November 19, 2023

USNI Sale 2023

The Naval Institute Press is the foremost naval and military history publisher in the United States, and every year, they run a major sale for the holidays. The standard offer, which they've done again this year, is 50% off everything that isn't on clearance and free shipping. Typically, I give this analysis in an open thread, but I decided to split it out this year.

First, a few words about USNI's IT, which has been bad this year even by the rather low standards they've set in previous years. Most, but not all, full-price books have an automatic holiday coupon when you put them in your cart that gives you 50% off. Stuff in the Clear the Decks Clearance and a some books coming out Spring 2024 don't have this coupon. And you only get free shipping if you put something with the coupon in your cart, but if you do have the coupon, it applies to everything in the cart. I've been in touch with them about this, and hope they get things fixed.

For those who have scoured the catalog in years past, notable new releases are British Coastal Forces, a new Friedman design history, Windfall Battleships, on the ships the British took over at the start of WWI, Two Navies Divided, an excellent comparative look at the USN and RN in WWII by Brian Lavery, particularly useful as an introductory volume, Delivering Destruction, a look at the development of firepower in American amphibious operations, and the 2024 Seaforth World Naval Review, the best single-volume resource on what's going on with the world's navies today.

They also offer plenty of options if you want to build out your own naval library.

First, I will recommend the works of Norman Friedman. At least half of the good insights on this blog come from his work, and there's no better place to start, particularly for design histories. If you liked things I tagged Design and want more, then check out his Illustrated Design History series, which are the standard reference works for USN warship design. Friedman has also done a lot of work on British warship design, although those aren't tagged separately. Notable works include British (Dreadnought) Battleships, British Victorian Battleships (on the clearance rack for $20 and a steal at that price), British Cruisers of the 20th century, British Cruisers of the 19th century and British Destroyers and Frigates, British Submarines in the World Wars (also only $20). Also worth a look are Fighting the Great War at Sea, an excellent look at WWI afloat (although be aware that you're going to get a lot of strategy and technology and very little in the way of battle narrative) and the Fifty Year War, the best single-volume history of the Cold War I'm aware of. Sadly, his World Naval Weapon Systems is off the clearance list, and it's hard to recommend at $100+ unless you have a professional need for it, particularly given that it's approaching 20 years old.

Which is not to say that all of the good warship technical books come from Friedman. The standout among the stuff that isn't his is definitely Russian and Soviet Battleships, which is a truly excellent look inside a world of warship design very different from the anglophone one I was familiar with before reading it. Also worth checking out are D.K. Brown's Before the Ironclad, an engineer's look at ship design in the first half of the 19th century and Atlantic Escorts, which covers what it says on the tin. (Note that Brown wrote a number of other excellent books covering British ship design from Warrior to the end of the 20th century, but USNI is not currently selling them.) There's also Warship Builders, on the USN's construction program during WWII, and Battleship Builders, which covers RN battleship construction. For other books of interest, Drachinifel's reading list is quite good. I have all but 6 of them, and while I don't think all are great (Learning War is mostly 5-sided thought, and The Battleship Holiday is largely pointless) most are worth it if they cover topics you're interested in.

There are also a few excellent books for those who are not particularly interested in technical matters. I'd recommend the 14-volume set of Morison's History of US Naval Operations in World War II, or if you aren't up for that, there's the single-volume Two-Ocean War. Also worth a look is China As A 21st Century Naval Power, an excellent work on the PLAN today. I'd also recommend past volumes of the Seaforth World Naval Review, as there's a lot of rotating stuff in each volume, profiles of different navies and ship programs, and articles on technical topics.

And make sure to check out their "Clear the Decks" sale section, where most things are $20 or less. This year's crop includes a lot of high-end technical works, including British Town class Cruisers, French Armored Cruisers, The Last British Battleship, British Cruiser Warfare, The World of the Battleship and ship plan books for Repulse, Helgoland, Victorious and Birmingham. I bought all of these when they came out, and don't regret any of them. But do be aware that these tend to go away. Previous list stalwarts Network-Centric Warfare and Nelson's Navy are missing this year.


  1. November 21, 2023mendax said...

    Are there any equivalents to Seaforth (in terms of breadth, depth, and price) for the air and land forces of the world?

  2. November 21, 2023bean said...

    I am not aware of any offhand. In a lot of ways, I'm surprised that Seaforth exists for the price and with the depth of analysis it does.

  3. November 23, 2023mendax said...

    Well, we can't have everything. I still have plenty of unread books from last year's sale (thank you very much), so I think I'll stay out of this one.

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