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Subject: Favorite WW2 Overview rss

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Sean McCormick
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Hey all,

I am curious as to opinions regarding the current crop of WW2 strategic overviews. It's a crowded market, with new entries from virtually every major military historian dropping in the last few years. I find myself attracted to them simply out of curiosity as to how someone tries to tell a very familiar story in a new way.

I will say that I have read Keegan's, which was of course readable and was somewhat less inclined to British hero worship than his WWI history.

I've also read Max Hastings' Inferno, which I found very affecting--I really appreciated his emphasis on the human experience. He's also a fine writer, which helps matters along. (Too much Hastings can be a depressing slog, as he really lingers on depressing stories, though more so in Armageddon and Retribution than here.)

I haven't read Antony Beevor's, though his Stalingrad book is my single favorite piece of modern military history.

Richard Overy also has a history out, but I wonder if a narrative will have the analytical precision he showed in Why the Allies Won.

Also haven't looked at Andrew Roberts' history. I enjoyed his writing in his Napoleon biography, but I don't particularly trust his historical judgment. (A good baseline is to look at how historians expected the Iraq invasion to go right at the start--historians whose work I respect tended to be clearsighted about things, while historians who lean towards patriotic triumphalism were predictably bad. Roberts falls into the latter category, and his take was badly off.) .

Victor Davis Hanson comes across well in interviews, but his politics are reprehensible and borderline ludicrous and my take of his approach to history is that he seems to smash everything through the prism of the Peloponnesian War. I do try to read work by people whose politics I disagree with, and I am open to Hanson's take, but I doubt at the outset it will be superior to any of the aforementioned historians, all of whom (save Roberts) have been mining the Second World War for decades.

(Also should mention James Holland's work, which is novel in focusing exclusively on the Western War, which after being the default way to understand the war feels positively revisionist after the needed corrections to put the Soviet effort from and center. Anyway, his isn't single volume, so it probably doesn't belong here.)
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Gregg Keizer
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I've always thought a lot of:

A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II
by Gerhard Weinberg

It's not new, though, published in 2005.

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Owen Edwards
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Armageddon by Hastings has a few passages of really very fine military history interspersed with reams of social history and a bit of fairly generic political history - all of which is relevant and his right to select, but my word does it pall eventually. And somehow he manages to gloss over the German Resistance whilst focussing so much on the experience of German people. Overlord is significantly better.

In terms of specifically the Pacific, John Costello's book is excellent. Maybe the best I've come across.
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Mike E.
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Always liked this...

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Christina Kahrl
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Beevor currently rates as my No. 1, as I liked it well enough to also send Dad a copy.
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Sam Smith
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When I was casting around for a one volume treatment I went with Andrew Roberts and wasn't disappointed: it was very readable and managed to make some old stories quite fresh. Mind, I wasn't aware of the issues you mention about another of his books. (as a result Ive got his Masters and Commanders in the queue, but it's not what you've asked for)

From memory I think I rejected Overy as from a quick dip it was a little too high level and broad brush(Kursk in a page or so), though he can be very incisive, as you say.

I'm relieved to hear another poster - above - suggest Armageddon by Hastings dragged a bit. I thought it was just me, or the grinding nature of what is described, but I actually stopped reading it without finishing it, even though I like his stuff usually. Nemesis seems to have been well received though.

I've not read the Beevor book, but he's another writer who IMO is good at bringing a fresh eye to old stories: I eventually got his DDay book after some shilly-shallying,thinking "I'll be surprised if this adds much to all the things I've read before". But it did.
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Mark Sockwell
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Currently reading Hanson's book. It's different in that it looks at the war as a war in different spheres -- an air war, a naval war, an infantry war, etc. Just getting into the section on the infantry war.

As to his politics, who cares as long as the book is accurate and readable?

Yes, there are some references to the Peloponnesian War, but to me it highlighted that as a civilization, we've been down this road before.

Cheers,


Mark
 
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Sean McCormick
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MAS01 wrote:
Currently reading Hanson's book. It's different in that it looks at the war as a war in different spheres -- an air war, a naval war, an infantry war, etc. Just getting into the section on the infantry war.

As to his politics, who cares as long as the book is accurate and readable?

Yes, there are some references to the Peloponnesian War, but to me it highlighted that as a civilization, we've been down this road before.

Cheers,


Mark


That's also how he organized his recent book on the Peloponnesian War. As for politics, they don't have to matter--John Keegan and Max Hastings both have politics that were/are very different from mine--but they can also intrude on judgment. (That's why I mention Roberts' terrible prediction on Iraq. Historians whose work impressed me in their own field tended to be much more cleared-eyed.) . The Munich appeasement analogy is the obvious one that distorts perception, and my read of Hanson's history is that he has taken some basic observations about warfare in classical Greece and made a career of extrapolating them into all kinds of circumstances where they don't belong.
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Wendell
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seanmac wrote:
MAS01 wrote:
Currently reading Hanson's book. It's different in that it looks at the war as a war in different spheres -- an air war, a naval war, an infantry war, etc. Just getting into the section on the infantry war.

As to his politics, who cares as long as the book is accurate and readable?

Yes, there are some references to the Peloponnesian War, but to me it highlighted that as a civilization, we've been down this road before.

Cheers,


Mark


That's also how he organized his recent book on the Peloponnesian War. As for politics, they don't have to matter--John Keegan and Max Hastings both have politics that were/are very different from mine--but they can also intrude on judgment. (That's why I mention Roberts' terrible prediction on Iraq. Historians whose work impressed me in their own field tended to be much more cleared-eyed.) . The Munich appeasement analogy is the obvious one that distorts perception, and my read of Hanson's history is that he has taken some basic observations about warfare in classical Greece and made a career of extrapolating them into all kinds of circumstances where they don't belong.


I tend to be cautious on Hanson outside of the ancient world, but some reviewers I trust say his WW2 book is good (though perhaps not as an introduction to WW2, but most of us here probably don't need that!).

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/09/books/review/new-military...
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Cameron
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Mike31 wrote:

Always liked this...



This is a good read!
 
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Arthur Dougherty
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I read Beevor's book and really enjoyed it. It might sell the Pacific a bit short, it's clear he has a deep Eastern Front background and doesn't suffer the war crime behavior both sides demonstrated there. What I liked about it though, aside from the good writing and historical detail, was how it really made it feel like a World War, sometimes taking the time to focus on something small in a more remote place which drove home the true global impact of World War 2 for me.
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