If you’re not into history, these books may change your mind. While this may sound odd, this probably my favorite, or at least most frequently read time period. I’d blame it on my history degree, but this started well before college. This is a mix of fiction and non-fiction, with something for everyone.
1. Life After Life
This novel, while fiction, is set between World War I and World War II. The story of Ursula Todd restarts at various points in history. With each new start, her life can make dramatic changes. I loved this book. It’s one I wish I could read again for the first time, and while long, I will always suggest to readers interested in historical fiction.
2. Band of Brothers
Non-fiction, it’s the story of E Company from training in Georgia, to parachuting into Normandy through the end of the war in Germany. There’s a reason it was made into a mini-series. It’s a great read, even if you’re not a fan of non-fiction. The book follows the original members of the company and replacements that came into the company during the war – through interviews, letters, journals.
3. The Book Thief
Leisel arrives not knowing how to read and is taught by her foster parents. But they can’t afford books. Meanwhile, in the streets, books are being burned. Leisel steals a book that is banned under the Nazis. This sets the family down a path to stand up against the Nazis while trying to maintain normalcy in the ever-changing world of their German town outside Munich. Fans of reading will love it for the book theme throughout.
4. On Dupont Circle
The story of government officials and diplomats of World War II, during World War I and the Depression, and living with the repercussions of what they created two decades earlier. Follow the Roosevelts, the Hoovers, and the Dulles siblings through the early stages of their careers starting together in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC, to the world stage.
5. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin
While this is non-fiction, what I love about Erik Larson’s books is that it’s easy to forget you’re not reading a novel. Follow the story of America’s ambassador to Germany as the Nazis assumed power. His understanding of what was happening and what was to come, and his warnings falling on deaf ears back in Washington is only half the story. While in Berlin, his daughter is courted by Soviet spies, and the family is faced with the question of who the people are that surround them daily, from work life to the staff in their home, to the mailman, living in fear that every word spoken is being repeated somewhere else.
If you didn’t read this in school, it’s time to pick it up. The story of what happened in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. There is a real reason this book is often required reading in school.
7. The Ship of Brides
On a lighter note, this is a novel based on the real Australian women who married British soldiers during World War II. The brides were moved to the United Kingdom on British naval ships. If you’ve read Me Before You, this is also by Jojo Moyes. Follow the story of very different women as they make the long journey from Australia to the United Kingdom through the Indian Ocean and Suez Canal.
8. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Another novel, following the residents of the island of Guernsey, off the coast of France, during the Nazis occupation. Sort of. The book is told by a journalist visiting and meeting the residents after the war, learning how they survived by making up a book club to explain away why they were out past curfew one night. The resulting book club is at the heart of the story. And their incredible tales of the war include a mystery, their new friend may be able to help resolve.