World War 2 is a conflict and time of violence and strife that continues to fascinate many people. Much of the globe was united in combat against the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan, and battles took place on multiple continents and oceans. Some historians regard it as actually the seventh of a series of world wars dating back several centuries.
Learning about it is not always easy though. While certain facts and important milestones about the war are commonly known, and easy to look up online or watch a documentary about, the sheer size of the conflict was massive. Those that want to learn more about it often turn to books to learn about the period of time that ended empires and drew the map boundaries many nations still use today.
While it’s possible to go on Amazon or another review site and just look up the 5 most highly-rated books about this war, there is another way you can use to collect a handful of books to learn about this war. Consider gathering your collection by getting:
1) A book that is a bestseller: While you probably want to avoid picking out 5 bestsellers, it’s worth picking up one. The books on any subject that turn out to be bestsellers tend to do so because they make the topic very accessible, and perhaps even enlightening or entertaining. If something has already proven itself to be a great icebreaker that introduces readers to a subject, then it’s a good place to start your top 5 books about WWII.
2) A book more highly reviewed than any other: Once you get a bestseller that makes the whole conflict, or at least part of it, easy to digest and understand, then you should move on to something with a bit more heft. Look for a book that is not necessarily a bestseller, but instead one that is more highly reviewed than any other book out there on the subject. Such books are often considered in their sales numbers but not actually flying off the shelf. They’re easy to spot.
3) A book the professors and experts recommend: One book in your collection needs to be the elephant in the room. Look past the best sellers and highly reviewed titles into the world of academia. College and university professors alike, along with military historians, are all going to have a select few titles that they consider the pinnacle of literature regarding World War II. These books tend to be huge, long, complex reads, but just having one laying on your coffee table gets a conversation going.
4) A book was written by someone who was there: By this point, you’ve likely learned quite a bit about the conflict in terms of battles, names, dates, pivotal points, and developments. To truly learn what it was like, find at least one book that was written by someone who was there. Another possibility is to find a book of interviews of people that were involved. The stories of air pilots are different from sailors, and even on the ground, the soldiers that fought on foot have different perspectives than civilians, POWs or concentration camp survivors, or even resistance members and spies.
5) A book that doesn’t have a Western point of view: If you live in North America, especially the States, any books you read might hype up D-Day and the nuclear strikes on Japan as ending the war. While these were pivotal moments, it’s good to read books that don’t have an Americanized point of view, so you can learn things like how the European war likely changed when Germany started running out of oil and invaded Russia, whose harsh winters turned things around.
When discussing anything like the top 5 books on World War 2, what makes particular books the ‘top’ choices is going to be a matter of subjectivity, opinion, and debate. However, if you choose a handful of titles along these guidelines, you’ll have a well-rounded set that gives you a broad perspective of the conflict that shaped the modern world and global map.