Historians name the best books on war

Historians in the News

... NIALL FERGUSON, professor of history at Harvard and author of “The War of the World.”

Vasily Grossman, “Life and Fate: A Novel” (1980). World War II’s “War and Peace.” Written (mainly) from the vantage point of a Soviet Jew, this masterpiece was judged far too ambivalent in its treatment of the “Great Patriotic War” to be published in the author’s lifetime.

Gert Ledig, “Payback” (1956). This harrowing journey to the end of the Third Reich’s night is a kind of antithesis to Evelyn Waugh’s wonderfully ironic “Sword of Honor” trilogy. It is as if Waugh had fought in a completely different war in a completely different century.

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON, senior fellow in military history and classics at the Hoover Institution at Stanford and author of “A War Like No Other.”

William Tecumseh Sherman, “Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman” (1875). While Sherman is often castigated as a terrorist and butcher, these memoirs show otherwise. He possessed an eerie grasp of how primordial emotions spark wars, and how true morality is found in ending them as quickly as possible.

Gerhard Weinberg, “A World at Arms” (1994). The best one-volume history of World War II. With remarkable erudition, wit and irony, Weinberg shows how dozens of seemingly unconnected wars in Europe, North Africa, the Pacific, China and Russia coalesced into one global conflagration.

TONY JUDT, director of the Remarque Institute at New York University, author of “Postwar.”

Vera Brittain, “Testament of Youth” (1933). A poignant account of the shattering impact of war and loss by a young upper-middle-class Englishwoman, unusual for its “home front” perspective and as moving today as it was when published.

Milovan Djilas, “Wartime” (1977). Djilas fought at Tito’s side during World War II, before breaking with the Communist leader in peacetime and being imprisoned for his dissent. His memoir captures better than any other single book I know the historical background to the tragedy of modern Yugoslavia.

RASHID KHALIDI, professor of Arab studies at Columbia and author of “The Iron Cage.”

Elias Khoury, “Gate of the Sun” (1998). This illuminating and deeply human novel tells the story of Palestinians displaced by the creation of the state of Israel.

Suad Amiry, “Sharon and My Mother-in-Law” (2005). Despite its light tone, this memoir about the 2002 Israeli reoccupation of Ramallah conveys the daily absurdities brought about by a military occupation — a form of attenuated war — now in its 40th year.

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