100 books like Jewels and Ashes

By Arnold Zable,

Here are 100 books that Jewels and Ashes fans have personally recommended if you like Jewels and Ashes. 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 Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

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?

A young Australian, Anna Funder, places an advertisement in the newspaper to find resistors and enforcers of the brutal East German regime, the Stasi. This naïve, but bold act leads her on a path to discover tales that reverberate through time.

Similarly, I felt ill equipped to face vestiges of censored war crimes, historical documents, and fragments of memory, but, inspired by Funder’s curiosity and dedication, I pressed on.  

By Anna Funder,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Stasiland demonstrates that great, original reporting is still possible. . . . A heartbreaking, beautifully written book. A classic.” — Claire Tomalin, Guardian “Books of the Year”

Winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction: a powerfully moving account of people who heroically resisted the communist dictatorship of East Germany, and of people who worked for its secret police, the Stasi.

Anna Funder delivers a prize-winning and powerfully rendered account of the resistance against East Germany’s communist dictatorship in these harrowing, personal tales of life behind the Iron Curtain—and, especially, of life under the iron fist of the Stasi, East…


Book cover of The Railway Man: A POW's Searing Account of War, Brutality and Forgiveness

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?

This is a story about brutality, justice, and mercy, set amongst the aftermath of Lomax’s experiences as a POW in WWII. With a steady gaze he faces the depths of human barbarity and reckons with his own emotional responses.

Lomax confronts his previous captor wanting retribution, but instead makes an astonishing decision that changes the course of hatred for both him and his perpetrator. I also grappled with the shadows of dark acts committed against my family - even all these years later. 

By Eric Lomax,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE STARRING COLIN FIRTH, NICOLE KIDMAN AND JEREMY IRVINE

During the second world war Eric Lomax was forced to work on the notorious Burma-Siam Railway and was tortured by the Japanese for making a crude radio.

Left emotionally scarred and unable to form normal relationships Lomax suffered for years until, with the help of his wife Patti and the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, he came to terms with what had happened and, fifty years after the terrible events, was able to meet one of his tormentors.

The Railway Man is an…


Book cover of The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between

Paul Lamb Author Of One-Match Fire

From my list on understand the joys and sorrows of being a father.

Why am I passionate about this?

In the natural course as a young man, I became a husband and a father. I have four children and eleven grandchildren. Fatherhood has been the most difficult yet rewarding job of my life. You never stop being a parent. So, it was inevitable that this would become a subject of my writing. I have tried to be a compassionate caregiver and a positive role model to my children; you’ll have to ask them if I’ve succeeded. In my novel, I try to depict two fathers (and their two sons) as good yet flawed men, doing their best and finding their way. Just as all fathers do.

Paul's book list on understand the joys and sorrows of being a father

Paul Lamb Why did Paul love this book?

I didn’t think I could appreciate this memoir of a son searching for his imprisoned father in Gaddafi’s Libya until, suddenly, I did. This book showed me that the bonds between all fathers and their sons transcend things like nationality and religion. It is part of the core of what it means to be human.

I knew from the very first pages that the author would never again see his father, even as he tirelessly spends most of his adult life trying to. By extension, I understood that as much as we want to, we can never really know our fathers.

I raced through the pages.

By Hisham Matar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION
SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA BIOGRAPHY AWARD
SHORTLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FOR AUTOBIOGRAPHY
WINNER OF THE SLIGHTLY FOXED BEST FIRST BIOGRAPHY PRIZE
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES' TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2016

The Return is at once a universal and an intensely personal tale. It is an exquisite meditation on how history and politics can bear down on an individual life. And yet Hisham Matar's memoir isn't just about the burden of the past, but the consolation of love, literature and art. It is the story of what…


Book cover of The Book Of Dirt

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?

"They chose not to speak and now they are gone." Presser has woven a remarkable tale of his grandfather and other family members in concentration camps in WWII from the threads of rumour and legend.

I was inspired by his quest-like devotion to transform the silence and gaps in his family history into a poetic legacy connecting past and present generations with those to come. He writes, "What’s left to fill the silence is no longer theirs," reminding us of the invitation we have to honour our past.

By Bram Presser,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

WINNER, 2018 NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARD GOLDBERG PRIZE FOR DEBUT FICTION

"A remarkable tale of Holocaust survival, love and genealogical sleuthing."―Books + Publishing

"Lyrical, impassioned and culturally rich."―Saturday Paper

"As in Sebald's prose narratives, Presser's novel inhabits and the dynamic region between fiction and non-fiction."―Australian Book Review

"A heartfelt and original attempt to bridge the ever-growing gaps between history, memory and silence."―The Australian

This novel was written as a tribute to the author's grandparents:

All we knew was silence. My maternal grandparents never spoke of their wartime experiences. We built myths around them: he was a teacher in the camps,…


Book cover of The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale

Donald L. Willerton Author Of Teddy's War

From my list on what our fathers never told us about WWII.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father never talked about his experiences during the war. After he died at 67, we found his handwritten itinerary of three years and ten days in the Army Signal Corps. Plotting it on a map sparked a passion that continued for years, taking me twice to sites in Europe and through hundreds of records and books. I am amazed at all he never told us—the Queen Mary troopship, his radar unit’s landing on Omaha Beach (D+26), the Normandy Breakout, Paris after liberation, fleeing Bastogne, and so on. I grew up on WWII films but never grasped till now what my dad may have seen. 

Donald's book list on what our fathers never told us about WWII

Donald L. Willerton Why did Donald love this book?

To learn about the Holocaust, I read personal remembrances, eyewitness accounts, and detailed descriptions of ghettos, camps, and transports, but this graphic novel based on Spiegelman’s father captured me like none of the others. Its words tell its terrible story masterfully and its drawings fill in what words can’t say, both as his father lived it and as his son learns about it. Banning it from U.S. schools would be completely wrongheaded. It should be required reading.

By Art Spiegelman,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Complete Maus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first and only graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize, MAUS is a brutally moving work of art about a Holocaust survivor -- and the son who survives him

'The first masterpiece in comic book history' The New Yorker

Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father's story. Approaching the unspeakable through the diminutive (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), Vladek's harrowing story of survival is woven into the author's account of his tortured relationship with his aging father.

Against the backdrop…


Book cover of We Were the Lucky Ones

Michael C. White Author Of Beautiful Assassin

From my list on WW2 that breathe new life into a subject.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the author of seven published novels and a recently retired English professor. I was the founder and director of the Fairfield University MFA program. My latest novel is called Lebensborn and is set in Germany near the end of World War II. The novel concerns a little-known project hatched by Heinrich Himmler called Lebensborn (“the fount of life”). Concerned about Germany’s falling birth rate, Himmler began the program in 1935 hoping to encourage unwed mothers not to have abortions but to give birth to their babies at Nazi-run homes and then to give their babies up for adoption to “pure Aryan” officers. Lebensborn follows the story of Renate Dressler, a young German girl who falls in love with an SS officer. 

Michael's book list on WW2 that breathe new life into a subject

Michael C. White Why did Michael love this book?

What I appreciate about Hunter's novel is that it takes a new approach to the subject of the Holocaust. With the outbreak of WWII, the Kurcs, a Polish-Jewish family, find themselves driven into another diaspora, with their family members cast to the four corners of the globe. Hunter touches on the plight of Poland during the early years of the war when the country was torn asunder by Germany from the west and the Soviet Union from the east. The plot follows the various family members as they struggle to survive the Holocaust in Poland, in Stalin's Gulag, and as one member tries to flee to South America. A big, sprawling, family epic filled with tragedy and humanity, brutality and heroism.

By Georgia Hunter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Were the Lucky Ones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestseller with more than 1 million copies sold worldwide

Inspired by the incredible true story of one Jewish family separated at the start of World War II, determined to survive-and to reunite-We Were the Lucky Ones is a tribute to the triumph of hope and love against all odds.

"Love in the face of global adversity? It couldn't be more timely." -Glamour

It is the spring of 1939 and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family…


Book cover of All But My Life: A Memoir

Katrina Shawver Author Of Henry: A Polish Swimmer's True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America

From my list on Poland and it's people during World War 2.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author, lifelong history geek, and relentlessly curious about finding unknown stories. In 2002 I met Henry Zguda, an eighty-five-year-old Polish Catholic who survived three years in Auschwitz and Buchenwald during World War II. He lived a mile from my house. Intrigued, I soon offered to write his incredible story. I am not Polish and knew little of Poland or Polish history when I began. This led to over ten years of research on Poland, World War II, and the Holocaust. My friendship with Henry changed the direction of my life and gave me keen insight into the plight of Poles, both Jewish and Christian, during World War II. Thousands of memoirs and books exist on the Holocaust. I believe the inspiring stories of Poles and other victims of Hitler and Stalin deserve equally widespread recognition.

Katrina's book list on Poland and it's people during World War 2

Katrina Shawver Why did Katrina love this book?

Gerda Weissmann was only age fifteen when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. Born in Bielsko Poland to a middle-class Jewish family, the book follows her family’s loss and tragedy through the Holocaust. The author survived multiple concentration camps and a death march against impossible odds. Liberated on her twenty-first birthday, she weighed only sixty-eight pounds. This inspiring book includes moments of human decency and normalcy.

Of the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust, three million were from Poland. Klein captures the essence of what it meant to survive a genocide with only her life. Klein is a highly recognized voice for human rights and Holocaust remembrance, and the beneficiary of many awards and honorary degrees. Gerda Weissmann Klein is a name to be remembered.

By Gerda Weissmann Klein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All But My Life 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?

All But My Life is the unforgettable story of Gerda Weissmann Klein's six-year ordeal as a victim of Nazi cruelty.

From her comfortable home in Bielitz (present-day Bielsko) in Poland to her miraculous survival and her liberation by American troops--including the man who was to become her husband--in Volary, Czechoslovakia, in 1945, Gerda takes the reader on a terrifying journey.

Gerda's serene and idyllic childhood is shattered when Nazis march into Poland on September 3, 1939. Although the Weissmanns were permitted to live for a while in the basement of their home, they were eventually separated and sent to German…


Book cover of The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler's Ghettos

Kent Hinckley Author Of Second Chance Against the Third Reich: U.S. Colonel Rescues His Daughter From the Nazis

From my list on World War 2 through the eyes of an individual.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have studied World War 2 for thirty years not so much about the killing, but to see how the Allies developed strategies to win the battles. So many decisions and so many sacrifices were made which give me pause about how great our leaders were even with their mistakes. They orchestrated the war in a grand panorama as well as focused on tactics to take a key bridge. I served in Vietnam but WW2 was different in almost every way. Recently I have focused on the effects of shell shock (WW1) and battle fatigue (WW2) known today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD remains in the forefront from Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq. I have even counseled soldiers and families about PTSD.

Kent's book list on World War 2 through the eyes of an individual

Kent Hinckley Why did Kent love this book?

This well-researched and well-written book describes the heroism of Jewish women in Poland during the killing of Jews by the Nazis. Usually, the women get overlooked in war, but in Poland, their bravery and deception along with the men sabotaged the Nazis, and saved Jewish people and families because of incredible sacrifices. Even though the story is non-fiction, it reads as a fast-paced novel. The information was taken from old diaries and out of print books in Yiddish which shed light on the unbelievable war in Poland.

By Judy Batalion,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

'Original and compelling, an untold story of rare and captivating power' Philippe Sands

'A fascinating history about a little-known group who took on the Nazis . . . The individual tales of these courageous young women are remarkable' Independent

'Rescues a long-neglected aspect of history from oblivion, and puts paid to the idea of Jewish, and especially female, passivity during the Holocaust. It is uncompromising, written with passion - and it preserves truly significant knowledge. ... Judy Batalion has uncovered a trove of unknown or forgotten information about the Holocaust of genuine import and impact.'…


Book cover of Kiss Every Step: A Survivor's Memoir from the Nazi Holocaust

Luis Ramirez Arellano Author Of Angel

From my list on human perseverance and the human spirit.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love stories that show humanity persevering, stories that show life is lived through easy times and hard ones too. I like stories where there is something worth celebrating in everyday life. Stories that remind us we’re just human and that isn’t too bad and that no matter what hell we’re going through, there’s something on the other side worth enduring for. I have a passionate love for stories like this. I always seek out stories that give me a similar feeling. When I write, I try to write stories that make others feel like how I do when I come across a similar story.

Luis' book list on human perseverance and the human spirit

Luis Ramirez Arellano Why did Luis love this book?

A memoir written by a holocaust survivor’s experience, as well as that of her family, Martin tells the story of how the war came to their lives and uprooted their daily lives.

I met Martin when she signed my copy of her book, so this one holds a special place for me. The story is told from multiple perspectives, as Martin and her siblings take turns describing the ordeals they went through both inside concentration camps and out.

Heartbreaking and harrowing at times, the story also makes a point to address things that helped Martin’s family smile in spite of it all. Martin’s story reminds us of why we keep going, as well as shows us how her family endured the six long years of the war. 

By Doris Martin, Ralph S Martin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The German army swept into Poland on September 1, 1939, and four days later into Dora Szpringer's home town of Bendzin. To begin their reign of terror, the Nazis burned down Bendzin's beautiful synagogue with some 200 helpless Jews inside. Most Jewish families in Bendzin, and rest of Poland were completely wiped out by the Holocaust. The Szpringers were just an ordinary middle-class family, but through many incredible strokes of luck, or perhaps miracles, all seven of them survived. For an entire Jewish family in Poland to survive the Holocaust is amazing--likely unique. What is more remarkable is how they…


Book cover of Trap with a Green Fence: Survival in Treblinka

Edward B. Westermann Author Of Drunk on Genocide: Alcohol and Mass Murder in Nazi Germany

From my list on perpetrator motivation in the Holocaust.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I first began to study the events of the Holocaust in 1991, I became deeply engaged and committed to trying to understand why individuals engaged in the abuse and murder of their neighbors, fellow countrymen, and those deemed racially or politically inferior. In exploring this question, I drew in part on my own military experience to think about how a warped organizational culture and corrupted leadership emerged in Nazi Germany in which state-sponsored propaganda and ideological socialization combined to pervert existing moral and ethical norms and led many within the SS, police, and the German military to engage in genocide.

Edward's book list on perpetrator motivation in the Holocaust

Edward B. Westermann Why did Edward love this book?

The Holocaust survivor, Richard Glazar, authored a compelling memoir of his imprisonment and escape from the Nazi killing center at Treblinka in occupied Poland, a site at which an estimated one million Jewish men, women, and children perished at the hands of the SS and their Ukrainian auxiliaries.

Glazar provides a first-hand and extended look not only at the process of mass murder at the camp, but he also provides extensive descriptions and analysis of the SS men he encountered in the camp including their daily habits, personalities, and actions.

The memoir exposes the full range of the emotional, psychological, and physical hardship experienced by Glazar in the “death factory” of Treblinka and places perpetrator actions within the context of prisoner experience. 

By Richard Glazar, Roslyn Theobald (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Trap with a Green Fence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Trap with a Green Fence is Richard Glazar's memoir of deportation, escape, and survival. In economical prose, Glazar weaves a description of Treblinka and its operations into his evocation of himself and his fellow prisoners as denizens of an underworld. Glazar gives us compelling images of these horrors in a tone that remains thoughtful but sober, affecting but simple.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Holocaust, Poland, and Holocaust survivors?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Holocaust, Poland, and Holocaust survivors.

The Holocaust Explore 391 books about the Holocaust
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Holocaust Survivors Explore 52 books about Holocaust survivors