The best books that tell great stories about the Second World War

Who am I?

I am a Scottish writer, addicted to reading and writing historical fiction. Writing Historical novels is not a job but a passion for me. I have studied, read, and written about historical periods from William the Conqueror in the 11th century to the end of WW2, and many other periods in between. I continually research, looking for my next historical story, but it would take more than one lifetime for me to study all the great historical fiction and non-fiction books out there. As a genre, historical fiction is making a comeback, and I’m happy to be part of the Genre’s resurgence.

I wrote...

The German Half-Bloods

By Jana Petken,

Book cover of The German Half-Bloods

What is my book about?

Three Anglo-German brothers from Berlin must choose to fight for the Third Reich or Britain. What happens when loyalties split, and trust is broken? Love and betrayal leap off the pages in this story of the Vogels, a family torn apart by war and betrayal. Germany, September 1939... at the outbreak of War, Dieter Vogel and his family face catastrophic events and separation as each member embarks on their deadly paths towards survival, love, and freedom.

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The books I picked & why


By Noel Barber,

Book cover of Tanamera

Why did I love this book?

This story is not only a history of Singapore and Malaya before, during, and after the war, it is also a beautiful love story and gripping family Saga. It’s a chunky book in which Noel Barber paints an indelible picture of pre-war colonial life in Singapore for both the colonials and the Malaysians.

Noel Barber brings to life the British defence build-up and the military and colonial administration’s mistakes, which led to the Japanese invasion. It was as though they could not believe the Japanese could or would invade their territory. The story is romantic and heart-breaking, as Noel Barber delves into family ties and the characters’ fight for survival.

I recommend this book for two reasons: I read a lot, yet this book has stuck with me for over twenty years, so it must have impacted me. Second, this author is no longer with us, so I think everyone should know Noel Barber and his books. I have read them all

By Noel Barber,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tanamera as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Opulence. Invasion. Terror. And forbidden passion in 1930s Singapore.

'They were the golden days, when Singapore was as rich as its climate was steamy, its future as assured as it was busy. And those days were made even better when, as was inevitable, I fell in love with the Chinese beauty of Julie Soong and, against all unwritten canons of Singapore life, we became lovers.'

Code Talker

By Chester Nez, Judith Schiess Avila,

Book cover of Code Talker

Why did I love this book?

Chester Nez was not his name. The American government gave him it. They punished him for speaking his native language, and he faced discrimination. Yet after Pearl Harbour, he accepted the call to serve his country.

This memoir is both a poignant and fascinating story of how the military trained Native Americans to develop and implement a secret code, which remained unbroken, and helped to secure victory for the United States. I recommend it because it was gripping, and completely different from anything I have read in the WW2 period.

By Chester Nez, Judith Schiess Avila,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Code Talker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first and only memoir by one of the original Navajo code talkers of WWII.

His name wasn’t Chester Nez. That was the English name he was assigned in kindergarten. And in boarding school at Fort Defiance, he was punished for speaking his native language, as the teachers sought to rid him of his culture and traditions. But discrimination didn’t stop Chester from answering the call to defend his country after Pearl Harbor, for the Navajo have always been warriors, and his upbringing on a New Mexico reservation gave him the strength—both physical and mental—to excel as a marine.


Book cover of Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission

Why did I love this book?

I only had to read the headline to know this was the book for me. The Americans handpicked 121 soldiers to slip behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission seemed impossible; another reason I chose this book. It was to march thirty miles in rugged terrain, and at the end, rescue over 500 POWs, amongst them the last survivors of the Bataan Death March.

I recommend this book because it engrossed me from page one to the last. The realistic imagery depicting how the prisoners lived in the camp, how they bonded together, and survived despite starvation, tropical diseases, and unimaginable torture, made this an unforgettable book for me.

By Hampton Sides,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Ghost Soldiers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • “The greatest World War II story never told” (Esquire)—an enthralling account of the heroic mission to rescue the last survivors of the Bataan Death March.

On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected U.S. troops slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March thirty rugged miles to rescue 513 POWs languishing in a hellish camp, among them the last survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March. A recent prison massacre by Japanese soldiers elsewhere in the Philippines made the stakes impossibly high and left little time to plan the complex operation.

In Ghost Soldiers Hampton Sides vividly…

When We Were Brave

By Suzanne Kelman,

Book cover of When We Were Brave

Why did I love this book?

This is a ‘going back in time’ novel, not original, but well-written and very engaging. A woman finds a photograph of a woman in an attic. She discovers the woman is an aunt no one talks about. Her crime: to fall in love and flee to Paris with a Nazi prisoner of war.

I am recommending this book because of the emotions it evoked in me, the tension throughout, and the beautiful love story that unraveled in a time of war. It has stuck with me.

By Suzanne Kelman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When We Were Brave as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The face of the woman in the photograph was tilted upwards, as if enjoying the sunshine just for a moment, even as the wreckage of the bombed-out street lay behind her…

1944, Cornwall: Blinded by love, Vivienne Hamilton eloped to Paris with a Nazi prisoner-of-war, never to be seen again. A disgrace to her family, her name would not be mentioned by any of her relatives for over 75 years.

Present day, London: When Sophie discovers a photograph of her great aunt Vivi from World War Two, it throws her into a world of confusion. Because, as she learns about…

Book cover of The Wooden Horse: The Classic World War II Story of Escape

Why did I love this book?

I love POW stories, and this one did not disappoint me. It was an exquisite story of bravery. The pace was slow at the beginning, but it had to be to allow the reader to understand the backstory. When the prison escape came, I was on the edge of my seat, and I stayed there. Would they make it, or would the Germans capture them? It has every ingredient a book needs to become a classic WW2 story. I recommend this book because of the way the author held the suspense all the way through. This really was a Great Escape story.

By Eric Williams,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Wooden Horse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Eric Williams, Royal Air Force bomber captain, was shot down over Germany in 1942 and imprisoned in Stalag Luft III, the infamous German POW camp. Digging an underground tunnel hidden beneath a wooden vaulting horse, he managed to escape after ten months and, accompanied by a fellow officer, made his way back to England. In this thinly fictionalized retelling, Williams relates his story in three distinct phases: the construction of a tunnel (its entrance camouflaged by the wooden vaulting horse in the exercise yard) and hiding the large quantities of sand he dug; the escape; and the journey on foot…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in World War 2, prisoner of war, and the Navajo?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about World War 2, prisoner of war, and the Navajo.

World War 2 Explore 1,692 books about World War 2
Prisoner Of War Explore 73 books about prisoner of war
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