Special Interest

Best World War II Books to Enjoy This Autumn – A Military Connection Top Ten List

Best World War II Books to Enjoy This Autumn – A Military Connection Top Ten List

contributed by Cory Davenport

The air is getting colder and nights are getting longer. It is the perfect time to find oneself deep into the pages of a good book. Whether you’re into historical fact, historical fiction, or something much more unique, the setting of World War II is behind some of the best works of all time. It would seem fitting for the world’s largest conflict to produce its greatest literature and most diligently studied history. So, whether you are an amateur historian or just in need of some escapism entertainment during these upcoming long nights, these WWII books should hit the spot.

10.With Hitler to the End: The Memiors of Adolf Hitler’s Valet by Heinz Linge

This controversial book takes readers into the perspective of Heinz Linge, the man tasked with driving one of history’s most evil characters through his daily life through the second World War. This autobiographical memoir takes its readers through an entire decade of living with Adolf Hitler and his family from his rise to power in 1935 to the Fall of Berlin in 1945. Moving through both the mundane and historical aspects of being so close to the dictator, this historical non-fiction book offers a unique and arguably important aspect of World War II.

via amazon.com

9.Russia at War 1941-1945 by Alexander Werth

More Soviets gave their lives in World War II than any other nationality. They miraculously defended the hopeless cause that was the Battle of Stalingrad, and forcefully pushed the Nazis all the way back to Berlin, forcing Hitler’s surrender. In this 1964 work of historical non-fiction, Werth, a Russian-born British journalist, recounts his homeland’s struggles through the war. Not only does he cover the Red Army’s tremendous march against the Nazis, he looks at the everyday lives of Soviets who greatly suffered through their nation’s war effort.

via amazon.com

8. Hiroshima by John Hersey

This work of journalistic historical non-fiction chronicles the events following the atomic attack on Hiroshima, Japan by the United States to force the imperialist Pacific nation to surrender without what could have been a catastrophic invasion of the Japanese homeland. This gritty and honest look at the aftermath was said by the New York Times to “stir the conscience of humanity.” Hersey’s reporting style is full of compassion for the victims of the blast and entire situation leading to the bomb’s usage. It is a hard, authentic gaze into the consequences of such global conflicts and a reminder of why nuclear weapons should never be used again.

via amazon.com

7. Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully

Awarded as one of the best books in U.S. Naval History, this work of historical non-fiction takes readers into one of the most pivotal battles in the world’s most pivotal war. The Battle of Midway turned the tide of the entire Pacific Ocean as American forces prevailed against Japanese forces from island to island in grueling guerrilla warfare in dangerous jungles. Unlike other historical non-fiction books about the Battle of Midway, these authors also utilize Japanese primary sources from the battle to create a more complete, full-spectrum view of one of history’s most studied and celebrated battles.

via amazon.com

6. Normandy ’44: D-Day and the Epic 77-Day Battle for France by James Holland

Chronicling the daring landing of American, Canadian, British, and other allied forces onto to beaches of Normandy during the pivotal D-Day invasion, this work of historical non-fiction delves deeply into one of the most defining moments of World War II, specifically at the American war effort in Europe. D-Day and the entirety of the OVERLORD campaign have been immortalized in media ranging from movies, to TV shows, to modern video games. However, many myths remain regarding the entire operation. In this book, Holland goes deeper to dispel these myths, seek the truth, and look at the D-Day invasion with a greater historical context.

via amazon.com

5. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

One of the best-known works of fiction set (at least in part) in World War II, one of America’s finest novelists, Kurt Vonnegut, explores his experience of the second World War as a P.O.W. Vonnegut was himself captured by Nazi forces and placed in a Slaughterhouse in Dresden. He was interred there when an allied fire-bombing campaign devastated the city, which was once one of the finest cultural hubs in Germany. Dubbed a “children’s crusade,” Vonnegut takes a brutal and honest look at how the trauma from the war, which he received from both sides, affected his view on reality. Told through the eyes of his proxy, Billy Pilgrim, Slaughterhouse Five includes time shifts, alien abductions, and the attempt to live a normal life after the war, yet somehow never seems to leave Dresden. It is a must-read for every American.

via amazon.com

4. Maus by Art Spiegelman

A recent addition to several banned book lists, this graphic novel is the result of Spiegelman’s interviews with his father, who was a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. Taking some artistic license, this work is both historical fiction and non-fiction, as it blurs the lines with characters. In his work, Spiegelman drew Jews as mice, Germans as cats, and Poles as pigs. This work takes real-life experiences from Spiegelman’s family during the Nazi rise to power through their camp’s liberation while also examining Spiegelman’s relationship with his family. His mother committed suicide when he was 20, and her husband destroyed her first-hand emotional accounts of Auschwitz.

via amazon.com

Honorable Mention: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

This compelling work of alternative historical fiction is by one of the most bizarre and unique American sci-fi authors. In this work, Dick takes a look into the frightening potentiality of the Axis powers not only winning World War II, but invading the United States. Dick pays homage to the American spirit and love for freedom through mysterious films shown to resistance pockets of the occupied Americans depicting our world in which the Allies were victorious. This book was also made into a compelling series on Amazon Prime. It is recommended for the special sort of folks who are both history buffs and sci-fi nerds.

via amazon.com

3. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Arguably the best work of satirical historical fiction of all time, this work follows Captain John Yossarian, who was a bombardier in a B-25. Through the eyes of an omniscient narrator, readers can experience the absurdities of war while imagining a group of poor soldiers trying their best to stay sane during insane times and conditions. One of the main reasons the novel has held through the decades, even being called the best novel of the 20th century is its authenticity. It is based on Heller’s own experience in World War II aboard a B-25.

via amazon.com

2. The Good War: An Oral History of World War II by Studs Terkel

This Pulitzer-Prize-winning work of historical non-fiction explores the global history of World War II through humanity’s oldest medium – oral stories. Terkel himself was a pipe-fitter in Pearl Harbor and was aboard the flight responsible for dropping the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. He was also one of the best interviewers of all time. In this work, he recounts the stories he heard from folks who had been all around the world during the world’s most brutal war. This book is a true time capsule of the American psyche during that crucial point in world history.

via amazon.com

1. A Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagles Nest by Stephen Ambrose

This is the obvious choice for a reason. Ambrose’s quintessential work of historical fiction has been immortalized in one of the best miniseries of all time. The book behind the series follows a group of blue-collar American boys as they fought their way through the European Theater of World War II. It is one of the greatest stories of camaraderie ever told, and their journey from basic strangers in basic training to war-worn heroes who would easily die for each other is masterfully detailed by Ambrose in this must-read book for any war veteran, history buff, and lover of modern literature.

via amazon.com

Love Military Content in Books and Movies?

Follow along as we cover the best war books from every era.  You can also check out Military Connection’s Greatest War Movie Series where we cover the best war films of every era from the American Revolution to Post 9/11, plus categories like women in military moviesbest battle scenes and more. 


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