Discover Books Reading Challenge June 2023

World War II Background is old map of Europe. Book Covers shadowed on top - Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken, The Princess Spy, All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, Miracle at Midway, The Escape Artist, The Light of Days, Band of Brothers, Out of the Depths, Scholars of Mayhem, the Splendid and the Vile book cover

The Axis and the Allies

If you’ve been paying attention to the publishing world over the past few years, you’ll know WWII has been a hot topic. Dozens and dozens of books have been published about the second world war across all genres. It seems lots of folks like to read – and write – about WWII.

I’m no exception. A good WWII book is always a win for me. What’s the fascination? I’m not sure. Part of it is the war feels personal for me. Both my grandfathers were involved in the conflict. One made bombing maps for the allies as a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps and the other donned cross-country skis and lobbed Molotov cocktails at the Russians along the Finnish-Russian border. Another explanation might be the two opposing sides seem so clear; heroes standing up to evil is always a good story foundation.

But here’s the thing: I kind of prefer the non-fiction accounts of WWII to the fiction. Don’t get me wrong- much of the WWII fiction is amazing, but there are so many true stories of heroism from the war, more than we even know, that fictionalizing it can sometimes seem superfluous.

That’s why, for this month’s reading challenge that focuses on WWII, I’ve chosen to offer a selection of narrative non-fiction books. Narrative non-fiction offers history with an emphasis on storytelling. Great writers of narrative nonfiction do their research to find the facts and then share those facts as a story. It takes considerable skill to present the details of history in a literary way, but, when done well, the result is a book that captivates and informs.

Here are 10 books that definitely do both. And I think you’ll find truth is stranger than fiction; you simply can’t make this stuff up.


Laura Hillenbrand, 2010

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand book cover a world War II story of survival, resilience, and redemption.

“Unbroken” is an adrenaline-pumping true story that will leave you breathless. This remarkable tale follows the life of Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic athlete turned World War II hero. His life was a rollercoaster ride of triumph and tragedy; Zamperini struggled through a rough childhood, competed in the Olympics, survived a harrowing plane crash, was stranded on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean – and that’s just the beginning. After being captured by Japanese forces, he endured unimaginable brutality in POW camps. Hillenbrand’s mesmerizing storytelling transports you to the heart of Zamperini’s journey, making you feel the exhilaration, despair, and indomitable will to survive right alongside him. With vivid and intimate details, she paints a riveting portrait of a man who defied the odds.

Out of the Depths: An Unforgettable WWII Story of Survival, Courage, and the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis

Edgar Harrell, David Harrell, 2005

Edgar Harrell USMC with David Harrell Out of the Depths an unforgettable WWII story of survival, couarage and the sinking of the USS Indianapolis bookcover

In the final days of World War II, the USS Indianapolis, a Navy cruiser, found itself in the crosshairs of a devastating torpedo attack. When chaos erupted, the ship was sent to the murky depths of the Pacific Ocean, and the struggle for survival began.

In this incredible firsthand account, Edgar Harrell, a Marine survivor, alongside his son David, unravels the haunting events that unfolded after the sinking. Together, they reveal the physical and emotional hardships faced by the crew as they battled dehydration, exposure, and relentless shark attacks. With rich storytelling and unwavering authenticity, the Harrells take you on a voyage of hope, resilience, and the unbreakable bond between comrades. You’ll witness the unimaginable horrors faced by these heroes and the extraordinary acts of courage that kept them fighting against all odds. You’ll be moved, inspired, and forever changed by this unforgettable true story that reminds us of the power of courage and the triumph of the human will.

The Princess Spy: The True Story of World War II Spy Aline Griffith, Countess of Romanones

Larry Loftis, 2021

World War II Spy - The Princess Spy by Larry Loftis bookcover

Meet Aline Griffith, a young American socialite turned secret agent, who used her beauty, charm, and razor-sharp wit to becomes a master of deception and gather vital intelligence during WWII. Mr. Loftis expertly weaves together Aline’s real-life adventures and transports readers into a world of intrigue, danger, and hidden agendas. You’ll witness thrilling cloak-and-dagger operations, heart-pounding close calls, and the high-stakes game of cat and mouse played between spies.

But “The Princess Spy” is more than just a tale of espionage. It’s an enchanting portrait of a remarkable woman who defied societal expectations and became a force to be reckoned with.

All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler

Rebecca Donner, 2022

All the Frequent Troubles of our Days by Rebecca Donner book cover

Mildred Harnack was an American woman who lived in Germany during the rise of Adolf Hitler. Against the backdrop of a nation succumbing to fear and oppression, Mildred found herself at the center of the conflict. With unwavering determination and courage, she chose resistance and navigated a treacherous web of spies and informants as she fought to expose the truth and protect the values she held dear. Ms. Donner brings Mildred’s harrowing journey to life and shines a light on the countless acts of heroism and sacrifice that took place in the shadows of Nazi Germany. Through her meticulous research and powerful storytelling, Donner unveils the incredible impact of one woman’s resolve.

Scholars of Mayhem: My Father’s Secret War in Nazi-Occupied France

Daniel C. Guiet and Timothy K. Smith, 2019

Scholars of Mayhem - My Father's secret war in nazi-occupied France book cover

Picture this: a team of brilliant minds, handpicked by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), are dropped behind enemy lines in France to outwit the Nazis. It’s like something straight out of a spy thriller, but it’s all true. This riveting memoir transports you to the heart of World War II, where a group of intellectuals becomes an unlikely band of heroes. The incredible experiences of author Daniel C. Guiet’s father, André Guiet, reveal a hidden chapter of history that will leave you spellbound.

With each turn of the page, you’ll be on the edge of your seat as André and his comrades risk their lives to gather vital intelligence to aid the Allied forces. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and the tension is palpable as they navigate the treacherous terrain of occupied France, always one step away from danger and discovery. The authors bring this extraordinary tale to life by combining historical details with the gripping personal accounts of André Guiet. You’ll be enthralled by these unsung heroes who were ordinary people who rose to the challenge to fight against evil with everything they had.

The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s Ghettos

Judy Batalion, 2021

The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler's Ghetto - the Light of Day by Judy Batalion book cover

This is the true story of the courageous women who, against the backdrop of Hitler’s ghettos in Poland, defied societal norms and risked everything to resist the Nazis. From smuggling weapons to organizing underground networks, these women played a vital role in the fight for justice and freedom. This is a chapter of history that you may not have read about before but that deserves to be celebrated and remembered.

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz

Erik Larson, 2020

A Saga of Churchill, family, and Definace during the Blitz THE Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson book cover

Erik Larson is a master of narrative non-fiction; each of his books exhibits unforgettable storytelling and this one is no exception. In this book, Erik Larson brings to life the complex world of Winston Churchill and his family during the relentless bombings of the Blitz. Through Larson’s impeccable research and brilliant storytelling, you’ll witness the high-stakes political maneuverings, the personal struggles, and the unwavering resolve of a nation facing imminent danger. Larson unveils the human side of Churchill and showcases his wit, determination, and larger-than-life personality. From the intense war rooms to the intimacy of Churchill’s family circle, you’ll get to know Churchill as never before.

“The Splendid and the Vile,” seamlessly blends history, biography, and gripping narrative – just what we expect from Larson.

Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest

Stephen E. Ambrose, 2017

Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose book cover

“Band of Brothers” by Stephen Ambrose is an incredible book you won’t want to put down. It’s an amazing account of the real-life experiences of Easy Company, a group of soldiers during World War II. This book takes you right into the heart of the action, showcasing the bravery, camaraderie, and sacrifices of these extraordinary men. It’s a mesmerizing story that will leave you in awe. If you’re looking for an immersive and fascinating read that brings history to life, “Band of Brothers” is a must-read.

The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World

Jonathan Freedland, 2022

The Man who Broke out of Aushwitz to warn the world - The Escape Artist by Jonathan Freedland book cover

Jonathon Freedland does a masterful job telling the story of Rudolf Vrba, a Slovak-Jewish prisoner, who managed a daring escape from Auschwitz concentration camp and embarked on a perilous mission to inform the world about the horrors taking place there. You’ll find yourself completely caught up in suspense as Vrba navigates the treacherous terrain, evades capture, and shouts the truth about Auschwitz to the world’s ears. “The Escape Artist” highlights Vrba’s incredible bravery and the atrocities committed within the camp, so be warned that this is not an easy read. But, if you’re looking for an amazing story, this is a great choice.

Miracle at Midway

Gordon W. Prange, Donald M. Goldstein, Katherine V. Dillon, 1982

Miracle at Midway by Gordon w. Prange book cover

“Miracle at Midway” tells the account of one of World War II’s most crucial naval battles. Mr. Prange plunges you into the heart of the Pacific Theater, where American and Japanese forces clashed in a fight for dominance. His vibrant narrative and the firsthand testimonies he includes immerse you in the thunderous battles and pivotal decisions that shaped the outcome of the war. You’ll particularly enjoy how this book offers a thrilling retelling of historical events and humanizes the individuals involved, capturing their fears, hopes, and unyielding resolve. You won’t want to put it down.

Discover Great True Stories

So, if you’re ready to immerse yourself in the thrilling and captivating world of WWII narrative non-fiction, don’t wait any longer! These 10 books, including Unbroken, Out of the Depths, and The Princess Spy, offer a unique blend of history, storytelling, and unforgettable true tales of heroism.

Remember, truth is stranger than fiction (but we love fiction, too), and these stories prove just that. Click the link below each book to embark on an extraordinary journey through the pages of these remarkable books. You’ll not only gain insight into the incredible stories of courage and resilience but also experience the undeniable power of expert storytelling.

With free shipping on orders over $12, you can afford to catch up today. It’s always a good day to read a good book.

Looking for past months’ Reading Challenge: January, February, March, April, and May.

Happy reading, and let the adventure begin!

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