The best WWII books with stories we haven’t heard before

Who am I?

I love to write stories of historical injustice, so this is mainly the genre I read. In recent years, many new novels merely rehashed the same theme, such as the horror show known as Auschwitz or the other camps. Although those are worthy of the people who died there, I’m always on the hunt for a fresh story that has never been told about those tragic years. 

I wrote...

When We Were Brave

By Karla M. Jay,

Book cover of When We Were Brave

What is my book about?

When We Were Brave tells three little-remembered stories that weave together and beg to be heard. We find a conflicted SS officer, Wilhelm Falk, who risks everything to escape the Wehrmacht and get out the message about the death camps. Izaak is a young Jewish boy whose positive outlook is challenged daily as each new perilous situation comes along. American citizens, Herbert Müller, and his family are sent back to the hellish landscape of Germany because of the DNA coursing through their veins. In the panorama of World War II, these are the high-stakes plots and endearing characters whose braided fates we pray will work out in the end.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Light in the Ruins

By Chris Bohjalian,

Book cover of The Light in the Ruins

Why this book?

I loved learning about what happened in Italy when the Germans occupied it. In this story, a wealthy Italian family becomes too close to the Germans by inviting them to search the secret ruins behind their villa for antiquities. This relationship has deadly consequences years later as members of the family are killed. The book goes back and forth between 1943 and 1955 until we learn why someone is seeking revenge.  

Letters Across the Sea

By Genevieve Graham,

Book cover of Letters Across the Sea

Why this book?

Although I knew about the Japanese atrocities and prison camps in WWII, I’d not read about it from the Canadian perspective, and I learned about the great losses those soldiers endured in the Battle for Hong Kong and the years after. This is a tale of overcoming hate with love, of struggling with despair while holding onto hope, of acceptance and long-buried truths, and in realizing we are all equally treasured no matter our religion, station in life, or wrong decisions made in haste. Do not miss the author's notes at the end! They are a mini-history lesson in and of themselves. 

The Yellow Bird Sings

By Jennifer Rosner,

Book cover of The Yellow Bird Sings

Why this book?

It’s Poland 1941, and Roza and her 5-year-old daughter Shira are hiding in a neighbor’s barn, and hoping beyond hope that they will remain safe, because the rest of their family has all been taken away. This is a lyrical read which many musical analogies since Shira is a musical prodigy. I loved this book because you are right there, staying silent, while trying to create a life with your daughter.  This was inspired by the true stories of hidden children during WWII and stayed with me long after. 

Beneath a Scarlet Sky

By Mark Sullivan,

Book cover of Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Why this book?

Based on the true story of Pino Lella, a young race-car driver, the book follows WWII in northern Italy after the Germans convince Mussolini to fight on their side. Lella puts himself and his family in grave danger as he is asked to drive for a prominent SS officer while working for the resistance. What I like was learning how Jews were shepherded out of northern Italy by trekking over the mountains into Switzerland and other unique rescue operations. 

The Ragged Edge of Night

By Olivia Hawker,

Book cover of The Ragged Edge of Night

Why this book?

The book tells the story of a small village near Stuttgart during wartime when poverty, hunger, fear, and uncertainty plague every member of the community. Even in the face of unthinkable horrors, the characters perform amazing acts of love, faith, bravery, and sacrifice and ultimately find forgiveness and hope for the future. I really enjoyed the vivid look at the lives of the German Resistance members and what they were willing to do to sacrifice while hiding the marginalized and criminalized citizens the Nazis hunted. Beautifully written as well.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in World War 2, Germany, and the German occupation of Europe?

5,809 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 the German occupation of Europe.

World War 2 Explore 971 books about World War 2
Germany Explore 291 books about Germany
The German Occupation Of Europe Explore 43 books about the German occupation of Europe

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Unbroken, Life of Pi, and The Happiest Man on Earth if you like this list.