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15 Captivating WWII Novels — These Historical Fiction Reads Will Transport You

Woman's World books editor (and book lover!) shares her top 15 WWII novels — savor them all!

For decades, historical fiction has remained one of the most popular genres in the literary world. But WWII novels are specifically in demand due to their high-stakes drama and action set amid sparkling portrayals of humanity, courage and sacrifice. These novels set during the Second World War (1939 – 1945) are often told in dual points of view, switching between the present and the past. And WWII books are a staple among women readers, in part because during the war, women actually held all kinds of pivotal and important roles from reporters to nurses, spies and more. These novels tell the tales of brave women overcoming adversity in the face of war — and put simply, these stories are captivating.

Keep scrolling to discover 15 of our must-read WWII books that will take you back in time. Happy reading!

 The Lost Book Of Bonn by Brianna Labuskes

The Lost Book Of Bonn by Brianna Labuskes
William Morrow

In this WWII epic, American librarian Emmy Clarke is sent to Germany to help catalogue the books the Nazis seized during the war. But on her first day of work, Emmy finds a poetry collection by Rainer Maria Rilke and is determined to discover who wrote the heartfelt dedication inside. What transpires next is a battle of strength and heart.

What readers are saying: “For the past few months, I’ve been on a major historical fiction kick,” says Carissa Mosness, Woman’s World Assistant Digital Editor. “This story has mystery, heart and a page-turning adventure.” 

Locked in Pursuit by Ashley Weaver

Locked in Pursuit by Ashley Weaver (WW Book Cover)
Minotaur Books

Intrigue and action meld in the fourth installment of Ashley Weaver’s Electra McDonnell series. In WWII London, Ellie McDonnell, who works in a spy ring, hears about a robbery in London and reaches out to the handsome, aloof Major Ramsey in the British government. The two soon realize the burglaries are tied to spies in Lisbon. Now, Ellie and Ramsey have to face enemy agents and their own simmering mutual attraction.

What readers are saying: “What is not to love…thieves, spies and a little romance all happening in a London that has night air raids. I love this series, and cannot wait for the next installment.”

Code Name Butterfly by Embassie Susberry

Code Name Butterfly by Embassie Susberry

Inspired by an incredible true story, this captivating saga takes readers back to 1941 Paris. During WWII, Elodie Mitchell is a journalist who is invited to a show in Paris. While there, she’s mistaken for the show’s star, Josephine Baker. She’s whisked backstage and discovers a secret resistance movement. She soon gains the people’s trust and goes undercover to gather intel for them. A rich wartime epic about love, courage and bravery. 

What readers are saying: “I love reading anything Embassie Susberry has written. This book was a truly great read! I love the characters, the drama, the suspense and that deep inseparable love between Elly and Grant!”

The Storm We Made by Vanessa Chan

The Storm We Made by Vanessa Chan (WWII books)
S&S/ Marysue Rucci Books

Vanessa Chan’s The Storm We Made is a spellbinding story brimming with illuminating moments — from the horrors of WWII to the unending love of family. The plot follows Cecily Alcantara, a mother who was also an unlikely spy for Japanese forces during WWII. Ten years prior, a chance meeting with General Fuijwara lured her into a life of espionage. Now, she’ll do anything to save her family. This captivating story shines a light on the dangers of war and the lengths to which we’ll go to save the ones we cherish. 

What readers are saying: “After a long week at work, my favorite way to unwind is by brewing a hot cup of tea and cracking open a historical fiction book,” admits Mosness. “So when I saw this WWII epic, I knew it would fit my mood to a tee. I devoured this debut novel in just one weekend. The story was so moving that it stayed with me long after I finished the last page — now I cannot wait to read the author’s next book!” 

Just Once by Karen Kingsbury

Just Once by Karen Kingsbury (WW II Books)

In the latest novel by beloved author Karen Kingsbury, readers are taken back to 1941 during WWII. When Irvel Holland’s boyfriend, Sam, is drafted, he leaves for the war. While he’s gone, chemistry builds between Irvel and Sam’s younger brother, Hank. Then, Irvel is hired by the military as a spy. The rule: She can tell no one. With Irvel caught between two brothers thousands of miles apart, can true love find a way?

What readers are saying: “When negative news stories are all I see when I pick up my phone, I start to feel discouraged,” confesses Maggie Dillard, Woman’s World Senior Associate Editor. “I have to stop my doomscroll and do a digital detox. When that happens, I love jumping into stories that take me to another time! And this was a heart-tugging page-turner until the very end. It made me forget all about my own reality!” 

RelatedBestselling Author Karen Kingsbury Talks Faith, Hope and New Movie ‘Someone Like You’: “God Put This in My Heart!”

Women of the Post by Joshunda Sanders

Women of the Post by Joshunda Sanders
Park Row

Readers are transported to 1944 in this captivating saga, as Judy Washington is recruited to join the Women’s Army Corps. She meets Stacy, Bernadette and Mary Alyce, and they are soon transferred to England — as the only unit of Black women to serve overseas in WWII — to sort mail. But when Mary Alyce discovers a backlogged letter addressed to Judy that will upend her life, they all learn the power of friendship.

What readers are saying: “Such a great work of historical fiction! I loved how the author wove the stories of each character in with the backdrop of the war. I was hooked almost from the very first chapter. Knowing a little about the work of these women in real life made it even more relatable to me.”

 Stars in an Italian Sky by Jill Santopolo

 Stars in a Italian Sky by Jill Santopolo
G.P. Putnam’s Sons

In this sparkling love story Jill Santopolo transports us to 1946 Genoa, Italy. In the post-WWII world, Vincenzo and Giovanna fall deeply in love at age 21. Then a shift in political power and family differences force them apart. In modern-day New York, Luca and Cassandra are crazy for each other. But when they ask their grandparents to pose for a painting, the past and present collide.

What readers are saying: “Normally, I gravitate toward mysteries and thrillers, but this tale about star-crossed lovers caught my eye,” shares Rachel Cosma, Woman’s World Health Director. “This sweeping saga warmed my heart!

The Stolen Lady by Laura Morelli

The Stolen Lady by Laura Morelli
William Morrow Paperbacks

This enchanting tale first takes readers to 1939 France at the dawn of WWII. Anne Guichard, the Louvre’s archivist, is looking for her missing brother, while also working to keep the Louvre’s art collection­ — most notably the Mona Lisa — from the Nazis. Rewind to 1479, when Leonardo da Vinci himself is commissioned to paint Lisa Gherardini. A rich story of art, war, history and two women separated by 500 years.

What readers are saying: “This thoroughly enjoyable book weaves together two amazing real life stories of how people saved the Mona Lisa twice, once in the 1500s to get it to France and again in the 1940s to keep it in France. These stories are too strange to be true, and yet they are. Morelli’s reverence for beauty is matched by her passion for research and superior storytelling.”

A Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani

A Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani (WWII Books)

This rich, riveting page-turner by New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani follows Matelda, the Cabrelli family’s matriarch. She is facing the end of her life and wants the truth about her mother Domenica’s love stories with her friend, Silvio, and sea captain John Lawrie McVicars on the brink of WWII. As Matelda and her daughter, Anina, search for answers, three generations are brought together through revelations and redemption.

What readers are saying: “Adriana Trigiani’s novel The Good Left Undone is an epic, sweeping story about a family of artisans in Tuscany, Italy. The Cabrelli family has been creating and selling beautiful jewelry for generations, and now Matelda, the elderly matriarch, is reflecting on her life as her 25 year-old granddaughter Anina is questioning the choices she has made in her own life. The story is told both in present day and in the days leading up to WWII.”

Mother Daughter Traitor Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

Mother Daughter Traitor Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

From the bestselling author of the Maggie Hope series comes a stirring standalone novel inspired by a real-life mom and daughter duo who go undercover during the early days of WWII. When Veronica Grace and her mother, Violet, move to Los Angeles, Veronica takes a job, only to realize it’s for German Nazi propagandists. They are soon introduced to an anti-Nazi spymaster, but as they receive news of Pearl Harbor, the Grace women learn what it means to have courage in the face of fear.

What readers are saying: “Overall: Don’t think there’s anything left to write about WWII? Think again! Susan Elia MacNeal’s Mother Daughter Traitor Spy sheds some light on a relatively unexplored area: Nazi spies and activists in California during the 1940s. I like my historical fiction thoroughly researched, and this book did not disappoint!”

The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry

The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry (WWII Books)
Atria Books

This lush, fantastical novel transports readers back to 1939 London. Hazel and Flora must evacuate their village during WWII. To distract themselves from reality, the young girls create a fairy tale about a secret, magical land called Whisperwood. Then one day, Flora disappears. Twenty years later, Hazel finds a book in a rare bookstore written about their secret land. A beautiful tale of healing past hurts.

What readers are saying: “This book is a masterpiece. Just like Whisperwood. Enchanting, devastating, hopeful and ultimately the story of remembering that childhood dreams are often the true core of who we are.”

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
St. Martin’s Griffin

This #1 New York Times bestselling novel — now set to be a major motion picture — paints a powerful portrait of love and strength in the midst of war. In a sleepy French hamlet, Vianne must say goodbye to her husband as he heads for the front and to her sister, who will join the resistance. Vianne never believed the Nazis would invade France, but here they are, requisitioning her home as she tries to save herself and her daughter from the perils of war. A haunting and rich tale that celebrates the strength of the human spirit.

What readers are saying: “I love WWII era books and this portrayed such a heroic side of the war and the lengths that people will go to fight for what’s right. This has become one of my favorite books I’ve ever read! So many different angles and stories that make it so complex and emotional but so amazing!”

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This best-selling beautifully written novel takes place in a walled French city, where a blind girl named Marie-Laure lives hidden from the war. In Germany, an orphan boy named Werner reluctantly uses his knowledge of radios to help Hitler track the resistance. Neither knows the other exists, but converging over the paths change their lives forever.

What readers are saying: “This was one of the first historical fiction novels I ever read,” shares Mosness. “And it certainly lived up to the hype. I was eagerly turning the pages, needing to know what happened next — and by the ending I was bawling my eyes out.”

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
Ballantine Books

Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this plot follows three girls: Caroline Ferriday, a New York City socialite whose life is transformed by Hitler’s invasion of France; Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager who finds herself the endangered messenger of an anti-Nazi resistance movement; and Herta Oberheuser, a young German doctor trying to find her place in the male-dominated medical field. What follows is a battle of friendship, courage and hope.

What readers are saying: The Lilac Girls features three women: a Polish teenager, a young German doctor, and an American socialite. They all played a part in WWII, and their lives are forever changed by their experiences during this turbulent period of history. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though it was harrowing at times. The three women are very different in both personality and experience, yet it was easy to identify with them.”

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn (WWII Books)
William Morrow

This breathtaking tale follows three women as they try to prove themselves after they answer the call to decipher enemy codes — a cryptanalyst job held by more than 10,000 women during the war. Inspired by true events, this story is filled with bravery and powerful women.

What readers are saying: “I’ve never been a history buff, but visiting my cousin, who is a history major, piqued my curiosity,” shares Cosma. “Combining my love of mysteries with my new interest in historical events, this novel pulled me into 1940s England at the start of WWII. I was so inspired at how these strong women banded together — and then reunited years later!”

For more historical fiction recommendations, click through the links below!

If You Love Outlander, You Will Love These 12 Steamy, Spellbinding Books

12 Must-Read Historical Romance Novels to Tide You Over Until ‘Bridgerton’ Season 3!

12 Must-Read Historical Fiction Books That Will Send You Back in Time

10 Books to Read If You Love ‘Bridgerton’: These Romances Will Make You Swoon!

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