Recommended Reading List. (Temporary list – More books will be added).

General

  1. Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World’s Undeciphered Scripts by Andrew Robinson is a good book about unknown languages. The book highlights the thrills of archeological sleuthing, recounts the many attempts at understanding ancient civilizations through the decipherment of their long-lost writing.
  2. Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. Every human needs it. If you don’t have salt, you die. The only rock we eat, salt has shaped civilization from the very beginning, and its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of humankind. A substance so valuable it served as currency, salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires, and inspired revolutions.
  3. Uncommon Grounds: The History Of Coffee And How It Transformed Our World by Mark Pendergrast. The book tells the story of coffee from its discovery on a hill in Abyssinia to its role in intrigue in the American colonies to its rise as a national consumer product in the twentieth century and its rediscovery with the advent of Starbucks at the end of the century.
  4. The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes and Code Breaking by Simon Singh. Simon Singh brings life to an astonishing story of puzzles, codes, languages and riddles that reveals man’s continual pursuit to disguise and uncover, and to work out the secret languages of others.
  5. Empires of the Word by Nicholas Ostler – exploring world history through the languages that wrote it.
  6. False Impressions: The Hunt for Big-Time Art Fakes by Thomas Hoving. Delving into one of the most sacrosanct areas of culture–fine art collecting–Thomas Hoving presents a gallery of art fakes, fakers, and the suckers who fell for the scams.

World War I

  1. The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman. In this landmark, Pulitzer Prize–winning account, renowned historian Barbara W. Tuchman re-creates the first month of World War I: thirty days in the summer of 1914 that determined the course of the conflict, the century, and ultimately our present world.
  2. The First World War by Hew Strachan. Nearly a century has passed since the outbreak of World War I, yet as military historian Hew Strachan argues in this brilliant and authoritative new book, the legacy of the “war to end all wars” is with us still.
  3. The Origins of the First World War (New Approaches to European History) by William Mulligan. Providing a new interpretation of the origins of the First World War, this textbook synthesises recent scholarship and introduces the major historiographical and political debates surrounding the outbreak of the war. William Mulligan argues that the war was a far from inevitable outcome of international politics in the early twentieth century and suggests instead that there were powerful forces operating in favour of the maintenance of peace.

World War II

  1. Delivered from Evil: The Saga of World War II by Robert Leckie . One of the best one-volume history of WW2 that exists.
  2. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. Hailed as “one of the most important works of history of our time” (The New York Times), this definitive chronicle of Hitler’s rise to power is a must-read.
  3. The Second World War by Winston Churchill. Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1940 to 1945, Winston Churchill was not only the most powerful player in World War II but also the free world’s most eloquent voice of defiance in the face of Nazi tyranny. Churchill’s epic accounts of those times, remarkable for their grand sweep and incisive firsthand observations, are distilled here in a single essential volume.
  4. Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland by Christopher R. Browning. The shocking account of how a unit of average middle-aged Germans became the cold-blooded murderers of tens of thousands of Jews.
  5. Eagle Against the Sun: The American War With Japan by Ronald Spector. A stunning history of the war in the Pacific written by award-winning military historian Ronald Spector.
  6. War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War by John Dower. Though Western allies were clearly headed for victory, pure racism fueled the continuation and intensification of hostilities in the Pacific theater during the final year of World War II, a period that saw as many casualties as in the first five years of the conflict combined.
  7. Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town 1922-1945 by William Sheridan Allen. William Sheridan Allen’s research provides an intimate, comprehensive study of the mechanics of revolution and an analysis of the Nazi Party’s subversion of democracy. Beginning at the end of the Weimar Republic, Allen examines the entire period of the Nazi Revolution within a single locality.
  8. The Weimar Republic Sourcebook by Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg. The book represents the most comprehensive documentation of Weimar culture, history, and politics assembled in any language.
  9. The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy by Adam Tooze. dam Tooze’s controversial new book challenges the conventional economic interpretations of that period to explore how Hitler’s surprisingly prescient vision- ultimately hindered by Germany’s limited resources and his own racial ideology-was to create a German super-state to dominate Europe and compete with what he saw as America’s overwhelming power in a soon-to- be globalized world.
  10. Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis. In the summer and fall of 1942, American Marines landed on the South Pacific island of Guadalcanal and began the slow, bloody work of defeating the Japanese empire.
  11. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene B. Sledge. “Eugene Sledge became more than a legend with his memoir, With The Old Breed. He became a chronicler, a historian, a storyteller who turns the extremes of the war in the Pacific—the terror, the camaraderie, the banal and the extraordinary—into terms we mortals can grasp”.
  12. Spandau: The Secret Diaries by Albert Speer. How was Adolph Hitler, an obvious madman, totally insane, able to attain and keep such great power? Why did the German people not recognize what was happening and do something about it long before the destructive end? Most importantly: Can this happen again? Could and will another Hitler arise, perhaps not in Germany again?
  13. World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, The Nazis and the West by Lawrence Rees. In this revelatory chronicle of World War II, Laurence Rees documents the dramatic and secret deals that helped make the war possible and prompted some of the most crucial decisions made during the conflict.
  14. The Deadly Embrace: Hitler, Stalin, and the Nazi-Soviet Pact 1939-1941 by Anthony Read and David Fisher. An engrossing account of the mutual nonaggression treaty signed by Hitler and Stalin in 1939, and the historical events it produced.
  15. The Red Army and the Wehrmacht by Yuri L. Djakov and Tatyana Bushuyeva. This book details the revival of the German armed forces and the assistance given to them by the Soviet Union. The authors reveal the contents of uncovered secret documents that prove that German forces trained and built new equipment, including tanks and airplanes, in a shroud of secrecy on Russian soil.
  16. The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War by Martin Gilbert. Deftly weaving together historical research and survivors’ testimonies, The Holcaust is Gilbert’s acclaimed and definitive history of the European Jews, fom Hitler’s rise to power to Germany’s surrender to the liberation of the prisoners of the concentration camps.
  17. Germany 1945: From War to Peace by Richard Bessel. In the months after the fall of the Third Reich, Bessel writes, “the entire country seemed to be waiting for a train.” Bessel does an excellent job of evoking the blasted landscape of a conquered Germany—the homelessness and the hunger, the rubble and the mass rape.
  18. Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II by Keith Lowe. The end of World War II in Europe is remembered as a time when cheering crowds filled the streets, but the reality was quite different. Across Europe, landscapes had been ravaged, entire cities razed, and more than thirty million people had been killed in the war.