The best books that weave fascinating stories about real people and events from WWII history

Who am I?

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.

The books I picked & why

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

By Erik Larson,

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

Why 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.


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

By Gregory A. Freeman,

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

Why 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.


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

By Katherine Sharp Landdeck,

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

Why 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. 


Unbroken

By Laura Hillenbrand,

Book cover of Unbroken

Why 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.


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

By Sarah Rose,

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

Why 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.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in World War 2, France, and Germany?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about World War 2, France, and Germany.

World War 2 Explore 975 books about World War 2
France Explore 587 books about France
Germany Explore 297 books about Germany

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Madame Fourcade's Secret War, We Band of Angels, and Japan at War if you like this list.