War Literature Books – A List of Ninety-Nine and Then Some…

***  Updated List – June 8 2015 ***

Greetings All,

So, here it is, a list of War Literature books I’ve come up with over the last few months… or rather, a list I’ve been developing for years.  I had this vague notion of calling this the best (insert a number) War Literature books, but that seemed a bit presumptuous. Better to avoid the term, best, I realized.  I only know that these are the books that have spoken to my readers, colleagues, students, teachers, veterans and other writers I’ve been fortunate enough to know over the years. Thank you all for your inputs, enthusiasm and suggestions. There are, assuredly, many many more out there.

As with any list, it is incomplete and flawed, but a place to start, I think. If nothing else, these texts convey the emotional truths of war in its varied manifestations. The works here do not glorify any aspect of war, but instead, they help us to understand the repercussions of conflicts as they reverberate across society, generations and the world. Once I reached ninety-nine, I stopped counting. Coming up with a specific number of texts seemed a bit arbitrary to me, especially considering there are many others works I haven’t been introduced to or that will emerge in the years ahead.  I plan to add them to this list over time, so feel free to share more with me in the future.

The underlined titles represent books that WLA has published a commentary on, a book review, or an interview with the author. I’ve embedded links to those pieces, which can serve as an introduction or launching point for discussions (for book reviews, you may have to scroll through several pages to find the exact one).

Lastly, for those of you who read my essay, An End to Silence – A Call to Act, I decided to start the initiative in Minnesota this fall—to make October, War Literature Month across the country. After speaking with friends and colleagues, there appears to be an overwhelming consensus that this is an important endeavor.  Regardless of the focus, there’s always room in a curriculum for one War Literature text in an English course, even if it’s a short story or two. In the end, the discussion engendered by the reading will pay dividends in the future. I may be naïve, but I imagine if every student, citizen and politician read just a smattering of these works below—the poetry, fiction, memoirs, essays and histories—we could start some wonderful discussion, the most important ones—the ones so many Americans are discussing at this very moment in regards to other conflict looming on the horizon.

So once again, I’m calling on everyone out there–teacher, writer, student, parent, veteran and citizen alike to spread the word. It’s all about ending the silence, and the literature of war can get us all thinking, talking, opening up, and learning along the way.

Happy Reading,

J.A. Moad II

—————————————————————————————————————————

Achilles in Vietnam by Johathan Shay (Vietnam – Nonfiction)

After Action Review & Remaking Sense by Veterans of the Global War on Terror    ed. by Lovella Calica and The Warrior Writers (GWOT – Various)

Aftermath ed. by Donald Anderson (Vietnam – Short Stories)

Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness                                                  ed. by Carolyn Forche (20th Century – Poetry)

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (WW I – Novel)

American Ground by William Langewiesche (GWOT – Nonfiction)

Articles of War by Nick Arvin (WW II – Fiction)

The Assault by Harry Mulisch (WW II – Fiction)

The Backwash of War by Ellen N. La Motte (WW I – Memoir)

The Balkan Express by Slavenka Drakulic (Bosnian War – Essays)

Behind the Lines: Powerful and Revealing American and Foreign War Letters           ed. by Andrew Carroll (20th Century – Nonfiction)

Between Here and Monkey Mountain by Lauren McClung (Vietnam/Homefront – Poetry)

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (GWOT – Novel)

Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden (Somalia – Nonfiction)

The Book of Duels by Michael Garriga (All Conflicts – Short Prose)

Bosnia Elegies by Adrian Oktenberg (Bosnia-Herzegovina – Poetry)

Carrying The Darkness ed. by W.D. Ehrhart (Vietnam – Poetry)

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller (WW II – Novel)

Century of the Wind by Eduardo Galeano (Latin America – Fiction)

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko (Korea – Novel)

Chickenhawk by Robert Mason (Vietnam – Memoir)

Civil War Stories by Ambrose Bierce (Civil War – Short Stories)

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (Chechnya – Novel)

Cross of Iron by Willi Heinrich (WW II – Novel)

The Destructive War: Sherman, Jackson & the Americans                                                  by Charles Royster (Civil War – Nonfiction)

Dear Mr. President by Gabe Hudson (Desert Storm – Nonfiction)

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (WW II – Memoir)

Dien Cai Dau by Usef Komunyakaa (Vietnam – Poetry)

Dispatches by Michael Herr (Vietnam – Memoir)

Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone (Vietnam – Novel)

Dust to Dust by Benjamin Busch (GWOT – Memoir)

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (WWII – Novel)

Far From the Temple of Heaven by Dale Ritterbusch (Vietnam – Poetry)

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (WW I – Novel)

Fatal Light by Richard Currey (Vietnam – Novel)

Fateless by Imre Kertesz (WW II – Novel)

Fear by Gabriel Chevallier (WW I – Novel)

Fire and Forget ed. by Roy Scranton and Matt Gallagher (GWOT – Short Stories)

Flashes of War by Katey Schultz (GWOT – Short Stories)

Flight to Arras by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (WW II – Nonfiction)

Flowers of Flame: Unheard Voices of Iraq   ed.by Sadek Mohammed, Soheil Najm, Haider Al-Kabi & Dan Veach  (Wartime in Iraq – Poetry_

Fobbit by David Abrams (GWOT – Novel)

The Forever War by Dexter Filkins (GWOT – Nonfiction)

The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer (WW II – Novel)

The Forsaken Army by Heinrich Gerlach (WW II – Novel)

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (Spanish Civil War – Novel)

The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied GWOT                                         by Christian Parenti (GWOT – Nonfiction)

Generation Kill by Evan Wright (GWOT – Nonfiction)

Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien (Vietnam – Novel)

Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves (WW I – Memoir)

A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain                                                                                by Robert Olen Butler (Vietnam – Short Stories)

The Good Soldier Svejk and His Fortunes in the World War                                       by Jaroslav Hasek (WW I – Novel)

The Good Soldiers by David Finkel (GWOT – Nonfiction)

The Great War and Modern Memory by Fussell (WW I – Nonfiction)

Here, Bullet by Brian Turner (GWOT – Poetry)

Home by Toni Morrison (Korea – Novel)

Home Before Morning: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam                                       by Linda Van Devanter (Vietnam – Memoir)

Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton (Afghanistan – Nonfiction)

House to House by David Bellavia (GWOT – Memoire)

The Hunters by James Salter (Korea – Novel)

I’d Walk With My Friends If I Could Find Them by Jesse Goolsby (GWOT – Novel)

If I Die in a Combat Zone Box Me Up and Ship Me Home                                         by Time O’Brien (Vietnam – Nonfiction)

Imagining Argentina by Lawrence Thornton (Argentina – Novel)

The Immaculate Invasion by Bob Shacochis (Haiti – Nonfiction)

Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandraskaran (GWOT – Nonfiction)

In The Forest of Laughing Elephants by Phil Caputo (Vietnam – Novella)

In Pharaoh’s Army by Tobias Wolf (Vietnam – Novel)

Jakob the Liar by Jurek Becker (WW II – Novel)

Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam                                          by Nick Turse (Nonfiction – Vietnam)

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (Civil War – Novel)

Jarhead: A Marine’s Chronicle of the Gulf War                                                                         by Anthony Swofford (Gulf War –Memoir)

Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (WWI – Memoir)

The Last True Story I’ll Ever Tell by John Crawford  (GWOT Memoir)

The Long Walk by Brian Castner (GWOT – Memoir)

Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl (WW II – Memoir)

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes (Vietnam – Novel)

A Memory of War by Frederick Busch (WW II – Novel)

Mormon Boy by Seth Brady Tucker (GWOT – Poetry)

My Life as a Foreign Country by Brian Tuner (GWOT – Memoir)

My War: Killing Time in GWOT by Colby Buzzell (GWOT – Memoir)

My War Gone By, I Miss It So by Anthony Loyd (Bosnia – Nonfiction)

The Nazi and the Psychiatrist by Jack El-Hai (WW II – Nonfiction)

Night by Elie Wiesel (WW II – Memoir)

No-No Boy by John Okada (WW II – Novel)

One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Office by Nathaniel Fick (GWOT – memoir)

On Killing by Dave Grossman (Vietnam – Nonfiction)

Operation Homecoming ed. by Andrew Carroll (GWOT – Various)

The Outpost by Jake Tapper (GWOT – Nonfiction)

Outlaw Platoon by Sean Parnell (GWOT – Nonfiction)

Outside the Wire: American Soldiers Voices from Afghanistan Ed. by Christine Leche

Paco’s Story by Larry Heinemann (Vietnam – Novel)

The Painter of Battles by Arturo Perez-Reverte (Bosnia-Herzegovina – Novel)

Peace Meals: Candy Wrapped Kalashnikovs and Other War Stories                                  by Anna Badkhen (All Wars – Nonfiction)

Phantom Noise by Brian Turner (GWOT – Poetry)

Poets of World War II ed. Harvery Shapiron (WW II – Poetry)

Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory                                                       by David W. Blight (Civil War – Nonfiction)

A Patch of Ground: Khe Sanh Remembered by Michael Archer (Memoir – Vietnam)

The Quiet American by Graham Greene (Vietnam in the 1950s – Novel)

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (Civil War – Novel)

Refresh, Refresh by Benjamin Percy (GWOT – home front – Short Stories)

Refuge by Adrie Kuserow (Africa – Poetry)

Remembering Heaven’s Face by John Balaban (Memoir – Vietnam)

A Rumor of War by Phil Caputo (Vietnam – Memoir)

S by Slavenka Drakulic (Bosnia-Herzegovina War – Novel)

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (WW II – Novel)

Soldaten: On Fighting Killing & Dying, The Secret WW II Transcripts of German POWs by Sonke Neitzel  and Harald Welzer (WW II – Nonfiction)

Song of Napalm by Bruce Weigl (Vietnam – Poetry)

Sparta by Roxana Robinson (GWOT – Novel)

The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam by Bao Ninh (Vietnam – Novel)

The Stars, The Earth, The River by Le Minh Khue (Vietnam – Short Stories)

A Stillness at Appomattox by Bruce Catton (Civil War – Nonfiction)

The Stick Soldiers by Hugh Martin (GWOT – Poetry)

Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi (WW II – Novel)

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (WW I – Memoir)

Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel (GWOT – Nonfiction)

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (Vietnam – Short Stories)

Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf (WWI – Essays)

Three Soldiers by John Dos Passos (Wordl War I – Novel)

They Marched Into Sunlight by David Maraniss (Vietnam – Nonfiction)

Tiger Force: A True Story of Men and War                                                                                 by Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss (Vietnam – Nonfiction)

To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild (WW I – Nonfiction)

Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson (Vietnam – Novel)

Wandering Souls: Journeys with the Dead and the Living in Vietnam                             by Wayne Karlin (Vietnam – Nonfiction)

War by Sebastian Junger (GWOT – Nonfiction)

War Horses by Yusef Komunyakaa (All wars – Poetry)

War is a Force That Gives US Meaning by Chris Hedges (All War – Nonfiction)

What It Is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes (Vietnam – Essays)

What We Sign Up For by Lisa L. Siedlarz (GWOT – Poetry)

When Heaven and Earth Changed Places by Le Ly Hayslip (Vietnam – Novel)

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka (WW II – Novel)

When War Becomes Personal ed. by Donald Anderson (All Wars – Nonfiction)

Where the Ashes Are: The Odyssey of a Vietnam Family                                                    by Qui Duc Nguyen (Vietnam – Novel)

Winning Hearts and Minds ed. by Jan Barry (Poetry Vietnam)

Woman in Amber: Healing the Trauma of War by Agate Nesaule (WW II – Memoir)

World War One British Poets: Brooke, Owen, Sassoon, and Others (WW I – Poetry)

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (GWOT – Novel)

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Si0bhan Fallon (GWOT/Homefront – Short Stories)

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman (WW II – Nonfiction)

About J. A. Moad II

J.A. Moad II is a former Air Force C-130 pilot with over 3000 flight hours and 100 combat sorties. He served as an English Professor at the United States Air Force Academy and as a fiction editor for the War, Literature & the Arts Journal (WLA). He writes online essays for WLA and is engaged in a program to make October Veterans' Voices Month across the country. His short stories, poetry and essays have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, including winning the 2014 Consequences Magazine Fiction Award. In addition to writing, he has performed on stage at the Library of Congress and The Guthrie Theater as part of the Telling Project - giving a voice to the Veteran experience. He currently resides in Northfield, MN where he flies for Delta Airlines and is editing on a novel about an American military in a not too-distant future.
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13 Responses to War Literature Books – A List of Ninety-Nine and Then Some…

  1. Marianne says:

    James,

    I am hoping you succeed in making October the War Literature Month. It’s a great idea.

    You and I were operating on the same wavelength! I too posted my own list of War Literature on my blog, today. I compared my list to yours: No overlap, amazing! But I have read books on your list. Just, not recently.

    I culled my list from books I have read in the past five years.

    http://anthropologist.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/in-honor-of-the-day-war-literature-or-matters-related-thereto/

    By the way, I teach creative writing on-line and have been steering my students to your site, they have been enjoying the readings very much.

    Best,

    Marianne

    • James A Moad II says:

      Thanks for the support. I looked at your list and saw two that are also on my list. Some of the other ones I considered, and LOVE by the way, but I thought the stories were more tangential or on the fringe of war. Of course, they do give us amazing insights as well. I’d like to look at some of the other ones I haven’t had a chance to read though. I’m curious which ones you think focus more directly on shedding light on the reality of war. Lastly, I originally planned to focus only on 20-21st Century Works, but was convinced to bring in some Civil War texts as well, hence the lack of works from antiquity. Just to let you know, I’m planning to update to the list every six months and I’m going to add a concise paragraph (even one or two sentences). I’m going to ask the people who recommend the book to write it — in short, why it’s great War Lit. Sooooooo, look for those requests coming to you

      • Marianne says:

        I looked again at your list and saw that I had missed these two which are also on my list: Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory, which I read as a class assignment in a course at Stanford called LITERATURE OF WORLD WAR I, taught by the late great Albert Guerard; and Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, which I just read this summer and which I found shattering. And, yes, I know that my list contains books that seem on the fringe, rather than directly addressing war itself. So maybe I’m stretching the term “war literature” a bit. The ones that describe the experience of actually being IN war: Sebastian Barry’s novel A LONG, LONG WAY and THE AENEID. K, I’ll wait to hear from you in spring!

  2. Hi James,
    Glad I discovered your blog this morning. I was reading over your list of war literature, and I wanted to mention a couple of war related books you might not have heard of.

    “The Final Salute” – my novel about fighter pilots during the Desert Shield/Desert Storm era

    “Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand,” Press 53, edited by Jeffry Hess

    “Home of the Brave: Stories in Uniform,” Press 53, edited by Jeffrey Hess

    “Red, White, and True,” forthcoming Spring 2014 from University of Nebraska Press (my essay “Remembering Forgotten Fliers, Their Survivors” will be included in this collection edited by Tracy Crow

    There are so many more titles I could add to the list. Many of my author friends at Military Writers Society of America are producing quality war related literature every year.

    Take care,

    Kathleen Rodgers

    • James A Moad II says:

      Thanks for the list, Kathleen. As I mentioned on FB, I plan to update and add to the list every six months. I’ll ask people who suggest texts to write a one paragraph piece on why the texts are significant War Literature… So look for that from me in the future. I’ve added your list to those to be considered in the future. Look to hear from me in the spring…

  3. Greg Gardiner says:

    Hi James
    That’s a great list – many of them I’ve read, and others I will follow up. Did you think also to include any ancient writers? eg., Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War. Of course, the list could be very very long, but Thucydides does stand out as a foundation author, writer, historian of war – its actions great and small, its politics and psychology, the impacts on individuals, communities, cities and regions.
    Thanks again for this list.
    regards Greg

    • James A Moad II says:

      Thanks Greg. I originally wanted to focus on the last two centuries, but was coaxed to bring in some Civil War texts. Of course, we could add another 25 books or so easily if we start going way back. So many options.

  4. Lydia Wilkes says:

    Dear James,

    Hi. I’m a civilian and an academic who took an interest in the GWOT in 2005 through John Crawford’s memoir, _The Last True Story I’ll Ever Tell_. I felt like I wasn’t getting the whole story from the news and turned happily to the memoirs that began appearing in print in 2005. Since then, I’ve taught a few college courses on war writing with the same aim you articulated above – to start conversations about war with the aim of bridging the military-civilian divide. I’m presently working on a book-length project about this topic.

    I specialize in the GWOT and hence have some books to recommend for the list. These are the most striking works I’ve encountered on the GWOT (that aren’t already included).

    One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Office by Nathaniel Fick (GWOT – memoir) – imo, the best of the GWOT memoirs, though I appreciate that you’ve avoided “best” entirely

    Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the New Face of American War by Evan Wright (GWOT – nonfiction/journalism)

    Interestingly, Wright, who worked for Rolling Stone, was embedded with Nate Fick’s USMC recon platoon at the tippy-tip of the spear during the invasion of Iraq. I’ve had students read these two books together (and watch part of HBO’s miniseries based on Wright’s book) to get a sense of how perspective influences storytelling. They said they found the exercise illuminating.

    The Unforgiving Minute by Craig M. Mullaney (GWOT – memoir) – another of the top memoirs from the GWOT

    War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges (All war – nonfiction) – very much in the vein of Filkins’ Forever War and Junger’s War, as Hedges is a journalist. Hedges’ book more or less predates the GWOT. A line from this book was used as the epigraph to Kathryn Bigelow’s Hurt Locker.

    I could add many more, but I’ll stop here. Thanks for putting this list together and for the work you’re doing to foster understanding between civilians and service people / veterans. Bruce Fleming puts it nicely at the beginning of Bridging the Military-Civilian Divide: We tend to misunderstand each other and ourselves; without a realistic view of both civilian and military worlds, we cannot move forward as a society.

    But I know I don’t have to tell you this. :)

    Best,

    Lydia

    • James A Moad II says:

      Lydia,

      Thanks you so much for responding–and the ideas for the list. As I mentioned in an earlier reply, I’ll add new titles every six months or so. My hope as that this whole project will gain momentum and that reading and talking about the repercussions of war will become a part of the national dialogue–a wheel and cog turning in our subconscious that informs us of what happens when we turn the crank and let the game of war begin–the game without rules and one which we can’t control… All the best!

  5. Mark says:

    You might want to consider placing ‘Memoirs of an Infantry Officer’ by Siegfried Sassoon on your list. Same with Joshua Chamberlain’s memoirs (from which ‘The Killer Angels’ draws really heavily).

  6. Tom Sheehan says:

    One source you might check is Milspeak Memo/Publishers where USMC Retired Gunnery Sergeant Sally Drumm, under the weight of her own tribulations and problems, has sought and brought many veteran voices out of the darkness of their past.

  7. Lee Burtman says:

    Hello Jay!
    I just stumbled upon your blog and am elated that you are showcasing literature which helps preserve the history of our soldiers. In my own desire to capture these stories, I have written a memoir for a 90-year-old Minnesota veteran of WWII–the second edition will be published in December of 2014. Ken Krueger of Blaine served as a motor messenger in Patton’s Third and shares his harrowing personal experiences in this memoir as well as a bittersweet love story. I had the joy of taking him back to France in 2011 to re-trace his path as a soldier and to find his long-lost first love, hence the second edition. If you would be interested in reviewing, “Fighting for Delphine,” I’d be happy to share a copy. I am also completing my father’s memoir which records his service in the Air Force during the Korean conflict and hope to have that available later next year. Thanks for what you are doing to honor our brave vets.
    Gratefully,
    Lee Burtman

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