A former student of mine recently asked me for a list of 100 books I thought she should read. Anyone who knows me, knows that it is an impossible task. So I came up with 100 fiction and 100 nonfiction books to read. I decided I would share this list – in pieces – with you all. I will discuss ten or so books at time until I’m done. (This is also an effort to get me to blog more.) I am going to start with non-fiction. The category for this first post is books about war.
- The Great War For Civilization by Robert Fisk. I tell anyone who will listen that this is THE book to read about the modern Middle East. It’s been nine years since I read it and I still picture the scene from Algeria where rebels had put the heads of sympathizers on pikes. I also love the chapter about arms dealers. It is, by far, the most comprehensive book I have read on the Middle East.
- War by Sebastian Junger. This book reminds me so much of All Quiet on the Western Front. It is an amazing meditation on war and the effect it has on those who fight them.
- Ghost Wars by Steve Coll. An in-depth examination of the CIA’s involvement in the making of Al Queda. An excellent read.
- The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright. An examination of the events leading up to 9/11. While not about war directly, it is an examination of what led to this never ending war.
- The Forever War by Dexter Filkins. This book is an excellent examination of the war in Iraq and all the things that went so wrong.
- The Good Soldiers by David Finkel. This book follows a group of soldiers through the surge in Baghdad. It is harrowing. It is one of the best descriptions of war I have read.
- The Final Salute by Jim Sheeler. Follows a soldier who escorts the bodies of fallen soldiers home. It is the basis for the HBO movie “Taking Chance” with Kevin Bacon. This book is so very sad. It’s a meditation on service and death and it is well worth reading.
- The Only Thing Worth Dying For by Eric Blehm following Army Special Forces soldiers whose job is to get Hamid Karzi to Kabul in the wake of 9/11. I loved this book. It’s so good. It shows the absurdity of war, along with how decision making far away from the theater of battle is not always a good idea.
- Fearless – Eric Blehm – the story of Adam Brown. Adam had a troubled early adulthood. He delved into drugs and petty crime. He joined the Navy. And, against all odds, became a decorated SEAL. He was killed in battle. This book paints an beautiful picture of determination and sacrifice.
- Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer is the story of Pat Tillman, former Arizona Cardinal, who gave up millions of dollars to join the Army after 9/11. Though killed early in combat operations in Afghanistan, it took years for the public to be told that he was killed by friendly fire. This book broke my heart. It is such a good depiction of the confusion and fog of war that causes so many good young men to die.
Now that I have finished the list, I notice I have left off WWI, WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam. That was not intentional. This is the war of my generation. For WWI, nonfiction, Barbara Tuchman is a good bet. For WWII, Stephen Ambrose (also for Korea). For Viet Nam, Eric Blehm wrote about a Medal of Honor winner Roy Benevides in Legend. I gave it to my father, a Viet Nam vet, and he said it was the best description of the war he’d read. My fiction picks for war will cover far more ground in terms of the wars written about.