As a fan of historical fiction, I have a soft spot towards World War 2 related books, both fiction and non fiction. Quite recently, I had a wonderful discussion about a World War 2 fiction book on Twitter and I ended up with a truck load of great recommendations on the topic.
20+ Amazing Books on World War 2
Here are some of the books on WW2 recommended to me from readers, far and near, on Twitter.
1. The Winds of War and its sequel War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk
Like no other masterpiece of historical fiction, Herman Wouk’s sweeping epic of World War II is the great novel of America’s Greatest Generation.
Wouk’s spellbinding narrative captures the tide of global events, as well as all the drama, romance, heroism, and tragedy of World War II, as it immerses us in the lives of a single American family drawn into the very center of the war’s maelstrom.
The Winds of War and its sequel War and Remembrance stand as the crowning achievement of one of America’s most celebrated storytellers.
2. The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku
Eddie Jaku always considered himself a German first, a Jew second. He was proud of his country. But all of that changed in November 1938, when he was beaten, arrested and taken to a concentration camp.
Over the next seven years, Eddie faced unimaginable horrors every day, first in Buchenwald, then in Auschwitz, then on a Nazi death march. He lost family, friends, his country.
Because he survived, Eddie made the vow to smile every day. He pays tribute to those who were lost by telling his story, sharing his wisdom and living his best possible life. He now believes he is the ‘happiest man on earth’.
Published as Eddie turns 100, this is a powerful, heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful memoir of how happiness can be found even in the darkest of times.
3. I Have Lived a Thousand Years by Livia Bitton-Jackson
What is death all about? What is life all about?
So wonders thirteen-year-old- Elli Friedmann, just one of the many innocent Holocaust victims, as she fights for her life in a concentration camp. It wasn’t long ago that Elli led a normal life; a life rich and full that included family, friends, school, and thoughts about boys. A life in which Elli could lie and daydream for hours that she was a beautiful and elegant celebrated poet.
But these adolescent daydreams quickly darken in March 1944, when the Nazis invade Hungary. First Elli can no longer attend school, have possessions, or talk to her neighbors. Then she and her family are forced to leave their house behind to move into a crowded ghetto, where privacy becomes a luxury of the past and food becomes a scarcity. Her strong will and faith allow Elli to manage and adjust somehow, but what Elli doesn’t know is that this is only the beginning and the worst is yet to come….
A remarkable memoir. I Have Lived a Thousand Years is a story of cruelty and suffering, but at the same time a story of hope, faith, perseverance and love.
4. The Black Swan of Paris by Karen Robards
A world at war. A beautiful young star. A mission no one expected.
Celebrated singer Genevieve Dumont is both a star and a smokescreen. An unwilling darling of the Nazis, the chanteuse’s position of privilege allows her to go undetected as an ally to the resistance.
When her estranged mother, Lillian de Rocheford, is captured by Nazis, Genevieve knows it won’t be long before the Gestapo succeeds in torturing information out of Lillian that will derail the upcoming allied invasion. The resistance movement is tasked with silencing her by any means necessary—including assassination.
But Genevieve refuses to let her mother become yet one more victim of the war. Reuniting with her long-lost sister, she must find a way to navigate the perilous cross-currents of Occupied France undetected—and in time to save Lillian’s life.
5. Night by Elie Wiesel
Born in the town of Sighet, Transylvania, Elie Wiesel was a teenager when he and his family were taken from their home in 1944 to Auschwitz concentration camp, and then to Buchenwald. Night is the terrifying record of Elie Wiesel’s memories of the death of his family, the death of his own innocence, and his despair as a deeply observant Jew confronting the absolute evil of man.
This new translation by his wife and most frequent translator, Marion Wiesel, corrects important details and presents the most accurate rendering in English of Elie Wiesel’s testimony to what happened in the camps and of his unforgettable message that this horror must simply never be allowed to happen again.
6. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.
By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.
In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.
7. The Girl in the Red Coat by Roma Ligocka, Iris Von Finckenstein
As a child in German-occupied Poland, Roma Ligocka was known for the bright strawberry-red coat she wore against a tide of gathering darkness. Fifty years later, Roma, an artist living in Germany, attended a screening of Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, and instantly knew that “the girl in the red coat”—the only splash of color in the film—was her. Thus began a harrowing journey into the past, as Roma Ligocka sought to reclaim her life and put together the pieces of a shattered childhood.
The result is this remarkable memoir, a fifty-year chronicle of survival and its aftermath. With brutal honesty, Ligocka recollects a childhood at the heart of evil: the flashing black boots, the sudden executions, her mother weeping, her father vanished…then her own harrowing escape and the strange twists of fate that allowed her to live on into the haunted years after the war.
Powerful, lyrical, and unique among Holocaust memoirs, The Girl in the Red Coat eloquently explores the power of evil to twist our lives long after we have survived it. It is a story for anyone who has ever known the darkness of an unbearable past—and searched for the courage to move forward into the light.
8. Code Name: Lise by Larry Loftis
The true story of the woman who became WWII’s most highly decorated spy
The year is 1942, and World War II is in full swing. Odette Sansom decides to follow in her war hero father’s footsteps by becoming an SOE agent to aid Britain and her beloved homeland, France. Five failed attempts and one plane crash later, she finally lands in occupied France to begin her mission. It is here that she meets her commanding officer Captain Peter Churchill.
As they successfully complete mission after mission, Peter and Odette fall in love. All the while, they are being hunted by the cunning German secret police sergeant, Hugo Bleicher, who finally succeeds in capturing them. They are sent to Paris’s Fresnes prison, and from there to concentration camps in Germany where they are starved, beaten, and tortured. But in the face of despair, they never give up hope, their love for each other, or the whereabouts of their colleagues.
In Code Name: Lise, Larry Loftis paints a portrait of true courage, patriotism, and love—of two incredibly heroic people who endured unimaginable horrors and degradations. He seamlessly weaves together the touching romance between Odette and Peter and the thrilling cat and mouse game between them and Sergeant Bleicher.
9. Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone
In 1916, at the height of World War I, brilliant Shakespeare expert Elizebeth Smith went to work for an eccentric tycoon on his estate outside Chicago. The tycoon had close ties to the U.S. government, and he soon asked Elizebeth to apply her language skills to an exciting new venture: code-breaking. There she met the man who would become her husband, groundbreaking cryptologist William Friedman.
In The Woman Who Smashed Codes, Jason Fagone chronicles the life of Elizebeth Smith who played an integral role in our nation’s history for forty years. After World War I, Smith used her talents to catch gangsters and smugglers during Prohibition, then accepted a covert mission to discover and expose Nazi spy rings that were spreading like wildfire across South America, advancing ever closer to the United States.
As World War II raged, Elizebeth fought a highly classified battle of wits against Hitler’s Reich, cracking multiple versions of the Enigma machine used by German spies. Meanwhile, inside an Army vault in Washington, William worked furiously to break Purple, the Japanese version of Enigma–and eventually succeeded, at a terrible cost to his personal life.
Fagone unveils America’s code-breaking history through the prism of Smith’s life, bringing into focus the unforgettable events and colorful personalities that would help shape modern intelligence
10. A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell
In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.”
This spy was Virginia Hall, a young American woman–rejected from the foreign service because of her gender and her prosthetic leg–who talked her way into the spy organization deemed Churchill’s “ministry of ungentlemanly warfare,” and, before the United States had even entered the war, became the first woman to deploy to occupied France.
Virginia Hall was one of the greatest spies in American history, yet her story remains untold. Just as she did in Clementine, Sonia Purnell uncovers the captivating story of a powerful, influential, yet shockingly overlooked heroine of the Second World War. At a time when sending female secret agents into enemy territory was still strictly forbidden, Virginia Hall came to be known as the “Madonna of the Resistance,” coordinating a network of spies to blow up bridges, report on German troop movements, arrange equipment drops for Resistance agents, and recruit and train guerilla fighters.
Even as her face covered WANTED posters throughout Europe, Virginia refused order after order to evacuate. She finally escaped with her life in a grueling hike over the Pyrenees into Spain, her cover blown, and her associates all imprisoned or executed. But, adamant that she had “more lives to save,” she dove back in as soon as she could, organizing forces to sabotage enemy lines and back up Allied forces landing on Normandy beaches.
Told with Purnell’s signature insight and novelistic flare, A Woman of No Importance is the breathtaking story of how one woman’s fierce persistence helped win the war.
More books on World war 2
- The Execution of Private Slovik by William Bradford Huie
- If This Is A Man by Primo Levi
- From Broken Glass by Steve Ross, Glenn Frank, Brian Wallace
- Children of the Flames by Lucette Matalon Lagnado, Sheila Cohn Dekel
- The Hidden Children by Jane Marks
- The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Hahn Beer
- Four Perfect Pebbles by Lila Perl, Marion Blumenthal Lazan
- Steal a Pencil for Me by Jaap Polak
Here are some books that Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, Head of research center, Auschwitz Museum recommended on the topic.
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Which of these books on World war 2 have you read and loved? Do you have a favorite WW2 fiction/non fiction? Let us chat.