Best World War 2 Books
The Greatest Books Ever Written About The Second World War
These books include biographies as well as bird’seye and memoir views.
To call the Second World War merely a war is almost a misnomer; it was never just one war, but so many wars in one. Certainly, it was far too big, too vast and varied, to remember as a single event. It is evident by the sheer number of books that have been written about it.
No war in history – rivalled only by the one that ended 20 years earlier – has inspired more literature. WWII is the subject of endless literature. It has been analyzed, discussed, interpreted, and again reinterpreted. Which can make knowing what to read on the matter a little daunting. Books need to be chosen like a sniper picks her targets.
Mercifully, our scope is limitless.
Ian Kershaw (1991). Reading this book is like going shotgun through an insane mind. A mind so dark, twisted and frighteningly sad that it must be guided. Ian Kershaw knows the route and has been there many times.
The Winds Of War (World War Ii #1 Of 2) By Herman Wouk (1971), 898 pages
It is possible to imagine telling the story of World War II from the perspective of one family. After all, the war engaged more than 100 million people from 30 countries in a conflict that raged for years on three continents. Yet half a century ago a remarkable author named Herman Wouk set out to do exactly that for American readers. In two volumes totaling 2,300 pages, Wouk follows US Navy Captain Victor Henry, his wife, his two sons, the women they marry, his young daughter, and a handful of other characters as they are tossed about by “the winds of war.” The 900-page story by that name encompasses the years 1939 through 1941. And it’s followed by another 1,400 pages in a companion volume spanning the remaining years of the war. These classic World War II novels remain a compelling read fifty years after their publication.
Two teenage girls are caught in World War II’s frenzy, the fatal dangers and the madness: One is from Germany and one is blind and can read Jules Verne. Anthony Doerr, author explores their parallel lives and moves them toward an unexpected climax.
Two of the most fascinating inventions of World War II figure prominently in Eye of the Needle. The XX Committee – or Twenty Committee, sometimes referred to as the Double-Cross Committee – is one of the most fascinating inventions of World War II. Another was not true: The fictional First United States Army Group, led by General George S. Patton FUSAG. Together, these two elements constituted what may well have been the most elaborate deception ever deployed in war.
Spies on the Balkans explores Costa Zannis’ world as a Salonika Police Officer in 1940-41 while Hitler’s war machine turns south toward Greece. Zannis, the successor to the police commissioner becomes embroiled in the Balkans’ characteristically Byzantine political affairs while also juggling two love affairs. Story features include an anti-German military coup in Yugoslavia and an “underground train” for Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. This is a riveting tale.
The historical event that allowed the Normandy Landing to be possible was so detailed and rich in possibilities, it has inspired many spy fiction novels. The Best of Our Spies is Alex Gerlis’s most enjoyable novel. Gerlis has created an engaging and compelling tale that captures Operation Fortitude from a historical perspective, using real-life characters, locations, and other facts.
Amazon.com’s search for French Resistance turned up 11485 titles. That may be an undercounting of the amount of literature that has been written on the subject, which was one of 20th Century History’s most popular topics. If you’ve read anything about World War II, chances are that you have come across something on the French Resistance. Modern writers need courage and a great deal of skill to be able to tackle such a complex topic. Kristin Hann has succeeded in doing just that with her novel The Nightingale.
Any list of the best espionage novels of all times must include Jack Higgins’ World War II caper story, The Eagle Has Landed. This bestseller of the genre, published in 1975 has been translated into more than 50 millions copies. Liam Devlin (a fast-talking agent from the Irish Republican Army), is introduced in this novel. He later appears in three Higgins thrillers. While it is nominally about espionage the story centers on an imaginary plot perpetrated by Nazi military intelligence organization, Abwehr. In 1943. This makes the novel more of a thriller. It’s action-packed from beginning to end.
You’ve probably been following my reviews for a while and know that I am fascinated by the World War II period. Perhaps it’s because I was born in that period six months before the USA entered World War II. Maybe it is because all of this happened before the disillusionment after the war, when it became clear that the line between good or evil was blurred.
This post was modified on November 17, 2020.
Along with the World War II novels, which I review here as both mystery and trade fictions, I also have a lot of nonfiction about the years before and after the war. Below are two dozen of my favorites from recent years. They cover everything from economic policy in the Depression and the rise of Nazi Germany to the role of business and the conduct of the war itself. All together, they provide a significant dose of insight about what later historians might well conclude was the most significant period in the history of the world.
As it should be obvious, this list isn’t comprehensive. No doubt hundreds of thousands of books have been written about the World War II era. The ten top books and the many runners-up simply represent where my taste and my instincts have taken me in recent years. This alphabetical list is based on the names of authors within the books (the top 10 and other books about World War II). You can find my review for each book linked below.
Some other top-rated nonfiction books about World War Ii
The Day of Battle, The War in Sicily, Italy 1943-1944 by Rick Atkinson The Guns at Last Light, The War in Western Europe 1944-1945 by Rick Atkinson The trilogy by Pulitzer Prize winning military historian Rick Atkinson about the Allied conduct of World War II can sometimes be referred to by some as the most concise historical treatment of this subject. The book An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa from 1942 to 1943, was my first. It was before 2010 that I started reviewing books here. I remember it with admiration. The three books can be accessed and are written with an appreciation of not only the efforts of generals and admirals, but also of those who served as enlisted soldiers and bore the brunt.
History of World War II tends to give an impression of a relatively straightforward conflict. The stories they recount are straight from one event to another, regardless of whether it is about battles (Stalingrad Normandy), Midway, and Stalingrad) Of course, human affairs are never so simple. Human history doesn’t move in straight lines. Only recently, however, has the world seen how complicated and convoluted war really been. Hitler’s Spy Chief, Richard Bassett’s biography of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris , director of the Abwehr, makes that abundantly clear. It is clear that there remains a dark secret about World War II’s history.
A headline in a New York Times obituary recently caught my eye. According to the headline, Gilbert Seltzer was killed in a secret operation that tricked Germans. As I read the extraordinary story of Lieutenant Seltzer’s World War II adventures, I found an obituary for a top-secret book detailing the unit in which Seltzer served. This led me to The Ghost Army of World War II (Rick Beyer and Elizabeth Sayles). They tell a remarkable story of deceit that is vividly illustrated. This is also incredibly entertaining.
We have been treated to thrilling stories of spy and saboteurs during World War II. It is rare that they can match in fiction, however, the sheer audacity and deceit of the Nazi plot in real life to kill FDR (and Churchill) in Tehran in November 1943. This story could not be imagined by a novelist and it is unlikely that anyone would believe it. Howard Blum’s book Night of the Assassins is a well-researched thriller.
The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea by Walter R. Borneman They were children of the Victorian Era. Annapolis graduates around the turn of the twentieth century. Junior officers in World War I, captains by 1927. They gained their first admiral’s stars by the 1930s, and all four were near or past retirement age when war broke out. They rose to leadership at the top of the war, and were instrumental in the Allied victory. As their talent became evident one after another, each of them received a five star and were the first admirals with five stars in American history. Walter Borneman tells these stories with great passion in The Admirals.
Ian Buruma Bard College professor Ian Buruma highlights key events of 1945 including the surrender of Germany (and Japan), the opening of Germany’s concentration camps and bombing of Hiroshima/Nagasaki, as well the establishment of the United Nations. The Yalta Conference laid the basis for the Cold War. Buruma covers a lot of social history topics, including “fraternization” between local troops and women and conditions for millions of people who were held captive (sometimes for many years) in camps called “displaced persons”. He also discusses the bitter, often violent struggle between the partisans fighting against Germany and those who often joined the enemy.
3. Enemy at The Gates: Battle For Stalingrad – William Craig
Enemy At The Gates The Battle For Stalingrad. Maybe you have seen Enemy At The Gates. However, there is an actual book that explains the story behind it. The siege of Stalingrad from 1942-1943 was one of the most horrific episodes of World War 2, and this book is an unflinching account of that time.
The best books on World War 2 don’t glorify horrors and Enemy At The Gates is one of them. It follows the lives of people on both sides, Russian and German, and is unflinching in detailing a dying city.
4. Forgotten: D-Day’s Black Heroes at Home and At War – Linda Hervieux. Forgotten: D-Day’s Black Heroes at Home and War The history books have been subject to a lot of misinformation in recent years. This is especially true when you consider the fact that both the First and Second World Wars were fought exclusively by white Europeans or Americans. Forgotten, which is a seminal book, focuses on a specific group of soldiers – the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, a unit of only black African Americans.
Linda Hervieux uses interviews and military records to reveal the story of their unit. Linda Hervieux also includes information from the Civil Rights Movement. It is essential to include volumes like these in a list listing the top World War 2 books.
World Travelers’ 50 Favorite Books On Ww2
Do you want books on WW2 from all over the globe? Discover the best WW2 books in nonfiction, fiction, YA, and historical fiction Does anyone else love WWII historical fiction as much as I do? My teacher Ruta Sepetys and I enter a state of trance, where we learn more about the hidden histories.
In my heart, community-oriented WW2 books like The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Society as well as The Book Of Lost Names are deeply embedded. These brave, sweet individuals are my friends too.
There are also classic WW2 stories like Catch-22 and popular WW2 fiction such as The Storyteller (The Nightingale), The Book Thief and All The Light We Cannot see.
Why do I obsess over WWII books? Travelers and readers must be able to understand the country’s wartime role, in order for them to comprehend its true history.
Which everyday people were affected by these changes? What values thrived? Whose hearts did not break? Can love and humanity persevere and survive?
I love stories of selfless bravery and courage, especially when women take over. I’m not going to lie, either, I also enjoy World War 2 romance as well as WWII books based on true stories.
Although there are many books that must be read about WW2, the following list contains some of my favorite books. I am not able to finish all the World War 2 books I own.
Keep this Ww2 Reading list for later
Does your TBR pile seem overflowing already? You can pin these WW2 books for later use on Pinterest, so that you will always have a book to enjoy.
Marie-Laure is blind since the age six. All The Light We Cannot Read was a National Book Finalist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Her dad builds a replica of their city so that she can find her way around. They are both forced to flee Paris to find shelter with an uncle when Nazis invade.
Werner, an elderly orphan in a German small town, joins Hitler’s Youth to learn his talents. Werner meets Marie-Laure while on an assignment to destroy the Resistance.
All The Light we Cannot See, a story of friendship and war that is unlikely and a story with a hidden gem. It’s a tragic and beautiful story about survival and opposing views.
More Books Set In and About France Atonement By Ian McEwan. My freshman year in college required that we read the Atonement, a World War 2 novel. Briony watches her older sister Cecilia and Robbie have a friendly fight in 1935. Her young imagination reimagines the incident. Both Robbie and Cecilia have romantic feelings for each other but all Briony can see is ill intent.
Robbie’s ineligibility for rape was caused by jealousy and prejudices. His sentence is completed when he enlists for war.
Briony finally realizes that she has to atone for all her lies. Robbie, Cecilia and others are now victims of the war. Atonement, a classic book about WW2, is also available as a film.
Additional Fiction Books on Ww2
Lynn Austin’s If I Were You – A collection of Christian fiction about WW2 If I Were You tells the story of friendship, love and deceit. Eve and Audrey have a complicated friendship. Audrey learns that Eve has been impersonating her. Flashback to the 1940s when Eve and Audrey unite in London under the Nazi invasion. Both women join the fight as ambulance drivers. What is the secret to their success in 1952?
Martha Hall Kelly: Lilac Girls. Three stories about women collide when Kasia is sent into a Nazi concentration center for women. From New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland, re-examine history through the lives of these women.
Kate Quinn, The Alice Network: Eve Gardiner, a female spy is recruited to join the Alice Network in France, during World War I. Charlie St. Clair hopes to locate her Nazi-occupied French cousin thirty years later. The women collide in London, searching for answers.
David Benioff’s City of Thieves – Lev Beniov, a Nazi occupying Leningrad, is taken into custody and placed in prison with Kolya. They may be able to escape with their lives if Lev and Kolya manage to get a dozen eggs in exchange for the wedding cake of a Soviet girl.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society – Books about WW2 and Romance by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows A great book for romantics and shy lovers of romance, and one that I enjoy listening to and viewing on Netflix.
Juliet, who has just celebrated the end of WWII in 1946 is now looking for inspiration to write her next novel. Birthed out of an alibi for breaking curfew during the war, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is still alive, capturing Juliet’s interest.
Juliet is sent to Guernsey by its eccentric members to make friends and become one with their family. Together, they help raise an abandoned child from war, and fall in love.
What is The Best History Of World War 2
- Hitler 1936-1945. Nemesis: Ian Kershaw (1991).
- Andrew Roberts (2018): Churchill, Walking with Destiny
- Primo Levi, If This is a Man (1947).
- The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich (1985)
- Dresden: The Fire and the Darkness with Sinclair McKay, 2020
Is it possible to count the number of books written on World War II?
American Heritage History of World War II: Steven E. Ambrose, C. L. Sulzberger (1996), 640 pages. Amazon has more than 70k titles about World War II-history’s worst catastrophe.
Book on World War 2: What Did It Take to Start?
The Origins of the Second World War is a non-fiction book by the English historian A. J. P. Taylor, examining the causes of World War II. Hamish Hamilton was the first to publish it.
What are the Best World War 2 Books?
REAL VALUE OF WORLD WAR II RATION BOOK IS PERSONAL NOT MONETARY. … It was patriotic to not use all one’s ration stamps. These laws allowed for the use of more goods by the Armed Forces. Partially ration books are $2 to $4, while complete books can be purchased for $4-8. Sep 24, 2000
.Best World War 2 Books