Recently my question asking for references for best books on WWII was closed. I want to point out that similar questions have been asked on sites like this before - a good example is this question on Mathoverflow - a site similar to this one except for Math.

While the question does involve soliciting people's opinions, many questions on this site (this one for instance) involve a similar elicitation of opinion. In addition, there is usually a consensus amongst experts as to what good books and references on a topic are and this question is just seeking to tap into that knowledge.

Thus I believe this question to be appropriate for the site and don't think it should be closed.

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2 Answers

SE guideline:

This question is not a good fit to our Q&A format. We expect answers to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise; this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. See the FAQ.

My additional points as one of the close voters (it became a bit longer to link to similar questions in future):

I don't see much value and necessity for such questions here, because we will mainly rebuild book recommendations you can already find on amazon, wikipedia discussion,... I don't know why the recommendations here would be better and more objective. Funnily, in the accepted answer of your question, you state that the reviews for one book aren't good (?) In the end you seem to trust mainly the (amazon ?) review anyway (?) Either you trust the amazon or the SE rating...

Also it's a bit problematic to give out reputation for such questions, so making every one a community wiki would imho be the only option. But stackexchange is no wiki and cw questions the exception of the rule as far as I know.


Use the excellent search and tagging system here to search questions you are interested in, look for given sources in the upvoted answers or ask one of the answerers in this question via @user in comment or chat for a recommendation. The voting system here will mainly rebuild what most people have read, obviously this does not have to be the best and most detailed book (you are looking for).

On mathoverflow: they have much less questions of this kind, so it's probably ok, reading a lot books is much more important in history, so we would probably get a lot more questions of this kind here. Also, please consider while many prof. experts on mathoverflow will love a book, you might lack any background or ability of abstract thinking to enjoy and understand that book. That's why we have special books for newbies, pupils, students, experts... these questions which book is the best are really pointless without stating what your background and current knowledge is imho and why internet is full of such questions. Every fact book has to fit a special audience to become successful, if not, there wouldn't be so much different books on the same topic. Economically proven ;)

PS: Any (book) question on SE containing "best" in title without stating exact needs and personal background is likely to get my close & downvote because of above explained "mechanisms". SE is for specific answers fitting specific questions. For "best" and "most popular questions visit Don't take this personally.

The reviews I meant were those written by academic scholars, not amazon. Without the book recommendations though, I wouldn't have known for which books I should look up reviews and for which I shouldn't. I do understand your point though of history requiring a lot more reading and thus opening the door to such questions could flood the site with similar questions in the future. However the same is true with request for references. In addition, it's not like such questions will be the only ones that will be asked. I don't see any harm if a lot of such questions over some time period are asked. –  Sid Nov 9 '11 at 17:53
I agree that the question could have been better phrased by specifying my background. Maybe one could allow such questions subject to a strict set of guidelines? The book recommendations here might be a lot better since people are more likely to know about the topic here and this site is more searchable than wikipedia discussions. –  Sid Nov 9 '11 at 17:57
Don't forget, @Sid, that you can edit any question - even closed questions - if you think you can make it better. –  Shog9 Nov 11 '11 at 19:54
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To put this in more simple terms, any question that primarily solicits an opinion or results in the providing of a list will generally be considered unacceptable. The whole point of SE sites is to provide a question and answer forum, not a forum for discussion or debate. I know this created a lot of frustration for me when I first started using SE, but once you become more familiar with the guidelines it makes it a lot easier to handle.

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