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.)
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.
by James Jones
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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?
Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime. more...
I've always been interested in topics of every kind, so what the heck, I built this website to recommend books of every kind. If you have ideas as to how Flashlight Worthy could be better, let me know.
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