Enjoying A Great Story

Classic World War II Novels To Read For Fun

World War II has provided inspiration for some of the world's greatest works of literature. Countless authors have tried to come to terms with the violence, heartbreak, and heroism that took place. Some authors have focused on the heroism and courage by depicting the struggles of a small group of men or women, while others have tried to make sense of such a terrible war by creating a satire or work of science fiction. Below are some of the more famous novels to deal with World War II, each in their own very unique way.

Catch 22

This novel is the source of the famous phrase "Catch 22." The novel concerns a man who wants to get out of fighting in the war by pretending he is insane. The "catch" is that the doctor tells him that any man who would want to fight is insane, and thus by not wanting to fight, he is sane. So, the solider is at odds to figure what to do. It's a broad satire on the war, and was one of the more popular books in the anti-war movement. The writer, Heller, looked to satirize what he saw as the insanity involved in the world coming together to kill each other.


This famous novel by Vonnegut concerns both World War II (specifically the firebombing of Dresden) and time travel, space aliens, and assassination. The author was in the war, and this, his masterpiece, was an attempt to try to come to grips with the strangeness and discombobulating nature of such tremendous violence. In the novel, the protagonist is, in one moment, in the middle of a war-torn Germany, and the next on a alien planet. It's a funny book, but the author never trivializes the subject matter.

The Thin Red Line

The author of this book (Jones) also wrote From Here To Eternity. In both of these books, he deals with a company of fighting men and depicts the heroics and tragedies of the war. The unique aspect of The Thin Red Line is that it has, in sections, a beautiful oracular narrative voice that is close to poetry. Jones conveys the spiritual unease that the combatants faced during wartime—not only when confronted with their own mortality, but also when faced with the decisions of taking others' lives.

To The White Sea

James Dickey is perhaps most famous for his southern, survival novel Deliverance, but this is just as great a book. It's about an American solider who ends up stranded in Tokyo right before the massive firebombing campaign. The reader then follows the character as he tries to make his way to safety, all the while evading enemy soldiers and braving the elements. The book is a lightning-fast read, and one of the greatest examples of sustained-action writing to ever appear in literary fiction. 

For more ideas on novels on Word War II to read, check out authors like Frances Patton Statham.