Books for Christmas (2)

I thought it might be nice if I gave you an idea of some of the best books that I have read over the past few years so that you could consider them as a Christmas present for one of your friends or family. All of the books featured are, in my opinion, well worth reading. They are all available on the Internet. In some cases, what appear to be very expensive volumes can be acquired for a fraction of the cost, if you go to abebooks or bookfinder, or if you consider the option of buying them second hand. It ‘s something I have never understood, but with some very expensive volumes, it is even possible to buy them brand new at a very much reduced price, again, if you shop around.

The first book is quite unusual since it is an attack by a German writer on the dastardly deeds of Bomber Command, and presumably, by extension , on the American Eighth Air Force. Jörg Friedrich obviously remembers very well Dresden, Hamburg, Darmstadt, Wurzburg, Pforzheim and so on. He seems to have forgotten the people who invented the indiscriminate bombing of innocent civilians at places such as London and even York Minster in WW1, and then Guernica, Rotterdam, Warsaw and so on. And there are some factual errors.

Overall the book reminds me of the verdict of a German friend of mine about the generation before his own:

“They start a war and then moan about losing it.”

Even so, “The Fire: The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945” by Jörg Friedrich and Allison Brown is quite an intriguing book. Some of the things he says made me quite angry but perhaps because many of them are things that I have worried about myself, but loyally continued to defend.

A nice contrast is the book by two German academics, Sonke Neitzel and Harald Welzer, entitled “Soldaten”.  They examine the dreadful, appalling things done by ordinary Germans in World War Two, and then look at whether the Americans in Vietnam or Iraq could have done the same. A really good book, which does not leave you feeling too good about your own morality.

In my previous selection, the best book was either “Subsmash” or “Bombing Germany : the Final Phase”. In this second selection, the book we should all read and take in is “Soldaten”:

It’s quite a contrast with our next book, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by DH Lawrence. There are a lot of different editions of this masterpiece, and I would recommend the one which has a preface or introduction by Doris Lessing. Do NOT be tempted by an edition “with extra new added pornography”. In any case, the book is also about WW1 and about the disappearing English landscape.

As you can see, the cover of the best edition has the gamekeeper putting his trousers back on, or, more likely, taking them off yet again.

Perhaps even better to read are Lawrence’s “Selected Stories”. You get 400 pages of his best short stories, including my own particular favourite “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter”.

Next on the list is “Black and British: A Forgotten History” by David Olusoga. This book should be a compulsory read in every secondary school in England. How much really interesting history has been hidden away because of prejudice? Black Africans on Hadrian’s Wall, a black man killed by a white mob in Liverpool and the fight to abolish slavery, among many other long avoided stories.

Four books I haven’t read yet, although I’m certainly looking forward to them. Firstly, “Lend-Lease And Soviet Aviation in the Second World War” by Vladimir Kotelnikov. I have looked at the pictures of the P-39s and P-40s with red stars on them, and the Short Stirling, but I haven’t read the text yet. If it’s as good as the illustrations, it will be brilliant.

I haven’t read this book either, although I have read the companion volume about cricketers killed in World War One. It’s “The Coming Storm: Test and First Class Cricketers Killed in World War II” by Nigel McCrery. I have no reason to believe that this book will be anything other than extremely well researched and an interesting read.

Next book in the “In Tray” is  “Mettle and Pasture”, the story of the Second Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment during WW2, written by Gary J Weight. I am hoping it will be a great read. It has certainly got some excellent reviews on

The last book in the “In Tray” is called “Luftwaffe over America” by Manfred Griehl. The author examines the Germans’ very real plans to bomb the eastern seaboard of the United States during the Second World War,  using their Me 264s, Ju 290s and 390s and the Ta 400 from Focke Wulf. As a little boy, I was always intrigued by the fact that, on a trial flight, a Ju 290 supposedly got within ten miles of New York.

That’s all for now. Third and final part next time.



Filed under Africa, Aviation, Bomber Command, cricket, Criminology, History, Literature, military, Politics, Russia, war crimes, Writing

14 responses to “Books for Christmas (2)

  1. More interesting titles there John – thank you. I think it’s wise to appreciate both sides of a story, the German perspective of the allied bombing campaign against them would certainly give a different slant to the allied version. That said, it was war, and such actions (and worse) were carried out by both sides, and that should not be forgotten. A nice varied selection of reads, I’m sure there’s something in there for everyone.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it.
      One thing that is always forgotten about people’s attitudes in 1945 is that a huge number of Europeans had had enough of the Germans after they had started THREE major wars in Europe in only 80 years, the Franco-Prussian War (1.5 million dead), WW1 (up to 20 million dead) and WW2 (over 73 million dead). They wanted the Germans bombed back to the stone age so they could not start another war.
      A bonus would be that the Russians would think twice about invading Western Europe if they could see what 2,000 Allied bombers might do to Moscow.

  2. Another varied set, John. An interesting take on Lady Chatterley. A great uncle of mine was due to play cricket for Lancashire when the war put paid to it. At least he came back

    • It’s Doris Lessing’s introduction which points the reader towards the other themes such as industrialisation and what the soldiers lost in WW1…even those who returned, perhaps crippled like Lord Chatterley.
      I’ve just started reading the book about the cricketers. What is most dreadful is the number who weren’t the only casualties in the family. One poor father and mother lost three sons and their half brother. I can only attempt to imagine how such catastrophes must have affected them.

  3. Some great selections there. I’m tempted to get “The Fire” and read it.

    • Yes, they are all good books. “Fire” is an intriguing read. I suppose ultimately it poses the question “How much should you punish the country that starts a war?”
      One less frequently aired point of view is given in my reply to “aviationtrails”, (above). Nothing is ever simple !

  4. Excellent recommendations.

    When ;Lady Chatterley.s Lover’ was published in Britain in 1960, the trial of the publishers, Penguin Books, under the Obscene Publications Act of 1959 was a major public event and a test of the new obscenity law.

    A nice story about the trial which illustrates just how big a watershed 1960 was in terms of changing social attitudes was when the chief prosecutor, Mervyn Griffith-Jones, asked the jury if it were the kind of book “you would wish your wife or servants to read“.

    • Thank you. I just thought that three posts full of books that a crochety old git might like would solve a few gift buying problems for somebody!

      At the “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” trial, the jury had to be issued with their own copies of the Penguin book, (which surely must have been stamped with “Property of the Old Bailey”) but at the end of the trial, the books were all collected up and then just chucked in the court litter bin.
      How much would those twelve books be worth now? A few thousand.I should think!

  5. How wonderful of you to leave yet another list of books, John. Something that was said in this post moved me. You said of a book it does not leave you feeling too good about our own morality. I’ve seen and heard so many people lately blaming others for the arocities that happened generations ago in this country regarding the Indians. For a long time I felt terrible admitting I was an American due to what probably my ancestors did to Indians. Yet today I feel differently. I am not accountable for what others did hundreds of years ago and it is improper for anyone of today to blame another for the plight of the Indian. If people would just stop and THINK about what they are saying, they’d know how ridiculous they are being.

  6. Evil deeds in history is a very difficult problem. Personally, I would say that, to me, certain deeds are evil, such as killing civilians in a war or keeping slaves. I would not support such practises but I would not be willing to answer for them, just because it was an ancestor who did it.
    At the same time, people who have been severely disadvantaged in the past, perhaps because of the deeds of my ancestors, often need extra help because of that. And I should give it.
    I remember this from somewhere:

    “And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
    He said unto him, What is written in the law?
    And he answering said,

    Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind;

    and thy neighbour as thyself.

    Easy-peasy lemon-squeasy !

  7. Chris Waller

    I remember the ‘Lady Chatterley’ trial, or more pointedly the newsreel footage of queues of men in gaberdine macs at bookshops following the trial. The verdict, for me, signalled the beginning of the social and cultural upheaval known as ‘The Sixties’. I also recall that when we were in Form 2A at the Manor House someone obtained a copy of said book, which, I believe, could be hired for a small fee in order to savour the more salacious paragraphs.

    • To be honest, I’ve read it three times now, and I have failed miserably to find the relevant paragraphs particularly salacious. The edition I recommended is a very good one, especially if you read the preface by Doris Lessing who was one of the defence witnesses if i remember correctly.
      If you have Kindle, you can acquire everything Lawrence ever wrote, both poems and prose, for less than a fiver. I do wonder, though, which edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover is included. There are at least four and others with extra pornogrpahic passages added in, mainly in Paris and/or New York.

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