BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY By Ruta Sepetys
Description: Lina, a fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl leads a typical life until the invasion of Soviet officers shatters her family. Separated from her father and forced onto a cramped train, Lina, her mother, and younger brother, are taken to a Siberian labor camp. Despite the challenges, Lina discovers solace in her art. She risks everything by embedding clues in her drawings about their location and passes them on secretly, hoping they will reach her father. Will they survive?
Why Read It? A harrowing but beautiful insight into a history so rarely told.
THE LIBRARIAN OF AUSCHWITZ By Antonio Iturbe
Description: During World War II, Dita, a 14-year-old girl, with her parents, is taken by the Nazis from the Terezín ghetto in Prague and imprisoned in Auschwitz. In this brutal environment, Dita is struggling to adapt to the constant fear and danger. One day, Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch approaches Dita and asks her to take care of eight precious volumes the prisoners have smuggled past the guards. Without hesitation, Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz.
Why Read It? A poignant, gripping novel that tells the story of Dita’s courage in the face of unspeakable atrocities. His books are excellent.
ONCE By Morris Gleitzman
Description: In Poland during World War II, Felix, a Jewish boy, seeks refuge from the Nazis by hiding in a Catholic orphanage. When he overhears his parents are in danger, Felix embarks on a perilous journey to warn them, into Nazi-occupied Poland. To Felix, every experience is a story waiting to be told, but as Felix’s journey grows dangerous, he encounters horrors not even his vivid imagination can explain. Despite the grim reality, Felix remains determined to reunite his family.
Why Read It? It’s a touching novel that offers a unique perspective, through the eyes of a child who clings to hope in the face of unimaginable adversity.
I AM THE MESSENGER By Markus Zusak
Description: Ed Kennedy is an underage cab driver with little direction in life. He’s a terrible card player, hopelessly in love with his best friend Audrey, and devoted to his dog, the coffee-drinking Doorman. Ed’s life is unremarkable until he unintentionally thwarts a bank robbery. Ed receives an ace in the mail and is chosen to become the messenger. With this newfound purpose, he sets out to help and, when necessary, hurt those in his community. As he continues on his mission, one question remains: Who’s the mastermind behind Ed’s assignment?
Why Read It? A fantastic, thoughtful coming-of-age story by the same masterful author who wrote The Book Thief.
THE SHADOW OF THE WIND By Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Description: Set in Barcelona in 1945, the city is still recovering from the Spanish Civil War. Daniel, the son of an antiquarian book dealer, is grieving the loss of his mother and finds comfort in a mysterious book titled “The Shadow of the Wind” by Julián Carax. However, as he tries to discover more of Carax’s works, every book Carax has written has been destroyed, and Daniel may be in possession of the last remaining copy. Daniel’s innocent quest to uncover the truth sets off a chain of events that will change his life forever.
Why Read It? A thrilling mystery tied together with the celebration of literature, and a fantastic pick for books like Book Thief.
ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE By Anthony Doerr
Description: Marie-Laure and her father reside in Paris close to the Museum of Natural History. Marie-Laure loses her eyesight at age six. When she turns twelve, the Nazis invade Paris, and they escape to the fortified citadel of Saint-Malo, where her reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall seaside house. In a mining town in Germany, a young orphan named Werner lives with his sister. Werner develops a talent for constructing and repairing radios, which leads him to join the Hitler Youth and track the Resistance. Werner arrives in Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s intersect.
Why Read It? It’s a stunning, lyrical tale of a harrowing time in history.
SALT TO THE SEA By Ruta Sepetys
Description: The novel is set during the winter of 1945 in the midst of World War II. It follows the individual stories of four refugees, each born in a different country and haunted by tragedy, lies, and the war. As the Soviet army advances, thousands of people flock to the coast seeking safety. The four refugees’ paths cross as they compete for passage on the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises freedom and security. However, not all promises can be fulfilled, and the voyage becomes fraught with danger and uncertainty.
Why Read It? It’s by the same talented author of Between Shades Of Grey. One of the best books similar to The Book Thief.
THE BRONZE HORSEMAN By Paulina Simons
Description: Tatiana and Dasha Metanova share a cramped apartment with their parents and brother. Their world is turned upside down when Hitler’s armies invade Russia. In the midst of the chaos, Tatiana meets Alexander, a courageous young officer in the Red Army. Their impossible love story unfolds against the backdrop of a city grappling with starvation, desperation, and fear. But Tatiana and Alexander’s relationship exposes Alexander’s dangerous secret.
Why Read It? An epic, thrilling, yet tenderly romantic historical fiction book. It’s part of a series of adult fiction books.
THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE By Julie Orringer
Description: The novel is set in Paris, 1937, and follows Andras Lévi, a Hungarian-Jewish architecture student who arrives in the city from Budapest with a suitcase and a promise to deliver a mysterious letter. As he becomes entangled in a complex relationship with the letter’s intended recipient, he learns of a secret that will drastically alter the course of his history. The story takes us from the Hungarian town of Konyár to the grand opera houses of Budapest and Paris, and from the bleakness of a Carpathian winter to a life in labor camps.
Why Read It? It’s a poignant tale of a family broken apart and pieced back together amidst one of history’s darkest periods.
GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY By Annie Barrows & Mary Ann Shaffer
Description: As London is recovering from World War II, Juliet Ashton, is searching for a new book idea. She receives a letter from a man who found her name in a book by Charles Lamb. The man is from Guernsey, and their correspondence draws Juliet into the world of the man and his friends, who are members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The society was created on a whim when its members were caught breaking curfew during the German occupation of the island. Juliet decides to travel to Guernsey to meet them.
Why Read It? Written in letters, this heartwarming novel celebrates the written word and the connections that’re made in unexpected ways.
THE GREAT GATSBY By F. Scott Fitzgerald
Description: The book is about the enigmatic Jay Gatsby, who is known for his wealth and his love for the stunning Daisy Buchanan, set in the extravagant parties of Long Island during the 1920s. His inevitable downfall is captured through the eyes of a newcomer from the Midwest, Nick Carraway.
Why Read It? The writing is lush with descriptions and hauntingly beautiful. It’s a vivid description of what life was like in the 1920s.
THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS By John Boyne
Description: The novel is set in Berlin in 1942 and follows a young boy named Bruno. One day, Bruno discovers his family is moving to a new house far away. The new house is located in a desolate area, surrounded by a tall fence. There are no friends or activities to entertain him, but Bruno’s sense of adventure pushes him to explore the surroundings. During his explorations, he encounters another boy who leads a life vastly different from his own. Despite their differences, they form a friendship that has dire consequences.
Why Read It? A haunting, harrowing tale of the darkest side of WW2.
CODE NAME VERITY By Elizabeth Wein
Description: The novel is set on October 11th, 1943, in Nazi-occupied France, where a British spy plane crashes. One of the two friends and occupants of the plane, “Verity,” is arrested by the Gestapo and believes that she has no chance of making it out alive. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, Verity faces a harrowing situation as her Nazi interrogators present her with a dreadful ultimatum: reveal her mission or face a gruesome execution.
Why Read It? A great character-driven novel about friendship, loyalty, and bravery.
THE GOLMEN AND THE JINNI By Helene Wecker
Description: Chava is a golem. She accompanies a Polish merchant on a voyage to America but is left alone after his death at sea. Disoriented and alone, Chava is taken in by a rabbi on the Lower East Side who recognizes her true nature. Ahmad is a jinni, a fiery entity trapped in a copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago. He’s released in Manhattan but remains bound by an iron band to the wizard, appearing in human form. Chava and Ahmad form an unlikely bond. However, a greater threat arises that’ll challenge their very existence.
Why Read It? An enchanting tale that blends Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction, and fable.
THE NIGHT CIRCUS By Erin Morgenstern
Description: The circus appears out of nowhere. Le Cirque des Rêves offer a one-of-a-kind experience, but only at night. Behind the scenes, a fierce competition is taking place. Two young magicians, Celia and Marco, are engaged in a contest where only one can emerge victorious. Unbeknownst to them, the stakes are high and failure can be fatal. They unexpectedly fall in love, setting in motion a dangerous series of events with far-reaching consequences.
Why Read It? A mesmerizing novel that intertwines magic, romance, and suspense in a spellbinding tale.