If I were a betting woman, I would be willing to bet that World War II is the time period that has been written about in more novels than any other subject in history. It is indeed a multifaceted event, with millions of stories about tragedies and daring heroics to discuss. Novels like All the Light We Cannot See, Catch-22, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society remain popular favorites long after their release. Every Tuesday when new books are hitting the shelves, dozens of them are World War II historical fiction books. But with so many choices, how do you find the best World War II novels to read?
Spoiler: By reading this list of course! Here are nine wonderful novels involving World War II that will tug on your heartstrings and teach you about history at the same time. That’s the best kind of learning!
Physicist Dr. Hannah Weiss thinks she is close to splitting the atom, which would be the biggest discovery of the 20th century. But as a Jewish woman in Germany, she is ignored, and her work is stolen by her colleagues. Years later, in New Mexico, Major Jack Delaney arrives to catch the spy sending Hitler's scientists secrets from the nuclear lab at Los Alamos. All signs point to the mysterious Hannah Weiss, but is it true?
This is a beautiful, heart-squeezing novel about twin sisters Hana and Kei, who are raised by their single mother in Hawaii in the 1950s and 1960s, and how the horrors of Hiroshima and the Japanese internment camps many years before still destroy the peace of their lives.
Get the tissues ready for this moving story of sisters Etty and Dorothy, who were abandoned at an orphanage by their mother and grew up with only each other to depend on. But years later, World War II changes their lives and their living situation, and reveals a painful secret about their past.
This fabulous novel actually covers a whole century in the life of a Korean family, starting in the early 1900s, when a young pregnant girl marries a minister and moves to Japan. But it is also an excellent and often unmentioned look at how Korean immigrants were horribly treated in Japan before and during the wars.
And this novel is inspired by a real-life heroine! Nancy Wake was living a happy life with her fiancé in France when the Nazis took over Paris. Choosing to fight from home, she joins the underground Resistance and assumes the name "White Mouse," quickly becoming one of the Nazi's most-wanted French citizens. But when her husband is arrested in her place, will she risk everything to save him, or continue carrying out her missions for her country?
All of Kate Atkinson's war novels are unbelievably excellent. This most recent one is about a young transcriptionist who works for the British government during the war, and a decade later, finds the ghosts of her past have caught up with her where she works as a BBC radio producer.
This thrilling spy novel is about five young Americans who are recruited for various talents and placed in Nazi Germany at the height of World War II. Their group is called Dragonfly, and they must stay one step ahead of the enemies if they want to return home safely. But a mistake turns deadly and has them questioning if they really will get back home.
This Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning novel is about a Black jazz musician who is arrested by Nazies in Berlin and is never heard from again. His friends who gather together years later to view a documentary about him and learn some long-kept secrets.
Three young women from very different backgrounds become fast friends at San Francisco’s Forbidden City nightclub and rely on each other to get through the hard times and keep each other’s secrets. But after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, an act of betrayal will shatter their worlds.
Discover the Key Moments of Each Year of World War II
Liberty Hardy is a Book Riot senior contributing editor and velocireader in the great state of Maine, where she reads 500-600 books a year and lives with her three cats, who hate to read.