May 2010 Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945 by John Toland. I usually don't attempt books of such length (877 pages) but this book was well worth the time spent (over one business trip and vacation plus a few weeks in between). This book won a Pulizer Prize for the author and it's a hard one to put down once you get into the pace of the book. The book chronicles the Pacific Theater of WW2 relying heavily on Japanese sources and interviews of combatants and decision makers during the 1950's and 1960's.

The beginning of the book details the state of Japan from 1936 up to 1941 showing the struggle between the military and civilian authorities. The book gives a lot of detail on the negotiations, communications, and mis-communications the were happening right up to December 7, 1941.

The descriptions of the battles for and on the Pacific islands, from Guadalcanal to Okinawa, were given mostly from the Japanese perspective. I'd never read that perspective before, and the numbers killed on the Japanese side were astounding. For example, 70,000 Japanese soldiers were involved in the battle for the Philipines; only 1 in 13 made it back to Japan (p.607).

I found this a very compelling and somewhat unsettling book. What was unsettling was how much could have been avoided, and how many lives were lost, because of misunderstanding of motives and cultures on both sides on this conflict.