The best books about courageous women and girls in war time

Who am I?

I focus on real-life stories of people usually in wartime conflicts and study the American Civil War and WWII. I am friends with several Holocaust survivors. But my focus is on defiance, rather than evading capture or captivity. Wars show the extremes of human behavior, both good and evil. I have a place in my heart for women and girls who were thrust into a man’s world at incredible disadvantage and through extraordinary character and ability overcame the harshest realities. A few were military fighters, some spies, but all in death-defying roles. Many died in action, and most never recognized for their valor. These are the unsung heroes that I love most.  


I wrote...

Hannah Gould

By Thomas F. Linehan, Jr.,

Book cover of Hannah Gould

What is my book about?

In 1942 war-torn Poland, a Jewish family is murdered by the Nazis and Ukrainian Nationals. But fifteen-year-old Hannan escapes. Alone and desperate, she ultimately joins a Russian-Jewish partisan group in the Belorussian forests. Hannah is transformed from a sheltered schoolgirl in Warsaw, to a cold killer. She meets kind strangers and sadistic enemies on her journey to discovering who she is. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II

Thomas F. Linehan, Jr. Why did I love this book?

Virginia Hall was an American spy in Nazi-occupied France during WWII. The genre is non-fiction, but the book flows like historical fiction. Hall is caught up in a male chauvinist world of spies. She is physically handicapped with a limp, but ingeniously turns the defect into an effective disguise. When her supposedly superior male spy handlers fail to provide effective guidance, Hall employs street smarts and courage to create her own spy network. They, of course, take credit for her success and only hamper her operations. This work hits nearly all of my favorite attributes of a story—a woman with superior abilities and courage is stymied and dishonored by prejudice. Irony and empathy for the character abounds. The reader is highly satisfied knowing these are the actual experiences of a real woman. 

By Sonia Purnell,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked A Woman of No Importance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Chosen as a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by NPR, the New York Public Library, Amazon, the Seattle Times, the Washington Independent Review of Books, PopSugar, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, BookBrowse, the Spectator, and the Times of London

Winner of the Plutarch Award for Best Biography

"Excellent...This book is as riveting as any thriller, and as hard to put down." -- The New York Times Book Review

"A compelling biography of a masterful spy, and a reminder of what can be done with a few brave people -- and a little resistance." - NPR

"A…


Book cover of The Book Thief

Thomas F. Linehan, Jr. Why did I love this book?

The story unfolds somewhat mysteriously, in that WWII historians may be a bit confused. The annihilation of Dresden, Germany through intense fire-bombing by the allies leaves little hope that anyone could survive long, yet a young girl is moving through the neighborhoods unscathed. She steals books from the library of a rich, sophisticated lady who has all but surrendered to her fate. The premise provides a nice counter to the book burning by the Nazis in the years leading up to military action. Although the girl is hardly a military hero, her persistence and courage renders her a testament to the raw power of the human spirit. In her own way, she is defiant of the aggressors attacking her home and threatening her life.

By Markus Zusak,

Why should I read it?

28 authors picked The Book Thief as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

'Life affirming, triumphant and tragic . . . masterfully told. . . but also a wonderful page-turner' Guardian
'Brilliant and hugely ambitious' New York Times
'Extraordinary' Telegraph
___

HERE IS A SMALL FACT - YOU ARE GOING TO DIE

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.

SOME IMPORTANT…


Book cover of The Only Woman in the Room

Thomas F. Linehan, Jr. Why did I love this book?

During WWII, a natural beauty with a keen intellect finds a way to become an indispensable tool for the war effort. Hedwig Kiesler was a Jewish, Austrian girl. She married an Austrian industrialist who later supported the Nazi war effort. She was a naturally brilliant inventor. Hedwig proposed a communications technology concept to create an un-jammable signal for torpedo guidance. Her cycling, multi-frequency signal concept is used today in wireless technology. At the start of WWII, she was an aspiring actress. Yet unknown, Hedwig used her innate acting abilities to spy for the Allies. She hosted her husband’s important Nazi officers and industrialists, gleaning valuable secrets and passing them on to her handlers. After the war, she became a major Hollywood star with the stage name, Hedy Lamar.

By Marie Benedict,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Only Woman in the Room as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

THE USA TODAY BESTSELLER

Bestselling author Marie Benedict reveals the story of a brilliant woman scientist only remembered for her beauty.

Her beauty almost certainly saved her from the rising Nazi party and led to marriage with an Austrian arms dealer. Underestimated in everything else, she overheard the Third Reich's plans while at her husband's side and understood more than anyone would guess. She devised a plan to flee in disguise from their castle, and the whirlwind escape landed her in Hollywood. She became Hedy Lamarr, screen star.

But she kept a secret more shocking…


Book cover of The Hunger Games

Thomas F. Linehan, Jr. Why did I love this book?

A fictional account showing the raw power of the human spirit when set against nearly insurmountable odds. A teenage girl is thrown into a warlike environment fighting for her life. This reluctant heroine must deal with wave after wave of emotional stress. Yet in those telling moments rises an inner strength, even more impressive as this is a teen still trying to find herself. Katniss Everdeen is born into this depressed world, fighting for more than her own survival. With an emotionally crushed mother and vulnerable sister, Katniss takes on evil adversaries with character and cunning. An expert hunter out of necessity, she utilizes her skills to combat a relentless enemy. But does she have the will to survive? 

By Suzanne Collins,

Why should I read it?

41 authors picked The Hunger Games as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. But Katniss has been close to death before - and survival, for her, is second nature. The Hunger Games is a searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present. Welcome to the deadliest reality TV show ever...


Book cover of D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II

Thomas F. Linehan, Jr. Why did I love this book?

The success of the D-Day invasion of German-occupied France was highly dependent upon spy-gathered information. The stories of three young women, unlikely heroes, are set against a complicated historical backdrop of spy networks in Nazi-occupied France leading up to the Allied invasion. These are the stories of Andree Borrel, Odette Sansom, and Lise de Baissac. The British spy organization, Special Operations Executive (SOE) hired, trained, and utilized these and other women as field operatives. Without the covert work they accomplished, the Allied invasion could have been disastrous. Although the work is non-fiction, it flows like a novel with quotes and personal anecdotes of the real agents. The courage and valor of these everyday women turned heroines are inspiring.  

By Sarah Rose,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked D-Day Girls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The dramatic, untold story of the extraordinary women recruited by Britain's elite spy agency to help pave the way for Allied victory, for fans of A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE by Sonia Purnell

'Gripping: Spies, romance, Gestapo thugs, blown-up trains, courage, and treachery (lots of treachery) - and all of it true, all precisely documented'
ERIK LARSON, author of THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY

'The mission is this: Read D-Day Girls today. Not just for the spy flair but also because this history feels more relevant than ever, as an army of women and girls again find themselves in…


You might also like...

The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

By Maryka Biaggio,

Book cover of The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

Maryka Biaggio Author Of The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Historical fiction author Lover of hidden stories Research nerd Opera fanatic

Maryka's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

The Model Spy is based on the true story of Toto Koopman, who spied for the Allies and Italian Resistance during World War II.

Largely unknown today, Toto was arguably the first woman to spy for the British Intelligence Service. Operating in the hotbed of Mussolini's Italy, she courted danger every step of the way. As the war entered its final stages, she faced off against the most brutal of forces—Germany's Intelligence Service, the Abwehr.

The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

By Maryka Biaggio,

What is this book about?

Celebrated model Toto Koopman had beauty, brains, and fame. Born to a Dutch father and Indonesian mother, she took up the life of a bon vivant in 1920s Paris and modeled for Vogue magazine and Coco Chanel. But modeling didn’t satisfy her. Fluent in six languages, she was adventurous and fascinated by world politics.

In London she attracted the attention of Lord Beaverbrook, the William Randolph Hearst of England. She soon became his confidante, companion, and translator, traversing the Continent and finding herself caught in the winds of impending war. Beaverbrook introduced her to influential people, including a director at…


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