The best kamikaze books

Who picked these books? Meet our 7 experts.

7 authors created a book list connected to kamikaze, and here are their favorite kamikaze books.
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Choices Under Fire

By Michael Bess,

Book cover of Choices Under Fire: Moral Dimensions of World War II

Jeffrey H. Jackson Author Of Paper Bullets: Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis

From the list on challenge how your think about WWII in europe.

Who am I?

Jeffrey H. Jackson is a prolific author and award-winning Professor of History at Rhodes College. He has written several books about the history of Europe including Paper Bullets: Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis, Paris Under Water: How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910, and Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post,,,, and in numerous other publications.

Jeffrey's book list on challenge how your think about WWII in europe

Discover why each book is one of Jeffrey's favorite books.

Why did Jeffrey love this book?

Leaders, soldiers, and civilians around the world faced a dizzying array of ethical dilemmas during the course of the conflict. From the decision to drop the atomic bomb and making alliances with dictators to the role of kamikaze pilots and war crimes trials, Bess considers the ethics of warfare from multiple viewpoints. He shakes up our conventional wisdom about wartime decision making and shows how the legacies of those choices remain with us today.

By Michael Bess,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

World War II was the quintessential “good war.” It was not, however, a conflict free of moral ambiguity, painful dilemmas, and unavoidable compromises. Was the bombing of civilian populations in Germany and Japan justified? Were the Nuremberg and Tokyo war crimes trials legally scrupulous? What is the legacy bequeathed to the world by Hiroshima? With wisdom and clarity, Michael Bess brings a fresh eye to these difficult questions and others, arguing eloquently against the binaries of honor and dishonor, pride and shame, and points instead toward a nuanced reckoning with one of the most pivotal conflicts in human history.


By David Mitchell,

Book cover of Number9dream

Jeff Beamish Author Of No, You're Crazy: A Novel

From the list on questioning the nature of reality.

Who am I?

As someone who spent his days working as a journalist and his nights writing novels and short stories, I've always been fascinated by the fine line separating fact and fiction. We live our lives conforming to the rules of our universe, yet sometimes feel brave enough to ask what’s that? and watch with delight as reality transforms into fantasy. What, exactly, is that brilliant sunset? Billions of bits of light being processed by our survival-evolved brain as a reminder to seek shelter before the perilous darkness descends? The wondrous work of God’s hand? A pleasing distraction from the brutality of our brief existence? Something else we may never comprehend? Great stories help us decide.

Jeff's book list on questioning the nature of reality

Discover why each book is one of Jeff's favorite books.

Why did Jeff love this book?

David Mitchell is a master of dreaming up non-linear, mind-bending, genre-blending stories that fuse fantasy and reality, so he has plenty of candidates for this list. I chose Number9Dream, a wonderful and genuinely bizarre coming-of-age novel that keeps the reader constantly asking if any of this is real. With gangster battles, kamikaze diaries, deadly floods and earthquakes, family tragedy, a stuttering “Goatwriter,” and (spoiler) a concluding chapter that is a blank page, this is, on the surface, the dazzling tale of a Japanese student searching for a father he’s never met. But from the opening chapter, where Eiji fantasizes about outrageous ways to confront his father’s lawyer in her place of work, but never does, the reader quickly senses that this strange journey will forever change those open-minded souls brave enough to embark on it.

By David Mitchell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Number9dream as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As Eiji Miyake's twentieth birthday nears, he sets out for the seething metropolis of Tokyo to find the father he has never met. There, he begins a thrilling, whirlwind journey where dreams, memories and reality collide then diverge as Eiji is caught up in a feverish succession of encounters by turn bizarre, hilarious and shockingly dangerous. But until Eiji has fallen in love and exorcised his childhood demons, the belonging he craves will remain, tantalizingly, just beyond his grasp...

Book cover of The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan

Pamela S. Turner Author Of Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune

From the list on pre-modern Japan.

Who am I?

I write books for young readers about history, science, and nature. I lived in Japan for six years and became fascinated with Japanese history—particularly the late 12th-century civil war recounted in the medieval classic The Tale of the Heike. I especially loved stories about Minamoto Yoshitsune, the warrior who won the war but was destroyed by his elder brother Yoritomo, who became the first Shogun and kicked off the 700-year reign of the samurai. I spent two years researching Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune and loved every minute of it. I’m also a second-degree black belt in kendo (Japanese sword fighting).

Pamela's book list on pre-modern Japan

Discover why each book is one of Pamela's favorite books.

Why did Pamela love this book?

The Japanese love underdogs. Ten are portrayed here, ranging from the 4th to the 20th centuries, with storylines that Shakespeare would’ve stolen if only he’d known about them. A terrific round-up that will inspire you to delve deeper into Japanese history.

By Ivan Morris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Alexander, Robin Hood, Wellington, George Washington... The Western literatures are packed with the stories—real and otherwise—of diverse heroes, but most of them share the common element of victory. Many of them died heroically to achieve their goals.

In Japan, however, many of the most revered heroes lost their lives without achieving their goals, and in many cases fought their battles in full realization that they would end in abject defeat and death.

This cultural background remains a bedrock underlying the modern Japanese psyche, and continues to shape the Japanese as individuals and a society even today, unconsciously, in the same…

All Hell Let Loose

By Max Hastings,

Book cover of All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945

Glyn Harper Author Of The Battle for North Africa: El Alamein and the Turning Point for World War II

From the list on WW2 published after 2000.

Who am I?

Glyn Harper has been researching and writing military history for over forty years. He is the author of numerous best-selling books on military history and is also an award-winning author of books for children and young adults. A former army officer, Glyn is New Zealand’s only Professor of War Studies.

Glyn's book list on WW2 published after 2000

Discover why each book is one of Glyn's favorite books.

Why did Glyn love this book?

Max Hastings is the author of more than thirty books, many of them about the Second World War. All Hell Let Loose describes the Second World War in considerable detail but focuses on the human experience of what it was like to be a participant in this critical period of history. For its breadth, its power of expression, and penetrating analysis, this book is unsurpassed. There are many excellent single-volume studies of the Second World War, but I rate this as one of the very best.

By Max Hastings,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All Hell Let Loose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A magisterial history of the greatest and most terrible event in history, from one of the finest historians of the Second World War. A book which shows the impact of war upon hundreds of millions of people around the world- soldiers, sailors and airmen; housewives, farm workers and children.

Reflecting Max Hastings's thirty-five years of research on World War II, All Hell Let Loose describes the course of events, but focuses chiefly upon human experience, which varied immensely from campaign to campaign, continent to continent.

The author emphasises the Russian front, where more than 90% of all German soldiers who…

The Blossom and the Firefly

By Sherri L. Smith,

Book cover of The Blossom and the Firefly

Amanda McCrina Author Of Traitor: A Novel of World War II

From the list on unusual YA books about WWII.

Who am I?

I have a degree in history and political science, with a particular interest in military history—especially World War II history, and most especially Eastern Front history. My family has Polish roots, and my own stories tend to focus on the Polish and Ukrainian experiences, but I keenly feel the need for more YA books not only about the Eastern Front but about other, even lesser-known theaters of World War II.

Amanda's book list on unusual YA books about WWII

Discover why each book is one of Amanda's favorite books.

Why did Amanda love this book?

Unexpected for a book about kamikaze, this is a quiet and gentle story, about two young people—Taro, a kamikaze pilot, and Hana, one of the Nadeshiko Tai, assigned to serve the pilots—who meet through a shared vital love of music. They both know the inevitability and finality of Taro’s upcoming mission; they both are at the mercy of circumstances beyond their control. Yet their hopes and dreams remain larger than the war. This is another one that will stay with you for a long time.

By Sherri L. Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Japan 1945. Taro is a talented violinist and a kamikaze pilot in the days before his first and only mission. He believes he is ready to die for his country... until he meets Hana. Hana hasn't been the same since the day she was buried alive in a collapsed trench during a bomb raid. She wonders if it would have been better to have died that day...until she meets Taro. A song will bring them together. The war will tear them apart. Is it possible to live an entire lifetime in eight short days?

Japan Story

By Christopher Harding,

Book cover of Japan Story: In Search of a Nation, 1850 to the Present

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

From the list on Japanese history.

Who am I?

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

Discover why each book is one of Naoko's favorite books.

Why did Naoko love this book?

This is a thoughtful and well-written account of Japan's history since the Meiji restoration. The book is enlivened by multiple narrative themes, from feminism to socialism, most of which run counter to the official government version of the nation's history.

By Christopher Harding,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a fresh and surprising account of Japan's culture from the 'opening up' of the country in the mid-nineteenth century to the present.

'How much I admired it, what a lot I learned from it and, above all, how very much I enjoyed it ... Masterly.' Neil MacGregor

It is told through the eyes of people who greeted this change not with the confidence and grasping ambition of Japan's modernizers and nationalists, but with resistance, conflict, distress.

We encounter writers of dramas, ghost stories and crime novels where modernity itself is the tragedy, the ghoul and the bad guy;…