My favorite books that weave fascinating stories about real people and events from WWII history

Why am I passionate about this?

My Grandpa is the reason I’m interested in WWII history. He was my best friend until I was 26, when I lost him forever. We spent all our time together watching old movies, playing video games, and going through old photo albums. I found out about his war service when I was 18 while writing a school paper. Once he showed me his photos from when he was 18, I just fell in love with these pictures and the stories that accompanied them. And ever since, I’ve spent the last 20+ years learning more and more about WWII history. I just really love reading about it, talking to veterans, and re-telling their stories to whoever will listen. 

I wrote...

My Very Dearest Anna

By Kara Martinelli,

Book cover of My Very Dearest Anna

What is my book about?

World War II was raging. Everyone was stepping up to do their part, including my Grandpa, Richard B. Moore. In 1943, he joined the Army Air Corps, a small-town boy heading off to fly with the 5th Air Force in the Pacific. But before he could leave, he had to go see about a girl...My Grandparents’ story is told through their letters, following my Grandpa's training to his bomber missions in the Pacific Theatre. When the war ended, it was finally time to come home to his awaiting Anna.

Grandpa used to sit with me and share his stories about his time in the Air Corps. I didn’t want his memories, that were so important to him, to never be told again.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin

Kara Martinelli Why did I love this book?

I love this book because it reads at times like a page-turning suspense thriller, or a horror story when you know what is coming next in history. The book focuses on the first American Ambassador to Nazi Germany in 1933 and his family, as it weaves a terrifying tale of their experiences and the outcome these events will have for the German citizens and the rest of the world. I recommend this one for people who love learning more about this period in history, since I am also an avid fan of WWII stories, I learned so much more than I already knew.

By Erik Larson,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked In the Garden of Beasts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's Berlin, 1933. William E. Dodd, a mild-mannered academic from Chicago, has to his own and everyone else's surprise, become America's first ambassador to Hitler's Germany, in a year that proves to be a turning point in history. Dodd and his family, notably his vivacious daughter, Martha, observe at first-hand the many changes - some subtle, some disturbing, and some horrifically violent - that signal Hitler's consolidation of power. Dodd has little choice but to associate with key figures in the Nazi party, his increasingly concerned cables make little impact on an indifferent U.S. State Department, while Martha is drawn…

Book cover of The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II

Kara Martinelli Why did I love this book?

I love this book. One of my favorite movies is The Great Escape (yes, I know it was also a book) and reading this book feels like watching this movie. The story is a simliar one that is an OSS rescue mission to save 500 downed airmen stuck in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia, while they secretly build an entire airstrip large enough for C-47s (if you’re not familiar, they are very large airplanes). Avoiding the Germans in the cover of darkness, the airmen and villagers risked their lives to build this strip in attempt of rescue. Oh, and there’s also a revolution happening at the same time in Yugoslavia. This horribly dangerous mission makes for an incredible reading experience.

By Gregory A. Freeman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Forgotten 500 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The astonishing, never before told story of the greatest rescue mission of World War II—when the OSS set out to recover more than 500 airmen trapped behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia...

During a bombing campaign over Romanian oil fields, hundreds of American airmen were shot down in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia. Local Serbian farmers and peasants risked their own lives to give refuge to the soldiers while they waited for rescue, and in 1944, Operation Halyard was born. The risks were incredible. The starving Americans in Yugoslavia had to construct a landing strip large enough for C-47 cargo planes—without tools, without alerting…

Book cover of The Women with Silver Wings: The Inspiring True Story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II

Kara Martinelli Why did I love this book?

The Women with Silver Wings is a story about the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP, who were the first women to fly for the U.S. military during WWII. I’ve always loved these women and their amazing spirit as they flew in the face of convention (pun intended) in the 1940s, when women were not accepted to do much more than housewife duties. I like this book in particular, because I know a lot about the WASP history, but this book has lots of new stuff that I didn’t know. So, whether you are new to the subject or an old hand at this history, I guarantee you will love this story. 

By Katherine Sharp Landdeck,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Women with Silver Wings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“With the fate of the free world hanging in the balance, women pilots went aloft to serve their nation. . . . A soaring tale in which, at long last, these daring World War II pilots gain the credit they deserve.”—Liza Mundy, New York Times bestselling author of Code Girls

“A powerful story of reinvention, community and ingenuity born out of global upheaval.”—Newsday

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Cornelia Fort was already in the air. At twenty-two, Fort had escaped Nashville’s debutante scene for a fresh start as a flight instructor in Hawaii. She and her…

Book cover of Unbroken

Kara Martinelli Why did I love this book?

Being a best seller, most people know about or have already read this one. But it will always remain one of my favorites. Louis Zamparini has such an inspiring and interesting story that started with his trip to the Olympics in 1930’s Berlin, with Jesse Owens as his roommate, and ends with his post-war life (my favorite stories to read) at home after his harrowing time in the Pacific during WWII. Louis was a B-24 pilot that spent a record 47 days floating in the Pacific after his plane crashes into the ocean, and instead of being rescued, they were captured by the Japanese. As a Japanese POW, he was tortured by a horrible prison guard. With its page-turning writing style, this book kept me up at night wanting to read more.

By Laura Hillenbrand,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Unbroken as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of the bestselling and much-loved Seabiscuit, an unforgettable story of one man's journey into extremity. On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant's name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood,…

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

Kara Martinelli Why did I love this book?

This book is a story of several different women who participated in the French Resistance in Nazi-occupied France. I love the women that were chosen to be highlighted, including stories of romance, espionage, and torture. A little something for everyone, I suppose. Written like a narrative, this book has wonderful twists and turns (There was even a moment that I genuinely gasped at the reveal of a double agent). If you like tales about strong women from history, this is a must-read.

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'

'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…

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Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

Book cover of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

Gabrielle Robinson Author Of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Retired english professor

Gabrielle's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Gabrielle found her grandfather’s diaries after her mother’s death, only to discover that he had been a Nazi. Born in Berlin in 1942, she and her mother fled the city in 1945, but Api, the one surviving male member of her family, stayed behind to work as a doctor in a city 90% destroyed.

Gabrielle retraces Api’s steps in the Berlin of the 21st century, torn between her love for the man who gave her the happiest years of her childhood and trying to come to terms with his Nazi membership, German guilt, and political responsibility.

Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

What is this book about?

"This is not a book I will forget any time soon."
Story Circle Book Reviews

Moving and provocative, Api's Berlin Diaries offers a personal perspective on the fall of Berlin 1945 and the far-reaching aftershocks of the Third Reich.

After her mother's death, Robinson was thrilled to find her beloved grandfather's war diaries-only to discover that he had been a Nazi.

The award-winning memoir shows Api, a doctor in Berlin, desperately trying to help the wounded in cellars without water or light. He himself was reduced to anxiety and despair, the daily diary his main refuge. As Robinson retraces Api's…

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