Saturday, June 23, 2012

War Room Reading

While recently (hand) transcribing hours of taped interviews I did with combat veterans of the Army and Marines right after they returned to "the world" from Vietnam about forty years ago for my new book, "Back In Saigon," I got to wondering what I might include on an all-time favorite list of war books.

Because when I am not writing I'm reading, I thought I might share this list with readers of No Shilly-Shally. I've limited the list to a maximum of three titles from a war, which means some great books have been left off, like Joachim C. Fest's "Hitler" and Patton's biography by Ladislas Farago, and William L. Shirer's remarkable "The Nightmare Years" (leading up to WWII). Also I have not ranked them in any order, say best, next best and so on.

Hope you like these reads.

Civil War:

"Cold Mountain" by Charles Frazier (1997), Shelby Foote, "Shiloh," (1952), and Michael Shaara, "The Killer Angels," (1974).

First World War:

Erich Maria Remarque, "All Quiet On The Western Front" (1928), Ernest Hemingway, "A Farewell To Arms," (1929), and "Silent Night," by Stanley Weintraub (2002).

Second World War:

John Toland, "The Last 100 Days," (1965), Rick Atkinson, "An Army At Dawn," (2002), and "From Here To Eternity" by James Jones, (1951).

Korean War:

David Halberstam,"The Coldest Winter," (2007).

Vietnam War:

Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," (1990), Rick Atkinson, "The Long Gray Line," (1989), and "Perfect Spy" by Larry Berman, (2007).

If you want an authoritative work on the hunt for Osama bin Laden, I recommend Peter L. Bergen's "Man Hunt," (2012). For dramatic details of the killing of bin Laden by members of SEAL Team Six, see Chuck Pfarrer's book, "Seal Target Geronimo," (2011). (While it presents the most vivid account of what happened inside the bin Laden compound, much of Pfarrer's account must be taken on faith because as he explains his sources are inside the black ops establishment. I also noted with interest that Bergen did not cite Pfarrer's book in his eleven-page bibliography of secondary sources and interviews. Perhaps it was simply a timing issue, with the books coming out so close together. Although, Bergen does cite other works published in 2011 in the bibliography. Was Bergen making a statement on the Pfarrer book by not mentioning it? A close reading of Bergen's details on what happened inside the compound appear not to have relied at all on Pfarrer's book, so that might explain the ommission. In any event, I recommend both books for anyone wanting the inside story on America's greatest search and destroy mission.

Now for my three favorite war books:

Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom The Bell Tolls," "All Quiet On The Western Front," and "The Long Grey Line." All riveting, as they say.

What's on your list?

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