Recommended Historical Reading List. (Temporary list – More books will be added).
World War I
World War II
Eastern Front: General Accounts
Soviet and German Commanders
Russia (including USSR)
- Why the West Rules, for Now by Ian Morris: An excellent overview of both Western and Eastern history. Morris combines a readable style and an ability to explain historical concepts in an easy manner with a historian’s rigor. An excellent introduction to the topic of historical studies.
- The Prize by Daniel Yergin: Describes the history of the oil industry beginning in the 1800s through the 1990s. Combines many historical narrative types to create a sweeping, global narrative of how oil has impacted all aspects of society. Particularly good at explaining the science aspect of the oil industry, how oil is found and produced, how oil varies from region to region, etc.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Empires of the Word by Nicholas Ostler – exploring world history through the languages that wrote it.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Between Two Fires: Europe’s Path in the 1930s by David Clay Large. A collection of essays on various incidents of European history that occurred in the 1930s which build up an image of Europe on the brink. Episodes are linked to illustrate this, such as the Stavinsky affair in France, the murder of Ernst Roehm, and the civil war in the red quarters of Vienna.
- The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard J. Evans. With The Coming of the Third Reich, Richard Evans, one of the world’s most distinguished historians, has written the definitive account for our time. A masterful synthesis of a vast body of scholarly work integrated with important new research and interpretations, Evans’s history restores drama and contingency to the rise to power of Hitler and the Nazis, even as it shows how ready Germany was by the early 1930s for such a takeover to occur.
- The Third Reich in Power by Richard J. Evans. This magnificent second volume of Richard J. Evans’s three-volume history of Nazi Germany was hailed by Benjamin Schwartz of the Atlantic Monthly as “the definitive English-language account… gripping and precise.” It chronicles the incredible story of Germany’s radical reshaping under Nazi rule. As those who were deemed unworthy to be counted among the German people were dealt with in increasingly brutal terms, Hitler’s drive to prepare Germany for the war that he saw as its destiny reached its fateful hour in September 1939.
- The Good War: An Oral History of World War II by Studs Terkel. “”The Good War”, for which Studs Terkel won the Pulitzer Prize, is a testament not only to the experience of war but to the extraordinary skill of Terkel as interviewer. As always, his subjects are open and unrelenting in their analyses of themselves and their experiences, producing what People magazine has called “a splendid epic history of World War II”.
- Crusade in Europe by Dwight D. Eisenhower. For many historians, his memoirs of this eventful period of U.S. history have become the single most important record of the war. Crusade in Europe tells the complete story of the war as Eisenhower planned and lived it. Through his eyes, the enormous scope and drama of the war―strategy, battles, moments of fateful decision―become fully illuminated in all their fateful glory.
- Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt. Almost a decade in the making, this much-anticipated grand history of postwar Europe from one of the world’s most esteemed historians and intellectuals is a singular achievement. Postwar is the first modern history that covers all of Europe, both east and west, drawing on research in six languages to sweep readers through thirty-four nations and sixty years of political and cultural change-all in one integrated, enthralling narrative.
- Delivered from Evil: The Saga of World War II by Robert Leckie . One of the best one-volume history of WW2 that exists.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 of Extermination: The German Military in World War II 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- A History of Europe by J. M. Roberts. Beginning with its Paleolithic origins and the early civilizations of the Aegean, Roberts traces the development of the European identity over the course of thousands of years, ranging across empires and religions, economics, science, and the arts.
- The Making of the Middle Ages by R. W. Southern. A distinguished Oxford historian presents an absorbing study of the main personalities and the influences that molded the history of Western Europe from the late tenth to the early thirteenth century, describing the chief forms of social, political, and religious organization.
- The Making of the English Working Class by E.P. Thompson. During the formative years of the Industrial Revolution, English workers and artisans claimed a place in society that would shape the following centuries. But the capitalist elite did not form the working class—the workers shaped their own creations, developing a shared identity in the process. Despite their lack of power and the indignity forced upon them by the upper classes, the working class emerged as England’s greatest cultural and political force.
- Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error by Emmanuel LeRoy Ladurie, translated by Barbara Bray. Montaillou, which is the reconstruction of the social life of a medieval village, has been acclaimed by the experts as a masterpiece of ethnographic history and by the public as a sensational revelation of the thoughts, feelings, and activities of the ordinary people of the past.
- The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, Vol. 1 and 2 by Fernand Braudel. The focus of Fernand Braudel’s great work is the Mediterranean world in the second half of the sixteenth century, but Braudel ranges back in history to the world of Odysseus and forward to our time, moving out from the Mediterranean area to the New World and other destinations of Mediterranean traders. Braudel’s scope embraces the natural world and material life, economics, demography, politics, and diplomacy.
- The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity by Peter Brown. Following the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, the cult of the saints was the dominant form of religion in Christian Europe. In this elegantly written work, Peter Brown explores the role of tombs, shrines, relics, and pilgrimages connected with the sacred bodies of the saints.
- The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity by Peter Brown. First published in 1988, Peter Brown’s The Body and Society was a groundbreaking study of the marriage and sexual practices of early Christians in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East. Brown focuses on the practice of permanent sexual renunciation-continence, celibacy, and lifelong virginity-in Christian circles from the first to the fifth centuries A.D. and traces early Christians’ preoccupations with sexuality and the body in the work of the period’s great writers.
- The Oxford History of the French Revolution by William Doyle. Massacres were nothing new to the late eighteenth-century world, but the prospect of a government systematically executing its opponents by the cartload for months on end presented Europe with a new and unimaginable horror. The Reign of Terror and the French Revolution as a whole transformed the meaning of political change and history itself.
- Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed. Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. With penetrating insights for today, this vital history of the world economic collapse of the late 1920s offers unforgettable portraits of the four men whose personal and professional actions as heads of their respective central banks changed the course of the twentieth century.
- The Thirty Years War by Peter H. Wilson. A deadly continental struggle, the Thirty Years War devastated seventeenth-century Europe, killing nearly a quarter of all Germans and laying waste to towns and countryside alike. Peter Wilson offers the first new history in a generation of a horrifying conflict that transformed the map of the modern world.
- Dungeon, Fire and Sword: The Knights Templar in the Crusades by John J. Robinson. Founded in 1119 shortly after the first crusade to defend those areas of the Holy Land conquered from the Muslims, the Poor Knights of the Temple, or Knights Templars, were a manifestation of the new zealous piety of the 12th century.
- Barbarian West 400 – 1000 by J. M. Wallace-Hadrill. In the fourth century the Roman Empire was under threat. The Barbarians were becoming a powerful force in Europe, and the Huns, the most savage of these tribesmen, were sweeping south towards the imperial frontiers. At the same time the Empire faced growing internal social and economic problems: plague and war had diminished the agricultural population and productivity was falling; the army was under increasing strain in defending the extensive boundaries.
- Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heretics by Chas S. Clifton. Examines the various heretic movements and individuals throughout Christian history, from the time of Christ’s crucifixion to the 16th century.
- The Secret History by Procopius. The Secret History portrays the ‘great lawgiver’ Justinian as a rampant king of corruption and tyranny, the Empress Theodora as a sorceress and whore, and the brilliant general Belisarius as the pliable dupe of his scheming wife Antonina. Magnificently hyperbolic and highly opinionated, The Secret History is a work of explosive energy, depicting holy Byzantium as a hell of murder and misrule.
- Twilight of the Habsburgs: The Life and Times of Emperor Francis Joseph by Alan Palmer. No ruler in modern times reigned in full sovereignty for as long as Francis Joseph, emperor of Austria and king of Hungary, Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, and Slavonia. Titular master of central Europe from 1848 until 1916, he was center stage in Europe throughout the dramatic era in which Italy and Germany emerged as united nation states.
- Napoleon: The Final Verdict edited by Philip J. Haythornthwaite. To commemorate the 200th anniversaries of his career, a team of military historians assess Napoleon. The first part of the book is made up of a series of reports on the military actions, from his earliest commands to his death on St Helena.
- The Celts: The People Who Came Out of the Darkness by Gerhard Herm. 2000 year epic story of northern European civilization that rivaled Greece and Rome for richness, diversity and power.
- Empires and Barbarians by Peter Heather. With sharp analytic insight, Peter Heather explores the dynamics of migration and social and economic interaction that changed two vastly different worlds–the undeveloped barbarian world and the sophisticated Roman Empire–into remarkably similar societies and states.
- Empires of the Sea: the Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World by Roger Crowley. In 1521, Suleiman the Magnificent, Muslim ruler of the Ottoman Empire, dispatched an invasion fleet to the Christian island of Rhodes. This would prove to be the opening shot in an epic clash between rival empires and faiths for control of the Mediterranean and the center of the world. In Empires of the Sea, acclaimed historian Roger Crowley has written a thrilling account of this brutal decades-long battle between Christendom and Islam for the soul of Europe, a fast-paced tale of spiraling intensity that ranges from Istanbul to the Gates of Gibraltar.
- The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. The work covers the history, from 98 to 1590, of the Roman Empire, the history of early Christianity and then of the Roman State Church, and the history of Europe, and discusses the decline of the Roman Empire in the East and West. Because of its relative objectivity and heavy use of primary sources, unusual at the time, its methodology became a model for later historians.
- Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic by Tom Holland. A masterful, witty, brilliantly researched popular history of perhaps the greatest civilization ever and the events and people that led to its transformation from a republic to an empire.
- Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician by Anthony Everitt. He squared off against Caesar and was friends with young Brutus. He advised the legendary Pompey on his somewhat botched transition from military hero to politician. He lambasted Mark Antony and was master of the smear campaign, as feared for his wit as he was for exposing his opponents’ sexual peccadilloes. Brilliant, voluble, cranky, a genius of political manipulation but also a true patriot and idealist, Cicero was Rome’s most feared politician, one of the greatest lawyers and statesmen of all times.
- Augustus: The Life of Rome’s First Emperor by Anthony Everitt. As Rome’s first emperor, Augustus transformed the unruly Republic into the greatest empire the world had ever seen. His consolidation and expansion of Roman power two thousand years ago laid the foundations, for all of Western history to follow.
- The Roman Emperors: A Biographical Guide to the Rulers of Imperial Rome 318 B.C. – A.D. 476 by Michael Grant. In this book, classical historian Michael Grant uses true writings, augmenting them with evidence from archaeology, inscriptions, coins & medallions to reconstruct the lives of 92 Roman emperors.
- SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard. .P.Q.R. (the abbreviation of “The Senate and People of Rome”) examines not just how we think of ancient Rome but challenges the comfortable historical perspectives that have existed for centuries by exploring how the Romans thought of themselves: how they challenged the idea of imperial rule, how they responded to terrorism and revolution, and how they invented a new idea of citizenship and nation.
- A History of Russia by Walter Moss.This is the first volume of a two-volume text that focuses on three main topics: the struggle for and against political authority, the expansion and contraction of Russia and its dealings with non-Russian nationalities and foreign powers, and the life and culture of the Russian people.
- The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States by Ronald Suny. The Soviet Experiment examines the complex themes of Soviet history, ranging from the last tsar of the Russian empire to the first president of the Russian republic. Author Ronald Grigor Suny, one of the most eminent Soviet historians of our time, examines the legacies left by former Soviet leaders and explores successor states and the challenges they now face.
- A History of Russia by Nicholas Riasanovsky & Mark Steinberg. A History of Russia covers the entire span of the country’s history, from ancient times to the post-communist present. Keeping with the hallmark of the text, Riasanovsky and Steinberg examine all aspects of Russia’s history–political, international, military, economic, social, and cultural–with a commitment to objectivity, fairness, and balance, and to reflecting recent research and new trends in scholarly interpretation.
- Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia by Martin Malia. This is history at the high level, well deployed factually, but particularly worthwhile in the philosophical and political context — at once a view and an overview.
- Voices of Glasnost: Interviews with Gorbachev’s Reformers by Stephen F. Cohen & Katrina Vanden Heuvel. The 14 Perestroishchiki interviewed here by Cohen ( Sovieticus ), director of Russian studies at Princeton, and Nation editor Heuvel are an impressive lot: three are members of the Central Committee, one (Aleksandr Yakovlev) of the Politburo, nine are elected representatives to the new Congress of People’s Deputies.
- Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire by David Remnick. From the editor of The New Yorker: a riveting account of the collapse of the Soviet Union, which has become the standard book on the subject. Lenin’s Tomb combines the global vision of the best historical scholarship with the immediacy of eyewitness journalism.