For each of the past six years we've conducted a survey allowing our website visitors to vote for the Top Ten non-fiction books about the Second World War published in that calendar year. Each year the Top Ten has attracted more voters, more nominations, and more ballots, and it's always a fascinating process to watch the votes pour in and the year's titles move up and down in the standings.
At the beginning of each new year with a certain amount of fanfare we announce the Top Ten winners. At the beginning of each new year we also receive without fail messages from perplexed votersand disgruntled authors and publisherswho want to know why their favorite books didn't finish atop the standings, and why some less worthy titlesat least in their eyesmanaged to garner so many votes.
Well, there's no accounting for taste. One reader's favorite is another reader's discard, and critical acclaim is no guarantee of popular success. That's why we run the Top Ten voting and let the readers pick the books themselves.
Two years ago, however, we decided to institute a companion to the Top Ten books of the year: the Editor's Choice Awards. This allows us at Stone & Stone to select and acknowledge the titles we rate as the most important new releases of the year, especially ones that were passed over in the Top Ten voting.
Mind you, these awards are in their own way just as subjective and imperfect as the Top Ten. We can only read so many books in twelve months, and we have our own tastes and preferences about specific topics and about what makes a good book. Buthey!this is our website, so we get to have a little fun once in awhile!
Without further ado, the Stone & Stone Editor's Choice Awards for non-fiction books about World War II published in 2001, in alphabetical order by author:
Boog, Horst et al. Germany and the Second World War, volume 6: The Global War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001
Not for the faint of heart. Another thick volume in what will stand for many years as the most important examination of Germany's participation in the Second World War. Simultaneously views the broadest strategic vistas and the most detailed nitty-gritty. Unfortunately, the price of this book (in excess of US$200) makes it for most readers easier to admire than to acquire and study.
Lewis, Adrian R. Omaha Beach: A Flawed Victory. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2001
Although Lewis explores one of the classic, most-studied battles of the entire war, every page of his book resonates with new ideas and new interpretations. Not satisfied with simplistic descriptions or pat answers, the author scrutinizes every factor of the battle with a critical eye and offers fresh conclusions about the generals, their plans, their tactics, and the entire doctrine of amphibious landings on a hostile shore. Read our review
Probert, Henry. Bomber Harris: His Life and Times. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2001. (Published by Greenhill Books in the UK.)
One of the most controversial Allied leaders finally receives a long-awaited major biography. Many historians critical of the air marshal's conduct of the bombing campaign will find Probert overly sympathetic to Harris, his prickly personality, and his policies, but there's much to be learned here about the man and the war he waged. Read our review
Tomasevich, Jozo. War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945: Occupation and Collaboration. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001
Twenty-five years after his ground-breaking The Chetniks, the second volume of Tomasevich's War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945 posthumously delivers a huge, scholarly, detailed look at the incredibly complexand often obscurethreads of occupation and collaboration in every corner of wartime Yugoslavia. A brilliant achievement.
Westermann, Edward B. Flak: German Anti-Aircraft Defenses, 1914-1945. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2001
Another book that stands head and shoulders above most of the other new titles of 2001. Westermann dissects every tissue of Germany's ground-based anti-aircraft defenses during WWII in a detailed, academic fashion. He brings to light facts usually overlooked about AA defenses, places them into proper perspective with fighter defenses and strategic bombing doctrine, and forces students of the combined bomber offensive to reassess much of what they thought they knew. Read our review
Osborne, Richard E. World War II in Colonial Africa. Indianapolis, IN: Riebel-Roque Publishing Company, 2001.
Although the end result might not have been quite as successful as it could have been, Richard E. Osborne should be singled out for this effort. At a time when more and more authors and publishers seem to focus their efforts on the "bankable" topics of the German armed forces, the Russian front, and the SS, Osborne demonstrates there was much more to the war. Here's hoping Osborne's willingness to investigate other aspects of WWII will rub off on other authors and publishers. Read our review
Previous Editor's Choice winners:
Editor's Choice for 1999
Editor's Choice for 2000