The best war books that go beyond bombs: how war affects families

Christine Kohler Author Of No Surrender Soldier
By Christine Kohler

The Books I Picked & Why

A Separate Peace

By John Knowles

Book cover of A Separate Peace

Why this book?

A Separate Peace is required reading in many high school honors English classes. Having not taken honor classes, I had never read the book until my novel was released and was recommended by reviewers as a diverse companion book. When I read A Separate Peace, set in on a US campus during WWII, I could see the similarities. However, this book is a quiet subtle story. Still, I wish I had been introduced to A Separate Peace in high school, during the Vietnam War. It truly is a timeless classic about morality, patriotism, and the loss of innocence.


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Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad

By M.T. Anderson

Book cover of Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad

Why this book?

Symphony for the City of the Dead is a riveting nonfiction story, written in novel style, about the Siege of Leningrad and the role played by Russian composer Shostakovich and his Leningrad Symphony. The story gives a glimpse of life for people trapped inside the Russian city for nearly three years, from 1941, when Nazis surrounded Leningrad. One million people died from bombings or starvation. After reading the moving account in MT Anderson’s book, I listened to Symphony for the City of the Dead. It will move you to tears. I love MT Anderson’s writing and depth, but this book is one of my all-time favorites due to the fact that it is nonfiction. It’s difficult to fathom how people could survive such horrific conditions. Yet, Shostakovich created such powerful haunting music from the tragedy.


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The Book Thief

By Markus Zusak

Book cover of The Book Thief

Why this book?

Set in Germany during World War II, The Book Thief is narrated by Death. (That alone should intrigue you enough to read the story!) The narrator follows the life of a young girl, Liesel, as she grows up in Nazi Germany. Liesel steals banned books the Nazi party wants to destroy. She is also writing her own story. The Book Thief will touch your heart deeply as you follow this brave cast of characters, all touched by death along their harrowing journeys.


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Megiddo's Shadow

By Arthur Slade

Book cover of Megiddo's Shadow

Why this book?

Several things drew me to Megiddo's Shadow: 1.) It is based on author Arthur Slade’s research of his grandfather’s experience as a teenager—age 16—in the Canadian-British calvary. 2.) It takes place in 1917 during World War I. 3.) Much of the action takes place in the Middle East. Even though this story does take place on the battlefield at times, the primary story is not about military campaigns. Rather, it’s about a young man who begins his journey as a patriot with visions of grandeur, yet has his ideals of heroism and courage turned upside after his experiences in war.


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With Love, Wherever You Are

By Dandi Daley Mackall

Book cover of With Love, Wherever You Are

Why this book?

Author Dandi Daley Mackall wrote With Love, Wherever You Are after reading a trunk-load of letters exchanged by her parents during their years as a nurse and doctor on the battlefields of Europe during World War II. Mackall's novel is based on genealogical research and is a story about people and the matters of their hearts, instead of military strategies and battles. Mackall was closer in time, though, since With Love, Wherever You Are is about her parents and set during the 1940s. She had access to primary sources in her research. As “The Greatest Generation” is passing away, it’s important that authors like Mackall are preserving these biographical stories.


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