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Top 10 Sub Books of All Time - In my humble opinion

A discussion forum for books and other printed matter dealing with submarines. Registered forum users are encouraged to submit their own book reviews!

Postby PaulC » Tue Mar 18, 2003 2:13 pm

Guys, thanks for the new forum! Now, without further ado:

The Top 10 Submarine Books of All Time:*

1. "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" by Jules Verne - 1871
2. "Silent Victory" by Clay Blair, Jr. - 1975
3. "Run Silent, Run Deep" by Edward Beach - 1955
4. "Blind Man's Bluff" by Chris Drew and Sherry Sontag - 1999
5. "Das Boot" by Lothar-Gunther Buchheim - 1975
6. "War Fish" by George Grider as told to Lydel Sims - 1958
7. "The Hunt For Red October" by Tom Clancy - 1984
8. "The Silent World" by Jacques Y. Cousteau with Frederick Dumas - 1953
9. "The Terrible Hours" by Peter Maas - 1999
10. "Clear The Bridge!" by Richard H. O'Kane - 1977

Honorable Mention: "On the Bottom" by Cdr. Edward Ellsberg - 1929 (will assume it's place on the list in the event that one of the other entries is unable to perform it's duties)

My judging criteria centers on four main areas: literary worth, scholarship, entertainment value and cultural significance. Explanation/justification for an individual selection is available upon request.

*Note: The list does not negate my long held belief that there's no such thing as a bad submarine book. Disappointing, yes. Bad, no.
Warm regards,

Paul Crozier
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Postby Seawolf » Mon Mar 24, 2003 10:03 pm

my version of top 10 subs book:
1. Blind Man's Bluff
2. Attack of the Seawolf by Michael DiMercurio
3. Hunt for the Red October by Tom Clancy
4. Deep Sound Channel by Joe Buff
5. Thunder in the Deep by Joe Buff
6. Danger's Hours by Robert Francis
7. Submarine by Tom Clancy
8. Attack of the Devilfish by Michael DiMercurio
9. Shark Mutiny by Patrick Robinson
10. USS Seawolf by Patrick Robinson

my judging criteria are more to entertainment and information contained. :)
Fiat - Jakarta (Indonesia)
sshhh.... rig ship for ultra silent..........
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Postby subdude » Tue Mar 25, 2003 9:11 pm

Won't be so bold as to give a top 10, but here's a couple of my favorites which I suspect get overlooked a lot.

1. Decima Flottiglia Mas, by James Cleugh, translated from italian into english as Sea Devils, by J. Valerio Borghese

The story of the Italian Tenth Light Flotilla during WW2, which was the arm of the submarine navy responsible for the midget sub program, including the Maiale (similar to the British Chariot). Written by the Flotilla commander.

2. John P. Holland, 1841 - 1914 by Dr. Richard Morris

If I have to tell you who John Holland was, for shame. This biography reads as well or better than any novel. An outstanding piece of work documenting the amazing life of a true pioneer!

3. Steel Boats, Iron Hearts by Hans Goebeler

Want to experience what WW2 was like from the viewpoint of a German sailor? Here's your book. Hans was the guy who pulled the plug to scuttle the U-505, which of course was captured before heading to the bottom, and now rests in Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Hans was a SubCommittee member prior to his passing a few years ago, and I truly enjoyed hearing his views and stories concerning the war.
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Postby Big Jim » Mon Oct 06, 2008 11:53 am

I stumbled over this thread and thought that I would add my two cents since this book hasn't mentioned by anyone yet. Of all of the subamrine books that I have, the number one book by far is;
"United States SUBMARINE OPERATIONS in Word War II by Theodore Roscoe.

Tom Dougherty suggests that "Silent Victory" is the "Gold" standard. If so then Submarine Operations is the "Platinum" standard.
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Postby Tom Dougherty » Mon Oct 06, 2008 8:41 pm

Big Jim wrote:I stumbled over this thread and thought that I would add my two cents since this book hasn't mentioned by anyone yet. Of all of the subamrine books that I have, the number one book by far is;
"United States SUBMARINE OPERATIONS in Word War II by Theodore Roscoe.

Tom Dougherty suggests that "Silent Victory" is the "Gold" standard. If so then Submarine Operations is the "Platinum" standard.


As a history, the Roscoe book comes up woefully short. It was written immediately after WWII, and the Submarine Service needed a positive "spin" because 1.) it had to compete for dwindling funds in the postwar environment, and 2.) the Navy knew that their numerous fleet submarines, which won the Pacific war against Japan, would be too slow and ineffective in the coming years, based on the captured German Type XXI high speed U-boat. The fear was that the Soviet Union would use their prize Type XXIs to build high speed diesel boats (which they did in the Whiskey class). The Navy needed the funds for the new high speed deep diving Tang class and the Guppy conversions of the fleet submarines. Hence, The "Silent Service" needed a book that would highlight the successes, and downplay or not even mention some of the shortcomings of submarine operations during the war.

Roscoe does not mention the early problem with skippers trained to make sound bearing attacks, the reluctance of some skippers to engage effectively and their removal from command, and does not detail the chronic torpedo problems (all three technical problems). It does not touch upon the conflicts among the admirals in the Pacific as to how to best use the submarine force. In that sense, the much later book by Blair is a much more balanced and thoughtful history. Blair's book is also much better documented. The Roscoe book is more of a cheerleading set of stories which solidified certain storylines about WWII submarines, some aspects of which are questionable. It's not a bad book, but for historical accuracy and perspective, it doesn't come close to Blair. I would call it the bronze standard, at best.
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Postby Big Jim » Wed Oct 08, 2008 9:44 pm

Well Tom,
I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. I prefer books that read well rather than ones where the statistics get in the way of the rhythm of the story. Where I can sit and read "Sub Ops" for hours on end, after thirty minutes of "Silent" I am ready to put it down and take a big break. So, "Sub Ops" trumps "Silent" in the way that it reads.

That is not to say that "Silent" is a bad book in any way and that is not the idea that I meant to convey.

As for "Sub Ops" coming up short, you must take it in the time line that it was written. We probably know now much more now than when Blair wrote "Silent". If I remember correctly, go back and look through the book reviews in SCR before you were involved in the reviews. I think that a highly respected author may have voiced his opinion of Blair's book/s.

When I first read "Silent", I had checked it out from the library. It wasn't an easy read. I bought "Sub Ops" and couldn't put it down. Years later I bought "Silent" and read it again. Without a doubt there is good stuff in there and it has its place among many sub related books that grace my bookcase.

I couldn't even begin to give a top ten list, but, I do know which one would be at the top if I did.
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