The first book on battleships that I ever read, was Jane's Battleships of the 20th Century:
I was first struck by the quality of this book, especially the quality of the battleship artwork: being hand-drawn, coloured and (usually) of the right-hand-side of the vessel, I have found the drawings to be suitable fuel for my battleship interest :) The larger drawings span two pages, and are crammed full of details - including battleship conning towers, primary and secondary armament arrangement, camouflage schemes, and plenty of smaller features (such as life-rafts and lifeboats). I like the fact that the battleships are laid out country-by-country, and class-by-class, allowing me to quickly lookup a specific entry. I also like the fact that each class of battleship, is presented combined, with descriptive text, and suitable photographs. A further twist, is the fact that the drawings/text, are not only for battleships that were actually made, but are also for several battleship design studies - with my personal favourite, being the post Yamato class (Japanese) battleships. When it comes to the battleship drawings/write-ups, one of the most interesting countries is the United Kingdom. From the shear number of entries, you can see why the British Royal Navy used to be so powerful ... Although you can also see the reasons why, they lost out eventually - to the industrial might of the United States. Some of my favourite battleship classes (within this book) are: the Bismarck (I like her thick armoured hull), the Vittorio Veneto (I like her turret layout and camouflage scheme), the Nagato (I like her uniqueness, power and layout), the Yamato (I like her massive imposing presence), the Queen Elizabeth (I like the idea of them as the bastions of the Royal Navy), the Hood (I like the idea of the Pride of the Royal Navy), the South Dakota (I like their citadel layout, plus triple 16 inch naval guns!) and the Iowa (I like their subscription to the battleship maximum speed - less armour, less firepower principal). I also found the books text to be quite informative, although there are some errors! For example: there's one particular photograph, showing some of the aftermath of Pearl Harbour, that actually has an incorrect caption (and initially caused me some head-scratching). Even so, there's an incredible amount of battleship facts, history and information - contained within this book, and I especially like the way, that topic specific articles, are dropped in. Of these, there's three that I particularly enjoyed reading about ... First: The Sinking of the Utah. I had not realised before, that Utah had been modified to be a radio-controlled target ship (a side effect of the Washington Treaty). As such, she was in no fit state to defend herself - when she came under fire, at Pearl Harbour. Second: Amphibious Assault. The older battleships (such as USS Texas), could not keep up with the US aircraft carrier fleets - but their big guns were highly suitable for bombarding beaches (and other land-based fortifications). As such, I liked the fact that such battleships, were modified to work in-conjunction with the Marines (who helped to direct their ordinance, from land based positions). Third: Night Battles off Guadalcanal. Unintentional perhaps, but the USS South Dakota lost power, in the middle of one particular battle! I was amazed that this could happen to a US battleship, but it seems that the US Navy, learnt a great many lessons from this experience (such that an over-reliance on technology - that when knocked out, left key personnel, unable to perform their duties: of maintaining an operational, manoeuvrable, gun platform). Overall: this is my favourite battleship book :) I have spent many an evening just flicking through, and I often pick random pages - just to read them.