Recommended Books: An Introductory List

These are some of the favorites of Len Shurtleff, the editors of our Journal and Website, and members. They are presented in alphabetical order by author. Please consider this a starter list if you would like to learn about the Great War. Consult the other pages of Len’s Bookshelf for other outstanding and interesting works.


New Zealanders Sharing a Good Read


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A Naval History of World War I. Paul G. Halpern. US Naval Institute Press. April 15th 2012. 616. 1557503524. A comprehensive one-volume treatment of the important war at sea.

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All Quiet on the Western Front. Erich Maria Remarque, A.W. Wheen. Ballantine. March 12th 1987. 296. 0449213943. Classic anti-war novel which was made into a classic movie.

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AMERICAN HERITAGE HISTORY OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR. S.L.A. Marshall. New Word City. September 5th 2014. 705. 9781612308067. A comprehensive history that’s well illustrated and contains helpful maps plus commentary by a distinguished historian; good for starting.

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Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I. Michael S. Neiberg. Belknap Press. October 14th 2013. 292. 067472593X. A fresh look at how the outbreak of war was experienced the citizens of all the participating nations. -- Nobody wanted war, but Neiberg shows how it came to pass drawing on the writings of European and American diplomats, politicians and informed observers. The author is a winner of the WFA’s Tomlinson Book Prize.

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Gallipoli: The End of the Myth. Robin Prior. Yale University Press. December 7th 2010. 304. 0300168942. An important reappraisal of the 1915 campaign. // Australian historian Pryor (author of excellent books on the Somme and Passchendale) examines in detail planning of the campaign and concludes that it was doomed from the start.

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Good-Bye to All That. Robert Graves. Anchor Books. February 1st 1958. 347. 0385093306. Most famous memoir a survivor of the War, a Captain in the Royal Welch Fusiliers, later a distinguished novelist and poet.

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Goshawk Squadron. Derek Robinson. Da Capo Press. October 13th 2005. 288. 0786715952. Exciting, myth-debunking aviation novel. // Novel by the author of Piece of Cake, published in 1971 and shortlisted for a Booker Prize. The cynical and often hilarious story of the misfortunes of an imaginary RAF pursuit squadron on the Western Front in 1918. A sort of WWI Catch 22.

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In Flanders Fields: Passchendaele 1917. Leon Wolff. . January 1st 1970. . 0141390794. Passchendaele – The Third Battle of Ypres, 1917; war at its worst.

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Knights of the Air. Ezra Bowen. Time-Life Books Inc.. January 1st 1980. 192 pages. 0809432528. Enjoyable introduction to the air war; extensive photos of aces and aircraft.

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Nicholas and Alexandra. Robert K. Massie. Random House Trade Paperbacks. February 1st 2000. 640. 0345438310. Highly readable account of the fall of the Romanov dynasty.

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Over There. Frank Freidel. McGraw-Hill Companies. December 1st 1990. 244. 007557036X. Story of the American military effort told sympathetically, with gusto; uses many firsthand accounts.

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Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World. Margaret MacMillan, Richard Holbrooke. Random House Trade Paperbacks. September 9th 2003. 570. 0375760520. A thorough, scholarly analysis of what transpired at the Paris peace conference.

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Tannenberg: Clash of Empires 1914. Dennis E. Showalter. Potomac Books. April 1st 2004. 432. 1574887815. 1914 on the Eastern Front. Especially good on the evolution of the German-Russian rivalry.

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Testament of Youth. Vera Brittain. Victor Gollancz. August 28th 1933. 688. 0143039237. Memoir of a V.A.D. nurse who lost several loved ones in combat and became a pacifist and feminist afterwards.

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The Campaign of the Marne. Sewell Tyng. Westholme Publishing. April 27th 2007. 464. 1594160422. The opening campaign of the war in the west from the earliest action to the “Miracle of the Marne”.

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The First Day on the Somme. Martin Middlebrook. Pen & Sword Books. March 1st 2003. 365. 1844154653. Ground-breaking work that shows the human tragedy of the disastrous attack of the British Army on July 1, 1916.

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The German High Command at War. Robert Asprey. iUniverse. November 9th 2005. 558. 9780595365654. Looks at military operations from a German viewpoint; humanizes their military establishment and the Kaiser without justifying their actions. Good discussions of the Eastern Front.

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The Guns of August. Barbara W. Tuchman, Robert K. Massie. Ballantine Books. August 3rd 2004. 606. 0345476093. Covers the opening stages and the roots of the conflict; superb, but read a general history first for orientation.

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The Origins of World War I. Richard F. Hamilton, Holger H. Herwig. Cambridge University Press. December 11th 2008. 552. 0521102189. Summary examination of the motivations of the leadership of 12 major and minor powers in going to war. // An abridged version of the collection of essays published by Cambridge as The Origins of World War I and edited by the same scholars. This version concentrates on the handful of men who made the decisions for war. The abridgement is even more readable than the original. The authors cut through the fog of nationalism and ex post facto justifications to the roots of the conflict. Affordable and highly recommended.

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The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry: Revised Edition. Jon Silkin, Various. Penguin Classics. May 1st 1997. 320. 0141180099. An extensive anthology containing the works of numerous poets of most combatant nations.

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The Price of Glory. Alistair Horne. Penguin Books. January 1st 1994. 388. 0140170413. Epic French-German battle at Verdun in 1916; remarkable for a single volume study of a battle or campaign.

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The War to End All Wars. Edward M. Coffman. University Press of Kentucky. July 23rd 1998. 440. 0813109558. Still the best summary of America’s experience in the Great War.

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The World Crisis: An Abridgement. Winston S. Churchill. Scribner. November 24th 1992. 864. 0684194538. Masterful grand survey of the War; obviously strongly British in outlook; very good on naval matters.

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Voices from the Great War. Peter Vansittart. Franklin Watts. January 1st 1984. 303. 0531098117. Tells the story of the war with an eclectic compilation of literary and political quotes, headlines, and statistics.

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War Horse. Michael Morpurgo. Scholastic Press. September 1st 2010. 176. 0439796644. The terror of war from the point of view of a horse drafted into service.