10 books directly related to the French Resistance 📚

All 10 French Resistance books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Book cover of A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France

A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France

By Caroline Moorehead

Why this book?

This fascinating book follows 230 women, some more in-depth than others, who were imprisoned outside Paris for crimes of resistance activities. I began reading it as research and became captivated by the stories, especially the devotion the women developed for one another. I felt a deep connection to each of the prisoners as I climbed into their shoes, cheering for them to survive while fearing they would not. (The Appendix lists the 49 who survived if you want to know in advance. I didn’t.) It’s difficult to grasp what they endured over an unimaginable period of time. Just the sheer…
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The best books on women during WW2

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Book cover of The Historian’s Craft

The Historian’s Craft

By Marc Bloch

Why this book?

Apology of History, or the Historian’s Craft is the exact translation of the French title of this book, written in 1941-42 by Marc Bloch, a great historian who was executed in 1944 as a member of the French Resistance. In his testament, Marc Block wished two words to be incised on his tombstone: dilexit veritatem (‘he loved the truth). The book is about the technique of understanding the present by means of studying the past. The fact that Apology of History, or the Historian’s Craft was written in the midst of the war explains the original title. The…
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The best books on how historians work

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Book cover of Sisters in the Resistance: How Women Fought to Free France, 1940-1945

Sisters in the Resistance: How Women Fought to Free France, 1940-1945

By Margaret Collins Weitz

Why this book?

Margaret Collins Weitz interviewed more than 80 women (and some men) who worked in the French Resistance during the Nazi Occupation. From this foundation, she brings forth the detailed accounts of a variety of women, from the well-known Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz, to rarely heard students, nurses, and even a nun. Their stories are told through their own voices, framed by the author in a well-researched context. Danger, tension, conflict, and loss echo through the pages, but at the core of it also is the courage the women found in themselves when their nation was in need.

From the list:

The best non-fiction books by women on women in WWII

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Book cover of An American Heroine in the French Resistance: The Diary and Memoir of Virginia d'Albert-Lake

An American Heroine in the French Resistance: The Diary and Memoir of Virginia d'Albert-Lake

By Virginia d'Albert-Lake

Why this book?

Edited by historian Judy Barrett Litoff, who wrote a comprehensive introduction outlining Virginia d’Albert-Lake’s war, this memoir recounts the dramatic experience of a rare American woman resistance agent in occupied France. Working with the legendary Comet escape line, she and her French husband helped shelter and move 66 Allied airmen to safety. But in 1944, a German question answered in her American accent got her sent straight to the Gestapo and then to Ravensbrück concentration camp. Virginia d’Albert-Lake tells her amazing story of life on the edge from the pages of her diary.

From the list:

The best non-fiction books by women on women in WWII

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Book cover of Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes

Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes

By Jacques Ellul

Why this book?

I love how the study of persuasion and propaganda provides plentiful opportunities to address values, ethics, and morality. As a theologian, Jacques Ellul interrogates propaganda to demonstrate the practice of critical thinking that increases human autonomy and freedom. What I love about this book is its spirit of optimism: through inquiry, dialogue, and reflection, we can evaluate propaganda’s explicit and implicit claims. We can discern between propaganda that is designed for personal gain and propaganda that is trying to benefit society. We can acknowledge our own vulnerability to propaganda and recognize when our buttons are being pushed. 

From the list:

The best books for understanding propaganda and persuasion

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Book cover of Code Name Hélène

Code Name Hélène

By Ariel Lawhon

Why this book?

Ariel Lawhon is one of my favorite authors. I will read anything she writes, and this novel is one of her best. Not many people have heard of Nancy Wake, but she was an Australian expatriate living in Paris during the years preceding World War II. I, for one, am glad she’s finally getting her due, for her story is one of those “I can hardly believe this really happened” tales. Nancy Wake started out as a reporter, but when Germany invaded France she joined the Resistance and smuggled people and documents across the border. The Nazis nicknamed her…

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The best books about intrepid women spies of World War II

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Book cover of A Hero of France

A Hero of France

By Alan Furst

Why this book?

Je suis las,” is the first human utterance of A Hero of France. “I am tired of the way I have to live my life.” In the lights and shadows of Alan Furst’s Europe at war the challenges are almost elegant in their quiet persistence, and their demands for endurance through the endless nights of the European underground. Occupied France is often the transit point through the center of it all. Paris is the delicate city of hard dangers and the closed doors upon, or hidden stairways to, the French Resistance. Mathieu, without a surname, is the…

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The best books about some human undercurrents of the World Wars, and a father’s war revealed

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

Carve Her Name with Pride: The Story of Violette Szabo

By R.J. Minney

Why 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.

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The best books on secret agents and espionage in WW2

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Book cover of Mistress of the Ritz

Mistress of the Ritz

By Melanie Benjamin

Why this book?

Manager of the Paris Ritz is a prestigious position, and the American wife of the Frenchman who is the manager leads a charmed life there – until the Nazi invasion of Paris. Once the Gestapo sets up their headquarters at the Ritz, the couple must negotiate their new, uncomfortable circumstances. As the war escalates, the danger to the American woman increases, especially since she has become involved with the Resistance. When the war is over, the American woman, Paris, and Parisians are not the same. Based on real people, this historical novel presents a heartbreaking picture of the aftermath of…

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The best novels set during the post Holocaust period

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Book cover of The Secret Stealers

The Secret Stealers

By Jane Healey

Why this book?

I’ve become great friends with Healey over the years due to us having the same publisher, and we write similar historical fiction in that we love telling WWII from the female perspective. Honestly, all Jane’s WWII novels are brilliant, but this is my favorite of hers. Her characters are impossible not to love, and we truly see this moment in history through the eyes of women – I can’t get enough of historical feminism! If you want to read about women doing incredible jobs during the war, this is the book for you.

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The best books to make you fall in love with WWII fiction

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