Welcome back to another post as part of my Saturday Book Lists series!
I am excited to share some of my favorite WWII novels today. This is one of my favorite genres; although I must admit that I have to space out these novels. I can’t read several back to back because they are still set during a dark time in the world’s history. However, I love these novels because they showcase the hope and resilience of the human spirit and show that beauty and light can still be found in places of darkness and horror.
These books are all set in different places during WWII from England to Germany and France to Seattle. I love the varying locations and experiences by different people on both sides of the war.
I focus on novels in this post but there are several biographies and memoirs that are definitely worth reading (like The Hiding Place) but I had to limit myself somewhere. Hope you enjoy this list!
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak // This is one of my favorite books of all time. If I had to pick a favorite book, this could be it. Narrated by Death himself, this novel tells the story of a young German girl who discovers the power of words and love. I love everything about this novel.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows // Another all time favorite. This epistolary novel (told in letters) describes the German occupation of the British island of Guernsey and the way their impromptu literary society changes their lives and the life of London based writer Juliet. A love letter to books and the power they have to change and save us. The recent movie adaptation is also lovely–especially because there are so many Downton Abbey stars in the cast.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford // I love this book too! This shows a lesser known side of the war set in 1940s Seattle and a Japanese Internment Camp in the US. It’s told from the perspective of Henry, a Chinese boy whose best friend, Keiko, is Japanese. Told in a dual timeline perspective, we see Henry befriending Keiko before the outbreak of war and his older self remembering that time 40 years later. Such a beautiful novel about the power of love and hope.
The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley // I read this Newbery Honor book last year and really enjoyed it. It’s set primarily in the English countryside during the evacuation of British children at the start of the war. I love Ada’s transformation through the novel and the ways she discovers joy and goodness in the everyday.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry // Another Newbery novel (this time the 1990 Medal Winner) that tells a simple story from WWII set in Denmark. This is a great way to introduce younger readers to WWII fiction that is based on the experiences of the Danish people smuggling their Jewish friends and neighbors to freedom in Sweden.
The Butterfly and the Violin & A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristi Cambron // These two novels make up Krist’s Hidden Masterpiece series. They are intertwined novels with dual timelines. The present day stories are connected while the WWII narratives are unique to each novel. These stories are beautiful narratives. They combine the power of love, art, and faith in the difficult settings of German concentration camps. There is nothing quite like Kristi’s work in the WWII genre. Love her work!
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein // I read this book for book club several years ago and loved it. It’s powerful, intense and unique. Told in a series of notes, rotating timelines, and narrative, this novel tells the story of best friends who are British spies whose mission goes wrong. Under German arrest, Verity must confess her mission or be executed. Surprising, evocative, and deeply moving, this is a novel that will change the way you see friendship, war, and the power of secrets.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr // One of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel tells two stories of two children–a German boy destined to work for the Nazis and a blind French girl desperate to see her father again. The stories are told in beautiful language and vibrant scenery. It seems that they will not connect until they suddenly do. This novel is brilliant and complex, overwhelming and intimate.
What are your favorite WWII novels?