Recent and highly readable WWI / WWII fiction or memoir?
November 15, 2016 5:22 AM   Subscribe

I have an older relative who's immobilized after surgery, and I'd love to mail him a couple of books to help him pass the time during recovery. He's an amateur historian whose greatest interest is World War I, followed closely by World War II and the Cold War.

Snowflakes: 1. I'm hoping to find recent releases, preferably 2016, to minimize the potential for duplicates (he won't buy books for himself during the year, but he gets an avalanche at Christmas). 2. He knows his stuff, so fiction has to be historically accurate. 3. He doesn't have his usual level of focus right now, so I don't want to send him anything that's dry or dense. I'm looking for fiction that you couldn't put down or memoir/biography that reads like fiction.

Thanks so much for your recommendations!
posted by timeo danaos to Writing & Language (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Not 2016 but a fair bit different from the norm for WW history, An Intimate History of Killing is a highly readable academic text which looks at the experience of killing in C20th war, and the efforts of the Western military to cause its soldiers to be more aggressive, to fight and to kill. Its by a British author so you your uncle might be less likely to have come across it but it covers both US and UK militaries as well as others, from WW1 to Vietnam.
posted by biffa at 5:41 AM on November 15, 2016

The Narrow Road to the Deep North came to mind, but it's a 2014 release.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 6:04 AM on November 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Alan Furst's Night Soldiers novels are espionage thrillers set in Europe during the 1930s and through World War II. They're totally absorbing! The first one was released in 1988, the most recent in 2016.
posted by ZipRibbons at 6:29 AM on November 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

If he doesn't have his usual level of focus, there's an excellent graphic novel called Canada At War. Related and what might better fit your bill (but I have not read) is Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:40 AM on November 15, 2016

I suggest this although it's not new only because sometimes amateur male historians have not read it: has he looked at Testament of Youth? I found it absolutely gripping and it got me into a few other women's memoirs about nursing during the war.

(Also, if for any reason he hasn't read Goodbye To All That, Robert Graves's WWI memoir, it is extremely taking, readable and important, and has consoled me in many a tough spot. I actually have read it while getting over a serious illness, now that I think about it. In a way, I can't imagine that he hasn't read it, but I could see someone whose approach to military history was not literary at all skipping it.)
posted by Frowner at 6:40 AM on November 15, 2016

Weird War One.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:56 AM on November 15, 2016

WWII but very readable City of Thieves
posted by shaqlvaney at 7:23 AM on November 15, 2016

A new book called "Rogue Heroes" tells about the founding of Britain's SAS at the start of WWII. I thought it was a bit brief, but it has a lot of stories of raids and adventures that are fun.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:33 AM on November 15, 2016

I was wondering whether to recommend Alan Furst's Night Soldiers (as mentioned by ZipRibbons) as they were from a while ago, but didn't realise there was a recent one. I have terrible concentration skills (rarely finish a novel without getting distracted and leaving it part way through) but was totally gripped.
posted by penguin pie at 8:00 AM on November 15, 2016

Anything at all by Alan Furst (including Night Soldiers as already recommended) is regarded as a convincing and eminently readable fiction founded n well researched WW2 background.
posted by aqsakal at 8:09 AM on November 15, 2016

Rilla of Ingleside if he's ok with reading about women holding down the fort in PEI.
posted by brujita at 8:14 AM on November 15, 2016

The Last Town on Earth is about the American home front during WWI and the Spanish flu epidemic that was ravaging America in the spring of 1918, and these are two of my favorite historical topics, so I thought that it was a great read. It's from 2006, though, so while it's not too old, it wasn't released this year. Just thought that I'd mention it anyway since it does have a unique perspective.
posted by Fister Roboto at 9:32 AM on November 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

The relatively recent book A Gentleman in Moscow takes place in Russia more or less between the wars -- but if your dad likes to read about Stalinist Russia, this is the most lovely and gentle book I've read this year.
posted by janey47 at 9:43 AM on November 15, 2016

I recently read and enjoyed Dead Wake by Erik Larson, about the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. The book came out in 2015 so if your relative's on top of WWI non-fiction he may have already read it, but figured I'd mention it just in case.

I actually liked Larson's In the Garden of Beasts slightly better, it's about the experiences of an American ambassador and his daughter in 1930s Berlin. That one's 5 years old though.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 9:48 AM on November 15, 2016

I loved All the Light We Cannot See It's WWII fiction, published in 2014. The Nightingale was published in 2015 and about the French Resistance during WWII.
posted by foxonisland at 10:23 AM on November 15, 2016

List of WW1 novels
posted by TheRaven at 12:06 PM on November 15, 2016

2012, but it's YA fiction and so maybe it hasn't crossed his radar: Code Name Verity.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:35 PM on November 15, 2016

I liked Ghost Soldiers. It's a WWII memoir about a rescue operation mounted for American POWs in a Japanese camp. Well researched and certainly exciting.
posted by scruffy-looking nerfherder at 3:25 PM on November 15, 2016

I loved The Sympathizer, a beautifully written story about a North Vietnamese spy on the staff of a South Vietnamese general. It's from 2015, but since it's a little outside the core of his interests, maybe he will not have read it yet.
posted by burden at 7:09 PM on November 15, 2016

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