Reading this book I realized how American centered our teaching of history is. Not that it is unexpected or wrong really, we just leave stuff out because it doesn't directly relate to the US. For example, I knew WWII started in 1939, I just didn't know much about what happened before Pearl Harbor. In a lot of things I've read, and especially watched (I'm talking History Channel here) Germany invaded Poland, then nobody did anything else for almost two years until Pearl Harbor when suddenly every part of the world was involved.
This volume details how Germany took France and almost every other part of continental Europe and then what Britain did and how she fought on, basically alone, for more than a year, until the US entered the war. It helped explain to me what the heck was going on in Africa. I've seen all those cool shots of tanks racing around in the desert and heard about Montgomery beating Rommel (the Desert Fox) and never had any clue why they were there in the first place.
Italy, and then Germany, fought back and forth in North Africa for two years before the US got involved.
I knew about the Battle of Britain, but I didn't know that England got the snot bombed out of them for seven straight months. Or that they had nearly 100,000 civilian casualties because of it. Or the cool tricks they played with their radar beacons to mess up the German planes. And the fact the Yugoslavia got the tar beaten out of them because the government allied with Germany, then a popular revolution forced the pro-German government out and the new government repudiated the Germans. This made Hitler mad and he carpet-bombed Belgrade for 3 days. Iraq tried to go Pro-German, but British forces staged a coup and took over. The same thing almost happened in Iran. The naval battle for control of the Atlantic and Mediterranean was incredible. And I had only heard a few bare mentions of all of these things.
This was a seriously cool book to learn about all this new stuff from a time in history I thought I understood.
Their Finest Hour. Winston Churchill. Houghton Mifflin. 1949