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.
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.
With the New Year just around the corner, it is time to pull out your planners for tracking your TBRs and reading challenges for 2021. Here are some bullet journals spread ideas for book lovers to organize your reading schedule.
I love lists and planners. But as someone with minimal artistic talent, I totally suck at bullet journaling (or BuJo). Of course, that doesn’t stop me from drooling over these amazing bullet journal set ups over Instagram. How about you?
I usually have a hard time choosing my next read, often. Having a reading list for the month or week, or even the year would be a great idea for your reading bullet journal set up. These are some of the ones that I loved for your inspiration.
Tracking your reads
How do you track what your reading habits? I do so on notion and excel but BuJo spreads are much more fun and interesting, especially if you are artistically inclined. Here are some bullet journal set ups to help you track what you read during the month.
Know your reading habits
I love being able to look at how my reading style and habits have been over the year or month. Bullet journals can help to do just that too.
The book you choose to read makes a great difference in what you gain. You can choose a murder mystery or romance to get you to relax, but do they help you in gaining knowledge? What if I say there are books eight books that will make you smarter that are enjoyable too?
Books that will make you smarter
Here are my top eight choices for books that will make you smarter. Let us start shall we?
1) What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
Author: Randall Munroe
Randall Munroe of xkcd.com fame (a former physicist and NASA robotics employee turned brilliant comics artist) provides scientific answers for absurd questions in his book What if.
With his trademark humor and illustrations, What if is perfect for anyone who wants to know the answers for the hypothetical questions.
2) Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Author: Yuval Noah Harari
Change the way you think of history of humankind by reading Sapiens. What could have made us, the way we are as a society? Could the fictions we spin helped us to behave better as a group?
Harari makes us realize everything we have read about pre-historic world, in our schools and beyond, is just a sample on what could have happened. Sapiens is a must read if you are curious (and you should be) about the history of mankind.
3) Thinking, Fast and Slow
Author: Daniel Kahneman
This book has its place in every list of must read non fiction and rightly so. The Nobel prize winning author talks about human thinking that is of two types – one like it is on an auto pilot and the more conscious thinking.
With real life examples on how these different cognitive abilities affect real life decision making, Thinking, Fast and Slow is an interesting read that can make you smarter!
4) Train Your Brain: 60 Days to a Better Brain
Author: Dr. Ryuta Kawashima
Designed specifically for adults who want to stay sharp, the book is a bestseller in Japan since it was published.
With daily 5 minute exercise with simple mathematics problems, this is a great work book to help you become sharper and smarter soon.
5) Stuff Matters
Author: Mark Miodownik
Stuff matters takes us on a brilliant tour of various materials that we see and use in life (like concrete, chocolate and glass) and tells why these materials have a specific characteristic.
Why do some materials have an odor? Why some glass shatter and others are bullet proof? In his own witty and anecdotal way makes us think and enjoy his tour through material science.
6) A Short History of Nearly Everything
Author: Bill Bryson
This is one of those book that everyone should read as soon as possible. Bryson offers a crash course on all your existential crisis and provides answers to them with his wry humor.
From UFOs to bacteria to radioactivity this book nearly covers everything that a smart person should know. And the writing is pretty fun too.
7) The Art of War
Author: Sun Tzu
Considered as one of the text book guide on competing in the modern business world, The art of war talks about the psychology and strategy for the warfare.
But the principles of the ancient Chinese warfare could be applied to any competitive situation and/or conflict resolution or just to understand the human psychology.
It is a must read for CEO and wanna be high executives alike.
8) A Brief History of Time
Author: Stephen Hawking
Written in a plain language without too many scientific terms, this book shot the author as pop cultural icon. This book talks about black holes, universe and antimatter and answers profound questions, in a way anyone could understand it.
A perfect book that will make you smarter with a little bit of effort.
That’s it for now folks, these are my top eight choice of books to make you smarter.
Are you a new reader who wants to kick start the reading habit? Or you may be returning to reading books for pleasure after a long gap? Either way if you are looking for book recommendations, I got you covered.
My criteria for this starter pack for new readers would be books that are
funny and romantic
thrillers and horrors
adapted into Series/movies
Non fiction / self help books
Books to kick start the reading habit
Let us get on with my recommendations, shall we?
1) A Man called Ove by Fredrik Backman
This is one of those heartwarming books that would bring a smile to your cold heart.
Ove is a mean, grumpy and opinionated old man, who looks forward to the day he would join his late wife, Sonja. What happens to this grumpy old man when he unwillingly meets his messy neighbors, forms the rest of the story.
Red, White & Royal Blue is such a cute, sweet and funny LGBTQA romance that will definitely keep your lock down sorrows go away.
The sons of the first families of The USA and the UK hate each other dislike each other and the world knows it. The first families and their PRs decide to intervene and stage a fake Instagram relationship. What starts as a fake friendship between them blossoms into something more.
Satoru and his feral cat Nana, have settled into a comfortable companionship. But Satoru suddenly decides to give away Nana and they embark on a journey to find a suitable home among his friends. Read The Travelling Cat Chronicles to join the duo on their travel through Japan and Satoru’s childhood memories!
The Travelling Cat Chronicles is a feel good book, with a bittersweet ending. Be prepared to cry, laugh and snicker throughout!
Maddy led a very sheltered life all through her life due to her illness. She has never stepped out of her house in years and her mother and her nurse are the only one she interacts with. Them and her book blog. Until a new family moves to their neighborhood.
You might like this short YA romance with a twist you wouldn’t see coming!
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is one of those rare movie adaptation that was as good as the book. The story revolves around Lara Jean, an introvert who writes letters to her crushes to get it out of her system. Unexpectedly those get delivered to all those boys and hilarity ensues.
This Young Adult book and its movie adaptation took everyone by a storm. You will love it if you are looking for a cute romance with teenage angst!
Dimple Shah has ambitious plans for her life and has been accepted to Stanford. But her parents have other plans for her. Dimple ambushed by her parents hates Rishi even before she gets a chance to know him. Does her opinion about Rishi changes after she knows him better?
When Dimple Met Rishi is a cute YA contemporary romance that would make you grin in all the right places.
Dr. Anna Fox’s daily routine includes drinking a lot of wine while being highly medicated, watching retro movies and peeking into her neighbours’ house through their windows.
But when she sees something untoward happening at her neighbors’ she has no grounds to report about it. How she proves that she did not hallucinate and finds out the culprit form the rest of the story in The Woman in the Window.
The Woman in the Window will keep you occupied and might even turn to be unputdownable. With the movie version coming before the end of the year, you might wanna read it already.
Stuck between the two worlds and parents who have different views about their lives, Starr feels an outsider in both places. Starr understands her lives are universes apart and has never had to choose between them – until the fateful night, her unarmed friend Khalil gets shot by a cop in front of her eyes.
Should she remain silent, as her mother and uncle want her to be, and save herself from the wrath of the public and her own peers at school? Or should she put her life in danger, give a voice to the cause that may lead nowhere?
The Hate U Give is essentially a coming of age story in the present American scenario, dealing with racism, bullying and violence. It is inspired by the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, obviously but is much more than that.
It is an honest account of a strong black family that has nothing to do with the gangs or drugs but is put to trial because of their skin colour.
Set in not so distant dystopian future, women have lost all that they won in the recent past, at least partially – the ability to chose what they wore, what they did for life or even handle money. They are forbidden from reading, writing and even speaking freely.
Their existence is based on their functionality – the wives (in charge of the household), the helps (Marthas), the teachers (Aunts), the wombs (Handmaids), the sexual toys ( Jezebels) and the outcasts (Unwoman) are sent to Colonies where they are left to harvest cotton or clean up the radioactive waste.
Offred, our narrator, a handmaid belongs to Fred, who is on her third and final attempt to conceive a child with a government appointed ‘Commander.’
Offred falls for Nick, the Guardian for the commander, a crime that could lead them both to be publicly hung. Was the risk worth taking? Did she learn anything about her family? Read to know more.
The Handmaid’s Tale might be a little hard to get into, yet once you are into it, you can not stop it. You can not read The Handmaid’s Tale as a breeze through the weekend. You can not unsee once you have been to the Republic of Gilead and not relate it to the real world.
The book follows the journeys of a young shepherd boy on his search for ancient treasure. The philosophical theme that ‘the universe conspires to help us achieve things we want’ is well written and shines through.
This simple and brief fable took the world by storm when it came out. The message is still relevant today. And perfect for someone who wants to kick start the reading habit.
What do you think about my choices? Would you recommend these books to someone who wants to start the reading habit? If you are someone who is starting the reading habit just now, let me know what you choose. Let us talk.
If you had been following my blog for a while you might have realized that I don’t give up easily. Sure I come back here on my blog and bitch about how hard the book was to read, but I don’t usually give up on the book or as we book nerds call it DNF aka Did Not Finish.
I do wonder if that is a wrong thing to do sometimes a lot of times. I mean there are literally millions of other books in the world and why am I not reading something else that I would actually enjoy more. Well my dear fellow nerds, I am gonna tell you why.
I generally read fairly fast. It is only when I struggle to like a book I take longer to complete it. But I don’t want to give it up since I have already spent too much time on it. You see the conundrum- to give up or not!
I have a weird rule when it comes to book adaptation. Books before screen. Yes, when I hear about the new movie / series that is being adapted from a book, I would want to read the book before the visual details could spoil my imagination. I want to see my own movie inside my head before I could watch the larger one. I am sure most of y’all understand what I mean!
6. But I love this author.
As any bookworm would do, I have some serious author obsessions. It goes without saying if I read a book by an author and I love it, I am gonna pick their next one too, irrespective of the reviews and rumors. And even if I don’t like it right away, I somehow believe that I will grow on to to like it. Of course I have been let down by this assumption far too many times for my own good.
5. I promised them I would review.
Of all the reasons I have stated above, only this one could be considered legitimate.
Most of the books I pick up for reading or add to my never ending TBR list are from other bloggers’ recommendations. While I don’t necessarily read the blurb or review before I read a book, when I struggle through a book and I am this close to giving up, the glowing recommendations it had had received pop up in my brain. That takes me down on a spiral that ultimately leads to ‘what is wrong with me?’
Solution: Read it and read it fully you might like it.
3. I work towards a goal, people
On a similar note, I have a personal rule that I would rate, review and / or count the book towards my reading challenge only when I finish a book. It means when I DNF a book, I don’t get to rant about it or even to add it up on my yearly challenge. With the yearly reading slump I am getting onto, I can’t afford to do that, can I?
You all know it. Reading Lolita or the Tale of two cities is always gonna be a bumpy ride. I can’t think of reading a classic without giving it up a few times, for a short while. I somehow get back to them and finish reading them even if it is a long term project. I mean what is life without a few challenges, right? RIGHT?
1. I have given up on my life.
Let us face it. Being a book worm and freelancer writer I do not have a life outside books and my laptop. So what am I losing in reading few more hundreds of pages before I can truly say ‘I hated this book’? I have given up on my life and books have taken over it.
Do you DNF comfortably? Or do you find reasons, like me, to keep pushing yourself? Are there any other reasons that you don’t give up? Let me know the most recent book that you DNF-ed.