Our best of the best to tackle while hunkered down and riding out the pandemic.

Civil War

Grant, Ron Chernow

Coming in at a whopping 1104 pages, settle in for Pulitzer Prize-winner author Ron Chernow’s biography on the Civil War general and American president. (This may or may not take more than two weeks to get through, however.)

World War I

Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman

Historian Barbara Tuchman, in this Pulitzer Prize–winning account, re-creates the first month of World War I as nations lurched and stumbled into the global conflict. Extraordinarily comprehensive yet eminently readable, Guns of August is considered a “classic for the ages.”

WWII Pacific:

Dubbed by the San Francisco Chronicle as”Both a serious work of history…and a marvelously readable dramatic narrative,” Ian Toll’s Pacific War trilogy is one of the best accounts out there. For those who sometimes struggle to get through non-fiction, Toll’s extremely well paced, thoughtful scholarship is on full display here.  [Twilight of the Gods is out July 21, 2020]

 

With the Old Breed, by E.B. Sledge

Widely regarded as the best battle memoir of World War II, veteran E.B. Sledge brings the horrifying reality of fighting in the Pacific to readers through his quiet dignity and honesty alike. Read it. Read it. Read it. 

WWII Europe:

The Liberation Trilogy, Rick Atkinson

From the desert war in North Africa to the beaches of Normandy, Rick Atkinson’s definitive Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the Allied fight in the European theater is one of the most vividly retold, well-researched accounts to date. 

 

Maus, Art Spiegelman

In this Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel, Art Spiegelman masterfully tells the story of his father, Vladek, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Nazi-occupied Europe. In cartoon form, Nazis are cats and Jews are mice as Spiegelman explores his “tortured relationship with his aging father. Against the backdrop of guilt brought by survival, they stage a normal life of small arguments and unhappy visits. This astonishing retelling of our century’s grisliest news is a story of survival, not only of Vladek but of the children who survive even the survivors.”

Vietnam

We Were Soldiers Once…And Young, Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway

“In November 1965, some 450 men of the First Battalion, Seventh Cavalry, under the command of Lt. Col. Hal Moore, were dropped by helicopter into a small clearing in the Ia Drang Valley.” Immediately surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers, the savage battle of Ia Drang became one of the most significant battles of the Vietnam War.

Joseph Galloway, the only journalist on the ground during that time, alongside General Moore, interviewed hundreds of men who fought there – revealing a vivid portrayal of uncommon valor, grit, and sacrifice.

Korean War

With incredibly thorough research and a magisterial touch, The Coldest Winter – published posthumously after author David Halberstam’s sudden passing in 2007 – brings to light America’s “forgotten war.” 

War on Terror

 

No True Glory, Bing West

In a frontline account of the 2004 Battle of Fallujah, in which Marines were told to attack, withdraw, and attack once again. West highlights the often frustrating link between politics and combat, and its deadly consequences.

 

Journalist C.J. Chivers, reporting on both Afghanistan and Iraq from their beginnings, “conveys the physical and emotional experience of war as lived by six combatants: a fighter pilot, a corpsman, a scout helicopter pilot, a grunt, an infantry officer, and a Special Forces sergeant.”

In covering America’s longest wars, Pulitzer Prize winner Chivers, uniquely captures the commitment, pride, frustration, and confusion that have come in fighting counterinsurgencies. 

Honorable Mentions

A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, Samantha Power

Helmet for My Pillow, Robert Leckie

Churchill: Walking with Destiny, Andrew Roberts

 

Happy reading!