Marvin Olasky has just posted his list of ten must-read narrative American histories for high school students (or adults, parents, and teachers wishing to educate themselves). It is a good list. World War I and II are both not represented, perhaps because these were not uniquely American events. But understanding those two wars is a must for any student of American history or the 20th century. For World War I, I would add The First World War by John Keegan for an overview, or Sergeant York and the Great War by Tom Skeyhill for a narrower look which focuses on the most popular American hero to arise from World War I.
For World War II, I would add The Second World War by John Keegan for an overview, or for all the detail, Winston Churchill’s six-volume history cannot be paralleled: It is a classic of history and English literature. Volume I: The Gathering Storm, II: Their Finest Hour, III: Grand Alliance, IV: Hinge of Fate, V: Closing the Ring, and VI: Triumph and Tragedy. I must stress again that Churchill’s history fulfills all the requirements of the enduring great books of Western Civilization. One amazon.com reviewer (a retired military officer) first read these with a dictionary at one hand and a Bible at the other. That about explains it. For those who would like more detail than Keegan provides but not as much as Churchill, William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is also excellent.