From the Civil War to the current war in Iraq, there’s a plethora of literature out there to help you better understand the art (or madness) of war.
Books on Gettysburg
The bloodiest battle on American soil, Gettysburg has several books written about the epic battle.
1. Gettysburg: The Second Day – Harry W. Pfanz. This is a comprehensive book on what went down during the battle of Gettysburg.
2. Gettysburg – Stephen Sears. For a thorough introduction into Gettysburg, this book will help the general reader get started.
3. Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg – Eric Wittenberg and J. David Petruzzi. General Jeb Stuart’s role in the Civil War is glossed over in other books, but this one provides the full story.
4. Gettysburg, July 1 – David G. Martin. There are many books that chronicle the first day at Gettysburg, but this one takes the cake.
5. Gettysburg: A Journey in Time – William A. Frassanito.An amazing photography book chronicling Gettysburg.
6. Gettysburg: The Second Day – Harry W. Pfanz. Widely regarded as the best single day history book of Gettysburg.
7. Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign – Kent Masterson Brown Get the scoop on the retreat from Gettysburg, a topic that is only vaguely covered by the mass amount of Civil War books out there.
8. The Killer Angels – Michael Shaara.This fiction book is a fabulous starting place for understanding what happened at Gettysburg.
9. Pickett’s Charge in History and Memory – Carol Reardon. Reardon’s book is regarded as one of the best Civil War books in the past decade.
10. Pickett’s Charge: The Last Attack at Gettysburg – Earl J. Hess.Hess is considered one of the best historians of the Civil War era, so you know his book is ace.
Books on the Civil War
The Civil War has spawned a cult group that studies it in great detail. Whether you’re a beginner or a full-fledged history buff, these books will add to your knowledge on the Civil War.
11. R. E. Lee by Douglas – Southall Freeman. If you read one book on General Lee, be sure it’s this one.
12. Battle Cry of Freedom – James McPherson. A brilliant read because it showcases the events leading up to the Civil War, as well as the war itself.
13. An interesting look at the Chancellorsville campaign and insight on why Hooker lost to Lee.
14. The Civil War: A Narrative – Shelby Foote. A complete look at the Civil War from a historian and writer that works with PBS and A&E specials on the subject.
15. The Civil War – Bruce Catton. Catton puts together an easy-to-follow narrative complete with maps and timelines for the reader to reference.
16. A Commitment to Honor: A Unique Portrait of Abraham Lincoln in His Own Words – Gordon Leidner. This book is chock full of quotes from Lincoln and the people who knew him best.
17. Men of Secession and Civil War, 1859-1861 by James Abrahamson This is a great book for those starting to explore the Civil War or students who wish to know more.
18. With Malice Toward None – Stephen B. Oates.An insightful look at the personality of Lincoln.
19. Lincoln: On God and Country – Gordon Leidner. A concise biography and personal look at President Lincoln.
20. Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant by U. S. Grant.Grant was a special man and his amazing writing voice creates a solid foundation for his memoir, which includes accounts of the Civil War.
Books on World War I
War World I was triggered by the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and came to a close in 1918 with the fall of several empires, including the Ottoman and Russian.
21. The First World War Volume 1: To Arms – Hew Strachan. This book is full of new info and insight on the events leading up to the war, but stops at 1914.
22. Gallipoli: 1915 – Tim Travers.Gallipoli is a confusing event for some and this book does a great job of thoroughly explaining the incident of 1915.
23. The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary – H. H. Herwig. This book covers the war from Germany and Austria-Hungary’s perspectives.
24. The First World War – Gerard De Groot. This is the most recommended book for students or those beginners delving into WWI.
25. World War I: An Illustrated History – Lloyd Clark. This is smart choice for those who want additional information on WWI, as it includes maps, timelines and more.
26. The Longman Companion to the First World War: Europe 1914 – 1918 – Nicolson.This book serves as excellent supplementary reading for someone who already has substantial knowledge of WWI.
27. Forgotten Victory – Gary Sheffield. While some see WWI as unnecessary, Sheffield argues the war was essential for combating imperialism.
28. The Eastern Front 1914 – 1918: Suicide of the Empires – Alan Clark.This book covers pivotal events that led to the downfall of the Russia and beyond.
29. The Hazy Red Hell – Fighting Experiences on the Western Front, 1914 – 1918.This book is a collection of firsthand accounts of World War I, making it a great read for those who want the real deal.
30. The First World War – John Keegan.Full of maps and photography, Keegan’s book has become the go-to for modern scholars.
Books on World War II
World War II is one of the most written about wars of all time. Spanning over 10 years, there are books over the cause and effects of the war and the main cast of characters and their victims.
31. Ships From Hell: Japanese War Crimes on the High Seas – Raymond Lamont-Brown. First person stories about the crimes that happened at sea.
32. We Die Alone: A World War II Epic of Escape and Endurance – David Howarth.This book reads like a fiction thriller and you’ll be shocked to know it’s real story.
33. Flags of Our Fathers: The Battle of Iwo Jima – James Bradley and Ron Powers.This is a must-read for those exploring WWII. Even if you’ve seen the movie, the book offers an experience that exceeds it.
34. Crossing the Sauer: A Memoir of World War II – Charles Reis Felix. This book tracks Patton’s Third Army moving through Germany.
35. They Came Unseen: Epic Submarine Actions of the Second World War – Richard Compton-Hall and William Scanlan Murphy. Read about the amazing feats overcome by those in submarines during WWII.
36. The Deadly Brotherhood: The American Combat Soldier in World War II – John C. McManus. What was it really like fighting in World War II? Get a feel for the every day struggles that soldiers faced with this book.
37. Island Victory : The Battle of Kwajalein Atoll – Brigadier General S. L. A. Marshall An in-depth look at war in the Pacific sans any heavy direction or supervision.
38. Crumbling Empire: The German Defeat In the East, 1944 – Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr..Learn about the last days of the war and the German defeats that lead to the end of the Third Reich.
39. Decision at Nagasaki: The Mission that Almost Failed – Lt. Col. Fred Olivi (USAF Ret.). This writers manned the plane that almost dropped the second atomic bomb. That sentence alone should make you want to read this book.
40. Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest – Stephen E. Ambrose. This book spawned an HBO mini-series but the book allows a closer look at the characters.
41. Death Traps: The Survival of an American Armored Division in World War II – Belton Y. Cooper, foreword by Stephen E. Ambrose. When American troops reached France, it became clear they were in for a rude awakening and not equipped for the heavy German artillery.
42. The Brigade: An Epic Story of Vengeance, Salvation, and World War II – Howard Blum. This is the epic story of Jewish soldiers who fought during the latter days of the war, using friends and family in concentration camps to seek revenge on Nazi soldiers.
43. Day of Infamy – Walter Lord. A great pick for someone beginning to explore D-Day or the events of WWII.
44. At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor – Gordon Prange. This is a long one (700+ pages), but well worth the read since it features both sides of the story.
45. Company Commander – Charles B. MacDonald.A first hand account of a young American soldier on the frontlines.
46. D-Day June 6, 1944 : The Climactic Battle of World War II – Stephen Ambrose.Ambrose researched a bevy of people involved with D-Day for this fascinating read.
47. Currahee: A Paratrooper’s Account of the Normandy Invasion – Donald R. Burgett, foreword by Stephen E. Ambrose Between its 5 star rating on Amazon and a foreword by Ambrose, this book is a must-read.
48. Anthony Blunt: His Lives – Miranda Carter.If you love a good espionage story, you’ll enjoy this riveting book about a real life double agent.
49. Hitler’s Shadow War: The Holocaust and World War II – Donald M. McKale.This book looks at Hitler’s history with the Jews (prior to WWII) and examines German mentality that supported his movement.
50. I Am Alive – Major Bruce H. Norton, USMC, (Ret.). The harrowing POW story of a major in Vietnam.
Books on Vietnam
An interesting war that is still relatable today due to the war going on in Iraq. Here are some of the best fiction and non-fiction books on the Vietnam War.
51. Fields of Fire – James Webb. Written by a Marine serving in Vietnam, this is an engrossing and a serious look at the war.
52. The 13th Valley – John M. Del Veccio . This realistic fictional story is about Gis fighting in Vietnam.
53 Chicken Hawk – Robert Mason. This non-fiction book was written by a helicopter pilot with over 1,000 missions under his belt.
54. Utter’s Battalion: 2/7 Marines in Vietnam, 1965-66 – Alex Lee. Though Lee’s anti-war sentiment is apparent throughout the book, it’s well-written and fascinating.
55. The Hill Fights: The First Battle of Khe Sanh – Edward F. Murphy. This is an eye-opening look at a battle that is absent from history books and other Vietnam literatur.
56. SOG: The Secret Wars of America’s Commandos in Vietnam – John L. Plaster.This book isn’t for those with weak stomachs It explains the Special Forces operation that took down over 50,000 North Vietnamese soldiers.
57. Green Berets at War: U.S. Army Special Forces in Southeast Asia 1956-1975 – Shelby L. Stanton This book also chronicles Special Forces in Vietnam.
58. Semper Fi Vietnam: From Da Nang to the DMZ, Marine Corps Campaigns, 1965-1975 – Edward F. Murphy. This is the history of the Marines during the Vietnam war. It’s a must-read even for non-Marines because of the concise, yet complete, story.
59. Pleiku: The Dawn of Helicopter Warfare in Vietnam -J.D. Coleman. In addition to strong content, there’s maps to lead you through the war zone for a better feel of the landscape.
60. We Were Soldiers Once…And Young – Ia Drang: The Battle That Changed The War In Vietnam – Lieutenant General Harold G. Moore (Ret.) and Joseph L. Galloway.Critics love this book because it evokes the true sense of fighting in Vietnam.
Books on the Cold War
The Cold War spanned from the late ‘40s to the early ‘90s. It was a brutal time for those in varying parts of Eastern Europe. Learn more about the war and the world’s role in helping with these Cold War books.
61. Four Essays on Liberty – Isaiah Berlin . The Cold War era spawned the idea of negative liberties – doctrines or constitutions that tell us what the government can’t do, versus what they have to do to protect their people.
62. Under the Frog – Tibor Fischer . This book picks up at the end of WWII and goes through the Hungarian Revolution.
63. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – John le Carre. This fictional book tracks the hunt for a Russian mole and is based on true events.
64. The Cold War: A History – Martín Walker. This is a concise look at the Cold War without going into every detail of each event. A smart read for beginners.
65. Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire – Victor Sebestyen. This book gives a thorough explanation of the fall of communism in Russia.
66. The Wall Jumper – Peter Schneider.This book examines the people that were effected by the Berlin Wall. A fantastic read for those who love personal stories.
67. The Magic Lantern – Timothy Garton Ash Garton Ash traveled to Russia during the Cold War to collect information on the government. This book tells the story of his 1989 escapades.
68. The File: A Personal History – Timothy Garton Ash. Garton Ash returns to Russia post-Cold War to look at files collected on himself after the government realized what he was after.
69. Main Currents of Marxism – Leszek Kolakowski . Because Communism employs philosophy, religion and political beliefs, it’s necessary for someone with experience in all three subjects to discuss the movement at its finest.
70. Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell .From the man that coined the phrase, “cold war,” this novel best defines the mood of the era.
General Books on War
Some of these don’t fit into a category, but they’re still fantastic books on war that will give you insight on the subject.
71. The Forgotten Soldier – Guy Sajer. The battle of the Red Army and Wehrmacht is chronicled in this book.
72. Nella Last’s War – Nella Last.This diary dates from 1939-1945 and has first hand accounts of the atomic bomb dropping.
73. The Cruel Sea – Nicholas Monsarrat. Monsarrat’s book was a bestseller in the early ‘50s, but has fallen from the critics best-of list. Still, there’s no better way to get a feel for the true state of a nation than by someone who was there.
74. Masters of War: Classical Strategic Thought – Michael I. Handel. This book deals more with the strategic side of war and a must-read for military professionals.
75. The Forgotten Soldier – Guy Sajer .A look at WWII from the other side. This tells the story of a teenager joining the Wermacht.
76. Jarhead – Anthony Swofford . A memoir of Marines in the Gulf War, this book is as real as it gets when it comes to describing the frustrations that come with war.
77. The Guns of August – Barbara W. Tuchman Touted as one of the most essential reads on history, Tuchman’s book describes the events that led to the first World War and how it set the tone for Europe for decades.
78. One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer – Nathaniel Fick . Marines see this as one of the most accurate looks at battle and the writer was among the first in Afghanistan and Iraq.
79. The Longest Winter: The Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of WWII’s Most Decorated Platoon – Alex Kershaw . This book chronicles the last battle by one platoon as they attempt to defeat German soldiers for good.
80. The Greatest Generation – Tom Brokaw . A collection of stories and interviews from the men and women in WWII. Instead of harping on gruesome details, it focuses on the human aspect.
81. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany – William L. Shirer . This is a heavy read that’s fit for those with knowledge of WWII and the patience and time to get through 600+ pages of details on the Third Reich.
82. Generation Kill – Evan Wright . A look at young soldiers during the early days of the Iraq war.
83. The Letters of Private Wheeler, 1809-28 – William Wheeler. Letters from Wheeler’s time at war are some of the first examples we have of modern war diaries.
84. Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam – Bernard Edelman. This best-seller is packed with letters home from the men and women serving in Vietnam.
85. Flyboys – James Bradley. This book examines the major role that aerial advancements played for the US fighting in the Pacific.
86. The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II – Iris Chang.This best-selling book is one of the first accounts of the horrific raids done by the Japanese during WWII.
87. Marine Sniper: 93 Confirmed Kills – Charles W. Henderson, foreword E. J. LandA look at a prolific sniper during the Vietnam war.
88. Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 – Antony Beevor . A graphic look at war. Over half a million copies have been sold in the UK and a critics favorite.
89. Citizen Soldiers: The U. S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany – Stephen E. Ambrose . A thorough look at the lives of soldiers on the beaches of Normandy during WWII.
90. Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War – Mark Bowden. This is a modern tale of war and Bowden does a fantastic job of putting you front and center to show the emotional weight that comes while in battle.
91. Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II’s Greatest Rescue Mission – Hampton Sides. A haunting look at American POWs in Japan during WWII.
92. Sagittarius Rising – Cecil Lewis.A young soldier takes flight at the beginning of the 20th century.
93. The Middle Parts of Fortune – Frederic Manning Though Manning’s career in the service was hardly successful, his account of soldiers in the trenches will haunt even the well-read war buff.
94. Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae – Steven Pressfield. The battle of Thermopylae is chronicled here with a realistic edge that is engrossing for the reader.
95. The Ten Thousand: A Novel of Ancient Greece – Michael Curtis Ford. A realistic look at ancient Greece, complete with maps for the reader’s reference.
96. The Art of War – Sun Tzu.Regarded as one of the best books on war ever written, this book offers advice for life, which for most of us, is the ultimate battle.
97. My Early Life – Winston Churchill. This one’s considered the best book under Churchill’s belt.
98. A Rumor of War – Philip Caputo. This non-fiction story of Caputo serving in Vietnam explains the atrocities committed by American soldiers and mimics the war in Iraq in some respects.
99. Suite Française – Irène Némirovsky. This is a first-hand account story of living in France during WWII.
100. Quartered Safe Out Here – George MacDonald Fraser. Read this story of an 18 year old private in Burma.
Learning from history is one of best investments we can do with our time. Whether you are looking to expand your horizons or brushing up on a topic that interested you in school, the best books on war can give you a solid look at what it’s like to be on the frontlines, without risking your life.
From the Civil War to the current war in Iraq, there’s a plethora of literature out there to help you better understand the art (or madness) of war.