Whole societies, and the people within them, benefit from gaining a more profound comprehension of history. Throughout history, we could discover the past associations, systems, ideologies, governments, cultures, and technology were assembled, how they functioned, and how they’ve changed.
The rich history of the world helps us paint a detailed image of where we reside now. In the Pacific theater into the shore of France, discover the best WW2 books nonfiction.
Best World War II Books Of All Time
Normandy ’44: D-Day and the Epic 77-Day Battle for France
From James Holland
This is regarded as one of the best WW2 historical fiction books for adults. 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, chronicling in fascinating detail the focused preparation that went to the effort and the operational genius that caused a success for the Allied powers.
The result is an engrossing and thoroughly researched new narrative, and a must-read addition to World War II history literature.
From Winston Groom
Revisit America’s entry into the war using this particular account of this year determined the ultimate leadership of World War II. The Pulitzer Prize winning author of Forrest Gump comes with an investigation of these strategies, conflicts, and fateful decision making that identified the turning point of this war. A must read for any WWII history buff.
Auschwitz and the Allies
By Martin Gilbert
Best books on WW2 history
Famous British historian Martin Gilbert was the official biographer of Winston Churchill and composed several crucial books on 20th-century history and the Holocaust such as Never Again: A History of the Holocaust and The Holocaust: The Human Tragedy. In this intensive and catastrophic work, Gilbert examines the action taken (and not taken) from the Allies upon understanding Hitler’s campaign of systematized mass murder.
Read more: Best Holocaust Books of All Time Review 2022
Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization
From Nicholson Baker
In this highly unique and attractive work, novelist Nicholson Baker tells the story of this buildup to the second world war at vignettes. Each brief piece includes a reality or a quote drawn from primary sources such as newspaper articles, radio addresses, private diaries, and government transcripts.
Throughout the continuous accumulation of detail, Baker indicates that Allied leaders weren’t too reluctant to enter into the worldwide battle because most historians claim.
He moves back up to 1920 to quote Winston Churchill about the proposed bombing of civilian targets in Iraq (I’m firmly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes), then skips ahead to the prime minister’s favorite military plan in 1941: “One of our amazing aims is that the delivery on German cities of the greatest possible amount of bombs each night.”
Turning into the American landscape, Baker brings from resources indicating Franklin D. Roosevelt could have intentionally goaded the Japanese to bomb Pearl Harbor so that the US could enter the war.
Some scholars were harsh in their judgment of Individual Smoke. Still, by visiting the critical substance, Baker rescues pacifism as a good idea and reminds readers when army leaders hurry to employ new technologies to war, it’s frequently civilians who suffer the most.
Watch more about World War II
The Miracle of Dunkirk
From Walter Lord
The inspiration behind Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster WWII movie Dunkirk, Walter Lord’s definitive 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 excellent 1940 evacuation of several 338,000 Allied soldiers on the beaches of Dunkirk as Nazi forces shut.
From John Hersey
Originally printed in the August 31, 1946 issue of The New Yorker, this richly and richly celebrated portrait of six survivors of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima caused an immediate impression.
It was the first and only time that the magazine had dedicated a whole issue to one post. Newsstands sold out in hours, and radio stations interrupted their regular programming to broadcast readings of the comprehensive text.
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
From E.B. Sledge
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 2.
Nicknamed Sledgehammer by his comrades, Sledge fought with the 1st Marine Division at the grueling conflicts of Peleliu and Okinawa. 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 his fellow soldiers’ courage, 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 Burn’s documentary The War and helped create the HBO mini series The Pacific.
A Spy at the Heart of the Third Reich
From Lucas Delattre
In this riveting story, Lucas Delattre assesses the true story of Fritz Kolbe, a German bureaucrat and anti Nazi. They risked his entire life threatening Hitler’s regime to grow into one of America’s most precious German spies.
Described by Allied officers since the prize wisdom origin of this warfare yet despised by several post war Germans as a traitor, A Spy at the Heart of the Third Reich provides a definitive chronicle of conscience and subterfuge which plays out just like a John le Carré spy thriller.
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
From William L. 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 invasion of France.
After the war, he brought on his own experiences. A wealth of recent records, such as the diaries of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and General Franz Halder and testimony by the Nuremberg trials, compose this 1,250 page volume.
The publication was a massive commercial success, selling one million hardcover copies and moving via 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 2 to this day.
The Rise of Germany, 1939–1941
From James Holland
In this impeccably researched and superbly written job (Guardian), Holland examines Germany’s rise to power and the first years of World War II.
Beginning 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 and freshly released official documents together with his research to produce a romantic, multi layered background of the first years of WWII.
The growth of Germany is the earliest in Holland’s planned trilogy; the next entry in the trilogy, The Fight Back 1941-43, was released in 2015.
From Richard Tregaskis
On August 7, 1942, Allied forces, mostly US Marines, landed on the islands of Tulagi and Guadalcanal from the southwestern Pacific to battle the encroaching Japanese military. The joint air, land, and sea attack were the 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 the harrowing experiences of these young Marines who left the surgery a success.
Enemy at the Gates
From 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.
Escape from Sobibor
From Richard Rashke
In this proceeding and mad book [that] deserves to be read (The Washington Post), lecturer and writer Richard Rashke delivers a stirring account of the Sobibor uprising. On October 14, 1943, six hundred Jewish inmates in a critical Nazi concentration camp in eastern Poland revolted against their captors.
They murdered some twelve SS officers, overpowered camp guards, tore through perimeter fencing, and stumbled upon an open mine area toward the surrounding forests.
Unbelievably, approximately 300 immunity fighters made it to the woods, half of whom survived the war. According to interviews with half of these survivors, Escape from Sobibor is a tribute to both the courage and conclusion in the face of abject cruelty.
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.
From 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: 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 in 1937a grim accounts of Imperial Japan’s horrendous attack of the city of Nanjing.
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, suffer a forced move to 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, and Marjane Satrapi.
The Longest Day
By Cornelius Ryan
According to interviews with over 1,100 D-Day survivors, The Longest Day is the authoritative account of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
Ryan experienced the conflict first hand as a 24-year-old reporter for the Daily Telegraph. After the bomber he was flying was struck and had to return to England, he jumped right into a patrol ship and returned to cover the fighting on the French shores.
Fifteen decades after, Ryan set out to tell what really occurred, rather than that which generals or others believed occurred. The result is a masterpiece of military history packaged with novelistic details, by the US paratrooper who won $2,500 in cards to the eve of the struggle but intentionally lost it to not run out of fortune to Field Marshal Rommel’s motive to be 600 miles off as soon as the invasion started he had been bringing his wife for her birthday gift.
An Army at Dawn
From 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 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 very insightful about the battle of egos between the old-school British commanders and their upstart American counterparts.
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 attach 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.
Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943
From Anthony Beevor
The five-month siege of Stalingrad was one of World War II’s bloodiest conflicts and also a turning point in the battle for Europe. Antony Beevor, a former British Army officer, brightly balances the massive scale of this battle with a soldier’s eye view of several of the most dreadful conditions from the history of modern war.
He begins with Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union, plagued with poor weather, long distribution lines, and rugged 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 horrible 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.
Big Week: The Biggest Air Battle of World War II
From James Holland
In February 1944, Allied air forces launched a vast aerial attack to decimate the Nazi war machine and destabilize Luftwaffe’s 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 had a seismic effect on the course of this war.
In these expertly written accounts, Holland traces the most famous air battle of World War II, 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.
The Book Thief (2005)
by Markus Zusak
Markus Zusak’s book is unusual since it has Death because of its narrator. Place in Germany; Death tells the story of Liesel Memminger, who’s sent to live with foster parents around Munich. Throughout her friendships with Max Vandenberg, concealed in the cellar, Ilsa Herman, the mayor’s wife, Liesel learns to see and becomes the book burglar’ of the name.
Since the terror and devastation of war come nearer to home, Liesel begins to compose and read. The book was adapted as a movie in 2013, starring Geoffrey Rush, Emma Watson, and Sophie Nélisse. The Book Thief has been compared as a fictitious read alike of Anne Frank’s diary.
A Man Without Breath (Bernie Gunther #9)
by Philip Kerr
The NKVD, Josef Stalin’s secret police, killed around 22,000 Poles in 1940. Half of the Polish officer corps, police officers, government leaders, monarchy, and prominent members of Poland’s civilian population were casualties.
More than 4,000 were buried in the Katyn Forest, a forested region in Smolensk, west of Moscow, near the Belarus border. The enlightening book by Philip Kerr is based on a multinational inquiry that began in 1943.
From 1939 through 1945, the Wehrmacht had a War Crimes Bureau, which may seem unlikely. This organization’s stated goal was to unearth war crimes done not just by the Allies but also by Nazi Germany. Of course, documents of the bureau’s investigations into mass murder by the Wehrmacht (or, far more often, the SS) did not survive the war.
Those who exposed the Allies’ crimes did survive. Still, the majority were classified and kept concealed by the US government until 1975, when they were finally handed over to West German authorities.
Girl in the Blue Coat
by Monica Hesse
Girl in the Blue Coat is one of the World War 2 novels on my TBR list. Girl in the Blue Coat is set in 1943 in the Netherlands and won numerous awards, including the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery.
Hanneke is a black market dealer that collects and sells items. When a customer asks her to locate a Jewish kid on the run, she is dragged into WWII. After a perilous mission, she joins the Resistance and learns more about war’s horrors.
Island Infernos: The US Army’s Pacific War Odyssey, 1944
by John C McManus
During the long, stressful years of the Cold War, there were so many spy novels and films based on the competition between East and West that the genre devolved into self-parody, finally giving rise to bawdy satires. The general audience, it seems, had long ago given up on espionage books.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
I liked listening to the audiobook and seeing The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society on Netflix since it is one of the greatest World War 2 stories for shy romance enthusiasts.
Juliet is seeking fresh ideas for her next novel now that WWII ended in 1946.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, born out of an alibi for breaking curfew during the war, is still alive and well, piqueing Juliet’s curiosity.
Juliet travels to Guernsey to meet its eccentric residents and becomes a part of their family, assisting in caring for a war orphaned youngster and falling in love.
All The Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr
Literary honors aren’t always a good indicator of what you’ll like reading. The winners of the Man Booker Prize in the United Kingdom, for example, strike me as a mixed bag at best. A work that wins a Pulitzer Prize and is a National Book Award finalist, on the other hand, deserves more than a cursory glance.
That is definitely the case with All the Light We Cannot See, a Pulitzer Prize winning historical fiction that has spent a long time at or near the top of national best seller charts.
Two teens are caught up in World War II’s excitement and fatal hazards in this gripping novel: a German lad who is incredibly gifted with all things electrical and a blind French girl who reads Jules Verne. In the book’s startling denouement, author Anthony Doerr examines their lives parallel, leading them inexorably toward a tragic junction.
The Best Of Our Spies (Spies #1) (2012)
by Alex Gerlis
Several good nonfiction books on British Intelligence’s accomplishments in World War II have been produced, some by the practitioners themselves. Ben McIntyre’s Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies stands out among recent instances.
The XX Committee, also known as the Twenty Committee or the Double Cross Committee, was a high level British government committee tasked with organizing a variety of covert operations to confuse the Germans about the site of the Normandy Invasion.
Their mission, code named Operation Fortitude and kept top secret for decades, was a huge success. It may have made all the difference in whether the crucial assault succeeded or failed.
by Robert Harris
A Gripping Alternate History Novel About The World After A Nazi Victory
The month was April of 1964. The 75th birthday of Adolf Hitler is coming up in a week, and Germans around the country are gearing up for a major celebration. To add to the delight of the crowds, US President John F. Kennedy will arrive to broker a detente with the Third Reich.
Officials in the Nazi party thought that this would relieve strain on the Eastern Front, where German forces were still fighting a brutal war against Soviet partisans who had been supported and armed by the United States.
To Hell And Back
by Audie Murphy
Audie Murphy was one of World War II’s most decorated troops, receiving almost every award imaginable, including the Congressional Medal of Honor. When I got to the portion of his book when he described the deeds that won him the Medal of Honor, he made it seem like no big thing.
For more than an hour, he fought off an entire company of German soldiers on his own. However, he just did what needed to be done. That is what a great hero embodies. Surprisingly, Audie Murphy went on to become a cinematic sensation after WWII, even acting in the film version of his memoirs.
On The Horizon
by Lois Lowry
Did you know that The Giver’s author also created one of the finest WW2 children’s books? Lowry’s family detects something on the beach in the backdrop while viewing childhood movies.
The USS Arizona is in the ocean, the ship attacked and sunk by Japanese aircraft at Pearl Harbor.
On The Horizon is divided into two parts: the attack on Pearl Harbor and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
by J’nell Ciesielski
Don’t miss The Socialite, one of the latest 2020 novels about WW2 full of romance and will take readers to France.
Barrett Anderson finds himself in a pickle when two English debutantes arrive in Nazi occupied Paris. Barrett has offered to pay Ellie and Kat’s father to look after his difficult girls.
Barrett is compelled to join the French Resistance under the cover of a Scottish bartender at the same time.
Meanwhile, Kat is attempting to rescue her wayward sister, Ellie, who has taken up with a vicious Nazi soldier as his mistress. Kat and Barrett’s life are in significant danger as they begin working together while falling in love.
Artist, Soldier, Lover, Muse
by Arthur Hittner
Artist, Soldier, Lover, Muse, by independent author Arthur Hittner, is a lesser known WW2 historical fiction story that will appeal to fans of The Art Forger.
Fall into the NYC social scene of the 1930s and 1940s, largely based on artist Harold J. Rabinovitz (1915-1944) and renowned baseball players and artists.
One of my favorite WW2 indie romance novels is Artist, Solider…
While this book is set during WWII and the Great Depression, readers will find it to be more of a love tale set in the realm of art.
by Laura Hillenbrand
Unbroken, adapted into two films, is one of the most well known nonfiction WWII books. Louis Zamperini, a former Berlin Olympics athlete, joins the Air Force, unaware of the destiny that awaits him.
His plane crashes over the Pacific Ocean in May 1943, leaving him stranded at sea and stranded on a perilous raft. Watch how Zamperini perseveres through adversity after adversity.
The Caine Mutiny
by Herman Wouk
I’ve picked Herman Wouk’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel to finish off the fiction segment of my top 10 World War II novels. The Caine Mutiny, written barely six years after the end of the war, is rich in detail that few contemporary writers can match.
The novel is mostly based largely on the author’s own wartime experiences. The narrative depicts life on board the USS Caine and the moral difficulties of wartime decisions, particularly the difficult decisions that a captain must make at sea.
Other Best World War 2 Books Considered:
- The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
- Spies Of The Balkans (Night Soldiers #11) By Alan Furst
Why is it important to study WWII?
The main reason students should learn about conflicts like World War II is so they may understand the horrors and consequences of war and how our nation and society should strive to prevent conflicts in the future.
What lessons did WW2 teach us?
Two paradoxical conclusions came from the war: democracies must be prepared to fend against aggression, and war should be avoided at all costs. Most western European nations, including Germany, were prompted by the second lesson to rearm and join the Atlantic alliance.
How did World War 2 influence literature?
For a long time, authors have used battle experiences to explore topics like race, authority, democracy, and human conduct under pressure. American military writing developed during and after World War II partly because it tackled these and related problems with a level of honesty and realism that was previously unheard of.
In conclusion, the best WWII books provide an accurate and impartial account of the events of the war. Many excellent works of historical fiction deal with the subject. Still, the most valuable books for understanding the war are based on primary source material and eyewitness accounts. Thank you for reading!
Last update on 2022-09-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API