The Top 10 World War 2 Books of All Time

With some 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 occured 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 basically my perogative 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 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 Audey 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.

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Top 10 World War 2 Books – 5 Best Fiction

 

Top 10 World War 2 Books: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr

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 absolutely 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. 


Slaughterhouse-Five
by Kurt Vonnegut

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 it’s place among the top 10 World War 2 books. For, “so it goes.”

Top 10 World War 2 Books: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut


Top 10 World War 2 Books: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Catch-22
by Joseph Heller

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
by Elizabeth Wein

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 the my favorite of the World War 2 books for teens.

Top 10 World War 2 Books: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein


Top 10 World War 2 Books: The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk

The Caine Mutiny
by Herman Wouk

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 author’s can never hope to achieve beacuse 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.

Related: The Best World War II Novels of the Last Decade




Top 10 World War 2 Books – 5 Best Nonfiction

The Hiding Place
by 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 secrt 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.

Top World War 2 Books: The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom


Top 10 World War 2 Books: To Hell and Back by Audie Murphy

To Hell and Back
by Audey Murphy

Jaclyn’s husband actually recommended this book to me. Audie Murphy was one 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. Interesting enough, after World War II, Audie Murphy went on to become a movie star.


Night
by Elie Wiesel

I was debating putting three Holocaust stories on this list, but I think you should read all of them. While Viktor Frankl’s account is about finding the meaning inside his trial and Corrie Ten Boom’s illustrates finding the joy within any trial, Elie Wiesel’s story is heart-wrenching account that really shows no mercy. While I love good World War 2 novels, World War 2 nonfiction books really 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.

Night by Elie Wiesel


Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken
by Laura Hillenbrand

While we are often reminded of the horrors of the Holocaust, we seem to sometimes overlook the awful events that occured 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 struffles to survive life as a Japanese prisoner for almost three years.


Band of Brothers
by Stephen 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 it’s 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 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.

Top 10 World War 2 Books: Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose

How does your list of the top 10 World War 2 books stack up against mine?

Do you love reading World War 2 books? Here is our list of the top 10 World War 2 Books with the best World War 2 novels and World War 2 nonfiction books.

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13 Comments

  • Reply Cherrie Croyle September 19, 2018 at 11:43 am

    There are so many books in the genre, I will say that my favorite is Unbroken. I’ve seen the movies, they are only just snap shots of the whole story. They were both good, but of course the book is much better. My husband is a history teacher so we have a lot of reading material on this subject. We’ve been reading George Kolber’s book Thrown Upon The World and it’s been excellent. True story of 2 families torn from home and forced to find a new place to ride out the war. The families come to meet and it’s just an exceptional read. thrownupontheworld.com. I think it belongs in one of the best WWII reads.

  • Reply Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins September 13, 2018 at 1:55 am

    I must confess, I’ve really gone off fictionalised accounts of WWII lately. I think it’s a combination of having read too many back-to-back, and also feeling really disappointed that so many incredible non-fiction stories and memoirs are being overlooked in favour of same-ish fiction books. I loved The White Mouse by Nancy Wake; sure, the writing wasn’t on par with Anthony Doer, but her real-life story and incredible bravery absolutely blew me away. I’m trying to make a point of taking a break from WWII historical fiction for a while, re-setting my brain a bit, but I’ll have to give Slaughterhouse Five a go at some point – it’s definitely outside the mold of typical WWII fiction 😉 Thanks for sharing this great list and including a bunch of wonderful non-fiction reads!

  • Reply Karla Strand September 10, 2018 at 9:01 pm

    This is a great list. I love Elie Wiesel’s Night as well as Dawn. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these!

  • Reply Amanda McGill September 10, 2018 at 8:41 pm

    Great list. I haven’t read a lot of these!

  • Reply Heidi September 10, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    Great list! They all look great. 🙂

  • Reply Victoria September 10, 2018 at 6:57 pm

    All of these books sound so fascinating! It was my goal to read new books this year but I never got around to it. I’ll put some of these on my list

  • Reply Nikki @ Saturday Nite Reader September 10, 2018 at 1:25 pm

    I loved All the Light We Cannot See and had to read Night in college. I recently purchased another copy of Night from Bookoutlet so I can reread.

  • Reply Nikki @ Saturday Nite Reader September 10, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    I loved All the Light We Cannot See and I had to read Night in college. I recently bought another copy from Bookoutlet so I can reread.

  • Reply DJ Sakata September 10, 2018 at 1:21 pm

    I used to avoid historical fiction but I’ve been carefully sticking my toe in the waters and have enjoyed it

  • Reply Tasha September 10, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    Nicely compiled list. My Dad was a lover of war books and films (I cannot count the times that I have seen the Battle Of Britain fly-over or a Red Arrows show. Air shows were a regular family day out during my childhood) I am not a fan of such books or movies myself but as Band Of Brothers was one of my Dads favourites, I would probably read that.

  • Reply Love, Sawyer September 10, 2018 at 11:33 am

    Great list! I’ve seen a few good reviews for Code Name Verity all the other books are new to me.

  • Reply CJ | A Well-Read Tart September 10, 2018 at 7:50 am

    This is a great list! I like that you had both fiction and non-fiction. Some of my favorite WW2 fiction titles are:

    The Soldier’s Wife, by Margaret Leroy
    The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, by Jennifer Ryan
    The Girl From the Train, by Irma Joubert

    I also really liked Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly, though the descriptions of Ravensbruck were a little too graphic for me. The Women in the Castle, by Jessica Shattuck, was extremely well-written, but I found it incredibly depressing. Which, I know, is going to happen given the topic, but it was just a bit much for me. The first three books I listed are a bit “lighter” WW2 reads, which seems to be what I prefer in that genre.

  • Reply Sarah's Book Shelves September 10, 2018 at 7:34 am

    I used to love historical fiction, but have gotten burned out recently…especially from WWII books. But, one exception was We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter. I loved it when it came out in 2017 and it’s a very different take on WWII. Also based on the true story of what happened to the author’s family.

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