33 Best Books about WWII: Historical Fiction, Romance, and More!
Books written about World War 2 have been popular for decades because of the myriad of stories, locations, and issues this time period covers. So what are the best books about WWII? We are here to help!
In the list below you will find historical fiction books set during this time period broken up into easy categories to peruse. From romance to magical stories, books about friendship, or female spies, there are plenty of sub-genres to choose from.
Please note, the books below might mention the holocaust, but they are NOT books about the holocaust. If you are looking for books specifically about the Holocaust, this list has our favorites!
*Disclosure: This Books About WWII post contains our Amazon affiliate link, if you purchase anything we get a few cents to further indulge our love of reading*
The Best Historical Fiction Books about WWII
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This is a beautiful book that takes place in occupied France during the Second World War. It is the story of a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths cross as they try to survive the war.
When their stories converge it becomes a story that you will not soon forget. This winner of the Pulitzer Prize is obviously well-written but it is also a beautiful and readable book and one of our favorite books about WWII.
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
Based on the true story of New York socialite, Caroline Ferriday, this fictionalized account of the war is told from three perspectives.
The novel alternates between Caroline in New York, Kasia, a Polish prisoner, at Ravensbruck, and Herta, the only female doctor at that same camp.
Herta’s perspective, she was a real doctor at Ravensbruck, was particularly fascinating to read. Hearing her thoughts left a deep impact since authors rarely write from the perspective of the Nazi party members. It is that perspective that makes this novel unique among these books about WWII.
Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson
This powerful novel tells the story of a well-known Jewish Philanthropist accused of being a nazi war criminal. Solomon, the accuser, convinces Catherine to be his lawyer and represent him in the case.
The novel moves back and forth from past to present as Solomon recounts his story. This is a powerful novel that will leave you wondering until the end and is one of my favorite books about WWII. And while this book is fiction, it is similar to many true stories.
Love Historical Fiction? We do too! That’s why we created the Ultimate List of Historical Fiction carefully divided by time period.
Mystery Books about WWII
The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
While the main portion of this story features 3 code breakers at Bletchley during WWII, one of the main characters is dating Prince Philip. You know, the same Prince Philip who eventually marries the queen?
It’s a dual-timeline story and one of those storylines is set against the backdrop of Philip’s wedding to QE2. Plus it’s a Kate Quinn novel, so the writing and story are both top-notch. This choice from mystery books about WWII is a must-read.
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
A gothic novel about a woman who returns to the castle to question the inhabitants her mother stayed with as a child ward during WWII, in a quest to discover the mysteries of her mother’s past.
I could not put this novel by Kate Morton down. It was so well-written and utterly fascinating to see what happened to children in England during the blitz. We love Kate Morton Books and this pick from books about WWII.
For more books like these, check out our list of Kate Morton Books Ranked.
The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian
Taking place in the Italian countryside, in both 1943 and 1955, this mystery covers the Nazi/Italy Axis Alliance. A murderer from the war is coming back to kill the remaining members of an Italian family one by one.
My heart was racing as I read this pick from books about WWII. It totally kept me on the edge of my seat.
Books about Famous People in WWII
The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher
I had no idea the Kennedy girls were just as interesting at the Kennedy boys. This Historical Fiction told the story of Kick Kennedy during her stay in London before and during WWII. I found her to be a fascinating character.
I spent so much time googling photos of her during this time of her life. It’s crazy how the standards for marriage have changed in such a short amount of time over in London.
The Queen’s Secret by Karen Harper
I don’t think enough is written about Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. She was a dynamic lady who was a guiding light for her husband, King George, as well as Queen Elizabeth. This book focuses on her work behind-the-scenes during WWII.
We get an inside look at the issues between her husband and his brother, King Edward, who abdicated to be with Wallis Simpson. Churchill’s relationship with the then Queen consort is also examined. We love the unique perspective of this pick from books about WWII.
The Queen of Paris by Pamela Binnings Ewen
I had such mixed feelings reading this book, in a good way. I hated Chanel who is a ruthless, shrewd woman who will do whatever she needs to in order to succeed, even becoming a nazi spy. I felt no sympathy for her, only disgust… and yet
The writing drew me in. I don’t agree with Chanel’s choices, but I was intrigued by her life during the war and all she did to try to save her own skin. This pick from books about WWII is a must-read.
It was fascinating to read about regardless of my personal feelings about the heroine of the story. She’s not written to be liked, but rather to be examined and no list of books set in Paris would be complete without her.
I’d recommend this story if you are looking to uncover the more sinister side of the renowned icon.
Friendship Books Set in World War 2
Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini
This book was fascinating but SOOOOOOOOO long. It felt like I was listening to it for weeks on end and I think some of it could have been cut out for sure, but the writing was captivating and the story was fresh.
A lot has been written about WWII but this story focuses on the before. In the years before WWII broke out, the people that tried to stop the atrocities and those that tried to prevent Hitler from coming to power.
It was so interesting, and frankly scary, to see the slow slide of acceptance from the German people. It was also frightening to see the parallels that seem to be coming about today in America. As books about WWII go, this one is all too relatable.
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffner and Annie Barrows
This story about the island of Guernsey’s occupation during WWII features a book club that started to deceive the German soldiers. The members of the book club quickly become friends. Can you think of a better book for book clubs than one about a book club?
When a young novelist finds out about their society, she beings a correspondence and eventually visits them to learn more.
In this pick from the list of books about secret societies, the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society must remain secret for their safety rather than by choice. The story is told entirely in letters and was recently turned into a Netflix movie! We both love this novel from books about WWII.
The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff
Noa has been cast out after becoming pregnant by a Nazi Soldier. She is forced to give up her baby as well and now finds herself living at a railway station and cleaning to earn her stay. When she finds a boxcar filled with Jewish infants being transported to a concentration camp, Noa grabs a baby and runs.
She finds safety with a German circus and must learn to become a trapeze artist to remain hidden in plain sight. This is a powerful story about love and friendship and a beautiful read from books about WWII.
Books about Female Spies in WWII
Three Hours in Paris by Cara Black
Did you know that Hitler only visited Paris once during the occupation of WWII? I didn’t but I loved this fictional story of why that might have been.
It was so refreshing to read a story with a badass female spy that actually didn’t need saving from the men in her life. This heart-pumping historical fiction pick from books about WWII is worth the listen (or read!)
Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal
The thing I love about Susan Elia MacNeal is that she doesn’t make the females in her series meek. She puts them center stage in the middle of the war; solving mysteries, spying, fighting, and the like.
The women in this historical fiction series are tough cookies who don’t need a man’s protection. I adored the whipsmart Maggie Hope who is at the center of this female spy series. I’m only a few books in but I love each one.
Code Name Hélène: A Novel by Ariel Lawson
I LOVED this book so much. It is so beautifully written, amazingly researched, and absolutely enthralling. This book is based on the life of Nancy Wake who is a nurse and journalist who becomes a Special Operations Executive during WWII.
She was an amazing woman and I had never heard of her before this book. It has wonderful characters, a fabulous story, romance, adventure, and the terrifying reality of life during WWII. This is a five-star read from this list of books about WWII.
Love Spy Books? We do too! Click for more books about Female Spies.
Historical Fiction Books About France During World War 2
The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff
I love Pam Jenoff’s previous book, The Orphan Train. So, It did not surprise me that I loved this book too. In 1946 Grace is passing through Grand Central station when she finds a suitcase.
Inside she finds a dozen pictures of women and is determined to find out who they are and who owns the suitcase. The story moves between Grace and Eleanor Trigg, the owner of the suitcase and leader of a ring of female spies throughout World War 2.
The Paris Apartment by Kelly Bowen
Oh, how I loved this book.
Part historical fiction, part mystery, and part love story, this book was so well written and the story was delivered perfectly. This is one of the picks from the list of books set in Paris that is dual-timeline.
In 2017, Aurelia inherits an apartment in Paris when her grandmother dies. She is not prepared for what she finds inside the apartment that she never knew existed. Now she must get the help of an art restorer to discover the history and the mystery surrounding the apartment and its contents.
In 1942, Estelle is living in Paris under Nazi occupation. When the Germans come to take away her beloved friends, Estelle does everything she can to help them. This is a dual-timeline pick from books about WWII that should not be missed.
Lana’s War by Anita Abriel
I loved this story and I need to sing its praises. If you love books about WWII, this one is for you! I’ve never read a book set in the French Riviera during this time, so I found the new setting particularly intriguing.
After watching her husband get shot by an SS officer for hiding Jewish children, Lana joins the French Resistance. Lana, Guy, and Odette have stolen my heart. I can’t recommend this one enough!
Fantasy Books About WWII
Life after Life by Kate Atkinson
This masterful work by Kate Atkinson is family drama, historical fiction and magical realism all rolled into one fantastic book.
Ursula Todd is born one night in 1910 and dies before taking her first breath. She is born again on the same snowy night in 1910 as so the story continues. Ursula lives her lives over and over hoping that she can get it right and change her story.
The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman
I love Alice Hoffman and for me, this was her best book yet. During WWII, in Germany, Hanni Kohn knows that she must do something to save her daughter from the Nazis In desperation, she seeks out someone who can make a Golem take her daughter to safety.
Instead of the Rabbi, it is his daughter Ettie who helps and creates Ava. The life of the three women is forever intertwined. This beautiful story about love, life, and friendship is more than I could have hoped for. If you love fantasies and are looking for historical fiction, this pick from books about WWII is perfect for you.
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
I listened to this feel-good book and it was unreal. I want my son to read this so badly but, I also want him to listen to it as well. The full-cast audiobook plays music so it is a full sensory experience.
The story is three tales woven together in one with a magical harmonica at the center. The story follows a harmonica as it lands in the hands of Freidrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California set during WWII.
Part fairy tale and part historical fiction, this is one of the novels about music that is amazing for middle-grade and adults alike. We even included it on our list of Book Lists for 13-Year-Olds
Click for more Historical Fantasy Books!
Books about Families Set During WWII
Beyond that, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash
I’ve read a lot of books about WWII but not as many books about what it was like after the war. This particular story is abut Bea, an 11-year-old sent to America during the bombings in London. She assimilates into an American family with two sons during the war years, only to be wrenched away at the end of the war.
Her time in America forever changes Bea, and she struggles to reconnect to her home country and her family. As she grows up, her American family is never far from her heart. I loved to see how she merged her two families over the course of her life. While often sad at times, it was truly a lovely tale.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This is a remarkable story of two sisters who live in France. As historical fiction goes, this one set the standard for me. It is one of my all-time favorite books. It details how they survive the Second World War under Nazi Occupation. The sisters are separated by time and have completely different experiences in the war.
This book is one of the books that should be read in a lifetime. It is a total tear-jerker and one of those books about WWII and books set in France that are basically essential reading! If you are looking for the best book club books, this is one of them.
Winter of the World by Ken Follett
In the second book of the Century Trilogy, we follow the next generation of the same 5 families from Fall of Giants as they navigate their lives around the globe during WWII.
We see the fortunes of the families as they rise and fall and we get to see what happens to the generation before. The last book in the series, Edge of Eternity, follows the children of this generation into the cold war. The whole trilogy is a must-read.
The Lost Vintage by Anne Mah
This mystery book feels like a warm hug. A little bit of historical fiction, a little bit of mystery, and a little bit of romance. It was so lovely to read at sunset with a glass of wine.
The writing, the story, the whole thing made this book a no-brainer for our feel-good books list and our fiction books about wine.
Kate is working to become a certified wine expert and the only thing standing in her way are the Burgundy wines at her family’s estate (and her first love who lives nearby).
While dealing out the basement filled with generations of belongings, Kate starts to learn about her family during the WWII occupation. Of all the WWII books, this is the one we recommend the most and we have never had anyone not love it.
Romance Books set in World War 2
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
Clocking in at over 500 pages, I wasn’t sure I could handle a book about WWII and the holocaust that was that long. However, I decided to read it and boy am I glad I did!
The story is part coming of age, part wartime survival. The characters come to life, flaws and all, as you experience the thrill of first love, the loss of innocence, and the grittiness of war.
The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
This epic love story can almost rival that of Jamie and Claire. This saga takes place over decades and all over the world. An epic love story set in WW2 Leningrad.
It was a fantastic story from a historical fiction perspective because I really learned a lot about everyday life in that era. Like Outlander, it’s a whopping 1000 pages but I couldn’t stop! This is one of the best historical romance books about WWII.
WWII Books about Books
The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles
WWII books felt a little been-there, done-that to me recently but this book has me back to loving the sub-genre. And even with so many books set in Paris, this book still felt fresh.
What makes this story different is the setting – The American Library in Paris. I loved hearing about the librarians and how they tried to help their Jewish subscribers.
The story sucked me and had me thinking about the war in a new light. I need to add it to our best books about WW2 list for sure.
The Bookseller’s Secret by Michelle Gable
I had to make a reel for this book because Nancy Mitford is such eye candy!
This dual-timeline historical fiction novel is set in both WWII London, where we see a floundering Nancy Mitford as a bookseller, getting inspired to write The Pursuit of Happiness, and the present day, where another floundering writer is looking to Mitford for inspiration.
Nancy is the character that shines in this WWII books pick and I love that she’s such a dynamic force.
The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II by Madeline Martin
Wow, did I love this book! Grace has always wanted to live in London and finds herself working at a bookshop as WWII looms on the horizon.
Grace’s newfound love of books, the store, and the friends who have become family, become the glue that holds her together during air raids, blitzes, and nights spent in darkness. If you love WWII books then this pick about bookstores is a must-read.
Love Books about Books? We do too! That’s why we created the Ultimate List of Books about Books!
Non-Fiction WWII Books
Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy
I’m not generally a huge non-fiction reader unless the topic is of particular interest to me. Having seen the Imitation Game and read quite a few non-fiction books about coding in war times, I thought this one would be interesting.
It was a truly fascinating read of all the books about WWII! I loved finding out about the trials and tribulations of the real-life heroes of the war.
The Light of Days by Judy Batalion
This harrowing non-fiction book tells the stories of the Jewish female resistance members during WW2. These women have not been given nearly enough attention for their bravery, fearlessness, and sacrifice.
As Battalion explores the different experiences each female operative goes through during the war, I had tears streaming down my face. The sheer gall of these women was inspiring to me, especially in light of the danger they were in if caught out.
I picked this up during International Holocaust day and I couldn’t put it down. A must-read for those looking for WWII books and courage in the face of hatred.
Middle Grade and YA Books about WWII
Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
This book was such an unexpected beauty for me. Books about WWII are most often inherently extremely heavy. I love the way this book takes the story of Briar Rose (AKA Sleeping Beauty) and turns it into a story about the Holocaust.
It does not trivialize the atrocities of that time but rather, it makes the subject more approachable to a younger audience. I Beautifully written and well done.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This is a book that is narrated by Death. He tells the story of Liesel, a young girl in Nazi Germany in 1939. Liesel is living with her foster parents and learning to read from stolen books.
She also shares these books with the Jewish man who is hiding in her basement. This book is brilliant, powerful, poignant, and unforgettable. While technically a YA book, this book is literary fiction at its finest and is the best from WWII books.
The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
I read this book in a few hours and immediately ordered the sequel The War I Finally Won. Ada is a 10 year old girl who lives in a one-room world gazing at the world from one window. She was born with a club foot and teaches herself to walk in secret. When the children who lived in London were evacuated to go to the country at the start of WW2, Ada escapes her abusive mother and leaves London with her little brother.
There is so much depth to this book. It is a Newbury Honor book and the Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award for middle grade. This middle-grade historical fiction is a story of love and survival in the face of overwhelming obstacles.
Do not be fooled that it is written for middle grades. It is emotionally crafted and brilliantly written and is my favorite on this list of WWII books for kids.
Did we choose the best books about WWII or is your favorite missing?
8 Powerful WWII Books for Kids
The perfect picks to introduce this important historic event to children.
You missed the scientific aspect of the war; specifically the race between the Allies and the Germans to develop the atomic bomb. And the key role played by Dr. Lise Meitner, the female, Jewish physicist who discovered atomic fission, only to be erased from history because of her gender and her cultural heritage. Dr. Hannah Weiss, the central figurer in espionage thriller, HANNAH’S WAR published by Little, Brown in March, was inspired by Dr. Lise Meitner. It explores a completely overlooked, yet fascinating, aspect of WWII. Highly recommended!
Hannah’s War is sitting on my bookshelves! I’ll be sure to add it to the list after I read it.
I’m officially adding Helene and the Hoffman book to my list! My absolute fave is Lilac Girls — it’s so haunting, and reading it a few years back really re-ignited my spark for reading because I felt there was so shocked this happened and I had never heard about it before.
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