Thursday 30 January 2014

January Book Roundup

In my quest to be a little more succinct with my posts this year I have decided to stick to a single monthly roundup of all the books I have read and enjoyed that month, rather than writing separate posts for each. Each review will be brief but will be accompanied by a 5 Star rating to give a clear indication of how I feel about each book (details of what the ratings mean is given in the Bibliography page). So here is the first of these 'Monthly Roundups' for January. 

Panther: Germany's Quest for Combat Dominance 
Author/s:   Michael and Gladys Green
Publisher: Osprey [2012]
Format:    Hardback, 256 Pages

Filled with excellent colour and period Black and White photo's the book provides a really good single volumed review of the design, development and deployment of the Panther Tank. In many ways this was a very modern medium tank and filled the roll that post war armies would define as a Main Battle Tank with all round capabilities and versatility. Despite this the Panther never fully achieved its promise, partly because it was too complicated and costly to build in wartime and partly because there were never enough of them to adequately outweigh the vast number of opposing allied tanks like the Sherman and T34. 

The book is divided into several sections which follow the usual pattern of looking at the background and development Panzerkampfwagen V Panther, its Firepower, Protection and Mobility and the many variants that also saw service. All the chapters are clearly written seem to be very well researched bringing together a wide selection of facts and statistics without ever becoming dry and boring. The book is also very well illustrated with a particularly good selection of interior photo's of a restored Panther that show the sort of details that other books often leave out. 

The RRP for this book is £25 but a quick look online shows that it is possible to find new copies at a significant discount (the normal culprits like Amazon are a good place to look) and of course you can save even more if you purchase a Kindle version. I received my copy as a gift from my Brother-in-Law who saw it and just knew I'd love it. He was right, and I thoroughly recommend this book regardless of whether you are a model maker, wargamer or vehicle enthusiast.

Rommels Desert Warriors 1941-42 (Images of War)
Author/s:   Michael Olive and Robert Edwards
Publisher: Pen and Sword Military [2012]
Format:    Hardback, 208 pages 

This was another present, this time from my in-laws for Christmas. This book has a brief introduction and is then divided into various sections with titles such as 'Arrival in the Desert,' 'Communications,' 'Armored Vehicles,' 'Supply Battalion,' 'The Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica,' 'Rommel,' 'Artillery,' ' Life in the Desert' and 'Transport Vehicles.'  Each section is crammed with Black and White and Colour photos (over 300 in the book), some from official sources but most are from the private collections of ordinary soldiers. These personal photo's recorded everything from simple day to day activities and the mundanity of army life through to pictures of comrades, special occasions, cities and towns passed through and of course the desolate landscape across which they fought and died.  

Because most of the pictures come from private sources some of the captions can be a bit sparse in detail. However the authors have clearly tried to bridge the information gap with solid research and identification of vehicles, equipment and units. For the most part I think they did an excellent job and the vast majority of the pictures have good captions that help to tell the story in each of the sections in the book. There is also an eight-page 'Color of War' section which has modern colour photographs of German and Italian uniforms, helmets, weapons etc. This isn't an exhaustive reference work but it is an interesting and useful section that I think most wargamers/model painters for the period would find useful and it compliments the b&w period pictures very well. 

The Wargaming Compendium
Author/s:   Henry Hyde
Publisher: Pen and Sword Military [2013]
Format:    Hardback,  520 Pages

Unlike most of the books I own - which once read go into my bookshelves and rarely see the light of day again - this is the sort of book that deserves to be left out and read over and over again. I hate to describe it as a 'coffee table book' because that would trivialise the quality of the work, and this is anything but trivial. The authors long experience in the hobby both as a player and as the editor of a hugely popular wargaming magazine shines through on every page.

As well as containing a vast wealth of information on every aspect of our wonderful hobby its pages are crammed full of high quality colour photographic illustrations that make this a visual as well as an intellectual feast for the reader. For those wargamers based in the UK that regularly attend wargames shows there are plenty of photo's of popular demo games that will have you nostalgically saying "I remember seeing that!". Its for this reason (amongst others) that I think this is a great record of hobby as it is today as well as how it was in years gone by. 

Although there are sections of this compendium that are clearly aimed at new players there is also plenty within its covers that will be of interest to the old grognards amongst us. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the history of wargaming which to my mind illustrated that our hobby is as serious and worthy a pursuit as any other, with a proud and venerated heritage. Wargaming is more than just 'playing with toy soldiers' encompassing as it does a wide range of creative endeavour and scholarly interest, proof of which can be clearly seen within the pages of this weighty volume. 

I haven't read the book cover to cover yet (it is 520 pages after all!), but I have found myself picking it up and dipping into it continually since I received it at Christmas. For me the genius of this book is that it is so readable that it doesn't matter what order you devour its many chapters, each stands out on its own merit. Henry's style of writing is very contemporary, clear and bursting with enthusiasm for his subject (something that comes across when you meet him in person as well). Young or old; newbie or old hand I think this book has something in it for every wargamer. 


  1. Must stick with what I am reading, must stick with what I am reading, must stick.... oh sod it!

  2. Thanks Lee. I really must get that Hyde book, I bet it will be considered a hobby classic in another twenty years.
    The Panther book looks interesting - I wonder what Gladys did to get an author credit with her husband?

  3. Three excellent looking books there, all of which I'm interested in.
    Thanks for the recommendations

    1. PS I see that Rommel's Desert Warriors also comes in paperback


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always try to reply as soon as I can, so why not pop back later and continue the conversation. In the meantime, check out my YouTube channel Miniature Adventures TV