Top Ten Favorite Books Set During World War II

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for ten great books with the setting of our choice. I picked World War II, because I have always been drawn to those books and I feel like there are a wide variety of books set during that time period.

1) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – One of my favorites, this novel tells the story of a young German girl during the war. Oh, and did I mention it’s told from Death’s POV?

2) Maus by Art Spiegelman – This Pulitzer-prize-winning graphic novel is about the author’s father’s time in a concentration camp. Just incredible.

3) Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – Women are not often the focal point of WWII stories, but this gem tells the gripping fictional story of a female pilot and spy.

4) Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys – Ever wonder what was happening in Lithuania during the war? This intense book is about the work camps in Siberia.

5) Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – Finding the humor in the direst of circumstances, Heller gives the soldier’s POV.

6) Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand – Plane crash, torture, shark attacks, a nonfiction account of soldiers who survive the unimaginable in the Pacific. 

7) Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli – The Warsaw ghetto shown through the eyes of a young orphaned boy.

8) The Reader by Bernard Schlink – There are very few books that focus on the German guards during the war. This slim book handles the subject in a very personal and delicate way.

9) City of Thieves by David Benioff and The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean – Both of these books deal with Russia during WWII. One focuses on a soldier’s time and the horrors he sees, the other is more about the famous Heritage museum and the people who lived there during the war.

10) Night by Elie Wiesel and The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank – Two real life accounts of the Holocaust and Jews living in hiding. They are essential for any WWII list.

Image from here. 

14 comments:

Sarah said...

Maus was SO GOOD. I still have to read Code Name Verity, and Catch-22, and Night... I'm a little behind in my WWII reading. But it's also one of those I kind of avoid because I already feel like I've read so many! And I don't like crying a lot, which a whole lot of WWII books lead to.

Great list!

JoAnn said...

I've only read 6 and 10, but most of the others are on my list. The Book Thief has been on my shelf for way too long.

chrissireads said...

I loved The Book Thief. I need to read Code Name Verity. It's on my list to read! Great list.

Sandy Nawrot said...

That is an awesome list...I've read most of them. Hey! Did you know that The Book Thief is coming out as a movie in November???? When I saw that in the EW Fall Movie Preview I almost wet myself.

Andi said...

I seem to be reading TONS of books set in this time period lately. And not on purpose. It's totally chance and it's totally weird. I love many of the books on your list, but I think I'll be ready for a break from these WWII books for a bit. :)

Nikki Steele @ BookPairing.com said...

Loved Catch 22 and have heard from so many people that I need to read The Book Thief.

Carrie-Anne said...

My list this week is also WWII/Shoah books. Most of mine are the obscure ones that haven't received a lot of hype. I know I need to balance things out by reading more WWII Japanese historicals, since I'm a big Nipponophile and have always enjoyed Japanese historicals from this time period when I've found them.

Belle said...

The Book Thief is one of my favourite books! I haven't read any of the others. I really need to read Catch 22 one of these days.

Jillyn said...

I had to read Maus and Night in high school, and I ended up buying them both for my personal shelves. Great books.

My TTT.

misfortuneofknowing said...

Great List! I've read a couple of them, and I remember liking "Catch 22." I tend not to enjoy war as a setting because, for obvious reasons, it's too grim for me. So, for example, I prefer Kurt Vonnegut's sobering but quirky take on war in "Slaughterhouse-Five" to Kate Atkinson's unrelenting portrayal of it in "Life After Life."

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sarah - WWII = Tears.

JoAnn - You should read it! I loved it.

chrissireads - I want to read the new book by the author of Code Name Verity.

Sandy - WHAT?!?! Oh my goodness, so excited. I was so nervous about seeing it as a play last year, but it was wonderful!

Andi - There are sooo many WWII books. I think people love setting books during that time because the period is so full so fascinating and horrible situations. I can definitely burn myself out on them though.

Nikki - You should definitely read it, but there may be tears.

Carrie-Anne - I've only read a few about the Japanese experience, When the Emperor was Divine, Snow Falling on Cedars, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I enjoyed all of them!

Belle - Catch-22 is a great way to understand the absurdity of war. It's an odd book, both hilarious and horrible in different ways.

Jillyn - I have both in my permanent collection too. So powerful.

misfortuneofknowing - War books can be incredibly heavy, but there are some amazing stories with that setting. I love Vonnegut's work too.

Ellie said...

I love love love The Reader. I saw the film first and then had to read it and I think it is incredible both ways. Night it also completely wonderfully heartbreaking.

Sort of snap with the topic, except I did WW1 :)

Care said...

The Book Thief is the first I thought of, too.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Ellie - I read it first, but I thought the movie did such a beautiful job!

Care - I'm so excited to see the movie now!