The most recommended books about war criminals

Who picked these books? Meet our 17 experts.

17 authors created a book list connected to war criminals, and here are their favorite war criminal books.
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What type of war criminal book?


Book cover of Apt Pupil

Leighton Gray Author Of Dream Daddy

From my list on to completely ruin your day.

Who am I?

I like to create silly, fun things. This is not the kind of content I consume. If something makes me feel bad, I generally like it; if it is also beautiful, I will like it a lot. It is through the generosity of the Shepherd team that I was allowed to flip a promo for a gay dad comic into a way for me to peer pressure you into consuming media that will make you feel bad. Consider this list an aperitif for the feel-goodness of Dream Daddy, a delicate shot glass of cyanide after a hearty meal. Bon appetit!

Leighton's book list on to completely ruin your day

Leighton Gray Why did Leighton love this book?

Like everyone else with a pulse, I love Stephen King. So here’s a slightly underrated pull so I don’t lose my horror fan street cred. Apt Pupil is the first King book I’ve read that made me feel legitimately dirty. The creeping menace, the way he subverts your expectations, this excruciating dance of mutually assured destruction between Todd and Denker... just fabulous. Nothing supernatural, no murderous trucks or universe-vomiting turtles, just humans being mundane and evil. And you won’t have to spend the whole book wondering if King is gonna biff the ending, as he is often wont to do—he sticks the landing and it’s absolutely killer. Love it. Read it.

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephen King’s timeless coming-of-age novella, Apt Pupil—published in his 1982 story collection Different Seasons and made into a 1998 Tristar movie starring Ian McKellan and Brad Renfro—now available for the first time as a standalone publication.

If you don’t believe in the existence of evil, you have a lot to learn.

Todd Bowden is an apt pupil. Good grades, good family, a paper route. But he is about to meet a different kind of teacher, Mr. Dussander, and to learn all about Dussander’s dark and deadly past…a decades-old manhunt Dussander has escaped to this…

Book cover of The Huntress

Sarah Percy Author Of Forgotten Warriors: The Long History of Women in Combat

From my list on women in combat.

Who am I?

I’m an academic, writer, and broadcaster, and I’ve always been fascinated by the big questions of who fights wars and why. A puzzle caught my eye: the only profession (short of maybe priest) where women were actively banned in the 1980s and as late as the 2010s, was combat. How could Western democracies ban women from an entire profession? This was especially odd, given that the plentiful historical evidence that women were perfectly capable of combat. So I wrote a book explaining how women in combat fit into the broader sweep of military history, and how the suppression and dismissal of their stories has had a profound social and cultural impact. 

Sarah's book list on women in combat

Sarah Percy Why did Sarah love this book?

Great historical fiction is meticulously researched, and really great historical fiction is also fun to read.

All of Kate Quinn’s books are excellent but this one is pretty close to a time machine that scoops you up and takes you to the famous Soviet all-female bomber aviation unit known as the Night Witches. Quinn brings to life a world where women were true military heroes.

And if that’s not enticing enough, the stories of the Night Witches are wrapped up in an exciting thriller that incorporates a hunt for a Nazi war criminal. 

By Kate Quinn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novel, THE ALICE NETWORK, comes another fascinating historical novel about a battle-haunted English journalist and a Russian female bomber pilot who join forces to track the Huntress, a Nazi war criminal gone to ground in America.

In the aftermath of war, the hunter becomes the hunted...

Bold and fearless, Nina Markova always dreamed of flying. When the Nazis attack the Soviet Union, she risks everything to join the legendary Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on the invading Germans. When she is stranded behind enemy…

Book cover of Nightwise

Lyra R. Saenz Author Of Prelude

From my list on fantasy books where magic and mayhem frolic with robots and mechanisms.

Who am I?

I'm Lyra R. Saenz. I'm an off-the-clock goth, a steampunk romantic, and a loyal adopter of lonely books. I'm a writer of genre-breakers and witchy makeovers. I've spent my life with either my nose in a book or my heart on the stage, and my passion for art is my drive every day. I grew up watching Star Wars, which is probably the apex of all magic merged with science settings, and I've always wondered why people don't make more of that: a super advanced society where witches and wizards are respected parts of the world.

Lyra's book list on fantasy books where magic and mayhem frolic with robots and mechanisms

Lyra R. Saenz Why did Lyra love this book?

First of all, the main character, Laytham, gets my little bi-sexual heart leaping with excitement. He’s sexy and dark and mysterious. He’s got some serious issues but handles it all with a healthy dose of cynicism and magic.

I love how gritty this book is. It’s the stench of the city mixed with the sweat and arousal of a dance club. I’ve never seen magic done this way, where one of the characters uses the computer to access his own magical network.

I read this book at a time in my life when things just were not going in the direction I wanted them to. It inspired me to take back control of my life. In a lot of ways, it is very cyberpunk, rooted in urban fantasy.

By R.S. Belcher,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the more shadowy corners of the world, frequented by angels and demons and everything in- between, Laytham Ballard is a legend. It's said he raised the dead at the age of ten, stole the Philosopher's Stone in Vegas back in 1999, and survived the bloodsucking kiss of the Mosquito Queen. Wise in the hidden ways of the night, he's also a cynical bastard who stopped thinking of himself as the good guy a long time ago. Now a promise to a dying friend has Ballard on the trail of an escaped Serbian war criminal with friends in both high…

Book cover of Mother Night

Haris Orkin Author Of You Only Live Once

From my list on comedy thrillers.

Who am I?

The first time I tried to write a serious story, everyone thought it was hilarious. Right then I decided that I should lean into my strength and stick with comedy. I’ve written comedy screenplays for Hollywood and video games chockful full of comedy. I was even nominated for a Writer’s Guild Award for one of them. (Red Alert 3 starring Tim Curry, Jonathon Pryce, George Takei, Peter Stormare, and J.K. Simmonds.) So when I decided to write novels, I decided to write what I love to read. Comedy Thrillers. Good ones are hard to find. And laughter is good for us all. 

Haris' book list on comedy thrillers

Haris Orkin Why did Haris love this book?

Again, it’s difficult to pick a favorite Vonnegut book. I think he may have influenced my writing more than any other author. More than Ian Fleming. More than Elmore Leonard or Raymond Chandler. Some might say he isn’t really a thriller writer. Some may classify him as a writer of sci-fi. And yeah, maybe. But he’s so much more than that. He’s a zany magician and mad scientist who can turn utter tragedy into very black comedy. Mother Night is about Nazis and spies and war crimes and white supremacists. All the elements of a thriller combined with Vonnegut’s patented absurdity. I find every one of Kurt Vonnegut’s books thrilling, thoughtful, and hilarious.  

By Kurt Vonnegut,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Vonnegut is George Orwell, Dr. Caligari and Flash Gordon compounded into one writer . . . a zany but moral mad scientist.”—Time

Mother Night is a daring challenge to our moral sense. American Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a spy during World War II, is now on trial in Israel as a Nazi war criminal. But is he really guilty? In this brilliant book rife with true gallows humor, Vonnegut turns black and white into a chilling shade of gray with a verdict that will haunt us all.

“A great artist.”—Cincinnati Enquirer

“A shaking up in the kaleidoscope of laughter .…

Book cover of The Sixth Lamentation

Lyn Farrell Author Of One Dog Too Many

From my list on stories of survival in WWII beyond the battlefield.

Who am I?

I'm a lifelong reader who has always been interested in the period of WWII. Stories of courage under fire are my favorites. As a little girl, I attended a one-room school without a library. Luckily, my enlightened teacher contracted with a Bookmobile, a travelling library. The first time I got inside the Bookmobile, I decided I’d like to live there and was only removed forcibly by the bus driver. I'm an educator turned author who worked for thirty-five years at the medical school at Michigan State University. Luckily, my circle of family and friends includes doctors, lawyers, and police officers who are consulted regularly for advice on my mysteries.

Lyn's book list on stories of survival in WWII beyond the battlefield

Lyn Farrell Why did Lyn love this book?

William Brodrick is a British solicitor who became a lawyer after leaving a monastery where he was a monk. Like Brodrick, I have re-invented myself as an author after 40 years of working as a medical educator. Knowing what it took for me to succeed in a new career, I admire what it cost the author to achieve such a radical shift. Monk-turned-lawyer-turned-Novelist Brodrick has written a stunning story about a guard at a WWII death camp who is being brought to trial fifty years after the war. The story is told by Anselm, a lawyer who left the Old Baily in London where he worked as a solicitor, to become a monk at Larkwood Priory (the reverse of the author’s life).

Another reason this story speaks to me so profoundly has to do with my background. I am the eldest child in an abusive family that enforced silence about…

By William Brodrick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What should you do if the world has turned against you? When Father Anselm is asked this question by an old man at Larkwood Priory, his response, to claim sanctuary, is to have greater resonance than he could ever have imagined. For that evening the old man returns, demanding the protection of the church. His name is Eduard Schwermann and he is wanted by the police as a suspected war criminal. With her life running out, Agnes Aubret feels it is time to unburden to her granddaughter Lucy the secrets she has been carrying for so long. Fifty years earlier,…

Book cover of The Glass Pearls

Emilia Bernhard Author Of Designs on the Dead

From my list on subtle cruelty.

Who am I?

As someone who’s had a lifelong interest in psychology, especially abnormal psychology, I’ve always been fascinated the small destructions some people inflict on others – sometimes even on themselves. For me the greatest crime is not to kill someone but to reduce them by making their life uncomfortable or unwelcome. The ability to do this is what I would call a “negative skill.” It’s not easy, but some people do it uncannily well, and without caring. Perhaps because this is so alien to me, I remain riveted by stories that portray it, and some cases attempt to explain it. These are a few of those stories.

Emilia's book list on subtle cruelty

Emilia Bernhard Why did Emilia love this book?

Pressburger is better known as half of the film duo Powell and Pressburger, but The Glass Pearls shows he missed a career when he went into film. 

Karl Braun, the protagonist of this book, is an escaped Nazi living in London some years after the end of World War II. He attempts to have a life, but lives in constant fear of being found and rounded up (yes, the book is aware of this irony). 

The “quiet cruelty” comes from the fact that, like it or not, Pressburger’s wonderful ability at portraying Braun’s interior and his fear make the reader invest in him. 

You end the novel troubled to discover that you have sympathized with – even wished for the escape of – a Nazi.

By Emeric Pressburger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For fans of The Passenger, this thrilling tale of an ex-Nazi surgeon hiding in plain sight in 1960s London by the celebrated filmmaker is a lost noir gem, introduced by Anthony Quinn and narrated on audio by Mark Gatiss.

'Stunning: incredibly good, tense and compelling and morally complex.' Ian Rankin
'This extraordinary novel had me hooked from start to finish.' Sarah Waters
'An outstanding novel: gripping, tense and darkly unsettling. ' Jonathan Freedland
'A wonderfully compelling noir thriller and audacious and challenging act of imagination.' William Boyd

Nothing is more inviting to disclose your secrets than to be told by…

Book cover of The Ratline: The Exalted Life and Mysterious Death of a Nazi Fugitive

Stephen Fredman Author Of A Menorah for Athena: Charles Reznikoff and the Jewish Dilemmas of Objectivist Poetry

From my list on blending Jewish history with a personal quest.

Who am I?

As an enthusiastic and eclectic reader, one of my great joys is recommending books to others. I was able to indulge this joy consistently while teaching at a university, introducing students to authors and books and topics they otherwise might never have encountered. I find this same excitement in my own writing, searching for ways to reveal to others the magnificent wealth I find in modern poetry and in the brilliant concepts of poetic thinking.

Stephen's book list on blending Jewish history with a personal quest

Stephen Fredman Why did Stephen love this book?

Sands traces the life of Baron Otto von Wächter, an Austrian SS official, who created and oversaw the Kraków ghetto and was indicted for the murder of more than 100,000 Jews and Poles.

Accompanying Sands on his interviews and research is Wächter’s son, Horst, who knows his father only through what he has heard from his mother and read in her diaries and letters. Horst is horrified by Nazi atrocities but believes his father was a “good man.”

With the pace of a gripping spy thriller, Sands brings Horst deeper and deeper into the lives of his parents, including Otto’s years on the Ratline—the route through which Nazis, often aided by the Vatican, fled Europe after the end of World War II. 

By Philippe Sands,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Ratline as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A tale of Nazi lives, mass murder, love, Cold War espionage, a mysterious death in the Vatican, and the Nazi escape route to Perón's Argentina,"the Ratline"—from the author of the internationally acclaimed, award-winning East West Street.

"Hypnotic, shocking, and unputdownable." —John le Carré, internationally renowned bestselling author

Baron Otto von Wächter, Austrian lawyer, husband, father, high Nazi official, senior SS officer, former governor of Galicia during the war, creator and overseer of the Krakow ghetto, indicted after as a war criminal for the mass murder of more than 100,000 Poles, hunted by the Soviets, the Americans, the British, by Simon…

Book cover of The Nazi's Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather Was a War Criminal

Ettie Zilber Author Of A Holocaust Memoir of Love & Resilience: Mama's Survival from Lithuania to America

From my list on the Holocaust in Eastern Europe.

Who am I?

Born in a displaced persons camp in Germany after World War 2, Ettie immigrated with her parents to the USA. She grew up and was educated in New York City and Pennsylvania and immigrated to Israel after completing graduate school. After retiring from a career in international schools in 6 countries, she currently resides in Arizona with her husband. She is a Board member for the Phoenix Holocaust Association and devotes much time to giving presentations to youth and adults worldwide. 

Ettie's book list on the Holocaust in Eastern Europe

Ettie Zilber Why did Ettie love this book?

While the author and I came from different sides of the same fence, I found myself empathizing with her deathbed promise, her fears, her worries, her self-doubt, and her commitment to finding, and eventually exposing, the truth. Setting out to write what should have been a fairly ‘easy’ biographical tribute to her late grandfather – hailed as a Lithuanian hero- she discovered - and uncovered - details and documents which shattered her world and confirmed “the gossip.” She began to doubt the stories she was told as a child and the people who told them- both in her Lithuanian-American neighborhood and back in the old country. What a page-turner…what agony and pain…until she finally made her courageous decision. Bravo, Silvia.

I am passionate about the book because both my parents were survivors of the Lithuanian version of the Holocaust. There were very few survivors from Lithuania, and Foti’s book helps…

By Silvia Foti,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hero–or Nazi?

Silvia Foti was raised on reverent stories about her hero grandfather, a martyr for Lithuanian independence and an unblemished patriot. Jonas Noreika, remembered as “General Storm,” had resisted his country’s German and Soviet occupiers in World War II, surviving two years in a Nazi concentration camp only to be executed in 1947 by the KGB. His granddaughter, growing up in Chicago, was treated like royalty in her tightly knit Lithuanian community.

But in 2000, when Silvia traveled to Lithuania for a ceremony honoring her grandfather, she heard a very different story—a “rumor” that her grandfather had been a…

Book cover of Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America

Jacob Berkowitz Author Of The Stardust Revolution: The New Story of Our Origin in the Stars

From my list on how science won World War Two.

Who am I?

I’m an author, playwright and science writer near Ottawa, Canada. One thing that fascinated me in writing The Stardust Revolution was how 20th-century astronomy advances were grounded in the re-use of military technologies developed in WWII. Both radio- and infrared astronomy emerged from the use of former Nazi and Allied military hardware. This is because WWII was the physicists war—their inventions determined its outcome. These five books describe the key science and technology—atomic weapons, radar, and rockets—that won World War Two and have shaped the world since. The books are a great mix of biography, narrative non-fiction, and investigative journalism.

Jacob's book list on how science won World War Two

Jacob Berkowitz Why did Jacob love this book?

Von Braun was one of the hundreds of Nazi scientists hunted by the Americans in the dying days of the war and brought to the U.S. to continue their research—on everything from nerve toxins to human experimentation. Heavily researched and detailed, the book’s a chilling read and ethical challenge.

By Annie Jacobsen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the chaos following WWII, many of Germany's remaining resources were divvied up among allied forces. Some of the greatest spoils were the Third Reich's scientific minds--the minds that made their programs in aerospace and rocketry the best in the world. The United States secretly decided that the value of these former Nazis' forbidden knowledge outweighed their crimes, and the government formed a covert organization called Operation Paperclip to allow them to work without the knowledge of the American public.

Drawing on exclusive interviews with dozens of Paperclip family members, with access to German archival documents (including, notably, papers available…

Book cover of One Man's Justice

Zachary Shore Author Of A Sense of the Enemy: The High Stakes History of Reading Your Rival's Mind

From my list on knowing your enemy.

Who am I?

I am a historian of international conflict who focuses on understanding the enemy. For most of my career, I have studied why we so often misread others, and how those misperceptions lead to war. The current crisis in Ukraine is just one more example of how the parties involved misunderstood each other. I believe that if we could improve this one ability, we would substantially lessen the likelihood, frequency, and severity of war.

Zachary's book list on knowing your enemy

Zachary Shore Why did Zachary love this book?

Set in the years immediately following Japan’s surrender in WWII, this less well-known novel offers insight into how some Japanese soldiers saw their behavior: not as war criminals, but as acting in retaliation for American bombing raids. The story should not be read as an exoneration of Japanese atrocities, but rather as a window into the much larger problem of understanding an enemy’s perspective. Warning: this perspective shift is sure to make you uncomfortable, forcing you to revisit some assumptions about the “Good War.” 

By Akira Yoshimura,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One Man's Justice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been destroyed. Japan is in ruins and occupied by the Americans.

Takuya, an ex-officer in the Imperial Army, has returned to his native village only to learn that the Occupation authorities are intensifying their efforts to apprehend suspected war criminals. And those who are found guilty are being sentenced to death.

Fearing that his role in the execution of a number of American pilots, Takuya takes to the road and becomes a fugitive in his own country.

One Man's Justice is both a reflection on the murky reality of war and a page-turning novel of pursuit…