The Best World War II Novels of the Last Decade

One of my favorite ways genres to read is historical fiction. I love being immersed into a different time period and leaving my present-day cares behind. Of all the historical periods, I would have to say that World War II novels are my favorite ones to read.  In the last decade, some great World Ward II novels have been published. I feel like I’ve read them all, though I’m sure I’ve missed a few.

Recently, I got back from my first trip to Europe. I decided to take a break from writing my posts about visiting Amsterdam in spring, spending a weekend in Paris and enjoying a day in Brussels. The histories of the cities I visited were all heavily affected by the Second World War. Walking around these cities, I had a better feel for World War II and it’s impact on Europe.

I’ve always been fascinated by World War II. As a little girl, I used to watch old war movies with my dad. Kelly’s Heroes, Patton, and Where Eagles Dare were my favorites. World War II is such a fascinating period to read about. The acts of bravery and the depths of horror that took place just boggle the mind.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction books about World War II. Hopefully, I’ll have some great ones to recommend to you soon. But for now, here are my favorite World War II novels of the last decade.

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Book cover for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Guernesey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This is a mouthful of a title, I’m a bit amazed the publisher didn’t shorten it. Regardless of its title, this is such a fun book to read. On the German occupied island of Guernsey, the residents form a book club as an excuse for breaking curfew. Written as a series of letters after the war between the book club and writer Juliet Ashton, the story gives you a look at what life was like on the occupied island. A fun read that is sure to leave you smiling at the colorful cast of characters.

 


Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein

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.

Book cover for Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Related: The Top 10 World War 2 Books of All Time




Book cover for The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

The Secret Keeper
by Kate Morton

I have loved every Kate Morton book I’ve read, and this one is simply brilliant. It all starts when sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson witnesses her mother Dorothy stab a man to death on a calm summer day. If that doesn’t get your interest piqued, I don’t know what will. Kate Morton masterfully unfolds the backstory of Dorothy’s life during the war. The more you learn about Dorothy, the more you’ll keep wanting more. If you love figuring out the twists and turns of novels, you’ll love this book. I, for one, did not guess the ending. Definitely one book you won’t be able to put down. 

 


The Storyteller
by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is not really my favorite author, though she also made my list of books that will make you cry. While not as great as My Sister’s Keeper, this book won its place on my list for its thought-provoking ending. Set today, Sage Singer, a baker, meets Josef Weber, and old German gentleman in her grief support group. As she learns his history and his connection to her Jewish grandmother, she has to figure out the line between punishment and forgiveness. While the storytelling is interesting if not entirely believable, the moral questions raised are what sets this book apart.

Book cover for The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult


Book cover for All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr

This one is my favorite book on this whole list. 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. 

 


The Nightingale
by Kristin Hannah

Coming in at a close second, Kristin Hannah’s novel is one that would make pretty much anyone fall in love with historical fiction. Set in a small village in occupied France, the story centers around two sisters. Forced to house a German officer in her home, the older sister Vianne Mauriac must decide, in order to protect her daughter, where exactly she should draw the line of being complicit with German demands. On the other hand, her younger sister Isabelle Rossignol feels committed to do anything she can to resist the German occupation. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read her latest novel, The Great Alone.

Book cover for The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Related: Don’t Buy the Hype: Read This Not That


Book cover for Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea
by Ruta Sepetys

I always enjoy a new perspective and Ruta Sepetys delivered with this novel. The story follows a group of Prussian refugees fleeing from the advance of the Stalin’s Red Army. Personally, I like when a historical fiction novel teaches me about history through its natural storytelling. To be honest, the writing is probably the weakest of the World War II novels on my list. I debated whether I should add it, but it’s fascinating setting won me over. I learned quite a bit about Prussia and about the Wilhelm Gustloff, which are both terribly interesting. So for a fun, informative read, this is a good choice.

Related: 15 Excellent Beach Reads To Satisfy Any Summer Mood




On My To-Read List

 

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
by Jamie Ford

I’m about a third of the way finished with this book. Set in Seattle, this lovely little novel follows Chinese-American Henry Lee as he recalls his first childhood love, Keiko Okabe, a Japanese-American. Now, forty years later, Henry searches for clues to find Keiko, who he lost contact with after her family was sent to an internment camp. So far, I’m really enjoying this novel. Seeing the wartime views of the Chinese-American characters has given me a new perspective. Hopefully, this book lives up to its promising start. If not, I’m sure it will make the next edition of my Read This Not That list.

Book cover for Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

 


Book cover for Day After Night by Anita Diamant

Day After Night
by Anita Diamant

One of my book club friends recommended this book to me. Since she has impeccable taste, I’m really excited to read this novel. The storyline centers around a holding camp for illegal immigrants in Israel in 1945. I’ve read a few of Anita Diamant’s novels, I can promise that she is an excellent writer. I’m hoping this book will be just as fantastic as her novel The Red Tent. Currently, it’s sitting on my nightstand at the top of my to-read pile. I was tempted to take it with me on my Europe trip. However, I decided to go the minimalist packing route and only read e-books on my phone.  

Related: 30 Books Every Millennial Needs to Read


Lilac Girls
by Martha Hall Kelly

Part of the fun of starting a blog has been connecting with other bloggers. On thing I love about Twitter is how easy it is to get book recommendations. My fellow blogger Alynda Long recommended this novel to me. Martha Hall Kelly’s debut novel follows three different women: Caroline, an American socialite working at the consulate in France; Kasia, a Polish teenager; and Herta, a German doctor. I’m particularly intrigued since Carolina and Kasia are both based on real people. I’m just waiting for my hold to come at the library, so hopefully it comes in soon. 

Book cover for Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

 

What World War II novel is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!

If you are looking for WWII fiction recommendations, we have some best seller World War II novels of the last decade for anyone who loves World War II historical fiction!

If you are looking for WWII fiction recommendations, we have some best seller World War II novels of the last decade for anyone who loves World War II historical fiction!

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9 Comments

  • Reply Melinda December 15, 2018 at 11:00 pm

    I read three WWII books this year that I enjoyed – The Baker’s Secret, Auschwitz Lullaby, and Beneath a Scarlet Sky.

  • Reply Lesley December 14, 2018 at 7:53 am

    I, too, have a serious WWII novel problem. It started when I read THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE by Julie Orringer. It doesn’t get much recognition but it’s outstanding. I have read most of the books in this list and relished them all. A few others: The Book Thief, Beneath a Scarlett Sky, The Hummingbird, City of Thieves, and Five Quarters of the Orange.

  • Reply Melissa August 1, 2018 at 7:06 am

    I just read Once they were brothers and Karolina’s Twins by the same author. Love them both!

  • Reply Rachael Burrows July 31, 2018 at 12:44 am

    I have a serious WWII problem..that’s all I tend to read about. The Bronze Horseman is my favorite book of all time, Skeletons at the Feast, The Book Thief, The Lost Wife, In Farleigh Field, and The Orchid House are just a few of my favorites..I could keep listing them! 🙂 glad to find fellow WWII fans! Find me on Goodreads!

  • Reply Crista Norman June 14, 2018 at 9:34 am

    I look for WW1 novels too. I find it a particularly interesting time period because of family history. I hope one day to try my hand at writing a novel about my Great Grandfather’s experiences during WW1. I have read so many books that are set in WW2 time period. The Alice Network, The Tuscan Child, and Beneath a Scarlett Sky are some of my recent favorites.

  • Reply Krista W May 29, 2018 at 8:09 pm

    This is my favorite kind of book, too! What does it say about me that I give bonus points to the book if it involves a concentration camp? You’ll love Lilac Girls. I recommend Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan and The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom which is actually an autobiography and not a novel.

    • Reply Rachael May 30, 2018 at 1:14 am

      I’ll have to do a nonfiction World War II post sometime. The Hiding Place is on my to-read list. I just haven’t gotten around to reading it. Too many books, too little time. I’ve never heard of Chilbury Ladies Choir before. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Reply Janita May 24, 2018 at 9:50 am

    I love WW2 books! I love reading about the history of both world wars actually. My Secret Keeper and All The Light We Can Not See sound amazing. I will have to read them. It’s honestly extremely difficult to find other people who enjoy reading these kinds of books!

    • Reply Rachael May 28, 2018 at 12:02 am

      If you have any suggestions for World War I books, send them my way. I think it’s also a fascinating period to read about, but I have a hard time finding books that cover it.

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