With a death toll of almost 75 million people, 30 countries at war, large scale genocide and the first and last use of the atomic bomb, World War II was an event that impacted the lives of hundreds of millions of lives and changed the course of the world. As such, it has been explored through academic and scholarly work, films and documentaries, and in literature including memoirs, diaries, letters, fiction and non-fiction. With a plethora of stories, each one gut-wrenching and from parts of the world as far as Japan and America; with these stories telling of loss and victory, tragedy and resilience, books about World War II are without fail thought provoking.
- Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II by Iris Chang: The book deals with three aspects of the massacre and atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army in the city of Nanjingâ€”the events themselves from various perspectives; the aftermath and post-war reaction; and how and why it had been ignored for so many years.
- World War II Day By Day by Antony Shaw: Just as the name suggests, this book is a chronological history of the war and all the major battles and events on all fronts in it.
- Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer: This non-fiction book chronicles the Nazi years in Germany from military, cultural, social, and economic perspectives. It is incredibly detailed and is based on historical documents.
- The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank: This poignant diary written by a Jewish teenage girl, Anne Frank in hiding in Amsterdam is at once funny, bittersweet, sad and wise beyond the years of her author. Set in the years of Nazi occupation of Netherlands, Anne Frank writes about the day to day life in the annex where she hid with her family and other families and about her fears and hopes.
- Night by Elie Wiesel: Any memoir of a concentration camp survivor in the Holocaust is bound to be gut-wrenching, but Wiesel’s book breaks all boundaries in its honesty. In this short book, he is able to convey the horror of the time and confront issues of death and the meaning of humanity.
- With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene Sledge: The Pacific Theatre of World War II often receives less attention, but this stark memoir of combat makes it impossible to ignore. A no-holds barred book that unflinchingly tells stories of the battles that U.S. marines fought on Pacific islands.
- Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 by Antony Beaver: Based on survivor interviews and archival evidence of Germans and the Soviet, this book chronicles the siege of Stalingrad, arguably the turning point of the war and a story of cruelty and courage.
- Overlord: D-Day and the battle for Normandy by Max Hastings: This non-fiction book chronicles the events after the famous Normandy invasion by British and American troops. It is hard to read as it is a brutally honest in its depiction of war.
- Hiroshima by John Hersey: World War II was unique in its use of atomic bombs in warfare. Hiroshima tells the story of six survivors from the bombing of Hiroshima. The story follows these six people, starting a little before that fateful day till about a year later.
- A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II by Gerhard Weinberg: World War II was an incredibly complicated affair with many fronts and events in different theatres influencing each other. Weinberg’s book ties all these events together, providing a complete picture on the war and giving new perspectives on all aspects of it.
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