We’ve compiled a list of 9 books written by veterans that you can read in honor of Memorial Day. Check them out from Newman Library or a local library if you’re home for the holiday.
1. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
What list would be complete without this classic work? O’Brien tells the story of one platoon of American soldiers during the Vietnam war. Though the novel is fiction, its hauntingly realistic presentation of life on the battlefront walks the line of nonfiction.
2. Armageddon in Retrospect, by Kurt Vonnegut
When you think ‘Vonnegut,’ you probably don’t think ‘war.’ But Vonnegut was a US Army vet who was taken as a prisoner of war in Germany during World War II. Published posthumously, Armageddon in Retrospect is a collection of 12 previously unpublished short stories about war and peace in Vonnegut’s signature dark, humorous style.
3. The Other Wes Moore, by Wes Moore
As the name implies, The Other Wes Moore is about two men, both by the name of Wes Moore, who led very different lives despite the many similarities shared between them. The author, a decorated combat veteran, Rhodes Scholar, and White House Fellow, wrote a letter to the other Wes Moore, serving a life sentence in prison. This book explores the relationship that then developed between them, told through a heart-wrenching narrative.
4. The Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers
Published in 2012, this book debuted to much critical acclaim: The New York Times called it one of the 100 Most Notable Books of 2012, it was named a 2012 National Book Award Finalist, and The Guardian awarded it the First Book Award. Written by an Army veteran, the story draws on Powers’ real-life experiences in Iraq as a machine gunner in a well-crafted story that follows Pvt. John Bartle from the frontlines to life at home—where danger still lurks.
5. FOBBIT, by David Abrams
If you’re looking for something satirical in nature, FOBBIT will not disappoint. Dubbed a New York Times Notable Book of 2012, Abrams writes of the overall absurdity of war as told from the perspective of someone who’s seen the frontlines from a desk job during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
6. Rule Number Two: Lessons I Learned in a Combat Hospital, by Heidi Squier Kraft
Kraft, a clinical psychologist in the US Navy, says TV show M*A*S*H perfectly sums up one of the hardest lessons she learned on deployment in Iraq: “There are two rules of war. Rule number one is that young men die. Rule number two is that doctors can’t change rule number one.” This book is her retelling of what she faced on deployment, hard at times, and surprising at others.
7. Matterhorn, by Karl Marlantes
Young Marine lieutenant Waino Mellas and his comrades in Bravo Company are left in Vietnam to fight their way through the war, growing from boys to men in the process. Marlantes, a Marine veteran himself, brings a world both terrifying and thrilling to life in this 600-page novel.
8. Redeployment, by Phil Klay
In this collection of short stories, Klay forces readers to examine the reality of war in Iraq and Afghanistan through heartbreaking and intricate stories of the soldiers deeply affected by the war that many back home don’t understand. Winner of the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction and selected as one of the best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, Time, Newsweek, The Washington Post Book World, and more, Redeployment is well on its way to becoming a classic war novel.
9. Powder: Writing by Women in the Ranks, from Vietnam to Iraq, edited by Lisa Bowden & Shannon Cain
Nineteen women veterans from all branches of the military detail what their time in the service was like via poetry and personal essays in Powder. From Desert Shield to Somalia to Vietnam, these women candidly expose the realities of female soldiers across time and place.