Looking for the perfect gift for someone who loves reading about World War II? Personally, I think we make the best gift for that, but in the interest of fairness, here are four gifts we don't sell that I think any World War II history buff would love.
Why take gifting advice from me? Well, I run the seller of one of the most popular gifts for historians in the world. I'm also a huge history nerd, and I deal day after day with top-tier historians, archivists, and museum curators.
I'll also add that I gain nothing from you buying any of the products below, which is not the case for most of the gift guides on the internet. I'm keeping this list short and sweet, because I think most gift guides are too long and have too many filler items.
Without further ado, here are my four recommended WWII-themed presents:
1. A Desk-Sized Artifact (Price Varies): If your intended recipient loves going to museums, give them a piece of history they can put on their desk, their nightstand, or their bookshelf and marvel at daily.
I frequently pick up little artifacts like this from Ebay and Etsy (I recently bought some currency from the Allied occupation of Germany), but there are also plenty of reputable ecommerce businesses that specialize in this sort of thing.
Minimuseum.com sells fragments (starting at $35) from a protective window used by scientists during the Manhattan Project (the project to develop the world's first atomic bomb).
2. A Framed War-Time Advertisement Or Newspaper Cover (~$40-80 with frame):
Along similar lines, antique World War II prints make for cool, affordable decorations for any World War II enthusiast's home.
I recently bought an Oldsmobile ad from 1944 promoting Oldsmobile's role in building fighter planes. Cut from a period magazine, it set me back $15. Adding in $30 for a frame, I had a cool, historic wall decoration for $45.
I buy my old prints mainly from Jentz Prints, which sells at flea markets here in DC, but there are plenty of reputable sellers on Ebay, and there's are posters for every interest, so you can find one that fits your recipient's taste.
3. A Replica Engima Machine (~$150):
I went down an Engima/Bletchley Park codebreaking rabbithole earlier this year, and to my excitement, I discovered that a museum in Europe was selling working replicas as a fundraiser, and that they'll ship you a kit anywhere in the world.
If your intended recipient is handy/likes to build things, I think they'll love this. The DIY kits start at about $150 (it's 150 Euros, so the price will fluctuate).
I haven't bought one yet (I did build a virtual Engima), but as soon as I have some free time on my hands, I will.
4. A Kindle Paperwhite & An Amazon Giftcard (~$200):
I'm going to get some heat for this from my author friends, but as someone who bought his first Kindle this year, I love it so much.
It's much more convenient than carrying around a stack of books (and it's waterproof), without the downsides of reading on a phone or tablet (short battery life, hard to read in bright sunlight, and eye strain).
My pro tip (which I got originally from Wirecutter) is to get the Kindle Paperwhite Kids edition ($169.99). The Paperwhite is available with ads on the lockscreen for $139.99, and without ads for $159.99, but the Kids edition includes a case, no ads, and an extended warranty for $10 more.
All the kid-specific features can be turned off at setup, so there's no downside to getting this vs the normal Kindle paperwhite.
Throw in a $30 gift card for some books of your recipient's choosing and you'll be their favorite gift-giver of the year. If you want to gift them a specific book, I have a few recommendations:
- In The Garden Of Beasts: Erik Larson's novel-like account of the life of William Dodd, FDR's Ambassador to Germany in the lead-up to World War II. Dodd was a professor at my alma mater, so I'm a little biased, but this book is a thrilling read about an undercovered chapter in American diplomacy.
- Freedom's Forge: An in-depth account of war-time industrial feats. Learn about how the United States overcame labor shortages, material shortages, and other war-time constraints to build tens of thousands of tanks, ships, and aircraft in record time.
- Thunder Below: A thrilling first-hand account of the exploit of one of the US Navy's boldest submarine captains.
- The Rise & Fall Of The Third Reich: A detailed history of the rise and fall of Nazi Germany written by a noted journalist (William Shirer) who was on the ground reporting for much of it. It has its flaws, but I still think it's a great red.
- Colditz: Prisoners Of The Castle: I love Ben Macintyre. He writes non-fiction books that read like spy thrillers. This book is no exception. Learn about the many daring escape attempts of Allied POWs imprisoned in a 16th century castle. My personal favorite: Several of the POWs built a working glider.