Check out NRO’s symposium on great war books. Here’s VDH:
John Keegan’s The Face of Battle — which uses Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme to explain how history perceives battle — remains my favorite military history. It is beautifully written, and it ushered in an entirely new perspective on how to marry the experience of combat with the narrative tradition of military history. Keegan has a unique knack for juxtaposing disconcerting descriptions of gore next to more abstract discussions of historiography. And the result is that he finds the rare middle ground between stuffy academic prose and sensationalist’s blood and guts. When it came out over 30 years ago, The Face of Battle was recognized as a classic, and its reputation has only grown. Its prose reminds me of the great narrative historians like Edward Gibbon and W. H. Prescott; he tells a story like Alistair Horne and Cornelius Ryan, and his historical insight is on par with Michael Howard or Russell Weigley. A book for the ages.