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Top 5 World War 2 Books That You Can’t Afford to Miss

Updated on June 13, 2020
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An avid reader and history buff. My recent readings are based on World War II.

In the aftermath of Hitler's suicide on April 30, and the fall of Berlin on May 2, Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on May 8, 1945. As the news of Germany's surrender broke to the world, joyous crowd took to the streets to celebrate this victory, often known as the V-E Day (victory in Europe Day). It has been seventy five years since the most devastating conflict in human history came to an end.

These were the times of political turmoil, lives were uncertain, traveling back to that era can be fascinating and heart-breaking at the same time. These books are going to help you to know about the most destructive war in the history of mankind, the plight of European Jews and the episode that shook humanity to the core- Holocaust. Innumerable books are available on the context of Second World War, making it difficult to bring it down to this number. I have just made an attempt to compile a list for you to check out.

The Nightingale

Kristen Hannah is known for her deep exploration of emotion and The Nightingale is not an exception. The story takes place in the occupied France during World War II. The book revolves around the lives of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle who are poles apart in their nature. While Vianne, who is a mother of a child, is afraid to stand up for herself, and her younger sister Isabelle, is a lady of mercurial nature who wishes to serve her people and free her country from Nazi captivity. In those tumultuous days, they both find their own way to fight back. In the absence of her husband, Vianne has to take charge of her family, Isabella, however, decides to indulge into the fight against Nazi. This is a battle that goes beyond the battle field. It is a story of determination and indomitable courage. After going through all the horrible experiences, both are desperate to survive and resolute in their fight to be free once again.

It beautifully depicts the love and sensitivity of relations between sisters and particularly parents and children. Issues such as - sexual violence, the life in the Nazi concentration camp make you emotional and vulnerable.These are the moments you realize you are completely drawn into the charterers. Each of the characters feels very real to me. It has been written in such way that not for a moment you will be able to put it down. you just cant wait to see what's going to happen next. Another major aspect that I ended up liking, is the way how romance has been handled throughout the book. Not for a moment this book loses its track and the focus remains on the dynamic of the two sisters and the hardships they face all along. The author surely deserves applause for penning down such an emotional and gripping story and also emphasizing the struggle of women in the face of war, a part of the war we do not usually hear of.

The Book Thief

Even if you are not much into reading, you need to go through this one at least once in your life. It is a story of a young German girl, Liesel Meminger who has been sent to live with her new foster parents in a suburb of Munich (Molching). The story sets in the Nazi Germany. We all are well -aware of Hitler’s anti-Jew propaganda and how Nazi propagandists made an attempt to justify their radical anti-Semitism which also includes the public burning of books (works from various Jewish, liberal writers end up in the bonfire). Liesel who is still mourning the death of her younger brother and an unexpected separation from her mother, with the help of stolen books discovers a new life. Meanwhile, with the eruption of the war, the political situation of Germany (including Molching) turns severe. Jews from across Germany become victims of Nazi propaganda. In the meantime, Max, a German Jew comes to their place seeking shelter. They hide him in their basement ignoring all the risks it might cause for them. For me what makes this book stand apart is that it tells a story of the lives of average Germans during the war. It makes you realize they were also victims of the war and not every one of them were evil as they are often portrayed. And then we have death as an omniscient narrator of the story. This very fact gives this book a unique touch. Liesel embodies hope, in spite of all the sufferings, she grows into a beautiful and generous person even Death can love. Overall this is going to be an emotional journey for the readers. Characters are so relatable that at the end of the book you can’t help feeling bad for them. Despite the fact that the story is filled with sadness, it makes you hopeful and optimistic about life.

All the Light We Cannot See

What makes a book worth reading? In my opinion, it is very important to feel connected to the characters and being able to transport to the world where the story is taking place. And I must say this one perfectly fits into the category of worth reading.

Set in the parts of Germany and France before and during World War II, Anthony Doerr's historical novel All the light we cannot see, is effortlessly one of the most painful books I have come across in a while. Two main protagonists of the story – Marie Laure, a motherless blind French girl, in the face of Nazi invasion to Paris forced to flee to Saint-Malo. While Warner Pfennig, a German orphan, stays with her sister Jutta, in the German mining town of Zollverein. The boy is an intrepid genius who likes to fix radios. Given that the radio was an important tool of the Nazi propaganda, Warner's talent led him to the German army. As a reader, you spend much of this book just following them individually. Despite having two separate lives, they both are victims of their circumstances and heavily affected by the war until their paths finally converge. From the title page to the very end, this novel is brimming with great details and beautiful metaphors. For instance, the sea of Flames, a magical diamond which drives the plot forward, symbolizes human desire and power. This is an exceptionally well-written book with interesting and likable characters but to be honest, I was expecting Marie and Warner to meet soon and spent a little more time together. The story has been written from dual perspective, at times it turns out bit complicated to follow plot. I find this novel a bit long, author could have easily made it short. Nevertheless, Doerr manages to keep his readers hooked into his story and makes the readers part of the journey of Marie Laure and Werner.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

A book consists of pure innocence. This probably sums up the entire book to a certain extent. This is a gripping story which beautifully captures the nostalgia of childhood innocence and at the end leaves you heart-broken and teary. The story unfolds on the background of the World War II and revolves around the friendship between two boys. Bruno, a nine-year-old German boy, due to his father’s job moves in to Auschwitz (Out-with) leaving behind a happy life in Berlin. While Shmuel, a Jewish prisoner in the concentration camp of Auschwitz, is a victim of Nazi brutality. In spite of their same age Bruno is way too innocent in comparison to his friend, Shmuel, who seems to be a mature boy for his age. Bruno's father who is a Nazi officer, works for Hitler but the boy has been shielded from the horrific reality of the Nazi regime by both of his parents and his friend. Despite living on opposite sides of the fence, with each passing days their bond grows stronger, completely unfazed by their circumstances. Bruno, undoubtedly, one of the most amazing characters of the story, amidst the cruelty he manages to hold on to his simplicity and innocence.There is an air of innocence throughout the story, this very fact engages the readers emotionally. The story has been told from the perspective of a young boy. Therefore, young tender minds would find it more relatable. But there is more to it than just a mere children book. The story touches upon issues like Holocaust and deportation of Jews but deals with utmost sensitivity without any mention of bloodshed and brutality. The story involves lots of suspense and anticipation as the consequence readers keep hooked into the plot. Despite the fact that the probability of a character like Bruno and the friendship like this, existing during World War II is slim, I still think this book lives up to our expectations.This book is highly recommended for all age groups.

The Diary of a Yong Girl

We all, regardless our race, color and religion, have the right to live in freedom. No one can take this fundamental right away from us. The diary of a young girl makes you think and stays with you long after you finish the read. On the personal front, while reading this book, I felt extremely fortunate for having my freedom and having the privilege to go out without any worry. This is a real diary of a Jewish girl that begins on her 13th birthday (June 1942) and ends abruptly two years later on 1 August 1944, when Anne and her family became victims of Nazi hatred. This book resonates with historical significance. Decades have passed since the author stopped penning down her days, but her courage, strength, aspirations and dreams continue to offer optimism and hope. No list can complete without this one book. For those who find it boring, I would like to say you can't just forget the fact that it is not a fictional story, it is a real diary. As a reader we need to keep this in mind and should read this with utmost sensitivity. Anne could not see the light of freedom but her diary, from the day of its first publication, has been immensely popular among readers. Most of us have already read this one under our school curriculum, for those who have not read this book yet, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in knowing the struggle of Jews during World War II. It is a classic in every sense. This is a book you will never forget. The hope we see in Anne, her belief in humanity motivate us to be a good and generous person and make us believe that we have enough reason to be happy. We should be grateful for whatever we have.

"I Keep My Ideals, Because in spite of Everything I still Believe That People Are Really Good at Heart."
             - Anne Frank

"Think of All the Beauty Still Left Around You and Be Happy."
                                                                                           - Anne Frank

Which of the above books would you like to read next?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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