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Stone & Stone Editor's Choice Awards 2008

The Generals
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Editor's Choice Awards for Books

Since 2000 we've been bestowing our annual Editor's Choice Awards on favorites from WWII-related books published in the preceding year, awards sometimes known with humor and affection as the "Stonies." We peruse, read, and review quite a few books each year, and during that time we separate a little wheat from a great deal of chaff. The Stonies allow us to select and acknowledge the titles we rate as the most important new releases of the year.

Mind you, these awards are in their own way just as subjective and imperfect as any other method of honoring books. 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. But—hey!—this is our website, so we get to have a little fun once in awhile.

Publishing houses, including publishers of WWII-related books, seemed not to be immune to global economic problems in 2008. All the evidence indicates that publishers found it increasingly difficult to thrive amid a retail meltdown. Fewer WWII titles released, reduced print runs, decreased sales, and diminishing profits trapped many publishers and booksellers in a painful death spiral. Certainly some of our favorite specialized booksellers suffered severely in 2008.

Distressing economic conditions fortunately failed to depress the overall level of quality of WWII books released in 2008. In fact, from our perspective it was a banner year with a wealth of top-notch new titles. When we choose the annual Stonies, we never aim for a particular number of top books; instead we seek quality rather than quantity. For 2007 we identified only four releases as the "best of the best." This year we could easily pick double that number.

Interestingly, along with the increased quantity of outstanding releases, two new trends emerged among our top choices for 2008. First, more than in any previous year these tended to be for the most part broader, more mainstream, less scholarly kinds of WWII books rather than tightly focused, densely footnoted monographs. Second, an overwhelming proportion of the top rank of new books originally saw publication in the UK. Indeed, several of our choices for 2008 have not yet been published on this side of the Atlantic.

Whatever all that means to readers, without further ado we present the Stone & Stone Editor's Choice Awards for non-fiction books about World War II published in 2008, the Stonies, in alphabetical order by author:

Boiten, Theo. Nachtjagd War Diaries: An Operational History of the German Night Fighter Force in the West Walton on Thames, UK: Red Kite, 2008. (Two volumes) An important resource for anyone interested in the Luftwaffe's war, packed with unsurpassed accounts of nightly action and victory claims.

D'Este, Carlo. Warlord: A Life of Winston Churchill at War, 1874-1945 New York: Harper, 2008. A surprisingly fresh look at a familiar icon by an author who has mastered the art of military biographies. Evans, Richard J. The Third Reich at War: How the Nazis Led Germany from Conquest to Disaster. London: Allen Lane, 2008. The monumental capstone of his Third Reich trilogy, in which Evans displays superb scholarship, thoughtful analysis, and adroit writing.

Hastings, Max. Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45 New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008. Hastings matches the excellence of his earlier Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-1945 with this well-crafted account of the tumultuous ending to the war in the Pacific. [Published in the UK as Nemesis in 2007.]

Holland, James. Italy's Sorrow: A Year of War, 1944-45 New York: St Martin's Press, 2008. Holland paints elegantly, with fine detail on a broad canvas. Not an operational history of armies, divisions, or battalions, but a study of the experience and impact of war.

Lyman, Robert. The Generals: From Defeat to Victory, Leadership in Asia 1941-45 London: Constable & Robinson, 2008. The ebb and flow of the war across Asia told largely via portraits of the principal military leaders with their strengths and weaknesses.

Mazower, Mark. Hitler's Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe New York: Penguin Press, 2008. A grand tour of occupied Europe and the evolution and failure of German occupation policies along with insights about the parallels between Nazi treatment of conquered vassals and European control of overseas colonies.

Roberts, Andrew. Masters and Commanders: How Roosevelt, Churchill, Marshall and Alanbrooke Won the War in the West London: Allen Lane, 2008. A penetrating vision of how the Anglo-American alliance conducted warfare at the highest levels, emphasizing the roles played by those four men.


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