15 Best Books on World War 2

Picture of Soldiers in a landing craft

Best Books on World War 2

World War II: The Definitive Visual History from Blitzkrieg to the Atom Bomb by DK

World War II: The Definitive Visual History is a comprehensive, authoritative, yet accessible guide to the people, politics, events, and lasting effects of World War II.

Perhaps the most complex, frightening, and destructive event in global history, the Second World War saw the heights of human courage and the depth of human degradation. World War II presents a complete overview of the war, including the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party, fascism, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, and the D-Day landings. This book also looks at the enduring effects of World War II during succeeding decades.

The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II by Gregory A. Freeman

During a bombing campaign over Romanian oil fields, hundreds of American airmen were shot down in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia. Local Serbian farmers and peasants risked their own lives to give refuge to the soldiers while they waited for rescue, and in 1944, Operation Halyard was born. The risks were incredible. The starving Americans in Yugoslavia had to construct a landing strip large enough for C-47 cargo planes—without tools, without alerting the Germans, and without endangering the villagers. And the cargo planes had to make it through enemy airspace and back—without getting shot down themselves.
 

40 Thieves on Saipan: The Elite Marine Scout-Snipers in One of WWII's Bloodiest Battles by Joseph Tachovsky and Cynthia Kraack

An elite platoon of Marine Scout-Snipers, Lieutenant Frank Tachovsky’s “40 Thieves” were chosen for their willingness to defy rules and beat all-comers. When two Marines got into a fight, the loser ended up in the infirmary, the winner in the brig. Tachovsky wanted the winner on his team—a brush with military law was a recommendation.

These full-blooded men were trained in a ruthless array of hand-to-hand killing techniques and then thrown into the battle for Saipan—Emperor Hirohito’s “Treasure” and the bulwark of the Japanese Empire in the Pacific—where they would wreak havoc in and around, but mostly behind, enemy lines. They witnessed inhuman atrocities; walked into an ambush after the cunning Japanese used wounded Marines as bait; endured body-punishing extremes of heat, hunger, and thirst; fought a relentless enemy who would not surrender; and watched best friends die.

Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission by Hampton Sides

On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected U.S. troops slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March thirty rugged miles to rescue 513 POWs languishing in a hellish camp, among them the last survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March. A recent prison massacre by Japanese soldiers elsewhere in the Philippines made the stakes impossibly high and left little time to plan the complex operation.

In Ghost Soldiers Hampton Sides vividly re-creates this daring raid, offering a minute-by-minute narration that unfolds alongside intimate portraits of the prisoners and their lives in the camp. Sides shows how the POWs banded together to survive, defying the Japanese authorities even as they endured starvation, tropical diseases, and torture. Harrowing, poignant, and inspiring, Ghost Soldiers is the mesmerizing story of a remarkable mission. It is also a testament to the human spirit, an account of enormous bravery and self-sacrifice amid the most trying conditions.

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell


In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.”

The target in their sights was Virginia Hall, a Baltimore socialite who talked her way into Special Operations Executive, the spy organization dubbed Winston Churchill’s “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.” She became the first Allied woman deployed behind enemy lines and–despite her prosthetic leg–helped to light the flame of the French Resistance, revolutionizing secret warfare as we know it.

Virginia established vast spy networks throughout France, called weapons and explosives down from the skies, and became a linchpin for the Resistance. Even as her face covered wanted posters and a bounty was placed on her head, Virginia refused order after order to evacuate. She finally escaped through a death-defying hike over the Pyrenees into Spain, her cover blown. But she plunged back in, adamant that she had more lives to save, and led a victorious guerilla campaign, liberating swathes of France from the Nazis after D-Day.

Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945 (Pacific War Trilogy, 3) Hardcover – Illustrated, September 1, 2020 by Ian W. Toll

In June 1944, the United States launched a crushing assault on the Japanese navy in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The capture of the Mariana Islands and the accompanying ruin of Japanese carrier airpower marked a pivotal moment in the Pacific War. No tactical masterstroke or blunder could reverse the increasingly lopsided balance of power between the two combatants. The War in the Pacific had entered its endgame.

Beginning with the Honolulu Conference, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt met with his Pacific theater commanders to plan the last phase of the campaign against Japan, Twilight of the Gods brings to life the harrowing last year of World War II in the Pacific, when the U.S. Navy won the largest naval battle in history; Douglas MacArthur made good his pledge to return to the Philippines; waves of kamikazes attacked the Allied fleets; the Japanese fought to the last man on one island after another; B-29 bombers burned down Japanese cities; and Hiroshima and Nagasaki were vaporized in atomic blasts.

The English Wife by Adrienne Chinn

Until a letter arrives explaining Thomas is back at home on the other side of the Atlantic recovering from his injuries.

Travelling to a distant country to live with a man she barely knows is the bravest thing Ellie has ever had to do. But nothing can prepare her for the harsh realities of her new home…

September 11th 2001: Sophie Parry is on a plane to New York on the most tragic day in the city’s history. While the world watches the news in horror, Sophie’s flight is rerouted to a tiny town in Newfoundland and she is forced to seek refuge with her estranged aunt Ellie.

The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won by Victor Davis Hanson

World War II was the most lethal conflict in human history. Never before had a war been fought on so many diverse landscapes and in so many different ways, from rocket attacks in London to jungle fighting in Burma to armor strikes in Libya. The Second World Wars examines how combat unfolded in the air, at sea, and on land to show how distinct conflicts among disparate combatants coalesced into one interconnected global war.

Winter Army: The World War II Odyssey of the 10th Mountain Division, America’s Elite Alpine Warriors by Maurice Isserman

At the start of World War II, the US Army had two cavalry divisions—and no mountain troops. The German Wehrmacht, in contrast, had many well-trained and battle-hardened mountain divisions, some of whom, by 1943, had blocked the Allied advance in the Italian campaign. Starting from scratch, the US Army developed a unique military fighting force, the 10th Mountain Division, drawn from the ranks of civilian skiers, mountaineers, and others with outdoor experience. The resulting mix of Ivy League students, park rangers, Olympic skiers, and European refugees formed the first specialized alpine fighting force in US history. By the time they deployed to Italy at the beginning of 1945, this ragtag group had coalesced into a tight-knit unit. In the months that followed, at a terrible cost, they spearheaded the Allied drive in Italy to final victory.

World War II Generation Speaks: The Things Our Fathers Saw Series Vols. 1-3 (Volume 1) by Matthew A. Rozell

By the end of 2018, fewer than 400,000 of our WW II veterans will still be with us, out of the over 16 million who put on a uniform. But why is it that today, nobody seems to know these stories? Maybe our veterans did not volunteer to tell us; maybe we were too busy with our own lives to ask.”For all of us to be free, a few of us must be brave, and that is the history of America”. Read how a generation of young Americans saved the world. Because dying for freedom isn’t the worst that could happen. Being forgotten is.

The Violinist of Auschwitz: Based on a true story, an absolutely heartbreaking and gripping World War 2 novel by Ellie Midwood

In Auschwitz, every day is a fight for survival. Alma is inmate 50381, the number tattooed on her in pale blue ink. She is cooped up with thousands of others, torn from loved ones, trapped in a maze of barbed wire. Every day people disappear, never to be seen again.

This tragic reality couldn’t be further from Alma’s previous life. An esteemed violinist, her performances left her audiences spellbound. But when the Nazis descend on Europe, none of that can save her…

U.S. Small Arms of World War II by Bruce N. Canfield

If it could be carried into battle it s in this book! Comprehensive, full-color guide to the American infantry weapons of WWII. Included are all the small arms and light weapons that saw combat with the Army, Navy and Marines, as well as the many earlier models that led to their development. More than 2,000 color photographs depict all the fascinating details of the arms themselves, while a large selection of vintage photos show them in action in the hands of the troops. No book of this scope has ever been attempted before! We cover rifles, pistols, revolvers, combat knives, bayonets, bolos and machetes, carbines, shotguns, submachine guns, automatic rifles, machine guns, anti-tank rifles, bazookas, recoilless rifles, grenades and their launchers, mortars and flame throwers. Hardcover with dustjacket; 8.5×11; 2,100+ color photos, historical photos, and illustrations.

Great Battles for Boys: WW2 Europe by Joe Giorello

In his highly acclaimed middle-school class “Great Battles for Boys,” author Joe Giorello has ignited a love of military history in hundreds of boys. Now with this engaging non-fiction book written specifically for boys ages 8-14, your son can experience that same thrilling adventure in learning. 

Beginning with Hitler’s invasion of Poland, Great Battles for Boys: WW2 Europe takes young readers to the front lines of the war’s most important clashes. Boys will discover the raw history of warfare and learn the battles in chronological order. From Stalingrad’s hand-to-hand street fighting and the world’s largest tank action at Kursk to the spy-led invasion of Sicily and the surprise D-Day invasion of Normandy—and many other exciting battles! 

The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau by Alex Kershaw

Written with Alex Kershaw’s trademark narrative drive and vivid immediacy, The Liberator traces the remarkable battlefield journey of maverick U.S. Army officer Felix Sparks through the Allied liberation of Europe—from the first landing in Italy to the final death throes of the Third Reich.

Over five hundred bloody days, Sparks and his infantry unit battled from the beaches of Sicily through the mountains of Italy and France, ultimately enduring bitter and desperate winter combat against the die-hard SS on the Fatherland’s borders. Having miraculously survived the long, bloody march across Europe, Sparks was selected to lead a final charge to Bavaria, where he and his men experienced some of the most intense street fighting suffered by Americans in World War II.

The Longest Winter: The Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of WWII's Most Decorated Platoon by Alex Kershaw

On a cold morning in December, 1944, deep in the Ardennes forest, a platoon of eighteen men under the command of twenty-year-old lieutenant Lyle Bouck were huddled in their foxholes trying desperately to keep warm. Suddenly, the early morning silence was broken by the roar of a huge artillery bombardment and the dreadful sound of approaching tanks. Hitler had launched his bold and risky offensive against the Allies-his “last gamble”-and the small American platoon was facing the main thrust of the entire German assault. Vastly outnumbered, they repulsed three German assaults in a fierce day-long battle, killing over five hundred German soldiers and defending a strategically vital hill. Only when Bouck’s men had run out of ammunition did they surrender to the enemy. As POWs, Bouck’s platoon began an ordeal far worse than combat-survive in captivity under trigger-happy German guards, Allied bombing raids, and a daily ration of only thin soup.