Books that Help Us Understand War

Thursday, September 09, 2010

No matter what one's position on a given war, it’s often hard to put language on it. War is so colored by politics and the press, it’s sometimes hard to understand why people are fighting—as our recent wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan make abundantly clear.

But literature can help us. It can give us the context to understand war, because even if there are politics in a story, they’re deeply personal—they’re about people, and not just soundbites. Novels often recognize that there really aren’t concrete winners and losers. And, more often than not, they acknowledge the surreality of war.

Our friend, Patrik Henry Bass, senior editor at Essence Magazine, has read many books about war. And he’s here with some that have helped him to better understand how it touches people’s lives.

Patrik's picks:

John's pick:

  • WAR, by Sabastian Junger

Comments [4]

Ralph from Rhode Island

"The Sorrow of War" by Bao Ninh. The story of the postwar life of a North Vietnamese soldier. Really the story of what is left of a human being after years of continuous combat. Very interesting to see another point of view on the war.

Sep. 09 2010 10:38 AM
WJW3 from NJ

Michael Herr's "Dispatches".

Sep. 09 2010 09:19 AM
Erik from Maryland

I would suggest reading The Hunters by James Salter. This is a beautifully written account of the life of fighter pilots in the Korean War. It reveals the hardships and the heroism in a way that recalls Hemingway but without the romanticism.

Sep. 09 2010 09:03 AM
sheilah hill from bronx, NY

Left to Tell recounts how Immaculée Ilibagiza survived for 91 days with seven other women during the holocaust in a damp and small bathroom, no larger than 3 feet long and 4 feet (1.2m) wide. Immaculee speaks all over the world and is the recipient of the 2007 Mahatma Gandhi Reconciliation and Peace Award.,
This book, along with Led by Faith, and Our Lady of Kibeho, are on the New York Times best seller list
From Publisher's Weekly:

This searing firsthand account cuts two ways: her description of the evil that was perpetrated, including the brutal murders of her family members is soul-numbingly devastating, yet the story of her unquenchable faith and connection to God throughout the ordeal uplifts and inspires. This book is a precious addition to the literature that tries to make sense of humankind' seemingly bottomless depravity and counterbalancing hope in an all-powerful, loving God.

Sep. 09 2010 07:16 AM

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