Military memoirs and histories are some of the most treasured possessions for veterans, their families, and book collectors alike. The tradition of chronicling conflicts goes back at least to the 1st century, when the Jewish historian Josephus documented the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70.

Books on military strategy go back even further, most famously to Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” which dates to the 6th century BCE. Despite being more than 2,500 years old, the document is still studied by military scholars and personnel. For example, it is required reading for staff sergeants in the U.S. Marine Corps.

In the 19th century, the Civil War produced untold volumes documenting that storied struggle. During the war, “Harper’s Weekly,” a magazine based in New York City, published accounts of the fighting from the battlefield, complete with maps and engravings.

After the war, in 1875, D. Appleton & Co. first published “Memoirs of General William T. Sherman. By Himself.” For almost the next 40 years, numerous editions of Sherman’s memoirs would be reissued. Some of these editions were published by Charles L. Webster & Co., which was co-owned by author Mark Twain. In 1885, Webster would also release a two-volume set of memoirs by former U.S. President and Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant.

Also notable at the end of the 19th century are the histories written by Elizabeth B. Custer, the widow of General George Armstrong Custer, who met his maker in 1876 at the Battle of Little Big Horn. After his death, Mrs. Custer made it her mission to bring her husband’s successes in what were then called the Indian Wars to light. Her three works were “Boots and Saddles” (Harper & Brothers, 1885), “Tenting on the Plains” (Webster, 1887), and “Following the Guidon” (Harper & Brothers, 1890).

In the second decade of the 20th century, the Great War, as it was known before people were forced to refer to it as World War I, proved the source of countless works of literature. Numerous books were published during the war, from “Nothing of Importance” by Bernard Adams to Roy Bridges’s “The Immortal Dawn,” which was based on diaries written by two Australian soldiers during the battle at Gallipoli. One title often associated with World War I, but not a war book per se, is “The Good Soldier” by Ford Madox Ford, which is sought for its extremely rare cover.

Many more titles were published in the 1920s and ’30s, including Ernest Hemingway's novel "A Farewell To Arms" and Erich Maria Remarques’s “All Quiet On the Western Front,” both from 1929. The conflict also spurred poets, from Rupert Brooke (“1914 and Other Poems,” 1915) to Wilfred Owens (“Poems,” 1920)...

Similarly, World War II produced chroniclers on the ground as well as historians and novelists. Bill Mauldin’s three years with the 45th Division of the U.S. Army produced the “dogfaces” Willie and Joe, who appeared in the Army’s publication “Stars and Stripes” before they were collected for Mauldin’s debut book, “Up Front” from 1945. After the war, between 1948 and 1953, the wartime Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill, wrote his six-volume opus, "The Second World War," which earned him a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953.

Around the same time, in 1951, novelist Herman Wouk penned “The Caine Mutiny,” which won the Pulitzer Prize and was adapted into both a play and film, the latter starring Humphrey Bogart as Captain Queeg. Joseph Heller “Catch-22,” 1961, was also made into a memorable movie, while Wouk’s subsequent World War II novels—“The Winds of War” in 1971 and its sequel, “War and Remembrance,” 1978—were made into TV mini-series.

Other postwar writers looked back to the Civil War. Shelby Foote's 1952 historical novel, "Shiloh," devoted itself entirely to the Battle of Shiloh that took place one year into the conflict in Tennessee. Foote followed up his novel with a three-part history called "The Civil War: A Narrative," which was published between 1958 and 1974.

More recently, conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East have produced informative and moving works of literature, from James Webb’s “Fields of Fire,” 1979, to Denis Johnson’s “Tree of Smoke,” 2007.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Great War Dust Jackets

Great War Dust Jackets

Alan Hewer's comprehensive site is devoted to World War I books and dust jackets from 1914 to 1939. Most of the boo… [read review or visit site]

This resource for historic arms and armour collectors provides exhaustive information on modern reproductions (cust… [read review or visit site]

Google Book Search

Google Book Search

Want to do one quick search and pull up the mother lode of vintage books? Try Google Book Search, a database filled… [read review or visit site]

Bruce Black's gallery of paperback book covers from the 1940s and 50s. With help from numerous contributors, he's a… [read review or visit site]

The Civil War

The Civil War

Paul McWhorter’s amazing reference site tells the story of the Civil War through high resolution scans of Harpers… [read review or visit site]

Mikes Tanks

Mikes Tanks

Mike Seeber’s extensive collection of over 500 diecast tanks and military vehicles, dating back to WWII. Browse b… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Abraham Lincoln Funeral Memorial Address Slavery President Gettysburg Civil War1683 Wars England-scotland-ireland~king Charles~english Civil War~cromwell+++American Indian War Horrors 1890s Scalping Sioux Old West Custer Antique Book1889 1st Us Secret Service In Civil War Abraham Lincoln Assassination Conspiracy“panzer Feldjacke: German Armored Crew Uniforms Of The Second World War”1882 United States * Revolutionary Civil War * Indians * Frontier * Illustrated America On Horse-back 1896 Civil War Custer Indian Equestrian Old West Us TravelJagdwaffe / War In The East 1944-1945 - Luftwaffe Colours Ww2 Rare Book Oop1681 King James King Charles I 1st Edition Folio Leather England History War $$$Lot Of 6 Leather Bound Easton Press Civil War Battle Soldier History Books C11Jesse James Old West Confederate Outlaw Civil War Csa Railroad Train Bank Robber1889 1st Ed Story Of The American Soldier Civil War Indians Illustrated BrooksHistory English Civil War Events Restoration *1739* Affairs England Duke Ormond China Boxer War Xinhai Rebellion 1912 Photo Book Executions Beheadings Tientsin1870 Popular History Of England C. Knight 8vl Set Leather 1k Illus Europe War $$Lot Of 4 “images Of War” Books Wwii GermanNormandy 1944 German Military Organization ... - 2000 Federowicz ZetterlingSet Of 2 Leather Easton Press Civil War History Books Battle Cry Of Freedom C12Killing The Rising Sun : How America Vanquished World War Ii Japan By Bill...Set Of 2 Rise Fall Confederate Government Leather Easton Press Civil War C13Easton Press - Boer War - Winston Churchill New In Shrink1755 Gentleman's Magazine George Washington French & Indian War Forts Maps RareCivil War Collection Book History Of Slavery And Slave Trade Bullets Dug InkwellHistory Of First Maine Cavalry By Tobie/civil War/ Rare 1887 1st Edition, $400+Killing The Rising Sun : How America Vanquished World War Ii Japan (hardcover)Killing The Rising Sun : How America Vanquished World War Ii Japan By Bill...“mannlicher Military Rifles” Book Paul S. ScarlataMafeking Africa Boer War Boers South Africa Baden Powell Britain1861 Civil War Fort Sumter Harper's Ferry Fremont Bull Run Confederate SecessionEarly C. 1838 Pennsylvania German Leather Bound Bible Song Book Civil War KipferPlates And Buckles Of The American Military 1795-1874 First Edition! 1974In The Firestorm Of The Last Years Of The War - 1999 Federowicz Wilhelm TiekeKilling The Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War Ii Japan Bill O'reillyLot Of 7 Leather Bound Easton Press World War Titanic Wwi Wwii Catch-22 D2Shanghai By Ellen Thornbecke Illustrated By Schiff, Pre War Shanghai1681 - David Jenkins - The Works Of Judge Jenkins - Rare, English Civil WarFolio Society Alan Moorehead - Desert War Trilogy - Out Of Print- In Shrink WrapHeadley Washington And His Generals 2 Vol Set Books Book Revolutionary WarSitting Bull & The Indian War - W. Fletcher Johnson, "limited Edition", Easton War And Peace By Leo Tolstoy Easton Press Leatherbound Book, Beautiful!Easton Press The Photographic History Of The Civil War 10 Vol Leather VgHandmade Wood And Glass Hnefatafl War Strategy Game From Monsterful CreationsGeneral Hal Moore Signed We Were Soldiers Once Vietnam War Flat Press Easton Easton Press - A Terrible Glory, Custer And And The Little Bighorn - Donovan New1824 1ed Pilot James Fenimore Cooper American Revolution War Navy French 4v SetGreater Magic Book John Northern Hilliard 1945 War Time Printing Tarbell IllusIndian War Horrors Western Frontier Native American Pioneer Torture Daniel BoonePost Revolutionary War Philadelphia Newspaper/benjamin Franklin Apprentice RareTheodor Teddy Wisch Leibstandarte Waffen-ss / 2012 Schiffer Military1885 Personal Memoirs Of U. S. Grant - 2 Volumes - Ulysses - Civil War PresidentClassicolours/luftwaffe Colours Jagdwaffe: War Over The Desert V. 3 S. 31943 Tolstoy War And Peace Ww2 Provenance War Prisoner Dept Gift Red Cross MapsFranklin Library Leather 4 Book Lot War And PeaceClassicolours/luftwaffe Colours Jagdwaffe: The War In Russia 11/42-12/43 V.4 S.3Luftwaffe Vs Raf Flying Clothing Of The Air War 1939-45 / 1997 Schiffer Ww2 RareCivil War Prisoner 1870 The Capture The Prison Pen & The Escape Willard GlazierOsprey Books Lot Military Reference Historical Wargamming Bolt Action“fighting Men Of World War Ii” 2 Volume Book Set Axis & Allied ForcesEaston Press, War And Remembrance, The Winds Of War By Herman Wouk-leather-mint Rare Book War Cartoons By Knott 1918 Book Signed By John Knott Dallas Texas