Christmas is a great time of the year to increase your personal library. I once heard that three books a day are being published on the American Civil War alone. A visit to your local Chapters will show that the field of military history is alive and well. There are still an astounding number of good, quality books being released regularly, but there is also a lot of bumf out there. Here are five excellent books that are worth adding to your personal library…they are certainly in mine.
I will disclose off the top that Lee is one of my very best friends, but he is also one the very best historians on the Italian Campaign. His new book on the 8th Hussars examines the origins of the regiment as well as its major battles in Italy: Ortona, the Liri Valley and especially the Gothic Line and Coriano Ridge. This is a rare type of regimental history that expertly tells the unit’s story while also having something new to say about the overall campaign. Until we get Lee’s book on the Gothic Line (which is coming soon!) this is a must-read if you have any interest in the Canadians’ role in Italy.
Bardia: Myth, Reality and the Heirs of ANZAC by Craig Stockings
This book is a detailed battle history of the Australians’ first battle in the Second World War, the capture of the Libyan port of Bardiain January 1941. Regarded as one of Australia’s greatest military feats, the story is well told by Stockings who integrates not just the Australian story, but also the British, and perhaps most importantly, the Italian side of the battle, which is often overlooked. An important sub-theme of the book is Stockings’ examination of the myth of the Australian soldier. His book should be considered a model for the study of a single battle.
The Science of Bombing: Operational Research in RAF Bomber Command by Randy Wakelam
Why another book on the strategic bombing of Germany? Because there are many, many books that purport to tell the real story without understanding the issues at play. Wakelam has produced an outstanding study of the role played by operational researchers who used the scientific method to examine the effectiveness of the bombing campaign in an effort to make it more efficient. Arthur Harris is often portrayed as a Luddite who insisted on the area bombing of Germany. Wakelam provides a much more nuanced understanding of Harris.
While technically two books, for the purposes of this blog I am counting them as one. Cook, who is the First World War historian at the Canadian War Museum, has written an award-winning new account of the Canadian Corps on the Western Front. The story of the fighting is brought alive by Cook who weaves a solid operational account of the battles with the personal stories of the soldiers against the political backdrop of the war. This set is a must-have for your library onCanadaand the First World War.
Corps Commanders: Five British and Canadian Generals at War, 1939-45 by Douglas E. Delaney
Delaney has written a campaign history of 21st Army Group and the fighting in Northwest Europeframed through the lens of five men who commanded the corps under Field Marshal Montgomery. This book provides a fresh look at some commanders (Simonds, Burns, Foulkes, Crocker and Horrocks) who are often overlooked and examines how their training and operational experience impacted their decision-making process. Well worth a look.
You won’t find this series in the history section as it not actually military history at all but fantasy/science fiction. This series of books will make excellent Christmas reading. I justify putting these books on my list because Chris is a military historian, something that is clearly evident in his writing. His books take a Lord of the Rings-esque universe and frames it in a Napoleonic wars timeline…think Bilbo Baggins meets Richard Sharpe. You won’t be disappointed.