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Editor's Choice Awards for 2002
Reviewed 5 January 2003
For each of the past seven 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.
Three years ago, however, we decided to institute a companion to the Top Ten books of the year: the Editor's Choice Awards. This allows 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.
Most years, as we peruse our list of all the new books from the preceding twelve months to select a few for the Editor's Choice, the toughest part of the job is to keep the selection down to a reasonable number. This year, on the other hand, seemed to produce a less stellar crop of titles. While there was no shortage of new books, and plenty of them were quite good, very few attained the level of excellence that qualifies for the Editor's Choice. Thus, we've reduced the number of choices a little this time around in order to maintain the highest level of quality.
Without further ado, the Stone & Stone Editor's Choice Awards for non-fiction books about World War II published in 2002, in alphabetical order by author:
Glantz, David M. The Battle for Leningrad, 1941-1944. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2002
David Glantz has authored shelf-loads of books about the Russian Front while almost single-handedly redefining the way historians view the Russo-German War. Now he has produced what is almost certainly his very best work to date, a detailed, fully-rounded account of the entire long, bloody siege of Leningrad. To his usual excellent chronicles of the ebb and flow of military operations Glantz has added equally valuable material about life in the besieged city and the suffering of its citizens.
Hata, Ikuhiko, Yasuho Izawa, and Christopher Shores. Japanese Army Air Force Fighter Units and Their Aces, 1931-1945. London: Grub Street, 2002
Given the torrents of books about World War II produced in the last sixty years, it's amazing how little has been published in English about Japanese forces, leaders, and operations. Thank heavens for Grub Street's willingness to take a chance on a solid, data-intensive book about the Japanese Army Air Force when most publishers are opting to devote their resources to more lucrative photo albums, books about the SS, and lame rehashes of the same old same old. Readers will find here huge amounts of information that are simply unavailable elsewhere in English.
Sharp, Lee. French Army, 1939-1940 The French Army, 1939-1940, volume 1. Milton Keynes, UK: The Military Press, 2002
Much the same can be said about Lee Sharp's books from the Military Press. This is the first volume of a series (the second volume, just as good or better, was also released in 2002) providing incredible amounts of data about the French Army in 1939 and 1940. The original material has been around for years, but only in French, and those old titles are exceedingly difficult to procure. Sharp's books open a window on a part of the war previously known only to a few specialists.
Yelton, David K. Hitler's Volkssturm: The Nazi Militia and the Fall of Germany, 1944-1945. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2002
Just when you thought there was nothing left to be said about the German armed forces in the Second World War, along comes David Yelton with a new book to knock your socks off. Yelton also proves that historical tomes can remain thoroughly readable even when densely filled with complex information. For all its academic rigor (and plethora of statistics, endnotes, appendices), the text is deftly written, packed with fresh insights, and beams with occasional flashes of droll humor.
Previous Editor's Choice winners:
Editor's Choice for 1999
Editor's Choice for 2000
Editor's Choice for 2001
Copyright © 2003 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone