Top Ten Books Set During A War


Top Ten Tuesday, as  always, is hosted at my other blog — The Broke & the Bookish

This week’s topic: Top Ten Books With X Setting…I chose Books Set During A Time Of War

Every since I was younger I have been a lover of history. It may have been my stepdad’s influence (I mean, the man spends Christmas morning on the Delaware River every year reenacting Washington’s crossing) but I’ve just ALWAYS loved it. I love learning about civilizations and people of the past because there is so much to glean — from their mistakes, triumphs and perseverance. It all fascinates me and so naturally I AM drawn to historical fiction because I like taking a trip back in time One of the hardest but most inspiring times to read about for me is during a time of war. War can be pretty depressing and hard to read about but I really am inspired by the triumph of the human spirit.

So here are my top ten YA and Adult books set during times of war:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusack: This is one of my most favorite books EVER..not just a favorite book set during a war. I BAWLED my eyes out. This book haunts me.

Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys: This book was amazing and a little hard to read though. Typically the books I read are more focused on the Hitler side of things but this one focused on what awful things Stalin was doing to the people of Lithuania. My eyes were opened. Seriously one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read but SAD AS HELL. (my review of Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys)

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien: So, funny story about this book. I was supposed to read this TWICE in high school and I didn’t (because it sounded terrible to me) but managed to get A’s on all the assignments with not reading it. Then I took a contemporary lit class in college and got assigned to write a HUGE paper on this so there was NO way I was going to get around it. So I read it and it is one of my FAVORITE books in the world. It is WAY MORE than a war story and I’m so, so proud of the paper I wrote about it!

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: This book started out slow to me but, if you are patient, it is WORTH IT as it all comes together. HOLY CRAP. I didn’t cry but I am still scarred for life by this book. (My review of Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein)


Night by Elie Wiesel: I bought this one at a used book sale and decided to take it with me on vacation. STUPID STUPID GIRL. Do not read this in public or anywhere where you don’t want to be depressed. This is a true account of a man who survived the Holocaust and it left me weeping on the airplane. It was HORRIFYING. Fiction always hurts me when it comes to books set during wars because I know, while the account IS fiction, that people did experience this but a memoir? KILLS ME because this real, actual person has experienced the things written on the page…these things that keep me up at night.

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum: This was an amazing story of what a mother did to keep her daughter safe during World War II. It was so heartbreaking but really good. It’s set in the past and the present as this daughter tries to learn more about her mother’s life during this time. What I loved was that it was about a GERMAN mother. Most of what I read was from the perspective of those being persecuted so it was interesting to read a book about what regular people in Germany were doing/thought about the war. (my review of Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum)


A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka: This one flips from past to present as well and is set in Poland. This one is more of a love story and is very “war-lite” if you aren’t into the really intense accounts of war. The war was just a part of their love story. Definitely a hidden gem! (my review of A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka)

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson: This one is middle grade, which you KNOW I don’t read a lot of, but this book is AMAZING. I wish every classroom would have this in it. NO matter what Laurie Halse Anderson writes it is amazing and important. (My review of Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson)topten5
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry: I read this in elementary school (long time ago sheesh) and remember really being impacted by it. At such a young age it’s hard to fathom this kind of stuff and that story really stuck with me and definitely made me want to read more to learn and discover all these things.

March by Geraldine Brooks: Ok one of my favorite books ever is Little Women and this is the story of the DAD in the March family as he goes off to war I enjoyed this one and honestly I want to see more books set in the Civil War era!


So tell me…what are some books you’ve enjoyed that are set during a war? Recommend them to me pleaaaase! Always looking for new, good ones! Have you read any of the ones I’ve listed?

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. I completely forgot about reading Number the Stars way back when! Night is… powerful. It’s a good thing that one is so short, because I don’t think I could’ve handled much more emotionally. I’m currently in the middle of The Book Thief, and I must say I’m in love! Love your choice of setting!

    My Top Ten

  2. Holy cow, we both picked the same theme this week! I have to agree that I love a good war book more than almost anything else. I got obsessed with WWII books in high school and my love for books set during war has only grown. We have four of the same books on our lists, but I have some other ones as well!
    My TTT

  3. I had a similar theme this week, WWII/Shoah books (both novels and memoirs). I’ve read quite a number of them over the years, most of which are in my own library, so I’ve doubtless included some titles most people have never heard of. Two recent ones I discovered while working on my final project for my YA Lit class last year were Paul Dowswell’s The Ausländer, about a part-German Polish boy who gets sent to Germany and is adopted by a Nazi family, and Anne C. Voorhoeve’s My Family for the War, which follows a Kindertransport child from ages 10-17.

    I wish there were more recently-published novels set during World War I, though. It’s so sad how it’s become such a forgotten war. I also love the Civil War era, though it’s been awhile since I devoured a steady diet of Civil War books.

  4. How shameful is that, out of ten books, I’ve only read one? And I read it (NIGHT) for school? I’m trying to think of a book I’ve read that’s set during a war and about war, and while I may have read some time periods, I can’t think of any that’s really about war! Fortunately, I do want to read BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY, CODE NAME VERITY, and THE BOOK THIEF. Nice setting choice!

    Rachel @ Beauty and the Bookshelf

  5. I’m also quite a fan of books set during the time of war. I don’t know what it is about them! I really want to read Code Name Verity. I’ve had it for ages, just haven’t got around to reading it yet.

  6. War books really put me off when I first hear about them, but the two I’ve read on your list, The Book Thief and Code Name Verity, I’ve absolutely loved. So maybe I should give more of them a try!

  7. I really like books set during the WWII, that’s why I bought “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusack. I haven’t read it yet, but I lent it to a friend and she said it’s great.

  8. I have to admit that I’ve never read any of the books on this list! The Book Thief, Between Shades of Gray, and Code Name Verity have been on my (ridiculously long) TBR, but I’ve never gotten around to reading them. I need to do this soon!

    My TTT, in which I explore my favorite books set in NYC.

  9. I’ve not heard of Code Name Verity before but have now added it to my wishlist

    Mt TTT for this week is on books set during WWII as well:

  10. I don’t really read historical fiction, but maybe I should start to… These books sound really great!

  11. The Things They Carried is easily one of the best books I have ever read. Definitely on my top 5 list. I love “How to Tell a True War Story” because it is not only powerful, but it completely alters the way you read and think about the rest of the book. Absolutely amazing.

  12. I’ve always wanted to read The Book Thief!! EEPPP!! 😀

    New follower 😀

    Here’s mine.

  13. OMG Number the Stars! I remember reading that one as a kid and crying… it made such a heavy impact on me! And hooray for Code Name Verity – one of my faves! Have you read Rose Under Fire yet? I actually think I like it more than Verity!

  14. I love it that you have The Things They Carried on your list. I read it when I was in high school and it had such an impact on me. Even now, I tell people to read it, but warn them it’s so emotional. Awesome you finally got around to reading it!
    My TTT

  15. I am also really obsessed with history — particularly WWII. In fact, last semester I took a class focused entirely on the Holocaust and I got an A on the paper because I loved the class THAT MUCH. It’s all just so fascinating. And I love being that person at a group setting, spouting off facts no one else knows or maybe even cares about. I’ve only read Night and The Book Thief from your list though, so it looks like I’ve got some more reading to do!

  16. Great list about a hard reading topic.

  17. The Book Thief is on so many lists, I need to add it to mine and finally read it! And I loved Lois Lowry when I was young, I really need to look into some more of his books like Number the Stars. Great list and great topic!

  18. Ugh, I’m not a fan of wars, but I love how you presented your list! I always look forward to your top ten tuesday posts because they’re always so cute! 🙂
    Top Ten Tuesday
    Giveaways: Paperback of The GAP Club & 5 signed YA books

  19. I also have a tendency to reach for wartime books, but for the most part I’m more of a homefront girl. Some of my favourites:
    Listen for the Singing by Jean Little (WWII)
    Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes (WWII)
    The Guests of War trilogy by Kit Pearson (WWII)
    Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco (WWII)
    The Jacky Faber books by L.A. Meyer (Napoleonic Wars/aftermath of American Revolutionary War)
    The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King (WWI–the rest of the series does a great job of exploring some of the after effects of the war, too)
    The Breadwinner series by Deborah Ellis (Afghani wars)
    I’m currently working on Kirby Larson’s Hattie Big Sky (WWI) and The Book Thief, and loving both!

    Code Name Verity has been on my TBR list for awhile, and March, Chains, and Those Who Save Us (at the very least) will be added immediately. Thanks for a great list!

  20. I love war stories (am I morose?) but I haven’t read any of these. There are also some pretty awesome books out there about Asia during war, even the World Wars. Lisa See’s Shanghai Girls, Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace, and Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists are well worth it.

  21. Yay! I love hearing that other people love The Book Thief. That book utterly brilliant. It took me forever to read, but man, I loved it. I’m also glad to see people read Night. I think that book is so vital to Holocaust education (I’m Jewish and have read more than my fair share of WW2/Holocaust stories). As for recommendations, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, but skip the movie. It was NOTHING like the book and really put a rosy sheen on the war part. Not that the movie wasn’t well-acted, because it was. It just didn’t do the book any sort of justice. Also, Ann Rinaldi writes great, YA historical fiction (Revolutionary War/Civil War). I’ve read just about everything she’s written.

  22. *sings* War? What is it good for? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING…except books Jamie loves!

  23. This is a great list! I really need to read The Book Thief. Number the Stars was a favourite when I was younger.

    My list was kind of similar, in that I did books set among the military,and most were set in wartime as well.

  24. Good choice- powerful topic! I hate to admit that I have only read two of those books, but all are worthy of a read. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Great theme with War. I honestly do not think I have read any war novels.


  26. Between Shades Of Gray, Night and Code Name Verity were all great war novels. I just recently picked up The Things They Carried so I’m eager to get around to that one. I still need to read The Book Thief! Ahh! I really enjoyed Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, it’s huge but amazing.

  27. <3 The Book Thief forever! Really great list. A bunch of these are on my TBR list but I haven't gotten to them yet. I'll have to bump them up!

  28. I always think “I don’t like books about or centered within a war,” and yet I’ve read and LIKED so many. Great book choices today. My absolute favorite on the list is probably (besides The Book Thief<3) Night. I read that for school and it changed me and my view of the world. I've read it several times since, even if it is an emotionally disturbing read, so I'll never forget what humans are capable of.

    Here's my TTT

    Stop by my giveaway if you have a moment!

    Jess @ Such A Novel Idea

  29. Great choice! Although these aren’t YA novels, you may want to give them a try:
    Sonia’s Song, by Sonia Korn Grimani (This is a memoir covering a few years of a young, Jewish girl’s life during the Nazi invasion of Poland and the lengths her mother went through to save Sonia and her brother. The very first sentence is amazing!)
    Dream When You’re Feeling Blue, by Elizabeth Berg. (A novel about three sisters during WWII. It’s been a while since I read it, but I think I remember it as sweet and easy to read.)

    Thanks and I’m happy to join in with my first TTT.

  30. My recommendation to you would have to be Two Rings: A Story of Love and War. It’s a memoir of a Holocaust survivor, and it’s so sad but so beautifully written.

    My TTT.

  31. Great list! Also, a fantastic reminder that I need to read The Book Thief and Between Shades of Gray!

  32. I LOVED Code Name Verity! Such a great book. Embarrassingly I still have not read The Book Thief. I really need to. I love Michelle Magorian’s books. They’re set in England during/after the second world war and they are really good. They’re middle grade not YA, but amazing. Cuckoo in the Nest and A Spoonful of Jam are my faves but she is most well known for Goodnight Mr Tom!

    Cait x

  33. A couple of these are on my TBR list. I love Laurie Halse Anderson books. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes is a great WWII book. Great list.

  34. I actually haven’t read any of these books. I really want to check out Code Name Verity sometime though. Great picks, most definitely!

  35. Number the Stars was one of my favorite books back in the day! I think that might be the book that got me so interested in the Holocaust and World War II actually.

    I have some YA war recommendations that are pretty interesting 🙂

    Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli was pretty good! I actually picked this one up because I loved Stargirl, which Spinelli also wrote.
    If I Should Die Before I Wake by Han Nolan was… interesting.
    Lastly, I’m not sure if this one is YA because I haven’t even read it yet. It was an impulse buy. But you might find it interesting! It’s called The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy.

    Happy reading! 🙂

  36. I used to think I would hate war books, then on reading a few realised they weren’t all details of a battle, but interesting interpersonal relationships and emotional breakdowns. I prefer books on the First World War to the Second – Parade’s End is a good book for that, as well as The Good Soldier, both by Ford Madox Ford. I’ve not read it, but you may also like Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks.

    I think I am one of the few people who didn’t love The Book Thief, I appreciated the novel use of death as the narrator, but appart from that found it difficult to wade through.

    Good post, lots of new books for me to look into 🙂

  37. It feels weird to say that I love books set during wars, but I do. There’s just so much inherent drama, you know? You’ve already listed my favorites …

  38. The Things They Carried is one of my favorite books! You’re absolutely right — it is SO much more than a “war book”! Reason #459,234,098,233 why you’re freaking AWESOME! ^_^

  39. chantelle laurel says:

    Re: Between Shades of Grey, so many people loved this book that I feel like a totally anomaly. I finished it yesterday and was so happy to be finishing it. I really couldn’t stand this book at all. There are so many better books depicting what it was like to be a prisoner of the war. This one I felt fell very short of that.

  40. Those Who Save Us sounds really interesting, I have never heard of it.

  41. I loved reading Between Shades of Gray and Night. I need to read the others. I recommend Farewell to Manzanar and Mornings in Jenin.

  42. How interesting! I’ve never considered going with a setting like war, which is pretty broad (hence why I didn’t think of it). There are some good reads in the Dear America series set during just about every militaristic conflict ever. My Brother Sam is Dead is a Revolutionary War read, and The Red Badge of Courage is kind of the iconic Civil War novel.

  43. Great list! I read and loved the following: the Book Thief, Between Shades of Gray, Number the Stars, and Night! March is on my TBR and so is The Things They Carried. I was also supposed to read this in high school and remember learning about it but I refused to read it lol. Then I keep hearing how so many people love it, so I’m really excited to read it! I recommend Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay and the Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne! Thanks for the recommendations too!

  44. You should definitely try My Mother’s Secret by J.L. Witterirck. It was one of my favorite books I read last year!


  1. […] of finding good historical fiction and I never even knew this was coming out and I ALWAYS pick out historical fiction set during wars — particularly WW2! Why is this one just showing up on my radar […]