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The Best Novels About World War 2

Updated May 13, 2021 15.1k votes 2.4k voters 153.4k views102 items

List RulesFiction that uses WWII as a setting or major theme

This is a list about the best novels about World War 2 - basically a genre onto itself considering how extensively it has been covered in literature and art. But what are the best historical books about World War 2? Many you have probably heard of because they have won awards or have been turned into movies. Also known as the Second World War, this global war lasted from 1939 – 1945. It involved the vast majority of the world’s nations that eventually formed two opposing alliances, the Allies and the Axis. WW2 books can be novels that focus on the war itself as the central story, or they can feature the war tangentially, as a force that impacts the lives of its main characters.

World War 2 was the most widespread war in history and was marked by the deaths of millions of civilians due to the use of nuclear weapons and the Holocaust; it was the deadliest war in the history of the world. It ended May 8, 1945, and the world was left picking up the pieces from the battlefield. WWII was responsible for the formation of the United Nations, a program that fosters international co-operation to prevent future conflicts. Many biographies were birthed from this time period in history, including some of the world’s greatest novels like The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and Thomas Keneally’s Schindler's Ark which later inspired the film Schindler’s List. Good WW2 lists continue to come out every year, with top novels like All the Light We Cannot See winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015.

While true stories emerged that would forever capture our hearts, this list features some noteworthy WW2 fictional stories that many times were based on true events that occurred. 
  • 1


    Ian McEwan
    Atonement is a British family saga novel written by author Ian McEwan and published in 2001....  more
  • 2
    War and Remembrance is a novel by Herman Wouk, published in 1978, which is the sequel to The...  more
  • 3

    The Winds of War

    Herman Wouk
    Herman Wouk
    The Winds of War is Herman Wouk's second book about World War II, the first being The Caine...  more


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  • 4

    The Nightingale

    Kristin Hannah
    "The Nightingale" is a literary fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen about an emperor who...  more
  • 5

    The Book Thief

    Markus Zusak
    The Book Thief is a novel by Australian author Markus Zusak. First published in 2005, the book...  more

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  • 6

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  • 7

    King Rat

    James Clavell
    King Rat is a 1962 novel by James Clavell. Set during World War II, Clavell's literary debut...  more
  • 8


    Elie Wiesel
    Night is a work by Elie Wiesel about his experience with his father in the Nazi German...  more


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  • 9


    Joseph Heller
    Catch-22 is a satirical novel by the American author Joseph Heller. He began writing it in...  more

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  • 10


    Kurt Vonnegut
    Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death is a satirical novel...  more

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  • 11
    The Bridge over the River Kwai is a novel by Pierre Boulle, published in French in 1952 and...  more
  • 12
    The Eagle Has Landed is a book by British writer Jack Higgins, set during World War II and...  more
  • 13

    A novel inspired by the life of Marian Rejewski, the Polish mathematician who first solved Enigma in 1932. The novel follows Marian's life and the adventures of the Polish codebreaking team as they flee  Poland after it's invasion in 1939

  • 14
    The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a 2006 novel by Irish novelist John Boyne. Unlike the months...  more
  • 15

    The Caine Mutiny

    Herman Wouk
    The Caine Mutiny is a 1951 Pulitzer Prize–winning novel by Herman Wouk. The novel grew out of...  more

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  • 16
    The Thin Red Line is American author James Jones's fourth novel. It draws heavily on Jones's...  more
  • 17

    Battle Cry

    Leon Uris
    Leon Uris
    Battle Cry is a novel by American writer Leon Uris, published in 1953. Many of the events in...  more
  • 18
    The Naked and the Dead is a 1948 novel by Norman Mailer. It was based on his experiences with...  more

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  • 19
    Eye of the Needle is a spy thriller novel written by Welsh author Ken Follett. It was...  more

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  • 20

    Sarah's Key

    Tatiana De Rosnay
    Sarah's Key is a book written by Tatiana De Rosnay....  more
  • 21
    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a book by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie...  more
  • 22

    Memoirs of a Geisha

    Arthur Golden
    Memoirs of a Geisha is a historical novel by American author Arthur Golden, published in 1997....  more

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  • 23
    Run Silent, Run Deep is a 1958 film starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster, based on the...  more

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  • 24

    The Unknown Soldier

    Väinö Linna
    The Unknown Soldier is author Väinö Linna's first major novel and his other major work besides...  more
  • 25

    Suite Française

    Irène Némirovsky
    Suite Francaise is a book by Irène Némirovsky....  more