7 Historical Books To Read To Commemorate Pearl Harbor

For the 81st anniversary of the Pearl Harbor bombing, here are seven historically-rich books certain to give a new perspective.

Book Culture Classics Non-Fiction On This Day Recommendations

81 years ago, on December 7th, 1941, Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbor, a United States naval base stationed on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. The catastrophe claimed 2,403 lives and sank nearly 16 ships over the course of one hour. It would also prove to impact the world, as tensions continued to grow during World War II. A domino effect in many countries, the attack on Pearl Harbor would lead to the United States joining the war, hundreds of millions of lives lost, and a total shift in world powers. It would change how the world would view war for generations.

At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor by Gordon W. Prange


Described as an intense and absorbing suspense novel, Prange crafts a story fashioned from interviews with American and Japanese leaders, and gives new life to an event that America cannot, and never will, forget.

Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness by Craig Nelson


Created from years of research, millions of documents, and hundreds of accounts ranging from presidents to the lone teenager who took down a fighter plane, this book fashions a story from both Japanese and American perspectives to re-evaluate the facts of the 1941 bombing. It crafts a tale backed by years of studying and describes Pearl Harbor as the “birth of the America we live in today.”

To Wake the Giant: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Jeff Shaara


Shaara, an NYT Bestselling author, crafts a tale of the events from the hub of activity–Washington. From the perspectives of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, the Admiral Isoroku, and many other diverse characters, it is a story showcasing the pain, tragedy, and humanity that came from the tragedy and horror of the Pearl Harbor bombing.

Pearl Harbor Ghosts: The Legacy of December 7, 1941, by Thurston Clarke


Clarke recounts the events of Pearl Harbor through a “meticulous recreation with lively reporting.” Through a freeze-frame perspective, he tells a tale of grief on an event that impacted not only the Americans on the mainland, but the people of Hawaii and the impacts the attack had on them.

Countdown to Pearl Harbor: The Twelve Days to the Attack by Steve Twomey


Written by a Pulitzer-prize-winning reporter, Steve Twomey diverts off the path of telling the events of the day of to the twelve days leading up to it, including the signs that could have prevented it altogether. It follows the perspective that the Japanese would be unable to complete such a task. It tells the thoughts of the American Commander of the Pacific Fleet and whether they were a legitimate threat. Overall, it tells the tale of how such an event as Pearl Harbor could have been avoided if only we’d had better communication.

Day of Infamy: The Bombing of Pearl Harbor by Walter Lord


Walter Lord is considered a renowned historian in his field and provides intimate glimpses of the attack on Pearl Harbor. His story swirls around heroism and sacrifice, following both Japanese and American perspectives to tell the story.

Sunday in Hell: Pearl Harbor Minute by Minute by Bill McWilliams


This book gives a panoramic view of the events of Pearl Harbor, sharing perspectives from admirals and presidents, down to deckhands and civilians. It uses historical records as well as more recent (2014) transcripts and information to craft a story built on the base of a historical turning point.

While these novels may begin to show a perspective of Pearl Harbor that many have not recognized before, it does not begin to shed light on the chaos and calamity that followed. Pearl Harbor was a horrendous event, with loss of life and destruction. It will go down in history as a turning point in the war, and, ultimately, completely shifted the world’s fate. It created a world today in which there are still evident markings in countries across Europe.

But on this day, December 7th, 2022, we continue to remember–and we mourn those we lost.

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