With so many amazing World War 2 books out there, however can I choose my Top 10 World War 2 books?
In general, I can’t say that I am huge into historical fiction. Not to say that I don’t like it, I just don’t find that historical fiction is my go-to genre. However, when it comes to books about World War 2, I can’t seem to get enough.Of all the periods of time, World War 2 seems to have one of the clearest depictions of good versus evil. The acts of bravery and depths of horror stand out in stark contrast against one another.
Unlike the complicated politics of the first World War, World War 2 seems so much more clear cut. I love reading both fictional and nonfiction accounts of the events that occurred in such an important period of history.
Am I really qualified to choose the top 10 books of any subject, much less the top 10 World War 2 books? Probably not, but I’ll do it anyway. Having an opinion on a topic is my prerogative as a blogger.
I can’t say that I’ve read every World Ward 2 book out there, but I aim to do so someday. Though, I will admit that I have read quite a few. Generally, I gravitate toward bestselling World War 2 fiction, but I have tried to read a lot more World War 2 nonfiction lately.
As with any list, my list of the Top 10 World Ward 2 books is quite subjective. Maybe you’ll love it and be inspired to pick up Audie Murphy’s autobiography. Maybe you’ll hate it because I left off Anne Frank’s diary.
Whether you love it or hate it, let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear how your top 10 World War 2 books differ from mine. Or feel free to check out what WWII historical fiction our readers love the most.
Top 10 World War 2 Books – 5 Best Fiction
All the Light We Cannot See
Let’s kick off this list of the Top 10 World War 2 books with one of my favorites. I’m not at all surprised it won a Pulitzer Prize; the writing is fabulous. Anthony Doerr masterfully interweaves the stories of Marie-Laurie, a blind French girl who flees from Paris to the coastal city of Saint-Malo with her uncle, and Werner, a German radio operator charged with rooting out the French resistance. While the plot is interesting in and of itself, the character development and storytelling will keep you glued to the page.
How to describe Slaughterhouse-Five? It’s a postmodern anti-war science fiction World War II novel, which gives it a unique place among World War 2 books. The unreliable narrator tells the tale of Billy Pilgrim, a time-traveling man being held in an alien zoo. Through flashbacks, we relive Billy’s capture during the Battle of the Bulge, life as a POW working in a slaughterhouse (Slaughterhous #5) during the Dresden firebombing, and his subsequent life after the war. If you can get past Vonnegut’s strange style, his discussion of fate, free will, and death earn it its place among the top 10 World War 2 books. For, “so it goes.”
I hated this book when I first read it. I mean, I absolutely despised it. It’s completely ridiculous. Heller’s brand of satire involves stories that are over-the-top exaggerations, and he’s never heard of character development. Yet, a few months after I finished it, random bits from the book would pop up in my mind and make me laugh. The man whose name is Major Major Major Major. The Allies bombing their own bridge. I promise you, you’ll either love this book or hate this book. But, if you are in the right frame of mind, you’ll eventually see why this book earned its place in the Top 10 World War 2 Books.
Code Name Verity
I know many would scoff at my choice, but I can’t recommend this book enough. You’ll find yourself immersed in a world of intrigue with the story British spy, Agent “Verity.” Captured when her plane crashes in occupied France, Verity is interrogated by the Gestapo in an attempt to learn of her mission. As she confesses under torture, you’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat wondering what secrets she is willing to exchange for her life. How far is she willing to go for her mission? A brilliant and emotional read that you won’t want to miss. Definitely my favorite of the World War 2 books for teens.
The Caine Mutiny
To round out the fiction section of my top 10 World War 2 books, I’ve chosen Herman Wouk’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Written only six years after the end of the war, The Caine Mutiny has astounding detail most modern authors can never hope to achieve. Mostly because the story is heavily based on the author’s own experiences during the war. The story details the life aboard the U.S.S. Caine and the moral complexities of wartime decisions, especially the hard choices that need to be made by a captain at sea.
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Top 10 World War 2 Books – 5 Best Nonfiction
The Hiding Place
Corrie Ten Boom
What would you do if you noticed your neighbors suddenly disappearing? A quiet old maid living with her older sister and elderly father, Corrie ten Boom knew that she had to act. Her family joined the Dutch Underground and built a secret room to hide Jews within, for which they were to pay the ultimate price. Corrie ten Boom’s heartrending account of her life will inspire you to have faith, hope, and courage no matter what obstacles you may face.
To Hell and Back
Audie Murphy was one of the most decorated soldiers in World War II, earning basically ever honor possible including the Congressional Medal of Honor. Reading his book, I came to the part describing his account of the actions that earned him the Medal of Honor, and he made it sound like it was no big deal. He single-handedly held off a whole company of German soldiers for more than an hour. But he just did what had to be done. That’s the true mark of a hero. Interestingly enough, after World War II, Audie Murphy went on to become a movie star, even starring in the film adaptation of his autobiography.
I was debating putting two Holocaust stories on this list, but I think you should read both of them. While Corrie Ten Boom illustrates finding the joy within any trial, Elie Wiesel’s story is a heart-wrenching account that really shows no mercy. While I love good World War 2 novels, World War 2 nonfiction books fully illustrate the depth of the Holocaust. It is our responsibility to read books like this, no matter how depressing, so that truly understand the horror of these events to ensure they don’t happen again.
While we are often reminded of the horrors of the Holocaust, we seem to sometimes overlook the awful events that occurred in the Pacific theater during World War 2. Laura Hillenbrand’s bestselling book details the life of Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic runner who even shook hands with Hitler at the Berlin Olympics. Shot down in the Pacific Ocean in 1943, Lt. Zamperini managed to survive on a life raft for 47 days only to be found by the Japanese. Lt. Zamperini’s resilience will amaze you as he struggles to survive life as a Japanese prisoner for almost three years.
Band of Brothers
Stephen E. Ambrose
Last, but not least, for our Top 10 World War 2 Books we have the thrilling account of Easy Company, a unit of the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army. The book gets its title from the Shakespeare quote, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.” Instead of following one man’s journey, the cast of characters winds in and out as men come and go from the company due to reassignment, injury, and death. Stephen Ambrose’s powerful book is a remarkable look at the everyday men who became legends. If you haven’t seen the HBO miniseries, you are truly missing out.
How Does Your List of the Top 10 World War 2 Books Stack Up Against Mine?
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with my Top 10 World War 2 Books? What WWII books have I forgotten? Which World War II books should I have left off the list? As always, let me know in the comments!
More World War 2 Books Reading Lists:
This list looks very good, and I enjoy Night, by Ellie Wiesel, but as an avid WW2 Novel lover, I’m shocked that a couple of books are not on this list. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak is one of the most amazing novels I’ve ever read, and definitely deserves to be on this list. I feel that we hardly ever hear the story of citizens of Germany during WW2, and this one does it beautifully. Also, Between Shades of Grey, by Ruta Sepetys, is a fantastic story about a girl and her family who are captured by the Soviet Union, but the book has a really nice underlying theme of love and hope. Please don’t take this as an angry review, just a couple of suggestions, Keep up the great work!
Oh, the Book Thief is one of my favorite books. I haven’t read Between Shades of Grey yet, but I have enjoyed her other books. Limiting my list to only 10 books (and only 5 fiction!) was incredibly hard. I will admit that this page is on my list of posts to update this year, so you’ll have to come back and see if I change anything.
With great respect, you have the typical myopic view of most Americans: that everything written or accomplished by an American is the biggest and best in history. It must not be forgotten that Great Britain, Canada and other countries of the British Commonwealth entered the war in 1939, whereas the U.S. did not do so until 1943. While many of the books to which you have referred are excellent, any real student of WW ll knows that the greatest books ever written by a western author about WW ll were Winston Churchill’s treatise The Second World War, in 6 volumes, which led to Churchill being awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. Any true scholar or antiquarian bookseller is aware of this and I would encourage you and your readers to read those books, which were written by an author of immense talent whose command of the English language is unmatched.
I have read 84, Charing Cross Road, To Hell and Back, The Nightingale, The Things They Carried, The Alice Network, Code Talker, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. WW 2 fiction and nonfiction are my favorite books