The 10 Best WWII Books

Updated November 09, 2017 by Quincy Miller

10 Best WWII Books
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We spent 39 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. One of these WWII books would be the perfect gift for any history buff or student, or could simply make an informative and attractive coffee table addition. These riveting accounts of various individuals' and groups' experiences in differing theaters of the war provide a thorough understanding of the period, and should serve as a warning to us all about the horrors of any and every armed conflict. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best wwii book on Amazon.

10. The Liberator

Sometimes following one man's journey is the best way to get a larger sense of a place and period. The Liberator, by Alex Kershaw, makes much of WWII accessible in this way. It's a bloody, riveting accounting of a soldier's odyssey that lasts some 500 days.
  • tells of the dachau liberation
  • gives background on patton as well
  • lots of choppy paragraphs
Publisher Broadway Books
Model n/a
Weight 7.8 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

9. Ghost Soldiers

If you're looking to read a tale of unbridled heroism and bravery, then Ghost Soldiers is your book. The author vividly recreates the daring raid of 121 hand-selected U.S. troops who slipped behind enemy lines to rescue 513 POWs languishing in the Filipino jungle.
  • action-packed and gripping
  • account of bataan death march
  • not suitable for readers under 18
Publisher Anchor
Model n/a
Weight 12.8 ounces
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

8. Code Talker

Code Talker tells the now-famous story of the part Navajo heroes played in the war, overcoming discrimination to achieve greatness. Punished for speaking their language as children, they later used it to create the only unbroken code in modern warfare.
  • digs into native american culture
  • includes the actual navajo codes
  • little info on any battles
Publisher Nez, Chester
Model n/a
Weight 10.6 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

7. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich has been considered a definitive account of the Nazi Party's history for decades. This National Book Award-winner was written by an author who had years of firsthand exposure working as a reporter during the war.
  • extremely well-researched
  • reads like a novel
  • very long at 1600 pages
Publisher Simon Schuster
Model n/a
Weight 2.7 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

6. The Longest Winter

The Longest Winter is the story of a vastly outnumbered American platoon that was told to hold their position at all costs, and repulsed three large German assaults in a fierce day-long battle. They only surrendered when they completely ran out of ammunition.
  • vivid and dramatic prose
  • an epic tale of survival
  • begins to drag midway through
Publisher Kershaw, Alex
Model n/a
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

5. Eyewitness to World War II

Published by National Geographic, Eyewitness to World War II brings you up close and personal with the tragedies and triumphs of the war. It creates a dramatic tapestry of events from both the battlefield and the home front for a comprehensive look at what took place.
  • incredible first-person stories
  • lots of rare photographs
  • pictures can be rather graphic
Publisher Kagan, Neil
Model n/a
Weight 3.3 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

4. A Higher Call

A Higher Call is a moving tale of unexpected compassion in the heart of a brutal war. It tells the amazing story of two enemy pilots who faced each other in battle and then met up decades afterwards, and serves to remind us of the beautiful humanity that unites us all.
  • heartwarming and uplifting
  • seamlessly moves between narratives
  • perfect for aviation aficionados
Publisher WaterBrook Press
Model n/a
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

3. Band of Brothers

Band of Brothers tells of an ordinary group of men who became some of WWII's most extraordinary heroes. It follows the 101st airborne division from training in Georgia to their eventual disbanding, covering everything from D-Day to taking Hitler's Bavarian outpost.
  • inspiration for celebrated tv series
  • comments from one of the veterans
  • capably juggles many characters
Publisher Ambrose, Stephen E.
Model n/a
Weight 12.6 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. World War II in 500 Photographs

It's good that a picture says a thousand words, because World War II in 500 Photographs will leave you speechless. It contains moving, shocking, and inspiring imagery, and is just as entertaining as it is informative, making it the ideal gift for the war buff in your life.
  • replete with color maps
  • includes profiles of key players
  • perfect for coffee tables
Publisher Time Home Entertainment
Model n/a
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

1. Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken

Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken tells an almost unbelievable, yet true, story of a man who lived through a series of incredible catastrophes, from floating adrift at sea to spending years in a Japanese POW camp. It's a moving testament to the endurance of the human spirit.
  • vivid depictions of characters
  • based on interviews and diaries
  • inspiring spiritual messages
Publisher Random House
Model n/a
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

A Brief History Of WWII

World War II was the defining event of the 20th century, reshaping the world in ways that would echo through the following decades.

The seeds for the conflict were sown years prior. Germany was rocked by its defeat in WWI, and its wounded national pride would fester, allowing for the rise of Nazism. Meanwhile, the Italians were upset over promises that were made to them following that war that were not honored, leading to feelings of mistrust towards what would become the Allied powers.

Smaller conflicts, such as Italy's attempt to control Ethiopia, set the stage for the great war to come. German Chancellor Adolf Hitler began to acquire territory in Europe, beginning with Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia. England and France allowed Germany to make these moves, fearful that any action to stop them would only inflame the situation.

However, this didn't stop Hitler, and the war would begin once Germany invaded Poland in 1939. The Germans then mounted an offensive against France, which soon fell. In 1940, Germany, Italy, and Japan signed the Tripartite Pact, which formed the Axis Powers.

The war spread to the Mediterranean and Africa soon after, but Hitler's focus was on the United States and Soviet Union. Fearful that they would unite with Britain to oppose him, he decided to strike first, invading Russia in 1941. While successful at first, the German armies were not able to crush the Soviets before the harsh winter set in.

Meanwhile, Japan had invaded China, and was actively negotiating with the United States in an attempt to preclude American entry into the war. When they became convinced that the negotiations would ultimately prove futile, they decided to ambush American forces at Pearl Harbor, finally dragging the United States into WWII.

The Allied forces found little traction in the next few months, as Japan invaded numerous Asian countries and the Germans halted a Soviet advance. The tide soon began to turn, however, as Russian forces were able to push back against the German siege, and China began to win a war of attrition against Japanese troops.

In 1944, the Allies launched a major operation on D-Day. With the surprise invasion, they were able to liberate France and threaten the German mainland for the first time. Aided by a healthy guerrilla resistance, the Allies were eventually able to penetrate the German border and encircle their army, ultimately forcing their surrender.

On the other side of the globe, American forces had fought a bloody and constant battle against Japan in the Pacific, but it became clear that beating the Japanese conventionally would come at a prohibitive cost. Instead of risking more troops, President Harry Truman dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the exhausted Japanese were compelled to surrender.

The war — the deadliest in human history — was finally over, but its impact on the world was only beginning to take shape. As the smoke cleared, the only thing all sides could agree upon was the need to do anything possible to prevent something like it from ever happening again.

Finding The Right WWII Book

WWII is too vast and rich of a subject for any one book to comprehensively cover all aspects of the conflict, so when searching for a book on the topic, you'll need to define your area of interest. Whether your focus mainly lies on the buildup and early days of the war or the Pacific theater, there are plenty of tomes out there than can whet your appetite for knowledge.

Perhaps the most important thing to look for in a book is a fair and balanced perspective. It's easy in retrospect, with the atrocities of the Nazi regime in full view, to see this as a good-vs.-evil conflict. However, to do so would be to ignore the sins committed by the Allies, and would give you only a glimpse of the truth of the war. As such, finding a book that's clinical in its appraisal of all sides is key.

Also, think about the viewpoint you want to get from the book. While there are a great many titles that take a broad overview of the subject, there are an equal number that give you first-person viewpoints from the soldiers who lived it. Your WWII education will be incomplete if you don't read both.

The plain fact is that, even if you get the perfect book right out of the gate, one publication is unlikely to be enough to make you an expert on the topic. If you want to learn about WWII, you'll need to be in it for the long haul.

The good news, however, is that there's no shortage of absolutely fantastic reads on the matter.

The Importance Of Learning About WWII

As mentioned above, while the war itself had a definite beginning and end, its impact continues to be felt long after the last peace treaty was signed.

The war set the stage for the United States's rise to global prominence, as the country's infrastructure was largely unaffected by battle. This allowed America to quickly become the dominant economy on the planet, and the resulting boom powered decades of stratospheric growth. The introduction of women to the workplace, a necessity when most men were fighting abroad, also set the stage for a sea change in the business community.

Political leaders, not wanting to get caught unprepared in case of another major conflict, ramped up military spending, and the American armed forces soon became the most powerful military in human history.

Meanwhile, the Cold War stoked fears of nuclear Armageddon, and the lasting conflict created a strife and mistrust that lingers to this day.

Virtually every aspect of our day-to-day lives has felt some impact from this historic conflict, and ignorance of its effects can lead to ignorance of modern affairs. The sacrifices made by the men and women in this war still reverberate in our time, and deserve to be honored.

The least you can do is read about them.

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Last updated on November 09, 2017 by Quincy Miller

Quincy is a writer who was born in Texas, but moved to Los Angeles to pursue his life-long dream of someday writing a second page to one of his screenplays.

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