I’ve just finished reading Nicholas Monsarrat’s The Cruel Sea. It’s one of the best war novels I’ve read, and served as the final book in a trilogy I assembled about the Battle of the Atlantic. I was aware of the battle – the longest continuous military action of World War Two – in the general sense (U-boats, convoys etc) but didn’t really have a sense of the scale of the battle, the details of the action or its utter importance to the allied war effort.
The other books were Simon Parkin‘s A Game of Birds and Wolves (a good overview exploring a very interesting sub-plot of the battle involving war games) and HMS Ulysses, the bleak first novel of Alistair MacLean of Where Eagles Dare and Guns of Navarone fame.
I maintain – and I’m not alone – that reading a cluster of books on a theme, ideally a combination of fiction and non-fiction, is the richest way to learn about a given area. The different books enrich, reinforce and interrogate each other by turns, helping to cement both the overall picture and important details.