BOOK: "The 25 Best World War II Sites -- European Theater," by Chuck Thompson (Greenline Publications, $19.95)
TARGET AUDIENCE: Those who want to see what Grandpa wouldn't talk about.
QUICK TAKE: How can you limit such a book to a mere 25 sites? By cheating. Among the "sites" in Thompson's useful guide are whole cities (Rome, Paris, Berlin) and entire countries (Norway, Netherlands), with dozens of locations listed and assigned star ratings under each. His choices reflect delicate balancing of what was significant then with what is viewable now. Normandy holds first and second place in his rankings (and 14th as well), with London, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bastogne rounding out the top five.
Each chapter begins with just enough history to establish the area's significance (the narrative on Auschwitz-Birkenau will leave you disturbed and teary), which quickly gives way to clear descriptions of the locations as they appear today. Each is accompanied by brief, guidebook-style logistical info.
Thompson includes memorials to the heroism of Allied troops, along with examples of their mistakes and disasters; he lists German as well as American cemeteries. And he works in the occasional fun find (you can get great fried sausages in Nuremberg).
RANT: Although he convincingly explains why Washington is in the "European Theater," he gives Arlington Cemetery only three stars (out of five).
RAVE: Without this book, you'd have to cobble together pieces from dozens of histories and guidebooks.
-- Jerry V. Haines