In November of 2018, my family and I flew over to London to be there for the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War I. On November 11, the day the Armistice was signed, we went to Saint Paul’s Cathedral for a beautiful service honoring the soldiers who fought for our freedom a century ago. It was a trip none of us will ever forget.
Strangely, World War I gets passed over when studying modern world history, so here are 13 amazing books for you and you students to read while studying this time period. They provide insight and spark interest into a world we are slowly forgetting. They can be used as a resource while watching Lesson 17 of Dave Raymond’s Modern World History series.
Check out our entire list of WWI Teaching Resources here.
1. All Quiet On The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
One of the most moving novels about WWI, the story revolves around a young German soldier on the frontlines and how he and his friends realize that war is not exactly what politicians make it seem. It is incredibly moving and somewhat shocking when you realize the barbarous enemies they mention are the British, French, and American soldiers.
There is some discussion of sex since the soldiers have not been around women for months, but it is very brief. Given the subject matter, there is some violence but nothing graphic.
2. Rilla of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery
This is one of my favorite books for so many different reasons. Girls will enjoy it much more simply because the story is about a girl and how her life is affected by the war. Set in Canada, Rilla of Ingleside provides a brilliantly touching piece of insight into the Canadian side of WWI. For as much information as we have about other countries, Canada seems to get ignored; this novel will peak your interest in this country’s involvement and bring many tears and laughter. For those of you who love Anne of Green Gables, this is the final book in the series.
3. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
This story is somewhat autobiographical. It is set in Italy and follows a young American soldier who falls in love with a British nurse while recuperating from an injury. Like many Hemingway novels, this one is a little slow with a shocking ending that will really make you think.
Like All Quiet On The Western Front, this has similar violence and talks a little more about sex, but nothing graphic or over the top. One couple has an affair but nothing more.
4. Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
Another incredibly moving piece of literature, this is the story of Vera Brittain, a British woman who send her fiancee and brothers to war. Through her eyes, you will see how those waiting at home were affected during and after the war. Her memories will make you laugh and cry and give you a detailed look into what the war really did to those living through it.
Since this is an autobiography, there is mention of war hospitals and violence, but if you are in high school, it shouldn’t be anything more extreme than the books above.
5. The Belgian Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins
Lucy Fitch Perkins wrote a series of books about twins from various countries and eras of history. This book is actually based on the real life story of two siblings in Belgium who are forced to be refugees when the Nazis take over. It is so sweet, entertaining, and educational.
6. The French Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins
Another of the twin stories, this one recounts what happened when the German army bombed Paris and how the twins have to find their family among the destruction. Like The Belgian Twins, this story is moving and very sweet.
7. The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War
Unlike the others mentioned, this book consists of eleven stories based on items from WWI: a soldier’s writing case, Princess Mary’s gift fund box, a compass, and many more. Each chapter is about one item and written by a different author. This creates a fascinating overtone that fits how different the items are but how they are pulled together by the war.
Since it is about items that are directly linked to hard parts of the war, there are some stories that are focus more on violence, but nothing is too graphic.
8. Where Poppies Grow by Linda Granfield
This is actually a picture book, but it is incredibly interesting and a good option to read with younger children. It is perfect for students who just need something to read through quickly. There are letters, notes, photographs, and so much more on every page.
9. The War To End All Wars: World War I by Russell Freedman
If your student is writing a paper or report on WWI, this book is perfect. Length-wise, it is easy to read but filled with interesting pieces of information and original documents. It can be enjoyed by everyone in your family as well.
10. Silent Night: The Remarkable Christmas Truce of 1914 by Stanley Weintraub
This novel covers the fascinating truce between German and British troops in the trenches on Christmas Day 1914. Many books have been written about this strange and moving event, but this one perfectly ties together history and fiction in an entertaining and educational story.
11. Tommy Goes To War by Malcolm Brown
This book compiles many first-hand accounts of the war (letters, notes, diaries, journals, papers, and documents) in an intriguing account of WWI. Paired with photographs, this is another that should go to the top of your book list. It shows the humor, despair, and hope that filled each British soldier in such a way that will make you laugh and cry at once.
12. World War I: The Definitive Visual History
This book is incredible: it details almost every aspect of the war and is filled maps, pictures, and first-hand accounts. If you need an overarching resource for teaching WWI, this is the book to get.
13. The Great War edited by Mark Holborn
Unlike the book above, this is filled only with original photographs of the war. It is incredibly interesting and provides lots of insight into an era of time that has passed by. Out of every book listed here, this should immediately go into your list of books to get.
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