The best books on the London Blitz

Who picked these books? Meet our 27 experts.

27 authors created a book list connected to the London Blitz, and here are their favorites. I also recommend checking out their picks for the best novels about The Blitz as well. 

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What type of London Blitz book?


The Book Cat

By Polly Faber, Clara Vulliamy (illustrator),

Book cover of The Book Cat

Holly Webb Author Of The Story Puppy

From the list on animal stories to tug your heartstrings.

Who am I?

My first animal story, Lost in the Snow, was based on stories that my mum and I invented together when I was very small, about our stray cat Rosie. She walked into my dad’s office and sat down in his chair when he was out at lunch! I loved imagining her adventures as a stray kitten, and those stories could be scary, sad, emotional as anything – because we knew she came home to live safe and happy with us. I’ve been creating stories about animals ever since. 

Holly's book list on animal stories to tug your heartstrings

Why did Holly love this book?

This gorgeously illustrated book is the story of Morgan, who becomes the Book Cat at the real publisher Faber. I adored TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats as a child, and Morgan was a real cat who was one of the inspirations for the poems. These are his adventures during the London Blitz – in some ways a familiar story, but so moving from a cat’s point of view! 

By Polly Faber, Clara Vulliamy (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a classic wartime tale of a (real!) cat who made his home at the Faber offices and decided he'd never leave.

'This time we need to get you - get all of the kittens, safe out of London,' said Morgan decisively . . . 'To have a chance for a better life, well, let's just say, I've got an idea.'

Morgan is a young orphan who lives off scavenging - until he finds a cosy home at a famous London publishing house. Over time he learns a trade - and soon becomes the very best book cat in…


By Juliet Gardiner,

Book cover of Wartime: Britain 1939-1945

Jillianne Hamilton Author Of The Hobby Shop on Barnaby Street: A Heartwarming WW2 Historical Romance

From the list on daily life on the British homefront during WWII.

Who am I?

I fell in love with English history around age 10 when I began reading historical fiction and non-fiction. I have maintained a history blog, The Lazy Historian, since 2015 and I published a casually written non-fiction book, The Lazy Historian’s Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII, in 2018. When I began writing my Homefront Hearts WWII romance trilogy, I threw myself into researching the well-documented daily lives of the English and the various challenges that came from “keeping calm and carrying on.”

Jillianne's book list on daily life on the British homefront during WWII

Why did Jillianne love this book?

Written by one of the most respected and well-known British historians living today, Juliet Gardiner’s Wartime Britain is a bulky collection of anecdotes and details on homefront life, ranging from devastating to joyful. She covers many topics in depth and in a very human way: the Blitz, homefront crimes, evacuation, the enlistment process, food rationing, and a lot more. It includes quite a few photos from wartime Britain as well. 

By Juliet Gardiner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Juliet Gardiner's critically acclaimed book - the first in a generation to tell the people's story of the Second World War - offers a compelling and comprehensive account of the pervasiveness of war on the Home Front. The book has been commended for its inclusion of many under-described aspects of the Home Front, and alongside familiar stories of food shortages, evacuation and the arrival of the GIs, are stories of Conscientious Objectors, persecuted Italians living in Britain and Lumber Jills working in the New Forest. Drawing on a multitude of sources, many previously unpublished, she tells the story of those…

A Bear Called Paddington

By Michael Bond, Peggy Fortnum (illustrator),

Book cover of A Bear Called Paddington

Eoin McLaughlin Author Of The Hug

From the list on children's stories exploring empathy.

Who am I?

Reading allows us to climb inside other people’s heads, to think their thoughts and feel their feelings. For children, in particular, books can be a way to understand new emotions. To name them and start to think about where they come from. As my son started to grow up, I wanted to write a story that helped him think about other people’s feelings. And that’s what The Hug and its follow-ups are all about.

Eoin's book list on children's stories exploring empathy

Why did Eoin love this book?

A little lost bear, all alone in a major transport hub, 6,000 miles from Peru, with only his name pinned to his tiny little duffle coat and the crumbs of his last marmalade sandwich rattling round his case. If that doesn’t melt your heart, then there’s no hope for you. Rumored to have been inspired by children sent away from cities during the Blitz. Has been making children think of others ever since.

By Michael Bond, Peggy Fortnum (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Bear Called Paddington as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The classic story of Paddington, the bear from Darkest Peru, who was found lost on Paddington Station.

"A bear on Paddington Station?" said Mrs Brown in amazement. "Don't be silly - there can't be."

The Browns first met Paddington on a railway station - Paddington station, in fact. He had travelled all the way from Darkest Peru with only a jar of marmalade, a suitcase and his hat.

The Browns soon found that Paddington was a very unusual bear. Ordinary things - like having a bath, travelling underground or going to the seaside became quite extraordinary, if a bear called…

Book cover of The London Journal of General Raymond E. Lee 1940-1941

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?

Lee was the popular, well-connected military attaché in the U.S. Embassy in London. A staunch supporter of U.S. aid for Britain, he played an important role in preparing for America’s entry into the war. During the Blitz, he castigated American correspondents who described London as “devastated” by the German bombing campaign. “London is not devastated, and if you want one soldier’s opinion, it will not be devastated,” he told them. His diary reflects his determination to counter the defeatist predictions of Joseph Kennedy, who had served as U.S. ambassador in London until 1940.

At Home and Under Fire

By Susan R. Grayzel,

Book cover of At Home and Under Fire: Air Raids and Culture in Britain from the Great War to the Blitz

Lucy Noakes Author Of Dying for the Nation: Death, Grief and Bereavement in Second World War Britain

From the list on civilians in war.

Who am I?

I have been fascinated by the Second World War since I was a child. I grew up with tales of London and Coventry in wartime, stories of family separation, rationing, and air raids. The stories that really gripped me included the streams of refugees passing my grandmother’s house in the suburbs of Coventry after that city was bombed, and the night my aunts and (infant) father spent waiting to be rescued from a bombed house in south London. As a historian I wanted to know more about stories like this, and about the ways that wars shape lives, and my books have returned again and again to the civilian experience of war.

Lucy's book list on civilians in war

Why did Lucy love this book?

This book made me think differently about air war, arguably the defining element of 20th and 21st-century conflicts. Grayzel traces its evolution and experience for Britain from the first bombing raids of the First World War to the start of the blitz in the Second. Unlike most other studies, which focus on military strategy and state policy, she interweaves the stories and experiences of the civilians who were to be the targets of this new technology. The book reminds us (if we needed reminding) of the shock of air raids, and the way that these impacted every aspect of life.

By Susan R. Grayzel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Although the Blitz has come to symbolize the experience of civilians under attack, Germany first launched air raids on Britain at the end of 1914 and continued them during the First World War. With the advent of air warfare, civilians far removed from traditional battle zones became a direct target of war rather than a group shielded from its impact. This is a study of how British civilians experienced and came to terms with aerial warfare during the First and Second World Wars. Memories of the World War I bombings shaped British responses to the various real and imagined war…

Long Time Coming

By Robert Goddard,

Book cover of Long Time Coming

Shelley Costa Author Of A Killer's Guide to Good Works

From the list on where great art leads to even greater crimes.

Who am I?

One of the advantages of growing up in New Jersey is the proximity to the museums in New York City. What great school field trips! And I really believe that’s where my love for art and history began. My cathedrals are art museums, great libraries, Civil War battlefields, wilderness shorelines – experiencing these places lifts me out of the dailiness of life, reminds me of struggle, greatness, and excellence. I guess it was just a matter of time before my sweet spot as a writer and reader is the point of intersection between great art and terrible crimes. Things worth writing about. 

Shelley's book list on where great art leads to even greater crimes

Why did Shelley love this book?

When an uncle – presumed killed in the Blitz – turns up after serving nearly forty years in an Irish prison, he tells a story about having been one of the thieves of Picasso paintings stolen from a diamond merchant in Antwerp in 1939. At clever work in this tale are forgers, revolutionaries, and family members out to recover their treasure or their family honor. I have known for a long time that what I love most – more than mere murder mysteries – are what I call novels with murder. For me, the story has to be a beautifully realized bit of writing, and a murder is just one feature of it.

I have always loved Goddard’s style, which is both elegant and readable. And murder, more than a puzzle, becomes a natural part of the lives he depicts. Known for his plot twists, he sets me down in…

By Robert Goddard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Eldritch Swan is a dead man. Or at least that is what his nephew Stephen has always been told. Until one day Eldritch walks back into his life after 36 years in an Irish prison. He won't reveal any of the details of his incarceration, insisting only that he is innocent of any crime.

His return should be of interest to no-one. But the visit of a solicitor with a mysterious request will take Eldritch and his sceptical nephew fromsleepy seaside Paignton to London, where an exhibition of Picasso paintings from the prestigious Brownlow collection proves to be the starting…

The Last Bookshop in London

By Madeline Martin,

Book cover of The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II

Soraya M. Lane Author Of Under a Sky of Memories

From the list on making you fall in love with WWII fiction.

Who am I?

I’ve read WWII fiction since I was a teenager, but it took me a long time to begin writing it! In fact, I started my career writing contemporary fiction, and it wasn’t until I went back to university and completed a Master's degree in Fine Arts (Creative Writing) that I was brave enough to write my first historical fiction novel. I genuinely love the genre, and as a writer I’m passionate about telling the largely untold tales of women from the war – ordinary women doing extraordinary things! I love nothing more than discovering something incredible women did during WWII, and then creating a story around that moment in time. 

Soraya's book list on making you fall in love with WWII fiction

Why did Soraya love this book?

Martin and I shared the same agent for many years, which is how I came across this novel. It’s set in London and has the most divine main character whom I immediately fell in love with. I find that most readers don’t want too much heavy historical information when they read for pleasure, and Martin has just the right balance of history with her fiction. Also, who wouldn’t love reading about a bookstore that is desperately trying to survive the war!

By Madeline Martin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Last Bookshop in London as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


“An irresistible tale which showcases the transformative power of literacy, reminding us of the hope and sanctuary our neighborhood bookstores offer during the perilous trials of war and unrest.”

—KIM MICHELE RICHARDSON, author of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

August 1939: London prepares for war as Hitler’s forces sweep across Europe. Grace Bennett has always dreamed of moving to the city, but the bunkers and drawn curtains that she finds on her arrival are not what she expected. And she certainly never imagined she’d wind up working at Primrose Hill, a dusty old bookshop…

Human Voices

By Penelope Fitzgerald,

Book cover of Human Voices

Janet Beard Author Of The Atomic City Girls

From the list on women’s experiences of World War II.

Who am I?

Growing up near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, I was aware that the city had historical significance but also that it wasn’t particularly famous, at least to people from outside the region. I’ve always been drawn to these sorts of overlooked stories from history, which are, not coincidentally, often women’s stories. Women made up the majority of workers in Oak Ridge during World War II, and for decades afterward, their stories were generally viewed as less important than male-dominated narratives of the war. But I’ve always believed that women’s stories are no less interesting than men’s. These books look at history’s worst conflict from unique perspectives that foreground the female experience. 

Janet's book list on women’s experiences of World War II

Why did Janet love this book?

An unsparing portrait of a cast of characters working for the BBC in London at the outset of the war, this novel is both funny and moving, though Fitzgerald’s keen sense of irony assures that the writing is never sentimental. Even the most minor characters come to life, as they adjust to both the bureaucracy of the wartime BBC and the realities of life during the Blitz. 

By Penelope Fitzgerald,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The human voices of Penelope Fitzgerald's novel are those of the BBC in the first years of the Second World War, the time when the Concert Hall was turned into a dormitory for both sexes and the whole building became a target for the enemy bombers.

An Episode of Sparrows

By Rumer Godden,

Book cover of An Episode of Sparrows

Ginny Kubitz Moyer Author Of The Seeing Garden

From the list on gardens as places of discovery and change.

Who am I?

When I was growing up, my mother loved to garden. I remember visiting the nursery with her and being captivated by all the rows of flowers with the gorgeous names: marigolds, cosmos, dahlias, fuchsias. Now I have a garden of my own, and it’s my happy place. It adds color and fragrance to my life, and it keeps me grounded (literally and figuratively) when things are stressful. And as a writer, I find that story ideas often come to me when I’m working in the garden. It’s a constant source of inspiration and delight.       

Ginny's book list on gardens as places of discovery and change

Why did Ginny love this book?

I love how Rumer Godden’s novels pair lyrical writing with complex characters. An Episode of Sparrows is no exception.  

The novel takes place in post-WWII London, where Lovejoy, a young girl whose mother has pawned her off on strangers, plants a hidden garden in the shelter of a bombed-out church. Lovejoy is both fierce and tender in her desperation to have something to believe in, and Godden’s fluid storytelling carries the reader along as Lovejoy and the local children find sanctuary in their unsanctioned garden.

This moving novel shows that gardens can be the catalyst for friendship and community. It also shows that in hard times, the act of creating something beautiful is often the very thing that helps us survive.

By Rumer Godden,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

By the author of Black Narcissus and The River


'A masterpiece of construction and utterly realistically convincing' JACQUELINE WILSON

'Author Godden here tries her deft writing hand at landscaping a child's heart' TIME

'It is a sentimental tale, well told, with an unlikely and entirely satisfactory ending' NEW YORKER

Someone has been digging up the private garden in the Square. Miss Angela Chesney of the Garden Committee is sure that a gang of local boys is to blame, but her sister, Olivia, isn't so sure. She wonders why the neighbourhood children - 'sparrows' she…

Hidden Wyndham

By Amy Binns,

Book cover of Hidden Wyndham: Life, Love, Letters

Simon Clark Author Of Blood Crazy

From Simon's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Dog walker Music fan Reader History-obsessed

Simon's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Simon love this book?

John Wyndham changed my life. I read Wyndham’s The Night of the Triffids when I was thirteen: it ignited a craving of my own to write apocalyptic novels like Wyndham.

This wonderful biography of Wyndham charts his path from awkward, maybe even almost otherworldly boy to the maelstrom of World War 2, where he was plunged into battles to free Europe from the Nazis. These harrowing experiences surely shaped his fiction, where civilization could be torn asunder in a heartbeat. Binns’ biography is detailed, sympathetic, and deeply insightful. It embraces his personal life as much as it describes his extraordinary success as a writer.

If I wrote a love letter to Wyndham, I’d be a proud man if I could pen something half as good as Binns' Hidden Wyndham.

By Amy Binns,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Until now, little was known of John Wyndham. Despite his popularity, his obsessive need for privacy led to him being known as "the invisible man of science fiction".
He redefined the genre with dystopian classics The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos. In Hidden Wyndham, Amy Binns reveals the woman who was the inspiration for his strong-minded heroines. Their secret love affair sustained this gentle and desperately shy man through failure, war, and, ultimately, success.
Hidden Wyndham shows how Wyndham's own disturbing war experiences - witnessing the destruction of London in the Blitz then as part of the…

The Soldier's Art

By Anthony Powell,

Book cover of The Soldier's Art

Simon Akam Author Of The Changing of the Guard: the British army since 9/11

From the list on the British Army.

Who am I?

In 2003-4 I spent a year in the British Army between school and university. Ten years later, having become a journalist, I returned to investigate what a decade of war had done to the institution I knew as an adolescent. In the years I spent researching and writing The Changing of the Guard I read reams of non-fiction. However, novels retain an ability to hit wider – or harder truths – and some of our greatest writers have fictionalised British Army life. Here is a selection of British Army novels, well-known and less so. They take in conflicts ranging from the First and Second World Wars through to Northern Ireland and Afghanistan. 

Simon's book list on the British Army

Why did Simon love this book?

Anthony Powell was another fundamentally unmilitary individual pushed into service by the demands of a world war.

However, while Evelyn Waugh depicts the run of regimental life and active service, Powell’s achievement in The Soldier's Art and The Military Philosophers, the seventh and eighth installments of his Dance to the Music of Time sequence, is to show the British bureaucratic war, the battle as (theoretically) run from Whitehall, with an equally acute eye. The central character - Nick Jenkins, a cipher for Powell - finds himself in a London desk job, a liaison officer to variously the Poles, Belgians, and Czechs.

On one occasion in The Military Philosophers an overextended memo - "three and a half pages on the theory and practice of soap issues for military personnel, with special reference to the Polish Women’s Corps" - is appended with the simplest yet most withering of comments. “Please amplify.” Anyone…

By Anthony Powell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Part eight in a 12-part oeuvre of the English upper class, as seen through the eyes of Nicholas Jenkins. It is 1941 and Nicholas settles for a stoical co-existence with the Blitz, though death is thinning the ranks of his pre-war associates.

All Clear

By Connie Willis,

Book cover of All Clear

Tristan Palmgren Author Of Quietus

From the list on science fiction books about the past.

Who am I?

I’m a Virginia-based science fiction and fantasy writer who’s lived variously-enriching lives as a coroner’s assistant, customer service manager, university lecturer, secretary, factory technician, and clerk. I’ve bounced all around the Midwest, from Minnesota to Ohio to Colorado to Missouri and now out on the East Coast.

Tristan's book list on science fiction books about the past

Why did Tristan love this book?

It’s too easy, in time travel fantasies, to imagine that you would feel a step above the people around you... that you alone know what’s coming, and just, in general, have your advanced-future-person perspective on the world. That’s not how history should feel. The All Clear series’s time-traveling historians arrive to observe the London Blitz and have that comforting certainty ripped out from underneath them. They’re left lost, alone, and isolated in a well-painted portrait of a world on the edge of collapse.

By Connie Willis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Award-winning author Connie Willis returns with a stunning, enormously entertaining novel of time travel, war, and the deeds - great and small - of ordinary people who shape history.

Drawn from Life

By Stella Bowen,

Book cover of Drawn from Life: A Memoir

Tessa Lunney Author Of Autumn Leaves, 1922: A Kiki Button Mystery

From the list on the 1920s.

Who am I?

I started reading about the 1920s after I read Among the Bohemians by Virginia Nicholson in 2008. I kept reading about the 1920s, particularly 1920s Paris, through my Masters and then my Doctorate in war fiction. I would read about interwar Europe, or America, or Britain, when I needed to work on my doctorate but was too tired to read about trenches or trauma, and it became an obsession. Then it became the subject of two novels, which involved more and more particular research. I love the period's brittle gaiety, its dirty glamour, a time of cultural and political revolution as people fought for a better world.

Tessa's book list on the 1920s

Why did Tessa love this book?

This book should not be out of print. It is beautifully written – economical, witty yet discreet, and joyful. Bowen was a young woman from Adelaide, in South Australia, who set off to London to be an artist and landed there during the Great War. She had a long affair and daughter with writer Ford Madox Ford, painted and partied in Paris, moved her daughter back to England in time to watch German bombers fly overhead during the Blitz. This book became another guide for how to live the creative life, the bohemian life, a life full of honesty and art. Like Hemingway’s memoir, it’s full of anecdotes of other writers and artists that were her friends for a time. It reflects on what it means to be an artist, a woman artist, an artist and mother, ideas that still hold true as they are about the inner life of…

By Stella Bowen,

Why should I read it?

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

Someday I'll Find You

By C C Humphreys,

Book cover of Someday I'll Find You

Valerie Green Author Of Providence

From Valerie's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Passionate reader Author Historian Book reviewer Crazy about books

Valerie's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Valerie love this book?

I am a great fan of historical fiction and stories set in WW1 and WW2.

This book is an enthralling novel set in World War 2 and tells the story of an English/Canadian Airforce pilot and a Norwegian female spy who meet during the London blitz, quickly fall in love, and then are torn apart a few days later to fight their own wars in different parts of the world. 

Billy Coke and Isle Magnusson’s stories are a completely different take on the usual WW2 stories, and I particularly enjoyed reading about a lesser-known history of the decadent days of pre-war Berlin, and then later life under German occupation in Oslo. Billy and Isle’s stories will linger in your heart long after you reach the last page.

More importantly, this book gives its readers a richer understanding of a generation that lived and died for a better future for us…

The Postmistress

By Sarah Blake,

Book cover of The Postmistress

Sally Cabot Gunning Author Of Painting the Light

From the list on for her side of history.

Who am I?

 I’ve always loved history, and especially those small stories, so often about women, that never made the history books. No big surprise then that as an author I eventually gravitated to historical fiction, and that all of my novels have featured strong, independent women. Women were wonderful sources for the kinds of stories I wished to tell – they kept journals and diaries; they wrote voluminous letters; they were excellent chroniclers of their time; they were clever and witty and brave, and they bared their souls. To be able to bring some of these women to life has been a most rewarding experience for me. I hope reading my books proves as rewarding for you.

Sally's book list on for her side of history

Why did Sally love this book?

There are a lot of World War II books out there, and in truth, I was growing tired of them until I read Sarah Blake’s. Partially located on my home turf of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the brush against our local history pre-World War II fascinated me. But Blake doesn’t stay local; she leaves the postmistress to do—or not doher job and flies off to London with a female war correspondent. How their stories cleverly intertwine is part of my fascination with this tale. Blake has a habit of dropping unforgettable characters on my doorstep, where they tease and tantalize long after I’ve turned the last page. 

By Sarah Blake,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Experience World War 2 through the eyes of two very different women in this captivating New York Times bestseller by the author of The Guest Book.

"A beautifully written, thought-provoking novel."-Kathryn Stockett, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Help

In 1940, Iris James is the postmistress in coastal Franklin, Massachusetts. Iris knows more about the townspeople than she will ever say, and believes her job is to deliver secrets. Yet one day she does the unthinkable: slips a letter into her pocket, reads it, and doesn't deliver it.

Meanwhile, Frankie Bard broadcasts from overseas with Edward R. Murrow.…

Into Battle, 1937-1941

By Daniel Todman,

Book cover of Into Battle, 1937-1941

Reed Hundt Author Of A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining Decisions

From the list on history relevant to the present and near future.

Who am I?

I wrote A Crisis Wasted precisely with the goal of changing the way government makes decisions at inflection points in history, when change is happening at a 10x scale. That was the situation between the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 and the inauguration of the new president in January 2009. I felt at the time and later that the way problems were analyzed, options created and decisions made were tragically disappointing, not because the people involved were badly motivated but because of the assumptions and convictions to which they were firmly bound before they approached the problems. I had no idea in 2019 that the next crisis would be the pandemic and only had only hope that the next Administration would include many of the same people involved in 2008-9. But as history unfolded the lessons of 2008-9, as I decoded them, applied with uncanny accuracy to the decisions made by the Biden team in 2020-21. So far at least, their ability to learn from history has served the country well.

Reed's book list on history relevant to the present and near future

Why did Reed love this book?

Book 1 of these 2 is perhaps a better read because it explains, as the young Jack Kennedy famously wrote, “Why England Slept,” and that topic is more intriguing than the tactics of the Second World War itself, treated in Book 2. Nevertheless, if you have time read both books. You’ll conclude that Kennedy (and his ghostwriter) didn’t know what was up, and you’ll wonder if the United States is now repeating Britain’s history as its status as a great power is put under pressure by the rise of China.

By Daniel Todman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Into Battle, 1937-1941 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'An energetic, ambitious, provocative work by a young historian of notable gifts, which deserves a wide readership' Max Hastings, The Sunday Times

'Bold and breathtaking... I have never read a more daringly panoramic survey of the period' Jonathan Wright, Herald Scotland

The most terrible emergency in Britain's history, the Second World War required an unprecedented national effort. An exhausted country had to fight an unexpectedly long war and found itself much diminished amongst the victors. Yet the outcome of the war was nonetheless a triumph, not least for a political system that proved well adapted to the demands of a…

Under Fire

By Naomi Clifford,

Book cover of Under Fire: The Blitz diaries of a volunteer ambulance driver

Joanne Major Author Of A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History

From the list on the untold lives of women throughout history.

Who am I?

I often feel as if I live with one foot in the present, and one in the past. It’s always been the little-known stories that fascinate me the most, especially women’s history. Their lives can be harder to research, but more rewarding for that. As a writer and historian, it has been wonderful to discover the histories of intriguing but ‘overlooked’ women, and to share their tales. I hope you enjoy reading the books I have selected as much as I did!

Joanne's book list on the untold lives of women throughout history

Why did Joanne love this book?

June Spencer was a debutante. In 1938, she was presented to the King and Queen at Buckingham Palace. A year later, her life changed with the outbreak of war. Always independent, June became an ambulance driver, and later a WREN. At the same time, she continued to go to nightclubs and spend time with well-connected friends, and fall in love. She detailed everything in private diaries which Clifford was given access to by June’s daughter. June was an extraordinary ‘ordinary’ woman, another who lived through ‘history being made.’ This is a wonderful account of her life and times.

By Naomi Clifford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The true story of June Spencer, debutante and volunteer ambulance driver in Chelsea during the Blitz, told through her remarkable diaries.
June Spencer is set to follow the time-worn path of a debutante, but when war comes to London she volunteers to drive an ambulance through the bomb-strewn streets of Chelsea.
June’s first-hand accounts to paint a vivid picture of the contrasts of London wartime life–her accounts range from driving through the streets while under bombardment, to the aftermath of the destruction of the Café de Paris, to grand balls and parties in Lindsey House on the banks of the…

Book cover of The Secret History of the Blitz

Melvyn Fickling Author Of Blackbirds

From the list on the London Blitz and the bomber war.

Who am I?

I lived in London for eighteen years and acquired an abiding affection for my nation’s capital. I wanted to write a sequel to Bluebirds and jumped at the chance of giving Bryan Hale an adventure where he could walk the streets that I knew and loved. The scars caused on the fair face of London by sticks of Nazi bombs landing in ragged lines across the streets and terraces may still be discerned from the incongruity of the buildings that have since risen to fill the gaps. London heals and thrives. Ultimately, I believe every English writer harbours an ambition to write a London novel. I did, and I did.

Melvyn's book list on the London Blitz and the bomber war

Why did Melvyn love this book?

Today, it is almost impossible to imagine aircraft roaming freely over British cities, disgorging bombs onto the streets below. So, it’s vital for us to have access to the personal, unvarnished stories and contemporary accounts from those that actually lived through this particular horror. In The Secret History of the Blitz Levine pulls no punches as he documents the behaviour of ordinary people faced with extreme experiences. Some reacted with fortitude, uniting in neighbourhood solidarity and extending charity to strangers. Others exploited the chaos, breaking legal and moral codes for their own personal enrichment. To this day, the British psyche collectively benefits from the social concept of a Blitz Spirit. But we should remember it was always a two-sided coin.

By Joshua Levine,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Blitz of 1940-41 is one of the most iconic periods in modern British history - and one of the most misunderstood. The 'Blitz spirit' is celebrated by some, whereas others dismiss it as a myth. Joshua Levine's thrilling biography rejects the tired arguments and reveals the human truth: the Blitz was a time of extremes of experience and behaviour. People werepulling together and helping strangers, but they were also breaking rules and exploiting each other. Life during wartime, the author reveals, was complex and messy and real.

From the first page readers will discover a different story to the…

The Heat of the Day

By Elizabeth Bowen,

Book cover of The Heat of the Day

Judith Mackrell Author Of The Correspondents: Six Women Writers on the Front Lines of World War II

From the list on WW2 – but written by women.

Who am I?

While I was child growing up in London, the war was a powerful presence in my life. It was there in the films we watched, in the comics my brothers read, and in my vague understanding of what it meant to be British. It was not a subject we ever studied at school and as an adult I’ve always felt frustrated by my inadequate knowledge of this world-changing conflict. When I first had the idea of writing about the six remarkable women who pioneered the way for female war journalists, it wasn’t just their personal stories that drew me in but the chance to learn more about WW2 itself.

Judith's book list on WW2 – but written by women

Why did Judith love this book?

Elizabeth Bowen’s 1948 novel is one of the most gritty, uneasy, and compelling accounts I’ve read of the civilian experience of war. Set in London between 1942 and 1944 The Heat of the Day draws on Bowen’s own experience as an air raid warden in evoking the daily life of a city that has been gutted by bombs, rationing, sleep deprivation, and fear. At the heart of the narrative is the story of Stella, her double agent lover, and the government spy who attempts to blackmail her; and through the strange fractured relationships between these characters, their moral confusion, Bowen gives us vivid insights into the psychological as well as the physical damage inflicted by war.

By Elizabeth Bowen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It is wartime London, and the carelessness of people with no future flows through the evening air. Stella discovers that her lover Robert is suspected of selling information to the enemy. Harrison, the British intelligence agent on his trail, wants to bargain, the price for his silence being Stella herself. Caught between two men and unsure who she can trust, the flimsy structures of Stella's life begin to crumble.

Fortress Malta

By James Holland,

Book cover of Fortress Malta: An Island Under Siege, 1940-1943

Melvyn Fickling Author Of Falcons

From the list on the Siege of Malta and the Mediterranean War.

Who am I?

I was seeking a direction for the third novel in the Bluebird series and my dates led me to Malta. Even as an avid reader of history, I knew shockingly little about the island’s tortuous punishment at the hands of Axis air forces. After much reading I was compelled to visit Malta myself, to tour the locations I would use, and ensure my fiction reflected the character of the landscape and the nature of the people that defended it so doggedly. Standing at Ta’Qali, where an airfield received in one single raid the same tonnage of bombs that crippled Coventry, I felt I’d been given permission.  

Melvyn's book list on the Siege of Malta and the Mediterranean War

Why did Melvyn love this book?

James Holland is a popular historian because his works are so eminently readable. This book was his first and sprang from the BBC documentary, Battle for Malta, that he also wrote and presented.

Once Mussolini declared war on Britain, Malta, an island no bigger than the Isle of Wight, became a strategic keystone in the Mediterranean and was destined to become the most bombed place on earth. Holland uses survivor testimonies, diaries, and personal letters to focus his narrative on the tribulations and suffering as well as the hopes and fears of the ordinary Maltese and the servicemen sent to defend them. This is a splendid book that does much to illuminate a somewhat neglected part of British military history.

By James Holland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The extraordinary drama of Malta's WWII victory against impossible odds told through the eyes of the people who were there.

In March and April 1942, more explosives were dropped on the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta - smaller than the Isle of Wight - than on the whole of Britain during the first year of the Blitz. Malta had become one of the most strategically important places in the world. From there, the Allies could attack Axis supply lines to North Africa; without it, Rommel would be able to march unchecked into Egypt, Suez and the Middle East. For the…