Feature

Harry Benson

Photojournalist Harry Benson, who worked for Life from 1967 until it closed, currently shoots for Vanity Fair, GQ, and The New Yorker. His new book is called Harry Benson: Fifty Years in Pictures (Harry N. Abrams, $50). Here he chooses six history titles with personal relevance.

Her Privates We by Frederic Manning (Consortium Sales & Dist., $14). This compelling book gives a British army private’s view of the Battle of the Somme in France in 1916. My father was in the Scottish Highland Light Infantry during W.W. I, and served in the campaign on the Somme; I find this book the equivalent of All Quiet on the Western Front.

The First World War by John Keegan (Vintage Books, $16). My fascination with W.W. I drew me to this work. History is laid out by the esteemed military historian Keegan in a straightforward, gripping, informative manner.

Finest Hour: The Battle of Britain by Tim Clayton and Phil Craig (Simon & Schuster, $27). I lived through the bombing of Glasgow during W.W. II—classmates would be missing from school each day. That has affected my whole life. During the Battle of Britain, Churchill rallied the people to a level of patriotism that is being matched in the United States today.

Hidden Agenda: How the Duke of Windsor Betrayed the Allies by Martin Allen (Macmillan London, £19). One morning my father, who was in a local defense troop made up of W.W. I veterans, told us, “We caught a German this morning whose plane crashed about two miles from our house.” It turned out to be Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy. This book tells of the Duke of Windsor’s Nazi sympathies and his intricate association with Hitler during the war, in the bluntest terms yet written.

The Duel: The Eighty-Day Struggle Between Churchill and Hitler by John Lukacs (Yale University Press, $16). I’m just now reading this book for another insight into the minds of Churchill and Hitler. Churchill was my childhood hero. We listened to his radio addresses during the war, and it made me want to be in the middle of what was happening in the world. He still is, I believe, the most important man of the 20th century.

Life Photographers: What They Saw by John Loengard (Little, Brown and Company, $35). As a Life photographer, I must admit I have a personal interest in John Loengard’s unique book. He interviewed every living Life staff photographer for this history of the magazine as seen through the eyes of those who took the pictures.

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