A Large Handful of Novels About World War II

shelved under War and Fiction

American authors wrote a surprising number of excellent books about World War II, more so than any war before or after. There was something about the war that attracted writers: maybe because World War II was the largest conflict the world had seen, or the fact that 50 million lost their lives.

Whatever the reason, I've listed a handful of fantastic war novels below. (And due to the sheer volume of excellent World War II books, I'm sure I missed some must-read titles, so if you know of any war books I should include, let me know.)


The Caine Mutiny

by Herman Wouk

G.T. Gibson says:

Probably one of the best character-driven novels in print. It's a book you will never forget. The war at sea brings out the underlying fears of men.

This book also appears on Pulitzer Prize Winners for Fiction



by Joseph Heller

Ben Patrick Johnson from Los Angeles, CA says:

Many of us read this classic American war book in school. It deserves another look, both for Heller's brilliant use of dialogue as well as his exploration of the absurdities of war and the military machine.


The Dirty Dozen

by E. M. Nathanson

Chad says:

Much different than the movie. This war book is basically a redemption story, both for Major Riesman and those under his command. As in life, not all are able to rise to the challenge and give in to their weaknesses.

This book also appears on Hal Steinberg's Favorite Novels


Mila 18

by Leon Uris

One of the amazing things about World War II was the vast number of completely different stories that are buried within it. Pearl Harbor. The concentration camps. D-Day. North Africa... This book tells of the Warsaw Ghetto — the Jews of Poland trapped in a walled-off section of Warsaw — who fight (extremely effectively) for everything from food to freedom. If you've read any Uris, this is among his best. If you've read any Holocaust novels, this is among the most readable. And if you've read any World War II novels, this is among the most moving.



by Kurt Vonnegut

William F. DeVault says:

One of the truly great and disturbing war novels of modern time. Yes, it is sick, twisted, depraved and includes the Holocaust and a porn star named Montana Hilhack (a vision of Miley Cyrus' future?) — but that's what makes it so jarring.


The Thin Red Line

by James Jones

Arne Henrik from Oslo, Norway says:

You get the picture behind the guys in C-for-Charlie company and Guadalcanal in this war book; what the war feels like for someone that hates it, but still tries to fight their best. Oh, and even if you read the book, see the movie — it's just as brilliant. (In fact, while reading the book, I missed the narrative poetic parts which appear in the movie.)


The Winds of War

by Herman Wouk

This book is a bit more of a soap opera than the typical Wouk novel — not in it's plot and drama, but in it's broader cast. Regardless, if you enjoy good writing and don't mind a little bit of high drama, you'll like this solid beach read.


War and Remembrance

by Herman Wouk

A not quite as good sequel to Wouk's The Winds of War, it's still worth reading if you read the first. In fact, I think I read them back-to-back.


The Young Lions

by Irwin Shaw

This is one of those sweeping, epic war stories that reek of the 1950s and are so darned fun to read today. I don't recall the plot all that well, but I do recall loving it. Is that enough of a recommendation for you to take a chance on one of the defining cheesy war books of the late 1940s?