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James Holland's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books James Holland recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of James Holland's favorite book recommendations of all time.


The Sword of Honour Trilogy

This trilogy of novels about World War II, largely based on his own experiences as an army officer, is the crowning achievement of Evelyn Waugh's career. Its central character is Guy Crouchback, head of an ancient but decayed Catholic family, who at first discovers new purpose in the challenge to defend Christian values against Nazi barbarism, but then gradually finds the complexities and cruelties of war too much for him. Yet, though often somber, the Sword of Honour trilogy is also a brilliant comedy, peopled by the fantastic figures so familiar from Waugh's early satires. The... more
Recommended by James Holland, and 1 others.

James HollandI love Evelyn Waugh as a writer. He is probably my favourite novelist. Like Elizabeth Jane Howard’s book, he really takes you there. This book brings that world to life in a wonderful way. He is very good on the eccentricity of it, and the madness of the war. There are so many things that we would take for granted that went out of the window in war time. It was a world without health and safety –... (Source)

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One Man's Window

Recommended by James Holland, and 1 others.

James HollandThis book has just been re-released as Malta Spitfire Pilot, but I think One Man’s Window is a better title. I came across this book when I was doing my book on the siege of Malta. Denis Barnham was quite a sensitive fellow, with an artistic temperament. He was a member of the Royal Academy [of Arts, in London] and a fine artist, and when he went out to Malta he kept a very detailed diary, which... (Source)

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Marking Time (Cazalet Chronicles, #2)

The wonderful sequel to The Light Years returns readers to Britain in September, 1939, as war breaks out. Sheltered Louise, now 16, goes from cooking school to London parties. For 14-year-old Polly, the terrors of war cannot forestall the pangs of adolescence. And though Clary's father has been reported missing since Dunkirk, she holds to the belief that he's alive. less
Recommended by James Holland, and 1 others.

James HollandI love the Cazalet books, and Marking Time is part of that series. I also loved the TV adaptation, which only ran for one series but was fabulously filmed and acted. This is the best book in the series. War is coming, and the Cazalet family are plunged into the situation. Like everyone else they have to deal with the start of the war, and the youngest son goes off to fight in Dunkirk. The book is... (Source)

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History of the Ancient Near East

If the history of the Near East has always seemed a little daunting and confusing, this book by one of the best known writers on the subject should show you the light at the end of the tunnel. Beginning c.3000 BC with the advent of the first writing system, Van De Mieroop traces the emergence and development of some of the greatest states and powers, stunning cities and major empires, including the Babylonian and Hittite kingdoms, the Assyrian and Persian Empires and the conquests of Alexander the Great. Van De Mieroop's revisions for the 2nd edition aim to make the text even more accessible,... more
Recommended by James Holland, and 1 others.

James HollandCecil Beaton was my next door neighbour when I was growing up, and was one of the reasons why I got interested in this era in the first place. He died when I was 10 but I remember him very well – not least when one of our bantam cockerels escaped into his garden. We all went round searching for it in his beautiful flower beds, him with a huge straw hat on and a magnificent butterfly net that he... (Source)

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First Light

An account of Boy Wellum, one of the youngest fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain. Enlisting in the RAF weeks before the outbreak of World War II, Geoffrey Wellum found himself fighting the Germans over the English Channel, a Spitfire pilot at just 18 years of age. less
Recommended by James Holland, Steve Darlow, and 2 others.

James HollandEverything changes when you suddenly find yourself in the Battle of Britain. It was incredibly harrowing. I can’t even begin to tell you how difficult it was, physically and mentally, to fly three times a day in those sorts of conditions – knowing that any moment might be your last. (Source)

Steve DarlowHe is not a combat hero, an ‘ace’ (someone who has shot down five enemy aircraft), though he was a good pilot. His skill is in taking the reader into the aircraft and giving them the experiences he had. (Source)

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