World War I and II
- The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman.
- *The First World War by Hew Strachan.
- *The Origins of the First World War (New Approaches to European History) by William Mulligan.
- Delivered from Evil: The Saga of World War II by Robert Leckie . IMHO is the best one-volume history of WW2 that exists.
- The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer.
- The Second World War by Winston Churchill.
- *Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland by Christopher R. Browning.
- Eagle Against the Sun: The American War With Japan by Ronald Spector.
- War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War by John Dower.
- Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider by Peter Gay.
- Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town 1922–1945 by William Sheridan Allen.
- The Weimar Republic Sourcebook by Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg.
- The Weimar Republic by Detlev J. K. Peukert.
- Between Two Fires: Europe’s Path in the 1930s by David Clay Large.
- *The Coming of the Third Reich and The Third Reich in Power both by Richard J. Evans. (Both are also available on audio format.)
- *The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy by Adam Tooze.
- *Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis.
- *With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene B. Sledge. (Also available on audio format.)
- *The Good War: An Oral History of World War II by Studs Terkel. (Also available on audio and cassette format.) Also of interest may be Recordings from the Good War from the authors web page.
- *Crusade in Europe by Dwight D. Eisenhower.
- Spandau: The Secret Diaries by Albert Speer.
- *World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, The Nazis and the West by Lawrence Rees.
- The Deadly Embrace: Hitler, Stalin, and the Nazi-Soviet Pact 1939–1941 by Anthony Read and David Fisher.
- The Red Army and the Wehrmacht by Yuri L. Djakov and Tatyana Bushuyeva.
- *The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War by Martin Gilbert.
- *After the Holocaust by Michael Brenner. Translated by Barbara Harshav. (Also available on audio format.)
- *Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt.
- *Germany 1945: From War to Peace by Richard Bessel.
- *Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II by Keith Lowe. (Also available on MP3.)
World War II books provided by /u/WARFTW
- When Titans Clashed by David M. Glantz and Jonathan House A good introductory account of the clash between the Wehrmacht and Red Army based on post-Cold War research and archival materials. Dispels a few myths from the Cold War era and allows for a more nuanced understanding of the Eastern Front from the Soviet point-of-view.
- Russia at War by Alexander Werth This is a ‘classic’ account of the Eastern Front from a Russian born British journalist and war correspondent. It’s filled with eye-witness accounts but also is prone to repeating propaganda from the time period it is covering.
- Thunder in the East by Evan Mawdsley A more up-to-date introduction to the Eastern Front by an academic. This builds on ‘When Titans Clashed’ by taking the most up to date secondary literature in Russian and crafting a very accessible, fact rich synthesis of the Eastern Front.
- Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War by Chris Bellamy Bellamy was a student of John Erickson and is/was in the military. “Absolute War” is a substantial tome that encompasses some of the more recent literature on the war and includes interesting case studies of organizations like the NKVD. Unfortunately, 1941 and 1942 are overly represented, whereas the rest of the war seems to be somewhat skimmed over.
- Hitler’s War in the East, 1941–1945: A Critical Assessment by Rolf-Dieter Muller and Gerd R. Ueberschar There are many myths that exist about the Eastern Front, especially revolving around the Wehrmacht and how the Germans waged war. This text is a good start in discussing some of those myths.
- *The Road to Stalingrad and The Road to Berlin by John Erickson These two books are the foundation of literature on the Eastern Front. Written during the Cold War they showcase the tremendous amount of information that was available at the time and the complexity of the Eastern Front. Although Erickson tried his best, he was still somewhat influenced by Soviet propaganda in some of his accounts. Nonetheless, this is still a staple to this day for understanding the Eastern Front.
- A Writer at War by Vasily Grossman Grossman was a war correspondent and an author. He has recently been ‘rediscovered’ in both Russia and the west and his “Life and Fate” is at times compared to Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’. In ‘A Writer at War’ the reader is presented with eye-witness accounts from the duration of the war, including some of the most powerful articles/reports from Stalingrad and Treblinka.
- *The Role of the Soviet Union in the Second World War: A Re-examination by Boris Sokolov This is a post-Cold War effort by a controversial Russian author. The arguments presented are not meant for the layman, but thrust the reader into the midst of current Russian debates on the Eastern Front, including Lend Lease and casualties in both the war as a whole and, more specifically, during the Battle of Kursk.
- Why Stalin’s Soldiers Fought: The Red Army’s Military Effectiveness in World War II by Roger R. Reese Reese attempts to explain why Red Army soldiers continued to fight in the face of numerous defeats and catastrophic set backs during 1941 and 1942, analyzing their effectiveness from the Winter War throughout the Eastern Front of the Second World War. Reese is an expert on the Red Army and presents many original arguments based on recent literature, memoirs, and archival findings. This is an especially important text for understanding why the Wehrmacht was successful in 1941.
- Blood on the Shores by Viktor Leonov. This is one of the best memoirs written about the Eastern Front. The author was twice Hero of the Soviet Union and served in the precursor to today’s Spetsnaz forces, naval infantry reconnaissance. He fought against both the Germans in the Baltic and against the Japanese in the Pacific.
- Over the Abyss by Ilya Starinov. Starinov was a demolitions expert and participated in partisan operations from the Russian Civil War, through the Spanish Civil War, and the Eastern Front of the Second World War. He trained partisan forces in the German rear and helped wage war against the Wehrmacht.
- *Red Sniper on the Eastern Front by Joseph Pilyushin. The majority of the action takes place on the Leningrad Front and encompasses a lot more than just Pilyushin’s sniper activity. In some ways it showcases the fluid nature of being in the Red Army during the Second World War. This memoir offers a lot of insight into the mentality of Red Army soldiers, showcases the ingenuity of the Red Army, portrays quite well the chaos of war.
- *GUNS AGAINST THE REICH: Memoirs of an Artillery Officer on the Eastern Front by Petr Mikhin. The author took part in the fighting around Rzhev, Kharkov, and Kursk, among other locations. There aren’t many memoirs featuring artillery observers, so this recollection offers an important portrayal of the role artillery plays in war, especially the reliance the Red Army placed on artillery support.
- *PANZER DESTROYER: Memoirs of a Red Army Tank Commander by Vasiliy Krysov. Krysov served in both tanks (KV and T-34) and self-propelled artillery guns (SU-122 and SU-85). This account offers a fascinating portrayal of the Red Army’s tank park at war, including their ingenuity on the field of battle and the deprivations they suffered from as they advanced on empty stomachs and with little to no sleep day after day.
- Through the Maelstrom: A Red Army Soldier’s War on the Eastern Front, 1942–1945 by Boris Gorbachevsky. This is somewhat of a well known title in Russia. Gorbachevsky served around Rzhev and participated in what some would describe was a ‘human wave attack’. This memoir doesn’t contain as much action as some of the above mentioned texts, but since Gorbachevsky was a political officer, it offers a different kind of insight into the thinking of political officers and the role they played in the Red Army.
- *Red Road From Stalingrad: Recollections Of A Soviet Infantryman by Mansur Abdulin. This is a well written account of the Eastern Front filled with battles and locations that few would have heard of (aside from Stalingrad) and the sacrifices Red Army soldiers regularly made for their comrades in arms and their country.
- *Red Star Against the Swastika: The Story of a Soviet Pilot over the Eastern Front by Vasily Emelianenko. Emelianenko offers a glimpse into the life of Soviet pilots and the drastic actions some had to take. The Soviet Air Force (VVS) is often overlooked and this memoir gives a good account of what the Red Army asked of its pilots.
- *Penalty Strike: The Memoirs of a Red Army Penal Company Commander, 1943–45 by Alexander V. Pyl’cyn. There are very, very few memoirs from penal formations as they suffered grievous losses throughout the war. This memoir is by a regular Red Army officer who was put in charge of a penal company (made up of Red Army officers) and discusses what life was like for Red Army penal formations, and the officers that commanded them.
- Through Hell for Hitler by Henry Metelmann. One of the few memoirs written by a Wehrmacht soldier that serves as an interesting reflection of the crimes the German army committed on the Eastern Front. All too often German military memoirs gloss over the genocidal nature of the war they waged against the Soviet Union, Metelmann brings those atrocities into focus.
- *A Stranger to Myself: The Inhumanity of War : Russia, 1941–1944 by Willy Peter Reese. Reese did not survive the Eastern Front. This candid memoir reveals what everyday life in the German army was like and the transformation some soldiers undoubtedly underwent as they were forces to wage a genocidal war on behalf of the Third Reich.
- War Without Garlands: Barbarossa 1941/42 by Robert Kershaw. Kershaw offers an excellent account of the initial invasion of the Soviet Union through eye-witness accounts from both the Red Army and the Wehrmacht.
- *BARBAROSSA DERAILED: THE BATTLE FOR SMOLENSK 10 JULY-10 SEPTEMBER 1941 VOLUME 1: The German Advance, The Encirclement Battle, and the First and Second Soviet Counteroffensives, 10 July-24 August 1941 and Barbarossa Derailed: The Battle for Smolensk 10 July-10 September 1941 Volume 2: The German Offensives on the Flanks and the Third Soviet Counteroffensive, 25 August-10 September 1941 by David Glantz. This is the first and second volume in a trilogy that discuss the battle for Smolensk, what some consider to be a German failure that eventually set the stage for operation Typhoon and the defeat of the German Army outside Moscow. They are not for the layman and the narrative is written around battle reports from the Red Army to a large extent. Glantz offers some of his own analysis and conclusions, but that makes up a rather small portion of the overall text.
- *Operation Barbarossa and Germany’s Defeat in the East, Kiev 1941, *Operation Typhoon: Hitler’s March on Moscow, October 1941 by David Stahel. These three texts offer a new and more nuanced version of Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, the battle for Kiev, and the eventual German lunge toward Moscow in Operation Typhoon. Most histories present 1941, when speaking of the Wehrmacht, as a year of triumph when the Germans could do no wrong. Stahel shows the numerous mistakes committed by the German high command and the resulting deficiencies that plagued the Wehrmacht as Germany invaded the Soviet Union and set the stage for her eventual defeat outside Moscow.
- *THE VIAZ’MA CATASTROPHE, 1941: The Red Army’s Disastrous Stand against Operation Typhoon by Lev Lopukhovsky. Lopukhovsky offers a look at 1941 and one of the lesser known encirclement operations by the Germans in October of 1941. Lopukhovsky concentrates mainly on the Russian side of things, including showcasing Soviet/Red Army weaknesses on the eve and throughout the first months of the war, but presents a good amount of information from/on the German side that makes for a more balanced look at the Eastern Front.
- *What Stalin Knew: The Enigma of Barbarossa by David E. Murphy. Murphy does an excellent job showcasing the intelligence the Soviet Union received on the eve of Operation Barbarossa but also explaining the ambiguous nature of the information that was sent through intelligence channels.
- *War of Annihilation: Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front, 1941 by Geoffrey P. Megargee. This is a slim volume that’s meant to show the Wehrmacht’s complicity in the genocidal campaign that was waged throughout the opening phase of the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
- Germany and the Second World War: Volume IV: The Attack on the Soviet Union by Horst Boog, et al. This is volume IV of a planned ten volume history entitled ‘Germany and the Second World War’. Most of the volumes are around 1,000 pages and are oriented toward researchers, scholars, and experts in the field. If you have a good grounding on the Eastern Front, this will enhance your understanding of Germany’s war effort(s).
- Stalingrad: How the Red Army Survived the German Onslaught by Michael Jones. Jones attempts to analyze the motivation behind the Red Army and what was responsible for keeping up their morale throughout the siege of the Stalingrad. He corrects quite a few of Anthony Beevor’s mistakes and offers an engaging narrative of the battle, including eye-witness accounts from surviving veterans.
- *Leningrad: State of Siege By Michael Jones. Similar to his book on Stalingrad, Jones once more takes a look at what motivated Leningraders and the Red Army defenders of Leningrad to continue to struggle against the Wehrmacht when surrounded and facing famine conditions on a daily basis for months at a time.
- *Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad by William Craig. This volume was first published in the 1970s and offers a good and accessible introductory account of the Battle for Stalingrad. (Also available on audio.)
- To the Gates of Stalingrad: Soviet-German Combat Operations, April-August 1942 and Armageddon in Stalingrad: September-November 1942 by David M. Glantz and Jonathan House. These two volumes offer the definitive account on the battle of Stalingrad from the operational side of things. The concentration is mainly on the Red Army but the German point of view is present as well. This is not aimed at the novice or layman and relies on a large amount of after action reports and battle journals of the units involved in the battle.
- Stopped at Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe and Hitler’s Defeat in the East, 1942–1943 by Joel Hayward. This is an important text that showcases the role of the Luftwaffe in the German advance to Stalingrad and how the German air force helped sustain the 6th Army for as long as it could after Paulus and his forces were encircled within the confines of Stalingrad.
- The 900 Days: The Siege Of Leningrad by Harrison E. Sailsbury. Salisbury was a journalist and offers a very moving introductory account to the siege of Leningrad. This is one of the first and more famous narratives on the siege of Leningrad and in many respects holds up to this day in terms of portraying a suffering the city of Leningrad and its population had to endure during the close to 900 days the Germans had them surrounded.
- The Battle of Kursk by David Glantz and Jonathan House. Another volume by Glantz that serves as a good introductory to the battle of Kursk. It isn’t without its problems and issues, but for someone new to the field, it’s a good starting place.
- Demolishing the Myth: The Tank Battle at Prokhorovka, Kursk, July 1943: An Operational Narrative by Valeriy Zamulin. Zamulin is an historian who works at the Kursk museum. One of his first publications was on Prokhorovka, and this is a translation of that massive tome. He’s since put out a few more volumes, all of similar length, on other aspects of Kursk and all are recommended but, unfortunately, they are only available in Russian at the moment. This is a volume for those already familiar with the Eastern Front and Kursk as it delves into many minor nuances with evidence and information from both the German and Soviet side. A must read for those interested in the Red Army’s performance at Prokhorovka.
- Barbarossa: The Air Battle July-December 1941, Stalingrad: The Air Battle: 1942-January 1943, Kursk: The Air Battle, July 1943, Bagration to Berlin: The Final Air Battles in the East 1944–1945 by Christer Bergstrom. These four volumes offer an excellent introduction and description of the air war on the Eastern Front from both the German and Soviet point of view.
- Black Cross/Red Star : Vol. 1, Operation Barbarossa 1941, Black Cross / Red Star: The Air War Over The Eastern Front, Vol. 2 — Resurgence: January — June 1942, Black Cross Red Star: The Air War Over the Eastern Front Volume 3 by Christer Bergstrom and Andrey Mikhailov. Similar to Bergstrom’s four volumes, these three volumes offer an in-depth look at the air war over the Eastern Front and include descriptions and stories from both the German and Soviet side, including archival information and eye-witness testimonies.
- War of Extermination: The German Military in World War II Edited by H. Heer and K. Naumann. This is one of the few texts that examines the role of the Wehrmacht in the ‘war of extermination’ that was unleashed against the Soviet Union with Opreation Barbarossa. The concentration here is on examining and disproving the myth about the ‘Wehrmacht with clean hands’.
- *Hitler’s Army: Soldiers, Nazis, and War in the Third Reich by Omer Bartov. Bartov tries to showcase the impact Nazi ideology had on the German Army and how the war on the Eastern Front and German propaganda helped shape a new type of German Army.
- The Myth of the Eastern Front: The Nazi-Soviet War in American Popular Culture by Ronald Smelser and Edward J. Davies ll. This book offers an interesting look at the infatuation American culture has with the war on the Eastern Front and the German Army in general (including the SS). Too often one hears about how the ‘victors write the history books’ but in this case the history of the war and the German Army was heavily influenced by the defeated officers and soldiers in the post-war period. The myths they created are still prevalent in how many view the German army and the war on the Eastern Front in general.
- *The Wehrmacht: History, Myth, Reality by Wolfram Wette. This is another interesting look at how the veterans of the German Army helped create the narrative of the war many are familiar with today, including the role of the Army in the holocaust/genocide in the East.
- *The Unknown Eastern Front: The Wehrmacht and Hitler’s Foreign Soldiers by Rolf-Dieter Müller. There are many reasons for why the German army was as successful as it was against the Red Army on the Eastern Front. One of the most important is the assistance that was rendered the Wehrmacht by Germany’s allies. All too often that assistance is dismissed as being of limited value, but the truth is that without her allies Germany would never have been able to reach Stalingrad, less so hold out against the Red Army until May of 1945. This text explains the impact Germany’s allies and foreign volunteers had on the German war effort.
- *Defiance by Nechama Tec. This is the book the movie with the same title is based on. In general the Jewish narrative of the Second World War is embedded in the ‘victim’ mentality and yet there were numerous instances of Jewish resistance, from partisans to revolts within ghettos and concentration/death camps. This showcases the former, a band of Jewish partisans that did more than just fight the German occupation, they made it a rule to save as many women, children, and the elderly as they could. (Also available on audio format.)
- Stalin’s Guerrillas: Soviet Partisans in World War II by Kenneth Slepyan. Slepyan is an academic and this monograph is an in-depth look at the partisan war effort on the Eastern Front, concentrating on the creation of the partisan movement and the complex nature of war on occupied territory and in the rear of the German Army.
- *Harvest of Despair: Life and Death in Ukraine under Nazi Rule by Karel C. Berkhoff. Berkhoff offers an in-depth look at the German occupation of Ukraine, a territory that endured some of the worst excesses of the German Army’s advance, the Einsatzgruppen that followed, and the partisan war that followed in its wake. Both collaboration and resistance is discussed as part of everyday life of those under occupation.
- *Nazi Empire-Building and the Holocaust in Ukraine by Wendy Lower. This monograph looks at the German occupation of Ukraine but places it in the greater context of German ‘Empire-Building’ and how that mindset facilitated the excesses of the Holocaust on Ukrainian territory. (Also available on audio and MP3 format.)
- *Erased: Vanishing Traces of Jewish Galicia in Present-Day Ukraine by Omer Bartov. Bartov explores the erasure of memory, including the Holocaust and Jewish history in general, throughout Western Ukrainian territory as the recently created state of Ukraine tries to come to terms with its past while crafting a new memory and history for its indigenous population.
- The Shoah in Ukraine: History, Testimony, Memorialization edited by Ray Brandon and Wendy Lower. This is an anthology concentrating on the Holocaust in Ukraine, mainly aimed at/for academics. Ukraine has a very complex history, in great part influenced by the fact that parts of today’s Ukraine were once part of the Habsburg Empire while other territories belonged in various times to Poland and Russia/the Soviet Union. Topics covered include German Military administration and complicity in the Holocaust, Jewish-Ukrainian and German-Ukrainian relations in Galicia, as well as Romania’s role in the Holocaust.
Soviet and German Commanders:
- *Stalin’s Generals Edited by Harold Shukman. This is an excellent introductory/starting point for those interested in some of the more famous Red Army commanders and their roles in the war on the Eastern Front.
- Red Army Tank Commanders: The Armored Guards by Richard N. Armstrong. Armstrong is a military officer who knows Russian and wrote this monograph on the six tank armies of the Red Army and their respective commanders. Well worth the read to understand how Red Army commanders handled their tank forces and in general how armored formations were employed throughout the war on the Eastern Front.
- *Marshal of Victory: The Autobiography of General Georgy Zhukov by Georgy Zhukov and Geoffrey Roberts. This is a must if you have an interest in the Red Army. Zhukov’s memoirs present some problems, having gone through 13 editions, but Roberts is an excellent historian who’s written on Zhukov himself so he presents something of a balance.
- *Stalin’s General: The Life of Georgy Zhukov by Geoffrey Roberts. Zhukov is a somewhat controversial figure in today’s Russia and Roberts has taken it upon himself to meticulously go through the various editions of Zhukov’s memoirs and his personal archive to take apart the various ‘myths’ that made it into the pages of Zhukov’s memoirs.
- *Field Marshal von Manstein: The Janus Head / A Portrait by Marcel Stein. Manstein is often made out to be the greatest German commander of the Second World War but there is more than one side to the man that most like so much to laud. Although Stein’s portrait of Manstein presents some limitations and weaknesses, overall it is a step in the right direction that few others have taken as they seem to be too enamored with Manstein, and the German officer corps in general.
- *Hitler’s Commander: Field Marshal Walther Model — Hitler’s Favorite General by Steven H. Newton. Model is a well known German commander but he’s more significant and visible in the latter part of the Second World War. He was Hitler’s ‘defensive’ general and a fanatical Nazi. Newton does a good job in analyzing Model’s rise through the ranks and the role he played in delaying various Red Army offensives up until his defeat and suicide on the Western Front.