100 books like A Mad Desire to Dance

By Elie Wiesel,

Here are 100 books that A Mad Desire to Dance fans have personally recommended if you like A Mad Desire to Dance. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of All the Light We Cannot See

Jill Wallace Author Of War Serenade

From my list on impossible odds and satisfying endings.

Why am I passionate about this?

My ultimate read is when the action is fast, but the character's discovery of self is slow. Besides, being engrossed in the challenges of others makes my own pale by comparison. The author needs to get me to empathize with the characters - even if their struggles are nothing like my own - and once they’ve done that, I’ll be in for the long haul! Journeying through life’s mire and finding the rainbow with a character you believe - and believe in - makes for the ultimate in vicarious living. And ‘Heck, YES’ to a satisfying ending!

Jill's book list on impossible odds and satisfying endings

Jill Wallace Why did Jill love this book?

This book, with its prose as poetry, made me want to read it again the minute I finished. To absorb Mr. Doerr’s majestic words was to be transformed into a little blind girl with the heart of a lion, the wit of a comic, the determination of a world leader. I became Marie-Laure LeBlanc and felt all the while sublimely grateful that I could see. And then I met Werner Flemming and wept for him. I understood him. I was deeply moved by him. 

I felt it was profoundly destined that these two should meet and fall in love, but my imagination carried me far into the future. I was surprised to find though I should have been disappointed, I was not. You see, this book made me realize that while many people touch our lives, some can change the course of our trajectory even by a single degree. And…

By Anthony Doerr,

Why should I read it?

41 authors picked All the Light We Cannot See as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II

Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.'

For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The microscopic…

Book cover of A Boy in Winter

Diane Chandler Author Of The Road To Donetsk

From my list on capturing the spirit of the Ukrainian people.

Why am I passionate about this?

My passion for Ukraine and its incredible people began when I managed a European Union aid programme there in the 1990s. Ukraine had just become an independent nation after the collapse of the Soviet Union and we were supporting its path to democracy. I travelled throughout this stunning country umpteen times and met thousands of warm, welcoming people, who quickly found their way into my heart. The Road to Donetsk is my tribute to Ukraine. It won the 2016 People’s Book Prize for Fiction, an award I dedicated to the Ukrainian people. Today, my memories of all those I met weigh heavily on my mind. 

Diane's book list on capturing the spirit of the Ukrainian people

Diane Chandler Why did Diane love this book?

I loved this beautifully written novel which embraces and honours the Ukrainian spirit. It is 1942 and the Germans have arrived in a small town in Western Ukraine. When the schoolmaster and his wife are rounded up and murdered along with all the other Jews, Yaisa, a local peasant girl, instinctively hides their two young sons away. The massacre is witnessed with horror both by a Ukrainian Auxiliary, now remorseful at having joined the German police, and by a German engineer who is building roads with forced Ukrainian labour. Now the hunt is on for the Jewish boys – and for Yaisa too. An incredibly moving read that both hones in on one small town and pans out across the vast and varied landscape of Ukraine. 

By Rachel Seiffert,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Boy in Winter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Early on a grey November morning in 1941, only weeks after the German invasion, a small Ukrainian town is overrun by the SS. Deft, spare and devastating, Rachel Seiffert's new novel tells of the three days that follow and the lives that are overturned in the process. Penned in with his fellow Jews, under threat of transportation, Ephraim anxiously awaits word of his two sons, missing since daybreak. Come in search of her lover, to fetch him home again, away from the invaders, Yasia must confront new and harsh truths about those closest to her. Here to avoid a war…

Book cover of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Taryn R. Hutchison Author Of One Degree of Freedom

From my list on teens in Eastern Europe during WWII or the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I lived in Eastern Europe for the decade immediately after the Communist regimes collapsed. It was the most exhilarating time of my life. Originally, I titled my book list “The best teen novels set in Romania during the Cold War.” But I could only come up with three (including my own). So, I expanded my search to include Eastern Europe starting in WWII. I’m the author of three books: two nonfiction and one young adult historical fiction. I now live in western North Carolina with my husband, hold an MA in Writing, and teach at the Writing Center at a small local university. 

Taryn's book list on teens in Eastern Europe during WWII or the Cold War

Taryn R. Hutchison Why did Taryn love this book?

This middle grade book takes place during WWII. The story takes the reader from Berlin to Poland, told through the eyes of a young German boy who encounters a Jewish boy on the other side of a tall fence. I loved this book because we who know about the depravity and horror of Auschwitz can see the bleak reality from a perspective of an innocent child: a boy who thinks his thin Jewish friend is dressed in pajamas.

By John Boyne,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Boy in the Striped Pajamas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The story of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is very difficult to describe. Usually we give some clues about the book on the cover, but in this case we think that would spoil the reading of the book. We think it is important that you start to read without knowing what it is about.

If you do start to read this book, you will go on a journey with a nine-year-old boy called Bruno. And sooner or later you will arrive with Bruno at a fence.

We hope you never have to cross such a fence.

Book cover of Surviving the Fatherland: A True Coming-Of-Age Love Story Set in WWII Germany

Heinz Kohler Author Of My Name Was Five: A Novel of the Second World War

From my list on WW2 through the eyes of children.

Why am I passionate about this?

Heinz Kohler was born in Berlin, Germany, where he grew up before and during World War II. By the war's end, he found himself in rural East Germany and spent years watching the Nazi tyranny give way to a Communist one. Since 1961, he taught economics at Amherst College, while also logging thousands of flight hours as a commercial pilot. These numerous experiences come to life in a powerful tale of war and its aftermath. As David R. Mayhew, Yale University Sterling Professor of Political Science, put it “In novelistic form, this is a riveting child’s-eye account of growing up in Germany under the Nazis and then the Russians. Laced with extraordinary photos and posters from these times, it combines memory with testimony.”

Heinz's book list on WW2 through the eyes of children

Heinz Kohler Why did Heinz love this book?

Solingen, Germany, 1940: Here begins the story of 7-year old Lilly and 12-year old Günter whose lives spiral out of control as the war escalates, bombs begin to rain and people die. A sweeping family saga of love, betrayal, and PTSD similar to the one I witnessed as well.

By Annette Oppenlander,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner/Nominee of eight awards

“This book needs to join the ranks of the classic survivor stories of WWII such as ‘Diary of Anne Frank’ and ‘Man's Search for Meaning’. It is truly that amazing!” InD'tale Magazine

“This type of raw, articulate, history-based storytelling pays homage to the war children who bore witness while struggling to survive.” Publishers Weekly (PW)

Based on a true story and set against the epic panorama of WWII, SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND is a sweeping saga of family, love, and betrayal that illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the children's war - a tale of…

Book cover of The Baton and the Jackboot

Isabel Vincent Author Of Overture of Hope: Two Sisters' Daring Plan that Saved Opera's Jewish Stars from the Third Reich

From my list on heroes and anti-heroes in WW2 and the Holocaust.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became interested in the Holocaust and the Second World War during my senior year of high school. I took a literature class entitled “Man’s Inhumanity to Man,” which focused a great deal on the literature that emerged from the Holocaust. At the end of the year, I had the great honor to meet author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel who had actually read my essay (my teacher knew him, and gave it to him to read) and encouraged me to keep writing. I am fascinated by stories of survival and the quiet heroism that characterized women like Ida and Louise Cook.

Isabel's book list on heroes and anti-heroes in WW2 and the Holocaust

Isabel Vincent Why did Isabel love this book?

Berta Geissmar was the Jewish secretary and confidante to legendary German conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler beginning in 1921.

In her memoir, published in 1944, Geissmar describes how the Nazi hierarchy interfered in the world of classical music, purging orchestras of Jewish musicians and banning works by Jewish composers. Although Furtwangler at first refused to do the bidding of the Nazis, he was eventually sidelined. And Geissmar soon became a Nazi target.

They blamed her for the bad publicity that the regime was getting in the classical music world, and seized her passport. Geissmar was eventually allowed to leave the country, and, ended up in London as the secretary of another legendary conductor—Sir Thomas Beecham.

By Berta Geissmar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


Book cover of Ordinary Men

Suzanna Eibuszyc Author Of Memory is Our Home

From my list on the trials and tribulations of the generation that came before us.

Why am I passionate about this?

Professor Elie Wiesel was instrumental in my translating and researching my mother’s journals. My awakening to the dark period in the chapter of the Jewish history happened between 1971-1974 at CCNY, when our paths crossed while I was taking his classes at the department of Jewish studies. It was in his classes that the things that bewildered me as a child growing up in communist Poland in the shadows of the Holocaust aftermath started to make sense. I asked my mother to commit to paper the painful memories, she buried deep inside her. She and the next generations have an obligation to bear witness, to be this history's keepers.

Suzanna's book list on the trials and tribulations of the generation that came before us

Suzanna Eibuszyc Why did Suzanna love this book?

The famous Hannah Arendt coined “the banality of evil." Not monsters, but ordinary people were able to follow Hitler’s murderess ideology. Ordinary Men clearly shows how men and women from all walks of life were capable of becoming cold-blooded killers. Ordinary Men were the Nazi mobile gas units and death squads responsible for the murder of 1.5 million Jews in Eastern Poland & Ukraine.   

By Christopher R. Browning,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The shocking account of how a unit of average middle-aged Germans became the cold-blooded murderers of tens of thousands of Jews.

Book cover of Jewels and Ashes

Georgina Banks Author Of Back to Bangka: Searching For The Truth About A Wartime Massacre

From my list on truth-seeking post WWII.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been interested in what makes people tick – in their unseen inner world. In my twenties, I literally embodied others in my work as an actor. In my thirties, I studied applied psychology and sat alongside others and talked. In my forties, I started my consulting business Changeable, working with group and organizational dynamics. Now in my fifties, I am accessing inner worlds through writing, placing myself imaginatively into other people and places. I have merely scratched the surface. These post-WWII books give a gripping, personal, and scorching window into truth-seeking. 

Georgina's book list on truth-seeking post WWII

Georgina Banks Why did Georgina love this book?

Zable writes of the haunted consciousness of post-conflict generations, in his case, the holocaust.

He argues that great stories must have both terror and beauty, or they merely add to the darkness. It is easy to see the terror, but what of the jewels? I grappled with this question too - how do we rightly remember victims of extreme violence? When I looked to Zable, I found a work imbued with poetry and lyricism.

Jewels and Ashes is a transcendent retracing of the terrain of his parents and grandparents.

By Arnold Zable,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a memoir of a Jewish man's search for his roots, the son of Holocaust survivors returns to his parents' homeland in Poland to rediscover the former glory of East European Jewry.

Book cover of The Curator's Daughter

Sarah Sundin Author Of Until Leaves Fall in Paris

From my list on World War II novels to inspire you.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sarah Sundin’s love for the stories of World War II comes from family members who served during the war on the US Home Front and abroad. Her passion for research and travel has fueled her award-winning novels. The horrors of the war brought out the worst in humanity. Yet they also brought out the best in humanity, and those stories—of people who chose kindness and courage and right in trying times—are the stories that inspire us to choose kindness and courage and right in our own trying times.

Sarah's book list on World War II novels to inspire you

Sarah Sundin Why did Sarah love this book?

This dual timeline novel is expertly researched and woven into a tapestry. In 1940, a German archaeologist is forced to marry an SS officer—and to catalog art stolen from the Jews. In modern times, a young woman with a traumatic past in the neo-Nazi movement works with the Holocaust Museum to fight hate crimes. Their entwining stories show the courage needed to stand up against racism—and the necessity of doing so, no matter the cost.

By Melanie Dobson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A young girl, kidnapped on the eve of World War II, changes the lives of a German archaeologist forced into the Nazi Party and―decades later―a researcher trying to overcome her own trauma.

1940. Hanna Tillich cherishes her work as an archaeologist for the Third Reich, searching for the Holy Grail and other artifacts to bolster evidence of a master Aryan race. But when she is reassigned to work as a museum curator in Nuremberg, then forced to marry an SS officer and adopt a young girl, Hanna begins to see behind the Nazi facade. A prayer labyrinth becomes a storehouse…

Book cover of On Sunny Days We Sang: A Holocaust Story of Survival and Resilience

Oren Schneider Author Of The Apprentice of Buchenwald: The True Story of the Teenage Boy Who Sabotaged Hitler's War Machine

From my list on individual bravery and triumph over evil during WWII.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in Israel, a third generation to holocaust survivors and seventh generation to farmers from the Galilee, living with my family in Brooklyn, NY. I was raised by a concentration camp survivor grandfather, whose miraculous story I recorded and documented since early childhood. My painful family heritage made me passionate about 1930s and 1940s Europe, social and political processes that allowed fascism and nationalism to prevail over the frail democracies, and how ordinary people found their world shattered overnight, and had to find ways to stay alive. The books on my list represent small stories, about the human condition under inhumane conditions, told by talented storytellers. 

Oren's book list on individual bravery and triumph over evil during WWII

Oren Schneider Why did Oren love this book?

I appreciated the author’s meticulously researched account of her parents' remarkable survival in Poland.

Her writing is very emotional yet beautiful and fact-based. The details capture the complexity of survival during these dark days. Moreover, she is able to convey the randomness of individual outcomes, and the unfathomable resilience of the ones who managed to stay alive and tell their tale.

By Jeannette Grunhaus de Gelman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On Sunny Days We Sang as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"This is a moving remembrance, as historically edifying as it is dramatically affecting; it’s also a marvelous amalgam of scholarly objectivity and poignant psychological reflection. A gripping work of familial history. " – Kirkus Reviews

When the Germans march into their little Polish shtetl at the start of the Second World War, the Jews of Włodawa see their lives abruptly torn apart. For Hil and Alexandra it marks the beginning of a struggle to survive during which they will experience ghettos, roundups, will need to use hiding places and false identities – a struggle where the line between life and…

Book cover of Primo Levi's Resistance: Rebels and Collaborators in Occupied Italy

Gemma Liviero Author Of The Road Beyond Ruin

From my list on WW2 occupation, resistance, and the aftermath.

Why am I passionate about this?

Gemma is the bestselling author of historical fiction novels, translated into several languages. Set against the backdrop of war in Europe, her fifth book in this genre will be released later this year. She has combined the war experiences of family members in WWI and WWII, information collected during her research and travels, and her academic studies in writing and history, to create the authentic scenes and characters for her books.

Gemma's book list on WW2 occupation, resistance, and the aftermath

Gemma Liviero Why did Gemma love this book?

The partisan experiences of Primo Levi—chemist, Auschwitz survivor, and writer—are researched and offered in gritty, thorough detail by Luzzatto. Levi, in his writings, alluded to incidents that occurred during his time as a partisan, and Luzzatto delves deeper into the motivations behind these events and the personalities involved. The Resistance in its early days, while being hunted by Nazis and their Italian allies, became a small force of its own making, using collective, military-style decisions and tactics, and meting out its own forms of justice. An important book to gain insight into the complexities of purpose within the Resistance, learn about the crimes and subsequent justice of members of Salò—the puppet government installed in northern Italy—and understand the influences on political alignments and fascism in the period beyond the war.

By Sergio Luzzatto,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

No other Auschwitz survivor has been as literarily powerful and historically influential as Primo Levi. Yet Levi was not only a victim or a witness. In the fall of 1943, at the very start of the Italian Resistance, he was a fighter, participating in the first attempts to launch guerrilla warfare against occupying Nazi forces. Those three months have been largely overlooked by Levi's biographers; indeed, they went strikingly unmentioned by Levi himself. For the rest of his life he barely acknowledged that autumn in the Alps. But an obscure passage in Levi's The Periodic Table hints that his deportation…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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