11 new books on the Second World War: fiction + non-fiction
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What do you think of when you hear “World War II books?” If I had to guess, it would be…The English patient, Where The book thief. Atonementperhaps. Flags of Our Fathers Where The Rape of Nanjingif you’re more of a non-fiction person.
World War II has been a popular topic in books for decades. Historians and novelists started writing about people and places soon after the United States entered the war (like all those movies), and they haven’t really given up, even though the United States is entered more and more conflicts and ushered us into an age of constant warfare – even if we don’t technically call it World War III. But these stories were often the ones we expected: white soldiers storming beaches or liberating death camps, their bodies buried beneath an endless sea of white crosses. But each new story brings us a new perspective, and recently we’ve learned more about those who weren’t praised in the early days. Not only are we still discovering new things about the events and people involved, but we are still finding ways to tell stories of lesser-regarded people who lived through a war that affected all parts of the occupied world, thanks to imperialism .
Now that you’ve read the classics (or re-read all your favorites), check out these new WWII books, either about the war or the period. Some will be familiar stories with Women Walking Away on the covers, while others explore bands and events that have long had to be recognized and discovered.
sisters in arms by Kaia Alderson
Have you ever heard of 6888 (Six Triple Eight)? They were the only battalion of the Black Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and they did a daring feat. This story brings us to the people who formed the Central Postal Directory Battalion – a small group of women who took the incredible backlog of correspondence with men posted in Europe and organized and distributed it in a fraction of the time they were supposed to do while dealing with systemic and localized racism and sexism. Queens.
The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin
I don’t know if we’re seeing a trend with library-themed WWII books (see The Little War Library by Kate Thompson), but a spy librarian is definitely an intriguing concept. And it turns out they were too a real thing! On one side you have Ava, a librarian from the Librarian of Congress, who is sent to Lisbon to pose as a librarian and gather intelligence. On the other hand, Elaine works for the resistance in a printing press in occupied France. The two get to know each other through coded messages and work together to help those who need it most. Looking for more WWII stuff from this author? Bonus: Madeline Martin also wrote London’s Last Bookshop.
Agent Josephine: American beauty, French hero, British spy by Damien Lewis
Josephine Baker is well known for her career as a music and film star, and many of us know her other career as a spy, but this book brings new research and sources into account to build on her life as a member of the French Paratroop Nurses and the extensive work she did serving not only the United States, but also the France that she chose. , and their partner and ally, Great Britain.
(I personally wish this book had come from a black scholar, but you know, the one who gets the research, I guess.)
fervor by Alma Katsu
Japanese internment camps, but make them a horror? Katsu strikes again with this story of a strange disease taking over a remote prison camp in Idaho. When Meiko and her daughter are taken from their home and put in a camp (even though her husband has just signed up to fight in the war), they will do anything to get out and get home. Things get even worse when a disease takes hold of their imprisoned fellow Americans, and she and some new friends must figure out what’s going on and how to stop it.
The diamond eye by Kate Quinn
Okay, did you hear about this woman who was a Russian sniper with a ridiculously high kill count? Well, now you have. In The diamond eye we discover Mila Pavlichenko, who begins the book as a university student in Kyiv as rumblings of Hitler invading Russia begin to form. She joins the Russian army, learns to be a sniper, and eventually joins the delegation to go to the United States. Eleanor Roosevelt makes several appearances, as does her husband. It’s a very detailed book, almost closer to history than fiction – but since we’ll never know what went on in many of those conversations or in those heads, it’s definitely a novel.
Resistance: the underground war against Hitler, 1939-1945 by Halik Kochanski
It took me a second to understand this book’s claim that it is the first comprehensive catalog of the various resistance efforts across Europe during World War II that “brings them together in one narrative”, but that is indeed what this book does.
Ruby Fielding’s Half-Life by Lydia Kang
In this historical mystery, Will and Maggie work for the war effort on the home front. One works for the Manhattan Project while the other spends his time at the Navy Yard. When they discover a young woman hiding under their stairs, they may both find themselves embroiled in something they didn’t want or expect, while falling in love with the mysterious woman.
Caribbean volunteers at war by Mark Johnson
Apparently there was a whole segment of the Royal Air Force in Britain that was made up of Caribbean volunteers? This book combines research and first-hand experience to tell the story of this group of men of African descent who were an integral part of British Bomber Command.
this light between us by Andrew Fukuda
When Japanese-American Alex and French Jew Charlie became pen pals in 1935, they thought they had little in common. But as they both become targets as teenagers – both of their outside and inside abusers – their friendship can no longer last as it did in years past, even across the ocean. ‘ocean.
The girls who crossed the line by Mari K. Eder
Retired Major General Mari K. Eder delves into the stories of 15 women who worked in uniform and out of uniform to further the success of the Allies. They supported the war effort as WAACs, spies, refugee sponsors, cartographers, and countless other jobs that, while not very prestigious, were essential to the work done in the field and across the sea.
Traitor by Amanda McCrina
This YA novel is the story of two teenagers who are thrust into the midst of war on the eastern front of the European conflict. As the city of Lwow is liberated from the Nazis, a young man torn between his Polish and Ukrainian heritage joins the Red Army to stay alive. But after accidentally killing someone, he is rescued by Ukrainian resistance fighters – whom he will follow, but not fully trust.
We will never learn all the stories from this period, even with all the new WWII books coming out, but as more are discovered they will continue to be written. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a starting point, check out this list of essential WWII reading, or this dive into the evolution of WWII storytelling. This list looks at books about Japanese internment camps, including Manzanar, where Alex in The light between us end. And if you want more, you can always check out our World War II archives.