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The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Richard Rhodes (1986)

“By far the most complete history of the Manhattan Project, this is also a profound exploration of the sprawling interconnections between war, science, and society in the modern world. (And it turns out that physics can be as exciting as war in the hands of a skilled storyteller.)”

The Cruel Sea

Nicholas Monsarrat (1951)

“A thinly fictionalized memoir of the fight against the U-boats: Catch-22 meets Captains Courageous as heroism, the beauty and terror of the sea, and bureaucratic imbecility come together on the decks of a British corvette in the North Atlantic.”

Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan

Herbert P. Bix (2000)

“No other book I’ve read even comes close to explaining Japan’s war policies and the strange cult of imperial honor that was central to them—above all, Hirohito’s perfect willingness to sacrifice millions of his own people even when he knew the war was lost. Truly indispensable.”


Paul Fussell (1989)

“Not quite up to his similar examination of literature and myth in the First World War (The Great War and Modern Memory), but still full of the astonishing, the horrifying, the absurd, the hilarious, and the poetic.”

Beyond War

“I recently read William Stafford’s The Mozart Myths, a tour de force of historical detective work. Stafford shows how almost every story about Mozart’s life and death was a fabrication of later generations seeking to fit the composer into their accepted notions of genius and art.”


For the last four-plus years, Stephen Budiansky has written this magazine’s “Unknown Soldiers” column. This issue marks his last. He is the author of Perilous Fight: America’s Intrepid War With Britain on the High Seas, 1812–1815 (Knopf), and is at work on a book about scientists and the war against the U-boats. Look for a new column beginning next issue by British historian Laurence Rees.

Originally published in the December 2011 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.