Nonfiction November Week 3: Be/Ask/ Become the Expert


We’re now in Week 3: (Nov. 12 to 16) of Nonfiction November. The topic is – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (Julie @ JulzReads)

Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

I’ve read a few books on World War 1, but I am nowhere near an expert. I’ve looked on Amazon and Wikipedia and am struggling to know  where to start, there are so many books.  So I would like some suggestions of books, specifically about the causes of the war and its progression, but not military history detailing the specific battles blow by blow! Also any personal memoirs that you can recommend.

I’ve just started to read Jeremy Paxman’s history of the First World War – Great Britain’s Great War. The back cover describes it: ‘He tells the story of the war through the experience of those who lived it – nurses, soldiers, politicians, factory workers, journalists and children.’

These are some of the books I’ve read:

  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain – based on her diaries, telling of her life up to 1925, concentrating on the World War One years.
  • Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man by Siegfried Sassoon – part of his fictionalised autobiography
  •  The Monocled Mutineer by John Fairley and William Allison – the main sources of information in this book are personal accounts from the veterans as they remembered them many years later.

I also have a copy of Chronicle of Youth: Great War Diary 1813 – 1917 by Vera Brittain, her war diary on which she based Testament of Youth. I’ve read parts of this book.

chronicle of youth



22 thoughts on “Nonfiction November Week 3: Be/Ask/ Become the Expert

  1. You have some fine books there, Margaret. I wish I were better versed in books that really explore the lead up to WW I. I’ll be interested in suggestions from ypur better-read commenters.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was reading the Paxman book but for the first time with one of his books I got bogged down in all the detail and have put it aside for time being. I normally find his books extremely readable so it’s a real shame. I can only think that it’s the subject which is so detailed and complicated. I haven’t read anything that I can think of about times leading up to the war or its causes so can’t recommend anything in that line. About the actual war I found Not So Quiet by Helen Zenna Smith and The First Casualty by Ben Elton to be excellent. I have Testament of Youth which I must get to at some stage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a shame about Paxman’s book. I’ve been put off already by the small font and was thinking that maybe I should get a Kindle copy, but if you got bogged down in the detail I’ll wait and see how I get on with the ‘real’ book. I was looking for nonfiction but Not So Quiet by Helen Zenna Smith and The First Casualty by Ben Elton sound worth reading too.


      1. Yes, my library book had a very small font too… it really doesn’t help. Not So Quiet is one of those fiction books that reads like non-fiction, if that doesn’t sound a bit odd, like Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe, which I was shocked to find was fiction.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I highly recommend Margaret MacMillan’s The War That Ended Peace. She covers the period from about 1890 to the start of the war, looking at all the various countries who’d become involved, explaining what drew each one of them in. I found it an excellent read that really made sense of it all to me – even those pesky Balkans! She’s also written a very well regarded book about the Treaty of Versailles, which I would like to read next year for the centenary.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read, and can really recommend, ‘The Sleepwalkers’ by Christopher Clark, with sub title: How Europe Went to War in 1914. Absolutely excellent, and I think you have everything of importance in the book. It got quite raving reviews when it was first out.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve been wanting to dive into World War I as well. Though, I have yet to do so. But I’ve heard Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age by Modris Eksteins is a good one. It’s on my list. The website has amazing recommendations by experts in all the categories. If I need some recommendations I usually head there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. looks an excellent resource – many thanks for that. I can see that it will be very useful with so many recommendations and discussions about the books.


  6. Apart from Testament of Youth, I can’t think of any non-fiction I’ve read about the First World War (although I’ve read plenty of fiction). I’ll have to investigate some of the books other commenters have mentioned, as well as the ones in your post.

    Liked by 1 person

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