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There are two interesting recent books out that detail the vast scope of WWII. I've bought both (and read other histories of the war), and can give some details as to their differences.
This book is a typical descriptive historical narrative of the war. It is great single source for those who haven't read a comprehensive history of it. It fairly and with good balance describes the political background and military events and while the writing is somewhat prosaic it is not 'dry', and it gives a well detailed overview of the events.
Hastings book "Inferno" (published in Britain as "All Hell Let Loose") carries with it a lot more personal observations from diaries, letters, etc of the participants, and clearly is written with the authors own subjective interpretation or points of view on the events, rather than being a pure description of the historical events. The writing is more elegant and provocative, as befits the journalist background of the author.
If one has no knowledge of this titanic struggle I would start with Beevor's book so as to capture the events and timelines as they historically occurred, written in a very readable manner. On the other hand if one is familiar with most of the history I would recommend Hasting's book as a source of opinionated (but supported) insight, along with the many descriptions of the war by participants that are included in his narrative and relate to the historical events.
Both are excellent in their own ways. They provide: 1)in the terms of Beevor's book a well written and accurate single volume historical description of the war and 2) in Hastings a more 'op-ed' description with personal stories of the conflict that he has derived from letters, diaries, interviews etc.
The sheer immensity of the Second World War is even now, after more ink has been spilt on it than on almost any other event in history, almost impossible to grasp. The war affected countless people in every conceivable small and big way, it changed the fate of innumerable nations and set the tone for issues with which we are still grappling, and it showcased the very best and very worst in human nature. Very few historians are capable of capturing this epic panorama of tragedy and triumph on paper. Happily for us, Antony Beevor is one of those chosen few who can. In the past few decades he has established himself as a war historian of the first rank. This volume can be seen as the culmination of a stellar career during which he has introduced us to the very nature of war and its human elements. Beevor's sweeping, magisterial account of this great conflict excels in three ways that are characteristic of his past scholarship on D-Day, Stalingrad and Berlin.
Firstly, Beevor delivers the raw strategic and historical facts with a relentless, crisp pace, covering all major events, participants and theaters of war. The history is informed by a treasure trove of material cited in the notes, including personal sources such as the invaluable diary of Soviet correspondent Vasily Grossman. There are 50 chapters and the title of each chapter reflects the one or two key events narrated in it. The brevity of the chapters makes the book accessible and great for bedtime reading. A particular skill of Beevor's is in condensing the most important information in relatively brief paragraphs. Rather than provide separate extended quotes from the prime participants, he excerpts these quotes within the paragraphs.Read more ›
Thanks to recent good World War Two books (such as the masterpiece "Inferno" by Max Hastings) and enduring WWII classics, readers have a wealth of great WWII history books to choose from. The world tore itself apart in flames of war sweeping across planet Earth. 70 million people horrifically died. Beevor's WWII overview of WWII is especially good at filling in important details.
See WWII book list below.
Now Antony Beevor, an accomplished British historian of the Second World War (including "Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege"), has produced a comprehensive narrative of World War II that is one of the best. So much information is packed in each concise paragraph. Some of the stories are astonishing: Unprecedented combat violence across the globe. Cold exterminations. Textbook military tactics and misguided blunders. Rapes. Critical strategic interpretations are sometimes amiss or missing, unfortunately in this book, including the aims of Nazi ideology and USA's emerging influence for a new post-war world of free determination and free trade, as compared to the world before WWII with colonialism and the Versailles Treaty.
Contrasting Beevor's "Second World War" against other great and recent WWII overview books, this book has fewer gaps in details, without the book seeming scattered. For example, "Storm of War" by British historian Andrew Roberts focuses on Hitler and has "must read" interpretations, but the coverage of the Pacific is light. In contrast, Beevor's book has great coverage of Japan's overlooked war in China that killed millions and details other important areas. The bloodbath Eastern Front is covered well in both books.Read more ›
A regular in the 11th Hussars, Antony Beevor served in Germany and England. He has had a number of books published and his book Stalingrad was awarded the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Wolfson History Prize and the Hawthornden Prize. Among the many prestigious posts he holds, he is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.