5 Most Essential Best Books On WW2 To Read In 2020

These 5 best books on WW2 represent different facets of THE darkest period of modern history. From the holocaust to life on and off the battlefield, these reads on WW2 are brilliant choices for not only history enthusiasts but also for novices who wish to take a peek into this brutal time of blood and tears.

Disclaimer: Anne Frank: The Diary Of A Young Girl is out of this list simply because it is already too well-known. 

Quick Comparison On 5 Best Books On WW2

My Rating

My Rating

My Rating

My Rating

My Rating

Author

Joseph Heller

Author

Kristin Hannah

Author

E.B. Sledge

Author

Art Spiegelman

Author

Antony Beevor

Best classic and comedic (albeit darkly) book about WW2

Best interpretation of the effects of war on families

Most brutal and grunge interpretation of WW2

Most out-of-the- box visualization of WW2

Best book on arguably the turning point for WW2 in Europe

Deeper Considerations on Best Books On WW2


This story takes place on a made-up island in Italy, where a US bombing squadron is based. The character that you will come across most in this book is Captain Yossarian - a bombardier. Captain Yossarian is in a constant state of confusion as to why everyone is trying to kill him. Not only do strangers shoot at his plane while he’s carrying out his mission, Colonel Cathcart - his supervisor - keeps pushing him into more and more dangerous missions for his, and other officials’ advancement to higher ranks.

As the number of missions increases day by day, Yossarian becomes more and more frightened that he will sooner or later be killed. Eventually, this soldier attempts to request to be grounded on the ground of insanity. However, by doing so, he concretely proves that he’s by no means insane. This dilemma constitutes the “Catch-22” situation that the whole plot circles around.

What Mr. Heller has managed to achieve with this book is the clever and masterful way of writing, showing both the dark humour and the brutality that comes with wars.


  • What you will enjoy about this book:
    • The way Mr. Heller pays adequate attention to many other characters besides Yossarian creates a sense of diversity for this book

    • His skillful combination of comedy, sarcasm, insanity and harsh reality in this book

  • What you might not like about this book:

    • It might not reflect WW2 as detailedly as other entries in this list of best books about ww2.
    • High level of sexual gratification on female characters.


‘The Nightingale” follows Vianne and Isabel - two French sisters - on their own paths through the dreaded World War 2.

Pursuing a very different way to interpret the pain of wars, author Kristin Hannah focuses her efforts on describing the lives of women that are left behind. As her husband went to fight the war, Vianne must step up to keep her house and family intact. On a different note, her sister - Isabel - finds herself on a completely distinct path. She decides to go to Paris and help rescue fallen pilots.

The beauty of this book lies in the way Kristin - the author - ‘s powerful depiction of the mundane. Being inundated with ww2 books about heroic male figures, “The Nightingale” is a fresh breath to me as it shows that heroism comes in all shapes and sizes, even from the most ordinary.

Another attractive point about this novel is that the plot constantly unveils new details, keeping readers glued to the pages.

  • What you will enjoy about this book:
    • How beautifully Viviane and Isabel’s personality is portrayed.

    • The complex and intricate plot

  • What you might not like about this book:

    • History buffs might not find too much value from this edition


As a history enthusiast, I am again and again bewildered at the terror of WW2 as described in this entry of the best books on world war 2.

Written from E.B. Sledge (often referred to by his comrades as Sledgehammer)’s own memories of the war, “With the Old Breed” carries in each page a brutal, awfully barren and lacking-all-sort -of-sentimentality attitude towards the world. This, in my opinion, has rocketed these memoirs onto the list of NY Times Best Sellers.

This book follows the author from the beginning of his training as a Marine to the highlight of his life in the army through two different battles at Okinawa and at the lesser-known Peleliu. During these two sections, the author has successfully illustrated the inhumanity of the war not only with his impeccable descriptive style but also through his constant mentioning of how impossible it is to communicate what he felt to noncombatants.

  • What you will enjoy about this book:
    • The sheer atrocity of the war is described as realistically as words can.

    • Vivid figurative writing style.

  • What you might not like about this book:

    • Every page in this book is filled with blood, tears, and dread.


Of all the entries in this list of best books about ww2, “The Complete Maus” stands out as the most creative interpretation of the war in general and the holocaust in particular.

This powerful graphic novel has at the same time surpassed and been confined in the realm of comic art. On the one hand, it is represented through a series of drawings (roughly 6 squared panels per page), with traditional conversation balloons used by animals that embody different groups of real people (Germans as cats, Jews as mice, Poles as pigs and so on).

On the other hand, the messages that each black and white drawing conveys is too profound that even traditional novelists may have a hard time expressing them in words. For me, that’s the main reason why “Maus” is a Pulitzer-winning graphic memoir.

  • What you will enjoy about this book:
    •  “The complete Maus” is considered by many critics as the benchmark for modern graphic novels.

    • The depiction of real people as animals is both disturbing and comforting at the same time.

  • What you might not like about this book:

    • It can be quite violent for a graphic novel.


The final entry in our list of best books about WW2 provides by far. the most subjective view on World War 2 (particularly on the glorious battle of Stalingrad).

Focusing on the arguable turning point for World War 2, Antony Beevor, through his rigorous research from both Russian and German sources, has managed to paint a superbly detailed picture of the battle of Stalingrad.

In the preface of this book, the author has stated that he wishes to showcase “within the framework of a conventional historical narrative, the experience of troops on both sides”. With that approach in mind, Mr. Beevor emphasizes the human aspects of this battle, rather than following the conventional strategic and tactical analysis.

To build on this idea, the author has systematically divided the content into five sections: the first two about the phases leading to the battle while the remaining sections about the battle itself.

  • What you will enjoy about this book:
    • This is the perfect choice for history enthusiasts who are looking to know more in-depth details about one of the most influential battles of modern history.
  • What you might not like about this book:

    • This book might seem to dull for those looking for WW2-inspired reads.

Best Books On WW2 - Detail Comparison table

Name

Image

My Rating

Author

Joseph Heller

Kristin Hannah

E.B. Sledge

Art Spiegelman

Antony Beevor

My general thoughts of these books

Best classic and comedic (albeit darkly) book about WW2

Best interpretation of the effects of war on families

Most brutal and grunge interpretation of WW2

Most out-of-the- box visualization of WW2

Best book on arguably the turning point for WW2 in Europe

Historical /educational

Averagely educational

Very educational

Extremely educational

Very educational

Extremely educational

Realistic display of WW2

4.7

4.8

4.9

4.8

4.9

Emotional Aspect

Extremely

Extremely emotional

Heart-wrenchingly emotional

Extremely

Averagely emotional

Available

Still Hungry For More? Here Are Some Of The Weirdest Facts About World War 2

Best Books On WW2

1. In World War 2, British soldiers got a ration of 3 sheets of toilet paper a day. American got 22.

I used to think that Covid-19 presented the world with the first toilet paper crisis. Guess I was wrong.

2. Four of every five German soldiers killed in the war died on the Eastern front.

This is pretty understandable considering the fact that some of the most brutal battles (the siege of Leningrad comes to mind) of World War 2 happened on the Eastern Front.

3. In World War 2, the youngest service man in the US military was a 12-year-old- boy named Calvin Graham His real age was only discovered after he was wounded.

4. “Hamburger” was referred to as the “Liberty Steak” during the war, to avoid using the German-sounding name.

This is one weird way of showing your loyalty to the Allied Force if you ask me.

5. Only 20% of the Soviet Union’s males born in 1923 survived the war. 

Still want to find out more facts about the 2nd World War? Click right here.

My Final Words On The 5 Best Books On WW2

Pondering as hard as I can between “With The Old Breed” and “The Complete Maus”, I have to go with the former as the best work on WW2 in this list.

What eventually wins me over is the painfully honest way that E.B. Sledge reflects his own experience and memories about the war. The way he vividly describes each bloody corpse, each near-death sensation and many other savage sceneries show great strength and bravery from the author, who has stepped past his trauma to compose this memoir.

E.B. Sledge’s exquisite figurative language also plays an important part in my final decision.

How about you? Any chance you have found your next best books on ww2? Do let us know!

  • So, have you chosen the Best Books On WW2 for you yet? Do you suggest any others? Share with us!
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