World War II has been a time of global conflict, leading to the death of millions of people across the globe. For people who are interested in WWII history, one way to honor those individuals is by reading about their lives and accounts of the time through books. There are many important books that shed light on the events of this time.
This article takes a look at some of the best World War II books. World War II is filled with conflict that led to the death of millions of people across the globe. There are some accounts of these people’s lives and these accounts can be found in books.
Best Books About Second World War To Read
Hhhh By Laurent Binet
“HHhH: ‘Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydric,’, or ‘Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich.’ The most dangerous man in Hitler’s cabinet, Reinhard Heydrich, was the “Butcher of Prague.” Heydrich seemed indestructible until two men, a Slovak and a Czech recruited by the British secret service, killed him in broad daylight on a bustling street in Prague and thus changed the course of history.”
- Military fiction
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich By William L. Shirer
This National Book Award winner and New York Times bestseller was first published in 1960. It traces the rise of Nazi Germany, from Adolf Hitler’s birth in 1889 through to the end of World War II’s 1945. Shirer was a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and one of “Murrow’s Boys” at CBS Radio Network. He reported from Berlin and Vienna during the years before the war and followed the German Army during the invasion of France.
To create this 1,250-page volume, he used his personal experiences and a wealth of documents that he had recently acquired, such as the diaries of Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister, and General Franz Halder and testimony from the Nuremberg trials. It was a commercial success. The book sold one million hardcover copies, and it was printed twenty times in its first year. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is still a highly influential book about World War II.
An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent by Owen Matthews
Richard Sorge was an active communist who started spying for the Comintern right after World War I. Later, he became a part of Soviet military intelligence (today, the GRA). He joined the Nazi Party and became a close friend and part-time German ambassador in Tokyo. He informed his Moscow handlers about Germany’s intent to invade the Soviet Union through his access to top-secret Nazi communications. He was also managing agents embedded at the top of Japan’s government and watched Japan’s plans to invade Siberia on an as-and-off basis.
D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II by Sarah Rose
D-Day Girls features the British Special Operations Executive, the first large combat force trained and organized to operate in enemy lines. Sarah Rose, the author of D-Day Girls, focuses on a few women from the French Section (F Section) of the SOE. She also places their experiences in a larger context. “Only two thousand of the thirteen thousand Special Operations Executive employees were women. . . They served as translators, radio operators, and secretaries. Eight were sent to France as SOE’s first batch of female trainees in Autumn 1942.
All The Light We Cannot See By Anthony Doerr
All the Light We Cannot See is about a blind French girl and a German boy who meets in occupied France to try to survive the destruction of World War II. This is one of the best World War II historical fiction books.
Marie-Laure lives in the same house as her father. She has been blind since she was six years old. Her father builds a replica city for her so she can navigate it. When the Nazis invade Paris, both are forced to flee to their uncle’s house.
Werner, an orphan, living in a German village, joins Hitler’s Youth to use his talents. Werner meets Marie-Laure while on an assignment to destroy the Resistance.
Night By Elie Wiesel, Translated By Marion Wiesel
Born in a Jewish ghetto of Hungary as a child, Elie Wiesel was sent into the Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz or Buchenwald. This is his account.
Madame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against Hitler by Lynne Olson
For nearly five years, she led the largest French Resistance network in the fight against Nazism. She was answered by three thousand agents, who provided intelligence to the British to win the war. Charles De Gaulle, the French Communist Party, and other dominant political forces in France have virtually forgotten her for decades because she was not politically associated with either. Because she was a woman. A new biography has been published that finally puts her back in the limelight. It reads like an exciting thriller. It reveals the long-hidden truth regarding the French Resistance.
The Rise of Germany, 1939–1941 By James Holland
Holland’s “impeccably researched” and “superbly written” book (Guardian) examines Germany’s rise to power in the first years of World War II. The author begins with the 1939 outbreak of war and ends with Operation Barbarossa of the Soviet Union in 1941. He combines long-lost memories and newly-released records with his research to create an intimate and multilayered history of the early years and end of World War II. The Rise of Germany is Holland’s first entry in his planned trilogy. The Allies Fight Back 1941-1943, the second in the trilogy was published in 2015.
The Longest Day By Cornelius Ryan
Based on interviews with over 1,100 D-Day survivors and more than 1,000 other D-Day survivors, the Longest Day is the definitive account of the Allied invasion in Normandy on 6 June 1944. Ryan was a 24-year old reporter for The Daily Telegraph and witnessed the battle in person. Ryan was a 24-year-old reporter for the Daily Telegraph. He was forced to flee to England after the bomber that he was in was destroyed. After he returned, he got into a patrol boat to continue reporting on the fighting on French beaches.
Ryan decided to tell the truth fifteen years later. He was trying to show “what happened, rather than what generals or others thought happened.” The result is a masterpiece of military history packed with novelistic details; Ryan’s story includes the U.S. paratrooper, who won $2,500 in cards but lost it all to avoid losing to Field Marshal Rommel. Rommel was 600 miles away at the time of the invasion.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Unbroken, the basis of two films, is one of the best nonfiction books on WW2. Louis Zamperini is an athlete at the Berlin Olympics and becomes an airline pilot. He has no idea what fate awaits him.
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces Bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean. It disappeared, leaving behind only a spray of debris, oil, gasoline, and blood. A face emerged from the water surface. It was the face of a young bombardier, a lieutenant in the plane’s crew, who was trying to pull himself onto a life raft.
The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945, by Rick Atkinson
Best nonfiction books about World War II
A Pulitzer Prize-winning military historian, Rick Atkinson, wrote a trilogy on World War II’s Allies’ conduct. Some often refer to it as the best historical treatment that can be given. Before 2010, when I started posting reviews here, I had read An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa 1942-43. It is a book I treasure and admire.
The three World War II books are easily accessible and show a great appreciation of the contributions of generals and admirals to the war effort, as well as the enlisted men who performed their orders and bore the brunt.
Schindler’s List By Thomas Keneally
This is Oskar Schindler’s extraordinary story. He risked his life to save Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland. The war transformed him into a man with a mission and a compassionate angel.
Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 By Anthony Beevor
Five months of siege at Stalingrad were a pivotal moment in the war for Europe. Antony Beevor is a former British Army officer. He brilliantly balances the enormous scale of the conflict with a soldier’s-eye view on some of the most horrendous conditions in the history of modern warfare.
Operation Barbarossa was the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union. It was plagued with bad weather, long supply line lines, and rugged terrain. Atkinson then analyzes how the Luftwaffe’s bombing of Stalingrad created the treacherous rubble-strewn conditions which allowed Soviet snipers and other allied forces to wage a cruel war of attrition. Atkinson presents Stalingrad as the frightening outcome of totalitarianism. Hitler lived in fantasy land and refused to listen when German officers tried to save the Sixth Army. Stalin’s demands for complete obedience resulted in the execution of 13,500 Red Army soldiers.
- Penguin Books
12 Seconds of Silence: How a Team of Inventors, Tinkerers, and Spies Took Down a Nazi Superweapon by Jamie Holmes
The atomic bomb was created during World War II. This greatly influenced its outcome. You’ve probably read enough to know that radar was also a vital part of the war. It was used in air, sea, and land. It’s unlikely that you’ve heard of a third technological breakthrough, which many military analysts and historians consider equally important. It’s the proximity fuse. It is also known as the proximity fuse.
Code Name Verity By Elizabeth Wein
Oct. 11th 1943 – A British spy plane crashes into Nazi-occupied France. The pilot and the passenger are best friends. One of the girls is likely to survive. One of the girls has already lost the game.
The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah
Best Fictional Books About WW2
The Nightingale is a beloved WW2 book that helps readers o see the impact of war on their families. Imagine your husband leaving you alone in France in 1939 as he heads off to war. Your home is overthrown by the Nazis, who take it over for you and your little girl.
Vianne is in precisely this situation and risks losing everything, even her life. Vianne’s sister Isabelle, on the other side, is betrayed by her love and enters the Resistance.
The Nightingale, a WWII novel by women, is an excellent choice if you like historical fiction. Kristen Hannah is a Goodreads Best Historical Novel of the year, People’s Choice Favorite Fiction Winner, and Buzzfeed Best Book. Her storytelling skills continue to amaze audiences.
Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, at Home and at War – Linda Hervieux
Recent years have seen a shift towards highlighting the contributions of people of color to history. This is especially true when it comes down to the persistent myth that only white Europeans or Americans fought in the First and Second World Wars. Forgotten is a book that, like Band of Brothers, focuses on a particular group of soldiers – this time the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, a unit of black African-Americans.
Linda Hervieux uses military records and interviews to tell the story of the surviving members. Linda Hervieux also discusses how freedoms they found in Europe helped launch the Civil Rights Movement back at home. Volumes that are innovative in the World War 2 literature must be listed.
The Narrow Road To The Deep North By Richard Flanagan
This book is about love, and it is impossible. It all begins with one day spent in a Japanese slave labor camp in August 1943. The day’s horror grows to its climax as Dorrigo Evans struggles and fails to save his fellow POWs. A man is shot to death without cause, and a love story begins.
Someone Named Eva By Joan M. Wolf
Milada, an eleven-year-old girl, is taken from her Czechoslovakian home in Lidice to be trained as a ‘proper German’ for adoption by a Polish family. She is taught to become a “proper German” for adoption by a German family. However, she has trouble remembering her true identity.
Americans In Paris: Life And Death Under Nazi Occupation 1940-1944 By Charles Glass
“Approximately 5,000 Americans remained in Paris after the German army invaded Paris on June 14, 1940.” They were unable or refused to leave because of many reasons. Their actions during the German occupation would be equally varied.
A Thread Of Grace By Mary Doria Russell
“It’s September 8, 1943, and fourteen-year-old Claudette Blum is learning Italian while carrying a suitcase in her hands. She and her father are among thousands of Jewish refugees who have fled Germany to seek safety in Italy.
- Russell, Mary Doria (Author)
A Spy at the Heart of the Third Reich By Lucas Delattre
This riveting story by Lucas Delattre tells the true story of Fritz Kolbe. He was a German bureaucrat, anti-Nazi, and risked his life to betray Hitler’s regime to become one of America’s most valuable German spies. A Spy at the Heart of the Third Reich is a remarkable chronicle of subterfuge and conscience that reads like a John le Carre spy thriller.
From Kraków to Berkeley: Coming Out of Hiding, by Anna Rabkin
A beautiful memoir, Anna Rabkin, a long-serving Berkeley City Auditor, tells her story of fleeing as a child from Nazis invading Poland. After hiding with her Christian family, she moved to England and the United States to learn new languages and adjust to new customs in her new homeland. This is the story of a Holocaust survivor whose experiences are similar to many refugees today.
The Postmistress By Sarah Blake
“What would happen if someone did something unimaginable and didn’t send a letter?” The Postmistress has many striking parallels to our times. It is a dramatic novel about the loss and innocence of two extraordinary women, as well as two countries that have been torn apart in war.
Auschwitz and the Allies By Martin Gilbert
Martin Gilbert, a distinguished British historian, was the official biographer of Winston Churchill. He wrote many essential books about 20th-century history and the Holocaust, including Never Again: A History of the Holocaust (The Human Tragedy) and Never Again: A History of the Holocaust (The Human Tragedy). Gilbert’s absorbing and devastating book examines the Allies’ actions after learning about Hitler’s campaign for systematized mass killing.
The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson
At sixty-five years old, Winston Churchill achieved the lifelong goal of becoming the Prime Minister of Great Britain on May 10, 1940. Britain was on the brink of collapse less than a year after World War II. Even though many believed it was futile to fight the Nazi juggernaut, the aging Prime Minister (an alcoholic with a poor record for judgment) somehow mobilized the British people.
Some of Churchill’s Cabinet colleagues and King George VI were skeptical that he could do the job. Thanks to sheer willpower and a remarkable gift for stirring the imagination, Churchill managed to lead his country virtually alone for 18 months. It was only then that the United States entered the war. Erik Larson tells the tale in The Splendid and the Vile.
With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa By E.B. Sledge
Eugene Bondurant Sledge offers a grunt-eye view of infantry fighting in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Sledge, nicknamed “Sledgehammer,” was a soldier in the 1st Marine Division’s brutal battles at Okinawa and Peleliu. Sled documents the horrors of war on the frontlines and the acts of cruelty committed by both sides using notes he kept in a small, pocket-sized New Testament.
He admires the courage of his soldiers and takes time to look at his surroundings. This interest would eventually lead him to become a biology professor. The Old Breed was a significant source for Ken Burns’s documentary The War. It also helped to create the basis for the HBO miniseries The Pacific.
The Caine Mutiny By Herman Wouk
Herman Wouk’s novel of life and mutiny on a Navy warship in the pacific theater was immediately accepted upon its initial publication in 1951. It is one of the first American severe fiction works to deal with the moral complexities of World War II.
Normandy ’44: D-Day and the Epic 77-Day Battle for France By James Holland
James Holland, a historian, author, and Royal Historical Society Fellow, offers a new perspective on the Normandy invasion. Holland draws on a wealth of archived material and first-hand accounts to reveal the human drama surrounding Operation Overlord. He details the meticulous planning and operational brilliance that resulted in victory for the Allied forces in stunning detail. This is a riveting, well-researched new narrative that will be a great addition to World War II history literature.
- Holland, James (Author)
The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone
Jason Fagone, the journalist, has finally revealed the astonishing story of Elizebeth Smith Friedman, and her husband, William Friedman, by using recently declassified files from World War II. The Friedmans were perhaps the most significant American codebreakers of the 20th century, and they may have been some of the best and most successful codebreakers in the world.
The Seventh Cross By Anna Seghers
Written in 1939 and first published in 1942. The Seventh Cross gave a still uncertain, naive America an account firsthand of Hitler’s Germany as well as the horrors of concentration camps.
Enemy at the Gates By William Craig
William Craig’s New York Times Bestseller inspired the 2001 movie of the same title, starring Jude Law and Rachel Weiss. Craig’s epic historical narrative, the culmination of five years of research, brings to life the brutal battle for Stalingrad between Soviet and German forces. This grueling battle lasted from August 1942 through February 1943, resulted in almost 2 million deaths, and changed the tide of war against Hitler.
Hiroshima By John Hersey
Hiroshima was devastated by the first-ever atom bomb dropped on a city. John Hersey’s journalistic masterpiece tells the story of that day in this book.
The account of Hiroshima of John Hersey was written just one year after the bomb dropped. Six survivors were followed by Hersey, who added another chapter on the terrible long-term effects.
- Hersey, John (Author)
When The Emperor Was Divine By Julie Otsuka
Julie Otsuka’s debut novel is a commanding portrait of Japanese internment camps, unlike anything we have seen. Otsuka uses one family to portray the deracination of Japanese Americans generation with crystalline intensity.
The Rising Sun: The Decline & Fall Of The Japanese Empire, 1936-45 By John Willard Toland
This Pulitzer Prize-winning history of World War II documents the dramatic rise of the Japanese Empire, from Manchuria’s invasion to China to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima (and Nagasaki)
In the Garden of Beasts By Erik Larson
The riveting story of William E. Dodd (American ambassador to Germany, 1933-1937) is the #1 New York Times bestseller Dodd was a history professor and not Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first choice for this job. He arrived in Berlin without the appetite for endless socializing required of diplomats and with little awareness of the dangers presented by Adolf Hitler, Germany’s newly appointed chancellor.
Dodd struggled to find his place in the world, but his daughter Martha, 24, took to her new glamorous life with verve. Her high-profile lovers included Rudolph Diels (the chief of the Gestapo) and Boris Vinogradov (an attache to the Soviet Embassy who recruited her as a spy). In the Garden of Beasts is a political thriller and family drama that focuses on why the Third Reich was not recognized sooner.
Atonement By Ian Mcewan
On a hot summer day in 1934, Briony Tallis, 13, witnesses a moment of flirtation between her older sibling, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner (the son of a servant, Cecilia’s childhood friend). Briony’s inept grasp of adult motives, combined with her precocious literary talents, leads to a crime that will alter their lives forever.
- Ian McEwan
Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire And The Ravaging Of India During World War Ii By Madhusree Mukerjee
Madhusree Mukerjee, the journalist, has revealed at the same time that Churchill governed India with a solid resolve to crush India’s freedom movement and a profound contempt for the native people.
A Separate Peace By John Knowles
A Separate Peace is set at a New England boys boarding school during early World War II. It is both a dark and heartbreaking parable about the dark side of adolescence.
Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization By Nicholson Baker
This unique and fascinating work by Nicholson Baker, a novelist, tells the story in vignettes of the rise to World War II. Each piece includes a fact or quotation from primary sources, including newspaper articles and radio speeches.
Baker’s steady accumulation of details suggests that Allied leaders weren’t as reluctant as historians believe in having been. Baker goes back as far as 1920 to quote Winston Churchill about the bombing of civilian targets within Iraq. He then jumps to 1941, where he discusses the prime minister’s preference for military strategy: “One of my great aims is to deliver on German towns the largest possible number of bombs per hour.” Baker also suggests that Franklin D. Roosevelt might have manipulated the Japanese to bomb Pearl Harbor to allow the US to enter the war.
While some scholars were harsh about Human Smoke’s judgment, Baker saves pacifism by returning to the original material. Baker reminds readers that civilians are often the most affected when military leaders rush to apply new technologies in warfare.
The Good War By Studs Terkel
American icon Studs Terkel recounts the personal tolls that World War II has had on him through interviews with soldiers, sailors, and civilians. Terkel provides unfiltered accounts from those directly affected by the war, both at home and on the front lines, giving the reader unfiltered accounts of those directly affected by World War II. Terkel’s retrospective was published 40 years after the war and won a Pulitzer Prize.
Last Boat Out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao’s Revolution by Helen Zia
Zia uses biography to show China’s turbulent history, from 1937 when Japan invaded and launched World War II. She also depicts 1949 when Mao declared the People’s Republic of China. Two women and two men are her principal subjects, from the approximately one million Chinese who fled Shanghai when the Red Army approached the city. Her mother was one of the women.
Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War By Susan Southard
A compelling and unflinching account of the lasting impact of nuclear warfare is told through the stories of those who survived.
The Chosen By Chaim Potok
The Chosen is the story of two fathers and two sons. It is about the pressures placed on them by their respective religions to follow the best way for each of them. As the boys become young men, they discover that the other is a lost spiritual brother and a link into a world they had never explored before.
Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account Of World War II’s Greatest Rescue Mission By Hampton Sides
One hundred twenty-one carefully selected U.S. soldiers slipped behind enemy lines in The Philippines on January 28, 1945. They had to march thirty miles to rescue 513 prisoners of war (POWs) who were languishing in hellish camps, including the last survivors from the Bataan Death March.
Other Best Books On WW2 Considered:
Nancy Wake: The Gripping True Story Of The Woman Who Became The Gestapo’s Most Wanted Spy By Peter Fitzsimmons
The Yellow Bird Sings By Jennifer Rosner
Blackout By Connie Willis
The Diary Of A Young Girl By Anne Frank, Translated By Susan Massotty
It’s easy to understand for those of us who are American, British, or French. We would be wise to acknowledge that World War II was a global event. This would not only help to prevent an unwanted conflict from occurring, but it would also lead to a much stronger bond between our nations. It is in our best interest to keep in touch with our allies and stay informed of the events that are happening in the world. One key way to do this is through reading the best WW2 history books. Thanks for your reading!
Last update on 2021-10-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API