9 Vivid Nonfiction Books About World War II
Whether you're a history buff in general or fascinated by World War II in particular, nonfiction books about the second world war can offer you plenty of insight into this devastating conflict. The works listed here cover a wide array of perspectives, from soldiers tasked with performing daring rescue missions to civilians trying to survive in an occupied country. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.
Nonfiction WWII Books: Our 9 Picks
8 Great Films About World War II
- Schindler's List (1993)
- The Pianist (2002)
- Rome, Open City (1945)
- The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
- Das Boot (1981)
- The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)
- The Thin Red Line (1998)
- Saving Private Ryan (1998)
The History of World War II
Though World War II ended over seventy years ago, its effects are still acutely felt in our modern world. The many fascinating stories of the war remain as relevant now as they have ever been. If you're interested in learning more about this dark period of history, these books can provide a new perspective on many different aspects of the struggle. Here, in no particular order, are nine works of nonfiction that delve into the Second World War.
At #1 is Robert M. Edsel's "Saving Italy." In May 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower dispatched two operatives from Naples to track down the innumerable priceless artifacts that had been taken from occupied Italy by the Nazi forces. Deane Keller, an artist, and Fred Hartt, a scholar, made their way through the war-torn landscape of Italy, searching for the missing works of Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and Botticelli, which had been commandeered by the Nazis. The untold story of these uncommon heroes is expertly told by Edsel, the "New York Times" bestselling author of "The Monuments Men."
Taking the #2 spot is "No Simple Victory" by historian Norman Davies, which unravels the complicated political and military story of World War II in Europe. Davies reconsiders the accepted narrative of the conflict so as to create a more intricate portrait of a situation that involved millions of moving parts and individual perspectives. In particular, he shifts the focus of the hostilities from Western to Eastern Europe, putting an emphasis on the epic and terrible struggle of the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany, an aspect of the war which is often minimized in Western accounts.
Davies reconsiders the accepted narrative of the conflict so as to create a more intricate portrait of a situation that involved millions of moving parts and individual perspectives.
At #3 is Richard J. Evans' "The Third Reich at War," the final volume in his "History of the Third Reich" series. This work casts a light on the lives of soldiers and civilians during the Nazi regime, featuring personal stories from figures as diverse as generals and housewives. This installment focuses on the Holocaust, and the ravages it inflicted on the lives and communities of European Jews. All of this is placed in the larger context of the Nazi war machine, which consumed the resources and people of Germany, leading the country into a downward spiral of violence and deprivation.
In the #4 spot is "Les Parisiennes" by Anne Sebba. The experience of women living in Paris from 1939 to 1949 was a unique one. While many fought back against the German occupation, some became collaborators, and others attempted to retain the false safety of neutrality. Sebba analyzes the lives and deaths of Parisian women in these tumultuous years, examining figures such as Coco Chanel and author Irene Nemirovsky. For the women of Paris, living on inescapably personal terms with their occupiers, the choice between capitulation and resistance had to be made every day.
At #5 is "The Woeful Second World War," written by Terry Deary and illustrated by Martin Brown. Part of the "Horrible Histories" series, it presents a humorously illustrated rundown of the events of World War II in a way that middle grade readers can understand. In the "Horrible Histories" style, Deary tells the story of the war through unusual details, such as soldiers who ate maggots and troops who smelled bad enough that it hurt their chances at victory.
At #6 is "Hank Brodt Holocaust Memoirs: A Candle and a Promise," by Deborah Donnelly. Hank Brodt was a teenager when the Holocaust began in Poland, and this work describes the years that he spent shuffled between labor and concentration camps, ultimately losing his whole family to the Nazis. Written by Brodt's daughter, it provides a survivor's perspective on one of the most notorious atrocities in human history. Rare photographs from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum serve as a visual accompaniment to the shocking and moving story.
Taking the #7 slot is "The Winter Fortress" by Neal Bascomb. In 1942, the race to build a nuclear weapon was on, and the Nazis were conducting their research at the Vemork hydroelectric plant in Norway. Vemork was the world's sole supplier of heavy water, an essential ingredient in the making of atomic weapons. This book tells the story of eleven Norwegian commandos who, with the help of the British Special Operations Executive, sabotaged the plant in order to stop the Nazis from making a nuclear bomb.
At #8 is "Saving Mona Lisa" by Gerri Chanel. The world's most famous painting was smuggled out of Paris to the Loire Valley in August 1939. This was the beginning of a massive art evacuation, as the Louvre museum was emptied of its treasures. To protect the masterpieces from the encroaching German threat, the French moved them across the country over the course of the war, keeping them in constant transit. In this well-researched account, the full courage and scope of this cultural preservation program is revealed.
The world's most famous painting was smuggled out of Paris to the Loire Valley in August 1939.
And at #9, we have "Six Months in 1945" by Michael Dobbs. The Yalta meeting of 1945 was meant to create a sustainable peace after the devastation of the war. Instead, it led to forty years of global tension and strife. Alliances were beginning to break down, and a new struggle started to form in place of the old one. This book chronicles the pivotal six-month period immediately after the end of the hostilities in which the seeds of the Cold War were sown, and the world began to be divided between capitalist and communist influences.