World War 2 remains a topic of fascination for history and war buffs alike. It was a time when America was already struggling, a time when the world was forced to come together, and a time when one person almost dominated the globe in an effort of mass genocide. This world war brought on tales of rations, community and hope alongside tragedies, such as the tale of Hiroshima. Each book offers a different perspective, a different story, and a new opportunity to learn about this turning point in the history of the world.
What are the Best World War 2 Books to read?
Learn about the longest battle during winter as you read of soldiers fighting not only the enemy, but also the elements. Discover what life was like as a Jewish child in a book that highlights what it was really like. Understand the world from a different point of view as you absorb text that details what our soldiers saw and felt as they hid from bombs and bullets in the trenches. Women were also liberated during this time in the United States, and this was a turning point in women’s history as more women left the kitchen and made their way into factories to support the war effort at home. Each book tells a new story that has yet to make it to documentaries.
Best World War 2 Books: Our Top 20 Picks
Here are some of the best World War 2 books that you can consider to expand your knowledge on the subject:
1. The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II
The Forgotten 500 tells a tale of one of the most heroic rescue missions that took place during this great war. One of the few rescue missions that often gets left out of history books and movies. It is a tale of sacrifice, of hope and of amazing men.
When hundreds of men were shot out of the skies, they were over Yugoslavia, a country occupied by the Germans. The towns people risked their own lives to hide the men, giving them shelter and food until they could escape. Cargo planes dropped them supplies, miracously not being shot down in the process. Airmen constructed a complete air strip with no supplies, all while not letting the Germans find out. This story was classified for many years after it happened, but now the story is being told; a story of heroic men that made a marvellous escape.
- Authors: Gregory A. Freeman (Author)
- Publisher: Dutton Caliber; Reprint Edition (September 2, 2008)
- Pages: 336 pages
2. If You Survive: From Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge to the End of World War II, One American Officer’s Riveting True Story
If You Survive tells the story of one American Officer as he risks his life in one battle after another during this great war. He begins the story by telling of how he enrolled in college, thinking that he would automatically be rejected because he wore glasses. Then, he was drafted anyway. He was ordered to take an IQ test, and stationed in Georgia for five months.
After that, his tale tells of his experience in the field, where he was told that if he could survive for a single day that he might be up for a promotion. This soldier was one of the only men to survive out of his group and remains a national war hero. Learn what he saw, things he did, and how he managed to make it out alive.
- Authors: George Wilson (Author)
- Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reissue Edition (May 12, 1987)
- Pages: 288 pages
3. A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II
This story is about a woman that most people don’t know existed. Her name is not listed in the history books, and she’ll probably never be mentioned in a school classroom. Even when women of history are mentioned, her name seems to be left off the list of important women. She is one of the most heroic women of history, though.
Virginia Hall was raised in the United States, but went to France as she pursued her study of language. She lost a leg, but never let that slow down her life. Hall was still in France when it was occupied by the Germans, leading her to become one of the most important WWII spies the allies had. She ran underground networks, helped the allies, and helped win the war through her clever tactics and heroic actions.
- Authors: Sonia Purnell (Author)
- Publisher: Penguin Books (April 9, 2019)
- Pages: 368 pages
4. The Things Our Fathers Saw: The Untold Stories of the World War II Generation from Hometown, USA-Voices of the Pacific Theater
This is more than a person recounting history that has previously been documented or explaining a timeline of events. Instead, this book is packed with soldiers telling things that they saw, heard and felt. Don’t be mistaken, though. This book is not full of blood and glorious celebrations like in the war movies. Nor is it full of suspense.
Instead, The Things Our Fathers Saw captures the bravery of our heroic men in a time of crisis. It tells a realistic point of view with the dramatics of Hollywood, giving historians and those that study this war a real view of what happened during some of the greatest battles of our time. The first person point of view that many of these stories are told in makes it feel as though the reader is talking to an old friend as he tells stories.
- Authors: Mr. Matthew A. Rozell (Author)
- Publisher: Matthew A. Rozell; 1st Edition (July 31, 2015)
- Pages: 305 pages
5. The Liberator: One World War II Soldier’s 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau
The Liberator: One World War II Soldier’s 500 Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau tells the story of one amazing soldier in an impressive narrative style that will keep readers turning the pages. While the story is about a platoon that journeys across a continent, it is told about one soldier, Felix Sparks.
The story begins when they land on the beaches of Europe, and follows this soldier for 500 days of blood, battles and harsh winter conditions as the platoon marches through Europe to confront the enemy itself. If you’re looking for bloody details, suspense and things from the point of view of a soldier, this book might be a good option. It is full of real facts and will tell you stories that you have yet to hear about from history books or Hollywood.
- Authors: Alex Kershaw (Author)
- Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint Edition (October 15, 2013)
- Pages: 448 pages
6. The Longest Winter: The Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of WWII’s Most Decorated Platoon
The Longest Winter tells the heroic story of a small number of men, approximately 20, that were told to keep their positions at all costs, and the Battle of the Bulge. These men fought off one siege of German soldiers after another, consistently killing them as they fought to keep their place instead of falling back. They refused to surrender until they ran out of ammunition.
These men survived one of the most heroic battles known in the history of World War II, they survive POW camps, and they then became the most decorated soldiers of the war. This story is passed down from generation to generation by war veterans, and now is retold in the most realistic way possible through descriptive language that remains unmatched. The author of this book is an amazing storyteller that readers will enjoy.
- Authors: Alex Kershaw (Author)
- Publisher: Da Capo Press; 14th Ptg. Edition (October 25, 2005)
- Pages: 344 pages
7. The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won
This book is written for the reader that already knows a bit about World War II, which saves the reader from a wealth of beginner text. It is also written by a historian, yet it takes a unique approach to the war. Instead of recounting the glorious, famous battles or giving the reader eye witness accounts as other texts do, this book focuses on the logistics behind the war.
Some of the chapters are labelled according to the terrain that was being fought. The second World War involved almost the entire world being transformed into a battlefield, from tropical jungles to the air space above cities to the mighty sea. It also points out how the war was won, which some will prefer to read instead of hearing about how individual battles in certain countries were won.
- Authors: Victor Davis Hanson (Author)
- Publisher: Basic Books; Illustrated Edition (October 17, 2017)
- Pages: 720 pages
8. World War II: The Definitive Visual History from Blitzkrieg to the Atom Bomb
This book encompasses the history of the second World War, from the beginning stages to the way that war effected the world for years after it was over. Read tales of the most notorious battles, the first atom bomb being dropped and more.
This book not only covers the war, but also tells of Hitler and the rise of the Nazi party, something that led up to his efforts of creating the perfect human race. The Definitive Visual History is a book that is presented in chronological order from before the war began until after it is over. Visual aids, such as maps and pictures, are used to further explain the details of the war. This book is said to be one of the most all-encompassing books on the topic due to it’s visual aids and depth of information on the topic.
- Authors: DK (Author)
- Publisher: DK; Revised Edition (May 5, 2015)
- Pages: 372 pages
9. The Child of Auschwitz: Absolutely heartbreaking World War 2 historical fiction
A piece of historic fiction that captures the brutality of the war for the Jews while simultaneously giving a sense of hope and warmth as readers follow a tale of fear and love, marriage and childbirth. This story downplays a portion of the horrors of the war in favor of a lighter, more romantic note at times, but this is what makes it a page turner.
This is based on a true story, and is an extremely accurate book. It tells of a woman that truly existed and gave birth to a child in Auschwitz, a concentration camp. The story is comprised from several biographies of Holocaust survivors and documentaries, making it impressively accurate. The child was born towards the end of the war, small and hungry, and presumed to not live long. This story reflects what it was like for women in a concentration camp, and for the children that were born in them.
- Authors: Lily Graham (Author)
- Publisher: Bookouture (November 11, 2019)
- Pages: 242 pages
10. World War II at Sea: A Global History
This book recounts the tales of the sea in chronological order. It explains how the United States created a Navy that far surpassed anything known to the world at the time in order to fight this war. It also tells of America creating fleets of merchant ships to make sure that it’s allies had the supplies that they desperately needed to fight beside them in the war.
This is not a book about American history, though. It tells of other countries and their navies, as well as battles that were both won and lost at sea. World War II was fought on every type of land, in the air and in the sea. This book describes in exceptional detail everything that happened at sea during the great war, from the beginning until the aftermath of the war.
- Authors: Craig L. Symonds (Author)
- Publisher: Oxford University Press (May 2, 2018)
- Pages: 792 pages
11. World War II: Visual Encyclopedia
This encyclopedia is for children ages 9-12 that are interested in learning more about this war. It is age appropriate in its images and text, yet still provides plenty of information regarding historical facts and important logistics. Young readers will learn about the major people involved in the war, such as Hitler and the United States president at the time. They will also learn about some soldiers and generals that made a mark in the history books during this time.
In addition to learning about people, children will discover historic battles and the weapons that were used to fight them. They can learn basic information about rockets, the atomic bomb and submarines. This book is filled with enough information to satisfy eager learners without traumatizing them with gory details that are not appropriate for children.
- Authors: DK (Author)
- Publisher: DK Children (August 4, 2015)
- Pages: 208 pages
12. The World War 2 Trivia Book: Interesting Stories and Random Facts from the Second World War (Trivia War Books) (Volume 1)
People that love random facts about anything or find WWII fascinating can learn facts that most people don’t know with this one of a kind book. Historians leave out the random facts while history teachers don’t have time for them, but this book encompasses quite a few of them. For example, it tells of Adolf Hitler being rejected as an art student and that one of the key players in the war was once a male model.
Not only is this book packed with fun information, it’s also got it’s fair share of scary and bloody details to satisfy the gory appetite that some war buffs seem to have. The book itself is divided up carefully so that readers can enjoy a page or two a day instead of feeling that they have to read the entire book at once. This is a nice option for people that only read four pages every morning.
- Authors: Bill O’Neill (Author)
- Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 17, 2017)
- Pages: 172 pages
13. Eyewitness to World War II: Unforgettable Stories and Photographs From History’s Greatest Conflict
This book provides a wealth of information about the second world war from every point of view possible. Read letters that soldiers sent home as they fought through the war across the ocean. Understand what it was like for women at home as you read journal entries full of emotion. The text gives a thorough view of the world from various perspectives to capture the full effects of the world war on everyone, including those on the home front.
Other portions of the book also capture strategies used with maps as visual aids and teach about historical battles as well as important figures. View pictures of WWII artifacts, enjoy wonderful details and absorb cool facts. This all in one book on World War II covers a wide variety of material to both educate and fascinate the reader.
- Authors: Stephen Hyslop (Author), Neil Kagan (Editor)
- Publisher: National Geographic; First Edition (October 30, 2012)
- Pages: 352 pages
14. The Secret History of World War II: Spies, Code Breakers, and Covert Operations
The Secret History of World War II takes readers behind the scenes of the historical facts of the great war into the world of secret deals made in back rooms, underground spies and more. Learn about covert missions as they are explained in great deal. Witness formerly classified documents that are now available to the public. View exclusive photographs of hundreds of artifacts. Some of them are well known, and others are being revealed for one of the first times. All images are highly detailed.
WWII was fought on many battlefields, from land to air to sea, but few know of the secret battlefield that helped win the war. These top secret missions and heroic spies not only helped make the war, they made history. Every dark part of history is full of dark secrets, and they are finally revealed in this unique history book by National Geographic.
- Authors: Neil Kagan (Author), Stephen G. Hyslop (Author), Kenneth W. Rendell (Foreword)
- Publisher: National Geographic (October 25, 2016)
- Pages: 352 pages
15. World War II Map by Map
This book tells the story of World War II in chronological order. It includes battles that were fought on land, air and sea, complete with detailed maps so that readers can follow along to see how the war progressed, what trails platoons took and more. Each map is specifically included to coincide with a particular battle or mission, making this one of the few interactive world war II books on the market. It is an exceptional teaching tool as well as it encourages you to follow along with each page.
Those that do not want to use the maps in the book can still learn plenty about the war through the text. It covers main battles and events, such as the atomic bomb and the attack on Pearl Harbor, the defining event that brought the United States into the war.
- Authors: DK (Author), Smithsonian Institution (Contributor)
- Publisher: DK (September 3, 2019)
- Pages: 288 pages
16. NEW YORK TIMES COMPLETE WORLD WAR II: All the Coverage from the Battlefields and the Home Front
The New York Times has existed for years. It maintains a high quality, provides accurate information and keeps the American public informed, as it has for years. During the time of World War II, the New York Times became one of the most popular newspapers in the country as it covered the war daily.
Now, you can read the same publications that Americans on the home front were reading as the war progressed. Take a step back in time with the older publications and follow the war from the view of a person at home reading the news with this exceptional collection of articles. This book includes articles for a six year period from the archives of the Times. Several additional pieces have been added to educate readers further on the topic of World War II.
- Authors: The New York Times (Author), Richard Overy (Editor), Tom Brokaw (Foreword)
- Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal; Har/Dvdr Edition (November 5, 2013)
- Pages: 612 pages
17. A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II
This book takes a unique approach to WWII. Instead of focusing on the actions of the Allies or particular soldiers, it offers a global perspective that begins at the end of the first world war. Text explains how countries were re-shaped by the first global conflict that shook the world, and how that impacted the second world war.
As it covers the events of the second world war, it briefly touches on every part of the globe, thoroughly explaining how certain actions impacted the rest of the world, and the effect that they had on WWII. For example, the attack on Pearl Harbor is what brough the United States into the war, which greatly helped the Allies. It also covers actions of the Axis and Neutrals, something that many history books do not thoroughly cover. This book offers a comprehensive look at every aspect of WWII.
- Authors: Gerhard L. Weinberg (Author)
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2nd Edition (March 28, 2005)
- Pages: 1208 pages
18. Atlas of World War II: History’s Greatest Conflict Revealed Through Rare Wartime Maps and New Cartography
This impressive history book comes with all the exceptional facts, rare photographs and detailed imagery that National Geographic has become known for. It tells the story of WWII from a historical point of view, educating readers about battles fought on land, in the sea and in the air, including some of the most famous battles of the war. Stories in the book from soldiers’ points of view show readers what it was really like during times of war.
Detailed maps are included to help readers see the stages of the war as platoons moved through Europe during the harsh winter before approaching Germany. Exclusive maps that were used by the president and airmen are featured as well. These are accompanied by photos of landmarks, battle fields and a close-up view of WWII artifacts so that readers can do more than just learn about the war, they can take a trip back in time to a place long ago.
- Authors: Stephen G. Hyslop (Author), Neil Kagan (Editor), Kenneth W. Rendell (Foreword)
- Publisher: National Geographic; Comprehensive Edition (October 30, 2018)
- Pages: 256 pages
19. The Story of World War II: Revised, expanded, and updated from the original text by Henry Steele Commager
The Story of WWII tells the same story, but with a twist. Instead of a just historical point of view written by a historian or a soldiers point of view, this book provides a little bit of everything. It includes journalists that covered the war, and some of the most amazing stories. These journalists were seen on the frontlines, they interviewed soldiers and covered the home front, leading to them being the most informed people of the war and it’s effects as they rippled across the globe.
This is much more than just a book about journalists, however. It also covers battles, bloodshed and more from soldiers that fought in the war, giving a point of view that critics claim to be the most realistic yet. Alongside journalists and soldiers, readers will encounter civilians caught in the middle of the war at home and more. This book gives readers a glimpse at the war from every possible angle.
- Authors: Donald L. Miller (Author), Henry Steele Commager (Author)
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Revised & enlarged Edition (November 6, 2001)
- Pages: 704 pages
20. DK Eyewitness Books: World War II
This children’s book is written for kids that are above the age of 8. The language is easy to understand for children, but also written in a tone that adults can enjoy it as much as children do. Often, this book is preferred for children or students that express an interest in the war as it is an exceptional introduction into the history of one of the great wars.
Children can learn about key players in the war as well as some of the most important battles that led to the victory of WWII in age appropriate language. Weapons are featured that some children might think are cool, and the gruesome details are left out to make sure that children enjoy reading the book without being scared. Instead, they can have fun learning about history with this appropriate children’s book.
- Authors: Simon Adams (Author)
- Publisher: DK Children; Pck Har/CD Edition (June 25, 2007)
- Pages: 72 pages
Choosing the Best World War 2 Books
World War II remains one of the most talked about topics in history. It is one of the few wars that has been fought on every type of battlefield possible. Blood and a lack of humanity seemed to be a common theme throughout the war as a man attempted mass genocide that would extend to the ends of the Earth. How he did this, how the war was won, and the individuals that were directly impacted by the war will forever be imprinted into our minds. These books both educate and entice with their facts, photographs and stories that make them impossible to put down.