100 books like Liberation

By Imogen Kealey,

Here are 100 books that Liberation fans have personally recommended if you like Liberation. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville

Sarah Percy Author Of Forgotten Warriors: The Long History of Women in Combat

From my list on women in combat.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an academic, writer, and broadcaster, and I’ve always been fascinated by the big questions of who fights wars and why. A puzzle caught my eye: the only profession (short of maybe priest) where women were actively banned in the 1980s and as late as the 2010s, was combat. How could Western democracies ban women from an entire profession? This was especially odd, given that the plentiful historical evidence that women were perfectly capable of combat. So I wrote a book explaining how women in combat fit into the broader sweep of military history, and how the suppression and dismissal of their stories has had a profound social and cultural impact. 

Sarah's book list on women in combat

Sarah Percy Why did Sarah love this book?

The stories of women spies during World War II are not as well known as they should be – especially  because these women were highly trained, incredibly brave, and trained in all kinds of combat techniques.

I find them fascinating because they demonstrate that ordinary women are capable of the greatest feats of physical bravery – these women were not recruited because they were muscle-bound or could shoot a bullseye from a great distance.

They were usually just regular women who happened to speak a European language fluently. Krystyna Skarbek, brilliantly written about in this exciting biography by Clare Mulley, was one such woman – her adventures, including crucial organization of French resistance fighters and rescuing her colleagues from the Nazis – make for irresistible reading.

By Clare Mulley,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Spy Who Loved as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In June 1952, a woman was murdered by an obsessed colleague in a hotel in South Kensington. Her name was Christine Granville. That she died young was perhaps unsurprising, but that she had survived the Second World War was remarkable. The daughter of a feckless Polish aristocrat and his wealthy Jewish wife, she would become one of Britain's most daring and highly decorated special agents. Having fled to Britain on the outbreak of war, she was recruited by the intelligence services long before the establishment of the SOE, and took on mission after mission. She skied into occupied Poland, served…


Book cover of A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II

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?

What I loved about this book is that it is the true story of an American woman living in Nazi-occupied France, where she organised and ran resistance groups and led them in action.

The book, though factual, reads like a fictional novel, and her exploits and shear "daring do" almost beggar belief. She only had one leg, a fact that many who met her were completely unaware of, yet she crossed the Pyrenees on foot in winter!

It didn’t surprise me to find out that the men who "ran" the operations from London and Washington denigrated her achievements and consigned her to obscurity, describing her in the words of the book’s title. But she was a truly amazing heroine, and I would have loved to have met her.

By Sonia Purnell,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked A Woman of No Importance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Chosen as a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by NPR, the New York Public Library, Amazon, the Seattle Times, the Washington Independent Review of Books, PopSugar, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, BookBrowse, the Spectator, and the Times of London

Winner of the Plutarch Award for Best Biography

"Excellent...This book is as riveting as any thriller, and as hard to put down." -- The New York Times Book Review

"A compelling biography of a masterful spy, and a reminder of what can be done with a few brave people -- and a little resistance." - NPR

"A…


Book cover of A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII

Mara Timon Author Of City of Spies

From my list on real-life, kick-ass female agents of WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

My mother instilled a love of books in me, and my father fostered my fascination with history – which meant that a good part of my formative years involved books, writing, and watching WW2 films. Years later, when a BBC documentary captured my imagination, I delved into the world of SOE’s female spies, binge-reading biographies and autobiographies. I was struck by their determination, dedication, resourcefulness – and in awe of their exploits. These women were heroes. When an idea for a story took hold, I followed one "what if..." after another until my first novel emerged. While City of Spies is fiction, I tried to stay as faithful as possible to history.

Mara's book list on real-life, kick-ass female agents of WW2

Mara Timon Why did Mara love this book?

Sarah Helm’s biography of Vera Atkins is perfectly titled. On one level, Vera was the 2nd in command of SOE’s French Section, responsible for recruiting, training, and deploying SOE operatives into France. On another level, there were the closely guarded secrets of her own life.

Sarah Helm’s biography revealed a workaholic, an immigrant who became more English than the English, and whose loyalty to her charges, and the Allied cause, was unswerving. After the war, when 118 SOE agent didn’t make it home, Vera launched a personal crusade to find out what happened to them – a mission that took her across Allied-Occupied Germany to the concentration camps. (She found all but one.)

On a side note, Vera Atkins has been fictionalised on both big and small screens, from Ian Fleming’s Miss Moneypenny to Foyle’s War Hilda Pierce. Her legacy remains an inspiration.

By Sarah Helm,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Life in Secrets as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During World War Two the Special Operation Executive's French Section sent more than 400 agents into Occupied France -- at least 100 never returned and were reported 'Missing Believed Dead' after the war. Twelve of these were women who died in German concentration camps -- some were tortured, some were shot, and some died in the gas chambers. Vera Atkins had helped prepare these women for their missions, and when the war was over she went out to Germany to find out what happened to them and the other agents lost behind enemy lines. But while the woman who carried…


Book cover of Mission France: The True History of the Women of SOE

Mara Timon Author Of City of Spies

From my list on real-life, kick-ass female agents of WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

My mother instilled a love of books in me, and my father fostered my fascination with history – which meant that a good part of my formative years involved books, writing, and watching WW2 films. Years later, when a BBC documentary captured my imagination, I delved into the world of SOE’s female spies, binge-reading biographies and autobiographies. I was struck by their determination, dedication, resourcefulness – and in awe of their exploits. These women were heroes. When an idea for a story took hold, I followed one "what if..." after another until my first novel emerged. While City of Spies is fiction, I tried to stay as faithful as possible to history.

Mara's book list on real-life, kick-ass female agents of WW2

Mara Timon Why did Mara love this book?

Special Operations Executive had the directive to “Set Europe ablaze” and from 1942 began recruiting women as field operatives. 39 were sent into France (of which 26 returned), and Kate Vigurs tells their stories in Mission France. Superbly researched and well written, this book is a really good all-rounder. Broken into 3 sections (Foundations, War, and Death & Deliverance), it tells each woman’s story, from their recruitment to either their death or demob. I loved the fact that she covered the lesser-known agents as well as the big names. Be prepared to be moved – these women’s exploits are more amazing than a lot of fiction I’ve read!

By Kate Vigurs,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Formed in 1940, Special Operations Executive was to coordinate Resistance work overseas. The organization's F section sent more than four hundred agents into France, thirty-nine of whom were women. But while some are widely known-Violette Szabo, Odette Sansom, Noor Inayat Khan-others have had their stories largely overlooked.

Kate Vigurs interweaves for the first time the stories of all thirty-nine female agents. Tracing their journeys from early recruitment to work undertaken in the field, to evasion from, or capture by, the Gestapo, Vigurs shows just how greatly missions varied. Some agents were more adept at parachuting. Some agents' missions lasted for…


Book cover of Early One Morning

Mark Chisnell Author Of The Fulcrum Files

From my list on historical thrillers set just before WWII.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by history, and the time immediately preceding the Second World War is one of the most interesting. How inevitable was the tragedy that unfolded in Germany, Europe, and then around the globe? I was drawn to it after the 2008 economic crash, and the parallels of economic hardship and the resurgence in populist nationalism. I’ve read all that history in an attempt to learn from it, and I hope that some of that comes through in The Fulcrum Files.

Mark's book list on historical thrillers set just before WWII

Mark Chisnell Why did Mark love this book?

The key to a successful historical thriller is a strong sense of time and place, but not so strong that it slows down the plot – it’s still a thriller after all, and while it’s so tempting to find somewhere to put all that research, discipline is essential. I loved this book because Robert Ryan does it particularly well. I took a lot from it for The Fulcrum Files, particularly the mix of action and romance and the basis in real events.

By Robert Ryan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the flamboyant 20s, Englishman William Grover-Williams and Frenchman Robert Benoist were fierce rivals racing their elegant Bugattis on the glittering European race circuits. Not only is the World Championship in their sights, but they have both fallen for the sensuous charms of the extravagantly beautiful Eve Aubicq. But when war breaks out, both are signed up by Special Operations Executive for missions behind enemy lines in France, one of which includes investigating rumours of the manufacture of the lethal gas Zyklon B and how it is being used by the Germans. In a series of daring sabotages and assassinations,…


Book cover of Carve Her Name with Pride: The Story of Violette Szabo

Shrabani Basu Author Of Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan

From my list on secret agents and espionage in WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer of Indian origin and have always been passionate about telling the story of the involvement of Indians in both World Wars. Very few people know that 2.5 million Indian volunteered for the Second World War, the largest volunteer force in history. I have always enjoyed reading stories of intelligence operations in wartime, the role of the Resistance in occupied countries and particularly the role of women in the Second World War. I was drawn to the story of Noor Inayat Khan from all these perspectives.

Shrabani's book list on secret agents and espionage in WW2

Shrabani Basu Why did Shrabani love this book?

Originally published in 1956, this book is still worth a read, even though more material on the SOE agents is now available. Violette Szabo’s bravery, her death in Ravensbruck Concentration camp at the age of 23 and her posthumous George Cross collected by her daughter Tania, continues to move and inspire.

By R.J. Minney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Carve Her Name with Pride as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Carve Her Name With Pride is the inspiring story of the half-French Violette Szabo who was born in Paris Iin 1921 to an English motor-car dealer, and a French Mother. She met and married Etienne Szabo, a Captain in the French Foreign Legion in 1940. Shortly after the birth of her daughter, Tania, her husband died at El Alamein. She became a FANY (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry) and was recruited into the SOE and underwent secret agent training. Her first trip to France was completed successfully even though she was arrested and then released by the French Police. On June…


Book cover of Game of Spies

Peter Dixon Author Of Return to Vienna: The Special Operations Executive and the Rebirth of Austria

From my list on living undercover in constant danger during WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

Hodder and IVP had already published two of my earlier books—during my three decades as a Royal Air Force pilot and another one leading a conflict resolution NGO—when my journey as a WW2 author began. It all started with my wife's book about her German mother and British Intelligence Corps father (The Bride's Trunk). That got me interested in the links between 'the Corps' and the Special Operations Executive. Three SOE books later, I’m following the organisation into Austria. I've barely scratched the surface of undercover operations and I’m always finding new niches to discover.

Peter's book list on living undercover in constant danger during WW2

Peter Dixon Why did Peter love this book?

Apart from viewing the late Paddy Ashdown as perhaps the best Prime Minister Britain never had, I also know him as an under-recognised author of gripping Second World War books. The community of WW2 researchers is mutually supportive; knowledgeable colleagues have been immensely helpful to me over the years, and I recall helping Paddy with some information for one of his books. Several of them are worth reading, but here he tells the true stories of three men who pitted their wits against each other in the treacherous milieu of wartime France. The stakes were measured in lives, betrayals, and deaths.

By Paddy Ashdown,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Spies, bed-hopping, treachery and executions - this story of espionage in wartime Bordeaux is told for the first time.

Game of Spies uncovers a lethal spy triangle at work during the Second World War. The story centres on three men - on British, one French and one German - and the duels they fought out in an atmosphere of collaboration, betrayal and assassination, in which comrades sold fellow comrades, Allied agents and downed pilots to the Germans, as casually as they would a bottle of wine.

In this thrilling history of how ordinary, untrained people in occupied Europe faced the…


Book cover of Nancy Wake: World War Two's Most Rebellious Spy

Sarah Steele Author Of The Schoolteacher of Saint-Michel

From my list on formidable females in Nazi-occupied France.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having spent much time in France, I’ve been party to some incredible stories of the war years. The beautiful home owned by friends was once gifted by General De Gaulle to the village baker for his work hiding Resistance messages in loaves of bread; 90-year-old Jeanne remembers her father hiding Jewish families and helping them cross into free France; woodlands are punctuated by wooden crosses marking execution sites. For a writer, this is irresistible material, and it has been an honour to write The Schoolteacher of Saint-Michel and The Lost Song of Paris in tribute to the many acts of bravery and resistance over four long years of German occupation.

Sarah's book list on formidable females in Nazi-occupied France

Sarah Steele Why did Sarah love this book?

If ever another film should be made about an SOE agent in occupied France, it should tell the story of Nancy Wake, a brash, fearless Australian who caused havoc for the Nazis as ‘White Mouse’, the nominal leader of a huge Maquis network. I came upon Nancy’s file at the National Archives, and her SOE training report sums up this extraordinary woman: "She is tough, stubborn and plucky, with plenty of initiative. She has a strong personality, is jolly and sociable, but capable of being rather difficult." Those who came up against her would certainly have agreed, including her handlers. This book is a fantastic description of Nancy’s sometimes reckless bravery and incredible achievements inside enemy territory.

By Russell Braddon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Of all the variously talented women SOE sent to France, Nancy Wake was perhaps the most formidable' -Sebastian Faulks

This is the incredible true story of the greatest spy you've never heard of-as told to the author by the woman herself.

At the outbreak of World War Two, Nancy Wake's glamorous life in the South of France seemed far removed from the fighting. But when her husband was called up for military service, Nancy felt she had just as much of a duty to fight for freedom. By 1943, her fearless undercover work even in the face of personal tragedy…


Book cover of D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II

Thomas F. Linehan, Jr. Author Of Hannah Gould

From my list on courageous women and girls in war time.

Why am I passionate about this?

I focus on real-life stories of people usually in wartime conflicts and study the American Civil War and WWII. I am friends with several Holocaust survivors. But my focus is on defiance, rather than evading capture or captivity. Wars show the extremes of human behavior, both good and evil. I have a place in my heart for women and girls who were thrust into a man’s world at incredible disadvantage and through extraordinary character and ability overcame the harshest realities. A few were military fighters, some spies, but all in death-defying roles. Many died in action, and most never recognized for their valor. These are the unsung heroes that I love most.  

Thomas' book list on courageous women and girls in war time

Thomas F. Linehan, Jr. Why did Thomas love this book?

The success of the D-Day invasion of German-occupied France was highly dependent upon spy-gathered information. The stories of three young women, unlikely heroes, are set against a complicated historical backdrop of spy networks in Nazi-occupied France leading up to the Allied invasion. These are the stories of Andree Borrel, Odette Sansom, and Lise de Baissac. The British spy organization, Special Operations Executive (SOE) hired, trained, and utilized these and other women as field operatives. Without the covert work they accomplished, the Allied invasion could have been disastrous. Although the work is non-fiction, it flows like a novel with quotes and personal anecdotes of the real agents. The courage and valor of these everyday women turned heroines are inspiring.  

By Sarah Rose,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked D-Day Girls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The dramatic, untold story of the extraordinary women recruited by Britain's elite spy agency to help pave the way for Allied victory, for fans of A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE by Sonia Purnell

'Gripping: Spies, romance, Gestapo thugs, blown-up trains, courage, and treachery (lots of treachery) - and all of it true, all precisely documented'
ERIK LARSON, author of THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY

'The mission is this: Read D-Day Girls today. Not just for the spy flair but also because this history feels more relevant than ever, as an army of women and girls again find themselves in…


Book cover of The Invisible Woman

Joyce Tremel Author Of Death On A Deadline

From my list on historical mysteries with women in non-traditional jobs.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated with historical fiction, especially the World War II era, ever since I listened to my mother playing her Big Band Records. I’ve also loved mysteries since I picked up my first Nancy Drew book. Once I discovered historical mysteries, I haven’t been able to separate the two. I’ve recently expanded my interest to include the first world war. There are so many great stories that I’m afraid I’ll never get to read them all. It was really hard to narrow down my list to five books and I hope you’ll love the ones I’ve chosen for you.

Joyce's book list on historical mysteries with women in non-traditional jobs

Joyce Tremel Why did Joyce love this book?

I love this book. Although it’s a novel, Virginia Hall was a real person. She was recruited by the Allies to be a spy.

The book is written in present tense—which I usually find distracting—but it works in this book. It really lends an air of immediacy to the story. My heart didn’t stop pounding through the entire book. Even though I knew the basics of Virginia Hall’s life, this novel really brings it to life. She was an extraordinary woman.

By Erika Robuck,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Invisible Woman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“An extraordinary profile of immense courage and daring.”—Chanel Cleeton, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Left Cuba
 
“If you only read one WWII book this year, make it this one."—Natasha Lester, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Orphans
 
In the depths of war, she would defy the odds to help liberate a nation…a gripping historical novel based on the remarkable true story of World War II heroine Virginia Hall, from the bestselling author of Hemingway’s Girl
 
France, March 1944. Virginia Hall wasn't like the other young society women back home in Baltimore—she never wanted the debutante…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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