The best Pacific War books 📚

Browse the best books on the Pacific War in WW2 as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II

The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II

By Iris Chang

Why this book?

When this book was first published in 1997, the world (at least the Western world) had all but forgotten the atrocity that had been inflicted on my hometown in the winter of 1937-38. Re-reading the gripping nonfictional account today would serve to remind us that we should not forget that ignoble page in our modern history and more importantly that we are all duty-bound to do all we can so such atrocities will not happen again.

From the list:

The best books about the Pacific Theater in WW2

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Book cover of The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945

The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945

By John Toland

Why this book?

The masterful Toland weaves a narrative of jaw-dropping detail, drama and complexity that tells the grand and harrowing story of the Pacific War between the United States and Japan from the perspective of the Japanese. The tale takes the reader from Tokyo cabinet meetings to the deck of warships to the frontline of critical battles, to share the experiences of everyone from national leaders to top generals to ordinary soldiers. It’s one of those books that’s so good it leaves you wondering how it was even written.

From the list:

The best Asian history books for a Sunday afternoon

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Book cover of Song of Survival: Women Interned

Song of Survival: Women Interned

By Helen Colijn

Why this book?

A little-known aspect of the Pacific War was the imprisonment of Allied civilians. While these Japanese-run prison camps were not deliberate death machines, as were the Nazi-run concentration camps, large numbers of women and children died of starvation and disease there, or at least had their health permanently ruined. Many stories would come out of these camps, both horrific and inspiring. Perhaps the most brilliantly creative story of the latter category was the vocal orchestra, a group of imprisoned women who sought to recreate symphonic music with their voices. Colijn’s memoir was made into the film, Paradise Road.

From the list:

The best books on the Pacific Theater of World War II

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Book cover of I Saw The Fall Of The Philippines

I Saw The Fall Of The Philippines

By Carlos P. Romulo

Why this book?

The Philippine resistance of WWII was, in my opinion, the most admirable resistance organization of the war, whether European or Pacific. In fact, resistance among the Philippine people was so widespread, that the Japanese occupiers were almost correct in assuming any civilian they encountered was a resister on some level. Carlos Romulo, a Philippine aide de camp to General MacArthur and a hero to his countrymen, gives his personal account of the war in this excellent memoir.

From the list:

The best books on the Pacific Theater of World War II

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Book cover of Memories of War: Micronesians in the Pacific War

Memories of War: Micronesians in the Pacific War

By Lin Poyer, Laurence Marshall Carucci, Suzanne Falgout

Why this book?

In this follow-up to Typhoon Of War, we focus on Micronesians’ memories of World War II—the stories they tell, the songs they sing, and their recollections of those years of trauma and excitement. The book includes many personal stories and describes how Islanders think about the way years, and how they pass on those memories to the next generation. The book reveals much about how Islanders lived through bombing, forced labor, family separation, displacement, invasion, and other stresses of war. The poignant and evocative stories and songs showcase Micronesian cultural themes and verbal artistry.

From the list:

The best books on indigenous experiences of WW2 in the Pacific Islands

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Book cover of Nuclear Nativity: Rituals of Renewal and Empowerment in the Marshall Islands

Nuclear Nativity: Rituals of Renewal and Empowerment in the Marshall Islands

By Laurence Marshall Carucci

Why this book?

Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands experienced Japanese colonial rule, militarization in the build-up to the Pacific War, and invasion and conquest by American forces---followed by exile and relocation so their homeland could be used for nuclear testing. This book describes how they interpret and deal with this history through a three-month-long Christmas ritual that reflects traditional Marshallese culture as well as modern war. Carucci’s sensitive analysis helps us see how cultural rituals enable communities to deal with traumatic pasts, through symbolism, drama, artistic creativity, and humor—including the role of an exploding Christmas tree!

From the list:

The best books on indigenous experiences of WW2 in the Pacific Islands

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