Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Second World War” as Want to Read:
The Second World War
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview
Read Excerpt* *Different edition

The Second World War

4.31 of 5 stars 4.31  ·  rating details  ·  2,215 ratings  ·  246 reviews
Over the past two decades, Antony Beevor has established himself as one of the world's premier historians of WWII. His multi-award winning books have included Stalingrad and The Fall of Berlin 1945. Now, in his newest and most ambitious book, he turns his focus to one of the bloodiest and most tragic events of the twentieth century, the Second World War.

In this searing na
Published June 5th 2012 by Back Bay Books (first published January 1st 2012)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Nancy Stringer
Every nation experienced and remembers the war in different ways. For the British, French and Poles, it began with the Nazi attack on Poland in September 1939. For Russians, notwithstanding their assaults on Poland, Finland and the Baltic States, the real war started in June 1941 with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. For Americans, it began with the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. For Japan, however, Pearl Harbor was the continuation of an expansionist military adventure th ...more
I will open by writing that I know very little about the Second World War. Well, I KNEW very little about the Second World War. After reading this book I now know a lot more. I'm not sure I'm happier for the knowing.

I did not sit down and read this book through in one sitting. To be honest I've had it for several months and I read it chapter by chapter in between all of the other books I have read this summer. It was too much war for me to take all at once. That does not mean that it was a bad
Loring Wirbel
Single-volume chronologies of WW2 seem to be all the rage of late, and this book must compete with such works as Max Hastings' "Inferno" and Gerhard Weinberg's "World at Arms." Unlike the two mentioned, which take a particular unique vertical slice, Beevor just tries to tell a decade-long story about two theaters of war, and do it competently. In that he succeeds, for the most part.

While the writing is not the breathtaking sort often reached for by the likes of Weinberg, it is readable and enjoy
Jason Fritz
In the acknowledgements to his latest history, The Second World War, Antony Beevor says that he wrote this comprehensive tome on one of the biggest events in human history because he wanted to fill in the gaps to his own knowledge of the topic. But, he says, “above all it is an attempt to understand how the whole complex jigsaw fits together, with the direct and indirect effects of actions and decisions taking place in very different theatres of war.” In this, Beevor succeeds where no other hist ...more
Jim Coughenour
For some crazy reason I bought both Beevor's book on World War II and Max Hasting's Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945 when they were published in the US a couple years ago. While I wouldn't call myself a WW2 buff, my steady interest dates back to the summer of 1976 when I picked up John Lukacs' The Last European War, September 1939/December 1941 in a Georgetown bookstore. Lukacs provides a rich diplomatic history, and the kind of drama underlying the many novels of Alan Furst. Beevor and Hast ...more
Nov 07, 2013 Themistocles rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for:
Shelves: history, world-war-ii
This is a subject where a single battle, a single country or a single person can take up more than one tomes of material. So, I imagine it's extremely hard to fit the whole war in a single book.

Yet Beevor has done it with surprising clarity, completeness and depth. I've read hundreds of books on WWII, and yet I found that there were actually new things to learn from this single-tome volume!

Beevor writes very nicely, with a fluid narrative that keeps the interest up with no let up. He manages to
I have always been fascinated with any and all things to do with World War II. From the rise of Hitler, to the bombing of Hiroshima, this is perhaps the richest time in the history of the world. Due to the staggering scale of this time period, most books, both fiction and nonfiction, choose to focus on specific events or characters. In this hugely ambitious work, Antony Beevor attempts to provide a narrative overview of the entire war.

In the book, Beevor effectively introduces the early onsets
This is the third of three really good comprehensive histories of the second world war to come out in the past two years (along with those by Andrew Roberts and Max Hastings). It is comprehensive and well written. What is most important, however, is how the book tells a coherent story. Any single volume history of the war must leave things out. You can tell this here, since Beevor has published multiple well received volumes on various battles of the war before this one - on such critical battle ...more
"6 Years. 60 millions lives lost. No human life untouched"
This "definitive history" is both too quick and too slow. I suppose it is my fault for wanting the sweep of the Second World War in one book. He expects a certain background knowledge of military technology that I don't have. What would a glider look like in WWII? Is it really what I'm thinking? Apparently Messerschmitts come in different sizes, but it is left up to you to figure out that some are bombers, or fighters. You have to hope the General's name is ethnically identifiable (and it often ...more
This magisterial work had humble beginnings, according to the author. Beevor writes in the Acknowledgements section of this book "I always felt a bit of a fraud when consulted as a general expert on the Second World War because I was acutely conscious of the large gaps in my knowledge, especially of unfamiliar aspects."

Beevor's fame as a writer of narrative history is very much based on his histories of Second World War battles - Stalingrad, Berlin : the downfall 1945, and D-Day : the battle for
TR Peterson
This book does an excellent job of tying every part of the Second World War together. Though Beevor is a specialist on the European war, he covers everything from Operation Torch in North Africa to the Sino-Japanese War and its impact on Axis & Allied power.

In his style, Beevor writes in a way that makes it difficult to put the book down. As ever, it's not simply a chronological arrangement of events but a story which is endlessly fascinating.

For all this, it is clear to the reader that Bee
Here it is, the one and only general history of World War II that you'll ever have to read. Antony Beevor accomplishes what I imagine to be an intimidating task for any historian: balancing military history with social history; giving equal coverage to every country involved; and managing to humanize the millions of victims that our brains would prefer to numb down to incredible statistics. With The Second World War Beevor captures the reality that this was truly a global conflict in a way that ...more
Nick Black
A readable and comprehensive history of WWII. Dispenses with the deep narrative and rich primary sources that marked Beevor's other books (Stalingrad, The Battle for Spain, etc), which is kind of unfortunate. Admits some editorial errors, which is still more unfortunate. Good coverage of the Chinese war, though not prior to 1939, and admirably integrates the Italians. Introduces the Churchill-Stalin "percentages memo", which was news to me -- not something highlit in Churchill's six-volume The S ...more
"But it remains a poignant reminder that the consequences of decisions by leaders such as Hitler and Stalin ripped apart any certainty in the traditional fabric of existence".

History, as Antony Beevor says, is not tidy, and that is exactly what I captured in this book. Till the day I picked this book, WWII was a dispassionate event between entities called nations. But this book showed that it was a war of individuals, in more ways than one. Antony Beevor perfectly portrays the emotions running t
‘If we are American,’ wrote Anne Applebaum, ‘we think “the war” was something that started with Pearl Harbor in 1941 and ended with the atomic bomb in 1945. IF we are British, we remember the Blitz of 1940 and the liberation of Belsen. If we are French, we remember Vichy and the Resistance. If we are Dutch we think of Anne Frank. Even if we are German we know only a part of the story.’ “ p768-769

I read this book to try and put all the pieces of the puzzle of World War II together. The book does
Anthony Beevor has this peculiar talent for providing the time-lapse satellite view of world events while still engaging with the reader on a very personal level. He effectively couples the broad movements of armies and the tactical squabbles of generals with the plight of individuals. That is particularly evident in this book.

As the author himself states, The Second World War was written to fill in his own gaps in knowledge of what happened in the conflict. As such, a lot of the material here m
my understanding is that it was Antony Beevor who set off the mini-Stalingrad phase a few years back--one that has generated more than a few good works including Beevor's editing of Soviet journalist Vasily Grossman's notes, as well as the claimed "Enemy at the Gates." in fact, I think the publishing situation got so muddled that there were two modern books out at the same time (or was it two movies?) about the alleged sniper duel at Stalingrad, which in any case was a major historical event of ...more
Leo Robertson
This book is great, and it's about the most compact complete story of The Second World War there's going to be, I reckon.

You get a really strong sense of how quickly it all happened, how panicky everyone was and how completely unprepared we must have felt, and how futile it was too. The narrative jumps between grand descriptions of entire battles and snapshots of the lives of individuals given by quotes or other details, but it all the time feels like a very natural progression, which is difficu
Philippe Malzieu
With Beevor, we are not in the history of long times. The presentation is chronological. A modern historian would have chosen a theme, here there is the beginning and the end. And it is very well. It is even reassuring.
We see the history parading us. There is a clinical precision.
There are two aspects which seems important to me. The first one is that it was a world war. We too much tend to think only in Europe and the Pacific. But there was China, the Philippines, Burma... All these bloody epi
I don’t usually push my reading tastes on others but read this damn book. Everyone! Over the course of my adult life I have probably read over 100 books relating to WWII. I won’t go as far as to say this is the best but it is a completely enthralling epic told with consummate skill. He has the added vantage point unavailable to earlier chroniclers of the war because recent historians have access to heretofore denied Soviet archives. I think what this book does better than all the others is to pa ...more
Every major step of the war is covered in detail with its significance to the overall outcome of the war. The author speaks with historical authority and corrects many misconceptions that I had about the war. The book is choke full of facts but the most pleasant part is for every major battle the author finds a diary or a letter from a low level participant and personalizes the engagement through the participants eyes.

After having listened to this book, I can't even imagine listening to any othe
Gerbrand Dunnewind
Ik heb de Nederlandse vertaling gelezen. Ik had eerder dit jaar al D-Day gelezen van Antony Beevor. Ook erg goed. Dit boek is ook bijzonder goed te lezen. Er hadden een paar extra landkaartjes opgenomen kunnen worden, dan zouden sommige hoofdstukken duidelijker zijn geweest.

Het boek heeft mij een veel beter inzicht gegeven in de 2e wereldoorlog: de politieke verhoudingen aan geallieerde zijde (USA, GB en Rusland), de (neven)effecten van de atoombom, de holocaust, de tragiek van Polen, Mussolini
This is a rather complete uncut history of the second world war in one volume. At times I felt that the writing hadn't been edited as well as it could been, but those times were few and far between.

This book is not for those who want intimate details of small events during WWII, although it probably gives as many details as a book can that looks at the whole war.

One of the best things about the book is that it does not gloss over the horrors of WWII. While most people are familiar with Nazi brut
Bruce Baugh
Last year I went looking for recommendations for one-volume histories of World War II, and this topped the lists from all kinds of people whose judgment I respect. Turns out...they were right. This is an impressively good volume.

Beevor does one of my absolutely favorite things in encompassing works of history: he works in pretty consistently chronological order. Most chapters cover only a few months, and he switches theaters and topics as necessary to keep things more or less in temporal sync. I
Discounting Shirer's 'Rise and Fall of the Third Reich', which I abandoned about 300 pages in, this is the first book I've read that deals with the Second World War. There was much here that was new and fascinating. It is by no means comprehensive, nor an easy introduction to a newbie, but it manages to capture some of the complexity of this period in history and the characters who shaped it.

As in any attempt to compress into a mere 780 pages a war that lasted six years and swept much of the glo
Anthony Beevor has written several histories of specific parts of WWII, D-Day, Stalingrad, Berlin, but said in the introduction his knowledge of the war both in the Pacific and Europe was "weak" so he set out to remedy that. He certainly did with as nice a read as one could ask for. He put everything into the larger picture of the whole war.

The book explains several things I did not understand before - the antagonism between France and America being one. The French government and senior militar
This work took me longer to listen to than most audiobooks of the same length. The material was dense and required that I go back to listen again in a number of places. I've read a fair amount on WWII, but this work pieces the major theaters of conflict together in a way that I've not encountered previously. The writing style was not especially engaging although it was clear, and the content was worth some additional effort to absorb.

I'm not sure this would be the best introduction to WWII unles
Chris Walker
This is the first history of the Second World War that I have read and it is a good one because it deals with all the theatres of war and so does not contain the bias of any one country's perspective and certainly does not laud one army or self-promoting big name general over another. The details of the various battles (who moved where, when) were less interesting to me than the first hand reports from eye witnesses recorded in the pages. It took me about a year to read and there are many truly ...more
Possibly the best general history of the war. Beevor does a good job with the familiar theaters of war (Eastern Front, island hopping in the Pacific) but he does not stint Burma, Greece, North Africa, and China. He does a particularly good job with the Byzantine politics surrounding Poland, France, and China. His insights are generally fresh. Unlike many writers, for example, he does not apologize for or exaggerate Chiang Kai-Shek's shortcomings, but rather he illustrates the no-win situation th ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945
  • The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War
  • No Simple Victory: World War II in Europe, 1939-1945
  • Barbarossa
  • The War of Wars: The Great European Conflict 1793 - 1815
  • A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II
  • Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-1944
  • The Retreat: Hitler's First Defeat
  • The Third Reich At War (The History of the Third Reich, #3)
  • Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942
  • Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War
  • Dam Busters: The True Story of the Legendary Raid on the Ruhr
  • Dresden
  • Decision in Normandy
  • Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II
  • Berlin at War: Life and Death in Hitler's Capital, 1939-45
  • A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army
  • The Ultimate Battle: Okinawa, 1945: The Last Epic Struggle of World War II
Antony James Beevor is a British historian, educated at Winchester College and Sandhurst. He studied under the famous historian of World War II, John Keegan. Beevor is a former officer with the 11th Hussars who served in England and Germany for 5 years before resigning his commission. He has published several popular histories on the Second World War and 20th century in general.

More about Antony Beevor...
Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege, 1942-1943 The Fall of Berlin 1945 D-Day: The Battle for Normandy The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 Crete: The Battle And The Resistance

Share This Book

“Stalin’s appeasement of Hitler had continued with a large increase in deliveries to Germany of grain, fuel, cotton, metals and rubber purchased in south-east Asia, circumventing the British blockade. During the period of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviet Union had provided 26,000 tons of chromium, used in metal alloys, 140,000 tons of manganese and more than two millions tons of oil to the Reich. Despite having received well over eighty clear indications of a German invasion–indeed probably more than a hundred–Stalin seemed more concerned with ‘the security problem along our north-west frontier’, which meant the Baltic states. On the night of 14 June, a week before the German invasion, 60,000 Estonians, 34,000 Latvians and 38,000 Lithuanians were forced on to cattle trucks for deportation to camps in the distant interior of the Soviet Union. Stalin remained unconvinced even when, during the last week before the invasion, German ships rapidly left Soviet ports and embassy staff were evacuated.” 1 likes
“Other means were used to wear down the Germans and prevent them getting any rest. The 588th Night Bomber Regiment specialized in flying their obsolete Po-2 biplanes low over the German lines at night and switching off their engines as they made their bombing run. The ghostly swish made a sinister noise. These outstandingly brave pilots were all young women. They were soon dubbed the ‘Night Witches’, first by the Germans and then by their own side.” 0 likes
More quotes…