November 11, 2017


Here's my list of naval-related books, in case anyone wants to do more reading on the subjects under discussion here, or if you're looking for presents for someone of a naval inclination.


“This is interesting, but I’d like a more rigorous general technical background on this stuff”:

Steam, Steel & Shellfire by Robert Gardiner and Eclipse of the Big Gun, by D.K. Brown. Overviews of the development of the warship, 1860-1904 and 1904-1945 respectively. A very good general introduction to the topic, with excellent bibliographies. Highly recommended.

British Battleships:

An embarrassment of riches here. Three books, all called British Battleships, by Norman Friedman; Alan Raven and John Roberts; and Oscar Parkes. Parkes covers 1860-1950, Raven and Roberts the ships that fought in WW2, and Friedman the Dreadnought era.

US Battleships:

The source on the design of US battleships is Norman Friedman’s US Battleships: An Illustrated Design History. It goes from the 1880s to 1992. Should be easy to find in libraries. Friedman also wrote design histories of other types of US warships. All are recommended.

General/British Warship Design:

D.K. Brown’s series on British Warship Design: Before the Ironclad, Warrior to Dreadnought, The Grand Fleet, Nelson to Vanguard, and Rebuilding the Royal Navy. Brown was a British naval architect, and his books are full of examples of what goes into designing a warship.

Treaty Battleships:

Robert Dulin and Willaim Garzke’s trilogy of US Battleships; Allied Battleships; and Axis and Neutral Battleships. They cover everything built after 1930 or so. All are technically-focused, although they do have more operational detail than other books. Should be easier to find than some of my other suggestions.

The Iowa class:

Iowa-class Battleships by Robert Sumrall is the best resource on this. Largely technical, but not entirely so. A second option, and much better value if you don’t feel like spending lots of money, is The Iowa Class Battleships by Malcom Muir. It goes into more detail on the historical side, but is light on technical details.

Naval guns:

The Big Gun, by Peter Hodge. Lots of details of the guns and mountings 1860 on.

Fire Control:

Naval Firepower, by Norman Friedman. Details of development and implementation worldwide.

Naval Ordnance and Gunnery A reprint of a WW2 training manual, covering both weapons and fire control.

Modern Stuff:

“This is interesting, but I’d like a more rigorous general technical background on this stuff”:

Navies in the Nuclear Age by Norman Friedman. A history of the warship from 1945 to the early 90s. Somewhat inaccurate on Soviet ships (although better than earlier works), but a good introduction to the overall development in warships and naval warfare throughout the Cold War.

“I want to know about naval warfare in general in the 80s”:

Modern Naval Combat by David Miller and Chris Miller. An excellent look at 80s naval warfare. A bit dated now, but well worth the (very cheap) price. The concepts aren't that different now, and while that generation of ships is mostly gone, it’s still pretty good.

An Example of Modern Warship:

Type 45 Destroyer Owner's Workshop Manual. A promotional tie-in between Haynes, famous for their car repair manuals, and the Royal Navy, the best look I've ever seen at the fabric of a modern warship. Covers everything from the radar and basic tactics to the sewage system. Amazing book, so long as you remember it is a recruiting tool for the RN, and thus leaves out the blemishes (like the class being cut from 12 to 6.)

Naval Weapons:

Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapons Systems by Norman Friedman. It's worth checking the Naval Institute Press website to see if it's on sale. Amazingly comprehensive, and very detailed look at what goes into modern weapons systems. Older editions are still good and much cheaper, and the first edition is online.

Net-centric Warfare:

Network-Centric Warfare by Norman Friedman. A specific look at a current buzzword, from 1900 to the present. My series on the subject is mostly based on this book. Decent, particularly if you’re interested in naval computer systems.

Interaction of Seapower and Space:

Seapower and Space by Norman Friedman. A look at the interactions of seapower and space power. Very good, if a bit dated. Lots of interesting details on military space programs, in addition to the naval elements. (Just about anything by Norman Friedman is good, though these are the best.)

Naval Engineering:

Introduction to Naval Engineering. One of the best books I know of, full stop. Details of basically everything that goes onto a ship that isn't a weapon or a sensor. Also, the best practical thermodynamics book I've ever read.

Naval History:


Jutland, the Unfinished Battle by Nicholas Jellicoe. Nicholas is the grandson of John Jellicoe, the British commander at Jutland. There are some lovely personal touches, and it's well-written overall. John Campbell's Jutland An Analysis of the Fighting is the gold standard on the factual matters of the battle, but it's a technical analysis, and not particularly readable.

The US Navy In WW2:

I'd very highly recommend Samuel Eliot Morison's 14-volume The History of US Naval Operations in World War 2. It's amazingly detailed, very comprehensive, and Morison writes very well. The history is a bit dated (Morison was commissioned by President Roosevelt to write it in the early months of the war, and some of the accounts are first-hand), but the introductions in the current edition do a good job of explaining recent thought. I'm only going to link the first volume on Amazon. The best way to get these is to buy them from the US Naval Institute during their holiday sale. Last year, you could get the entire set for $105.

I'll expand this list over time. Feel free to let me know if you want recommendations on anything specific. I have lots of other books, but listing them here takes time. Another good place to look is the US Naval Institute Press website. A $40 web membership can pay off if you want lots of stuff from there, particularly during the holiday sale.

Disclaimer: I'm signed up for Amazon affiliate, but I've also included recommendations when I know somewhere cheaper to get books from. For the more expensive books, I've generally found it worthwhile to shop around and watch prices. Abebooks often beats Amazon if it's over $100.

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