diplomacy and intelligence," albeit "hard to navigate" given its size.

On the "important 'total war' concept", Mawdsely recommends The Shadows of Total War: Europe, East Asia, and the United States, 1919-1939 edited by Roger Chickering and Stig Forster, and A World at Total War: Global Conflict and the Politics of Destruction, 1937-1945 edited by Roger Chickering et. al. (I own this second volume, and I can attest to its excellence).

Edit: I see you can access the Introduction and Further Reading sections via the Amazon preview feature. Worth a browse, even if you don't read the book.

jul 26, 2010, 11:10pm

I really enjoyed The Good War by Studs Terkel. You'd probably need a basic understanding of the main events, but the perspective given by the interviewees very different and makes the history come alive.

Redigerat: jul 27, 2010, 1:29am

For something a little out of the ordinary, I'd recommend Survivors: The A-bombed Trees of Hiroshima. It can be previewed through the "Look Inside" feature on its Amazon page.

jul 15, 2011, 4:37pm

As a thorough overview and introduction to the Pacific Theatre, I enjoyed D-Days in the Pacific by Donald Miller. It's geared toward laymen, of which I'm certainly one!

jul 16, 2011, 7:52am

Winds of War is, of course, fiction.

To get an overall sense of what was going on, I used Teach Yourself the Second World War. I don't recommend it for what you want as it isn't a good read. However, if you find yourself lost in whatever you do pick, this is a good secondary text to fill out the context.

aug 9, 2011, 5:19pm

I suggest a new book, just out. The Storm of War. A New History of the
Second World War, by Andrew Roberts. One of UK's great historians, Mr Roberts has created a riveting, detailed history with a broad scope. Having lived through it, thought I knew quite a bit about this war, but every paragraph reveals something new and is the result of comprehensive, discerning research. A real page turner.

aug 9, 2011, 8:37pm

One segment of WWII that I knew nothing about was the Pacific air corps until I read Flyboys by James Bradley. I thoroughly loved this book.

Redigerat: jul 31, 2016, 9:48am

Det här meddelandet har tagits bort av dess författare.

aug 11, 2011, 3:40pm


You should check out one of our authors, Cathryn Prince ( She is working on a new work focusing on an untold aspect of WW2, a naval story. Her blog will feature updates about this WIP (work in progress) in the coming months. Her other books might interest you too, all focus on some aspect of American history.

Happy reading!

aug 18, 2011, 8:25pm

Anything by Sir Max Hastings is excellent...he is easy to read, very thorough and well-respected worldwide as one of the best WWII historians.
Carlo D'este is also top-notch...especially for reading on the war in Italy.
I agree with an earlier writer on Rick Atkinson...very thorough as well...and I anxiously await his 3rd in the Liberation Trilogy.
As for Stephen Ambrose, be careful...he is not a well-balanced writer...any author who could completely gloss over Canada's role in D-Day has to have his motivations questioned...much to jingoistic for my taste!
Hope you enjoy!

aug 18, 2011, 11:20pm

#14 - Not to mention Ambrose has some plagiarism issues.

aug 19, 2011, 10:38am

OT: A bit off thread but I read a few days ago that the oldest survivor of the Bataan death march died at age 105. I read Tears in the Darkness by Michael Norman about the march - interesting and so, so sad. I'm glad that at least one of the survivors had a long, and I hope happy, life after the ordeal.

nov 8, 2011, 9:46am

Detta konto har stängts av för spammande.

nov 29, 2011, 3:32pm

Hastings has a new book, Inferno: The World at War 1939-1945. I haven't read it yet, but I've heard good things about it.

jan 3, 2012, 9:19am

If you wish to read a powerful story about the grandest air Force disaster during WWII read about PLOESTI. I would recomend Leon Wolffs- LOW LEVEL MISION and PLOESTI-by james Dugan and caroll Stewart. (The eond reads like a Hollywood Film)
2000 men flew to PLoesti to destroy the germans Oil Refineries and only half came back.
You can also chek out SGT Macs military blogs. His main bent is WWII book.

jan 26, 2012, 6:53pm

I just read it. He really torches Monty and MacArthur.

jan 26, 2012, 7:03pm

I have read four recently:

1989 Keegan, The Second World War
1989, Gilbert, The Second World War
2010 Corrigan, The Second World War
2011 Hastings, Inferno

I much prefer Hastings. Keegan is of course good on the battles.

apr 10, 2012, 7:10pm

The Second World War by the man himself Sir Winston Churchill. All the usual caveats about a history written by someone with a stake in the events apply, but I don't think you could get much closer to the action

Redigerat: aug 15, 2012, 2:59pm

Detta konto har stängts av för spammande.

okt 3, 2012, 10:16am

I read A Short History of World War II and found it to be a great overview but wouldn't recommend it to anyone looking for details of specific battles or commentary.

apr 5, 2016, 9:18am

Ambrose is a stroyteller foremost and a WW2 historian in that order. There has been controversy over the accuracy of some of the events in his books. A general search will provide guidance but a good start would be here:

Redigerat: jun 27, 2016, 7:40pm

Missing touchstones:

D-Days in the Pacific by Donald Miller
Flyboys by James Bradley
Ghost Soldiers
Inferno: The World at War 1939-1945 by Max Hastings. (Apparently this is a two volume work: Inferno and Also published as All Hell Broke Loose.)
Low Level Mission by Leon Wolff
Ploesti by Dugan & Stewart
Stilwell and the American Experience in China by Tuchman
The Burma Road by Donavan Webster
The Second World War: A Military History by Corrigan
The Second World War: A Complete History by Gilbert
The Second World War by Keegan
The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War, by Andrew Roberts
The War, An Intimate History by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns

And these authors (the first mentioned with caution):

Stephen E. Ambrose
Carlo D'este
Sir Max Hastings

jun 27, 2016, 7:27pm

>26 Muscogulus: Inferno and All Hell Let Loose are the same book; it's a case where the publishers use one title in the US and another in the UK.

jun 27, 2016, 7:40pm

>27 Jestak: Thanks, Jestak, I corrected the error.