The best World War II era books that explore conflicts on the home front as well as the battlefield

Who am I?

I’ve always been enamored with the World War II era. It was a time that seems virtually non-existent today, where almost everyone in my country was on the same page. There seemed to be a collective commitment to the struggle. An agreement that this was indeed good versus evil. Of course, I’m sure its nostalgic allure is much greater for those of us who didn’t actually have to live through it. But the strength, perseverance, and everyday heroism it brought out in soldiers and civilians alike, deserves to be chronicled and remembered forever.


I wrote...

A Farmhouse in the Rain

By Joe Kilgore,

Book cover of A Farmhouse in the Rain

What is my book about?

This novel is a sweeping saga wrapped around a mystery. Near an impending battle, three American soldiers are given shelter overnight by a French woman. The next morning she is found dead, yet all three proclaim their innocence. Simultaneously, on the home front, the women that the soldiers left behind experience the pain of loneliness, the exhilaration of success, and the trauma of rape. As the narrative unwinds, gripping questions arise. Who will survive the war? Who will survive the peace? Who will be reunited? And who will ultimately be unmasked as a murderer on that fateful night at A Farmhouse In The Rain?

The books I picked & why

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The Naked and the Dead

By Norman Mailer,

Book cover of The Naked and the Dead

Why this book?

This book reaches deep inside the histories and personalities of a squad of American soldiers. It meticulously displays the differences between the men themselves while painting an unflinching picture of their reactions to combat and the virtual suicidal mission they are tasked with. The war in the Pacific as monumental conflict is brought to a cellular level. Simultaneously, different strata of class systems in the U.S. are explored through dramatizations of the men’s lives before the war. If you’re at all like me, it’s impossible not to find yourself among the squad members. 

The Naked and the Dead

By Norman Mailer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hailed as one of the finest novels to come out of the Second World War, The Naked and the Dead received unprecedented critical acclaim upon its publication and has since enjoyed a long and well-deserved tenure in the American canon. This fiftieth anniversary edition features a new introduction created especially for the occasion by Norman Mailer.

Written in gritty, journalistic detail, the story follows a platoon of Marines who are stationed on the Japanese-held island of Anopopei. Composed in 1948 with the wisdom of a man twice Mailer's age and the raw courage of the young man he was, The…


The Young Lions

By Irwin Shaw,

Book cover of The Young Lions

Why this book?

What kind of people participated in the greatest conflict the world has ever known? Were the Allies really that different from the Axis soldiers? This book gives you the opportunity to look into what individuals on different sides of World War II were doing before they were trying to kill one another. You find yourself understanding what ignited one German’s initial patriotism, one American’s attempts to avoid the draft, and another’s struggles with antisemitism within his own ranks as well as the enemies. Above all though, it is the madness and futility of war that stays with you when the last page is turned.  

The Young Lions

By Irwin Shaw,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Young Lions is a vivid and classic novel that portrays the experiences of ordinary soldiers fighting World War II. Told from the points of view of a perceptive young Nazi, a jaded American film producer, and a shy Jewish boy just married to the love of his life, Shaw conveys, as no other novelist has since, the scope, confusion, and complexity of war.


From Here to Eternity

By James Jones,

Book cover of From Here to Eternity

Why this book?

In this book, the home front is somewhere other than home. It’s the base soldiers are assigned to in Hawaii just prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. And it’s impossible not to get caught up with the lives, lusts, hopes, dreams, comedy, and tragedy that befall this cross-section of Americans. Because virtually everything happens just before war begins, emotions, motivations, and behaviors don’t have to take second place to a global maelstrom. All the human attributes of longing, desire, fear, hope, and sometimes honor, are dramatized with realistic intensity that makes the characters in this novel as memorable as any you’re ever likely to run across.

From Here to Eternity

By James Jones,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked From Here to Eternity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'I'll never understand the fucking Army.'

Prew won't conform. He could have been the best boxer and the best bugler in his division, but he chooses the life of a straight soldier in Hawaii under the fierce tutelage of Sergeant Milt Warden. When he refuses to box for his company for mysterious reasons, he is given 'The Treatment', a relentless campaign of physical and mental abuse. Meanwhile, Warden wages his own campaign against authority by seducing the Captain's wife Karen - just because he can. Both men are bound to the Army, even though it may destroy them.

Published here…


Berlin

By Pierre Frei, Anthea Bell (translator),

Book cover of Berlin

Why this book?

In addition to being an intriguing mystery about a serial killer, this is a fascinating portrait of Germany before, during, and after World War II. What is the landscape of a defeated country really like? How can cigarette butts literally become economic currency? The reader learns truly remarkable things about what people will do to simply survive. Plus, the narrative itself flips tradition on its head by telling you about victims after they are dead, rather than before they are killed. Atmospheric and compelling, this story pulls you in and won’t let you go.

Berlin

By Pierre Frei, Anthea Bell (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Set in a devastated Berlin one month after the close of the Second World War, Berlin has been acclaimed as "ambitious . . . filled with brilliantly drawn characters, mesmerizingly readable, and disturbingly convincing" by the Sunday Telegraph. An electrifying thriller in the tradition of Joseph Kanon and Alan Furst, Berlin is a page-turner and an intimate portrait of Germany before, during, and after the war. It is 1945 in the American sector of occupied Berlin, and a German boy has discovered the body of a beautiful young woman in a subway station. Blonde and blue-eyed, she has been sexually…


Before the Court of Heaven

By Jack Mayer,

Book cover of Before the Court of Heaven

Why this book?

Most of this novel’s action occurs between World War I and World War II. It’s the riveting tale of a young German crushed by his country’s defeat and dedicated to doing something about it. He joins a network of assassins and aids in the murder of a high-ranking Jew in the Weimar government. Sent to prison, he meets a unique individual and begins an acute reexamination of everything he’s previously believed. This is a passionately compelling tale of one man looking deep within himself to make sense of what he’s done with his life. The author brings the times, as well as his characters vividly to life and makes this chronicle of redemption a supremely fulfilling read.

Before the Court of Heaven

By Jack Mayer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Before the Court of Heaven as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Historical Fiction based on a true story of Weimar Germany and the rise of the Third Reich. Winner of 13 book awards.2017 Independent Press Award - Winner - Historical Fiction 2017 Independent Press Award - Winner - General Fiction 2016 IndieReader Discovery Award - 1st Place - Fiction2015 Nautilus Book Award Winner - Fiction - Silver medal2016 Readers' Favorite Book Award - Gold Medal - Fiction -Social Issues2016 Finalist - Grand Prize (Eric Hoffer Award) - Fiction2016 Honorable Mention (Eric Hoffer Award) - Commercial Fiction 2016 Finalist - First Horizon Award (Eric Hoffer Award) - Fiction 2015 Finalist - Foreword…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in World War 2, Germany, and France?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about World War 2, Germany, and France.

World War 2 Explore 1142 books about World War 2
Germany Explore 340 books about Germany
France Explore 690 books about France

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Gates of Fire, The Fight, and Healing Wounds if you like this list.