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

Christine Kohler Author Of No Surrender Soldier
By Christine Kohler

Who am I?

As a lover of history, when I lived in Hawaii, Japan, and Guam, I visited World War II sites. I had a fascinating career as a political reporter. I reported on a “Christmas Drop,” a tradition since WWII. On Johnston Atoll, I did photojournalism on the incineration of chemical weapons from East Germany. I interviewed a Kuwaiti sheik and human shields during Desert Storm. I covered negotiations when the Philippines didn’t renew US military base leases. While at the San Antonio Express News, I researched the WWII Japanese soldier, Shoichi Yokoi, who hid on Guam for nearly 28 years. That was the seed for my novel No Surrender Soldier


I wrote...

No Surrender Soldier

By Christine Kohler,

Book cover of No Surrender Soldier

What is my book about?

A young man, an old Japanese soldier, and a terrible injustice during World War II. Should the punishment be death? Set on Guam during 1972, No Surrender Soldier is the story of a young Chamorro man grappling with ancient questions of courage and manhood before he can move on.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

A Separate Peace

By John Knowles,

Book cover of A Separate Peace

Why did I love 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.

By John Knowles,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked A Separate Peace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

AS HEARD ON BBC RADIO 4 'A GOOD READ'

'A novel that made such a deep impression on me at sixteen that I can still conjure the atmosphere in my fifties: of yearning, infatuation mingled indistinguishably with envy, and remorse' Lionel Shriver

An American coming-of-age tale during a period when the entire country was losing its innocence to the second world war.

Set at a boys' boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual.…


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

Why did I love 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.

By M.T. Anderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Symphony for the City of the Dead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“This ambitious and gripping work is narrative nonfiction at its best. . . . The book has all the intrigue of a spy thriller. . . . A must-have title with broad crossover appeal.” — School Library Journal (starred review)

In September 1941, Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht surrounded Leningrad in what was to become one of the longest and most destructive sieges in Western history—almost three years of bombardment and starvation. Trapped between the Nazi invading force and the Soviet government itself was composer Dmitri Shostakovich, writing a symphony to rouse, rally, eulogize, and commemorate his fellow citizens: the Leningrad Symphony.…


The Book Thief

By Markus Zusak,

Book cover of The Book Thief

Why did I love 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.

By Markus Zusak,

Why should I read it?

26 authors picked The Book Thief as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

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…


Megiddo's Shadow

By Arthur Slade,

Book cover of Megiddo's Shadow

Why did I love 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.

By Arthur Slade,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Megiddo's Shadow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fueled by anger at the death of his two brothers in World War I, 16-year-old Edward abandons his ailing father on their farm and leaves Canada to enlist. After proving that he can tame any wild horse, he's is sent to Jordan to fight with the Cavalry.

Luckily, his horse is the extraordinary Buke; in battle, a trooper's horse is the key to life and death, and his true companion. In the harsh desert, Edward is grateful for the camaraderie of his tent mates, Cheevers and Blackburn,and letters from Emily, a nurse he met at base camp. As they close…


With Love, Wherever You Are

By Dandi Daley Mackall,

Book cover of With Love, Wherever You Are

Why did I love 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.

By Dandi Daley Mackall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked With Love, Wherever You Are as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Everyone knows that war romances never last . . .
After a whirlwind romance and wedding, Helen Eberhart Daley, an army nurse, and Lieutenant Frank Daley, M.D. are sent to the front lines of Europe with only letters to connect them for months at a time.

Surrounded by danger and desperately wounded patients, they soon find that only the war seems real―and their marriage more and more like a distant dream. If they make it through the war, will their marriage survive?

Based on the incredible true love story, With Love, Wherever You Are is an adult novel from beloved…


You might also like...

In Human Shadow

By Gregory J. Glanz,

Book cover of In Human Shadow

Gregory J. Glanz Author Of In Human Shadow

New book alert!

Who am I?

It seems that all of the fictional main characters I create have anti-hero tendencies. There is always some voice in their head telling them to do right when they are expected to do wrong, or to do wrong when it is supposed they will do right. I find this flaw very compelling, and universal for those of us of flesh and blood. Do sneering, evil characters exist? Well, maybe, but they aren’t very interesting, and I think a weak trope.

Gregory's book list on anti-heroes of fantasy fiction

What is my book about?

Born the half-breed, bastard son of an orc chieftain, Wrank tries to survive life in OrcHome among ignorance and spite aimed at his human heritage even as he develops a Talent for folding shadow. When life is no longer viable among the clans, he escapes into the world of humans where he once again encounters intolerance from thieves, wizards, priests, and assassins.

With the eyes of imps, demons, miscreant gods, and a changeling upon him, can he survive In Human Shadow even though his future is foretold, his death foreseen?

In Human Shadow

By Gregory J. Glanz,

What is this book about?

Born the half-breed, bastard son of an orc chieftain, Wrank tries to survive life in OrcHome among ignorance and spite aimed at his human heritage even as he develops a Talent for folding shadow. When life is no longer viable among the clans, he escapes into the world of humans where he once again encounters intolerance from thieves, wizards, priests and assassins. With the eyes of imps, demons, miscreant gods, and a changeling upon him, can he survive In Human Shadow even though his future is foretold, his death foreseen?


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in brothers, romantic love, and the Siege of Leningrad?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about brothers, romantic love, and the Siege of Leningrad.

Brothers Explore 93 books about brothers
Romantic Love Explore 735 books about romantic love
The Siege Of Leningrad Explore 9 books about the Siege of Leningrad