Book Clubs :: WWII Novels

World War II novels
-yes, I know that all these aren’t novels-

There is a rash of World War II literature. In our last book club annual selection long list, there were enough books that had we wanted to dedicate a whole year to WWII, we could have. Also, occasionally, I’m asked to recommend a good WWII book, so I thought it might be a fun list to compile – all the WWII books I’ve read (or at least that I can remember!) These are in somewhat backwards order beginning with most recent. And just because I’m that kind of person, you’re getting my goodreads star rating and a link to the review if I’ve reviewed it.

SOC Sistas – If I’ve forgotten one, please remind me!

Schlinder’s Ark (aka Schindler’s List): non-fiction, Europe (5/5)
Most will be familiar with this book due to the movie, but you should know that first, the book won the Man Booker Prize in 1982.

Man’s Search for Meaning: non-fiction, Europe (4/5)
Part memoir, part psychological dissertation, this famous book by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl’s is where the famous quote was coined: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

We Were the Lucky Ones: historical fiction, Europe (4/5)
Based on her own family’s survival, Georgia Hunter ties together what she knows of their stories into a narrative that is part fiction, part history.

Everyone Brave is Forgive: fiction, London (3/5)
Four friends are caught in the torment of Axis bombing. Inspired by the love letters between the author’s grandparents.

A God in Ruins: fiction, primarily London (4/5)
A carry-over character from another work by the same author, Life after Life, who is a RAF bomber pilot.

Life after Life: fiction, England (2/5)
An experimental book about the different routes your life could take give slight changes of chance or decision, set mostly during WWII.

The Nightingale: fiction, Europe (4/5)
Told in alternating POV between two sisters who each, in their own way, become a part of the Resistance in France.

All the Light We Cannot See: fiction, Europe (4/5)
Told in alternating POV between two children – a blind girl who is French and German boy. Won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015.

Narrow Road to the Deep North: fiction, Pacific (5/5)
Based on the author’s father’s story, the novel spans a Japanese POW camp to contemporary Australia. Winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2014.

The Undertaking: fiction, Europe (5/5)
A German soldier marries a woman he has never met in hopes of a honeymoon leave and war pension.

Day after Night: fiction, Europe (3/5)
Technically a post-WWII novel, this story begins in Atlit, a holding camp for illegal immigrants in Israel in 1945.

City of Women: fiction, Berlin (3/5)
What happens in war-torn Berlin when it basically becomes a city of women. The wife of a German soldier takes a Jewish lover in his absence.

The Book Thief: fiction, Germany (4/5)
Set in Germany, a young girl is faced with a temptation she can’t resist – stealing books. Death is personified in this frequently assigned YA novel.

Sarah’s Key: fiction, Paris (4/5)
This novel about the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, one orchestrated by French policemen against their fellow citizens. Told in alternating stories between WWII and current day.

Homecoming: fiction, Europe (3/5)
A son follows a few limited fragments in search of his missing war-victim father.

Ordinary Heroes: fiction, Europe (4/5)
A son reconstructs his father’s war-time past.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption: non-fiction, Pacific (4/5)
The account of Louis Zamperini’s WWII experience. Mostly non-fiction with some license taken to create a moving narrative of a remarkable survival and unfathomable forgiveness.

Skeleton’s at the Feast: fiction, Europe (2/5)
A small entourage is trying to reach the American / British lines in the last months of the war.

Suite Francaise: fiction, Europe (4/5)
The unfinished work of a Parisian half-Jew who was writing the manuscript while trying to escape the Nazi’s. Salvaged by her daughter and published 64 years after her death, a victim of German camps.

Atonement: fiction, Europe (4/5)
Less war and more psychological novel about what is true versus what seems to be true.

The Distant Hours: fiction, England (4/5)
Alternating between war-time and current day, a young girls goes on a quest to find the countryside manor where her mother, as a child, was housed during the war. Excellent contemporary Gothic literature.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: fiction, Europe (4/5)
This is the novel that introduced me to the fact that many Londoners sent their children away during the war to keep them safe from bombing raids.

The Reader: fiction, Europe (5/5)
Actually post-war setting, a young law student comes face to face with a lover from years earlier on trial for her past.

City of Thieves: fiction, Europe (5/5)
Two men take on an impossible task – to find and deliver a dozen eggs in the middle of the Nazi siege on Leningrad. Memorable characters and an insane plot provide the perfect balance of intensity and humorous relief.

Others: (that I read a million years ago…)

Night by Elie Wiesel
Anne Frank by Anne Frank
The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (I had no idea of this book’s connection to WWII until I read Potato Pie Society!)

What WWII have you read that I haven’t? Leave the title and summary in the comments below!

UPDATE: Adds from fellow readers

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy
Blackout by Connie Willis
All Clear by Connie Willis
The Memory of Us by Camille Di Maio
Daughters of the Night Sky by Aimie Trumbly Runyan
The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor
The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel
Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan


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3 Replies to “Book Clubs :: WWII Novels

  1. The book that got me started on historical fiction & more specifically WWII, was City of Thieves by David Benioff. The book changed me.

  2. I’ve read many, many WWll historical fiction and nonfiction. Without a date the best WWll book I’ve ever read was Leningrad ( The Epic Siege of WWll) by Anna Reid. That book is what started me reading WWll books).
    Would love it if there was a bookclub I could join.

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