24 August 2014 by Published in: Research and Writing 10 comments

I received the following challenge:

List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t over think it. They don’t have to be the “right” books or great works of literature, just books that have impacted you in some way.

So, here goes, in no particular order:

1. The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War. This was the one that started it all for me. Bruce Catton’s wonderful prose and THE coolest maps ever made.

2. William Manchester’s marvelous The Arms of Krupp, 1587-1968. My master’s thesis was a direct result of having read this book.

3. Carlo D’Este, Patton: A Genius for War. Simply put, THE finest military biography that I have ever read.

4. Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee’s Lieutenants: A Study in Command. An epic study that not only taught me a lot about the Confederate side of the Civil War, it also introduced me to the Lost Cause.

5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Yep, I’m a nerd. This proves it.

6. Cornelius Ryan, A Bridge too Far. This epic study of the wretched, miserable failure that was Operation Market Garden is one of the finest campaign studies ever written.

7. Alan T. Nolan, Lee Considered: General Robert E. Lee and Civil War History. This groundbreaking book directly led to the publication of one of my books.

8. Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels. Full of factual errors but one of the finest pieces of historical fiction ever written, this book was the introduction to the Civil War for many a person.

9. John Hennessy, Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas. This is THE best Civil War campaign study I have ever read, and I aspire to doing as well some day.

10. Robert A. Caro, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. Moses was the most powerful man in New York, but his ego and downfall brought about the bankruptcy of New York in the 1970’s. This epic biography taught me the art of biography.

There are, of course, many, many other worthy candidates for inclusion on such a list–in fact, limiting the list to ten entries really unreasonably limits things. But these are the ten that come to mind without overthinking it, and I think that this list is a worthy one.

Feel free to leave your own lists here in the comments. It should make for some interesting discussion.

Scridb filter


  1. dan (unreconstructed yankee rebel)
    Sun 24th Aug 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Excellent subject. I think if I were to do another list tomorrow some of these would be off, and some others on. Great stuff, Eric.
    Nope, couldn’t quite keep it to ten.

    TimeLife Civil War Series
    Lord of the Rings
    Catcher in the Rye
    Forgotten Soldier
    Ishmael (daniel quinn)
    Lee’s Lieutenants
    RE Lee (Freeman)
    Blue and Gray (Commager)
    Battles and Leaders
    Man’s Search for Meaning (Frankl)
    Company Aytch
    Goodbye Darkness (William Manchester)
    The Forever War (Sci-Fi- Joe Haldeman)
    Aquarian Conspiracy (80s Utopian tome Let’s-all-get-along-cause-we-can – well, not quite yet)
    The Stranger (Camus)

  2. Chris Evans
    Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 10:19 am

    Glad to see William Manchester. I love his ‘The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of America, 1932-1972’ just a tremendous history.


  3. John Foskett
    Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 5:31 pm

    These come to mind. The first 9 were books I encountered as a kid and cemented my interest in US history. The last is a big change of pace.:

    1.American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War
    2. Miller’s Photographic History of the Civil War (1911) – a book my great-great uncle apparently bought when he was in the GAR
    3. Mr. Lincoln’s Army by Catton
    4. Glory Road by Catton
    5. Stillness at Appomattox by Catton
    6. Gettysburg by Kantor
    7. Making of the President 1960 by White
    8. Incredible Victory by Lord
    9. Now We Are Enemies by Fleming
    10. The Game by Ken Dryden

  4. Josh Liller
    Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 8:30 pm

    I’ve only read 2 books on your list – the Hobbit and Hennessy. Ryan and Nolan are on my To Read list. I’ve have intentionally avoided reading Freeman and Shaara.

    My list:

    1. “Gettysburg” by Stephen Sears. Combined with my first visit to the battlefield to prompt me to return to college for my History degree.

    2. “Downfall” by Richard Frank. Changed my long-held opinion about the atomic bombs.

    3. “The Impending Crisis” by David Potter. Cemented in my mind the central role of slavery in causing the Civil War.

    4. “The Anatomy of Facism” by Robert Paxton. Stellar analysis of what fascism is and isn’t. One of the most interesting political science books I’ve ever read and I’d recommend it to anyone in this era where the terms ‘fascism’ and ‘communism’ are thrown around so recklessly.

    5. “Paris 1919” by Margaret MacMillan. An outstanding history.

    6. “Shattered Sword” by Jonathan Parsall. Great fresh perspective on the Battle of Midway, with some of the best and snarkiest footnotes.

    7. “The Civil War: A Narrative” by Shelby Foote. I read this trilogy over the course of a year in high school. The experience really stuck with me, although sadly did not motivate me to insist on being a history major in college (at the time).

    8. “The First World War” by John Keegan. Fascinating strategic insight. I should note that this really needs to be read along with the first chapter of his “Second World War” (which was written first).

    9. “A Walk In The Woods” by Bill Bryson. Probably my favorite pure-fun non-fiction read.

    10. “A Walk To Remember” by Nicholas Sparks. Fluffy and hilariously out of place with the other 1400+ books in my Goodreads library, but I adored this book for a long time.

  5. John Foskett
    Tue 26th Aug 2014 at 11:05 am


    I think you meant to add Tully as a co-author of Shattered Sword. I agree, by the way – an excellent example of how to research, evaluate, and write “revisionist” history.

  6. Ray
    Wed 27th Aug 2014 at 4:21 pm

    1. Ottoman Centuries
    2. The Reason Why
    3. The Great Game
    4. Noose of Laurels
    5. Edge of Glory
    6. Albion’s Seed
    7. Apostles of Disunion
    8. Cotton Kingdom
    9. Most Promising of All
    10. The Fatal Environment

  7. jeff weltsch
    Wed 03rd Sep 2014 at 3:10 pm

    No True Glory, A Front Line Account Of The Battle Of Fallujah Bing West.

  8. Greg
    Wed 15th Oct 2014 at 12:46 am

    A few others:
    – The Bible
    – Taiko (Eiji Yoshikawa)
    – American Caesar (William Manchester)
    – The Supreme Comander (Stephen E. Ambrose)
    – Steel My Soldiers Hearts (Col. David Hackworth)

  9. Kevin Campbell
    Wed 29th Jul 2015 at 1:13 am

    I have been telling myself for a number of months now to put my list together. So, finally here it is in no specific order.

    1. The Collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry into the Fall of France in 1940, William L. Shirer. Not as popular as Shirer’s other work The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich but every bit as interesting. How political elites precipitated a moral breakdown which permitted the country to rot from the inside to a point where an aggressive neighbor subjugated a once proud people.
    2. Island of Fire: The Battle for the Barrikady Gun Factory in Stalingrad, Jason D. Mark. Remarkably detailed squad level account of the savage fight for the factory complex in central Stalingrad.
    3. Where the Red Fern Grow, Wilson Rawls. Great story about friendship and loyalty. (See I can be an old softy.)
    4. The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command, Coddington.
    5. History of the Fifth Massachusetts Battery. I like this history because it contains a good number of personal letters from members of the battery.
    6. The Far Pavilions, M. M. Kaye. Novel of the British in India during the 1800’s. I read this when I was poor and going to college in 1979 and love it.
    7. The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, Barbara W. Tuchman. A great book on the stupidity of government and politicians.
    8. The Gleam of Bayonets, James V. Murfin. Not the best book on the Maryland Campaign but the first one I ever read.
    9. On War, Carl von Clausewitz. Sun Tzu with and attitude.
    10. Galloping Thunder: The Stuart Horse Artillery Battalion, Robert J. Trout. Flat out the best work on Stuart’s horse artillery.

    That’s it. I have so many others I would like to add (David M. Glantz’ work on Stalingrad comes to mind) but I will keep it at 10

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