100 books like Japan at War

By Haruko Taya Cook, Theodore F. Cook,

Here are 100 books that Japan at War fans have personally recommended if you like Japan at War. 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 Unbroken

Mel Laytner Author Of What They Didn't Burn: Uncovering My Father's Holocaust Secrets

From my list on resilience and surviving the horrors of World War II.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a foreign correspondent seven time zones from home when my father died of a sudden heart attack. My grief mixed with guilt for never having sat down with him to unravel his vague vignettes about life and loss in the Holocaust. I wondered, how did he survive when so many perished? How much depended on resilience, smarts, or dumb luck? As reporters do, I started digging. I uncovered a Nazi paper trial that tracked his life from home, through ghettos, slave labor, concentration camps, death marches, and more. The tattered documents revealed a man very different from the quiet, quintessential Type-B Dad I knew…or thought I knew. 

Mel's book list on resilience and surviving the horrors of World War II

Mel Laytner Why did Mel love this book?

If I didn’t know this was a true story, I would have dismissed Unbroken as some overblown Rambo novel. But it is true, and enthralling, and that’s what kept me turning pages.

Louis Zamperini, a 1936 American Olympian turned World War II Air Corp navigator, was shot down and captured by the Japanese. Because of his fame, Japanese guards singled him out for especially harsh treatment. Zamperini’s torment made me angry; his tenacity made me proud. Post-war trauma drove him to the bottle, as with so many veterans. That he overcame spiraling alcoholism through his renewed Christian faith makes for an inspiring story and gives fresh meaning to the very word “survivor.”

By Laura Hillenbrand,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked Unbroken as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of the bestselling and much-loved Seabiscuit, an unforgettable story of one man's journey into extremity. On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant's name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood,…


Book cover of Song of Survival: Women Interned

Kathryn J. Atwood Author Of Women Heroes of World War II—the Pacific Theater: 15 Stories of Resistance, Rescue, Sabotage, and Survival

From my list on Pacific Theater of World War II.

Why am I passionate about this?

Kathryn J. Atwood’s young adult collective biographies on women and war have garnered multiple book awards. She has been seen on America: Facts vs. Fiction; heard on BBC America; published in The Historian and War, Literature & the Arts; and featured as a guest speaker at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago, the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park, and the Atlanta History Center.

Kathryn's book list on Pacific Theater of World War II

Kathryn J. Atwood Why did Kathryn love this book?

A little-known aspect of the Pacific War was the imprisonment of Allied civilians. While these Japanese-run prison camps were not deliberate death machines, as were the Nazi-run concentration camps, large numbers of women and children died of starvation and disease there, or at least had their health permanently ruined. Many stories would come out of these camps, both horrific and inspiring. Perhaps the most brilliantly creative story of the latter category was the vocal orchestra, a group of imprisoned women who sought to recreate symphonic music with their voices. Colijn’s memoir was made into the film, Paradise Road.

By Helen Colijn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Thrown into the whirlwind of dark forces unleashed with the onset of World War II, a young woman, Helen Colijn, her sisters, and father flee the oncoming Japanese army. Helen Colijn's account of her wartime experiences is a window into a largely overlooked dimension of World War II -- the imprisonment of women and children in Southeast Asia by the Japanese and how these prisoners of war responded to their dire circumstances. The conditions were terrible. Food was scarce; medicine unavailable. Held in captivity for three and a half years, more that a third of the women in Helen's camp…


Book cover of We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of the American Women Trapped on Bataan

Eileen A. Bjorkman Author Of The Fly Girls Revolt: The Story of the Women Who Kicked Open the Door to Fly in Combat

From my list on hidden histories of women in the military.

Why am I passionate about this?

I work in aviation, so it was natural to write about it when I started as a freelance writer. But I quickly realized that writing about aviation people is much more interesting than writing about airplanes. Because of my military background I found myself writing veterans’ stories. I’ve uncovered many stories that have never been told or have been forgotten over the years. And because I was in the Air Force in the 1980s and 1990s, I knew the events in my new book had never been told. During my research, I found more books with hidden histories and rediscovered some I read decades ago. This list is my favorites.

Eileen's book list on hidden histories of women in the military

Eileen A. Bjorkman Why did Eileen love this book?

This is the story of 99 Army and Navy nurses who I consider the first U.S. women to serve in combat.

The women endured four months of harrowing bombings, dwindling supplies, and disease as they tended to U.S. casualties from the Japanese invasion of The Philippines in the early days of WWII.

After U.S. forces surrendered, 77 of the nurses were interred in civilian camps in the Philippines until February 1945. The women continued to work as nurses while enduring starvation diets and disease.

Part of my fascination with this story of strength and courage also lies with the fact that one of my great uncles was a survivor of the Bataan Death March. I like to think that my uncle encountered one of these wonderful women at some point.

By Elizabeth M. Norman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked We Band of Angels as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the fall of 1941, the Philippines was a gardenia-scented paradise for the American Army and Navy nurses stationed there. War was a distant rumor, life a routine of easy shifts and dinners under the stars. On December 8 all that changed, as Japanese bombs began raining down on American bases in Luzon, and this paradise became a fiery hell. Caught in the raging battle, the nurses set up field hospitals in the jungles of Bataan and the tunnels of Corregidor, where they tended to the most devastating injuries of war, and suffered the terrors of shells and shrapnel.
 
But…


Book cover of I Saw The Fall Of The Philippines

Kathryn J. Atwood Author Of Women Heroes of World War II—the Pacific Theater: 15 Stories of Resistance, Rescue, Sabotage, and Survival

From my list on Pacific Theater of World War II.

Why am I passionate about this?

Kathryn J. Atwood’s young adult collective biographies on women and war have garnered multiple book awards. She has been seen on America: Facts vs. Fiction; heard on BBC America; published in The Historian and War, Literature & the Arts; and featured as a guest speaker at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago, the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park, and the Atlanta History Center.

Kathryn's book list on Pacific Theater of World War II

Kathryn J. Atwood Why did Kathryn love this book?

The Philippine resistance of WWII was, in my opinion, the most admirable resistance organization of the war, whether European or Pacific. In fact, resistance among the Philippine people was so widespread, that the Japanese occupiers were almost correct in assuming any civilian they encountered was a resister on some level. Carlos Romulo, a Philippine aide de camp to General MacArthur and a hero to his countrymen, gives his personal account of the war in this excellent memoir.

Book cover of Parting the Waters

Jim Carrier Author Of A Traveler’s Guide to the Civil Rights Movement

From my list on understanding the South’s Civil Rights Movement.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a journalist who learned his craft on the job in the tumultuous 1960s, I happened to find myself living in states where racial history was being written. Reporting that story required me to understand why discrimination, poverty, and violence remained so deeply rooted in modern America. I wrote Ten Ways to Fight Hate, I made a movie about civil rights martyrs, and, after seeing people from around the world making a pilgrimage to the sites of the civil rights struggle, published my guidebook. Over the course of a 50-year career, I have written a million words. I am proudest of those that tried to right wrongs, and sometimes did.

Jim's book list on understanding the South’s Civil Rights Movement

Jim Carrier Why did Jim love this book?

As I drove through the South researching my guidebook to civil rights sites, my back seat was filled with books. Atop the pile was Taylor Branch’s magisterial three-volume history – America in the King Years 1954-1968: Parting the Waters, Pillar of Fire, and At Canaan’s Edge.

Though encyclopedic, Branch’s story-telling is riveting—weaving together personalities, legalities, strategies, and geography in a way that made me feel as if I were there witnessing history as it was made. Taylor’s detail, reflecting a journalist’s quest for who, what, where, when, how, and why, showed me that these stories could best be told, understood, and felt where they happened.

By Taylor Branch,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Parting the Waters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Parting the Waters, the first volume of his essential America in the King Years series, Pulitzer Prize winner Taylor Branch gives a “compelling…masterfully told” (The Wall Street Journal) account of Martin Luther King’s early years and rise to greatness.

Hailed as the most masterful story ever told of the American Civil Rights Movement, Parting the Waters is destined to endure for generations.

Moving from the fiery political baptism of Martin Luther King, Jr., to the corridors of Camelot where the Kennedy brothers weighed demands for justice against the deceptions of J. Edgar Hoover, here is a vivid tapestry of…


Book cover of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany

David Hanna Author Of Broken Icarus: The 1933 Chicago World's Fair, the Golden Age of Aviation, and the Rise of Fascism

From my list on the perils of fascism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've found the creep of authoritarianism to be very disquieting. One would have to be willfully blind to not see its manifestations both here and abroad. I wanted to better understand how this phenomenon cast its shadow over the world and I found the '33 Chicago World's Fair an ideal lens to view this through. I've been fascinated by world's fairs since I was a child and the '33 Fair was the first to consciously feature the future. I'm also strangely drawn to this period – if I believed in reincarnation it might provide answers, but I don't. The Zeitgeist just before the full, brutal ugliness of fascism broke over the world, fascinates me.

David's book list on the perils of fascism

David Hanna Why did David love this book?

The first half of the book is like watching a slow-motion car wreck. There were so many missed opportunities to stop Hitler before he did his worst, I wanted to shout ‘Stop this guy before it’s too late!’ Alas… Shirer was our man in Vienna and Berlin from the late 1920s-early 1940s, which adds an intimacy to his words that I find lacking in other similar accounts.

By William L. Shirer,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It was Hitler's boast that the Third Reich would last a thousand years. Instead it lasted only twelve. But into its short life was packed the most cataclysmic series of events that Western civilisation has ever known.

William Shirer is one of the very few historians to have gained full access to the secret German archives which the Allies captured intact. He was also present at the Nuremberg trials.

First published sixty years ago, Shirer's account of the years 1933-45, when the Nazis, under the rule of their despotic leader Adolf Hitler, ruled Germany is held up as a classic…


Book cover of The Origins of the Second World War

Stewart Binns Author Of Barbarossa: And The Bloodiest War In History

From my list on 20th century conflict.

Why am I passionate about this?

Stewart Binns is a former academic, soldier, and documentary filmmaker, who became a writer quite late in life. He has since written a wide range of books in both fiction and non-fiction. His passions are history and sport. He has completed a medieval quartet called the Making of England Series, two books about the Great War and a novel set during Northern Ireland’s Troubles. His latest work of non-fiction, Barbarossa, tells the story of the Eastern Front (1945 to 1944) from the perspective of the peoples of Eastern Europe. He is now working on a history of modern Japan.

Stewart's book list on 20th century conflict

Stewart Binns Why did Stewart love this book?

Taylor’s book was controversial in many ways. He contradicted many of the conventional wisdoms about the war, but more importantly, he annoyed the stuffy world of historical academia by writing popular history which was accessible to a wide readership. He certainly led me to realise that history can be immediate and compelling rather than distant and dry.

By A.J.P. Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Origins of the Second World War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A.J.P. Taylor's bestselling The Origins of the Second World War overturns popular myths about the outbreak of war.

One of the most popular and controversial historians of the twentieth century, who made his subject accessible to millions, A.J.P. Taylor caused a storm of outrage with this scandalous bestseller. Debunking what were accepted truths about the Second World War, he argued provocatively that Hitler did not set out to cause the war as part of an evil master plan, but blundered into it partly by accident, aided by the shortcomings of others.
Fiercely attacked for vindicating Hitler, A.J.P. Taylor's stringent re-examination…


Book cover of The Face of Battle

Clark McCauley Author Of Radicalization to Terrorism: What Everyone Needs to Know

From my list on to understand the experience of men in combat.

Why am I passionate about this?

Research Professor of Psychology at Bryn Mawr College. Since the 9/11 attacks I have tried to understand how normal individuals, people like you and me, can move to terrorism in particular and political violence more generally. I retired from teaching in 2015 to have more time to write. I’ve written about genocide (Why Not Kill Them All? The Logic and Prevention of Mass Political Murder), about self-sacrifice (The Marvel of Martyrdom: The Power of Self Sacrifice in a Selfish World), and about terrorism (Friction: How Conflict Radicalizes Them and Us). 

Clark's book list on to understand the experience of men in combat

Clark McCauley Why did Clark love this book?

Keegan popularized a new kind of military history, history focused on the experience of those “at the sharp end” of battle. Generals may as individuals have the most influence on the course of battle, but Keegan argues that, taken together, the men doing the fighting have more influence than the generals. He describes the experiences of men in three famous battles, and shows how tactics evolved but the demands of facing death remained all too familiar. I love this book for using history to find the psychology of men in combat.

By John Keegan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Face of Battle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


John Keegan's groundbreaking portrayal of the common soldier in the heat of battle -- a masterpiece that explores the physical and mental aspects of warfare

The Face of Battle is military history from the battlefield: a look at the direct experience of individuals at the "point of maximum danger." Without the myth-making elements of rhetoric and xenophobia, and breaking away from the stylized format of battle descriptions, John Keegan has written what is probably the definitive model for military historians. And in his scrupulous reassessment of three battles representative of three different time periods, he manages to convey what the…


Book cover of Emperor Hirohito and the Pacific War

Gerhard Weinberg Author Of A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II

From my list on World War 2.

Why am I passionate about this?

Gerhard Weinberg fled Germany at the end of 1938 and experienced the first year of World War II – including the beginning of the Blitz – in England. He completed his PhD after serving in the US Army of Occupation in Japan, researched the captured German documents, established the program for microfilming them, and after writing an analysis of the origins of World War II decided to prepare a book covering the war as a whole.

Gerhard's book list on World War 2

Gerhard Weinberg Why did Gerhard love this book?

At last (2015) there is a balanced and carefully researched study of a central figure in the modern history of Japan and the war in the Pacific. The substantial utilization and integration of Japanese sources enhances the work but does not lead to any distortion of the real picture.

By Noriko Kawamura,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Emperor Hirohito and the Pacific War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This reexamination of the controversial role Emperor Hirohito played during the Pacific War gives particular attention to the question: If the emperor could not stop Japan from going to war with the Allied Powers in 1941, why was he able to play a crucial role in ending the war in 1945? Drawing on previously unavailable primary sources, Noriko Kawamura traces Hirohito's actions from the late 1920s to the end of the war, analyzing the role Hirohito played in Japan's expansion. Emperor Hirohito emerges as a conflicted man who struggled throughout the war to deal with the undefined powers bestowed upon…


Book cover of Crucible of Hell: The Heroism and Tragedy of Okinawa, 1945

Malcolm H. Murfett Author Of Naval Warfare 1919-1945: An Operational History of the Volatile War at Sea

From my list on Asian theatre in the Second World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I lived and taught in Asia for over 30 years and love the place to bits. Leaving Oxford for Singapore may have seemed like a daring adventure in 1980, but it complemented my doctoral research and introduced me to a wonderful set of students who have enriched my life ever since. Asia has a fascination for me that I can’t resist. I have written and edited 15 books on naval and defence themes, much of which have been set in the Asian continent. An associate editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for the past 25 years, I am also the editor for the series Cold War in Asia. 

Malcolm's book list on Asian theatre in the Second World War

Malcolm H. Murfett Why did Malcolm love this book?

If you know your Pacific War and are familiar with all the major land and sea battles, you may think there’s not much that’s new to discover about the campaign for Okinawa. And maybe there isn’t. But for those who aren’t specialists, this book will prove fascinating. It’s not a page-turner in the accepted sense of the term because most pages appall with the dreadful futility of it all. I couldn’t read more than a dozen pages at a time without feeling a sense of desperation at the almost casual sacrifice of lives on both sides in this war of attrition. No wonder many veterans of Okinawa found it difficult to talk about the horror of it afterward and carried dark memories of their tortured experiences to their graves.

By Saul David,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the award-winning historian, Saul David, the riveting narrative of the heroic US troops, bonded by the brotherhood and sacrifice of war, who overcame enormous casualties to pull off the toughest invasion of WWII's Pacific Theater -- and the Japanese forces who fought with tragic desperation to stop them.

With Allied forces sweeping across Europe and into Germany in the spring of 1945, one enormous challenge threatened to derail America's audacious drive to win the world back from the Nazis: Japan, the empire that had extended its reach southward across the Pacific and was renowned for the fanaticism and brutality…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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