Guest Post by Mike
My second go-to author is Jeff Shaara. His novels are historical fiction that give first hand accounts of wars or battles. I will note that I consider his books as more history than fiction. They are well researched, and all characters and events described are true to history. The fiction comes in the form of added dialogues and character musings that were not recorded. They are included to give the stories more flow, heart, and interest. Shaara takes care to make sure everything he writes would be in line with what is likely to have been said or thought based on what we do know of the people involved.
These books are so good for helping you understand what happened in the conflict and why. The cast of characters almost always includes high ranking officers and lowly foot-soldier types from both sides. That way you get to see the overall flow of the battle, and how it felt to be fighting in it. Shaara found a pattern that works, and he applies it repeatedly to help us understand American history through the wars we have fought
Here are a few of my favorites:
The Killer Angels. I'm starting my list off with this one, even though it wasn't written by Jeff Shaara. It was written by his father, Michael Shaara, and was the original novel that began the Shaara legacy. It is an account of the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg, and was the basis for the 1993 film "Gettysburg." This book is touching, enlightening, educational, and inspiring, and it is one of my top ten books of all time. I even bet Jeff would agree with me that his father's work is the true masterpiece of the genre.
To the Last Man. Loved this book! I grew up loving histories and movies about World War II, but I hadn't studied much about World War I. To the Last Man brought the Great War to life for me. There is one story line in the novel that especially astounded me. Shaara follows a French-American flying ace (Raoul Lufbery) whom I had never heard of before. It is tragic that more people don't know his heroic story. Please read this book and help turn that around!
The Rising Tide. Like I said, I've always loved learning about WWII. This is the first in a three book series that describes the war in Europe. All three are very good, but I'm only listing the first one to get you started. The top brass characters are Erwin Rommel (amazing!) and Eisenhower. The enlisted men are great too. I also highly recommend the audiobooks of this series. Very well done.
Admittedly, I'm a war buff, but I think anyone who likes a good story will enjoy these works.