100 books like The Last Year of the War

By Susan Meissner,

Here are 100 books that The Last Year of the War fans have personally recommended if you like The Last Year of the War. 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 Nightingale

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?

This novel left me feeling both teary-eyed and ennobled. Superficially, it is about two French sisters living through the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. At its root, however, Hannah deconstructs the essence of survival.

I loved how her characters frame the book’s cosmic questions: What would you do to survive? What compromises would you make? Is it better to fight back aggressively or resist passively? The sisters are of different temperaments and personalities. Each answers these questions differently, painfully. I found myself haunted by these themes long after I put The Nightingale back on the shelf. You will, too.

By Kristin Hannah,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Soon to be a major motion picture, The Nightingale is a multi-million copy bestseller across the world. It is a heart-breakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the endurance of women.

This story is about what it was like to be a woman during World War II when women's stories were all too often forgotten or overlooked . . . Vianne and Isabelle Mauriac are two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals and passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path towards survival, love and freedom in war-torn France.

Kristin Hannah's…


Book cover of Sisters in Arms

Alicia Dill Author Of Beyond Sacrifice

From my list on thrillers on veterans beyond “thank you for your service".

Why am I passionate about this?

Before I’m a writer, I’m a reader and I need the realness when it comes to military service. I started as an Army journalist so the details matter to me. When I pick up a book to relax and the main character draws me with a story I can get all the five senses of it, I’m in! On the other hand, I'm usually turned off by books that use veterans as props or either heroes or villains with nothing in between. That’s not who I served with. Where was the gray of the human existence in veteran characters? Gimme books that bring more depth to characters that round out personal experience. 

Alicia's book list on thrillers on veterans beyond “thank you for your service"

Alicia Dill Why did Alicia love this book?

I loved this was a historical fiction novel that featured the Six Triple Eight unit from the Women’s Army Corps. The Midwest was heavily featured including Iowa and the way race played in the way women were allowed to serve. This reminded me that I stand on the shoulders of the women who came before me in the Women’s Army Corps and the treatment of women has come a long way. I struggled with some of the scenarios the two main characters, Grace Steele and Eliza Jones were put into but they rang true for a fictional novel. 

By Kaia Alderson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Kaia Alderson's debut historical fiction novel reveals the untold, true story of the Six Triple Eight, the only all-Black battalion of the Women's Army Corps, who made the dangerous voyage to Europe to ensure American servicemen received word from their loved ones during World War II.


Grace Steele and Eliza Jones may be from completely different backgrounds, but when it comes to the army, specifically the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), they are both starting from the same level. Not only will they be among the first class of female officers the army has even seen, they are also the…


Book cover of A Kiss from Maddalena

Elisa M. Speranza Author Of The Italian Prisoner

From my list on strong WWII female characters who aren’t spies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the granddaughter of Irish and Italian immigrants, raised Catholic, and educated by nuns. Years ago, I heard a friend’s story about his parents: an Italian prisoner of war and a French Quarter Sicilian woman who met during World War II in New Orleans. I became determined to find out more, and connected with scholars, researchers, and families who’ve been piecing together the little-known stories of some of the 51,000 Italian POWs held in the US from 1943-1945. Their stories, and the plight of women working on the home front, inspired The Italian Prisoner.

Elisa's book list on strong WWII female characters who aren’t spies

Elisa M. Speranza Why did Elisa love this book?

Castellani’s warm and beautiful prose takes us on a journey with Maddelana, an innocent young woman in a tiny Italian village where everyone knows everyone. As she embarks on a journey that will change her life, we watch her future unfold across the ocean and through generations of the family she starts, immigrant descendants making a life in America. The best part is there are two more books following this one! 

By Christopher Castellani,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It is 1943, and Santa Cecilia has become a village of women. All the young men are away at war, except for Vito Leone, his best friend, and the shopkeeper's son. When Vito falls in love with Maddalena Picinelli, the shy and beautiful daughter of the town's most powerful family, a few obstacles appear in his path. Maddalena's sassy, iron-willed sister Carolina thinks he's a penniless fool. Her parents think his crazy mother has turned him into a mammoni, a mama's boy. But Maddalena sees another side of Vito. He's romantic. He builds a bicycle for the girls to ride.…


Book cover of The Beantown Girls

Cathy Gohlke Author Of Ladies of the Lake

From my list on the wonder and complexity of friendships and love.

Why am I passionate about this?

From the moment my grandmother told me that books were not created by magic, but that real people write books (I was five years old) I knew that I wanted to become a writer—as surely as did Anne in Anne of Green Gables. Themes of the joy, the complexity, and responsibility of friendship and family, of working together despite great challenges to overcome obstacles for purposes beyond ourselves, and of doing that while sometimes working through stages of grief all resonate with me, are all part of my life. The books I’ve recommended, as well as the books I’ve written, contain those themes.

Cathy's book list on the wonder and complexity of friendships and love

Cathy Gohlke Why did Cathy love this book?

Good friends stick together through thick and thin. That’s the premise I took away from The Beantown Girls. 

When one of three forever best friends from Boston learns that her fiancé is missing in WWII action, she determines to go to Europe and against all odds, find him. She convinces her two best friends—women with very different personalities, very different gifts, and skills—to join her as Red Cross Clubmobile girls in what could be a grand adventure or a terrible risk to their lives. 

They never expected to care so deeply for the soldiers they go to help, to encounter the horrors and deprivation of war they do, or that their friendship and camaraderie will be tested and yet become the thing that carries them through.

By Jane Healey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An Amazon Charts and Washington Post bestseller.

A novel of love, courage, and danger unfolds as World War II's brightest heroines-the best of friends-take on the front lines.

1944: Fiona Denning has her entire future planned out. She'll work in city hall, marry her fiance when he returns from the war, and settle down in the Boston suburbs. But when her fiance is reported missing after being shot down in Germany, Fiona's long-held plans are shattered.

Determined to learn her fiance's fate, Fiona leaves Boston to volunteer overseas as a Red Cross Clubmobile girl, recruiting her two best friends to…


Book cover of Manhattan Beach

Priscilla Gilman Author Of The Critic's Daughter: A Memoir

From my list on loving and losing a complicated father.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm the daughter of a charismatic and complicated father, the late theater and literary critic and Yale School of Drama professor Richard Gilman. My memoir, The Critic's Daughter, tells the story of how I lost him for the first time when I was ten years old and over and over in the ensuing months and years; the book is my attempt to find him. I'm a former professor of English literature at Yale and Vassar, the mother of two boys, a book critic for the Boston Globe, and a literature, writing, and meditation teacher.

Priscilla's book list on loving and losing a complicated father

Priscilla Gilman Why did Priscilla love this book?

Manhattan Beach is less experimental and more conventional than Jennifer Egan's A Visit From The Goon Squad and The Candy House, but it is every bit as moving, rich, and textured as those justly celebrated novels, and it contains one of the most touching father/daughter relationships that I've ever encountered in fiction.

A historical novel set in Depression and World War II-era New York City, Manhattan Beach begins with almost 12-year-old Anna Kerrigan accompanying her rakish father, Eddie, on a mission to a wealthy gangster. A few years later, Eddie disappears after abruptly walking out on his family with no warning or explanation.

Has he been killed? Is he in hiding?  Why did he abandon a family he ostensibly loved? Plucky, brave Anna devotes herself to the search for her missing father with the ingenuity and zeal of the detectives she reads about in fiction.

I reviewed Manhattan Beach for…

By Jennifer Egan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A New York Times Notable Book

Winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction

The daring and magnificent novel from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author.

Named One of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, Esquire, Vogue, The Washington Post, The Guardian, USA TODAY, and Time

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.…


Book cover of Whose Waves These Are

Elizabeth Musser Author Of By Way of the Moonlight

From my list on time-slip with present day and WWII protagonists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Southern girl from Atlanta who writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from my writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France where my husband and I have worked with a non-profit for over 30 years. I love to incorporate little-known historical facts into my award-winning and best-selling contemporary, historical, and time-slip fiction. I want my reader to find not only a good story and an interesting plot, but also the soul in my book and in my characters with themes of betrayal, regret, redemption, forgiveness, and faith that allow my reader to think, to ask questions, to laugh and cry and hope. To be entertained way down in her soul. 

Elizabeth's book list on time-slip with present day and WWII protagonists

Elizabeth Musser Why did Elizabeth love this book?

Amanda’s dual-time novel is like reading a poem—the prose is breathtaking, the story compelling, the characters real and wounded, and the love story! In the wake of WWII, a grieving fisherman, Robert Bliss, submits a poem to a local newspaper and his humble words change the tide of a nation. Decades later, Annie Bliss is summoned back to Ansel-by-the-Sea when she learns her Great-Uncle Robert, the man who became her refuge during the hardest summer of her youth, is now the one in need of help. The time slip is expertly done, the story wild and wonderful, and again, I was inspired to try my hand at a time-slip novel after having soaked up every last drop of the water on the sand in Whose Waves These Are.

By Amanda Dykes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Whose Waves These Are as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2020 Christy Award Book of the Year

In the wake of WWII, a grieving fisherman submits a poem to a local newspaper: a rallying cry for hope, purpose . . . and rocks. Send me a rock for the person you lost, and I will build something life-giving. When the poem spreads farther than he ever intended, Robert Bliss's humble words change the tide of a nation. Boxes of rocks inundate the tiny, coastal Maine town, and he sets his calloused hands to work, but the building halts when tragedy strikes.

Decades later, Annie Bliss is summoned…


Book cover of The Butterfly and the Violin

Elizabeth Musser Author Of By Way of the Moonlight

From my list on time-slip with present day and WWII protagonists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Southern girl from Atlanta who writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from my writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France where my husband and I have worked with a non-profit for over 30 years. I love to incorporate little-known historical facts into my award-winning and best-selling contemporary, historical, and time-slip fiction. I want my reader to find not only a good story and an interesting plot, but also the soul in my book and in my characters with themes of betrayal, regret, redemption, forgiveness, and faith that allow my reader to think, to ask questions, to laugh and cry and hope. To be entertained way down in her soul. 

Elizabeth's book list on time-slip with present day and WWII protagonists

Elizabeth Musser Why did Elizabeth love this book?

Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl—a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes. Along with wealthy heir William Hanover, Sera unravels the story behind the painting’s subject, an Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron who smuggles Jews out of Vienna and finds herself in Auschwitz.

Evocative, haunting, soul searching, this debut by Cambron is time-slip historical fiction at its best: heartbreaking truth of the horrors of Auschwitz, romance with a musical refrain, art and faith. Just the kind of story I try to write. A delight.

By Kristy Cambron,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Based on the real orchestra composed of prisoners at Auschwitz, The Butterfly and the Violin shows how beauty and hope can penetrate even the darkest corners.

Present day: Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl-a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.

In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover-the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul-who may be the key…


Book cover of Fragments of Light

Elizabeth Musser Author Of By Way of the Moonlight

From my list on time-slip with present day and WWII protagonists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Southern girl from Atlanta who writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from my writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France where my husband and I have worked with a non-profit for over 30 years. I love to incorporate little-known historical facts into my award-winning and best-selling contemporary, historical, and time-slip fiction. I want my reader to find not only a good story and an interesting plot, but also the soul in my book and in my characters with themes of betrayal, regret, redemption, forgiveness, and faith that allow my reader to think, to ask questions, to laugh and cry and hope. To be entertained way down in her soul. 

Elizabeth's book list on time-slip with present day and WWII protagonists

Elizabeth Musser Why did Elizabeth love this book?

When Ceelie, reeling from everything cancer has stolen from her, sets out to track down her ailing friend’s father, who disappeared decades ago, she uncovers a story of faith, heroism, and heartbreak dating back to the Normandy beaches in World War II—and finds her own life transformed.

Michele Phoenix does it again in Fragments of Light. With prose that takes your breath away, she expertly navigates two time periods while exploring themes of loss, love, forgiveness, regret, and redemption. And France! What could be better! These themes often populate my novels and Michele’s novel was an inspiration for me.

By Michele Phoenix,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An impossible decision in the chaos of D-Day.

Ripples that cascade seventy-five years into the present.

And two lives transformed by the tenuous resolve to reach out of the darkness toward fragments of light.

Cancer stole everything from Ceelie-her peace of mind, her selfimage, perhaps even her twenty-three-year marriage to her college sweetheart, Nate. Without the support of Darlene, her quirky elderly friend, she may not have been able to endure so much loss.

So when Darlene's own prognosis turns dire, Ceelie can't refuse her seemingly impossible request-to find a WWII paratrooper named Cal, the father who disappeared when Darlene…


Book cover of The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II

Stephanie Hinnershitz Author Of Japanese American Incarceration: The Camps and Coerced Labor During World War II

From my list on Japanese American incarceration.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in central Pennsylvania, I learned little about Japanese American incarceration beyond the brief mention in textbooks. It wasn’t until I came across documents about incarceration camps in Arkansas that I wanted to learn more and spent the next five years exploring this subject. What I took away from my research is that even though confinement in camps only directly affected Japanese Americans, understanding how this tragedy happened is important for all Americans who value democracy. I’m a Senior Historian at the National WWII Museum and work hard to make sure that Japanese American incarceration is included in the larger history of the American home front during the war.

Stephanie's book list on Japanese American incarceration

Stephanie Hinnershitz Why did Stephanie love this book?

Was it just Japanese Americans who were detained during the war? I found myself asking this question before I started researching this topic. Sadly for me, Russell’s book was not yet published. While there are many books that detail the experiences of Germans and Italians (citizen and nationals) with internment, this book focuses on two young, American-born women—one German American, the other Japanese American—and the trials and tragedy they faced when they were detained and deported to Germany and Japan because their parents were foreign-born and eventually returned to the United States. I normally am skeptical of books described as telling “little-known” or “unknown” stories, but this book truly is an examination of an understudied event in the larger story of wartime panic, prejudice, and discrimination.

By Jan Jarboe Russell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Train to Crystal City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestselling dramatic and never-before-told story of a secret FDR-approved American internment camp in Texas during World War II: “A must-read….The Train to Crystal City is compelling, thought-provoking, and impossible to put down” (Star-Tribune, Minneapolis).

During World War II, trains delivered thousands of civilians from the United States and Latin America to Crystal City, Texas. The trains carried Japanese, German, and Italian immigrants and their American-born children. The only family internment camp during the war, Crystal City was the center of a government prisoner exchange program called “quiet passage.” Hundreds of prisoners in Crystal City were exchanged…


Book cover of Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America

Robert McParland Author Of The Last Alchemist

From my list on books where history meets mystery.

Why am I passionate about this?

I once had a history advisor in school whom I informed that I was studying history so I could write fiction better. I saw him cringe a bit at that. Even so, I think that history and fiction–and the mystery–go together well. I am always drawn by mystery dramas–and by the drama of real lives facing and unraveling their way through real events. Of course, that led to graduate studies in cultural and intellectual history, to many years of teaching literature, and to passionate reading of mystery novels. Sparkling fiction and strong narrative history, for me, continue to stimulate a sense of wonder at human experience and this incredible universe we live in.    

Robert's book list on books where history meets mystery

Robert McParland Why did Robert love this book?

A secret intelligence program with Nazi scientists is described in such colorful detail that this nonfiction book riveted my attention.

What was most compelling for me was the story of how these scientists and technological experts were utilized by American ingenuity. A fascinating and well-researched history book always holds my interest.  

By Annie Jacobsen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the chaos following WWII, many of Germany's remaining resources were divvied up among allied forces. Some of the greatest spoils were the Third Reich's scientific minds--the minds that made their programs in aerospace and rocketry the best in the world. The United States secretly decided that the value of these former Nazis' forbidden knowledge outweighed their crimes, and the government formed a covert organization called Operation Paperclip to allow them to work without the knowledge of the American public.

Drawing on exclusive interviews with dozens of Paperclip family members, with access to German archival documents (including, notably, papers available…


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