Some of the most intriguing and impactful nonfiction books ever published are about World War II. The Second World War was never simply one war; rather, it was a number of wars combined into one. To call it a simple war is almost a misnomer. It was undoubtedly too enormous, diverse, and expansive to be recalled as a single event. The sheer number of novels written on it is evidence of that.
The only war in history that may have generated greater writing is the one that ended 20 years sooner. There have been countless articles, books, studies, interpretations, and reinterpretations on World War II. This might make choose what to read about the subject intimidating. Books must be picked carefully, just way a sniper chooses her prey.
Here are some books we have rounded up:
Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis by Ian Kershaw (1991)
Reading this book is like taking a shotgun ride into the warped mind of a maniac—a mind that is so frighteningly sad, dark, and twisted that it needs a guide. Fortunately, Ian Kershaw has been there a lot and is familiar with the beautiful route.
Instead of the inflated political strongman that history recalls, Kershaw depicts a lazy, distasteful, disillusioned loafer who was fortunate. Kershaw’s investigation into how a “spoiled child turned into the would-be macho man” is unparalleled in both breadth and depth as well as character complexity. Aside from a deep-seated loathing of the Bolsheviks, poor social skills, and a rather persistent case of donkey breath, this man was suffering from psychosis, Parkinson’s disease, and arteriosclerosis. He also had Parkinson’s disease. Yet he managed to persuade a country that waging a horrific, genocidal war was justified and that he was capable of conquering the entire planet.
This biography is a heavyweight from a world-class historian. It continues to be unbeaten in its division.
Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts (2018)
Winston Churchill famously told a buddy, “We are all worms.” But he said, “I do think I’m a glow worm,” and so he was. We are all familiar with the headlines; his stirring speeches are perpetually replayed in the background of Britain’s collective mentality; yet, Andrew Roberts’ outstanding biography delves further into the character of the elderly brute than anybody else has—possibly other than the subject himself.
The hardest part of writing Churchill’s biography is because he previously did it flawlessly (My Early Life, The World Crisis, The Second World War). However, Roberts never makes the mistake of attempting to outdo Churchill. He chronicles Churchill’s exciting life, from his birth in 1874 to his passing ninety years later, with the utmost expertise, humor, and no little degree of panache. He also does not mince words when discussing Churchill’s numerous errors. It is for this reason that Roberts’ book has the distinction of being “the best single-volume biography of Churchill ever written.”
A ground-breaking reexamination of the iconoclastic war commander by the best-selling, award-winning author of Napoleon and The Storm of War, based on a wealth of fresh information, including private correspondence and war cabinet discussions.
When we think of an example of unwavering courage, we think of Winston Churchill: the visionary leader who defied the prevailing wisdom and stayed steadfastly by his convictions even when no one else did. How, therefore, did little Winston grow up to be Churchill? What gave him the fortitude to confront Nazi Germany’s overwhelming force when bombs descended on London and so many others had yielded? Andrew Roberts provided us a tantalizing peek of Churchill the war leader in The Storm of War. Finally, a thorough and complete biography of one of history’s greatest leaders is available. It is both personally revealing and compulsively readable.
Exclusive access to a wealth of fresh information was given to Roberts, including transcripts of war cabinet sessions (the equivalent of the Nixon and JFK tapes), diaries, letters, unpublished memoirs, and in-depth notes the monarch took following their biweekly meetings. Roberts discovers the unspoken motivations driving Churchill after reading all of his letters, including the very private ones that Randolph Churchill had previously decided to conceal, and speaking with more than a hundred persons who knew or worked with him.
Churchill fought as hard to protect London as he did to defend the British Empire, which he placed his confidence in. He was more adept at appeasing recalcitrant individuals than other idealists since he began his career in South Africa and India.
Churchill is often thought of as a hero of the mechanized war era, but Roberts’ masterful study shows that he has just as much to teach us about the difficulties we face today and the core principles of bravery, perseverance, leadership, and moral conviction.
If This Is a Man by Primo Levi (1947)
Italian-Jewish author Primo Levi’s book If This Is a Man was originally released in 1947. It details his detention at the Auschwitz concentration camp (Monowitz) from February 1944 until the camp was liberated on January 27, 1945 as a member of the Italian anti-fascist resistance during World War II.
This should be the Holocaust book that every person reads in their lives. It is the most deep, eerie, and exquisitely beautiful novel about the tragedy that has ever been written.
Italian-Jewish scientist Primo Levi was detained and sent to Auschwitz in 1944 when he was a member of Italy’s anti-fascist resistance. The trauma of his experience is relived in If This Is a Man. In 1919, Primo Levi was born in Turin. Jews from Piedmont made up his ancestors.
Despite the limitations imposed by Mussolini’s racial legislation, he studied chemistry at the University of Turin and graduated summa cum laude in 1942. He was hired by a Swiss pharmaceutical business in Milan in 1942. Levi joined a resistance force in the Alps’ Aosta Valley in 1942, during the German takeover of northern and central Italy.
He was detained in December 1943, and in February 1944, he was sent to Auschwitz. Up to the camp’s liberation on January 27, 1945, he stayed there. The author of If This Is a Man describes his time in the camp.
If This Is a Man is a historical analysis of the growth and appeal of Nazism or a study of the causes and characteristics of evil. This serves as a road map to hell. It is a tale of widespread insanity, blatant wickedness, unbelievable ignorance and cruelty, but also of compassion, spirit, courage, and good fortune. Buy two copies in case you need a backup.
Marines in World War II Commemorative Series
In this U.S. document, the Marines’ legendary Pacific War engagements are described. A history of the Marines. Tinian, Saipan, the Marshall Islands, the Marianas Islands, DUKWs, spider holes, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, the 2nd Marine Division, Admiral Chester Nimitz, Major General Holland Smith, and the 4th Marine Division are a few of the topics discussed. The commanders of the V Amphibious Corps (VAC) started focusing on the next goal, the island of Tinian, which was clearly visible three miles off the southwest coast of Saipan, three weeks into the battle for Saipan.
For seven weeks, U.S. air and sea armadas had battered Saipan’s 9,000 Japanese army and navy soldiers, many of whom were veterans of the Manchuria wars. In late June, Marine Corps and Army artillery battalions gathered on Saipan’s southern shore added to the bombardment.
The assault operation had been assigned to the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions, both of which were still actively engaged in the battle for Saipan. Where they would land, though, remained an important open issue. The idea of landing on two slender sand strips on Tinian’s northwest coast, code-named White 1 and White 2, one measuring 60 yards wide and the other 160, received a lot of support from the planners.
The Marianas Expeditionary Force’s general commander, Vice Admiral Richmond K. Turner, was dubious. He leaned toward Tinian Town, the strongly guarded administrative and commercial hub of the island, which was surrounded by Yellow Beach, a collection of many long, sandy stretches. Successful American assaults in the Southwest Pacific, starting with Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands in August 1942, and in the Central Pacific, at Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands Campaigns in November 1943 were critical in signaling the beginning of the Japanese conquering wave. The conquering of regions occupied by the Japanese early in World War II had already gotten off to a stunning start for American Marine troops by the beginning of 1944.
It was now time to take one more, decisive action: an attack on the islands that Japan had previously controlled before 1941. After World War I, the League of Nations gave the Japanese control of these important islands, which sparked intrigue and rumors. It was going to be a tough day. The Navy fire support ships of the task force near Saipan Island increased their preliminary fires with all calibers of weaponry before dawn on June 15, 1944. Vice Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner gave the order to “Land the landing force” at 05:42. By 07:00, the landing ships, tank (LST) vessels had advanced to a position 1,250 yards (yards) or less behind the line of departure.
LSTs carrying soldiers started to disembark their passengers in landing trucks on tracks. Control vessels with Navy and Marine troops on board and equipped with radio gear positioned themselves and flew flags designating which beach accesses they controlled.
Tears in the Darkness
Tears in the Darkness offers a brand-new perspective on World War II that dispels common misconceptions about the conflict and demonstrates the depth of pain and loss experienced by all sides. The war for the small Philippine peninsula of Bataan, which lasted the first four months of 1942, involved American, Filipino, and Japanese troops. It was America’s first significant land engagement of World War II. The biggest single military loss in American history saw 76,000 Americans and Filipinos surrender. However, as Michael and Elizabeth M. Norman forcefully demonstrate in this brilliantly unique book, the defeat was just the start.
The Normans do astounding feats of reporting and literary empathy for the narrative. From then until the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, the prisoners of war endured an ordeal of unmatched cruelty and savagery: 41 months of captivity, starvation rations, dehydration, hard labor, terrible sickness, and torture – far from General Douglas MacArthur’s schemes. Ben Steele, the main character, is a Hemingway-esque character: a young cowboy turned sketch artist from Montana who enlisted in the army to see the globe. The story of a few Japanese troops is set against Steele’s account and the somber account of the Death March and its consequences.
Grant by Ron Chernow (2017)
Ron Chernow, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, is back with a sweeping and dramatic portrait of Ulysses S. Grant, one of our most fascinating generals and presidents. The life of Ulysses S. Grant has frequently been misinterpreted. He is all too frequently portrayed as a cynical failure, a foolish businessman, or as the victorious but cruel Union commander of the American Civil War.
However, Chernow demonstrates in his brilliant biography, the first to offer a thorough insight of the general and president whose fortunes surged and plummeted with dizzying speed and frequency, that these clichés don’t even come close to describing him. Grant was fumbling before the Civil War. His economic endeavors had failed miserably, and despite his valiant efforts during the Mexican War, he was forced to withdraw from the army in shame due to persistent claims of intoxication. Grant rose quickly through the ranks of the Union army during the war, triumphed in the battle of Shiloh and in the Vicksburg campaign, and ultimately defeated the renowned Confederate leader Robert E. Lee.
Along the process, Grant won over President Lincoln, emerged as his most dependable general, and emerged as the war effort’s strategic mastermind. Due to his military success, Grant was elected president twice, but his administration was marred by scandals implicating his closest advisers. More importantly, he fought for black Americans’ freedom and justice, dismantling the Ku Klux Klan and winning Frederick Douglass’ respect as “the vigilant, firm, impartial, and wise protector of my race.”
After leaving office, he was once more embarrassed by a handsome young conman on Wall Street, but he managed to save his reputation by collaborating with Mark Twain to write his memoirs, which are now regarded as a classic in the field. Chernow reveals the connections between these many tales with clarity, breadth, and meticulousness, offering new insight on the man Walt Whitman described as “nothing heroic… the greatest hero nonetheless.
The most profound knowledge of Grant is altered by Chernow’s insightful account of his lengthy battle with drinking. This is America’s best biographer, vividly illuminating one of our greatest but least honored presidents. Grant, considered to be the best biography ever written, is a masterful mix of meticulous research and literary genius that makes sense of every aspect of Grant’s life and explains how an unassuming Midwesterner could be both so common and so amazing.
Dear Mum and Dad (Dennis H Gwynne, Mark Gwynne)
In 1942, Dennis Gwynne traveled by sea to India to join his two brothers who were already there. He had a 22-year-old age. The letters from Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Gwynne between 1941 and 1945 are collected in the book Dear Mum & Dad. He served with the Gurkhas in the Burmese jungles, where he was wounded and lost an eye before receiving the Military Cross.
As the British Raj came to an end, Dennis takes us with him from England to India and then up into the Himalayan foothills, where he learns about the Gurkhas’ customs and festivals. The Gurkhas were perhaps the best fighters in the British Empire. With the monsoon, malaria, and rare leave, he vividly captures the continual danger and misery of jungle combat and life in Slim’s “Forgotten” Fourteenth Army..
In 1944, when the British Empire in India was at its greatest risk of extinction, Dennis and his soldiers play a crucial role in the defense of Imphal. Despite the grave circumstances, though, Dennis’s thoughts were constantly with his family in Shropshire. His work reveals his aspirations for his own future as well as his worry for friends and relatives who live in other countries.
The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich (1985)
Rarely is the perspective of a woman in war told. However, during the Second World War, one million women served in the Red Army. Their tales are told in their own words in The Unwomanly Face of War. Over the course of several years in the 1970s and 1980s, Alexievich met with hundreds of former Soviet female warriors, including snipers, pilots, gunners, mothers, and wives.
Her aim was to provide a voice to an older generation of women who had been marginalized as storytellers and veterans, dispelling the idea that war needed to be a ‘unwomanly’ affair after decades of the conflict being recalled by “men writing about men.”
According to the author, “Women’s” conflict has its own hues, aromas, lights, and spectrum of emotions. their own words. It is a tricky read, mostly because it is challenging to consume in one go, yet it would be impossible to think of any book that seems more significant, absorbing, and innovative. Instead, there are just people who are busy doing inhumanly human things. It was also a piece of a larger body of work for which its creator was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2015.
The amazing oral history of a Nobel Prize winner on the experiences of Russian women during World War II is now available unedited.
When French playwright Charlotte Delbo, who had been detained by the Germans in Paris and deported to Auschwitz in 1943, returned from the camps, her first instinct was to write about the ladies she had been traveling with who had lived and those who had perished. However, after finishing her book, which included evidence and recollection, she concerned that it may not accurately capture the circumstances by putting it away in a drawer for 20 years. She wanted to make sure that nothing stood between the readers’ understanding and the writing’s simplicity and transparency.
The amazing oral history of the Russian women who fought in the Second World War by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, is centered on this sense of extreme directness and immediacy. She spoke with hundreds of women over the course of seven years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including the legions of laundresses, chefs, telephone operators, and engine drivers who supported the pilots, physicians, partisans, snipers, and anti-aircraft gunners who served on the front lines.