One of my colleagues at work was telling me the other day that she would like to know more about military history. I said I’d send her a list of books. I sent the following (without links) as an email.
Per our conversation, here is a “reading list” of military books. You and your husband might get a kick out of it, and even want to read some of this stuff.
Very difficult to keep the list short. I cruised around my library at home, and came up with the following. I decided to keep it to ten, but failed and ended up with a few more than that.
Since you like historical fiction, I decided to split the difference between that and narrative history and mostly suggest “you are there” memoirs.
I keep my sanity in this job by always having a couple of books going, even if I can only get in a few pages a day.
Here’s the list:
David Hackett Fischer
Paul Revere’s Ride
Two very good narrative histories of key episodes in the American Revolution. Very good on the details of the events, as well as placing them in their larger context.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson
Army Life in a Black Regiment
Memoir of the Civil War from the viewpoint of a Boston Yankee commanding a regiment of freed slaves.
My Early Life: A Roving Commission
Churchill’s memoir of his early life. He was in combat in India, the Sudan and in the Boer War. Probably his best book, and a good insider view of the Victorian heyday of British imperial power.
Good-Bye to All That
Storm of Steel
Two memoirs capture the British and German responses to World War I. Graves is a beautiful writer and Junger is a mesmerizing maniac.
Eugene B. Sledge
With the Old Breed at Pelelieu and Okinowa
Hans von Luck
Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck
The Sword of Honour Trilogy
My favorite memoirs from World War II, one from each nationality: American, British, Soviet and German. (I don’t know of a good one showing the Japanese or Chinese experience, unfortunately.) There are lots of others, but these are all superb. I add one novel, Waugh’s brilliant though flawed masterwork, which has been described as the best depiction of Britain during World War II.
Hackworth’s About Face is an epic. A personal, ground-level depiction of the US Army from 1946 to 1970, including Korea and Vietnam. Hackworth joined the Army when he was 15. This is in its way a love story — the kid who gave his heart to the Army and never looked back, no matter how it treated him. Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts is an in-depth depiction of one year in the life of a battalion Hackworth commanded in Vietnam. Both are superb.
Ghost Force: The Secret History of the SAS
An insider’s take on the military history in the postwar world, from a very different perspective from Hackworth. Part history and part memoir. The British Special Air Service commando unit, “the Queen’s Killers”, fought many bloody unpublicized battles in the back-alleys of the Cold War, and sustained Britain’s global influence during the post-colonial era. The future of the American military and the defense of the United States in the 21st century will probably be far more like these nasty, covert, face-to-face and often low-tech efforts than the big-ticket, big battles of the past.