The best books on Naval History (20th Century), recommended by Nicholas Rodger

In the world wars of the twentieth century, naval warfare has often been given a secondary role. But as naval historian Nicholas Rodger explains, the protagonists who thought like that lost. Here, he chooses five books that explain the military role and development of navies over the course of the 20th century.

The best books on War, recommended by Michael Howard

Fear is a great examiner of one’s character, argues the World War II veteran and eminent historian of war, Sir Michael Howard. He recommends the best books on war, two on strategy and three on what it’s actually like for soldiers and commanding officers.

The best books on American Naval History, recommended by John Kroger

The story of the American navy is deeply intertwined with that of the nation, says John Kroger—former Chief Learning Officer to the US Navy—although we don’t always afford naval history the attention it deserves. Here he selects five of the best books about American naval history and predicts a renewed focus on Pacific naval defenses in the coming decades.

The best books on US Militarism, recommended by Stephen Glain

American presidents may not want to send troops into battle or militarise foreign policy but, in the end, most of them do. The author and journalist explains how this happens, and why it’s not even the military that’s to blame. He picks the best books on American militarism.

The best books on World War I, recommended by Jonathan Boff

It’s been 100 years since World War I ended, but there is still very little consensus about what caused it, or what its consequences were. Historian Jonathan Boff talks us through the latest books and best modern interpretations of World War I.

The best books on Thucydides, recommended by Johanna Hanink

The Greek historian and general Thucydides wanted his History of the Peloponnesian War “to be a possession for all time.” In that, he’s been remarkably successful, with his name still echoing in the corridors of power. But what lessons should we take away from his great work? Translator and classicist Johanna Hanink talks us through books to better understand Thucydides and the mythical Athens he lived in and wrote about.

The best books on Samurai, recommended by Michael Wert

The samurai, Japan’s warrior caste, have been embraced by popular culture and made their way into films, comic books and video games. But who were they really? Michael Wert, professor of East Asian History at Marquette University and author of Samurai: A Concise History, recommends the best books to learn more about samurai, literally ‘one who serves.’

The best books on The Thirty Years War, recommended by Peter Wilson

It was a war that devastated Europe and left more than one-fifth of the German population dead. The complex peace agreement that ended it, the Treaty of Westphalia, is still credited with establishing our modern state system. Peter Wilson, Chichele Professor of the History of War at Oxford University and author of the most recent general history of the war, Europe’s Tragedy: A New History of the Thirty Years War, recommends books to read for a nuanced picture of Europe’s cataclysmic 17th-century conflict.

The best books on El Alamein, recommended by Simon Ball

Churchill hailed the Allied victory at the Battle of El Alamein as “the end of the beginning” for Hitler in World War II. But in that very same speech, he downplayed its significance. Historian Simon Ball separates clichés from facts and chooses the best of the vast number of books written about El Alamein, the Desert War and World War II in general.

The best books on The SAS, recommended by Pete Winner

Pete Winner spent 18 years in the SAS, the special forces unit of the British Army that has a reputation for being only for the toughest of the tough. Here he recommends some of the best books that give a feel for what it’s like to be in the SAS or ‘Special Air Service.’