100 books like The Second World War

By Martin Gilbert,

Here are 100 books that The Second World War fans have personally recommended if you like The Second World War. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Suite Française

By Irene Nemirovsky,

Book cover of Suite Française

Sarah Steele Author Of The Schoolteacher of Saint-Michel

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

Who am I?

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

Why did Sarah love this book?

I’ve chosen this book not just for the incredible picture it paints of German occupation, but for the story of its survival. Irène Némirovsky was a Ukrainian-Jewish author living in Paris with her young family until she was denied French citizenship and forced to flee to the French countryside. In July 1942 she was arrested during a period of vicious roundups by the Germans and transported to Auschwitz, where she died a month later from typhus. Irène’s two daughters were amongst the crowd that gathered daily outside the Hotel Lutetia in Paris, where returnees from concentration camps were processed after the liberation of France. Her daughter Denise kept the notebook containing Suite Française for fifty years before realising what it contained, and Irène’s masterpiece was finally published in 2004.

By Irene Nemirovsky,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Suite Française as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1941, Irene Nemirovsky sat down to write a book that would convey the magnitude of what she was living through, not in terms of battles and politicians, but by evoking the domestic lives and personal trials of the ordinary citizens of France. She did not live to see her ambition fulfilled, or to know that sixty-five years later, "Suite Francaise" would be published for the first time, and hailed as a masterpiece. Set during a year that begins with France's fall to the Nazis in June 1940 and ends with Germany turning its attention to Russia, "Suite Francaise" falls…

Savage Continent

By Keith Lowe,

Book cover of Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II

Ursula Wong Author Of Amber Wolf

From the list on WWII and Eastern Europe (that you may not know about).

Who am I?

I’m a Lithuanian-American with a Chinese name, thanks to my husband. Thirty years ago, I found papers among my uncle’s possessions telling a WWII story about our ancestral Lithuania. I had heard about it in broad terms, but I could hardly believe what I was reading. I spent years validating the material. The result was Amber Wolf, a historical novel about a war within the war: the fight against the Russian occupation of Eastern Europe. While many countries were involved in separate struggles, I focused on Lithuania and their David and Goliath fight against the Russian army. After all this time, the story still moves me.

Ursula's book list on WWII and Eastern Europe (that you may not know about)

Why did Ursula love this book?

Mr. Lowe’s meticulous research of post-WWII Europe gives startling insight into how devastated the continent was after the war.

He paints a picture of lawlessness and depravity, arguably as bad as battle conditions had been. In some cases, it might have been worse. Revenge killings, rapes, and starvation were among the horrors. It begs the question, when did WWII really end? 

By Keith Lowe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Keith Lowe's Savage Continent is an awe-inspiring portrait of how Europe emerged from the ashes of WWII.

The end of the Second World War saw a terrible explosion of violence across Europe. Prisoners murdered jailers. Soldiers visited atrocities on civilians. Resistance fighters killed and pilloried collaborators. Ethnic cleansing, civil war, rape and murder were rife in the days, months and years after hostilities ended. Exploring a Europe consumed by vengeance, Savage Continent is a shocking portrait of an until-now unacknowledged time of lawlessness and terror.

Praise for Savage Continent:

'Deeply harrowing, distinctly troubling. Moving, measured and provocative. A compelling and…

Primo Levi's Resistance

By Sergio Luzzatto,

Book cover of Primo Levi's Resistance: Rebels and Collaborators in Occupied Italy

Gemma Liviero Author Of The Road Beyond Ruin

From the list on WW2 occupation, resistance, and the aftermath.

Who am I?

Gemma is the bestselling author of historical fiction novels, translated into several languages. Set against the backdrop of war in Europe, her fifth book in this genre will be released later this year. She has combined the war experiences of family members in WWI and WWII, information collected during her research and travels, and her academic studies in writing and history, to create the authentic scenes and characters for her books.

Gemma's book list on WW2 occupation, resistance, and the aftermath

Why did Gemma love this book?

The partisan experiences of Primo Levi—chemist, Auschwitz survivor, and writer—are researched and offered in gritty, thorough detail by Luzzatto. Levi, in his writings, alluded to incidents that occurred during his time as a partisan, and Luzzatto delves deeper into the motivations behind these events and the personalities involved. The Resistance in its early days, while being hunted by Nazis and their Italian allies, became a small force of its own making, using collective, military-style decisions and tactics, and meting out its own forms of justice. An important book to gain insight into the complexities of purpose within the Resistance, learn about the crimes and subsequent justice of members of Salò—the puppet government installed in northern Italy—and understand the influences on political alignments and fascism in the period beyond the war.

By Sergio Luzzatto,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Primo Levi's Resistance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

No other Auschwitz survivor has been as literarily powerful and historically influential as Primo Levi. Yet Levi was not only a victim or a witness. In the fall of 1943, at the very start of the Italian Resistance, he was a fighter, participating in the first attempts to launch guerrilla warfare against occupying Nazi forces. Those three months have been largely overlooked by Levi's biographers; indeed, they went strikingly unmentioned by Levi himself. For the rest of his life he barely acknowledged that autumn in the Alps. But an obscure passage in Levi's The Periodic Table hints that his deportation…

A Woman in Berlin

By Anonymous, Philip Boehm (translator),

Book cover of A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City

Gabrielle Robinson Author Of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

From the list on WWII stories of ordinary people caught in war.

Who am I?

In 1945 my mother, grandmother, and myself, aged two and a half, fled Berlin after bombs had destroyed our apartment. My Austrian father had been killed in 1943; only my grandfather, a doctor, stayed behind. Yet as I grew up there was silence about the recent past. When I studied drama, earning a PhD from the University of London, I did not think about this either. Then I discovered my grandfather’s diaries and finally felt compelled to face my past. I have published 8 books and some 40 articles. My twin passions are writing about the impact of history on our lives and helping others tell their stories.

Gabrielle's book list on WWII stories of ordinary people caught in war

Why did Gabrielle love this book?

Just like Api’s diary, A Woman in Berlin begins on April 20, 1945, and she, too, writes daily to maintain her sanity in a world of chaos and death. The author, who wanted to remain anonymous, gives a clear-eyed perspective of a woman alone, trapped in Berlin, fighting starvation and the terrors of Soviet invasion. For women above all this meant rape. They tried to hide in the ruins, make themselves look old, dress up as men. Nevertheless, Soviet soldiers raped over 100,000 women. I read in Api’s diary that Berlin doctors soon began to perform then illegal abortions for victims who begged them for one. 

The author’s unflinching and courageous account is “among the most chilling indictments of war I have ever read” (Arundhati Roy).

By Anonymous, Philip Boehm (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

For eight weeks in 1945, as Berlin fell to the Russian army, a young woman kept a daily record of life in her apartment building and among its residents. "With bald honesty and brutal lyricism" (Elle), the anonymous author depicts her fellow Berliners in all their humanity, as well as their cravenness, corrupted first by hunger and then by the Russians. "Spare and unpredictable, minutely observed and utterly free of self-pity" (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland), A Woman in Berlin tells of the complex relationship between civilians and an occupying army and the…

The Second World War

By Antony Beevor,

Book cover of The Second World War

Adam Nevill Author Of Lost Girl

From the list on Armageddon.

Who am I?

I'm continually asked why I write horror. But I wonder why every writer isn't writing horror. Not a day passes without me being aghast at the world and my own species, the present, past and future. Though nor do I stop searching for a sense of awe and wonder in the world either. My Dad read ghost stories to me as a kid and my inner tallow candle was lit. The flame still burns. Horror has always been the fiction I have felt compelled to write in order to process the world, experience, observation, my imaginative life. I've been blessed with a good readership and have entered my third decade as a writer of horrors. In that time two of my novels have been adapted into films and the British Fantasy Society has kindly recognised my work with five awards, one for Best Collection and four for Best Novel. I'm in this for the long haul and aim to be creating horror on both page and screen for some time to come.

Adam's book list on Armageddon

Why did Adam love this book?

It's too easy to dismiss the Second World War. To relegate that epochal conflict into realms of ancient history, action films, kitset models, unread Father's day gifts, and black & white footage. But we all live through the consequences of this epic global struggle. This was the last time western civilisation brought itself close to destruction and it was a close call. 60 million lives were lost and no one died easily. The war was also raging just shy of 80 years ago. In the scheme of human history, that's recent.

Beevor's history of the global conflict - and it was global - is a page-turning affair. Vivid, engaging, heartbreaking, shocking. Really fine storytelling and a first class history, encompassing the great conflicts of east and west (China's experience of the war is much overlooked in the west but not in these pages). I found myself engrossed by this monumental…

By Antony Beevor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A magisterial, single-volume history of the greatest conflict the world has ever known by our foremost military historian.

The Second World War began in August 1939 on the edge of Manchuria and ended there exactly six years later with the Soviet invasion of northern China. The war in Europe appeared completely divorced from the war in the Pacific and China, and yet events on opposite sides of the world had profound effects. Using the most up-to-date scholarship and research, Beevor assembles the whole picture in a gripping narrative that extends from the North Atlantic to the South Pacific and from…


By Michael Jabara Carley,

Book cover of 1939: The Alliance That Never Was and the Coming of World War II

James A. W. Heffernan Author Of Politics and Literature at the Dawn of World War II

From the list on the origin of World War II.

Who am I?

I was born on April 22, 1939, just over four months before the start of World War II, and the very first words I can remember reading were a big black headline in August 1945: The War is Over. Ever since, I’ve been fascinated with that war, and about 75 years after it ended, I felt moved to write a book about how it began. Since I hold a PhD in English from Princeton, taught English at Dartmouth for nearly forty years, and I’ve been studying, teaching, and writing about literature for sixty years, I decided to make it a book about literature: the fiction, poetry, and drama inspired by World War II.

James' book list on the origin of World War II

Why did James love this book?

Irresistibly clear and readable, this book explains the biggest mistake that France and Britain made before war broke out. Gripped by “ideological anti-Communism,” they simply could not bring themselves to forge an alliance with the Soviet Union against Hitler’s Germany. As a result, Hitler beat them to the punch. After he struck his own deal with Stalin and thus neutralized any Soviet threat to his belligerence, Germany and the Soviets carved up Poland between them. And even though Britain and France had pledged to defend Poland, the only thing they did for that poor, brave nation after Hitler invaded it was to declare war on Germany—and then do nothing for the next seven months of what came to be known as the “joke war.”

By Michael Jabara Carley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 1939 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At a crucial point in the twentieth century, as Nazi Germany prepared for war, negotiations between Britain, France, and the Soviet Union became the last chance to halt Hitler's aggression. Incredibly, the French and British governments dallied, talks failed, and in August 1939 the Soviet Union signed a nonaggression pact with Germany. Michael Carley's gripping account of these negotiations is not a pretty story. It is about the failures of appeasement and collective security in Europe. It is about moral depravity and blindness, about villains and cowards, and about heroes who stood against the intellectual and popular tides of their…

First to Fight

By Roger Moorhouse,

Book cover of First to Fight: The Polish War 1939

Jeremy Black Author Of A History of the Second World War in 100 Maps

From the list on WW2 in Europe.

Who am I?

Jeremy Black is a prolific lecturer and writer, the author of over 100 books. Many concern aspects of eighteenth-century British, European, and American political, diplomatic and military history but he has also published on the history of the press, cartography, warfare, culture, and on the nature and uses of history itself.

Jeremy's book list on WW2 in Europe

Why did Jeremy love this book?

A Major scholar of the period, Moorhouse is particularly instructive for his ability to capture the Eastern European perspective. The Polish war of 1939 has generally been underplayed in the literature, and it is particularly valuable therefore to see this well-researched account.

By Roger Moorhouse,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked First to Fight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A new and definitive account of the German invasion of Poland that initiated WWII in 1939, written by a historian at the height of his abilities.

'Deeply researched, very well-written... This book will be the standard work on the subject for many years to come' - Andrew Roberts, author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny

The Polish campaign is the forgotten story of the Second World War.

The war began on 1 September 1939, when German tanks, trucks and infantry crossed the Polish border, and the Luftwaffe began bombing Poland's towns and cities. The Polish army fought bravely but could not…

The Grand Alliance

By Winston S. Churchill,

Book cover of The Grand Alliance

Andrew Nagorski Author Of 1941: The Year Germany Lost the War

From the list on the view from London in 1941.

Who am I?

Award-winning journalist and historian Andrew Nagorski was born in Scotland to Polish parents, moved to the United States as an infant, and has rarely stopped moving since. During a long career at Newsweek, he served as the magazine's bureau chief in Hong Kong, Moscow, Rome, Bonn, Warsaw, and Berlin. In 1982, he gained international notoriety when the Kremlin, angered by his enterprising reporting, expelled him from the Soviet Union. Nagorski is the author of seven books, including The Nazi Hunters and Hitlerland.

Andrew's book list on the view from London in 1941

Why did Andrew love this book?

Leave it to Churchill to sum up the events of 1941 that determined the ultimate outcome of the war. In his words, the theme of this volume of his epic account of the war is “How the British fought on with Hardship their Garment until Soviet Russia and the United States were drawn into the Great Conflict.” Much of this consists of letters, reports, speeches, and other original documents from that period, woven together by its skillful narrator. Little wonder that Churchill was later awarded the Noble Prize in Literature "for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.”

By Winston S. Churchill,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winston Churchill's six-volume history of the cataclysm that swept the world remains the definitive history of the Second World War. Lucid, dramatic, remarkable both for its breadth and sweep and for its sense of personal involvement, it is universally acknowledged as a magnificent reconstruction and is an enduring, compelling work that led to his being awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. The Grand Alliance recounts the momentous events of 1941 surrounding America's entry into the War and Hitler's march on Russia - the continuing onslaught on British civilians during the Blitz, Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and the alliance between…

Winston's War

By Max Hastings,

Book cover of Winston's War

Anthony Tucker-Jones Author Of Churchill, Master and Commander: Winston Churchill at War 1895-1945

From the list on Winston Churchill and which book to start with.

Who am I?

Anthony Tucker-Jones, a former intelligence officer, is an author, commentator, and writer who specializes in military history, with well over 60 books to his name. His work has also been published in an array of magazines and online. He regularly appears on television and radio commenting on current and historical military matters.

Anthony's book list on Winston Churchill and which book to start with

Why did Anthony love this book?

Churchill is perhaps best remembered for his bulldog premiership during the Second World War. Max Hasting’s excellent study graphically portrays the enormous political and strategic stresses and strains endured by Churchill. Coalition warfare was one of vigorously competing interests and Hastings shows how Churchill achieved a quite remarkable juggling act.

By Max Hastings,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Winston's War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'I would choose this account over and above the rest. It is a fabulous book: full of perceptive insight that conveys all the tragedy, triumph, humour and intense drama of Churchill's time as wartime leader; and it is incredibly moving as a result' James Holland, Literary Review

In this vivid biography, #1 bestselling historian Max Hastings tells the story of how Churchill led a nation through its darkest hour.

A moving, dramatic narrative of crisis and fortitude, Hastings offers one of the finest biographies of one of Britain's finest men.

When Churchill took power as Prime Minister in 1940, it…

Eastern Approaches

By Fitzroy Maclean,

Book cover of Eastern Approaches

Joanna Lillis Author Of Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan

From the list on to summon up the spirit of Central Asia.

Who am I?

I am a reporter and author with a passion for seeking out stories less told, and there are plenty of those in Central Asia, where I made my home more than two decades ago: first in Uzbekistan and, since 2005, in Kazakhstan. I have found telling overlooked tales from an overlooked region that is overshadowed by its mighty neighbours – the Russian bear to the north and the Chinese dragon to the east – to be both rewarding and valuable. I hope these book selections will bring more stories about the people who populate Central Asia to the attention of readers with inquisitive minds.

Joanna's book list on to summon up the spirit of Central Asia

Why did Joanna love this book?

In the 1990s when I worked at the British Embassy in Moscow organising social functions I met a kind, elderly, white-haired man who came to visit the ambassador. Sir Fitzroy Maclean was a distinguished former diplomat, war veteran, politician, and writer, but still he found time to chat with a lowly staff member about Soviet history – and when he got home, he sent me his book. Eastern Approaches is a captivating memoir of Maclean’s diplomatic service in the USSR during Stalin’s Terror, when he sneaked undercover into Central Asia and experienced many escapades, including run-ins with the Soviet secret police. His tales of derring-do evoke a bygone age – but his expressive portrayals of the people and landscapes of Central Asia are recognisable to anyone travelling in this alluring region today. 

By Fitzroy Maclean,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

70th Anniversary Edition with a New Foreword by Sunday Times Bestselling Author Simon Sebag Montefiore

'A classic' Observer | 'A legend' Washington Post | 'The best book you will read this year' Colonel Tim Collins

Posted to Moscow as a young diplomat before the Second World War, Fitzroy Maclean travelled widely, with or without permission, in some of the wildest and remotest parts of the Soviet Union, then virtually closed to foreigners. In 1942 he fought as a founder member of the SAS in North Africa. There Maclean specialised in hair-raising commando raids behind enemy lines, including the daring and…

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