From action-packed eyewitness reports like Guadalcanal Diary to catastrophic Holocaust memoirs such as The Diary of Anne Frank and Night into the thrilling espionage narrative of Operation Mincemeat, World War II is the topic of several of the most influential and fascinating nonfiction books ever written.
Every calendar year, tons of new titles appear to provide new perspectives and discover fascinating information regarding the deadliest conflict in human history. These Best World War II Books cover the war from the Eastern Front to the South Pacific and explore its massive roots and intricate legacies. Create your next great read among those books about World War II.
Table of Contents
- 1 Top Rated Best World War II Books To Read
- 1.1 Normandy’44: D-Day and the Epic 77-Day Battle for France by James Holland
- 1.2 1942 by Winston Groom
- 1.3 The Good War by Studs Terkel
- 1.4 The Miracle of Dunkirk by Walter Lord
- 1.5 Hitler’s First Hundred Days: When Germans Embraced the Third Reich by Peter Fritzsche
- 1.6 1939: A People’s History of the Coming of the Second World War by Frederick Taylor
- 1.7 The Fire and the Darkness: The Bombing of Dresden, 1945 by Sinclair McKay
- 1.8 Hiroshima by John Hersey
- 1.9 With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
- 1.10 The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer
- 1.11 Maus by Art Spiegelman
- 1.12 Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis by Ian Kershaw
- 1.13 Each of the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
- 1.14 Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
- 1.15 Bloody Okinawa: The Last Great Battle of World War ll by Joseph Wheelan
- 1.16 A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary by Marta Hillers
- 1.17 The Rise of Germany by James Holland
- 1.18 Atonement by Ian Mcewan
- 1.19 Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 by Anthony Beevor
- 1.20 The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich (1985)
- 1.21 Stalingrad by Antony Beevor (1998)
- 1.22 Blitzkrieg to Desert Storm by Robert M. Citino
- 1.23 Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942 by Robert M. Citino
- 1.24 The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
- 1.25 Enemy at the Gates by William Craig
- 1.26 Shanghai 1937 by Peter Harmsen
- 1.27 In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
- 1.28 The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
- 1.29 Code Talker: A Novel About The Navajo Marines Of World War II by Joseph Bruchac
- 1.30 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
- 1.31 Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman, Robert Chandler
- 1.32 The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
- 1.33 Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
- 1.34 An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson
Top Rated Best World War II Books To Read
Normandy’44: D-Day and 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 new look at one of the defining struggles of WWII.
Drawing on a wealth of archived material and first-hand reports, Holland goes past the recognized D-Day narrative to purify the human play of Operation Overlord, chronicling in fascinating detail the focused preparation that went to the effort and also the operational brilliance that caused a success for the Allied powers.
The result is a thoroughly researched fresh storyline, and one of the best world war II history books for reading.
1942 by Winston Groom
Revisit America’s entry into the war using this particular account of this year chose the supreme leadership of World War II. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Forrest Gump comes with investigating these strategies, conflicts, and fateful decision-making that identified the turning point of this war. A must-read for any WWII history buff.
The Good War by Studs Terkel
American celebrity Studs Terkel relieves all World War II private tolls through interviews with sailors, soldiers, and civilians alike. Providing unfiltered reports from people directly impacted by the war, both in the home and on the front lines, Terkel enables the reader to experience what it meant to live through each aspect of World War II. Released 40 years after the war, Terkel’s retrospective won a Pulitzer Prize.
The Miracle of Dunkirk by Walter Lord
The inspiration behind Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster WWII movie Dunkirk, Walter Lord’s authoritative account of Operation Dynamo is a vital read for WWII history fans. With vibrant prose augmented by survivor interviews and eye-witness reports, Lord recounts the exceptional 1940 evacuation of several 338,000 Allied soldiers on the beaches of Dunkirk as Allied forces closed.
Hitler’s First Hundred Days: When Germans Embraced the Third Reich by Peter Fritzsche
It has been the vital question in the analysis of Nazi Germany: Just how did this occur? Just how did the educated, cultured, liberal people of a top European country come to adopt the vicious, anti-Semitic, violent cult of the Nazi Party? How did ordinary citizens live with themselves? How can they not rise en masse and ship the packing? How can we evaluate the guilt of a whole man and woman?
Fritzsche’s 2016 publication “An Iron Wind: Europe Under Hitler” was astute, and “Hitler’s First 100 Days” is both great, but always more unsettling.
Long after Hitler consolidated power, the Truth of this menace he represented will be anywhere in “1939: A People’s History of the Coming of the Second World War” by Frederick Taylor, which bookends his outstanding 2011 “Exorcising Hitler: The Occupation and Denazification of Germany.” Taylor’s newest begins with the Munich Agreement’s flickering hopes and finishes after Germany invaded Poland eventually defeated those hopes.
1939: A People’s History of the Coming of the Second World War by Frederick Taylor
The portraits of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and German dictator Adolf Hitler are drawn, as are the dozens of supporting characters that expected that distressed last-minute diplomacy – or acceding to a few of Hitler’s exacting requirements – may operate to prevent a cataclysm.
Yet more, Taylor matches meticulous research and powerful storytelling abilities, this opportunity to tell the narrative of the world teetering on a precipice before falling to all-out warfare.
World War II itself is represented each year with many different comprehensive military foundations, and among the very best, and most upsetting, is Sinclair McKay’s “The Fire and the Darkness: The Bombing of Dresden, 1945,” a report on this destructive Allied bombing of Dresden, Germany, where almost 2,700 tons of explosives were dropped on the city, killing as many as 25,000 people in frightful firestorms.
In only a small number of air raids, Allied bombers unleashed enough incendiary devices to flip the whole city cubes into mysterious moonscapes, along with the photographs and firsthand accounts that arose from such raids finally dealt severe blows to the Allied leaders’ conception of their righteous warfare that they told themselves they had been waging.
The Fire and the Darkness: The Bombing of Dresden, 1945 by Sinclair McKay
Dresden has been extensively chronicled in publications, for example, Jörg Friedrich’s hugely influential “The Fire: The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945″ and A.C. Grayling’s entering ethical question ” Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of this WWII Bombing of Civilians at Germany and Japan.”
McKay takes a stunning, personal approach, bringing readers to Dresden taxpayers’ everyday lives as an unthinkable quantity of violence broke into their world.
Horrific violence is similarly the Center of the narrative told by prolific historian Joseph Wheelan at “Bloody Okinawa: The Last Great Battle of World War II.” Okinawa was the summit of the Pacific War’s savagery.
Over 180,000 U.S. soldiers landed on Okinawa, just about 400 kilometers from southern Japan, on April 1, 1945, and finally met a few of the fiercest resistance of this war against several 130,000 Japanese troops. For many months, these forces prevailed, with thousands and thousands of civilians trapped between them.
From the time the U.S. forces had announced victory, the conflict itself had attained an almost mythical reputation for bloodshed and casualties (over 110,000 Japanese soldiers as well as probably as numerous civilians).
Hiroshima by John Hersey
Originally printed in the August 31, 1946 issue of The New Yorker, this richly and richly celebrated portrait of six survivors of Hiroshima’s nuclear bombing caused an immediate impression. It was the first-and-only-time that the magazine had dedicated a whole issue to one article.
Newsstands sold out in hours, and radio stations interrupted their regular programming to broadcast the comprehensive text readings.
Over a year after the Japanese town was ruined, Americans became the first complete report of the horrors of atomic warfare. Hersey described rock facades permanently etched using all the silhouettes of vaporized soldiers and people whose eyes were melted from the nuclear flash.
Widely known as one of the first illustrations of New Journalism (the design of coverage made famous by Joan Didion), Hiroshima profoundly influenced the debate over nuclear weapons and played an essential part in the healing process between America and Japan.
With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
With brutal honesty and lucid prose, Eugene Bondurant Sledge provides a grunt’s-eye view of infantry battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Nicknamed “Sledgehammer” by his comrades, Sledge fought with the 1st Marine Division at Peleliu and Okinawa’s grueling conflicts. Using notes that he secretly kept in a pocket-sized New Testament, Sledge refers to the terror of existence on the front lines and acts of savagery perpetrated by either side.
However, he admires the courage of his fellow soldiers pauses, when he could, to celebrate his natural environment – a fascination that would cause a later career as a biology professor. The Old Breed was among the primary resources for Ken Burns’s documentary The War and helped create the foundation for its HBO mini-series The Pacific.
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer
First released in 1960, this National Book Award winner and New York Times bestseller traces the rise and fall of Nazi Germany from Adolf Hitler’s arrival in 1889 towards the ending of World War II in 1945.
As a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and one of “Murrow’s Boys” in the CBS Radio Network, Shirer reported from Berlin and Vienna in the years before the war and adopted the German Army during the invasion of France.
Following the war, he brought on his own experiences and a wealth of newly available records, such as the diaries of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and General Franz Halder and testimony by the Nuremberg trials, composing this 1,250-page volume.
The publication was a massive commercial success, selling one million hardcover copies and moving through twenty printings in its first calendar year. Through its academic standing is frequently debated, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich remain among the very influential tomes about World War II to this day.
Maus by Art Spiegelman
This Pulitzer Prize-winning picture novel recasts the Holocaust with Nazis as cats, Jews as mice, and Poles as pigs. Initially serialized in the other comic magazine Raw, the narrative moves back and forth between present-day Rego Park, New York, and Nazi-occupied Poland.
In New York, cartoonist Art Spiegelman tries to fix his fractured relationship with his father, Vladek, by drawing on a book-length comic according to Vladek’s rough experiences.
In Poland, Vladek and his wife, Anja, suffered forced relocation into the Sosnowiec Ghetto, the departure of the first son, Richieu, and imprisonment at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Hailed by The Wall Street Journal as “the most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust,” Maus raised the critical reputation of comics and inspired countless artists, such as Chris Ware, Alison Bechdel Marjane Satrapi.
Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis by Ian Kershaw
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, in 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 is 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 along with also a very chronic case of donkey breath. And he convinced a state that 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.
Each of the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Anthony Doerr masterfully interweaves the tales of Marie-Laurie, a blind French woman who flees out of Paris into the coastal town of Saint-Malo together with her uncle, and Werner, a German army operator charged with rooting out the French resistance.
While the storyline is intriguing in and of itself, the character development and storytelling will keep you glued to the page.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The book is set during World War II, from 1942 to 1944. It mostly follows the Life Span of Captain John Yossarian, a U.S. Army Air Forces B-25 bombardier. The majority of the book’s events happen while the literary 256th Squadron relies on the island of Pianosa, at the Mediterranean Sea, west of Italy.
This is one of the best WWII fiction books for reading, it looks at the adventures of Yossarian and another airman from the camp that tries to keep their sanity while fulfilling their support requirements so they might return home.
Bloody Okinawa: The Last Great Battle of World War ll by Joseph Wheelan
Wheelan creates the typical case the sheer scope of the violence helped convince the American army an island-by-island invasion of Japan would be unacceptably expensive – paving the way for using nuclear bombs.
Nevertheless, the chief advantage of “Bloody Okinawa” is that Wheelan’s ability humanizes his epic narrative, telling dozens of stories from many different faces of this battle.
No roundup of all World War II books is complete without the addition of one particular private narrative: the lifetime of this guy who began it all. Hitler has become the subject of countless scholarly and popular biographies, including the bestselling and much-recommended two-volume biography by Ian Kershaw.
After consulting a vast sweep of primary records, German historian Volker Ullrich has selected to shoot Kershaw’s approach, initially with “Hitler: Ascent, 1889‑1939” at 2017 and today with his large concluding volume, “Hitler: Downfall, 1939-1945,” that was interpreted by Jefferson Chase.
Ullrich’s first volume was a spellbinding psychological analysis of its principal character; “Ascent” was a marvelously claustrophobic play of a damaged young man slowly warping to a monster.
A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary by Marta Hillers
For eight months in 1945, as Berlin fell to the Russian army, a young girl kept a daily life record in her apartment building and one of its occupants. The anonymous writer depicts her fellow Berliners in all their humanity, in addition to their cravenness, corrupted first by desire and by the Russians.
A Woman in Berlin informs of the intricate connection between civilians and an occupying military and the shameful indignities to which women in a conquered city are always subject-that the mass rape suffered from all, irrespective of age infirmity.
The Rise of Germany by James Holland
In this ” richly researched and beautifully composed” job (Guardian), Holland examines Germany’s rise to power and the first years of World War II. Starting with the outbreak of war in 1939 and end on the eve of Operation Barbarossa, the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.
The author weaves together long-lost memoirs freshly-released official documents together with his research to produce a romantic, multi-layered history of their early years of WWII.
Germany’s growth is the earliest in Holland’s planned trilogy; the next entry in the trilogy, The Fight Back 1941-43, was released in 2015.
Atonement by Ian Mcewan
On a hot summer afternoon in 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives-together with her precocious literary gifts-brings about a crime that will change all of their lives.
Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 by Anthony Beevor
With over a million casualties, the five-month siege of Stalingrad was the bloodiest conflict of World War II, along with a critical turning point in the battle for Europe. Antony Beevor, a former British Army officer, brightly balances this battle’s massive scale using a soldier ‘s-eye view of a few of the most dreadful conditions from the history of modern war.
He starts with Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union, plagued with poor weather, long distribution lines, and challenging terrain. He examines how the Luftwaffe’s carpet bombing of Stalingrad helped create the treacherous, rubble-strewn states that enabled Soviet snipers to wage a grisly war of attrition.
Many captivating, Atkinson portrays Stalingrad because of the terrifying results of totalitarianism: Hitler lived in a dream world and refused to hear German officers that tried to rescue the Sixth Army from absolute devastation, although Stalin’s requirements for complete obeisance caused the executions of 13,500 Red Army soldiers.
The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich (1985)
War is rarely told from a female’s standpoint. And a million girls battled for the Red Army during the Second World War. The Unwomanly Face of War tells their tails in their own words. Snipers, pilots, gunners, moms, and grandparents: Alexievich talked to countless former female fighters within decades in the 1970s and 1980s.
After decades of this war being recalled guys writing about guys, she aimed to provide a voice into an aging generation of girls who had been disregarded as storytellers and veterans, shattering the idea that warfare needs to be an unwomanly’ affair.
From the writer’s words, Women’s warfare has its colors, its smells, its lighting, and its range of feelings. It’s very own words. There are not any heroes and amazing feats, there are just people that are busy performing inhuman things.
It’s a challenging read, mainly as it’s tough to consume in one thing inhumanly challenging to consider any publication that feels more significant, original, and immersive. It was also one portion of a working body that earned its author a Nobel Prize in 2015.
Stalingrad by Antony Beevor (1998)
Many dreadful battles were fought during the Second World War, but none came close to Stalingrad’s brutal four-month German-Soviet conflict. 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 megalomania, the depravity, 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 an impressive diorama of a few of the most brutal battlefields ever, among wholesale departure, indignity, and squander.
Blitzkrieg to Desert Storm by Robert M. Citino
“Starting with Germany’s blitzkrieg invasion of France in 1940, many military commanders have sought to emulate this immediate success through maneuvers of armored vehicles and motorized troops.
Citino describes multiple instances… to love modern operational warfare and assesses the various roles of firepower, training, philosophy, and command and control mechanisms. He demonstrates technical excellence isn’t a guarantee of success and that comprehension of past campaigns is vital to anybody who wants to grasp, and endure, contemporary warfare.
Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942 by Robert M. Citino
The year 1942 was an essential turning point of World War II, as a bloodied but deadly Wehrmacht was not able to replicate its brilliant victories and enormous territorial gains against progressively capable opponents. … Citino demonstrates that the German Army’s dependence on the war of movement’ and Adolf Hitler’s faulty management of this war gradually sapped military efficacy as the initiative changed to the Allies.
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
What could you do if you noticed your neighbors abruptly disappearing? Along with her elderly sister and older dad, Corrie ten Boom, a quiet old maid understood she needed to behave. Her family joined the Dutch Underground and constructed a secret space to conceal Jews inside, for they had been to pay the best cost.
Corrie ten Boom’s heartrending accounts of her life will inspire you to get faith, faith, and courage regardless of what hurdles you will face.
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.
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 Shanghai’s streets 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’s 1937-grim accounts of Imperial Japan’s horrendous attack of Nanjing’s city.
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
This #1 New York Times bestseller is the most bizarre story of William E. Dodd, the American ambassador to Germany from 1933 to 1937. Dodd, a history professor, wasn’t Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first pick for the project.
He came to Berlin with a minimal appetite for its constant interaction due to a diplomat and small awareness of the risks posed by Germany’s newly-appointed chancellor, Adolf Hitler.
While Dodd fought to locate his location, Martha, his 24-year-old daughter, took to her glamorous new life with verve. Beautiful and sexually adventuresome, her high-profile paramours included Rudolph Diels, the Gestapo leader, and Boris Vinogradov, an attache to the Soviet Embassy who recruited her as a spy.
The part political thriller, part family drama, From the Garden of Beasts brings a new perspective into why it took the planet so long to comprehend the danger of the Third Reich.
The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
Herman Wouk’s boldly dramatic, brilliantly entertaining novel of life-and mutiny-on that a Navy warship in the Pacific theater was instantly embraced, upon its first publication in 1951, as among the earliest serious works of American fiction to grapple with the ethical complexities and the individual consequences of World War II.
During World War II, at the battle fought against Japan, Navajo code talkers were a critical 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.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
January 1946: London is emerging in the shadow of the Second World War, and author Juliet Ashton is searching for her next publication subject. Who could imagine that she’d discover it in a letter by a guy she has never met, a native of this island of Guernsey, who’d come across her name written within a publication by Charles Lamb…
Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman, Robert Chandler
Life and Fate is an epic narrative of a nation told through one household’s destiny, the Shaposhnikovs. Since the battle of Stalingrad looms, Grossman’s characters have to work out their destinies in a world torn apart from ideological tyranny and war.
Finished in 1960 and then confiscated by the KGB, this sweeping panorama of Soviet culture remained unpublished till it had been smuggled in the West in 1980, in which it had been hailed as a masterpiece.
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
Moving back through the 1940s, through air raids, blacked-out streets, illicit liaisons, sexual adventure, to end with its beginning in 1941, The Night Watch is the work of a brilliant and compelling storyteller. Here is the story of four Londoners-three girls and a young guy with a past, drawn with absolute truth and intimacy.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore…we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all stages of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut’s) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.
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, Rick Atkinson 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 US Army’s coming-of-age in the Battle of Hill 609 at Tunisia, An Army at Dawn seamlessly incorporates big-picture military plan with a boots-on-the-ground view.
Atkinson is incredibly informative about the egos battle between the old-school British commanders and their upstart American counterparts.
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