Friday, November 12, 2010

Top Ten War Stories

In honor of Veteran's Day I've created a list of my Top Ten War Stories.  Thanks to Suey for the inspiration!  In no particular order:

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.  Yes, it's racist, but Scarlett is so spunky, and I'm always interested in reading about wars from the perspective of the home front.  I'm not really into battles and action sequences.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.  Death narrates the story of a young orphaned German girl during WWII.  I cried like a baby at the end.

A Very Long Engagment by Sebastien Japrisot.  A heartbreaking look at WWI France, and its aftermath.  Also a great movie adaptation.

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene.  A 12-year-old Jewish girl living in the American South befriends a German POW. One of my favorite young adult books of all time.

The Complete Maus by Art Spiegleman.  The groundbreaking graphic novel, one of the best books about WWII I've ever read.  Not to be missed.

The Old Wives' Tale by Arnold Bennett A great unappreciated book about the very different lives of two Victorian sisters. One of the sisters, Sophia, is trapped in the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War. Scary.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows.  On the lighter side of WWII fiction, but a great read.  I never knew that the British Channel Islands were invaded by the Germans during the war.  It's mostly in letters, which I always love, and it's about a book group in wartime!

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje.  Another heartbreaking love story.  I think I liked the movie adaptation even more than the book, even though Colin Firth plays a real ass.

Stones From the River by Ursula Hegl.  And interesting look at WWII, from a German viewpoint.  This book had great insight into how the Germans tolerated the rise of Nazism, until it was too late.  One of the best of Oprah's books.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Not my favorite Dickens, but still, great writing, and a frightening look at the French Revolution.

So -- which books have I missed?  Suggestions from the blogosphere?


  1. Oh, you have some wonderful titles on here, and some I haven't read. I loved The Book Thief as well. I think that it is the only book that has ever made me really cry. Such a beautiful story!

    I loved Gone with the Wind when I read it over the summer. I just got sucked in!

  2. These are all great! One of the most grueling and realistic war books I've read is The March by E.L. Doctorow. It chronicles Sherman's march across the South and is told from the viewpoint of several characters on both sides of the conflict. It's fascinating.

  3. Ooh, I didn't know The Old Wives' Tale included the siege of Paris! I'll have to read it now as I really like that period of French history. And The English Patient is a beautiful book. I like the movie adaptation of A Very Long Engagement, but for some reason was never able to get into the book.

  4. Great list -some day I must read Gone with the Wind!
    Doreen by Barbara Noble, a Persephone title I read earlier this year, would definitely make my list of top war stories.

  5. I'm not a fan of war stories at all and the only ones I can think of offhand that I like are Catch-22, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Number the Stars.

  6. I loved Olivia Manning's The Balkan Trilogy and The Levant Trilogy.
    The BBC serialised the books as Fortunes of War which was also very good.
    I loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society too.

  7. I LOVE your list. GWTW is a classic, I don't care what anyone says. A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT I think is so underappreciated and underread and wonderful. THE BOOK THIEF is terrific- a real modern classic for kids and adults. Wonderful!

  8. Allie -- I agree, GWTW will suck you in. I read it for the first time when I was eleven and finished it in two days. I think it's time for a reread!

    aworldiinthemselves -- I've never read Doctorow, but I've heard great things about The March (though I often confuse it with Geraldine Brooks' March -- and they were both shortlisted for the Pulitzer, and they're both about the Civil War).

    Amanda -- I had such a hard time with Catch-22 and For Whom the Bell Tolls, it's my least favorite Hemingway. I rather liked A Farewell to Arms, to my surprise.

    Katrina -- I didn't know the Fortunes of War was based on books! I've always wanted to watch this, as I'm a huge Emma Thompson fan. My library has both trilogies in combined volumes which are just whoppers.

    Carolyn -- The Old Wives' Tale is SO good, couldn't believe I'd never heard of it. One of the characters moves to France, but it's mostly about Victorian England. A great read.

    Marie -- I always feel like have to apologize for liking GWTW because of the racism. And I didn't know that Japrisot wrote quite a few books, so I have to read more of him.

  9. I definitely enjoyed Guernsey Literary&etc. Stones from a River, less so, but that was a while ago. From WWI, I enjoyed W.D. Wetherell's A Century of November, which follows a Canadian man's journey to France near the end of the war to see the place where his son died. Along the way, he discovers that his son had a British girlfriend, and so he tries to find her too.

    From WWII, I liked the non-fiction book, Defiance, which is about the Bielski otriad which sheltered Jews in Belorussia during the Holocaust and fought against the Nazi occupation. It was made into a movie fairly recently.

  10. Oops, Defiance is by Nechama Tec, forgot to say that.

  11. I'm still a GWTW fan despite its manifold drawbacks. I'm a Scarlett fan, and think Mitchell was a great storyteller--GWTW definitely reflects her POV.

    Killer Angels by Michael Shaara is the best Civil War novel and best war novel I've ever read. It is fantastic, won a Pulitizer prize, and General H. Norman Schwarzkopf described it as "the best and most realistic historical novel about war that I have ever read."

  12. I need to read Gone with the Wind. In spite of the problematic elements, which I know exist, it's a classic and I should read it.

  13. The Old Wives' Tale sounds SO interesting! (I know I already said this on your original post, but still...why doesn't our library have it?! lol)

  14. So many great books mentioned in this post. Time to reread one or two.

  15. Loved "The Book Thief" too ... and I was reduced to tears at the end.

    And I really enjoyed Guernsey too ... hard to believe they were dealing with the same war!

  16. I have been meaning to read The Things They Carried by Tim OBrien. I loved The Book Thief and I own Killer Angels - just haven't gotten to it yet.

  17. I love your lists! By coincidence, you seem to have just done one each time I stop by your blog and they always give me something to think about.

    That Arnold Bennett sounds wonderful - I must get it. And I'm so happy an Australian novel got a look-in (The Book Thief). I would definitely put Sebastian Faulke's Birdsong on the list. It left me shattered for weeks after - but in the best kind of way.

  18. And ironically, I really hated A Farewell to Arms...

  19. Absolutely loved A Very Long Engagement and Gone With the Wind! Thanks for this great list! There are some wonderful books on here that I have not read yet and will have to check out!