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Military re-enactors look on as 280 paratroopers take part in a parachute drop onto fields at Sannerville, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings which heralded the Allied advance towards Germany and victory in Europe 11 months later. June 5, 2019 at Sannerville, France. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

> The Listicles

Lest We Forget: 12 Books for Remembrance Day

These war-themed books honour veterans of all stripes, including a Canadian war artist, Hollywood stars, POWs, doctors and paratroopers / BY Nathalie Atkinson / November 9th, 2022


As Canadians pause on Nov. 11 to honour, remember and reflect on the greatest sacrifice, a dozen new titles explore the heroism, history and realities of war, from exploits abroad to the invisible work at home.

Obsessive Book Buyers: Zoomer editors have carefully curated our book coverage to ensure you find the perfect read. We may earn a commission on books you buy by clicking on the cover image. 

1Devotionby Adam Makos

The upcoming new aerial war epic Devotion, starring Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell (in cinemas Nov. 23), is based on this 2014 book, republished as a tie-in edition. Bestselling military writer Makos takes readers into the cockpit of two Navy pilots during the Korean War, and the friendship between Tom Hudner, a son of privilege, and Jesse Brown, a son of a Mississippi sharecropper. It’s the inspiring story of their brotherhood, and Hudner’s desperate attempt to save Brown after he crashes behind enemy lines.


2E.J. Hughes: Canadian War Artistby Robert Amos

The latest in Canadian publisher Touchwood Editions’ award-winning series showcases the Canadian landscape painter’s time as a prolific war artist during the Second World War. Seventy artworks from the Canadian War Museum’s holdings are augmented with sketches and personal photos that cover his cadet days, after Hughes enlisted in Vancouver as a gunner, through to his designation as an official service artist in 1941 and, later, his wartime attachment to different regiments in England and Wales until 1946.


3American Midnightby Adam Hochschild

In this overnight bestseller, the legendary American historian (King Leopold’s Ghost) turns his attention to the extremism that arose during and after the Great War (1917 to 1921). He vividly examines how this horrifyingly grim (yet mostly forgotten) period of toxic white nationalism, racism and anti-immigrant sentiment led to democratic renewal.


4From the Battlefield to the Big Screenby Melody Foreman

The correspondent for Britain at War magazine chronicles the experiences of familiar Hollywood figures like Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh who starred in legendary war films, and the real-life roles they played during the Second World War. Decorated veteran Audie Murphy fudged his age in order to enlist, for example, while Dirk Bogarde, as a British Army intelligence officer, travelled to a secret location in France shortly after D-Day to work on vital aerial photographic interpretation exercises with the Royal Canadian Air Force.


5Prisoners of the Castleby Ben Macintyre

Macintyre, the preeminent British chronicler of intelligence history (Operation Mincemeat and The Spy and the Traitor) turns his novelistic flair to the story of Allied POWs incarcerated in Colditz, the seemingly impregnable medieval castle that served as one of the most notorious German prisons during the Second World War. Gripping prose takes the reader behind the stone walls to describe the espionage that went on inside, from hidden radios to coded messages secreted in and out, and recounts the many brazen escape attempts.


6The Volunteersby Lezlie Lowe

Nova Scotia-based journalist Lowe combines oral history with wide-ranging archival research (from radio programs to vintage issues of Chatelaine) in this narrative history about the Halifax homemakers who contributed to the war effort behind the scenes, as the city’s population (and homelessness) swelled. Halifax’s first-ever monument to women, unveiled in 2017, gives its name to this eye-opening reframe of women’s wartime history – a compelling portrait that honours the invisible work at home.


7Half Americanby Mathew F. Delmont

Lauded as an “unflinching account” of the essential contributions of Black Americans — soldiers, nurses, journalists and activists—who defended the country’s freedom while experiencing widespread racism, segregation and violence from their fellow citizens, this African-American perspective on the Second World War (by a civil rights expert and Dartmouth University history professor) is about fighting several wars: the one abroad, within the military and at home.


8The Poppy Ladyby Heather Johnson

Every year the Royal Canadian Legion distributes about 20 million poppy lapel pins, a ubiquitous symbol of remembrance for sacrifice and valour. The practice was inspired in part by “In Flanders Fields,” the poem doctor John McCrae wrote in 1915 while serving with the Canadian artillery in Belgium. But the poppy campaign in Canada also owes its origins to Frenchwoman Anna Guérin, whose idea for an inter-allied poppy day gave work to women and children in devastated areas of France and offered support for First World War veterans, as we learn in the first biography of the influential figure.


9Lifesavers and Body Snatchersby Tim Cook

Canada’s leading war historian investigates the medical history of the Great War and the many revolutionary, often life-saving innovations around wounds and disease and treatments that emerged from the conflict. His decade of research into secret files also uncovers the shocking history of how Canadian doctors were part of a British program that harvested body parts from the fallen (for medical study) without consent.


10Battle of the Atlanticby Ted Barris

Lasting 2,074 days, the prolonged battle of attrition was Canada’s longest continuous military engagement of the Second World War, as German surface warships and subs attempted to destroy Allied trans-Atlantic convoys who were escorted by Royal Canadian destroyers and RCAF aircraft. Using multiple historical perspectives, broadcaster and award-winning military historian Barris (The Great Escape) sets out to show that while Vimy Ridge may have been the country’s coming of age, this battle was Canadas naval awakening and a nation-building milestone.


11The Lost Paratroopers of Normandyby Stephen G. Rabe

Inspired by his father’s experience, Rabe – a Marine Corps veteran, retired history professor and son of one of the 180 Allied paratroopers who missed their drop zone – recounts how, in the days surrounding June 6, 1944, the community of Graignes supported and saved paratroopers from marauding Nazi SS forces in their French village. It’s a humble chapter in the French resistance movement honouring ordinary men and women.


12The Greatest Evil is Warby Chris Hedges

Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times war correspondent Hedges has been stationed around the world, from Iraq to the Balkans. In his latest book, 15 short chapters — based on dozens of interviews with wounded veterans, families of soldiers and civilian survivors — present an unflinching record that is a blistering condemnation of the horror of war that will, for many, be a persuasive argument against it.


THE SCROLL

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