25 novels and biographies about World War II

25 novels and biographies about World War II

25 Biographies and Novels About World War II

2013 was marked by an obsession with young adult dystopian novels, and last year was the year of escapism (and also the year I discovered that not all contemporary fiction is as cheesy as most of the contemporary Christian fiction I read in my early 20s…but that’s a post for another day).

While I have several reading goals this year, the year as a whole just might end up being characterized by books about World War II.

I’ve always been a fan of both history and historical fiction, and last year I picked up a couple of different stories that sparked a desire to read more and learn more about World War II. Reading Unbroken solidified that new passion, and I think I could easily read nothing by WWII biographies and fiction this year and be very happy!

This list includes both the books I’ve read and recommend as well as a (much longer) list of the books I’d like to read. I’m not sure I’ll make it through this whole list this year, but we’ll see.

WWII Books I’ve Read and Recommend


  • Unbroken: A World War II Book of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
  • The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived The Holocaust by Edith Hahn Beer
  • The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom


  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
  • Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity #1) by Elizabeth Wein
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  • The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff
  • Far to Go by Alison Pick

WWII Books on My Reading List


  • The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
  • No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff
  • Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Croke
  • Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue by Kathryn J. Atwood


  • Rose Under Fire (Code Name Verity #2) by Elizabeth Wein
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
  • The Paris Architect: A Novel by Charles Belfoure
  • The Soldier’s Wife by Margaret Leroy
  • Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Do you like this genre of books? Which of these have you read? Any books you’d add? 

This Post Has 25 Comments

  1. I never thought about this sort of genre, but I love your list and I’m going to add a few to my to be read list for this year. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I love reading historical books and one of my favorite time periods is WWII. The Boys In The Boat, Book Thief, and Lost In Shangri-la are all on my to read list this year. I have read several of the ones you mentioned, but thanks for sharing your list because now I have a few more to add to my list for the year!

  3. I read a lot of historical fiction set during WWII. In addition to the ones you listed, these are some others I have read and enjoyed: The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean, Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah, The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley, I Am David by Anne Holm, The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons (there are more in the series, but I didn’t find them as compelling as the first one.)

  4. This is my favorite era to read as well. One you need to add to the list is MY MOTHER’S SECRET by J.L. Witterick. You can read it in just a few hours and your kids can read it too. So moving and based on a true story. THE STORYTELLER was just amazing. Really block off a weekend and read it. So wonderful.

  5. You really should read Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blume.

  6. “War Brides” by Helen Bryan and “Sarah’s Key” by Tatiana de Rosnay are both great novels. They both made my “top 5 books of the year” a few years ago. Add them to your reading list, asap. 😉

  7. The Book Thief is one of my all time favorite books. I checked it out from the library and enjoyed it so much I had to go buy my own copy. I also agree with Katie that Sarah’s Key is a must read as well.

  8. I read The Book Thief last year and really enjoyed it. My husband and I were in Munich back in September and it was amazing and sobering to visit so many of the WW2 sites that I had just read about in books! Another WW2 fictional series that I love is The Zion Covenant by Bodie and Brock Thoene. There are 8 books in all plus a few others that tie in with the series. I’m adding more of your books to my to-read list this year!

  9. Number the Stars: love it! And the Book Thief and Boys in the Boat are both excellent (I “read” them both as audiobooks.) Those were two of my very favorite reads from 2014. I enjoyed The a Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society but did not like Sarah’s Key, although I’m in the minority on that last one. Thanks for this post. I’m glad to get some suggestions from your list.

  10. Hi Mandi: I came across your blog and was happy to see that so many young people are reading books about this time in history. Since my novel recently came out from an indie publisher, it’s gotten fine reviews. I don’t want to use your space here to promote the book but if you get a chance check out The Sweetness by She Writes Press. I think you might like the characters.

  11. So happy to see this list! I too have focused a lot of my reading on that
    time period. Among the books that have already been recommended by
    others, I would also add: Fiction — “People of the Book” by
    Geraldine Brooks Non Fiction — “Operation Mincemeat” by Ben MacIntyre,
    “Agent Zig Zag” by Ben MacIntyre and “In the Garden of
    Beasts” by Erik Larson. Although the Erik Larson book mostly takes
    place in the 30s, it’s an excellent book about the lead up to WWII.

  12. I’ve added The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society to my list, Nancy! (And a friend of mine just said the same thing about Sarah’s Key.)

  13. Oh, wow, Debbie—I can only imagine the emotions of visiting those sites. I’ve enjoyed the Thoene’s work in the past, so I’m adding those to my list! Thanks!

  14. And now I need to do an updated list with all of the recommendations in the comments!

  15. Out of the Depths by Edgar Harrell is beautiful, MOVING – highly recommended – tale of the courage and faith of a USS Indianapolis survivor.

  16. Code Name Verity was the best book I read in 2014. Rose Under Fire was amazing as well, but different and harder to read (for me at least). I’ll join the recommendations for Sarah’s Key and will also add I Have Lived a Thousand Years by Livia Bitton-Jackson. It’s a very moving memoir about The Holocaust.

  17. I love the zion chronicles and covenant series and also Guernsey potato. .. A biography from WII but other side of the world, evidence not seen by darlene deibler rose.

  18. Have you read my novel, THE LOST CATACOMB? It was published last March and is a Vatican thriller with a multiple timeline that weaves together three love stories against the backdrop of the Holocaust in Italy. It got 5 stars from Readers’ Favorite and a great blurb from prize-winning author Aryeh Lev Stollman (on the cover).

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