I estimate that I’ve read and owned about 35 books covering the French Revolution and Napoleonic Era since I began reading books from this period sometime around 2001. In this blog, I’ll list the twelve books of the original 35 that I have kept.
Naturally, as one reads many books on a single topic, the introductory books become unnecessary and often boring to read. Occasionally, you read a terribly written or researched book, such as Napoleon: A Life by the famed Paul Johnson, a book with so many factual errors that I don’t think he actually wrote it. For example, he merges two of Napoleon’s brothers (Lucien and Louis) into one person. The book has other errors as well, which become noticeable after having read other books on the subject.
The following are books the 12 books I have kept and am unlikely to ever give away. I list them from most interesting to least interesting:
- Blundering to Glory by Owen Connelly
- The End of the Old Order: Napoleon and Europe, 1801-1805 by Frederick Kagan
- Napoleon: How to Make War by Ediciones La Calavera
- Napoleon and his Collaborators: The Making of a Dictatorship by Isser Woloch
- The Campaigns of Napoleon by David G. Chandler
- Napoleon and the Transformation of Europe by Alexander Grab
- Napoleon Bonaparte by Alan Schom
- The Origins of the French Revolutionary Wars by TCW Blanning
- The French Revolution and Napoleonic Era by Owen Connelly
- The War of Wars: The Great European Conflict , 1793-1815 by Robert Harvey
- The Mind of Napoleon edited by J. Christopher Herold
- Napoleon’s Letters edited by JM Thompson
The best books for those just getting into this era are the two books by Owen Connelly, followed by Alan Schom’s book after both of the Connelly books have been read. A companion to the beginner would be the books by Herold and Thompson. Blundering to Glory by Connelly is probably the most interesting introductory book to military history and strategy that I’ve ever read.
The advanced books focus on specifics. For instance, La Calavera’s book is mostly Napoleon from a philosophic standpoint by philosophers over time. Grab’s book shows Napoleon’s influence region by region. Chandler’s book focuses intensely on Napoleon campaign by campaign, while Kagan’s book zeros in on four years of campaigning, showing all the successes, mishaps and near-mishaps during Napoleon’s peak. Harvey’s book, which is most interesting in the parts prior to 1796, links the wars prior to Napoleon’s rise with those in the era named after him. Woloch’s book is specifically on Napoleon’s rise to power and how he had less control in the process than one might think.