The Best Books on Napoleonic Wars of 2021

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Napoleon Bonaparte and his wars are one of the most researched and written about historical topics. There are hundreds, if not thousands of books about this famous military genius on the market. What is the best book about Napoleon?

We can’t pick one as each book covers different aspects of his career and life. But we chose eight books that are highest-rated and recommended by readers and experts in the Napoleonic Wars.

From each of these books, you will learn a lot about Napoleon, the French army, their enemies, the famous battles, military strategies, and more. If you don’t know how to choose the best book on the Napoleonic Wars, scroll down to find some useful advice that will help you with this choice.

If you want to just get back to studying, get our top choice for books on Napoleonic Wars here.
Our Top Favorite
Waterloo: Four Days that Changed Europe's Destiny by Tim Clayton (2014-09-09)
Our Top Runner Up
The Campaigns of Napoleon
Our Top Value Pick
Waterloo: The Campaign of 1815. Volume I: From Elba to Ligny and Quatre Bras
Book Title
Waterloo: Four Days that Changed Europe's Destiny
The Campaigns of Napoleon
Waterloo: The Campaign of 1815: From Elba to Ligny and Quatre Bras
Prime Eligible?
-
Our Top Favorite
Waterloo: Four Days that Changed Europe's Destiny by Tim Clayton (2014-09-09)
Book Title
Waterloo: Four Days that Changed Europe's Destiny
Prime Eligible?
-
Our Top Runner Up
The Campaigns of Napoleon
Book Title
The Campaigns of Napoleon
Prime Eligible?
Our Top Value Pick
Waterloo: The Campaign of 1815. Volume I: From Elba to Ligny and Quatre Bras
Book Title
Waterloo: The Campaign of 1815: From Elba to Ligny and Quatre Bras
Prime Eligible?

Last update: 2021-03-08

Our Favorites for Best Books on Napoleonic Wars

Waterloo: Four Days that Changed Europe's Destiny by Tim Clayton

If you are a fan of Napoleonic Wars, you probably know something about the Battle of Waterloo. It was fought on 18 June 1815 on the territory of modern Belgium close to a small city Waterloo. After many years of glory of Napoleon’s Empire, its army was defeated by the Prussian and Anglo-allied army. The book describes not only the battle but also the events that led to the battle and its aftermath. We recommend this book to people who are interested in the battle rather than to someone who is looking for occasional knowledge about the Napoleonic Wars. We also recommend keeping track of the names because it can be easy to get lost.

Why Choose this Book:

  • You will be impressed by the level of detail. You will fill present in 1815 reading about the panorama of the battle itself, the loss of lives, and the image of wounded horses.
  • The narration is fast-paced, especially when it comes to the battle. The author is fair to each side, and he explains why the British are not the only ones who deserve the praise.

What Makes this Book Unique:

  • Even people that know quite a lot about the battle will find new insights about certain things. The research done by the author will leave you astonished.
  • The maps will assist with places and troops moving to the frontlines. If you ever get lost, use the index to find the names and places.
Waterloo: Four Days that Changed Europe's Destiny by Tim Clayton (2014-09-09)
Waterloo: Four Days that Changed Europe's Destiny by Tim Clayton (2014-09-09)
  • Hardcover Book
  • 03/09/1771 (Publication Date) - Little, Brown (Publisher)

Last update: 2021-03-08


Wellington in the Peninsula, 1808–1814 by Jac Weller

It is one of the best books about The Peninsular War. You can read it even if you don’t know anything about Wellington or the Napoleonic Wars.

This book will introduce you to Napoleon Bonaparte’s enemy Duke of Wellington. You will learn about his experience in battles before Napoleonic wars and how he used it against the French. Weller also discusses The Peninsular War in detail, pointing out Wellington’s strategies, tactics, and ability to predict the outcome of the battles. Wellington is shown as a great commander who, after many years, managed to defeat Napoleon’s Army.

Why Choose this Book:

  • The author was very devoted to the research process and writing this book. He visited many of the battlefields, and there are even pictures of them in the book. You will also find multiple maps.
  • All battles against the French in which Wellington was involved are covered, including the battles of Salamanca, Busaco, and Vitoria.

What Makes this Book Unique:

  • Wellington is shown as an intelligent and wisdom commander with all his brilliant strategies. He looks better compared to others in the army because many of them are drunks and ruffians. But there is not idolizing Wellington.
  • If you enjoy reading this volume, there are many other brilliant books form this author. Weller’s other works show his exceptional style of research and writing about the Napoleonic and some other wars.
Wellington in the Peninsula, 1808–1814 (Napoleonic Library)
Wellington in the Peninsula, 1808–1814 (Napoleonic Library)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Weller, Jac (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-03-08


Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts

Napoleon is one of the most written about people in history. It can be challenging to choose the best Napoleon’s biography. But we highly recommend Roberts’ book, especially if it is your first biography of Napoleon.

In this book, you will learn not only about Napoleon’s excellent military skills but also about him as a person, soldier, and statesman. Roberts traveled to most of the battlefields in 16 countries, where he examined 80 archives to find unique documents that helped him understand Napoleon. One of the essential sources for this biography was 33000 letters written by Napoleon and only recently presented to the public. In these letters, Roberts discovers new traits of Napoleon’s character, his motivation, his wife Josephine, and other people surrounding him.

Why Choose this Book:

  • The biography is only one volume, but it is pretty large (around 700 pages). The writing is clear and not fancy; it is entertaining and effortless to read and packed with events.
  • It covers Napoleon’s great sides as well as his flaws, such as being a racist, insulting others, and being overambitious.

What Makes this Book Unique:

  • The author writes about the places he visited, creating something similar to a tour guide with museums and what you can see in them and what the battlefields look like these days.
  • There are many portraits, battle renditions, documents, maps, buildings, and caricatures that may be nice to learn about. The index will help you stay on track.
  • The most significant part of the biography is devoted to military aspects. Roberts writes about Napoleon’s victories, tactics, maneuvers, and brilliant topography knowledge that helped him use the army effectively.
On Sale
Napoleon: A Life
Napoleon: A Life
  • Napoleon A Life
  • Roberts, Andrew (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-03-08


Runner Ups for Best Books on Napoleonic Wars

The Campaigns of Napoleon by David G. Chandler

If you only want to read one book about the Napoleonic Wars, you should read this one. Even though it was first published more than 50 years ago, it is one of the best books on the Napoleonic Wars, according to Reddit.

The book briefly describes Napoleon’s early life, education, military experience, and their effects on his career. Then the author talks about his fast rise from a soldier to the leader. Chandler studied his every battle and campaign, every method, strategy, and tactic used Napoleon. You will find every aspect that the author considered essential to talk about on more than a thousand pages of the book. Chandler also writes about the political and military situations at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century that are important to understand the Napoleonic Wars.

Why Choose this Book:

  • Chandler details Napoleon’s strategies and maneuvers of his campaigns with the help of a large selection of maps. He also analyses what led to a particular outcome of each campaign.
  • The author analyses not only the French side of the campaigns but also other armies and nations involved. This way, you will be able to compare the strengths of all parties and see what Napoleon did or didn’t do to win.

What Makes this Book Unique:

  • Napoleon, his surrounding, and that era are not shown only from a beautiful perspective. You will see the corruption, Napoleon’s obsession with power, and other dirt of that period.
  • The size of the book can discourage you from reading it. But we must say that it is well structured, the writing style eases understanding, the descriptions are straightforward, and won’t have to re-read it to comprehend the subject.
On Sale
The Campaigns of Napoleon
The Campaigns of Napoleon
  • Hardcover Book
  • Chandler, David G. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-03-08


War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

It is one of the well-known classics of the world’s literature written by the Russian author whose family members witnessed and even participated in the events of the Napoleonic Wars.

The events in the book take place during the years of the Napoleonic Wars. The war with Napoleon is only one part of this book. You will read about the French invasion, the war reality, the Battle of Austerlitz, the Battle of Borodino, and other military events. Tolstoy shows us the impact of the war on society and the Tsarist government through the lives of five aristocratic families. Romance, action, societal problems, and Tolstoy’s philosophical thinking enliven the history part.

Why Choose this Book:

  • Even though it is a novel, the book is highly educational; you will find maps in the appendix and will see how the other side of the war viewed Napoleon.
  • The author used his own experience from the Crimean War to describe the battles against the French and the Russian.

What Makes this Book Unique:

  • This book is not something you would read to kill time. To fully understand it, you must read thoughtfully without distractions and re-read some places.
  • There are many translations of this book. If you can, try reading a few samples and choose the translation that appeals best to you before you start this 1300-page book. We recommend you trying Anthony Briggs and Aylmer and Louise Maude translations.
  • If you have already read this book, then we recommend to you Russia Against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace by Dominic Lieven. In it, you will see that Lieven proves many of the facts wrong and destroys many myths that Tolstoy considered to be true in War and Peace.
On Sale
War and Peace (Vintage Classics)
War and Peace (Vintage Classics)
  • Vintage
  • Tolstoy, Leo (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-03-08


A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars by Vincent J. Esposito

This book is just what the title says! It is a detailed atlas with brief history text covering the battles and campaigns from 1796 to 1815.

On its pages, you will find 169 large detailed color maps and illustrations that show the course of all battles and campaigns, including Waterloo, Austerlitz, Borodino, Italy, Egypt. All maps are supported by historical facts, explanations of Napoleon’s strategies, and war concepts. You will be glad to see short biographies of Napoleon’s opponents and marshals. The information in the book is a full narrative, and it is not too detailed. It is not intended to teach you about Napoleon’s personality and his biography. But if you are interested in military aspects, this is a must-have book, and you will not find better maps in any other book about the Napoleonic Wars.

Why Choose this Book:

  • The maps in this book are large, clear; they illustrate battles beautifully. You will be able to track the course of the battles from the build-up to the outcome.
  • The history part is well written, and you will only see the facts without personal opinions and any philosophical discussions.

What Makes this Book Unique:

  • This atlas was initially designed to teach cadets at West Point about military strategies of Napoleon, his success, and mistakes.
  • There are two forms of the book. The first one is a single volume that is complete and has all the maps and information. The second one is split into two volumes: maps in one and text in the other. Pay attention to the book you are buying because if you get only maps or only text, it won’t be that useful.
A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars
A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Esposito, Vincent J. (Author)

Last update: 2021-03-08


Value Picks for Best Books on Napoleonic Wars

Waterloo: The Campaign of 1815: From Elba to Ligny and Quatre Brasby John Hussey

If you are interested in the battle of Waterloo, this two-volume book will guide you through the battle itself, the campaign, and other essential details.

The author decided to concentrate on the less known facts rather than on tactic analysis and the actual battles. He writes more about the whole campaign, political issues, operational difficulties like paying and feeding the army, communicational problems, logistics, strategies, and their mistakes. Hussey studies and analyses both sides of the war. He describes the tension within the Anglo-allied army and Napoleon’s belief in conquering the whole Europe even after his exile. The first book ends with the Ligny and Quarte Bras battles that follow the battle of Waterloo.

Why Choose this Book:

  • Hussey provides readers with a new perspective of the Waterloo campaign showing the less obvious fact that took him years of research. This book can be a little too much if you simply want to learn about the battle itself.
  • The first volume is available in audio format. If you purchase this audiobook on Amazon, you also receive a PDF copy that you can access from the Audible Library. Bit some readers say that maps and tables quality is much better in the printed version.

What Makes this Book Unique:

  • The writing style is entertaining and clear, accompanied by numerous maps and illustrations. Even experts will find new facts and insights.
  • In the book, you will see vivid descriptions of weather conditions and how they affected the outcome. Hussey also talks about the consequences of the Napoleonic Wars. Some readers complained though that events are mostly viewed from the British side.
On Sale
Waterloo: The Campaign of 1815. Volume I: From Elba to Ligny and Quatre Bras
Waterloo: The Campaign of 1815. Volume I: From Elba to Ligny and Quatre Bras
  • Hussey, John (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 736 Pages - 11/13/2019 (Publication Date) - Greenhill Books (Publisher)

Last update: 2021-03-08


Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March by Adam Zamoyski

This book is not about the strategies or Napoleon. This book is about soldiers who suffered from the war realities and unfortunate decisions of their leaders. This book is only recommended if you are ready to see the death and suffering of people and horses.

Zamoyski begins the story in 1811 when Europe is under Napoleon’s dominance, and he needs Tsar Alexander of Russia to help him conquer Britain. When Tsar refuses, Napoleon decides to invade Russia. Only he doesn’t realize that the harsh winter and vast Russian territory will lead to his miserable defeat. Zamoyski describes the hardship of both sides, and his research is based on Russian, Polish, French, Italian, and German sources.

Why Choose this Book:

  • This book focuses on the struggles of soldiers and regular people. Zamoyski used real experiences of the soldiers and witnesses. Mostly we see the French army being unprepared for the conditions on their way to Moscow and other territories.
  • This history book is similar to a novel because it is engaging and humanistic, the battles are covered straightforward, and the story feels whole and coherent.

What Makes this Book Unique:

  • The descriptions of the brutal conditions, freezing weather, dying horses, a lack of supplies, and even cannibalism are very graphic and vivid.
  • Zamoyski also talks about the political part of the campaign, bad planning, and the relationship between Napoleon and Tsar Alexander.
Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March
Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March
  • Hardcover Book
  • Zamoyski, Adam (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-03-08


Each of these eight books covers specific aspects of the Napoleonic Wars. If you want the book to include as much information about Napoleon as possible, choose The Campaigns of Napoleon. If you are interested in Napoleon’s personality, motivation, and early years, then pick Napoleon: A Life. To learn more about the military side of the Napoleonic Wars, go for A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars. One of the most famous battles ever is the Battle of Waterloo. The best books about Waterloo battle are Waterloo: Four Days that Changed Europe's Destiny and Waterloo: The Campaign of 1815: From Elba to Ligny and Quatre Bras. The first book focuses mainly on the battle itself while the second describes the events before the battle, and there are only two chapters devoted to the actual fight. If you are interested in the opponents of the French read Wellington in the Peninsula, 1808–1814about the British army commander who defeated Napoleon. Both War and Peaceand Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March describe the invasion of the French army into Russia and the struggles of both sides. War and Peacefocuses mostly on the higher society in Russia, and there are many philosophical discussions. Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal Marchis about the soldiers’ suffering due to the brutal conditions they weren’t prepared to and their leader’s indecisiveness.

How to Choose the Best Books on Napoleonic Wars for You

With the wide variety of books on the market, it can be challenging to choose the best book on the Napoleonic Wars. Luckily, we have a few tips to narrow down your choices and pick a good book.

  • Ask yourself how much knowledge you already have on this topic. If you know little, choose a book that covers that period and the main events from more of a general point and isn’t too detailed. If you know quite a lot, choose a book that focuses on a specific event or a narrower topic. Check the table of contents or index if you don’t know what the book is about.
  • Ask historians at a local college or high school or even online for suggestions. They can help you with a book and other useful sources or a specific topic to read more about.
  • Check when the book was written and if there are later editions of it. Books written in the early 1900s may sometimes have information that isn’t up to date. But there are many books written a long time ago that are still great even though some of the facts in them have been proven wrong. If you are choosing a book with an educational purpose more than for personal reading, try picking a book published not very long ago.
  • Check online the editions, translations, and formats of the book you are interested in. Make sure you get the right one. We recommend you using eBooks for larger books simply because they are more comfortable to hold, and they don’t look too exhausting. Another benefit of eBooks is that they are convenient to look up names and dates.

Wrapping Things Up: The Best Books on Napoleonic Wars

Putting everything together, in this guide we reviewed the following:

Our Top Favorite
Waterloo: Four Days that Changed Europe's Destiny by Tim Clayton (2014-09-09)
Our Top Runner Up
The Campaigns of Napoleon
Our Top Value Pick
Waterloo: The Campaign of 1815. Volume I: From Elba to Ligny and Quatre Bras
Book Title
Waterloo: Four Days that Changed Europe's Destiny
The Campaigns of Napoleon
Waterloo: The Campaign of 1815: From Elba to Ligny and Quatre Bras
Prime Eligible?
-
Our Top Favorite
Waterloo: Four Days that Changed Europe's Destiny by Tim Clayton (2014-09-09)
Book Title
Waterloo: Four Days that Changed Europe's Destiny
Prime Eligible?
-
Our Top Runner Up
The Campaigns of Napoleon
Book Title
The Campaigns of Napoleon
Prime Eligible?
Our Top Value Pick
Waterloo: The Campaign of 1815. Volume I: From Elba to Ligny and Quatre Bras
Book Title
Waterloo: The Campaign of 1815: From Elba to Ligny and Quatre Bras
Prime Eligible?

Last update: 2021-03-08

We hope that this post was helpful and that you could pick the best book on the Napoleonic Wars. Historians and readers highly recommend every book mentioned above, and we guarantee that you will enjoy any of them.

Make sure to choose the right topic to read about and don’t read books with too many details if you are a beginner in learning the Napoleonic Wars. Also, pay attention to the edition, format, translation, and structure of the book. For easier reading and searching information along, use an eBook. Often Kindle offers many books with discounts, and it has many features that make your reading more comfortable. But if you are buying a book with maps and illustrations, note that sometimes their quality is much better in the printed version.

Remember that the most important thing when you read a book is to enjoy it and understand its text. Read free samples online to make sure the book is exactly what you are looking for.

If you found this post helpful, you’re definitely going to like our other history book reviews here.

Here are some other history textbook resource that may interest you:

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