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John Hersey (1946)

“This is a great book. It’s beautifully written and researched, and hugely significant historically: it forced the world to contemplate the devastation of the bombing, and humanized and universalized the suffering of the Japanese people during a period of intense stereotyping and racial hatred. If that’s not enough, it’s suspenseful, exciting, and gut-wrenching without ever being melodramatic.”

“The Good War”: An Oral History of World War II

Studs Turkel (1984)

“The 121 verbatim accounts of the war as presented through the mouths of these participants are stunning, moving, and eye-opening. It’s too easy for us to become complacent about anything as large and complicated and (somewhat) distant as World War II. This book brings it all back to life vividly and indelibly.”

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale

Art Spiegelman (1991)

“Who would have dreamt that simple and elegant line drawings of barnyard animals could wield such power? Spiegelman’s account of his own family’s experiences provides an intense and terrifying fresh perspective on the horrors of the Holocaust. It was also the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize.”

The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War

Lynn H. Nicholas (1994)

“An engrossing and extremely well-documented in-depth look at Hitler’s nearly successful attempt to possess and destroy all of the greatest art of Western Civilization.”

Tales of the South Pacific

James A. Michener (1947)

“If you’re looking for a fresh perspective on the men and women serving in the South Pacific from a master journalist, this is it. This series of firsthand accounts of life on a tropical island during the war is masterfully told, engrossing, and entertaining. It was the basis for the beloved Broadway musical South Pacific.”

Actor, writer, director, and producer Bob Balaban is well known to American movie audiences for roles beginning with 1969’s Midnight Cowboy through Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Christopher Guest films including Waiting for Guffman and A Mighty Wind, to 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom. His latest film is The Monuments Men, based on the book by Robert M. Edsel (interviewed on page 16). Balaban portrays a “Monuments Man” in an Allied Armies unit of museum curators and art historians recruited to recover works of art stolen by the Nazis.


Originally published in the February 2014 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.