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The Top Ten Books of 1999

Visitors to Stone & Stone's Second World War Books website have over the last two months nominated and voted for nearly two hundred of the best nonfiction WWII-related titles published in 1999. (And, as always, there were some votes for ineligible books.) Not only is this the largest number of books ever to receive votes in a single year, the number of votes cast in this fourth year of voting also set a record high. Given the large number of great new books published in '99 and the highly divergent tastes and specializations of readers, researchers, veterans, hobbyists, collectors, and other visitors to our site, it's no wonder that votes were spread over so many different titles.

As usual, though, some patterns emerged: heavy emphasis on books about German forces and operations, particularly the Russian Front (which was the topic of the top three finishers); considerable interest in aircraft and air operations; and a notable number of votes for books about U-boats. Amazingly -- and this should bring some smiles to faces in Lawrence -- in a field that included books from major world-class publishing houses as well as tiny independent specialists and many self-publishers, three of the top four books were published by University Press of Kansas. Finally, it should be noted that books by David Glantz (one co-authored with Jonathan House) emerged as number one and number two in the standings by a wide margin.

On the other side of the coin, although one book about the war in the Pacific made the Top Ten, interest in the war with Japan seemed at a low ebb. And, as happened last year, while many personal accounts by veterans were nominated, none made it to the top.

Special mention should go to Men of Steel by Michael Reynolds (from Sarpedon) and Jochen Peiper by Patrick Agte (from Fedorowicz). Both these titles were released very late in the year after much of the voting had already taken place, but both skyrocketed up the chart and both would almost certainly have finished in the Top Ten if they had been released a month sooner.

Balloting was halted at the stroke of the New Year (California time) and tallying of votes is now complete. Here, then, are the Top Ten Books of 1999 as selected by visitors to these webpages, in alphabetical order by author:

Boog, Forster, Hoffmann, Klink, et al. Germany and the Second World War, volume IV: The Attack on the Soviet Union. London: Oxford University Press. A thorough, scholarly analysis of the political, diplomatic, economic, and military aspects of the German invasion of the USSR.

Dunning, Chris. Courage Alone: The Italian Air Force, 1940-1943. Aldershot, UK: Hikoki Publications. Simply the best English-language book about the Regia Aeronautica.

Frank, Richard B. Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire. New York: Random House. Frank offers thoughtful, enlightening commentary on a fascinating and controversial subject.

Glantz, David and Jonathan House. The Battle of Kursk. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. There have been some excellent books on Kursk in the last few years, but this one trumps them all.

Glantz, David. Zhukov's Greatest Defeat: The Red Army's Epic Disaster in Operation Mars, 1942. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. Despite some less than enthusiastic reviews, readers clearly liked this revelation of Zhukov's "hidden" defeat.

Kershaw, Ian. Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. Just when it seemed there could be nothing new written about Adolf Hitler....

Mansoor, Peter R. The GI Offensive in Europe: Triumph of the American Infantry Divisions, 1941-1945. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. Mansoor's evaluation of American combat operations and his persuasive arguments about Yank battlefield skills seem to have found a wide and appreciative audience.

Niehorster, Leo. The Royal Hungarian Army, 1920-1945. Bayside, NY: Axis Europa. Niehorster put the Hungarian Army under a microscope and produced an engrossing, informative book.

Prien, Jochen. JG 53, volume three. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History. Volume one made the Top Ten in 1997, volume two just missed the Top Ten in 1998, and volume three brings the series to a close with a strong finish.

Yerger, Mark. Waffen-SS Commanders, volume two: The Army, Corps, and Divisional Leaders of a Legend. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History. Both of Yerger's volumes of SS biographies have been welcomed by readers and rewarded with Top Ten status.

Our warm congratulations and thanks go out to the authors, editors, publishers, and booksellers who brought us these Top Ten titles of 1999, as well as all the other great new books that arrived last year to enrich and enliven the body of Second World War literature.

Thanks also to all the visitors to Stone & Stone's Second World War Books website who helped select these winners and made 1999 such a great year for us.

Now let's start searching for the best new books of 2000!

A note on methodology

This was the fourth year of our Top Ten and the third year with our online "voting machine". As anyone who has been on the Net for any length of time knows, this kind of Web-based voting can be subject to the worst kind of electronic ballot-stuffing spam, so we took great pains to write "Jimmy Carter" algorithms for the voting machine program to ensure a clean election. Because the last two years proved that such measures were necessary, we expanded and refined the system again this year.

Although it might not have been immediately evident ("Jimmy" is a pretty subtle kind of guy), in addition to counting votes, the voting machine was also carefully monitoring the election. Visitors could vote as often as they wanted, but no more than ten total votes per visitor were actually tallied; excess votes from a visitor were quietly ignored. "Jimmy" was able to detect and disallow many kinds of fraudulent voting patterns automatically; meanwhile, everything else was forwarded to the "voting commission" for review, and if necessary, manual adjustment.

There are always a few people who seem to think anonymity gives them the right to cheat, so -- as with last year -- these "Jimmy Carter" precautions unfortunately proved warranted. A number of people, apparently unaware of our anti-spam defenses, decided to vote over and over and over again as often as they wished. In particular, several titles were targeted by individuals who tried to stuff the ballot boxes to ensure those books would reach the Top Ten. Indeed, it seemed like the only drawback to having so many more ballots cast this year was the proportional increase in fradulent voting.

In most cases the perpetrators of these abuses were not even aware their efforts had been detected, but all these ballot-stuffing spam votes were disallowed and we're confident that we conducted a certifiably clean, fair election. Thank you, "Jimmy Carter".

Reviewed 1 January 2000
Copyright © 2000 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone


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