Looking for the best WWII books? This summer will observe the 75th anniversary of the conclusion of the Second World War. To call it a war is almost a misnomer; it was not only one war but also a lot of fights. Admittedly, it had been far too large and diverse to recall as one occasion. The sheer quantity of books relating to this is a testament to this.
No war in history – rivaled only by the one which ended 20 years before – has prompted more literature. WW2 has been endlessly written about, pored over, translated, and reinterpreted, which could make understanding what to read on the thing somewhat daunting. Books have to be selected like a sniper chooses her goals.
Mercifully, Pennbook has the range to assist – and have rounded up the most excellent novels ever written about the battle.
Table of Contents
- 1 Top Rated Best World War II Novels To Read
- 1.1 Normandy’44: D-Day along with the Epic 77-Day Battle for France by James Holland
- 1.2 Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis
- 1.3 Enemy at the Gates by William Craig
- 1.4 Big Week: The Biggest Air Battle of World War II By James Holland
- 1.5 Shanghai 1937 by Peter Harmsen
- 1.6 The Secret War: Spies, Ciphers, and Guerrillas, 1939-1945, by Max Hastings
- 1.7 Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, by Arthur Herman
- 1.8 Engineers of Victory: The Problem-Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War, by Paul Kennedy
- 1.9 Code Girls by Liza Mundy
- 1.10 Madame Fourcade’s Secret War by Lynne Olson
- 1.11 A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell
- 1.12 D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II by Sarah Rose
- 1.13 The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945, by Rick Atkinson
- 1.14 Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a City Named Buczacz by Omer Bartov
- 1.15 Hitler’s Spy Chief: The Wilhelm Canaris Story by Richard Bassett
- 1.16 Year Zero: A History of 1945, by Ian Buruma
- 1.17 Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science that Changed the Course of World War II by Jennet Conant
- 1.18 The Bridge at Remagen by Ken Hechler
- 1.19 Rescue at Los Baños: The Most Beautiful Prison Camp Raid of World War II by Bruce Henderson
- 1.20 In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, by Erik Larson.
- 1.21 Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese
- 1.22 All of the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
- 1.23 The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
- 1.24 The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins
- 1.25 The Best of Our Spies (Spies #1) by Alex Gerlis
- 1.26 China Dolls by Lisa See
- 1.27 Code Talker: A Novel About The Navajo Marines Of World War II by Joseph Bruchac
- 1.28 If This Is a Man by Primo Levi (1947)
- 1.29 Stalingrad by Antony Beevor (1998)
- 1.30 Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis by Ian Kershaw (1991)
- 1.31 An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson
- 1.32 Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
- 1.33 The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
Top Rated Best World War II Novels To Read
Normandy’44: D-Day along with the Epic 77-Day Battle for France by James Holland
In his new account of the Normandy invasion, celebrated writer, historian, and Royal Historical Society fellow James Holland delivers a fresh look at one of the defining struggles of WWII. Drawing on a wealth of archived material and first-hand reports, Holland goes past the established D-Day story to light up the human play of Operation Overlord.
He was chronicling in fascinating detail the focused preparation that went to the effort and operational brilliance that caused a success for the Allied powers. The result is a thoroughly researched fresh storyline, and a must-read accession to WW II history literature.
Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis
On August 7, 1942, Allied forces, chiefly US Marines, landed on Tulagi and Guadalcanal islands from the southwestern Pacific to battle the encroaching Japanese military. The joint air, land, and sea attack were the very first of its type, marking the Allies’ first significant offensive against the Empire of Japan from the Pacific theatre. Volunteer combat correspondent Richard Tregaskis was among two journalists who saw the invasion. In this landmark work of war fiction, Tregaskis summarizes these young Marines’ harrowing experiences, which left the surgery a success.
Read more: Military history of Japan
Enemy at the Gates by William Craig
William Craig’s New York Times bestseller served as the inspiration for the 2001 movie of the Identical title, starring Jude Law, Rachel Weiss, and Joseph Fiennes. The culmination of five years’ worth of study, Craig’s sweeping historical story brings to life the brutal siege of Stalingrad, a grueling struggle between Soviet and German forces which lasted from August 1942 to February 1943, led to almost 2 million casualties, and turned the tide of war against Hitler’s regime.
Big Week: The Biggest Air Battle of World War II By James Holland
In February 1944, Allied air forces launched a vast aerial attack aimed at decimating the Nazi war machine and destabilizing the Luftwaffe in expectation of the Allies’ forthcoming cross-channel invasion of German-occupied Western Europe. Officially, the effort was called Operation Argument. Nevertheless, it soon became famous as the “Big Week“-and it had a seismic effect on the course of this war.
In these expertly written accounts, Holland traces the most significant air battle of WWII, chronicling the fight from each side of the battle and showing the essential part it played as the Allies prepared for the Battle of Normandy.
Shanghai 1937 by Peter Harmsen
Peter Harmsen assesses the damn 1937 confrontation between China and imperial Japan in the Battle of Shanghai in this New York Times bestseller-that prompted the PBS documentary, Shanghai 1937: Where World War II Began. Directed by western historians as “Stalingrad about the Yangtze,” the ferocious urban participation raged throughout the streets of Shanghai for three months.
Among the bloodiest conflicts of this Sino-Japanese War, the Battle of Shanghai set the platform for the International struggle to emerge. Harmsen followed Shanghai in 1937 with Nanjing 1937-a a grim account of Imperial Japan’s horrendous attack on Nanjing.
The Secret War: Spies, Ciphers, and Guerrillas, 1939-1945, by Max Hastings
The distinguished British historian Max Hastings undercuts the most popular remedies of espionage during WWII using a sober revisionist poll. In his well-informed opinion, nearly nothing both sides did in the intellect domain had any significant effect on the war. In his view, the sole exceptions were the forceful attempts by all the tremendous combatants to decode their enemies’ key codes.
Unlike many other publications about the topic, Hastings assesses not only the American and British intelligence attempts but people of Russia, Germany, and Japan too. That is a must-read for everyone who wishes to know how espionage works (or, even more frequently, does not ).
Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, by Arthur Herman
The US became famous as the “arsenal of democracy” since the American business community mobilized to a hitherto unattainable scale to produce thousands of planes, tanks, boats, trucks, and other war material. Arthur Herman’s analysis of this subject focuses on the attempts of two notable industrialists. The latter was one of the most prominent characters from the campaign: General Motors CEO William Knudsen and shipbuilder Henry J. Kaiser.
Engineers of Victory: The Problem-Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War, by Paul Kennedy
The noted historian Paul Kennedy brings to light the often-ignored donations of their scientists and enlisted soldiers that helped turn the tide in the Allies’ favor in WWII. Their creations and innovations from the conduct of war could have played as big a part in the most significant success as people of their generals and admirals, whose titles are closely connected to the war effort. Indeed, when countless people served at the Allies’ armed services, a few people’s efforts can not possibly be seen as carrying the burden of the burden.
Code Girls by Liza Mundy
Throughout WWII, over 10,000 girls worked on cryptography for the US Army and Navy in Washington, DC. They have been sworn to secrecy in their job, a number of those who live in their 90’s are still reluctant to discuss it. Since Mundy shows in Code Girls, there were two (the German Enigma and the Western Purple); however, three discoveries in untangling Axis codes were critical, and nearly all of the people who worked on all three were girls.
Madame Fourcade’s Secret War by Lynne Olson
She headed the biggest French Opposition network against the Nazis for almost five decades. Three million agents replied to her, and they sent intellect to the British, who helped the Allies win the war. Nevertheless, she’s been nearly forgotten for years, her courage and resourcefulness disregarded by Charles De Gaulle and the French Communist Party, the dominant political powers in France for years.
Since she was not politically allied with. And since she was a girl. Presently a brand new biography belatedly frees her into the spotlight. It reads like a thriller. And it shows the long-hidden facts concerning the French Resistance.
A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell
Popular fiction abounds with superheroes. Nonetheless, it is not often that you will encounter a true-to-life story of a man or woman who comes close to the type of over-the-top heroism that all these famous writers prefer. On the other hand, the narrative of WWII American girl spy Virginia Hall (1906-82) fits that particular bill. At A Woman of No Importance, Sonia Purnell joins the lady’s experience in WWII in persuasive and Frequently jaw-dropping detail.
It is the best study I have read concerning the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS), and the French Resistance. I found it almost impossible to put the book down.
D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II by Sarah Rose
D-Day Girls spotlights the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), the world’s first prominent fighting force coordinated and trained to operate behind enemy lines. Writer Sarah Rose pays particular attention to D-Day Girls into a handful of girls in the French Department (F Department ) of the SOE. But she places their adventures in a bigger context. “Girls made up two million of those approximately thirteen million employees of the Special Operations Executive… They had been translators, radio operators, secretaries, drivers, and honeypots. Just eight were also deployed as particular agents in Autumn 1942 when SOE’s first course of female volunteers was seconded into France.”
The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945, by Rick Atkinson
The Pulitzer Prize-winning army historian Rick Atkinson’s trilogy concerning the Allied conduct of WWII is occasionally known as the very best reasonably short historical treatment of this subject. I read the first of those three novels, An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-43, before 2010, once I started posting testimonials here. I recall it with respect.
All three novels are available and composed with an excellent appreciation for the donations not only of their generals and admirals who directed the war effort but of those enlisted men who completed their orders and also bore the brunt of this battle.
Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a City Named Buczacz by Omer Bartov
Historian Omer Bartov shows how complicated the Holocaust was. By tracing the history of antisemitism at one Polish-Ukrainian city by the sixteenth century to the present, and detailing day by day the way the Holocaust unfolded there, he brings to light the numerous nuances lost in historic portraits painted using a broader brush. The publication is a masterful effort that should endure for decades or even centuries as one of their most insightful reports of the shameful episode in what’s so casually referred to as culture.
Hitler’s Spy Chief: The Wilhelm Canaris Story by Richard Bassett
Most histories of WWII give the belief that the battle was a simple affair. Whether recounting the story of conflicts (Stalingrad, Normandy, Midway) or the stories of spies and saboteurs (Britain’s SOE, America’s OSS, Germany’s Abwehr), they are inclined to draw straight lines from 1 occasion to another. Private affairs are not so easy. History does not travel in straight lines.
However, only lately, as categorized or concealed files have opened, have we gained a clearer picture of exactly how complicated and confusing the war has been. Hitler’s Spy Chief, Richard Bassett’s biography of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, director of the Abwehr, makes that abundantly clear. This publication shows that, even now, there’s a secret history of World War II that remains informed.
Year Zero: A History of 1945, by Ian Buruma
Bard College professor Ian Buruma brings into high relief the seminal events of 1945, including the surrender of Germany and Japan, the introduction of Germany’s concentration camps, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the founding of the United Nations, along with the Yalta Conference that laid the bases for its Cold War. A lot of Buruma’s novel is a social history, with comprehensive coverage of such subjects as “fraternization” between occupation troops and local girls, the conditions faced by countless survivors trapped (sometimes for decades ) from “homeless individual” decks.
The bitter and frequently violent battles between the partisans who had waged a guerrilla war against Germany and the conservatives who’d frequently collaborated with the enemy, along with the appetite that swept throughout the countries hardest hit in the war, notably Japan and Germany.
Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science that Changed the Course of World War II by Jennet Conant
He was a young man, a product of Andover, Yale, and Harvard Law. He was also a first cousin and protegé of Henry L. Stimson (who were variously Secretary of State and War under Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt). He made a massive fortune on Wall Street in the 1920s. However, his first love was mathematics. Even while helping construct the country’s electrical power business, he created a lavish private lab that attracted scientists worldwide. When WWII approached, he played a significant role in building the guys and tools which produced radar and the atomic bomb at record time.
The Bridge at Remagen by Ken Hechler
In March 1945, Allied commanders were shocked to find a small group of American soldiers who had defied orders and engineered a strategic breakthrough that could shorten WWII. This impressive little book is their story.
Rescue at Los Baños: The Most Beautiful Prison Camp Raid of World War II by Bruce Henderson
Early in 1945, since the Nazi regime started to crumble and American troops, Marinessailors, and sailors reluctantly pushed ever closer toward the Japanese home islands, two million civilian prisoners of war, mostly Americans, endured indescribable deprivation in the hands of a sadistic prison camp commander, deep in a temperate jungle. Their narrative -and that of the liberators-is brilliantly educated in Bruce Henderson’s Rescue at Los Baños. It is a story of courage and resourcefulness that illuminates one of the most revealing chapters in WWII.
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, by Erik Larson.
Among America’s premier nonfiction authors, Erik Larson has produced a stirring tale about a brave American diplomat who spoke out loudly against the rising Nazi terror while published as US Ambassador at Hitler’s Berlin. He and his family ran afoul not only of the German authorities but also of the United States Department. Under Secretary of State Cordell Hull, the Department was famously anti-Semitic and resisted all attempts to take action against the Nazis before the debut of war compelled them.
Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese
No one who resides in California today and made the most casual effort to comprehend the nation’s history could be oblivious that the US authorities under Franklin Roosevelt herded Japanese-Americans into concentration camps throughout the majority of WWII. Included weren’t only recent immigrants but households whose origins lay two generations previously. What’s not as well known about this shameful episode in our nation’s history would be the roles played with revered figures as future US Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and significant members of Roosevelt’s Administration.
All of the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Two teens have been caught up in a frenzy and the deadly dangers of WWII: a German boy who is extraordinarily smart with everything digital and a blind French woman who read Jules Verne. Writer Anthony Doerr explores the trajectory of his own lives in parallel, moving them toward a fateful intersection at the publication’s surprising climax.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
When I hunted “French Opposition,” Amazon.com turned up 11,485 names -which will understate the number of books written about a topic that’s only one of the most heavily researched subjects in 20th Century history. Whoever has read more than a smattering about WWII is guaranteed to have struck something about the French Resistance. It takes courage to get a modern writer to tackle another publication on this well-traveled terrain still- and exceeding skill to be successful in creating a new and moving treatment of this subject. Kristin Hannah has done just that in her book, The Nightingale.
The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins
Some of the most excellent espionage books of all times should comprise Jack Higgins’ World War II caper story; The Eagle Has Landed released in 1975, this classic of this genre has sold over 50 million copies. The publication introduces Liam Devlin, a fast-talking representative for the Irish Republican Army, who’s featured in 3 of Higgins’ succeeding thrillers. Though nominally about espionage, since the story revolves around the imaginary plot from the Nazi army intelligence bureau, the Abwehr, in 1943, the publication is more appropriately a thriller, action-filled nearly from the start to the ending.
The Best of Our Spies (Spies #1) by Alex Gerlis
An ancient event is so full of possibilities and detail as the Allies’ successful deception, which produced the Normandy Landing potential, has given rise to a lot of spy novels in addition to a passel of nonfiction novels. The most gratifying of these books I have read is The Best of Our Spies, by Alex Gerlis. Working on the base of historical facts, such as some real-life characters and the places where the action happened, Gerlis has a profoundly exciting and suspenseful narrative that does as good a job as some other nonfiction novel in conveying what Operation Fortitude was actually like.
China Dolls by Lisa See
Grace, Helen, and Ruby become fast friends, relying upon unexpected challenges and changing fortunes. If their dark secrets are exposed along with, also, the invisible thread of destiny binds them tighter, they find the durability and strength to achieve their dreams. But following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, paranoia and feeling threaten to ruin their own lives, along with a shocking act of betrayal, affects everything.
“During WWII, at the battle fought against Japan, Navajo code talkers were a vital portion of this U.S. campaign, sending messages back and forth within an unbreakable code which used their native speech. They braved a number of the heaviest fighting of this war…however their narrative remained classified for at least twenty-five decades.”
If This Is a Man by Primo Levi (1947)
If you’re supposed to read one novel about The Holocaust in your life, let it be this. It’s by far the most profound, haunting, and also soul-churningly lovely book I’ve ever read concerning the atrocity. I stay away from bringing myself to those recommendations, but in such a case, I can’t help it. My backup reduced me to tears. Or, take it out of Phillip Roth, who called it’ among the century’s most essential novels’
Primo Levi was a Jewish-Italian chemist and member of Italy’s anti-fascist immunity when he was detained and sentenced to Auschwitz in 1944. If This Is A Man relives the terror of his encounter.
If you’re searching for a historical investigation into the increase and allure of Nazism, or an inquiry, the roots, and character of evil, look elsewhere. That is a guidebook to Hell. It is a narrative of collective insanity, utter wicked, astounding stupidity, and cruelty, but also humanity, soul, grit, and fortune. Buy two copies – you might require a spare.
Stalingrad by Antony Beevor (1998)
Many dreadful battles were fought during the Second World War, but none come close to the fierce four-month German-Soviet conflict of Stalingrad. It was shades of awful. For instance, consider that the Allied death toll in Normandy attained an appalling 10,000. In Stalingrad, it was closer to a thousand.
The shocking scale, the obsession, the evil, the crushing absurdity, and the unspeakable carnage that happened across Stalingrad from August 1942 to February 1943 is captured in Beevor’s authoritative history of this function.
He superbly combines a novelist’s verve with an academic rigor because he recounts, step by step, how the battle unfolded in all its gloomy awfulness. In doing this, Beevor has made a great diorama of a few of the most brutal battlefields ever, among wholesale departure, indignity, and squander.
Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis by Ian Kershaw (1991)
To read this novel is to ride shotgun during the mangled head of a maniac – ahead so twisted, dark, and terrifyingly pathetic it demands a manual. Luckily, Ian Kershaw has invested a great deal of time – he understands the scenic path.
Far from that the puffed-up political strongman that history recalls, Kershaw paints a portrait of an idle, tasteless, disillusioned loafer who got blessed. Kershaw’s evaluation of how a spoiled kid turned into a would-be macho man is unrivaled, not just in its breadth and thickness, but in its abundance of personality. This was a guy, plagued with paranoia, Parkinson’s Disease, and arteriosclerosis who had no business ideas past a gut-deep hatred of Bolsheviks, poor social skills, and a very chronic case of donkey breath. And he convinced a state brutal genocidal warfare proved to be a fantastic concept, and he had the chops to take on the entire world.
That is a heavyweight biography by a world-champion historian. It stays undefeated in its category.
An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson
While most American history buffs are well versed at the Allied drive across Europe following the Normandy landings and the crucial struggles for control of the Pacific, the European campaign will be a less comfortable topic. Drawing on private diaries and letters from troops in addition to official records kept in American, British, Italian, French, and German war documents, the author corrects the listing within this Pulitzer Prize-winning history, the initial volume in The Liberation Trilogy.
In the amphibious invasion of Morocco and Algeria in November 1942 into the Allies’ landmark victory in the Second Battle of El Alamein and the United States Army’s coming-of-age in the Battle of Hill 609 at Tunisia, An Army at Dawn seamlessly incorporates a big-picture military plan with a boots-on-the-ground view. Atkinson is very insightful about the battle of egos between the old-school British commanders and their upstart American counterparts.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Way to explain Slaughterhouse-Five? It is a postmodern anti-war science-fiction WWII book that gives it a special place among World War two books. The unreliable narrator tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, a time-traveling guy being held in an alien zoo. During flashbacks, we relive Billy’s catch during the Battle of the Bulge, life as a POW functioning in a slaughterhouse (Slaughterhouse #5) through the Dresden firebombing subsequent growth following the war. If you can get beyond Vonnegut’s odd style, his conversation of destiny, free will, and passing earns its place among the best 10 WWII novels. For ” so that it goes.”
The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
To round out the fiction part of the top 10 WWII novels, I have picked Herman Wouk’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book. Written just six years following the conclusion of the war, The Caine Mutiny has immense detail many contemporary writers can not aspire to attain mainly because the narrative is heavily dependent on the writer’s own experiences throughout the war. The story details the life aboard the U.S.S. Caine and the ethical complexities of wartime choices, particularly the hard decisions that have to be created using a captain at sea.
Read also: Top Best World War II Books Non-Fiction 2020
Video: Hürtgen forest and the end of World War II | Free Full DW Documentary
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