From: Los Angeles
Any recommendations to get me started?
The challenge with going a pure Osprey route is it can quickly get expensive. Thus, I'd suggest sampling a few of their books to see if you like their general format and presentation before investing into a bigger collection.
Also, I'd highly suggest giving Eagle Against the Sun a try if there's any chance you'll read it. It does help to have at least one scholarly tome to help provide context and tie everything together. If you'd prefer listening to it, there's also an audiobook version available HERE. FYI, I wasn't able to find the same audiobook on Amazon.co.uk, so I'm not sure if it's only licensed for the US market or what.
Back to Osprey - they have a few series which tend to focus on different things.
Campaign: these are, of course, about specific campaigns. They tend to give a well-rounded view of each campaign with maps, orders of battle, and the perspective of both sides. That said, they tend to 'lose the forest for the trees' in that they don't always provide a lot of context of how that campaign fit into the overall picture. There's some context, but it doesn't compare to Eagle..., the Ian Toll series, or similar scholarly works.
Elite: these cover special topics like tactics or specific unit types. In many ways, the game takes place on a scale which doesn't allow very specific tactics to be implemented. That said, I've found a couple of these to be invaluable.
New Vanguard: this is the home of ship & vehicle coverage and is probably my personal favorite Osprey series overall. These can be very helpful with figuring out how to make sense of all the various ship classes, especially when there are so many, for instance, destroyer variants from which to choose. That said, under a budget I'd probably eliminate these in favor of more Campaign books, since Wikipedia (using the browser extension Wikiwand) provides a ton of information on the same topics, albeit a less curated experience than the New Vanguard books provide.
Battle Orders: these are simple about the overall force structure of various military services. They are more of a 'nice to have' rather than essential since OOBs are available in the game as well.
All that said, if I had to pick a few to get started, I'd suggest the following:
One of these Campaign books (probably Java Sea as there is more flexibility to set up your defenses there in the game):
Malaya and Singapore (Campaign 300) - Mark Stille
Java Sea 1942 (Campaign 344) - Mark Stille
Shanghai and Nanjing 1937 (Campaign 309) - Benjamin Lai
The Fall of the Philippines 1941-42 (Campaign 243) - Clayton K.S. Chun
The Coral Sea 1942 (Campaign 214) - Mark Stille
Although it won't be immediately useful in the very beginning of the game, the successful execution of amphibious landings will be the most complex thing you do later on in the game. This book will provide a lot of context as to how all the various landing craft, specialty ship types, and whatnot fit together:
US World War II Amphibious Tactics: Army & Marine Corps, Pacific Theater (Elite 117) - Gordon L. Rottman
Then for a 3rd book I'd either pick a 2nd Campaign book from the list above and/or pick a New Vanguard book about one of the ship types - probably one of the destroyer ones - or whatever ship type is the most confusing to you.
This will give you a start of 1-2 Campaign books, an Elite book, and possibly a New Vanguard book. That will give a good sample of the style of each series, so you can get a feel for which are the most helpful to you.
The short list on the 2nd round of books would include:
*any unpurchased Campaign books from the 1st round
The Naval Battles for Guadalcanal 1942 (Campaign 255) - Mark Stille
Santa Cruz 1942 (Campaign 247) - Mark Stille
Guadalcanal 1942-1943 (Campaign 284) - Mark Stille
Burma Road 1943-44 (Campaign 289) - Jon Diamond
I'd avoid the Pearl Harbor / Wake / Hong Kong / Darwin / Doolittle Raid Campaign books as they are unlikely to add much value in terms of the game. You'd be much better off spending the money on coverage of the Solomons, Burma, China, and the carrier battles (Coral Sea, Midway, Santa Cruz).
I find the Osprey books quite expensive given page count. But then again, as a starter as you start to drill down, they are pretty good - lots of pictures, colourful, OOB's etc.
They definitely charge for all the extra illustrations/pictures.
To be honest I don't think I'd recommend Spector as the sole work on the subject.
It has its shortcomings, but I can't think of a less expensive way in both time and money to get a solid, 'one stop shopping' overview of the war. The Toll series is a great substitute if investing into three books is desirable. Of course, many of those on the forum end up at the ALL OF THE ABOVE option sooner or later.