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Best Books About World War 1 – A Military Connection Top Ten List

Best Books About World War 1 – A Military Connection Top Ten List

contributed by Cory Davenport

Autumn is here, the kids are back at school, and the days are getting shorter. Now is the perfect time to curl up with a heavy book and learn about one of the most brutal conflicts of all time – World War One. The “War to End All Wars,” did not exactly live up to its promise, as there was a sequel to it that brought even worse devastation, but it did definitely set the course of things for the modern world with the fall of old empires and the rise of military technology. Tanks and horses fought on the same fields as rudimentary planes buzzed overhead.

Because of the tumultuous times this war brought across the globe, many books were written on the subject, including some of the best of all time. In this list, we’re taking a look at the best World War I memoirs, World War I historical non-fiction, and best novels taking place in World War I, as well as a few of the best history books on the topic.

10.The Great War and Modern Memory by Paul Fussell

Starting this list of the best books about World War One is a lauded piece of World War I historical non-fiction named one of the 20th century’s 100 Best Non-Fiction books by the Modern Library. In this work, Fussell offers an account of the Great War through the eyes of notable writers of the time. He brings readers to the horrific conditions of the war’s buzzing artillery and insufferable muddy trenches through the poets, novelists, and journalists of the time with a focus on how the global experience changed culture in every face.

via amazon.com

9.Forgotten Victory by Gary Sheffield

This controversial piece of historical non-fiction comes from the very well-researched military historian Gary Sheffield who challenges the usual narrative of World War I being a futile war with no real victories. Looking at the war from the vantage of British History, Sheffield’s World War I history book shows how the war ended empires in need of end and converted the British Army into one of the world’s best fighting forces.

via amazon.com

8. Gallipoli by L.A. Carlyon

This one of the best examples of World War I non-fiction books directed toward specific battles of the war, Carlyon takes a look at the Battle of Gallipoli, which was fought from Feb. 1915 to Jan. 1916 between mostly the British with several troops from Australia and New Zealand and the Ottoman Empire in what is now modern-day Turkey. The British were aided by the French and Russians and the Ottomans were aided by the Germans. It is remembered by Australia, New Zealand and Turkey as a formative moment for each of their nations and armed forces.

via amazon.com

7. Somme by Lyn MacDonald

Another work of World War I historical non-fiction directed at a singular battle, this book was written to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1916 battle known as one of the greatest turning points in British history. MacDonald’s book is a scholarly and humanizing look at the battle, which lasted from July 1916 to Nov. 1916 near the Somme River in France. During these brutal months of battle, the British lost nearly 96,000 men who were killed and missing and the French lost nearly 51,000. Despite its meticulous planning, the Somme became one of the iconic battles of the Great War fought inch-by-inch from dirty trenches across a treacherous “No Man’s Land” constantly barraged by artillery and machine gun fire.

via amazon.com

6. The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark

This work of historical non-fiction written in 2013 traces the decisions made in the power centers of Europe leading to the largest conflict in human history at that time. Using modern discoveries of early 20th century information, Clark contextualizes the intricate web of political alliances, espionage, and tensions plaguing Europe at the dawn of the last century and traces how each of those things kept Europeans marching toward the inevitability of a major conflict without realizing. This is perfect for political historians and military historians alike.

via amazon.com

5. Goodbye to All That: An Autobiography by Robert Graves

Potentially one of the best World War I memoirs, Graves writes of his experience as a British officer in the first world war with humor and honesty. He not only writes about the war itself, but continues to write about its effects on himself and the culture at large, covering such controversial subjects as atheism, feminism, socialism, and pacifism, which were all movements reaching greater audiences in the wake of World War I. Written in 1929 when Graves was 34, the book gives a complete look at the way the Great War affected a singular officer and his views on the rapidly-shifting world around him.

via amazon.com

4. The First World War Volume 1: To Arms by Hew Strachan

This World War I history book is the first of a three-volume series by Strachan and is considered by many to be the best of the trilogy. In this work, Strachan goes in depth regarding the causes of the war, both obvious and subtle, as well as its first battles. Strachan takes a look at these early conflicts from a strategic and military narrative and examines the intentions and strategies of each of the belligerent nations without bias.

via amazon.com

Honorable Mention: The World Crisis 1911-1918 by Winston Churchill

Before becoming one of the most celebrated prime ministers of the United Kingdom, Churchill served as First Lord of the Admiralty and Minister for War and Air during the buildup and battles of World War I. This primary-sourced piece of historical non-fiction also doubles as a great World War I memoir penned by one of history’s most-celebrated figures. While often known for his leadership in the second world war, Churchill’s accounts of the first one takes readers through vivid stories of the battles of the Great War with great sensory detail.

via amazon.com

Honorable Mention: The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry

Containing works by noted warrior-poets, Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, and many more, including women from the home front and folk songs sung by soldiers, this collection of poems illustrates the brutal inspiration found in some of the worst experiences in human history. Written by folks in some truly trying times, this collection of poetry beautifully illustrates the inner workings of the human spirit when faced with absolute brutality and carnage.

via amazon.com

3. The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 by Alisatir Horne

One of the most-definitive books written of one of the most-definitive battles of World War One, Horne’s work of historical non-fiction is a deep dive into the Battle of Verdun, which was historically known as a factor in the demoralization of the great military power of France. Fought between France and Germany, the battle of Verdun lasted through the majority of 1916, and resulted in more than 700,000 casualties with more than 300,000 deaths between both belligerents. This battle truly embodied the hellish life of trench warfare and included the horrific use of chemical agents, such as chlorine gas, used against the young men fighting from the ghastly conditions of muddy, rat-infested trenches sheltering from constant artillery barrages, never knowing when one of those shells could release a face-scarring toxic gas.

via amazon.com

2. The First World War by Gerard de Groot

Considered by many to be the best World War I history book for college students entering that realm of study, de Groot’s tome regarding the Great War takes readers from the interconnected political alliances of Europe at the beginning of the war to each of the fronts all the way to the American involvement and eventual Allied victory. While covering such a broad and multi-faceted topic, de Groot does so in an efficient manner, ensuring that readers understand the basics of most everything involved in the complex topic that is World War I.

via amazon.com

1. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

One of the best books by one of the best American authors of all time, Hemingway’s fictional novel set in World War I follows a love story between Frederic, an injured soldier and his nurse Catherine during World War I Italy. Hemingway’s own experience driving Ford ambulances during the war as a volunteer inspired this story, which includes so many aspects of the human experience in such traumatizing times such as love, patriotism, and hopelessness. This novel spring-boarded Hemingway to the spotlight of American literature where he still enjoys a place of honor to this very day.

via amazon.com

Love Military Content in Books and Movies?

Follow along as we cover the best war books from every era.  You can also check out Military Connection’s Greatest War Movie Series where we cover the best war films of every era from the American Revolution to Post 9/11, plus categories like women in military moviesbest battle scenes and more. 


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