32 Best Books about WWII: Historical Fiction, Romance, and More!

Best books about WWII

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 post contains our Amazon affiliate link, if you purchase anything we get a few cents to further indulge our love of reading*

All the Light We Cannot See and more of the best books about WWII
32 Best Books about WWII: Historical Fiction, Romance, and More! 42

Table of Contents

The Best Historical Fiction Books about WWII

All The Light We Cannot Seeand more 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.

Lilac Girls and more 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.

Once We Were Brothers and more 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 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.

The Rose code and more of the best books about WWII
32 Best Books about WWII: Historical Fiction, Romance, and More! 43

Mystery Books about WWII

The Rose Code

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.

The Distant Hours and more books about WWII

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.

For more books like these, check out our list of Kate Morton Books Ranked.

The lIght in the Ruinsand more books about WWII

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 murder 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 story. It totally kept me on the edge of my seat.

The Queen's Secret and more of the best books about WWII
32 Best Books about WWII: Historical Fiction, Romance, and More! 44

Books about Famous People in WWII

kennedy debutante

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 queens secret

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. 

the queen of paris

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.

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

Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini

This books 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. 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 interested, 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. 

the guernsey literary and potato peel pie society by mary ann shafferannie barrows

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.

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!

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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.

Books about Female Spies in WWII

Three Hours in Paris

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 story with a badass female spy that actually didn’t need saving from the men in her life. This heart-pumping historical fiction is worth the listen (or read!)

Mr. Churchills Secretary

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 Helene

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.

Love Spy Books? We do too! Click for more books about Female Spies.

Lana's War and more of the best books about WWII
32 Best Books about WWII: Historical Fiction, Romance, and More! 45

Historical Fiction Books About France During World War 2

the lost girls of Paris

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 and more books about WWII

The Paris Apartment by Kelly Bowen

Oh how I loved this book.

The Paris Apartment by Kelly Bowen. Part historical fiction, part mystery and part love story, this book was so well-written and the story was delivered perfectly.

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 new existed. Now she must get the help of an art restorer to discovery 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 book is one of the more uplifting stories on the list. It even made our list of feel good books!

lanas war

Lana’s War by Anita Abriel

I loved this story and I need to sing its praises.⁣ If you love WWII Historical Fiction, 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!

Echo and more of the best books about WWII

Fantasy Books About WWII

Life after Life

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


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 Nazi’s  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.

echo

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

The Nightingale

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

This is a remarkable story of two sisters who live in France. 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 that are basically essential reading!

Winter of the World

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

The Lost Vintage by Anne Mah

This 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 books set in France, this is the one we recommend the most and we have never had anyone not love it.

The Invisible Bridge  and more of the best books about WWII
32 Best Books about WWII: Historical Fiction, Romance, and More! 46

Romance Books set in World War 2

the invisible bridge

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.

bronze Horseman

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 books about WWII for romance fans.

The Paris Library and more of the best books about WWII
32 Best Books about WWII: Historical Fiction, Romance, and More! 47

WWII Books about Books

The Paris Library and the February 2021 Novel Ideas.

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

WWII fiction 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 Booksellers Secret

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 book and I love that she’s such a dynamic force.

The Last Bookshop in London and more books about WWII

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 new found 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.

Love Books about Books? We do too! That’s why we created the Ultimate List of Books about Books!

Middle Grade and YA Books about WWII

Briar Rose and more books about WWII

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

This book was such an unexpected beauty for me.  Books about the Holocaust 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.  Beautifully written and well done.

The Book Thief and more books about WWII

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 an 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.

the war that saved my life

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 grade. It is emotionally crafted and brilliantly written and is my favorite book on this list of WWII for kids.

Did we choose the best books about WWII or is your favorite missing?

WWII Books Kids

8 Powerful WWII Books for Kids

The perfect picks to introduce this important historic event to children.

Do you love historical fiction as much as we do? Check out our amazing list of best historical fiction books!

8 Comments

  1. 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!

    1. Hannah’s War is sitting on my bookshelves! I’ll be sure to add it to the list after I read it.

  2. 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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