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Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945

4.3  ·  Rating Details ·  4,699 Ratings  ·  444 Reviews
From one of our finest military historians, a monumental work that shows us at once the truly global reach of World War II and its deeply personal consequences.

World War II involved tens of millions of soldiers and cost sixty million lives—an average of twenty-seven thousand a day. For thirty-five years, Max Hastings has researched and written about different aspects of t
ebook, 672 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Vintage (first published 2011)
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Paul Bryant
May 28, 2012 Paul Bryant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: worldwar2


Hell is empty and all the devils are here.

A fast ride through World War Two. This will be unspeakable, but we must speak.

Here goes.

Poland – the only nation in which there was no collaboration with the Nazis…

when the Soviets invaded Finland the Finns joked "There are so many and our country is so small, where shall we find room to bury them all?"…

A Norwegian officer reported that one British unit was composed of "very young lads who appear to come from the slums of London. They have taken
Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, world-war-ii
When my daughter Emilia was just starting to move around, I’d bring her into my office and let her crawl around while I worked. And by work, I mean “play spider solitaire obsessively on the computer.” That was a certain, magical age, in which Emilia was satisfied by simply holding a softball in her hands, or playing with a camera that hadn’t worked in years. I got a lot of work spider solitaire playing done in those days.

Sometimes, during the course of my important work (maintaining a 60% win t
Aug 07, 2016 Emma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
I finish this book with the same thought i've had all along: that this is how modern history should be written.

Hastings has put together one of the most comprehensive, detailed, and moving books on the Second World War that i've ever read. Most importantly, he has addressed the issue of it being a WORLD war in a way that few manage. From Burma to Australia to Egypt to India, he includes information and reflections from combatants on both sides and from all the arenas of the conflict. His use of
Nov 13, 2012 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mike by:
Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945 is a Five Star masterwork, revealing fresh stories and perspective on the many theaters and events of WWII. Hastings brings you into all of the major and many minor battles of the war. A one volume summary of the war could be so broad and high level that it fails to grab attention. Not so with Inferno. I so appreciated how he relates the sweeping events through the eyes of participants, often soldiers on both sides of a particular battle and sometimes the civ ...more
Chin Joo
Oct 04, 2015 Chin Joo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2, history
What does one do after years of research, having collected piles of documents from the archives, stacks of scholarly and journalistic articles, gigabytes of interview records on different aspects of the same war? A logical thing to do would be to put them all down in a book that gives the reader an overview of the whole war. This was precisely what two prominent and important British authors have done. Both Sir Max Hastings and Antony Beevor are well-known for their scholarly research and clear ...more
Sep 08, 2013 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a former history teacher, I have always struggled with a question invariably posed by my students: "What's the point of knowing all this?" Over the years I marshaled a number of replies to this query. My ultimate response was that history shows us what it means to be human. Of course this statement conjures another issue.
One of the potential pitfalls in being a student of history is temptation to fall into a deep and abiding pessimism about the general qualities of "human nature".
Historians a
Mar 26, 2012 Speesh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: second-world-war
A huge and hugely impressive and moving book, 'All Hell Let Loose' is a concise and precise, but detailed and passion-filled history of the war years of the Second World War. The bookis a rivetingly fresh look at a period I thought I knew something about. It challenged me and it has - certainly - rewarded me with increased understanding both of the situation and for those who had to try and survive it. On both sides.

Max Hastings never loses sight of his objective; to put into words an experience
Mar 02, 2014 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've just completed the audiobook and it has been a really wonderful experience. The focus on the victims, including so many from forgotten battles and atrocities really sets this apart. It's one of the best attempts I've read to encompass something of the sheer size of World War 2. It wipes away a good deal of the golden glow of the Greatest Generation but the more honest picture that emerges is so much more satisfying. The courage of so many of the people involved doesn't burn brighter because ...more
Mikey B.
Aug 11, 2016 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-ii
For a one-volume history (over 600 pages) of the Second World War this book is quite all encompassing and thorough. I felt there were two strengths to this book. One was the brilliant eloquence. Mr. Hastings can summarize events succinctly with a remarkable poignancy.

The other asset is the authors’ ability to bring us to the ground level – to view situations from the perspective of the common soldier – whether from Britain, Russia, the U.S., Japan... The same for the civilians who suffered and e
Apr 30, 2012 Tripp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh no, another single volume World War 2 book. Not just the European theater but the Pacific as well? In 600 odd pages? Before you groan and turn away, do consider this one.

For one, Hastings moves away from a stories of heroic (the West) or grimly determined (the Soviets or Germans) armies and leaders. His focus is on the unbelievable suffering the war caused. He reminds us again and again how truly awful the war was, for nearly everyone involved. We learn about the immense cruelty perpetrated
Steven Peterson
Mar 04, 2012 Steven Peterson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At the outset, I will confess that I thought a good one volume history of World War II would be very difficult. How would one adequately treat the lead up to this conflict? How could there be enough detail to give a sense to the reality "on the ground"? How could such a work capture the economic and social aspects of the war? However, author Max Hastings juggles the various aspects of World War II quite nicely and leaves a satisfying work.

One of the disadvantages of a one volume work is that the
Feb 01, 2014 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very comprehensive summary of the Second World War which really emphasised that it was a World War by describing what happened in every country that was involved. Thought I knew quite a bit about the War but this filled in a number of gaps and gave very interesting analysis of the importance of each battle and the cost to each side - full of facts but to summarise, the most important was that Germany v Russia was the crucial conflict and the one where both sides bore most of the overall casualit ...more
John Nellis
This account of the second world war was one of the very best I have read. Mr. Hastings puts a human face on the war so few accounts have fully managed to do. Not just the words of the soldiers or leaders, but the words of the common man and woman. He is able to convey the horror and tragedy of the whole scope of the war brilliantly. I was moved by his words on many occasions as I read. I can't say I have read any other account to show the absolute whole story of the war experiance so well. The ...more
Hilmi Isa
Inferno: The World at War,1939 - 1945 merupakan sebuah lagi karya Max Hastings mengenai Perang Dunia Kedua. Tajuk buku ini turut dikenali sebagai All Hell Let Loose di dalam sesetengah edisi dan cetakan yang lain. Secara asasnya,tidak melampau jika saya katakan bahawa Inferno merupakan sebuah buku yang 'meringkaskan' segala isi kandungan buku-buku yang ditulis oleh Hastings mengenai Perang Dunia Kedua. Namun demikian,pada masa yang sama,turut memberikan input-input atau perspektif yang segar dan ...more
Mar 13, 2012 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is probably the must read recent single volume history of World War 2 mainly because it is so focused on the view from below: the fighting men and women and the victims of the killings and general awfulness.

It is nevertheless very well constructed and shows a judicious balanced view of military performance, including the idea that only a society as brutal and barbarous as Stalin's Soviet Union stood much chance of defeating Hitler. Something like 90% of German casualties were fighting the
Jul 18, 2012 happy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good overall look at WW II. Mr. Hastings has very readable writing style and integrates both the high level strategic threads with the bottom up, what are the privates and civilian feeling, very well. He uses letters, diaries and memoirs of the people involved extremely well giving the reader a glimpse of what it must have been like, both at home and in the trenches with the PBI.

Hastings has very strong point of view and for the most part makes coherent arguments in favor of those POVs. How
Oct 02, 2014 Max rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-history
“Inferno The World at War 1939 – 1945” is the best war history I have read. Hastings unique account eschews the typical military history preoccupation with detailed accounts of generals and their battle plans. Hastings gives us the strategies of the war as a framework, a glue to bring into focus the war at a personal level. What was it like to be on the Russian Steppe in the winter of 1941-42 without food or warm clothes, or in the jungle in Guadalcanal with dysentery and malarial mosquitoes eve ...more
Dec 07, 2011 Whitley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read perhaps two dozen books about World War II, including four or five comprehensive histories, so I was amazed to find that Inferno added rich new knowledge and insights to my understanding of the war. Hastings has dimensionalized the narrative with the personal statements of ordinary people who participated in the carnage. This proves to be a master-stroke, causing the story to leap to life as never before. It is hard for me to read about war. I don't enjoy it. But I regard understandi ...more
Lorenzo Berardi
"The World at War 1939-1945" states the subtitle of this mastodontic book by the British historian and former war correspondent Max Hastings.
And there is little doubt that the 675 pages of "All Hell Let Loose", also known as "Inferno" for the US audience, should be enough to deliver a thorough account of all the main events of World War Two.

Potential skepticals on the ability of Mr Hastings to portray such an important period of history on a worldwide scale will be stunned to find fifty-nine (59
Jul 18, 2012 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
World War II is not an event for which there is a shortage of books. Max Hastings, a British military historian who had already written several books about the war, produced a one volume epic of World War II. And the emphasis of this book is war. This book is not about politics. It is about the brutality and violence that is war.

It might be hard to believe that anyone can write anything new about World War II given that libraries and bookstores are flooded with titles on the topic, but Hastings
Aug 13, 2012 MsSherlocked rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book bears the properties one has come to associate with anything written by Sir Max Hastings - thorough research, impeccable penmanship and impartiality. I gave it 5 stars gladly.

There is only one caveat I would place against someone's enjoyment of this book - it is better to read this after you are somewhat familiar with the progression of the war, and its key figures.

One of my fears about picking up this book was that I might have encountered some of the material elsewhere. Whilst it i
Nov 12, 2014 Charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very comprehensive and insightful account of events from 1939-1945. Hastings draws from letters, conversations and memoirs to produce a balanced and personal timeline, often playing down what are normally considered the 'hollywood' events of the Second World War and instead focusing on how this global inferno burnt the lives of millions.

Much can be taken from this book and applied to the present, ensuring that we never again let the world fall into such darkness. However, conflicts still rage
Jan 17, 2012 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book is huge, overwhelming, stuffed full of 658 pages of facts, and totally absorbing. It took me over a week to read it, but I'm glad I did. I am astonished at how much I did not know about WWII. I thought I was pretty widely read in the area for an American housewife. :-) But I discovered things constantly that I had NO IDEA about. 2 or 3 million Bengals starved to death in India because no one would send them food supplies to end a famine? Had NO idea. The war in northern Africa was more ...more
Oct 15, 2014 Ross rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent telling in some 700 pages the entire story of WWII in human terms. The book covers all the events of the war in more or less chronological order with brief mention of the events and most space devoted to the experiences of the people caught up in the events, based on their letters, diaries and retelling. For most readers, who already know about all the events and the battles, it is very engaging to hear the human side of it all. The title "Inferno" is very apt. A better titl ...more
Apr 30, 2014 4triplezed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, world-war-2
Under normal circumstances this would have received 5 stars as it is as good as Liddell Harts one volume tome I read in my youth. The final chapter has covered various opinion of the author, not that I have an issue with that per se, but to mention the present state of Russia under Putan lets the chapter down somewhat as histories such as this should be of the ages and not this age. A minor quibble in the end maybe?

Ultimately though this was a very good read indeed. The mixture of military and
I now have another great historian whose every book becomes a must read. His narrative rivals Stephen Ambrose and his sense of history matches that of William Shirer. It must be really difficult to compress a global event like World War 2 into the pages of a book like this, but Hastings does it and makes it a page turner. There is not much new here, no secrets, no missing archives, but reading about the war from a different perspective is nonetheless fascinating - especially coming from this guy ...more
Oct 10, 2014 Dawn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Before I read this book I thought I had a smattering of WWII knowledge but wasn't really that 'up' on the subject. After reading this, I am happy to say that I was far more informed than I thought I was and now am even better informed thanks to this great 700 page synopsis of 6 years of the twentieth century.

The author does an incredible job of condensing WWII into one book that covers all the main points of the war and gives enough detailed information to make a person quite knowledgeable about
Jun 14, 2015 Edward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recently, I visited the D-Day Normandy beach sites for the first time, then the excellent war museum in nearby Caen, France, and they made me realize that my knowledge of the chronology and events of World War II were sketchy. My memories of WW II consist of scattered fragments - my parents talking about gas and sugar rationing, tin foil drives at school, and a comic strip I followed, "Ned Brant, U.S. Navy" about the war in the Pacific where sailor Ned confront short Japanese villains with thick ...more
Jan 17, 2012 Don rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to understand more about that part of our history
I was thoroughly impressed with Inferno. I haven’t read a history book in a long, long time. I picked this up because I wanted to fill in all the blanks I had about World War 2. How did the war start in Europe, before the US was involved? What series of events led Japan to attack Pearl Harbor? What in the world were we doing fighting Rommel in North Africa? Hastings does a thorough job of explaining background and context. He also spends a great deal of time recounting the stories of common peop ...more
Rodrigo Acuna
Apr 30, 2016 Rodrigo Acuna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We can never forget, the price will be apocalyptic.

The Second World War left no one clean, and exposed the worst of humanity for all to see; the industrial murder of millions, 60million dead, the destruction of all we think is good in humanity, the devastating brutality we use to subjugate one another into all kinds of submission and enslavement.
The racist ideal and ideas that europe held about its people and others in the world became exposed like flames to oxygen and nearly burnt all down. Th
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Sir Max Hugh Macdonald Hastings, FRSL, FRHistS is a British journalist, editor, historian and author. His parents were Macdonald Hastings, a journalist and war correspondent, and Anne Scott-James, sometime editor of Harper's Bazaar.

Hastings was educated at Charterhouse School and University College, Oxford, which he left after a year.After leaving Oxford University, Max Hastings became a foreign c
More about Max Hastings...

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“The street is no longer measured by meters but by corpses ... Stalingrad is no longer a town. By day it is an enormous cloud of burning, blinding smoke; it is a vast furnace lit by the reflection of the flames. And when night arrives, one of those scorching howling bleeding nights, the dogs plunge into the Volga and swim desperately to gain the other bank. The nights of Stalingrad are a terror for them. Animals flee this hell; the hardest stones cannot bear it for long; only men endure.” 13 likes
“In Soviet thinking the concept of economy of force has little place. Whereas to an Englishman the taking of a sledgehammer to crack a nut is a wrong decision and a sign of mental Russian eyes the cracking of nuts is clearly what sledgehammers are for.” 11 likes
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