Several readers have requested that I compile a recommended reading compendium similar to Billy Beck’s. I think Beck’s list is masterful and I wanted to bifurcate the list and add my own annotated comments to any I have read and additional selections I would recommend. When I read Beck’s list, I wondered at how our libraries and antelibraries could be so similar. Before I sold my house, I had a library annex attached to it from which I could browse and remove volumes to peruse at my leisure. Since moving, most are now in storage so I have to rely on my addled memory.
I divided his list into War and the State and Liberty and the State and only included those volumes he and I have both read. My annotated comments are in italics below his. Along with any additional books I think are pertinent to the one just reviewed.
Hitler And Stalin — Parallel Lives, 1991, Alan Bullock — It’s astonishing to me that it took until the last decade of the 20th century for someone to write this book, because the comparisons are so obvious. It was worth the wait, because Bullock thoroughly exhausts the comparisons. Indispensable. I am not astonished at how long it took for this to show up and think the comparisons are uncanny even at a deep and sophisticated level, psychopaths and sociopaths have a surprisingly narrow playbook and when given the tools of power will put the pedal to the meddle. I also recommend Gandhi & Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age which shows the relationship between two state titans of the twentieth century and how the Indians used both violent and non-violent resistance to dispose of the most powerful world power on Earth before 1930.
Russia At War, 1941–1945, 1964, Alexander Werth — Enormous, panoramic view of the biggest fight in human history. Agreed (except for the whitewashing of Stalin’s monstrous personality in the book) and I think that when you see the evolution of the Russian forces in a mere four years from a scratch start to the enormous and skillfully deployed strategy and tactics that extinguished Japanese forces in China and Siberia in August 1945, you will be astonished.
John Erickson’s two volumes on the German-Soviet conflict are also instructive especially on the evolution of the strategic maturity of the forces at each other’s throats during the conflict:
Anything by David Glantz is instructive and especially his volume detailing the defeat and the rise form the ashes of the Soviet forces in Operations Mars, a bit dated but vital in understanding the battle and its aftermath:
Zhukov’s Greatest Defeat: The Red Army’s Epic Disaster in Operation Mars, 1942
Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict, 1941-1945, 1965, Alan Clark — Splendid rendering of all the special military aspects of the biggest fight in human history.