34 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 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*

All the Light We Cannot See and more of the best books about WWII
34 Best Books about WWII: Historical Fiction, Romance, and More! 50

Table of Contents

The Best Historical Fiction Books about WWII

The Goddess of Warsaw

The Goddess of Warsaw by Lisa Barr

The story opens in 2005 with legendary actress Lena Browning, telling her dark, daring past to an actress who wants to star in and direct a biopic about Lena. It then flashes forward to Lena’s time in the Warsaw Ghetto.

There, Bina Blonski as she was known at the time, narrates a story of persistence and sacrifice within the Ghetto walls. Torn between two brothers and with an instinct for survival, Bina uses her Arayan looks and skills as an actress to work for the resistance.

Eventually, the story returns to 2005 and post-war Hollywood where we learn how Bina became Lena and how Lena has always continued the fight against those who seek her annihilation.

Why I Love It: This is the best story I’ve ever read about the Holocaust because it depicts Jewish people, particularly women, as fierce fighters determined to prove their right to exist. I was inspired and awed by both the writing and the characters.

I laughed, cried, screamed in frustration, and was on the edge of my seat throughout. The tension was so high at times I found myself fidgeting, walking around, and wringing my hands. I’ll be recommending this book for years to come. It’s an absolute must-read. #Gifted

Find this book in Books about the Holocaust / World War II Books / Best Historical Fiction Books of 2024 /Ultimate List of Best Historical Fiction Books

all the light we cannot see

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 coming-of-age 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.

Find this book in Coming-of-Age Books / Books Set in France / WWII Books / Best Books for Book Clubs

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. That perspective makes this novel unique among these books about WWII and is truly a thought-provoking book.

Find this book in Books About WWII / Books Set in France / Thought Provoking Books / Books With a Color in the Title / Holocaust Books

The Little Liar

The Little Liar: A Novel by Mitch Albom

This book by Mitch Albom is a powerful novel set during the Holocaust. It follows the journey of eleven-year-old Nico Krispis, who must confront a heart-wrenching decision that forever changes his life.

Nico and his companions, Sebastian and Fanni, survive the death camps and search for each other. The story explores the consequences of deception, the struggle for survival, and the power of love. Narrated by Truth, this is a powerful and poignant book.

Find this book in Best Books about WWII / H17 Devastating Must-Read Books About the Holocaust

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 is one of my favorite books about WWII. And while this book is fiction, it is similar to many true stories.

Historical Fiction

Ultimate List of Historical Fiction

Love Historical Fiction? The Ultimate List of Historical Fiction is the perfect list for you. It is carefully divided by time.

The Rose code and more of the best books about WWII
34 Best Books about WWII: Historical Fiction, Romance, and More! 51

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 royal novel, so the writing and story are both top-notch.

Find this book in Ultimate List of Mystery Books / WWII Books / Royal Reads / Books With Color in the Title

The Distant Hours

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. This is one of the cozy books you will want to curl up and read without stopping. We recommend this book to anyone who loves The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Find this book in Kate Morton Books / Books About WWII

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 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.

The Queen's Secret and more of the best books about WWII
34 Best Books about WWII: Historical Fiction, Romance, and More! 52

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 biography 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 biographical novel 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

The Queen of Paris by Pamela Binnings Ewen

I had such mixed feelings reading this biographical novel, 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 fictionalized biography 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 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.

the guernsey literary and potato peel pie society

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 begins a correspondence and eventually visits them to learn more. 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 heartwarming novel. If you have not read this cozy book, we highly recommend it to anyone who loved The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner.

Find this book in Secret Society Books / Books About WWII / Friendship Books / Book Club Books / Books About Books

29239940

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

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. 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 mystery series are tough cookies who don’t need a man’s protection. I adored Maggie Hope who is whipsmart and at the center of this female spy series. I’m only a few books into this British mystery series 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, a nurse and journalist, who became 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.

Lana's War and more of the best books about WWII
34 Best Books about WWII: Historical Fiction, Romance, and More! 53

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

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.

lanas war

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!

Echo and more of the best books about WWII

Fantasy Books About WWII

Life after Life

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Ursula Todd is born one night in 1910 and died before taking her first breath. She is born again on the same snowy night in 1910 as so the story continues.

Ursula lives her life over and over hoping that she can get it right and change her story. As she grows, she grapples with family life and WWII. This unique story is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Why I Love It: This masterful work by Kate Atkinson is a family drama, historical fiction, and magical realism all rolled into one fantastic book.

Find this book in Best WWII Books / Books Like the Time Traveler’s Wife / Magical Realism / Time Loop Books

the world that we knew

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman

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.

I love Alice Hoffman books and for me, this was her best book yet.  Every time I read a book, it becomes my new favorite. If you love fantasies and are looking for historical fiction, this pick from fantasy books for adults is an amazing book. The fact that it is also a book about WWII makes it that much better!

echo

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

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.

Part fairy tale and part historical fiction, this is one story that is amazing for middle grade and adults alike. Each child has their own adventure but the end brings the three stories together in a beautiful way.

Why We Love This Book: I listened to this feel-good book and it blew me away. The full-cast audiobook plays music so it is a full sensory experience. In our opinion, this story is best in audiobook format. 
Appropriate for ages 10-12
Find this book in
World War II Books for Kids / Magical Realism Books / Books for 13-Year-Olds / Audiobooks for Kids / Novels About Music

Click for more Historical Fantasy Books!

Books about Families Set During WWII

Beyond that the Sea

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 about 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.

Why I liked it: I loved how she merged her two families throughout her life. While often sad at times, it was truly a lovely tale.

Find this book in Beach Reads 2023 / Family Sagas / Seaside Books

Those who are saved

Those Who Are Saved by Alexis Landau

Those Who Are Saved is about one mother and the impossible choices she has to try and save her daughter during WWII. ⁣


⁣When she finds out she has to go to an internment camp, she sends her daughter, Lucie, to stay with her French Governess to keep Lucie alive. When she has a chance to escape to the United States, there is no time to get Lucie. ⁣

And thus begins the wait for the end of the war and the search for her missing daughter. I was compulsively flipping pages as I strived to learn if mother and daughter would be united once more. Thank you Putnam for my copy of this book.

The Nightingale

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

March 2023 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

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

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 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.

The Invisible Bridge  and more of the best books about WWII
34 Best Books about WWII: Historical Fiction, Romance, and More! 54

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 in Outlander. This saga takes place over decades and all over the world. This is an epic love story that begins in Leningrad during WWII.

Tatiana Metanova meets Alexander, an officer of the Red Army. Amid the terror of the war, the two fall in love, but Alexander is keeping a secret that can devastate them all.

This is a fantastic story from a historical fiction perspective because of the attention to detail. I learned a lot about everyday life in that era. Like Outlander, it’s a whopping 1000 pages but I couldn’t stop!

Find this book in Historical Romance / Books About WWII / Books Like Outlander / Cozy Books / Books with Colors in the Title

The Paris Library and more of the best books about WWII
34 Best Books about WWII: Historical Fiction, Romance, and More! 55

WWII Books about Books

The Paris Library and the February 2021 Novel Ideas.

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 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 pick from WWII books and I love that she’s such a dynamic force. This is a great pick in novels about writers.

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 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 1

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 and it did not disappoint.

This is such an amazing feel-good nonfiction book. 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 that we rarely hear about. This is a perfect non-fiction pick in books like Lessons in Chemistry.

Light of Days

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 and more 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

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

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

I read this realistic fiction 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 by this middle grade fiction. It is emotionally crafted and brilliantly written and is my favorite on the list of WWII books for kids.

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

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9 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!

  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.

  3. I suggest you include in your list of WWII fiction: The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker, Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson, and The Long Flight Home by Alan Hlad.