Top Ten: Best Books on the Normandy Invasion

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Alex Kershaw
April 17, 2024

I’ve written two accounts of D Day, The Bedford Boys and The First Wave, and have visited the beaches many times, and so I know only too well that seemingly countless books have been published about the most famous of WWII’s many amphibious invasions. These are the ones I enjoyed most and would recommend to anyone wanting to visit Normandy or just to marvel, almost eighty years later, at the enormity and drama of one of the most important days in modern history. As with other Top Ten lists, the first is my favorite – the others are well worth checking out.

All the titles can be purchased via the standard online bookstores.

1] The Longest Day (1959)

Cornelius Ryan

Ryan’s classic, first published in 1959, is always my first recommendation to all those wanting a superb, highly readable primer on D Day. Ryan reported on the war and conducted vast research, talking with dozens and dozens of important eyewitnesses, boiling his material down to a punchy, vivid masterpiece of narrative history.      

2] The Guns at Last Light (2013)

Rick Atkinson

This is the last book in Atkinson’s masterful Liberation trilogy. His account of D Day is beautifully crafted but what makes this a must read is the ensuing narrative – the best single-volume telling of the ensuing defeat of Nazi Germany on the Western Front.

3] Overlord: D Day and the Battle of Normandy (1984)

Max Hastings

Opinionated, often brilliantly written, always fascinating, this is the great military historian Max Hastings’ best book, replete with detailed accounts from the Allied and German side. Hastings does not pull his punches, vividly showing how, after 6 June 1944, the Battle of Normandy quickly became a horrific slugging match.    

4] If You Survive (1987)

George Wilson

“If you survive your first day, I'll promote you.” Those were the words of Wilson’s commanding officer in the hedgerows of Normandy in July 1944. I’ve read more than my fair share of combat narratives but this remains my favorite memoir of what it was really like to fight all the way to Germany after D Day. Wilson was by 1945 the last man standing, fighting, from his infantry company in the 4th Division. An unforgettable story of survival, heroism and loss.            

5] March Past (1979)

Lord Lovat

Lovat was a notable Scottish aristocrat, fine writer and superb warrior, famously leading commandos ashore on D Day, accompanied by his equally legendary piper, Bill Millin. Much of the book is devoted to Lovat’s upbringing and swashbuckling adventures before D Day. Lovat would be seriously wounded in June 1944. Before he was almost killed, he lost many of his men. His description of burying fine young officers and then “tip-toeing” away from their graves lest he “wake the dead” is heart-rending.        


6] Parachute Infantry (2002)

David Kenyon Webster

Before the HBO classic, Band of Brothers, there was Webster’s raw and searing story of life and death in E Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Webster studied English literature at Harvard and based some of this memoir on letters he wrote home from the battlefield. His hair-raising description of jumping on D Day is unmatched for immediacy and authenticity.          

7] Slightly Out of Focus (2001)

Robert Capa

Arguably the finest war photographer of the 20th Century, Capa took the most celebrated and evocative images of what it was like to land on Bloody Omaha early on D Day. Capa was a witty, glamorous, gutsy charmer and his modest, breezy memoir of covering the war for Life magazine from 1942 to the end is as impactful as ever.    

8] Nothing Less Than Victory (1998)

Russell Miller

As with Cornelius Ryan, Miller was a talented reporter and his professionalism shows in one of the finest of the many oral histories of D Day. Miller interviewed many survivors for the first time and also added extracts from letters, diaries and other unpublished sources to produce a richly-detailed tapestry of sacrifice, tension and courage.    

9] Pegasus Bridge (1994)

Stephen Ambrose

Ambrose wrote many blockbuster histories, notably Band of Brothers, and was criticized at the end of his career for his handling of sources. But there’s no doubting the quality of this concise and riveting account of the first successful operation on D Day – the seizure of Pegasus Bridge by Major John Howard and his men. I couldn’t put it down.        

10] Forgotten Voice of D Day  (2009)

Roderick Bailey

Bailey draws on a wonderful treasure trove to produce this ground-breaking, oral history: the Imperial War Museum’s gigantic Sound Archive. The book’s focus is very much British but the quality of the unearthed material makes for an engrossing read, especially concerning the commandos.