Reading List: Anna Reid

4/23/2012 • World War II Reviews

A Writer at War
Vasily Grossman with the Red Army 1941–1945

Vasily Grossman, edited and translated by Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova (2006)
“Grossman was a war correspondent for the Red Army newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda. His long-banned doorstop of a war novel, Life and Fate, is finally getting the attention it deserves, but less well-known is this collection of jottings from his notebooks, brilliantly edited by Antony Beevor and Lyuba Vinogradova. Scribbled down in situ, they transport the reader straight to the front line. We listen in on soldiers’ slangy chat as they wait for the beginning of an offensive, hear the crump of guns, smell the smoke and feel the fear and cold.”

Russia at War, 1941–1945
Alexander Werth (1964)
“Alexander Werth was the BBC’s Moscow correspondent through the war. A Petersburger by birth—his family emigrated to Britain after the revolution—Werth was bilingual and had no illusions about Stalinism, putting him head and shoulders above the rest of the mostly hapless foreign press corps. Forty years after publication, this lively memoir-cum-history is still one of the most insightful and authentic general accounts of Russia at war.”

Ordinary Men
Reserve Police Battalion 101 and
the Final Solution in Poland

Christopher R. Browning (1992)
“The further it recedes into history, the more extraordinary the Holocaust becomes. Christopher Browning’s horrifying account of how peer pressure and obedience to authority turned the apolitical men of a German police unit into mass murderers is a classic. Recent
editions include a demolition of Daniel Goldhagen’s tendentious and simplistic Hitler’s Willing Executioners.”

Sword of Honour trilogy:
Men at Arms, Officers and Gentlemen,
and The End of the Battle

Evelyn Waugh (1952, 1955, and 1961)
“It’s often said that only the First World War produced great literature. The exceptions are these black comedies by master satirist Evelyn Waugh. His infuriatingly ineffectual hero fights, like Waugh himself, in Egypt and Yugoslavia. Brittle, bitter, and cruelly funny, the
stories capture war’s futility and absurdity, and are the perfect corrective to roll-out-the-barrel nostalgia.”

Beyond the War:
The Sebastopol Sketches
Leo Tolstoy (1855)
“Before he became Russia’s greatest novelist, Leo Tolstoy was a junior lieutenant in its artillery. His first published works were these three long pieces, The Sebastopol Sketches, written from the Crimea, where he served from 1854–55. Like his fiction, they have an almost hallucinatory depth and solidity.”

Anna Reid is the author of Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine and The Shaman’s Coat: A Native History of Siberia. Her latest book is Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941–1944, which the New Yorker listed as one of its recommended books of 2011. Reid holds a master’s degree in Russian history and reform economics from University College London.

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