What is the best history book you have read?

May 2013
334
Sweden
The book I remember best from my younger days was Was Pierre Closterman's on the WW2 air war (not his "Le Grand Cirque" - which I also read many times). It was there I first learnt about the fighting in the Philippines, always over-shadowed by Pearl Harbour - the pure one-night stand. The fight in The Philippines went on for five months.

He wrote about the faulty P-40 machine guns, lack of cooling liquids (the guys in the States didn't think they needed "anti-freeze" there), no oxygen generators or warning systems. This has followed me into the recent years when I found Bartsch's "Doomed at the Start", telling the whole story of that epic defense.

Fred
 

Shtajerc

Ad Honorem
Jul 2014
6,213
Lower Styria, Slovenia
My favourite is a biography about Rudolf Maister (the guy in my avatar pic). It's been written and published in Yugoslavia, yet it doesn't show the agenda of the time like some other history books of that era. It gives a lot of information and insight, it is also critical and adresses a lot of the more delicate matters from his life. Not praising and not bashing the person in question but evaluating his actions and those of others. A very pleasent read.
 

rvsakhadeo

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
8,639
India
I wish I could have read ' The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire ' by Edward Gibbon. But if wishes were horses beggars would ride them !
But I rate very highly ' The Guns of August ' by Barbara Tuchman and the ' Rise and Fall of the third Reich ' by William Shirer.
I wish you could have included Historical Fiction in the category of Historical Books here. There are many outstanding books in that branch of history.
 
Last edited:
Jan 2010
3,983
Atlanta, Georgia USA
I wish I could have read ' The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire ' by Edward Gibbon. But if wishes were horses beggars would ride them !
But I rate very highly ' The Guns of August ' by Barbara Tuchman and the ' Rise and Fall of the third Reich ' by William Shirer.
I wish you could have included Historical Fiction in the category of Historical Books here. There are many outstanding books in that branch of history.
I too liked Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I read Guns of August while I was in high school and have forgotten most of it. Right now, I'm reading Sleepwalkers which covers the outbreak of WWI, but goes back further in time.

You still can read Gibbon. There are a lot of people on this forum (primarily specialists in the area) who don't like him, but if you like your history as literature, he's very good. Just stick to the facts he gives and take his interpretations with caution.
 

rvsakhadeo

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
8,639
India
I too liked Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I read Guns of August while I was in high school and have forgotten most of it. Right now, I'm reading Sleepwalkers which covers the outbreak of WWI, but goes back further in time.

You still can read Gibbon. There are a lot of people on this forum (primarily specialists in the area) who don't like him, but if you like your history as literature, he's very good. Just stick to the facts he gives and take his interpretations with caution.
Also spectacular is the ' The Gathering Storm ' by Winston Churchill. You are taken by the collar of your shirt into those evil days just before WW II and and can literally hear the thunder storm rumbling across Europe.
And a WW I story told superbly by Alan Moorehead ' Gallipoli '. You cannot put the book down till you come to the last superb page.
 
Mar 2015
1,274
Yorkshire
Also spectacular is the ' The Gathering Storm ' by Winston Churchill. You are taken by the collar of your shirt into those evil days just before WW II and and can literally hear the thunder storm rumbling across Europe.
And a WW I story told superbly by Alan Moorehead ' Gallipoli '. You cannot put the book down till you come to the last superb page.
I agree with all your choices RV but if you have not already done so you should add African Trilogy to your list - Moorehead's personal experience of WW2 in North Africa, Persia and the Middle East as a newspaper correspondent, rather similar to Shirer really. I read it again a few years and it impressed me just as much as the first time 50 years ago.
 

rvsakhadeo

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
8,639
India
I have ' The African Trilogy ' with me and I have read it and reread it. It is a very good Chronicle of the desert war in WW II.
I forgot to mention ' Seven Pillars of Wisdom ' by T.E.Lawrence ( Lawrence of Arabia ), a superb piece of writing on the guerrilla war waged by Lawrence and the Arabs against the Turks in WW I. I have read it a couple of times but I don't have it.
 

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