The most recommended U-boat books

Who picked these books? Meet our 23 experts.

23 authors created a book list connected to U-boats, and here are their favorite U-boat books.
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Book cover of The Heart Mender: A Story of Second Chances

Lisbeth Eng Author Of In the Arms of the Enemy

From my list on World War II with unexpected love stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve long been enthralled by tales, real and fictional, that transcend the obvious and clichéd. My interest in World War II was piqued years ago while studying in Italy, when our professor regaled us with accounts of the Italian Resistance. Depictions of the “enemy” in fiction are often brutalized, and he is portrayed as less than human, compared with those on the righteous side of the battle. As a romance writer, crafting characters as living, breathing human beings, amidst the abyss of war, became my passion. Conflict is essential to a captivating plot, and what could be more intriguing than pitting heroine against hero in mortal struggle.

Lisbeth's book list on World War II with unexpected love stories

Lisbeth Eng Why did Lisbeth love this book?

Tales of enemies who become lovers – whether from warring families or rival gangs – are as old as Pyramus and Thisbe, Romeo and Juliet, and Tony and Maria.

Setting this story during an actual war heightens the tension. This book will draw you in from the start.

Josef Landermann sails aboard a German U-boat, hunting Allied supply ships in the waters of the Gulf Coast. Helen Mason is the embittered Alabama widow of a US Army Air Force pilot killed by the Luftwaffe. How Josef and Helen come together is a remarkable, enchanting true story.

Woven around themes of love and forgiveness, The Heart Mender is a thrilling page-turner that will touch your heart.

By Andy Andrews,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Can natural enemies make peace? Actually...can they fall in love? In his classic storytelling style, New York Times bestselling author Andy Andrews delivers an adventure set sharply against the warm waters and white sands of the Gulf of Mexico in WWII America.

Saddened and unable to abandon her resentment toward the Nazi war machine that took her husband's life, Helen Mason is living a bitter, lonely existence. Betrayed and left for dead, German U-boat officer Lt. Josef Landermann washes ashore in a sleepy town along the northern gulf coast, looking to Helen for survival.

As you uncover the incredible story…

Book cover of Cold Harbour

Jim Carr Author Of Camp X Doublecross

From my list on World war novels for people who love history and fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

The Second World War has always fascinated me, starting when I first entered school. The war had just started and it became even more real with each successive class when we were encouraged to buy war-saving stamps. On the home front, we experienced blackouts and mock air raids. Sugar, meat, butter, alcohol, and even gasoline were rationed. My cousins were overseas and in the thick of it. They always made sure I had an airplane model at Christmas. And as the war wound to a close, they sent me a cap from one from one of the German soldiers. It still intrigues me and still lives in my head.

Jim's book list on World war novels for people who love history and fiction

Jim Carr Why did Jim love this book?

I love books where I cannot guess the outcome, and Cold Harbour is one of the best. The stakes are high for both the Allies and the Germans. You’re never really sure what will happen next, right down to the finish.

It’s May 1944 and excitement is running high with the Allies and the Germans. The Allies want to know about the German Atlantic Wall and Rommel’s plans to defeat the invasion, and for the Germans, where the Allies will land.

The Allies, like the Germans, used aircraft and U-boats, in carrying out their spy operations. In Cold Harbour, a small fishing port near Cornwall, Craig Osborne, an OSS agent and assassin, finds himself in an U-boat off the coast of Brittany, where he discovers the U-boat is manned by Royal Navy. With the help of the sister of a dead British agent, he is able to penetrate a…

By Jack Higgins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Along with all his other troubles, OSS agent Craig Osborne is sure he will suffer a watery death in the English Channel and is thankful to be picked up by a German torpedo boat

Book cover of The Red Cross Letters: A Real Life Account 1944-1946

Karen Berkey Huntsberger Author Of I'll Be Seeing You: Letters Home from a Navy Girl

From my list on women in uniform in World War II.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been devoted to reading memoirs since childhood. My favorite memoirs are based on letters written by people who served in World War II. Their letters encapsulate their experiences with an intimacy meant only for their loved ones. I am fascinated with the immediacy of their personal experience, the longing for home, and the courage to carry on that is expressed in these letters. I continue to be astonished and inspired by the lives of “ordinary” people who tell their own extraordinary stories better than anyone else could. I am the author of two non-fiction books based on letters and my current project is a World War II-era historical novel.

Karen's book list on women in uniform in World War II

Karen Berkey Huntsberger Why did Karen love this book?

My favorite thing about this book is that it contains copies of the actual letters sent home by Dorothy, about half handwritten and the other half typed. The accompanying photos and newspaper clippings enhance the narrative of her work and travel in England. This is one of the most complete sets of letters I’ve ever seen. Dorothy was the Red Cross secretary at a U.S. Army hospital located at a country estate (think Downton Abbey). I love her conversational tone, charming descriptions, and positive attitude. I almost felt like I was her mother reading the letters as they arrived so many years ago.  

By Dorothy Trebilcox,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Like many American women during World War II, Dorothy F. Trebilcox (Eiland) wanted to be a part of the war effort. She found her opportunity by serving in the Red Cross in England. This book contains her numerous letters home, exactly as she wrote them, describing her life and adventures from 1944 to 1946. Leaving Sacramento by train, she describes the journey eastward, crossing the Atlantic under threat of U-boats, and daily life in the Red Cross in England during these tumultuous times.

The Hunt for the Peggy C: A World War II Maritime Thriller

By John Winn Miller,

Book cover of The Hunt for the Peggy C: A World War II Maritime Thriller

John Winn Miller

New book alert!

What is my book about?

The Hunt for the Peggy C is best described as Casablanca meets Das Boot. It is about an American smuggler who struggles to rescue a Jewish family on his rusty cargo ship, outraging his mutinous crew of misfits and provoking a hair-raising chase by a brutal Nazi U-boat captain bent on revenge.

During the nerve-wracking 3,000-mile escape, Rogers falls in love with the family’s eldest daughter, Miriam, a sweet medical student with a militant streak. Everything seems hopeless when Jake is badly wounded, and Miriam must prove she’s as tough as her rhetoric to put down a mutiny by some of Jake’s fed-up crew–just as the U-boat closes in for the kill.

The Hunt for the Peggy C: A World War II Maritime Thriller

By John Winn Miller,

What is this book about?

John Winn Miller's THE HUNT FOR THE PEGGY C, a semifinalist in the Clive Cussler Adventure Writers Competition, captures the breathless suspense of early World War II in the North Atlantic. Captain Jake Rogers, experienced in running his tramp steamer through U-boat-infested waters to transport vital supplies and contraband to the highest bidder, takes on his most dangerous cargo yet after witnessing the oppression of Jews in Amsterdam: a Jewish family fleeing Nazi persecution.

The normally aloof Rogers finds himself drawn in by the family's warmth and faith, but he can't afford to let his guard down when Oberleutnant Viktor…

Book cover of The Cruel Sea

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by "sea stories" since I could read, maybe before. I was born in Liverpool, my dad was in the navy, my family ran an 18th-century inn named the Turk’s Head after a nautical knot, and I’ve directed or written more than twenty films, plays, and novels with the sea as their setting. But they’re not really about the sea. For me, the sea is a mirror to reflect the human condition, a theatre for all the human dramas I can imagine. More importantly, I’ve read over a hundred sea stories for research and pleasure, and those I’ve chosen for you are the five I liked best.

Seth's book list on books about the sea that aren’t just about sailing on it, or fighting on it, or drowning in it, but are really about the human condition

Seth Hunter Why did Seth love this book?

I love this book because it’s the best book I’ve ever read about love at a time of war.

Put simply, this is the story of an escort ship during the Battle of the Atlantic in WW2, but there’s nothing simple about it. Montserrat uses the sea and the ever-present danger of the U-boats as a monstrous vice to squeeze blood onto the page.

All the hopes and fears of his characters, their passions and guilts, their love of life, and of their male comrades and the women they leave behind them. It’s all there under the magnifying lens of the war at sea, and of all five books, this is the best about the sea itself, the all-pervasive, relentless leviathan that rages and roars and rampages across every page.

By Nicholas Monsarrat,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Based on the author's own vivid experiences, The Cruel Sea is the nail-biting story of the crew of HMS Compass Rose, a corvette assigned to protect convoys in World War Two.

Darting back and forth across the icy North Atlantic, Compass Rose played a deadly cat and mouse game with packs of German U-boats lying in wait beneath the ocean waves.

Packed with tension and vivid descriptions of agonizing U-boat hunts, this tale of the most bitter and chilling campaign of the war tells of ordinary, heroic men who had to face a brutal menace which would strike without warning…

Book cover of The Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler's U-Boats

Chris Dickon Author Of A Rendezvous with Death: Alan Seeger in Poetry, at War

From my list on human undercurrents of the World Wars.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a misbegotten child of World War II, my father an anonymous stranger on a train returning to war, thus setting me in search of an answer. While driving through rural France one day in my sixth decade I realized I'd been searching for my father through writing, and an understanding of his experience in war. My seventh decade produced Dutch Children of African American Liberators, with co-author Mieke Kirkels, about the puzzling lives of the European children of African American soldiers of World War II. As I got to its final chapters, my own father’s identity was revealed to me through DNA, and that will be the subject of my final book.

Chris' book list on human undercurrents of the World Wars

Chris Dickon Why did Chris love this book?

As I was finishing Dutch Children, my own DNA began pointing to the watermen, boatbuilders, and seafarers of Middlesex and Mathews counties, Virginia, on the Chesapeake Bay. The Mathews Men took me deep within a story of the war that I had not much known and which would soon turn personal. These were the Merchant Mariners who carried the people and supplies of war through treacherous seas of German submarines, and lost beneath the waves the highest percentage of members of all military branches. Geroux’s fine telling of the lives of these men and their families prepared me for the eventual discovery that my mystery father had been one of them, raised in Middlesex County, a survivor of the war who had sailed everywhere in the world, though I would never meet him.

By William Geroux,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Vividly drawn and emotionally gripping."
-Daniel James Brown, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Boys in the Boat

From the author of The Ghost Ships of Archangel, one of the last unheralded heroic stories of World War II: the U-boat assault off the American coast against the men of the U.S. Merchant Marine who were supplying the European war, and one community's monumental contribution to that effort

Mathews County, Virginia, is a remote outpost on the Chesapeake Bay with little to offer except unspoiled scenery-but it sent an unusually large concentration of sea captains to fight in World…

Book cover of Sharks and Little Fish: A Novel of German Submarine Warfare

Lawrence Paterson Author Of Schnellboote: A Complete Operational History

From my list on U-boats that aren't Das Boot.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been writing non-fiction Second World War history books since 2000 and just recently had my twenty-first published by Osprey. Most deal with aspects of the history of Germany’s U-boats. Though I have had a lifelong interest in military history, the desire to write about this topic began while living near Brest in Brittany, France. I am a scuba diving instructor and spent a great deal of time diving on wrecks left behind by the Kriegsmarine, all in the shadow of the huge U-boat bunkers created in Brest’s military harbour. Encouraged by authors Jon Gawne and Robert Strauss I submitted the proposal for the First U-Boat Flotilla to Pen & Sword in 2000…and it went from there. 

Lawrence's book list on U-boats that aren't Das Boot

Lawrence Paterson Why did Lawrence love this book?

 This novel was first published in Germany in 1954, based on the author’s actual experience as a U-boat man during the Second World War. Told through the eyes of the fictional Teichmann, it is a visceral tour-de-force of German naval life beginning on minesweepers and gravitating toward U-boats. A brilliant portrayal of a grim reality.

I read this book during my teenage years and it was one of the first times I can remember reading a book that is grittily realistic; devoid of the 'boy's own' adventure style of many Second World War novels, but nor did it preach an obvious repentance by the German protagonist that also became quite common. In that sense, it’s virtually a dramatized documentary story of the author’s war.

By Wolfgang Ott, Ralph Manheim (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This raw, brawling novel, first published in 1957, is a fiercely realistic account of naval combat during World War II--in particular, the hell that was Nazi submarine warfare. "A German counterpart to The Caine Mutiny" (Frederic Morton), SHARKS AND LITTLE FISH is based on the author's own experiences as a young submariner. "It is as uncompromising, vivid, and unfalsified an account of war-time naval life as has appeared." (Times Literary Supplement)

Book cover of Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunted: 1942-1945

Daniel Allen Butler Author Of Pearl: December 7, 1941

From my list on naval battles in the Second World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been writing on maritime, naval, and military subjects for nearly a quarter-century, beginning with my first published work, “Unsinkable – The Full Story of RMS Titanic” in 1998. My fascination with ships and the sea originated with my father, who served in the US Merchant Marine in the Second World War. His experiences in the North Atlantic in 1943-44 gave me to understand that no matter how large and powerful – or small and fragile – a ship may be, it is her crewmen who brings her life, and sometimes go to their deaths with her. It’s their stories that matter most when recounting the naval battles of any war, and these five books are among the best at presenting them.

Daniel's book list on naval battles in the Second World War

Daniel Allen Butler Why did Daniel love this book?

The Battle of the Atlantic (or the Atlantic Campaign) was the longest and one of the deadliest battles of the Second World War. Of the 40,000 men who served in the German U-boats, 30,000 of them lie at the bottom of the ocean, while over 70,000 Allied naval and merchant marine personnel lost their lives. Blair, in what could have been a cold, impersonal recounting of facts and figures, puts a very human face on the confrontations between the U-boats and their prey – the Allied merchant ships and their naval escorts – in the battle that both sides desperately wanted to win, as whoever lost would lose the war.

By Clay Blair,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The first volume of Clay Blair's magisterial, highly praised narrative history of the German submarine war against Allied shipping in World War II, The Hunters, 1939-1942, described the Battle of the Atlantic waged first against the British Empire and then against the Americas. This second and concluding volume, The Hunted, 1942-1945, covers the period when the fortunes of the German Navy were completely reversed, and it suffered perhaps the most devastating defeat of any of the German forces.
In unprecedented detail and drawing on sources never used before, Clay Blair continues the dramatic and authoritative story of the failures and…

Book cover of Seizing the Enigma: The Race to Break the German U-boat Codes, 1939-1943

Mark Ciampa Author Of Security Awareness: Applying Practical Security in Your World

From my list on how to break things (encryption, passwords, etc.).

Why am I passionate about this?

I have had the opportunity to write (I have written over 30 college textbooks on technology, most of them in the area of cybersecurity), study (my PhD dissertation was on cybersecurity), teach (I have taught at colleges and universities my entire career about technology, networking, and cybersecurity), and research (I have published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles) on the topic of cybersecurity. But I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the average computer user who struggles with how to protect their technology devices. This has helped drive my passion to focus on practical cybersecurity for everyone.

Mark's book list on how to break things (encryption, passwords, etc.)

Mark Ciampa Why did Mark love this book?

David Kahn explains the most widely-known effort (widely-known today but in complete secrecy then) to decipher messages sent by the Germans using their Enigma machines during World War II. This book looks at the groundbreaking work done by Polish mathematicians in the 1930s, how Enigma machines were rescued from sinking German U-boats, and how Bletchley Park in Britain became the focal point of breaking these transmissions. Much of the book focuses on how Enigma machines, rotors, and codebooks were confiscated from German submarines and surface vessels, and how these were then used to allow the Allies, by the war's end, to read German messages almost as quickly as the Germans could send them.

By David Kahn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Seizing the Enigma tells the thrilling story of the Royal Navy's battle to crack the Germans' supposedly unbreakable U-boat Enigma code, which would allow the vital Allied convoys in the North Atlantic to be routed away from Doenitz's wolfpacks. This battle was fought both on shore and at sea: by an assortment of scientists, chess champions and linguists, including Alan Turing, the father of the modern computer, who struggled to crack Enigma at Bletchley Park, and in the Atlantic by sailors and intelligence officers, such as Ian Fleming, the future creator of James Bond, who undertook dangerous and often fatal…

Book cover of Operation Pedestal: The Fleet That Battled to Malta, 1942

Justin Fox Author Of The Cape Raider

From Justin's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Novelist World War II nut Sea lover World wanderer

Justin's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Justin Fox Why did Justin love this book?

This epic book tells the story of a brave convoy to Malta during World War II, a period and a narrative that particularly appeals to me, given my writing.

Hastings perfectly captures the terror, drama, and heroism of Allied sailors fighting their way through to the besieged island in this gripping page-turner.

By Max Hastings,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Sunday Times bestseller 'One of the most dramatic forgotten chapters of the war, as told in a new book by the incomparable Max Hastings' DAILY MAIL

In August 1942, beleaguered Malta was within weeks of surrender to the Axis, because its 300,000 people could no longer be fed. Churchill made a personal decision that at all costs, the 'island fortress' must be saved. This was not merely a matter of strategy, but of national prestige, when Britain's fortunes and morale had fallen to their lowest ebb.

The largest fleet the Royal Navy committed to any operation of the western…

Book cover of Twelve Mile Bank

Sharon Ward Author Of In Deep

From my list on mysteries set on a tropical island.

Why am I passionate about this?

Even as a kid, I was intrigued by the underwater world, so as an adult, I learned to scuba dive. I took to it like a fish to water, and my husband and I spent the next several years traveling to tropical islands to experience the local dive conditions whenever possible. I loved learning how every island had a different culture and a different undersea environment. Since I love tropical islands, scuba diving, mysteries, and adventure stories, these books really hit my sweet spot.

Sharon's book list on mysteries set on a tropical island

Sharon Ward Why did Sharon love this book?

The Cayman Islands are my favorite place in the world, so a mystery featuring a female divemaster on Grand Cayman is right up my alley. AJ Bailey, the protagonist, is a realistic portrayal of a woman in a man’s world. Many books in the tropical islands have female protagonists, but they are often gun-toting, knife-wielding super-models, not realistic women like Harvey’s protagonist. 

The diving details are spot on; the dive site descriptions are accurate; and the thrilling story will keep you turning pages to the very end. A great start to a super series.

By Nicholas Harvey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A mysterious shipwreck. A ruthless treasure hunter. A race against time.

Cayman Islands divemaster AJ Bailey is searching for a long forgotten WWII U-boat at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea. Armed with nothing more than an adventurous spirit and her late grandfather’s tale, she's determined to find the submarine and the secret it protects.

When a wealthy treasure hunter shows up with a ruthless crew, AJ becomes entangled in a frantic duel to find the precious piece of history. Diving into the path of merciless killers at treacherous depths, she must fight to keep her grandfather’s dream - and…