Post D-Day: 7 WWII Books to Read

76 years ago, the Allied Forces stormed Normandy beaches and began the end of World War II. Since then, writers have been busy crafting works of historical fiction that depict the war, from all different perspectives. In honor of D-Day (June 6th), here is a list of must-read WWII novels. 


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  1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

What is so great about this novel is that it does a rare two things: it tells a sympathetic story of a Germans during WWII and does so from the p.o.v. of DeathDeath narrates the life of a young German girl, her neighbors, and the Jew that is hiding in her basement. It’s an eye-opening work that illustrates how rough the war and the Nazi regime were on everyone. (Bonus: theres also a movie that will make you cry) 



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2. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah 

Hannah’s novel tells the story of two sisters in France during the Nazi invasion. It time jumps as it unfolds what happens to the two of them; one who joins the resistance and one who has a Nazi living in her house. The end will shock you, and it will probably make you cry.  



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3. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr 

Okay so this one will make you cry too- I’ll just say it: all of these books will. But it’s worth it, I promise. All the Light We Cannot See weaves the lives of a blind French girl and a German boy with a talent for using radios. It’s a beautifully told story and it may even restore your faith in humanity.



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4. The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure 

Belfoure’s protagonist is an Oskar Schindler type who agrees to help Jews for money and then grows to carand become invested in saving lives. The man, Lucien Bernard, is a French architect who agrees to design hiding places for Jews but is faced with the realities of the Holocaust when one of those designs don’t work. It will leave you asking the question: if a person initially does something good because of selfish intentions, does that make them good? Oh, and it will also leave you crying.  



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5. The World that We Knew by Alice Hoffman 

Hoffman throws some of her signature magical realism into WII with this novel. It is about a Berlin-based Jewish woman, Lea, who gets a golem (a mystical Jewish creature made of clay) from her Rabbis daughter, Ettie. The golem is sworn to protect Lea’s daughter and the two escape to France, where their paths cross again with Ettie. It’s a beautiful story about what a mother would sacrifice for her child. (I mean, how could you NOT cry from that?) 


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6. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn 

The book is about a group of female spies in Germany during the war, called the Alice Network. It jumps through before, during, and after the war, and will take you on a journey all over Europe and America. The book will fascinate you and show just how badass women can be. (But even badass women cry sometimes is all I’m saying) 


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7. Bonus: In the Garden of Beasts by EriLarson 

While Larson’s book is actually a work of non-fiction, with his writing style it reads like a fictional piece. He chronicles the story of the U.S. ambassador to Germany and his family, during the political rise of HitlerIt provides a close look at the rise of the Nazi regime and U.S. diplomatic relations during their isolationist phase. It also, like most of Larson’s work, is worth reading to de-stigmatize the idea that all non-fiction is dry and boring. And, it may be the only one that won’t make you cry!  


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