The Bridge Over the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle
First published in French in 1952, then in English translation in 1954, this is a page-turner about British POWs building a bridge for their Japanese captors in Burma in 1942. (The author – who later wrote Planet of the Apes – was held in captivity by the Japanese during the war.)
From The Japanese Times: “Under harsh conditions and the haughty perfectionism of Colonel Nicholson, the men rally to the labor of construction, turning the bridge into a symbol of work ethic and national honor, ‘a masterpiece which was to prove the superiority of the West.’”
Notes from our book club discussion: A critical account of both English and Japanese cultural views and prejudices during WWII… Heroics and hubris.