The First World War The First World War question

The run-up to WWII - Where to go?
Michael Michael Jan 26, 2015 03:09PM
Hi everybody. A recent trip to Poland convinced me that I didn't understand nearly as much about World War II as I thought I did or should. So I went backwards as far as World War I and have started from there.

I'm looking for good, solid, readable histories, preferably one-volume. Here's what I've tackled so far:
The First World War - John Keegan
A Concise History of the Russian Revolution - Richard Pipes
The Coming of the Third Reich - Richard J. Evans

And some things I'm interested in learning more about:
Italy, Mussolini, and Fascism
The Great Depression
The Spanish Civil War
The Japanese and Chinese - don't even know where to begin

And then, of course, the war itself.

What else? What am I missing? Any recommendations would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!

E. (last edited Feb 24, 2015 08:45PM ) Feb 22, 2015 04:28PM   0 votes
EDIT: Forgot to mention Toland's "The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945," which is probably the best thing I've read on that topic.

I would immediately suggest Fromkin's utterly brilliant "A Peace to End All Peace" and MacMillan's "Paris 1919" to round off the situation at the end of WW1, then Shirer's classic "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" and DCW's "How War Came" for the immediate runup to WW2. I also really liked Paxton's "Anatomy of Fascism" and Thompson's "The White War" - this last one is highly relevant to the rise of fascism. Thomas' "The Spanish Civil War" is a good intro to that particular disaster and I really enjoyed "Stilwell and the American Experience in China" - Tuchman is downright vitriolic in this one, and with good reason.

I am fascinated by WWI. My suggestions include: The Guns of August (Tuchman), To End All Wars (Hochschild), Intimate Voices from First World War (Wallis) and The Beauty and the Sorrow (Englund). These tell different aspects of the war, rather than focusing on the connection between WW1 and WW2. I also just finished All Quiet on the Western Front, which, even if you read it as a youth, you should read again. There are themes in there that will just fly over a teen's head. In the same genre, I am now reading Fear, by Gabriel Chevallier. It is an anti-war book written from a soldier's perspective - first published in 1930, the author agreed to suspend publication in 1939.

For fiction, A Very Long Engagement (Japrisot) and Birdsong (can't recall the author).

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