World War II seems to be a trendy topic for historical fiction recently. There are a slew of books to choose from, which can make deciding which ones to read very difficult. In no particular order, I put together a list of my Top ten recommendations for World War II related reads.
You’ll find a mix of newer releases and older books that cover a wide range of WWII topics and perspectives. Most are historical fiction but there are also two biographies that read like novels. There are two books that I haven’t read yet, but I included them since they have excellent reviews. I’m hoping to read them soon! If there are any you’d add to my list, let us know in the comments!
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Two sisters living in France during the German occupation each find their own means of resisting the Nazis. The descriptions of life in a war torn country are fascinating and heart breaking. I couldn’t put this one down.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Although this novel takes place after the war, it flashbacks to the previous years. The two main characters are a female spy and an American socialite searching for her cousin. Since I haven’t yet read this one, you can find an excellent review from a fellow LiteraryQuicksand writer here. http://www.literaryquicksand.com/2017/06/review-the-alice-network-by-kate-quinn/
Everyone Brave Was Forgiven by Chris Cleave
A war-time love story inspired by Cleave’s own grandparents. Mary, Alistair, and Tom’s lives are entangled in love, war, deception, and passion. It’s set during the first three years of World War II in both London and the island of Malta. This is high on my TBR list.
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
A unique view into the life of a faithful Dutch woman and her family who saved the lives of Jews during the war. This is Corrie Ten Boom’s memoir about her experience hiding Jewish families in her home. When she was eventually discovered by the Germans, she was sent to a concentration camp and just barely survived. An inspiring read that shows how God works through ordinary individuals.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
A young adult/children’s novel about the Danish Resistance’s campaign to smuggle the Jewish population to safety in Sweden. This story is told through the eyes of a young Danish girl who’s family hides a Jewish girl within their home. It’s a quick read, but a unique and powerful story.
Winter of the World by Ken Follett
If you have time, you’ll want to read this whole trilogy. The first book starts with WWI and introduces a number of families from various countries involved in war. Winter of the World follows those families through the next generation into WWII. A sweeping tale from multiple perspectives that shows all aspects of war. I loved that this one covers politics, relationships, resistance, and the actual fighting. If you’re looking for a comprehensive novel about war, this is it.
The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Probably my absolute favorite novel on this list. It’s the perfect fit for book lovers and World War II historical fiction fanatics. When a writer connects with a book club on the island of Guernsey, she is swept into their dramatic lives. They write letters back and forth sharing stories about being occupied by the Nazis during the war. The quirky characters are simply delightful and lifelong relationships are formed. I enjoyed reading about the effects of occupation on a territory that didn’t see direct action.
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
I’ll read pretty much anything Kate Morton writes, but this is one of my Top 3. When Laurel witnesses a shocking crime as a young girl, it challenges everything she knows about her mother. Fifty years later, she has the chance to uncover the truth from that day. Told in a mix of present day revelations and flashbacks to the years of World War II, this story tells the tale of three strangers who meet by chance during the war. Their relationships change their lives forever.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Set in America, this offers a lesser known viewpoint of how the war affected Japanese Americans. Henry and Keiko are young friends living on the West Coast when America joins the war. When Keiko and her family are rounded up and sent to internment camps due to their Japanese heritage, the two can only hope for the end of the war. Forty years later, Henry is reminded of his childhood friend and searches for a long-lost connection to Keiko. This is a tug-at-the-heartstrings tale of hope and forgiveness.
A rare glimpse into the life of a prisoner of war based on a true story. This biography of Louis Zamperini covers his life as an athlete before the war and his experience as a Air Force pilot before he’s captured by Japanese soldiers. The brutality is at times extremely hard to read, but if you want an unflinching tale about what happened in WWII outside of Europe, this is it.
Have you read any of the books on this list? What would you add?
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