15 Books Like All the Light We Cannot See

Books Like All the Light We Cannot See

Are you still enraptured by the haunting beauty of ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ and longing for another literary journey that captures the essence of its profound storytelling? 

In this blog, we have compiled a diverse selection of novels that share the same depth of emotion, intricate plots, and unforgettable characters, promising to immerse you in worlds both familiar and entirely new.

Let’s go. 

Books Like All the Light We Cannot See

1. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale” is a captivating historical fiction novel that tells the story of two sisters in France during World War II and their struggle to survive and resist the German occupation of France. 

It dives deep into the themes of love, war, and sacrifice, showcasing the often overlooked and undervalued contributions of women during the war. The narrative switches between the perspectives of the two sisters, each facing her own battles and challenges, which adds depth and complexity to the story.

Major Similarities: 

Like “All the Light We Cannot See,” “The Nightingale” is set during World War II and focuses on the personal stories and struggles of ordinary people affected by the war. 

Both novels highlight the resilience and strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity and the devastating impacts of war on individuals and families. They also share a beautifully descriptive writing style that brings the historical settings vividly to life.

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Set in Nazi Germany, “The Book Thief” follows the life of a young girl named Liesel Meminger who finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others, including the Jewish man hidden in her basement by her adoptive parents. 

Narrated by Death, the novel provides a unique perspective on the human capacity for both kindness and cruelty. The story is as much about the power of words and stories as it is about Liesel’s personal growth and the impact of war on her life.

Major Similarities: 

Both “The Book Thief” and “All the Light We Cannot See” explore the lives of young people growing up during World War II, highlighting how war affects the innocence of youth and the importance of human connections. Each novel features compelling, heart-wrenching narratives that emphasize the power of hope and resilience. 

The unique narrators in both stories—Death in “The Book Thief” and the omniscient, multi-perspective approach in “All the Light We Cannot See”—provide profound insights into the human condition during times of conflict.

3. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

This novel tells the story of Tom Sherbourne, a lighthouse keeper on a remote Australian island, and his wife, Isabel, who discover a boat washed ashore carrying a dead man and a living baby. 

The couple’s decision to raise the child as their own leads to devastating consequences. The narrative explores themes of moral ambiguity, love, loss, and the impact of choices on our lives and the lives of others.

Major Similarities: 

“The Light Between Oceans” and “All the Light We Cannot See” share themes of love, loss, and the far-reaching consequences of our actions. Both novels are set around the time of World War II, although “The Light Between Oceans” deals more with the aftermath and the way the war affects its characters. 

The rich, descriptive prose and the emotional depth of both stories draw readers into their respective worlds, making them feel a deep connection to the characters and their dilemmas.

4. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

“Life After Life” follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the 20th century, including both World Wars, again and again with an endless number of lives. 

Each time Ursula dies, she is reborn into the same life but with the opportunity to make different choices that lead to different paths. The novel explores themes of fate, history, and the impact of the smallest decisions on our lives and the world around us.

Major Similarities: 

Like “All the Light We Cannot See,” “Life After Life” offers a unique and compelling exploration of the impact of war on individuals and the course of history. 

Both novels delve into the intricacies of human lives against the backdrop of World War II, although “Life After Life” takes a broader scope by exploring multiple timelines and outcomes. The thematic exploration of how individuals navigate the challenges posed by war and the choices they make links these two novels closely together.

5. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

“The English Patient” unfolds in the aftermath of World War II in a bombed-out Italian villa, where a young nurse tends to a severely burned man who is known only as the English patient. 

Through the stories he tells, the history of his love affair in North Africa is slowly unveiled, intertwining with the lives of two other guests at the villa. The novel is a rich tapestry of love, betrayal, and the personal toll of war, written in beautiful, lyrical prose.

Major Similarities: 

Both “The English Patient” and “All the Light We Cannot See” are set against the backdrop of World War II and its aftermath, focusing on the personal stories and emotional landscapes of their characters. 

The novels share a poetic quality in their writing, with a deep focus on the themes of memory, love, and the impact of war on personal identity. The intricate narratives and the exploration of the human condition during times of great turmoil present in both books offer a profound and moving reading experience.

6. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

“Salt to the Sea” is a historical fiction novel that focuses on the tragic sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, the deadliest maritime disaster in history, through the eyes of four young people each harboring their own secrets. 

The narrative is told from multiple perspectives, offering a deeply human story of tragedy, survival, and the fate of refugees. Sepetys combines historical detail with rich character development to shed light on a largely forgotten tragedy.

Major Similarities: 

Like “All the Light We Cannot See,” “Salt to the Sea” is set during World War II and tells a compelling story of young individuals affected by the war. 

Both novels are celebrated for their historical accuracy, emotional depth, and the way they bring to life the human stories behind historical events. The use of multiple perspectives to tell a larger story of hope, endurance, and the impact of war connects these two novels intimately.

7. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Set in 1946, this novel unfolds through a series of letters between Juliet Ashton, a London-based writer, and the residents of Guernsey Island, who formed a book club during the German occupation of the island in World War II. 

The correspondence reveals the hardships of the occupation, the resilience of the island community, and the power of books to provide solace and connection during difficult times.

Major Similarities: 

Both “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” and “All the Light We Cannot See” explore the impact of World War II on civilian lives, highlighting themes of resilience, the love of books, and the human capacity to find hope and connection in the darkest times. 

The historical setting, coupled with a focus on the redemptive power of storytelling, makes both novels resonate with readers who appreciate narratives that delve into the personal aspects of history.

8. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

“The Alice Network” intertwines two gripping stories: one of a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I, and the other of an American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947, who joins forces with the former spy to settle old scores from the war. This novel is a thrilling tale of courage, redemption, and the search for truth.

Major Similarities: 

Like “All the Light We Cannot See,” “The Alice Network” presents a narrative deeply rooted in the conflicts of the world wars, focusing on the extraordinary efforts of individuals in the face of adversity. 

Both novels highlight the role of unsung heroes, particularly the involvement of women in war efforts, and delve into the emotional and psychological effects of war. The compelling blend of historical facts with engaging storytelling provides a similar immersive reading experience.

9. Atonement by Ian McEwan

“Atonement” begins in 1935 England and spans several decades, telling the story of Briony Tallis, a young girl who makes a devastating accusation that changes the course of several lives, including her own. 

The novel explores themes of guilt, redemption, and the subjective nature of truth, ultimately leading to a reflection on the power of fiction to create and destroy.

Major Similarities: 

Both “Atonement” and “All the Light We Cannot See” are masterfully written, exploring the consequences of actions taken during youth and the ways in which characters seek redemption. 

Each novel is set against the backdrop of World War II, providing a rich historical context that deeply affects the characters’ lives and decisions. The lyrical prose and the focus on the emotional turmoil of the characters link these novels in their exploration of love, guilt, and the desire for forgiveness.

10. The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

“The Orphan’s Tale” is set in Nazi-occupied Europe and revolves around two women, Noa and Astrid, who find refuge and redemption in a traveling circus. Noa, a young Dutch girl who has been cast out after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier, rescues a baby from a train of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp. 

Astrid, a Jewish circus performer, becomes her mentor. Their story is one of survival, friendship, and the sacrifices made in the name of humanity.

Major Similarities: 

Similar to “All the Light We Cannot See,” “The Orphan’s Tale” is a poignant narrative set during World War II that highlights the resilience of the human spirit and the capacity for kindness in the face of brutal adversity. 

Both novels feature compelling, complex characters whose lives are irrevocably changed by war. The themes of survival, the impact of war on personal destiny, and the unexpected connections formed between individuals in challenging circumstances are central to both stories, offering readers a deeply moving and thought-provoking experience.

11. The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

This novel is set in the aftermath of World War II and centers around three German women, widows of men who were involved in an attempt to assassinate Hitler. 

They find refuge in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once hosted Nazi high society. As they struggle to rebuild their lives and protect their children, they must come to terms with the choices that led them to this point and navigate the complexities of guilt, survival, and redemption in a changed world.

Major Similarities: 

Like “All the Light We Cannot See,” “The Women in the Castle” delves into the aftermath of World War II, exploring the nuanced experiences of individuals who lived through the conflict. Both novels address the moral complexities of war, the impact of personal choices, and the possibility of redemption. 

The focus on the emotional landscapes of characters who have suffered loss and the exploration of their paths to recovery mirrors the compassionate and nuanced portrayal of human resilience found in Doerr’s work.

12. City of Thieves by David Benioff

During the siege of Leningrad in World War II, two young men, Lev and Kolya, are arrested for separate crimes but given a chance at saving their lives by securing a dozen eggs for a Soviet colonel’s daughter’s wedding cake. 

Their journey through the besieged city is both a survival tale and an unlikely friendship story, filled with danger, humor, and the absurdity of war.

Major Similarities: 

“City of Thieves” shares with “All the Light We Cannot See” a setting deeply affected by World War II, but it introduces a unique blend of humor and tragedy to explore the human condition under siege. 

Both novels showcase the lengths to which individuals will go to preserve their humanity and dignity in the face of war’s horrors. The focus on young protagonists coming of age during tumultuous times offers a poignant look at the impact of war on personal identity and moral choices.

13. The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

“The Secret Scripture” intertwines the story of Roseanne McNulty, an elderly woman who has spent most of her life in a mental institution in Ireland, with that of Dr. Grene, the institution’s psychiatrist. 

As Dr. Grene delves into Roseanne’s past to determine her fate, the novel reveals the complexities of Ireland’s political and religious tensions, the personal impacts of these conflicts, and the nature of memory and sanity.

Major Similarities: 

Though not set during World War II, “The Secret Scripture” shares with “All the Light We Cannot See” an exploration of how historical and personal narratives intersect and the ways in which individuals are shaped by the tumultuous times in which they live. 

Both novels are beautifully written, with a deep focus on character development and the impact of past events on present lives. The themes of memory, history, and the search for truth are central to both stories, offering readers a profound emotional and intellectual experience.

14. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Set before and during World War I, “Birdsong” follows the life of Stephen Wraysford, a British soldier who experiences the horror of trench warfare on the Western Front. 

The novel also explores Stephen’s complex love affair with Isabelle, a French woman, before the war. Faulks’s narrative spans generations, linking past and present through the experiences of Stephen’s granddaughter, who seeks to understand her grandfather’s war experiences.

Major Similarities: 

“Birdsong” and “All the Light We Cannot See” both offer unflinching portrayals of the brutality of war and its lasting effects on individuals and families. 

Through detailed historical settings and richly developed characters, both novels examine the themes of love, loss, and the human capacity for endurance in the face of unimaginable challenges. The multi-generational aspect of “Birdsong” mirrors the depth of historical context found in Doerr’s work, providing a sweeping view of how war’s impact reverberates through time.

15. The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor

Set against the backdrop of the Great Fire of London in 1666, “The Ashes of London” weaves together the stories of two characters: James Marwood, son of a traitor, and Catherine Lovett, a young woman with a mysterious past. 

As they navigate the chaos and destruction of the fire, they become entangled in a murder investigation that reveals deeper political and personal intrigues.

Major Similarities: 

While “The Ashes of London” is set in a different historical period than “All the Light We Cannot See,” both novels excel in creating a vivid historical atmosphere that immerses the reader in the time and place of their settings. 

The themes of personal and historical reconstruction in the aftermath of catastrophic events link the two novels. The intricate plot, rich historical detail, and focus on the resilience of individuals facing the ruins of their world offer a reading experience that fans of Doerr’s novel may appreciate for its depth and emotional resonance.

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