The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
Author: William L. Shirer
This magnificent book follows the life of Hitler from his origins to the final destruction of the Nazi regime. It is not only very comprehensive, but also extremely readable. If you were only to read one book in your life that covered the Second World War, then it should be this one.
The Second World War: A Complete History
Author: Martin Gilbert
Beginning on the day that the Germany Army marched into Poland, this book carries the reader through the war describing events in chronological order. This makes for a flowing and very readable volume.
The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War
Author: Martin Gilbert
By the same author as "The Second World War - A Complete History", this is a comprehensive account of the horrors of the Holocaust and the attempted destruction of the Jewish race by the Nazis in World War 2.
Bodyguard of Lies
Author: Anthony Cave Brown
The title of the book comes from a Churchill quote: "In wartime, the truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies". This book details the intelligence war between the Allies and the Axis during the build up to the Allied invasions in Europe. The amazing lengths to which the Allies went to deceive the Axis forces, and the brilliant work of the Bletchley Park code-breakers in keeping Churchill informed of the Germans' every move is extremely well presented. It is a wonderfully intriguing look behind the scenes.
Russia's War: A History of the Soviet Effort
Author: Richard Overy
It is easy for us in the West - considering the influence of Hollywood - to forget that the brunt of the fighting against the German war machine took place on the Eastern front with the Soviet army taking extremely heavy casualties. Professor Richard Overy tells the story of "The Great Patriotic War", as it was known by the Soviets, from the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1941 to the fall of Berlin in 1945. The book was produced in conjunction with the TV documentary of the same name and was produced around 1995 with the benefit of Russian Glasnost.
Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege
Author: Antony Beevor
This is the story of one of the most crucial battles of WWII, where Hitler's Wehrmacht ground to a halt in the city of Stalingrad and met ferocious resistance from the Red Army. This tremendous book takes you right into the heart of the conflict including personal accounts from the soldiers of both sides. Deservedly a bestseller.
Oxford Companion to World War II
Author: I.C.B. Dear (Editor), M. R. D. Foot (Editor)
This hefty book must be the definitive encyclopedia of World War 2. It's choc full of facts and substantial articles covering every aspect of the war. An extremely handy reference for the serious WWII enthusiast.
Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives
Author: Alan Bullock
This is a fascinating comparison between the two evil dictators Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. The book is very detailed and can be a bit heavy-going at times but is a superb reference work.
Author: Siegfried Knappe with Ted Brusaw
This is a German soldier's own account of his life in the German Army before, during and after the war. It is very readable and gives an interesting insight behind the lines of a Wehrmacht artillery regiment and as a member of the General Staff.
The Railway Man
Author: Eric Lomax
An autobiographical account of one POW's journey through starvation and torture at the hands of his ruthless Japanese captors, and his subsequent reconciliation with one of the main perpetrators. This book begins quite slowly with Lomax's early life, but becomes compelling and also very moving, with his accounts during his captivity and later when he meets his former captor many years after the war.
Good Old Days (Those Were the Days)
Author: Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen, Volker Riess
This is a fascinating yet very disturbing book which presents documents and personal accounts of the Holocaust from the point of view of the perpetrators. It shows that many of the perpetrators were more than willing to carry out the executions of innocent people, those who refused to do so were not punished, and those traumatized after taking part were well looked after. This book may well be difficult to find. Alternative titles are: Those Were the Days - The Holocaust as Seen by the Perpetrators and Bystanders; and The Good Old Days - The Holocaust as Seen by the Perpetrators and Bystanders.
Dirty Little Secrets of World War II
Author: James F. Dunnigan and Albert A. Nofi
This is a strange little book whose title I think is a bit misleading. It's a collection of unusual and interesting facts about the war as well as lots of figures and statistics. I don't think there's anything in the book that really constitutes a dirty secret, but it's an interesting one none the less.