Books about World War II often include names such as Hirohito, Hitler, Stalin, Churchill, and Eisenhower. What did these historically legendary names all have in common? These were the leaders of World War II, a most decisive time in world history. As a result of their impending importance and roles, these figures, as well as the masses they commanded, later became the subject of countless books about World War II.
For those wanting to learn about this most pivotal time in history, books about World War II can offer an unparalleled accounting and record of the matter. While nearly all of these books have something valuable to offer, there are a select number that go beyond basic story telling and truly convey the depths of this war beyond all others. Cutting through all of the options out there, these are arguably the top 30 books about World War II to date.
The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain
Of the many fronts fought in World War II, the Battle of Britain was perhaps the most pivotal. Whether you’re a scholar or just an interested reader, this comprehensive accounting has something for you. Explore Britain’s specific involvement and approaches to winning the war in this telling piece of Churchill’s theater of the conflict. How did the British overcome? Read on to see.
The Longest Day
D-Day is certainly one of the most tide-changing and influential days of the entire war. With tens of thousands of troops and thousands of sea vessels and aircraft, the invasion took place. This is the in-depth accounting of this longest day as well as the planning, bravery, and even flaws of this amazing day in history. Experience D-Day as never-before told and visualized.
Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific
As its name suggests, this book details the on-the-ground action and sacrifices made by human troops during World War II. Robert Leckie leaves few details out as he reports on the real-life drama that unfolded in the trenches at the time. Leckie himself was enlisted by the United States Marine Corp in 1942 and suited up for an experience of a lifetime.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Rather than taking a broad view of the terrible events of World War II, author Laura Hillenbrand tells a tale of a very personal and specific story to take place during all the action. This book, three years in on the New York Times Bestseller list, takes the reader behind enemy lines and into a raw story of survival against all odds. Could you survive what others were asked to?
Leningrad was a city besieged by wartime Nazi Germany powers via some unconventional means. Starvation, thirst, and supply strangling were just a few tactics. This is the tale of that siege as told by both sides. Diary accounts and direct evidence sort through the war era’s propaganda and tell an often unknown truth about Leningrad, the city of Adolf Hitler’s keen, tactical attention and targeting.
Stalingrad was another vastly important city to the war effort and its purposes on all sides. Antony Beevor takes us to the city and gives an accounting of the events that took place here. How would the Germans be treated after all of their assaults on the Soviet forces? Stalingrad tells this epic tale of Soviet victory over the intruding Nazi forces and how the relative aftermath would end up playing out.
The Enemy at the Gates
“Unforgettable” and “haunting” are some of the words rightly used to portray this powerful piece by William Craig. The Enemy at the Gates goes into the sordid and mind-boggling details of the siege of Stalingrad. At the center of this particular story is a young man that displays bravery that is well beyond normal part and parcel.
A Woman in Berlin
What would it have been like to be living in Berlin at the time of this dreaded world war? That is the question answered by this eye-opening and quite telling piece written by an anonymous reporter and editor stuck in a city at the center of the ravages of war. Food, water, incoming bombs, constant searches and seizures – these were the everyday concerns these brave souls endured during this trying time. A deep look at the human spirit of survival in treacherous times ensues.
The Second World War
Straying from a zoomed-in, magnified look about individual stories, author John Keegan takes us on a more broad, from-the-outside-looking-in analysis of this terrible war. What caused it? What were the tactical approaches of those fighting it? How does it affect the surviving world of the future? Take a broad yet comprehensive look at this debacle for the ages.
The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story
Wise yet whimsical, dire yet determined – these are some of the words often used to describe this critically acclaimed account. Follow the perilous journey of a zoo-keeping family in Poland forced to assimilate to the will of their Nazi captors. They don’t just go along quietly however. This story of wits over brawn tells one story within war-torn Warsaw, Poland that sheds light on the whole ordeal.
Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal
James D. Hornfischer
Guadalcanal featured some of the most important naval actions of the war. Drawing on the direct words of veterans, journals, family accounts, wartime public info, and more, author James D. Hornfischer gives a detailed assessment of this epic mark of a naval campaign that changed everything. Follow the excitement of tactics in action during this monumental, three-month effort known as Guadalcanal.
D DAY Through German Eyes
D-Day shaped the war from June 6, 1944 on. It’s not too uncommon to come across accounts of this game-changing battle that are told through the eyes of the victors – the allied forces. This accounting however takes an alternate route, providing the detailed accounting of this battle through the eyes of the other side – the Germans. Experience the story in a new light, as told by a German journalist during the war.
The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War
Author Andrew Roberts blends individual stories with the big picture in this critically acclaimed account of the second world war. Readers take a new and refreshing look at this war by way of some very intriguing and unique, personal accounts. Learn about the general movements of this great war as well as the individual lives touched throughout.
Paths of Armor: The Fifth Armored Division in World War II
The Fifth Armor Division was an important force utilized at the height of the war. At the time, tanks were relatively new and indeed the formidable and feared, on-the-ground unit. Follow along as you are taken on a ride with this heroic company of tanks. Experience what they do as they weave their specific and important tale through the story of World War II.
The Second World War (Usborne True Stories) – paperback
In association with the Imperial war Museum, author Paul Dowswell provides us with twelve highly entertaining and individual stories to take place during the war. Experience what it was like to be a codebreaker, working to unravel the mystery of German code. What would it have been like to experience the last voyage of the renowned Bismarck? Experience these stories and more within the pages of this intriguing war account.
The Hut Six Story: Breaking the Enigma Codes
Danger, secrecy, codes, and espionage – all of the hallmarks of an exciting war story are here. Britain finds itself at the doorstep of a global tyrant, Adolf Hitler. Often unheralded, this battle was not necessarily one of guns and ammunition, but one of British intelligence stabbing away at the codes used by the Nazi forces. Can they break the Enigma Codes? Read on and find out.
With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
The New York Times Best Seller With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa offers an unhindered an unadulterated glimpse into the gritty, bloody, and desperate ground battles of World War II. Author Eugene Sledge gives a full accounting here of his personal experiences on the ground during the war as a marine. Take an uncensored dive into the heart of the battle.
All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-45
In this unique perspective, Max Hastings tells of the horror and reality of war, not just from one or two sides, but from the viewpoints of nearly every nation touched by this global atrocity. Hear personal accounts from those on the ground in many different places during these troubled times, and get a thorough glimpse of what it all meant to our world and its many people.
A War To Be Won: Fighting the Second World War
Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett
For the historian or hardcore strategist at heart, A War To Be Won: Fighting the Second World War gives a thorough, tactical rendition of the movements of the nations at war. Delve into the strategies and thinking behind many decisive actions of the war, and gain a greater perspective of what all was actually happening on all sides.
Norman Hanson’s Carrier Pilot takes the reader on a journey into what it was like being part of the airborne powers of the carrier forces of World War II. Beyond the general backdrop of war, experience a specific and daunting story of survival amidst airborne madness. Japanese naval forces were renowned, but were they good enough to oust the allies? Find out inside.
Berlin Diaries, 1940-1945
Similar to the moving wartime stories of Anne Frank, Berlin Diaries, 1940-1945 offers a deeply personal look into one Russian family’s struggle living in a Hitler-run Germany at the outset of the war. From picturesque living to a waking nightmare, this is the story of what it was like living in the Nazi homeland and seeing the transformation to it take place. What must this family do in order to make it out of this in the end?
In essence, it was one mind, one brain that headed the world’s plunge into war in the 1940’s. This mind belonged to the infamous and quite curious Adolf Hitler, leader of Germany at the time. Author Ian Kershaw takes us on an intriguing journey into wartime and prewar Germany and the thinking of the most villainous tyrant ever to walk Earth. Learn about the life and legacy of this controversial war-starter.
The “Flyboys” of World War II represented the flying forces of the allied war effort. The book about these fighters of the sky, by James Bradley, puts readers right into the thick of things in the Pacific Theater. Follow along with the epic story of nine American servicemen shot down and left for the worst. One of these servicemen, interestingly enough, was none other than future president, George H.W. Bush.
Band of Brothers
This excellent story tells the tale of a band of heroic American servicemen thrust into the belly of the beast. Diaries, journal entries, and other personal communications tell the reader exactly what it was like to be on the frontline during this awful war. This particularly renowned piece of literature was also later made into a number of television and movie products.
SECOND WORLD WAR INFANTRY TACTICS: The European Theatre
What are rules of war and rules of engagement? If it’s possible to believe, World War II was governed by various rules, formalities, and concepts of the governance of fighting itself. Delve into these facts as well as their effects on the average soldier at the time. Particularly, this piece follows the lives of infantry fighters at war and the tactics and policies governing them and their actions.
Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan
Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
Adolf Hitler’s Germany may have started the war, but the Japanese later entered with the hopes of finishing it. They would eventually find that this was indeed a mistake for the ages. What would it take to defeat this extremely spirited enemy in the Pacific? Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan gives a detailed accounting and analysis of Japan’s entry into the war as well as subsequent defeat.
Memoirs of the Second World War
Winston S. Churchill
Winston Churchill, Britain’s leader at the time of the war is noted as one of history’s great tacticians and patriots. His post-war accounting, Memoirs of the Second World War gives his priceless take on the war and his own strategies and efforts within. This piece is itself an article of historic significance and is treasured by historians and World War II enthusiasts alike.
The Greatest Generation
Celebrated journalist Tom Brokaw pays homage to the remarkable lives of a war-torn era. In doing so, Brokaw shares numerous, personal tales of trial and tribulation alike. It was a unique era in time that would face the ultimate challenge by way of war. These are the stories of average people faced with an event that was anything but average.
The Hiding Place
Corrie Ten Boom
Corrie Ten Bloom is a survivor. This is the story of one individual’s unbelievable fight to stay alive and also aid a hunted people. Aiding Nazi-hunted Jews by way of a secret hiding space at home, Corrie risks life and limb for morals and the ultimate spate of Nazi resistance. Read this enthralling, individual account of one stop along the now-celebrated “Dutch Underground.”
Hitler: A Study in Tyranny
The title of this one says it all. If you are interested in trying to understand the mindset of one of the most villainous people ever to live, this book does its best to help. Follow along in Hitler’s footsteps, and analyze the life and mind of Germany’s war-mongering leader of the time. This is certainly one of the most notably telling, Hitler-based books about World War II to date.
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