100 books like The Railway Man

By Eric Lomax,

Here are 100 books that The Railway Man fans have personally recommended if you like The Railway Man. 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 Unbroken

David Kerr Author Of Out of Latvia: The Son of a Latvian Immigrant Searches for his Roots

From my list on how people triumphed over trauma and tragedy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been curious and passionate about how people overcame significant suffering in their lives. True stories of how people emerged stronger from traumatic events not only became an inspiration in my personal life but also my professional life as a therapist, where I became an agent of change. The ‘secret’ of these storytellers and their transformation became my focus. I only hope you find these stories as enjoyable as I did and also a challenge and an inspiration that makes a difference in your own life.

David's book list on how people triumphed over trauma and tragedy

David Kerr Why did David love this book?

The author held me spellbound as she skilfully unpacked the remarkable story of Louis Zamperini, who survived a plane crash at sea only to be taken prisoner by the Japanese.

Zamperini’s life leapt from the page and swept me along a chilling pathway that bore witness to his physical and inner strength. Hillenbrand held me riveted to the last page of this remarkable true story.

By Laura Hillenbrand,

Why should I read it?

16 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 Survival in the Killing Fields

James Taing Author Of Under the Naga Tail: A True Story of Survival, Bravery, and Escape from the Cambodian Genocide

From my list on surviving impossible odds.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since arriving as a refugee in America, my father, Mae Bunseng has always wanted to tell his story. It would take many decades later for me, as I was coming of age, to consider what exactly my father had lived through. I was shocked at what he told me and knew his story had to be told. Thus over a decade ago I worked with my him to what eventually became Under the Naga Tail. In addition to this book, along the way, a short documentary called Ghost Mountain was created and released on PBS, which is accessible for streaming here. The film would win the best documentary at the HAAPI Film Festival.

James' book list on surviving impossible odds

James Taing Why did James love this book?

Haing Ngor, is still only one of three Asian actors to win an Oscar, received in 1985 for Best Supporting Actor in his portrayal of journalist Dith Pran for the film, The Killing Fields. Remarkably Haing Ngor himself was a survivor of the genocide in Cambodia, a trained Doctor at the time before the Khmer Rouge enacted their devastating atrocities upon the country. He would only survive torture by pretending to be an uneducated taxi driver. This book will leave you in awe and inspired, as it did for me, of Haing Ngor’s life. He resettles in America, doing jobs cleaning latrines to suddenly finding himself becoming Hollywood famous overnight. He was an important voice in the advocacy of human rights, until he, unfortunately, passed away in 1996.

By Haing Ngor, Roger Warner,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Survival in the Killing Fields as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is an autobiographical account of life in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, written by the Oscar-winning actor from "The Killing Fields", whose own experiences under the Khmer Rouge were more shocking than those of Dith Pran, the character he played. The Khmer Rouge, led by Maoist fanatics, laid waste to the social fabric of Cambodia, forcing the entire population into agricultural labour camps and murdering those they considered bourgeois or intellectual. As a doctor, Haing S. Ngor was a special target of the Khmer Rouge; his family was wiped out, his wife died from starvation in his arms, and…


Book cover of Night

James Taing Author Of Under the Naga Tail: A True Story of Survival, Bravery, and Escape from the Cambodian Genocide

From my list on surviving impossible odds.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since arriving as a refugee in America, my father, Mae Bunseng has always wanted to tell his story. It would take many decades later for me, as I was coming of age, to consider what exactly my father had lived through. I was shocked at what he told me and knew his story had to be told. Thus over a decade ago I worked with my him to what eventually became Under the Naga Tail. In addition to this book, along the way, a short documentary called Ghost Mountain was created and released on PBS, which is accessible for streaming here. The film would win the best documentary at the HAAPI Film Festival.

James' book list on surviving impossible odds

James Taing Why did James love this book?

The masterpiece memoir by Elie Wiesel is an astonishingly short autobiographical of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. His account of surviving a concentration camp is important as any other, a narrative that is chilling, yet with compassion put into each word. Night is a book that has to be read. Elie would become an important human rights activist and this continued beyond the subject matter of the Holocaust. During the refugee crisis on the Thai-Cambodia border in 1980, he and several other notables (such as Joan Baez, Liv Ullman, and Bayard Rustin), mobilized to bring relief assistance for Cambodians fleeing the dangerous borders of their country. When asked by a journalist why help Cambodia, he replied, “When I needed people to come, they didn't. That's why I am here.” It demonstrated Elie’s resolve and will to prevent the next genocide from happening somewhere else.

By Elie Wiesel, Marion Wiesel (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Born into a Jewish ghetto in Hungary, as a child, Elie Wiesel was sent to the Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. This is his account of that atrocity: the ever-increasing horrors he endured, the loss of his family and his struggle to survive in a world that stripped him of humanity, dignity and faith. Describing in simple terms the tragic murder of a people from a survivor's perspective, Night is among the most personal, intimate and poignant of all accounts of the Holocaust. A compelling consideration of the darkest side of human nature and the enduring power of…


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 Lucky 666: The Impossible Mission That Changed the War in the Pacific

James Taing Author Of Under the Naga Tail: A True Story of Survival, Bravery, and Escape from the Cambodian Genocide

From my list on surviving impossible odds.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since arriving as a refugee in America, my father, Mae Bunseng has always wanted to tell his story. It would take many decades later for me, as I was coming of age, to consider what exactly my father had lived through. I was shocked at what he told me and knew his story had to be told. Thus over a decade ago I worked with my him to what eventually became Under the Naga Tail. In addition to this book, along the way, a short documentary called Ghost Mountain was created and released on PBS, which is accessible for streaming here. The film would win the best documentary at the HAAPI Film Festival.

James' book list on surviving impossible odds

James Taing Why did James love this book?

Captain Jay Zeamer, the protagonist of this book is the grandfather of a family friend. Similar to my own father’s story, it had been a story the family had been trying to get written into a book for a long time. And it is one of the epic proportions. Captain Jay Zeamer and bombardier Sergeant Raymond Joseph “Joe” Sarnoski are called for a 1,200-mile reconnaissance flight into the heart of the Japanese empire. It would become one of the most dangerous missions in aviation history, with very morbid chances of surviving. Yet, if they succeeded, it would change everything and open up the South Pacific for an American victory. This inspirational book is an important timepiece for any World War II enthusiasts, one that you won’t be able to put down.

By Bob Drury, Tom Clavin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lucky 666 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the authors of the New York Times bestselling The Heart of Everything That Is and Halsey's Typhoon comes the dramatic, untold story of a daredevil bomber pilot and his misfit crew who fly their lone B-17 into the teeth of the Japanese Empire in 1943, engage in the longest dogfight in history, and change the momentum of the War in the Pacific-but not without making the ultimate sacrifice.

It is 1942, the Japanese war machine has rolled up nearly all of the Pacific Theater, and American forces are clinging to what little unconquered territory remains. While US Marines claw…


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 Jewels and Ashes

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?

Zable writes of the haunted consciousness of post-conflict generations, in his case, the holocaust.

He argues that great stories must have both terror and beauty, or they merely add to the darkness. It is easy to see the terror, but what of the jewels? I grappled with this question too - how do we rightly remember victims of extreme violence? When I looked to Zable, I found a work imbued with poetry and lyricism.

Jewels and Ashes is a transcendent retracing of the terrain of his parents and grandparents.

By Arnold Zable,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a memoir of a Jewish man's search for his roots, the son of Holocaust survivors returns to his parents' homeland in Poland to rediscover the former glory of East European Jewry.


Book cover of The Forgotten Highlander: An Incredible WWII Story of Survival in the Pacific

Naoko Abe Author Of 'Cherry' Ingram: The Englishman Who Saved Japan's Blossoms

From my list on Japanese history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Living in Britain for the past 20 years, I've been able to look at Japan with new eyes and to understand historical events from a global perspective. 'Cherry' Ingram's story isn't just about a man and his love for cherry blossoms. It's also about the cherry ideology and how it was perverted for militaristic purposes before and during World War II. While researching the book, I was amazed how many compelling anecdotes came to light that offered new insights into both British and Japanese society in the early 20th century.

Naoko's book list on Japanese history

Naoko Abe Why did Naoko love this book?

Many British, Australians, Canadians, Dutch, and Americans have written about their appalling treatment by the Japanese as POWs during World War II. Urquhart's account is one of the more compelling, all the more so because he waited for more than 60 years to tell this harrowing, anecdote-rich story.

By Alistair Urquhart,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Alistair Urquhart was a soldier in the Gordon Highlanders captured by the Japanese in Singapore. He not only survived working on the notorious Bridge on the River Kwai , but he was subsequently taken on one of the Japanese 'hellships' which was torpedoed. Nearly everyone else on board died and Urquhart spent 5 days alone on a raft in the South China Sea before being rescued by a whaling ship. He was taken to Japan and then forced to work in a mine near Nagasaki. Two months later a nuclear bomb dropped just ten miles away ...This is the extraordinary…


Book cover of Surrender and Survival: The Experience of American Pow's in the Pacific 1941-1945

Robert C. Daniels Author Of 1220 Days: The Story of U.S. Marine Edmond Babler and His Experiences in Japanese Prisoner of War Camps During World War II

From my list on World War II POWs.

Why am I passionate about this?

History has always been a strong part of me since I can remember. My heart has always laid in reading, studying, researching, and writing about it, and World War II history is a large part of that. When writing about World War II, I like to visit topics that relate to the everyday person, not well-known generals and admirals. I like to interview people about their experiences and write their stories, what they saw, lived through, witnessed. Both of my books are based upon this concept, how everyday people lived their lives during World War II.

Robert's book list on World War II POWs

Robert C. Daniels Why did Robert love this book?

Similar to my own book and used as a research document for it, Surrender and Survival contains a detailed account of Allied POWs in Japanese POW camps from the beginning of the war to its end and their repatriation back to their homelands. It covers many of the locations that Ed Babler was held during his captivity as well as describes the infamous Hell Ships that Ed and hundreds of other POWs were transported on from the Philippines to the Japanese Mainland Islands and elsewhere. In addition, it describes the concept of the Bushido Code, explaining why and how the average Japanese soldier was able to treat the POWs so horribly. I find it a very good read to understand why and how the POWs were so terribly treated.

By E. Bartlett Kerr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Recounts Japanese treatment of more than twenty thousand U.S. prisoners of war during World War II, and discusses the cultural clashes that occurred


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