At the time of writing GoodReads says that I’ve read 75 books this year. I suspect I’ll get at least a couple more in before the end of the year but I’m not sure whether I’ll read something that would displace a book from this list so I feel fairly safe posting this now. Here are my top 5 that I’ve read this year. Only two of them were actually published this year and three of them are second world war military history – but although this is an interest of mine, they are there on merit of being very good books and I would recommend them even if this is something that isn’t of a particular interest to you.
Brothers in Arms – James Holland
This is the story of the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry and their journey from D-Day to VE-Day in the second world war. As a regiment they’ve been in the war from the start, originally as a mounted – on horses – cavalry regiment before moving into tanks. It’s incredibly well written and as well as the “back story” of what is going on generally it focuses on a handful of the men of the regiment. It shows the true horror of war and the sheer loss of life and attrition that happens, even to what is ultimately being the “victorious” side. It will make you stop and think and question what you think you already know about the second world war.
Diary of a War Artist – Edward Ardizzone
This is exactly what it says it is, and follows the artist through the invasion of Sicily and onto D-Day and towards the end of the European war during 1943 to 1945. You might think that you’ve never heard of Edward Ardizzone, but after the war he was a very well known illustrator and in particular of children’s books. If you’ve ever read Stig of the Dump you’ve probably seen his illustrations.
These are illustrated notebooks/diaries and again show what is going on generally as well as to the individual.
Brave Men – Ernie Pyle
My final second world war pick and again covering the war from 1943 to 1945 from Sicily to Normandy, Ernie Pyle was an American war correspondent who reported from the front line (and was ultimately killed in the Pacific towards the end of the war). These are in effect another diary type reportage, although not written explicitly at such and providing a day to day account of the progression and the individual units and men concerned. Pyle would attach himself to different units; Naval, engineers, artillery, infantry and report from being alongside them. As above it shows what the war was truly like and not the version that we have perhaps taught ourselves over the intervening period.
Together – Luke Adam Hawker
This is an illustrated tale of the artist author’s Grandfather and his dog. It’s set through the first lockdown period of 2020 and tells a tale that is both human and encapsulating what many of us went through in one way or another. It’s both heartwarming and heart pulling, but it is beautifully illustrated and well worth a look.
The Small Heart of Things – Julian Hoffman
I read this relatively recently and it’s a collection of essays, primarily about or linked to the natural world. It’s beautifully written and covers quite a wide range of topics from a natural point of view.