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Military History

This list, updated annually, contains selections from the 2013-2019 New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year lists, Publishers Weekly’s annual Best Books of the Year lists, and starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist. For more reading suggestions check out the Madison Public Library Insider newsletter-- History.

World War I | World War II | America in Wartime | Vietnam War | More Civil and International Wars

See the book list American History for books about the American Revolution and Civil War.

World War I

Cover of March 1917: On the Brink o

A riveting history of the month that transformed the world's greatest nations as Russia faced revolution and America entered World War I.

Cover of Dead Wake: The Last Crossi

A chronicle of the sinking of the Lusitania that discusses the factors that led to the tragedy and the contributions of such figures as President Wilson, bookseller Charles Lauriat and architect Theodate Pope Riddle.

Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of The Hundred-Year Walk: An
Dawn Anahid

The inspiring story of a young Armenian's harrowing escape from the deadly mass deportation of Armenians during World War I and of his granddaughter's quest to retrace his steps.

Available to download: Audio

World War II

Cover of Last Witnesses: An Oral Hi

Bringing together dozens of voices in her distinctive style, Last Witnesses is Svetlana Alexievich's collection of the memories of those who were children during World War II. These men and women were both witnesses and sometimes soldiers as well, and their generation grew up with the trauma of the war deeply embedded in them--a trauma that would forever change the course of the Russian nation.

Cover of The Winter Fortress: The E

 An arresting chronicle of a brilliant scientist, a band of spies on skis, perilous survival in the wild, sacrifice for one's country, Gestapo manhunts, soul-crushing setbacks, and a last-minute operation that would end any chance Hitler could obtain the atomic bomb--and alter the course of the war.

Available to download: eBook

Cover of Ardennes 1944: The Battle

An account of the greatest battle of the war in western Europe, which finally broke the back of the Wehrmacht.

Available to download: eBook

Cover of The Third Reich: A History

The dramatic story of the Third Reich--how Adolf Hitler and a core group of Nazis rose to power and plunged the world into a horrific war, perpetrating the genocidal Holocaust while sacrificing the lives of millions of ordinary Germans.

Cover of D-Day Girls: The Spies Who
Sarah Rose

The dramatic, inspiring story of the extraordinary women recruited by Britain's elite spy agency to sabotage the Nazis, shore up the Resistance, and pave the way for Allied victory in World War II.

Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Tehran Children: A Holocau

The extraordinary true story of Polish-Jewish child refugees who escaped the Nazis and found refuge in Iran. Following the footsteps of her father, one of these children who traveled to Iran and later to Palestine, Dekel fuses memoir with historical investigation in this account of the all-but-unknown Jewish refuge in Muslim lands. Along the way, Dekel reveals the complex global politics behind this journey, discusses refugee aid and hospitality, and traces the making of collective identities that have shaped the postwar world--the histories nations tell and those they forget.

Cover of The Volunteer: One Man, an

The incredible true story of a Polish resistance fighter's infiltration of Auschwitz to sabotage the camp from within, and his death-defying attempt to warn the Allies about the Nazis' plans for a "Final Solution" before it was too late.

Available to download: eBook

Cover of The Secret War: Spies, Cip

An examination of one of the most important yet underexplored aspects of World War II--intelligence--shows how espionage successes and failures by the United States, Britain, Russia, Germany, and Japan influenced the course of the war and its final outcome.

Cover of Ravensbrück: Life and Dea

Traces the sobering history of World War II's largest female concentration camp, revealing the torturous experiences and deaths of thousands of women prisoners of more than twenty nationalities.

Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Normandy '44: D-Day and th

A stirring narrative by a pre-eminent historian that offers an important new perspective on one of history's most dramatic military engagements and is an invaluable addition to the literature of war.

Cover of The Bastard Brigade: The T

The gripping, untold story of a renegade group of scientists and spies determined to keep Adolf Hitler from obtaining the ultimate prize: a nuclear bomb.

Available to download: eBook

Cover of Avenue of Spies: A True St

Brings to life the incredible true story of an American doctor in Paris, and his heroic espionage efforts during World War II.

Available to download: eBook

Cover of Alone: Britain, Churchill,

Bringing to vivid life the world leaders, generals, and ordinary citizens who fought on both sides of the war, best-selling author Michael Korda chronicles the outbreak of hostilities, recalling as a prescient young boy the enveloping tension that defined pre-Blitz London, and then as a military historian the great events that would alter the course of the twentieth century.

Cover of Return to the Reich: A Hol

The remarkable story of Fred Mayer, a German-born Jew who escaped Nazi Germany only to return as an American commando on a secret mission behind enemy lines.

Cover of Rogue Heroes: The History

The incredible untold story of WWII's greatest secret fighting force, as told by our great modern master of wartime intrigue.

Cover of Irena’s Children: The Ex

An extraordinary and gripping account of Irena Sendler--the "female Oskar Schindler"--who took staggering risks to save 2,500 children from death and deportation in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II.

Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Soldier, Sailor, Frogman,

A ground-breaking account of the first 24 hours of the D-Day invasion told by a symphony of incredible accounts of unknown and unheralded members of the Allied - and Axis - forces.

Available to download: eBook

Cover of The Women Who Flew for Hit

Despite Hitler's dictates on women's place being in the home, two fiercely defiant -- and very different -- female pilots were awarded the Iron Cross during the Second World War. Mulley shows, through dazzling film-like scenes suffused in glamour and danger, that their interwoven dramas are a powerful forgotten story of conformity and resistance and the very strength of women at the heart of the Second World War.

Cover of Pearl Harbor: From Infamy

A gripping and definitive account of the event that changed twentieth-century America--Pearl Harbor--based on years of research and new information uncovered by a New York Times bestselling author. Available to download: eBook

Cover of Last Hope Island: Britain,

A groundbreaking account of how Britain became the base of operations for the exiled leaders of Europe in their desperate struggle to reclaim their continent from Hitler.

Available to download: eBook

Cover of Madame Fourcade's Secret W

The little-known true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II.

Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of A Woman of No Importance:

A never-before-told story of Virginia Hall, the American spy who changed the course of World War II.

Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Churchill: Walking With De

Winston Churchill became an iconic, visionary war leader immune from the consensus of the day, standing firmly for his beliefs when everyone doubted him. Roberts shows how young Winston become Churchill, from birth to lasting legacy. With access to transcripts of War Cabinet meetings, diaries, letters and unpublished memoirs from Churchill's contemporaries-- even detailed notes taken by King George VI in his diary after his weekly meetings with Churchill during World War II-- Roberts came to understand the man in revelatory new ways, and to identify the hidden forces fueling Churchill's legendary drive.

Available to download: eBook

Cover of Black Earth: The Holocaust

In this epic history of extermination and survival, Timothy Snyder presents a new explanation of the great atrocity of the twentieth century, and reveals the risks that we face in the twenty-first.  Based on new sources from eastern Europe and forgotten testimonies from Jewish survivors, Black Earth recounts the mass murder of the Jews as an event that is still close to us, more comprehensible than we would like to think, and thus all the more terrifying.

Cover of The German War: A Nation U

A groundbreaking history of what drove the Germans to fight -- and keep fighting -- for a lost cause in World War II. Told from the perspective of those who lived through it-- soldiers, school-teachers and housewives; Nazis, Christians and Jews-- this masterful historical narrative sheds fresh and disturbing light on the beliefs, hopes, and fears of people who embarked on, continued, and fought to the end, a brutal war of conquest and genocide.

Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Hitler: Ascent, 1889–193

A comprehensive biography of Hitler focusing on the dictator's personality. Followed by Hitler: Downfall, 1939-1945.

Available to download: eBook

America in Wartime

Cover of The Accidental President:

The dramatic, pulse-pounding story of Harry Truman's first four months in office, when this unlikely president had to take on Germany, Japan, Stalin, and the atomic bomb, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

Cover of Presidents of War

An intimate and irresistibly readable chronicle of the Chief Executives who took the United States into conflict and mobilized it for victory.

Cover of Dark Invasion: 1915; Germa

Follows New York Police Inspector Tom Tunney, head of the department's Bomb Squad, as he hunts for German conspirators on American soil during World War I during a sabotage campaign that began in 1914 when the German ambassador to the U.S., Johann von Bernstoff, was instructed to develop an intelligence network to keep America out of WWI and prevent the shipment of supplies and war material to the Allies--both by "any means necessary.”

Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of The General vs. the Presid

The riveting story of how President Harry Truman and General Douglas MacArthur squared off to decide America's future in the aftermath of World War II.

Cover of The Mantle of Command: FDR

Based on years of archival research and interviews with the last surviving aides and Roosevelt family members, Nigel Hamilton offers a definitive account of FDR's masterful--and underappreciated--command of the Allied war effort.

Available to download: eBook

Cover of Operation Paperclip: The S

Details how the U.S. government embarked on a covert operation to recruit and employ Nazi scientists in the years following World War II in an effort to prevent their knowledge and expertise from falling into the hands of the Soviet Union.

Available to download: Audio

Cover of American Warlords: How Roo
Jonathan W.

The intimate true story of President Franklin Roosevelt's inner circle of military leadership, the team of rivals who shaped World War II and America.

Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Spearhead: An American Tan

The riveting World War II story of an American tank gunner's journey into the heart of the Third Reich, where he will meet destiny in an iconic armor duel--and forge an enduring bond with his enemy.

Cover of When Books Went to War: Th
Molly Guptill

Chronicles the joint effort of the U.S. government, the publishing industry, and the nation's librarians to boost troop morale during World War II by shipping more than one hundred million books to the front lines for soldiers to read during what little downtime they had.

Cover of Young Radicals: In the War

The story of five activists, intellectuals and troublemakers who agitated for freedom and equality in the hopeful years before World War I, then fought to defend those values in a country pitching into violence and chaos.

Cover of Code Girls: The Untold Sto

Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; now, through dazzling research and interviews with surviving code girls, bestselling author Liza Mundy brings to life this riveting and vital story of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment.

Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Pearl Harbor: From Infamy

A gripping and definitive account of the event that changed twentieth-century America--Pearl Harbor--based on years of research and new information uncovered by a New York Times bestselling author.

Available to download: eBook

Cover of Fly Girls

The untold story of five women who fought to compete against men in the high-stakes national air races of the 1920s and 1930s -- and won.

Available to download: eBook Audio

Vietnam War

Cover of The Road Not Taken: Edward

In this epic biography of Edward Lansdale (1908- 1987), the man said to be the fictional model for Graham Greene's The Quiet American, best-selling historian Max Boot demonstrates how Lansdale pioneered a "hearts and mind" diplomacy, first in the Philippines, then in Vietnam--a visionary policy that, as Boot reveals, was ultimately crushed by America's giant military bureaucracy, steered by elitist generals and blueblood diplomats who favored troop build-ups and napalm bombs over winning the trust of the people.

Cover of Hue 1968: A Turning Point

Interviews with participants from both sides of the conflict and materials from Vietnamese and American archives provide multiple points of view on each stage of the Battle of Hue.

Available to download: eBook

Cover of Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy,

An absorbing and definitive modern history of the Vietnam War from the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author.

Available to download: Audio

Cover of Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam
Viet Thanh

All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory. From the author of the bestselling novel The Sympathizer comes a searching exploration of the conflict Americans call the Vietnam War and Vietnamese call the American War--a conflict that lives on in the collective memory of both nations.

Cover of The Odyssey of Echo Compan

A portrait of the American recon platoon of the 101st Airborne Division describes their sixty-day fight for survival during the 1968 Tet Offensive, tracing their postwar difficulties with acclimating into a peacetime America that did not want to hear their story.

Cover of Road to Disaster: A New Hi

Many books have been written on the tragic decisions regarding Vietnam made by the young stars of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Yet despite millions of words of analysis and reflection, no historian has been able to explain why such decent, brilliant, and previously successful men stumbled so badly, until now.

Cover of The Vietnam War: An Intima
Geoffrey C.
Ward & Ken Burns

More than forty years after it ended, the Vietnam War continues to haunt our country. We still argue over why we were there, whether we could have won, and who was right and wrong in their response to the conflict. When the war divided the country, it created deep political fault lines that continue to divide us today. Now, continuing in the tradition of their critically acclaimed collaborations, the authors draw on dozens and dozens of interviews in America and Vietnam to give us the perspectives of people involved at all levels of the war: U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers and their families, high-level officials in America and Vietnam, antiwar protestors, POWs, and many more.

More Civil and International Wars

Cover of Red Famine: Stalin's War o

A revelatory history of one of Stalin's greatest crimes--the consequences of which still resonate today.

Available to download: Audio

Cover of Waterloo: The History of F

A tense and gripping story of heroism and tragedy--and of the final battle that determined the fate of nineteenth-century Europe.

Available to download: eBook

Cover of The Immortal Irishman: The

The epic story of one of the most fascinating and colorful Irishman in nineteenth-century America. 

Available to download: eBook

Cover of Spain in Our Hearts: Ameri

A sweeping history of the Spanish Civil War, told through a dozen characters, including Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell: a tale of idealism, heartbreaking suffering, and a noble cause that failed. Available to download: eBook

Cover of Crusaders: The Epic Histor

A major new history of the Crusades with an unprecedented wide scope, told in a tableau of portraits of people on all sides of the wars.

Cover of Liberty or Death: The Fren

A strikingly new account of the impact of the French Revolution in Paris, across the French countryside, and around the globe.

Cover of October: The Story of the

The renowned fantasy and science fiction writer China Mieville has long been inspired by the ideals of the Russian Revolution and here, on the centenary of the revolution, he provides his own distinctive take on its history.

Cover of A New World Begins: The Hi

From an award-winning historian, a magisterial account of the revolution that created the modern world that offers a riveting account of the revolution that puts the reader in the thick of the debates and the violence that led to the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of a new society.

Cover of Caught in the Revolution:

A masterful telling of the outbreak of the Russian Revolution through eye-witness accounts left by foreign nationals who saw the drama unfold.

Cover of Hell and Good Company: The

The remarkable story of the Spanish Civil War through the eyes of the reporters, writers, artists, doctors, and nurses who witnessed it, from a Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling author.

Cover of Roberts, Andrew. Napoleon:

The definitive biography of the great soldier-statesman by a New York Times bestselling author and the first one-volume biography to take advantage of the recent publication of Napoleon's thirty-three thousand letters, which radically transform our understanding of his character and motivation.

Available to download: eBook

Cover of The End of the Cold War: 1

"A British historian and author investigates the final years of the Cold War from both sides of the Iron Curtain, discussing the relationship between Reagan and Gorbachev whose unprecedented, historic cooperation worked against the odds to end the arms race,"--NoveList.

Cover of The Cold War: A World Hist
Odd Arne

The definitive history of the Cold War and its impact around the world.