100 books like France Under Fire

By Nicole Dombrowski Risser,

Here are 100 books that France Under Fire fans have personally recommended if you like France Under Fire. 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 Suite Française

David Snell Author Of Sing to Silent Stones: Part One

From my list on wartime books about families torn apart by the conflict in WW1 and WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

My reading is almost entirely influenced by my own family’s extraordinary history. My mother and father-in-law were both illegitimate. Both suffered for the fact and my father-in-law was 11 years old when he first found out and was reunited with his mother, albeit on a second-class basis compared to his half siblings. My mother trained bomb aimers. My father flew Lancaster bombers and was just 19 years old in the skies above wartime Berlin. My own books combine history, my personal experiences, and my family’s past to weave wartime stories exploring the strains that those conflicts imposed on friendships.

David's book list on wartime books about families torn apart by the conflict in WW1 and WW2

David Snell Why did David love this book?

An abiding theme within my own book is that love and friendship can supplant racial and cultural differences, and this book, set in a village in France during the 2nd World War, highlights a growing and reluctant friendship between an occupier and the occupied.

The hatred that invasion induces causes any fraternisation to be labelled ‘collaboration.’ Sometimes it is. Sometimes, it is just people caught out of context seeking comfort and normality.

It is easy for those whose countries have never been occupied to scoff at the behaviour of those who had to live in the atmosphere and the reality of a hostile invasion. Let’s hope we never have to find out firsthand.

By Irene Nemirovsky,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Suite Française as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1941, Irene Nemirovsky sat down to write a book that would convey the magnitude of what she was living through, not in terms of battles and politicians, but by evoking the domestic lives and personal trials of the ordinary citizens of France. She did not live to see her ambition fulfilled, or to know that sixty-five years later, "Suite Francaise" would be published for the first time, and hailed as a masterpiece. Set during a year that begins with France's fall to the Nazis in June 1940 and ends with Germany turning its attention to Russia, "Suite Francaise" falls…


Book cover of Fleeing Hitler: France 1940

Austin Denis Johnston Author Of 33 Days: A Memoir

From my list on the refugee crisis in Western Europe in WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

Twenty years ago I nearly married a French woman and emigrated. I prepared vigorously to become an honorary Frenchman, cramming French history, language, and culture. Ultimately, I neither married nor emigrated, but the passion for that cultural acquisition project never left me, meaning many years of trips, reading, and language study. For the last decade, I've supplemented that interest by looking for historically significant French texts to translate (primarily contemporaneous texts about the World Wars and the interwar period). I have degrees in history and international affairs, plus professional experience in military affairs (including the Office of Secretary of Defense) and editing magazines (for Time, Inc.).

Austin's book list on the refugee crisis in Western Europe in WW2

Austin Denis Johnston Why did Austin love this book?

The first book to read on this subject. An accessible, expert synthesis of refugee experiences based on many accounts, including interviews, but focused on eight that contain extensive, significant detail (all by Paris residents, Léon Werth among them). Diamond concludes that Philippe Pétain leveraged refugees' suffering to propagandize for military capitulation and the legitimacy of his regime.

By Hanna Diamond,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Wednesday 12th June 1940. The Times reported 'thousands upon thousands of Parisians leaving the capital by every possible means, preferring to abandon home and property rather than risk even temporary Nazi domination'.

As Hitler's victorious armies approached Paris, the French government abandoned the city and its people, leaving behind them an atmosphere of panic. Roads heading south filled with ordinary people fleeing for their lives with whatever personal possessions they could carry, often with no particular destination in mind. During the long, hard journey, this mass exodus of predominantly women, children, and the elderly, would face constant bombings, machine gun…


Book cover of The Fall of Paris: June 1940

Austin Denis Johnston Author Of 33 Days: A Memoir

From my list on the refugee crisis in Western Europe in WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

Twenty years ago I nearly married a French woman and emigrated. I prepared vigorously to become an honorary Frenchman, cramming French history, language, and culture. Ultimately, I neither married nor emigrated, but the passion for that cultural acquisition project never left me, meaning many years of trips, reading, and language study. For the last decade, I've supplemented that interest by looking for historically significant French texts to translate (primarily contemporaneous texts about the World Wars and the interwar period). I have degrees in history and international affairs, plus professional experience in military affairs (including the Office of Secretary of Defense) and editing magazines (for Time, Inc.).

Austin's book list on the refugee crisis in Western Europe in WW2

Austin Denis Johnston Why did Austin love this book?

The fall of France is essential historical context for the refugee crisis, and this book is "history with a flair." Focused on Paris—through which millions of refugees were routed and from which two million embarked—Lottman weaves micro-histories (think Eduardo Galeano), culled from an encyclopedic range of accounts, into a panoramic, propulsive day-by-day narrative that prominently features the refugee crisis. A compelling read.

By Herbert R. Lottman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A dramatic chronicle of the fall of one of the world's great cities covers the five weeks leading up to the German capture of Paris in 1940


Book cover of The Fall of France: The Nazi Invasion of 1940

Austin Denis Johnston Author Of 33 Days: A Memoir

From my list on the refugee crisis in Western Europe in WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

Twenty years ago I nearly married a French woman and emigrated. I prepared vigorously to become an honorary Frenchman, cramming French history, language, and culture. Ultimately, I neither married nor emigrated, but the passion for that cultural acquisition project never left me, meaning many years of trips, reading, and language study. For the last decade, I've supplemented that interest by looking for historically significant French texts to translate (primarily contemporaneous texts about the World Wars and the interwar period). I have degrees in history and international affairs, plus professional experience in military affairs (including the Office of Secretary of Defense) and editing magazines (for Time, Inc.).

Austin's book list on the refugee crisis in Western Europe in WW2

Austin Denis Johnston Why did Austin love this book?

Also for historical context, this is a more traditionally constructed history—though also a masterful synthesis of sources—and among those that view the refugee crisis as having a role in France's defeat. Clear, concise and comprehensive; if you read one book about the fall of France, read this.

By Julian Jackson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On 16 May 1940 an emergency meeting of the French High Command was called at the Quai d'Orsay in Paris. The German army had broken through the French lines on the River Meuse at Sedan and elsewhere, only five days after launching their attack. Churchill, who had been telephoned by Prime Minister Reynaud the previous evening to be told that the French were beaten, rushed to Paris to meet the French leaders. The mood in the meeting was one of panic and despair; there
was talk of evacuating Paris. Churchill asked Gamelin, the French Commander in Chief, 'Where is the…


Book cover of House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family

Ruth Badley Author Of Where are the grown-ups?

From my list on troubled families and the secrets they keep.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a journalist with a background in performing arts and have spent much of my work life as a storyteller, fascinated by the process of knocking a narrative into shape, either for print or stage performance. My mother’s death prompted me to use those same skills to tell my own stories and the process has been the most satisfying of my professional life. As a memoirist of two books, my dreams have come true. My work has been shortlisted for awards, featured in national newspapers, special interest magazines, and by the BBC. I regularly speak to family history societies, book clubs, writer’s groups, and at literature festivals.   

Ruth's book list on troubled families and the secrets they keep

Ruth Badley Why did Ruth love this book?

A beautifully written and meticulously researched family memoir that made me question what I would have done to survive the turbulence and brutality of the Nazi era. Themes of antisemitism and identity continue to haunt four siblings - Jehuda, Jacob, Sender, and Sala - as they leave Poland behind to establish new lives as Alex, Jacques, Henri, and Sara in Paris.

An irresistible and complex personal story that I would happily reread because I devoured this page turner too quickly! At the heart of it all is Sara, the author’s mysterious, glamorous, melancholy grandmother and a shoebox of her treasured possessions. The author, a skilled journalist, adds power to the narrative with examples of populist divisive politics and the rise of nationalism in current times.

By Hadley Freeman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Sunday Times bestseller

'An utterly engrossing book' Nigella Lawson

'Remarkable and gripping' Edmund de Waal

'A near-perfect study of Jewish identity in the 20th century ... I don't hesitate to call it a masterpiece' Telegraph

After her grandmother died, Hadley Freeman travelled to her apartment to try and make sense of a woman she'd never really known. Sala Glass was a European expat in America - defiantly clinging to her French influences, famously reserved, fashionable to the end - yet to Hadley much of her life remained a mystery. Sala's experience of surviving one of the most tumultuous periods…


Book cover of Cruel Crossing: Escaping Hitler Across the Pyrenees

Anne-Marie Walters Author Of Moondrop to Gascony

From my list on escaping from occupied France during WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

Anne-Marie Walters was born in 1923 in Geneva to a British father and French mother. At the outbreak of war in 1940, the family escaped to Britain, where Anne-Marie volunteered for the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force). Having been approached by SOE in 1943, she was accepted for training and in January the following year dropped into France by parachute to work as a courier with George Starr, head of the Wheelwright circuit of the SOE in SW France. This she did until August 1944, when Starr sent her back to Britain under somewhat controversial  circumstances. Anne-Marrie was awarded the OBE in 1945 in recognition of her “personal courage and willingness to undergo danger.” 

Anne-Marie's book list on escaping from occupied France during WW2

Anne-Marie Walters Why did Anne-Marie love this book?

During WW2 members of the Resistance guided Allied service personnel -- and others, including compromised agents, resisters, and Jews -- escaping from occupied France along what were known as escape or evasion lines, the majority leading over the Pyrenees to safety. In this book, BBC broadcaster Edward Stourton walks one of those ‘cruel crossings’, the Chemin de la Liberté, while at the same time telling the stories of those escaping and the courageous men and women who helped them, drawing on interviews with some of the last remaining survivors. It makes for compelling reading.

By Edward Stourton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The mountain paths are as treacherous as they are steep - the more so in the dark and in winter. Even for the fit the journey is a formidable challenge. Hundreds of those who climbed through the Pyrenees during the Second World War were malnourished and exhausted after weeks on the run hiding in barns and attics. Many never even reached the Spanish border. Today their bravery and endurance is commemorated each July by a trek along the Chemin de la Liberte - the toughest and most dangerous of wartime routes. From his fellow pilgrims Edward Stourton uncovers stories of…


Book cover of Voices from the 'Jungle': Stories from the Calais Refugee Camp

Peter Gatrell Author Of The Unsettling of Europe: How Migration Reshaped a Continent

From my list on the history of migration and refugees.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am interested in the history of people on the move, and in particular how migrants and refugees negotiated the upheavals of war and revolution in the 20th century. Originally, I turned to these topics as a specialist in Russian history, but I have since broadened my perspective to consider the causes and consequences of mass population displacement in other parts of the world. I have just retired from the History faculty at the University of Manchester, where I taught since 1976. In 2019 I was elected a Fellow of the British Academy, the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences.

Peter's book list on the history of migration and refugees

Peter Gatrell Why did Peter love this book?

Thinking about camps and incarceration brings me to Voices from the ‘Jungle’: Stories from the Calais Refugee Camp. I choose this book because it offers insights into the lives and aspirations of refugees who congregated in the refugee camp in the coastal town of Calais in northern France. As such, it is an antidote to much contemporary reportage of refugees as a faceless and anonymous mass. Their vivid first-person accounts testify to the violence and persecution from which they escaped, whether in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sudan, or Syria, and their subsequent adventures and odysseys, including endless waiting for official decisions or for the opportunity to make their way to the UK to join family or friends. The camp and its residents have been much photographed, but most of these images give little idea of the extent to which the “jungle” became a vibrant community; juxtaposing images and words, as in…

By Calais Writers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Voices from the 'Jungle' as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Often called the 'Jungle', the refugee camp near Calais in Northern France epitomises for many the suffering, uncertainty and violence which characterises the situation of refugees in Europe today. But the media soundbites we hear ignore the voices of the people who lived there - people who have travelled to Europe from conflict-torn countries such as Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan and Eritrea: people with astounding stories, who are looking for peace and a better future.

Voices from the 'Jungle' is a collection of these stories. Through its pages, the refugees speak to us in powerful, vivid language. They reveal their childhood…


Book cover of The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey

Karen Gray Ruelle Author Of The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust

From my list on courage during the holocaust.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the author/illustrator of over 20 books for children, ranging from whimsical fiction about anthropomorphic cats and rambunctious dogs to serious nonfiction about hidden children, unusual heroes and surprising spies of WWII and the Holocaust. Several of my nonfiction books, including The Grand Mosque of Paris, were created in collaboration.

Karen's book list on courage during the holocaust

Karen Gray Ruelle Why did Karen love this book?

When Paris was taken over by the Nazis in 1940, Hans and Margret Rey were forced to flee. The author and illustrator of beloved children’s book classic Curious George headed out on their bicycles, taking with them their most precious possessions, notably the manuscripts and illustrations for their books. This delightful picture book traces their journey by bike, train, and boat from France to Spain to Portugal to Brazil and then, finally, to New York.

Presented in a scrapbook style, Drummond’s energetic illustrations work well alongside the many photos, documents, and excerpts from some of the original manuscripts and artwork. All the visual elements blend beautifully to accompany the upbeat, free verse text.

By Louise Borden, Allan Drummond (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Journey That Saved Curious George as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1940, Hans and Margaret Rey fled their Paris home as the German army advanced.They began their harrowing journey on bicycles, pedaling to Southern France with children's book manuscripts among their few possessions. Louise Borden combed primary resources, including Hans Rey's pocket diaries, to tell this dramatic true story. Archival materials introduce readers to the world of Hans and Margaret Rey while Allan Drummond dramatically and colorfully illustrates their wartime trek to a new home. Follow the Rey's amazing story in this unique large format book that resembles a travel journal and includes full-color illustrations, original photos, actual ticket stubs…


Book cover of Threads: From the Refugee Crisis

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Author Of Migrating to Prison: America's Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants

From my list on turning immigration policies into human stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an immigration legal scholar and lawyer, I read about immigration a lot. From laws that seem written to confuse to articles in academic journals written for an audience of experts, I’m lucky to love what I do—and so I enjoy most of what I read. But these books are special. They drew me in and wouldn’t let go until the last page. Whether fiction or non-fiction, they are written by storytellers who bring laws and policies to life.

César's book list on turning immigration policies into human stories

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Why did César love this book?

In Calais, France, on Europe’s northern edge, migrants from across the Middle East and Africa settled, hopeful that they would eventually make it across the English Channel.

While they waited, they built lives, relationships, and the ramshackle edifices that poverty permits—the ingredients of communities. Only to be attacked, sometimes by neighbors, other times by police. In this graphic novel, Evans brings Europe’s refugees to life in their humor, hope, and despair.

By Kate Evans,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

**LONGLISTED FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE FOR BOOKS 2018**

In the French port town of Calais, famous for its historic lace industry, a city within a city arose. This new town, known as the Jungle, was home to thousands of refugees, mainly from the Middle East and Africa, all hoping, somehow, to get to the UK. Into this squalid shantytown of shipping containers and tents, full of rats and trash and devoid of toilets and safety, the artist Kate Evans brought a sketchbook and an open mind. Combining the techniques of eyewitness reportage with the medium of comic-book storytelling, Evans has…


Book cover of Salt to the Sea

Meg Wiviott Author Of Paper Hearts

From my list on YA with strong characters set during war.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a reader and writer, I am drawn to stories that have implications for the wider world. I love characters who are put in a box by others—whether based on race, religion, gender, or societal norms—yet they fight against those constraints, proving they have value beyond anyone’s expectations. I write historical fiction because I am an unabashed history nerd. I write Jewish (or Jewish adjacent) stories because I believe it is essential for every reader to find themselves in a book. I also believe it is essential that that same book opens a world of understanding to others. 

Meg's book list on YA with strong characters set during war

Meg Wiviott Why did Meg love this book?

Ruta Sepetys writes historical fiction like no one else. All her books are wonderful, however, this one is my favorite. Not only does she write about a little-known event in history, she does it masterfully with short chapters told from four distinct points of view, doling out backstory as if it is a treat rather than something a reader must endure. Yes, the story is fascinating, but it is her craft that makes me reread it with a highlighter in hand. 

By Ruta Sepetys,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Salt to the Sea 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?

WINNER OF THE CILIP CARNEGIE MEDAL 2017

It's early 1945 and a group of people trek across Germany, bound together by their desperation to reach the ship that can take them away from the war-ravaged land. Four young people, each haunted by their own dark secret, narrate their unforgettable stories. Fans of The Book Thief or Helen Dunmore's The Siege will be totally absorbed.

This inspirational novel is based on a true story from the Second World War. When the German ship the Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk in port in early 1945 it had over 9000 civilian refugees, including children,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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