Biography
Publications
Events
Blog on Personal Thoughts
Blog on Flashbacks
Related Links
Contact
Return Home
Learning Image
Abigail B. Calkin

A Blog of Flashbacks

Military Books: Selected list of books about war, the people who have fought them, and, sometimes, those who stayed home

December 2019

I don’t remember who first asked me what books about war I recommend. The next question became what aspects interested me—which wars, soldier or family perspective, how immersed do you wish to be. I have put the books on war that I’ve read in a historical list, marked my favorite books and favorite movies. Why are they my favorites? Because they speak to me. They are ones that I remember and think about years later. One example is E. B. Sledge’s With the Old Breed. I have two pages of notes about particulars. During World War II, soldiers in the field were not allowed to keep a diary, but Sledge did. His descriptions of feelings, of fear, are noteworthy because they are absent in most other military autobiographies. The Iliad and The Odyssey give such thoughts and feelings to us by analogy. 

 I was so impressed by Anna Akhmatova’s poems in translation, I learned Russian so I could read them in the original. Salisbury’s 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad had me imagining what eating bread made from linseed oil, sawdust, and dirt tasted like, what it was like to walk by a body collapsed into death on the street, then frozen there in their long winters. It gave me a strange perspective of Leningrad/St. Petersburg in 1987-88 or 2007 when I was there, picturing bombed out and destroyed buildings everywhere. 

 Soft Spots offered that place between being in a warzone and being home with PTSD, yet Van Winkle once home not always knowing where he was. He wrote it so well that I did not know whether he was in a battle in Iraq or at home having a flashback. An uncomfortable and jarring place even for me the reader, it is a powerful way of showing the horror of war and the horrible aftermath of flashbacks. 

 I read The Iliad and The Odyssey when I was eleven. I saw the film, Forbidden Games when I was thirteen. These three works, plus Akhmatova’s poetry, 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad and Soft Spots, and more recently, the writings of the 2015 Nobel Laureate for Literature, Svetlana Alexievich, have lived within me since I “met” them. They have also influenced my thinking, literary life, as well as my work in the field of behavior analysis. 

 My ratings: 

 ***** Changed my life direction, opinions, or the direction of my work. 

 *** Good 

∆ Ones I’m reading but haven’t finished yet

If I gave the books no ratings, I read them, but their story does not continue to return to my thoughts. 

 The movies I listed are my favorites. Of course, there are many more. If you haven’t seen Taking Chance, you must. Watch all its DVD specials too.

Return to Top

Era

Title

Author

ABC rating

Greece

The Iliad

Homer

*****

 

The Odyssey

Homer

*****

Japan

The Art of War

Sun Tzu

***

Mongolia

Genghis Khan

Jack Weatherford

 

 

 

 

1812 (Europe)

War and Peace

Tolstoy

 

 

 

 

Civil War

The Red Badge of Courage

Stephen Crane

*****

 

On War

Carl von Clausewitz

Indian Wars

Life of George Bent

 George E. Hyde

***

 

 

 

 

WW I

The War Poets

Jarrold Poetry Series

***

 

All Quiet on the Western Front

Erich Maria Remarque

*****

 

Collected Poems

Anna Akhmatova

*****

 

The Guns of August

Barbara W. Tuchman

 

 

Conscience

Louisa Thomas

 

 

 

 

WW II

With the Old Breed

E. B. Sledge

*****

 

Flags of Our Fathers

James Bradley

***

 

Unbroken

Laura Hillebrand

 

 

Abandon Ship!

Richard F. Newcomb

**

 

Indianapolis

Lynn Vincent & Sara Vladic

 

 

Bringing Mulligan Home

Dale Maharidge

 

 

Lost Soldiers

James Webb

 

 

Abandon Ship!

Richard F. Newcomb

 

 

Women Wartime Spies

Ann Kramer

 

 

To End All Wars

Ernest Gordon

 

 

Articles of War (novel)

Nick Arvon

 

 

The Thousand Mile War

Brian Gibson

***

 

We Die Alone

David Howarth

 

 

Halsey’s Typhoon

Bob Drury & Tom Clavin

 

 

Down to the Sea

Bruce Henderson

 

 

Frozen in Time

Mitchell Zuckoff

 

 

Soldier from the War Returning

Thomas Childers

 

 

Twelve Desperate Miles

Tim Brady

 

 

Peace (novel)

Richard Bausch

 

 

The Pacific

Hugh Ambrose

 

A Higher Call

Adam Makos

***

 

900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad

Harrison E. Salisbury

*****

 

Soldier’s Heart

Carol Tyler

 

 

Maus

Art Spiegelman

 

Vietnam

The Things They Carried

Tim O’Brien

***

 

What It Is Like to Go to War

Karl Marlantes

***

 

Shrapnel in the Heart   

Laura Palmer

 

 

Flashes of War

Katey Schultz

 

 

We Were Soldiers Once and Young

Harold G. Moore, & Joseph L. Galloway

 

 

We Are Soldiers Still

Harold G. Moore, & Joseph L. Galloway

 

 

Long Time Passing

Myra MacPherson

 

Taps on the Walls (POW poems)

John Borling

 

 

Sandra’s Hands

Paul Kristian Berg

 

Dispatches

Michael Herr

***

 

Defiant

Alvin Townley

 

The Wall

 

****

 

 

 

 

No. Ireland

Belfast Diary

John Conroy

 

Children of War [many wars]

Roger Rosenblatt

*****

 

 

 

 

Iraq

Soft Spots

Clint Van Winkle

*****

 

Dust to Dust

Benjamin Busch

 

 

Redeployment

Paul Klay

 

 

American Sniper

Chris Kyle

Poorly written.

 

The Mirror Test

J. Kael Weston

∆ Iraq & Afghan

 

The Long Walk

Brian Castner

 

 

Flashes of War

Katey Schultz

 

 

See Me for Who I Am

David Chrisinger (editor)

 

 

Here, Bullet (poetry)

Brian Turner

***

 

The Good Soldiers

David Finkel

∆ Pulitzer Prize

 

The Yellow Birds

Kevin Powers

 

 

Final Salute

Jim Sheeler

 

 

Joker One

Donovan Campbell

 

 

 

 

 

Afghanistan

Green on Blue (novel)

Elliot Ackerman

***

 

Where Men Win Glory

Jon Krakauer

 

 

Zinky Boys

Svetlana Alexievich

won the Nobel Prize for Literature, 2015.

****

 

Lone Survivor

Marcus Luttrell

***

 

The Blue Cascade

Mike Scotti

 

 

The Forever Wars

Dexter Filkins

 

The Unforgiving Minute

Craig M. Mullaney

 

 

 

 

 

GWOT

Depicting the Invisible

Susan J. Barron

*****

 

 

 

 

Journalists

Where War Lives

Paul Watson

***

 

Tribe

Sebastian Junger

***

 

Beyond the Green Zone

Dahr Jamail

 

 

War

Sebastian Junger

 

 

 

 

 

Spouse

I Love a Man in Uniform

Lily Burana

 

 

The Soul of My Soldier

Abigail B. Calkin

*****

 

Where the Water Meets the Sand

Tyra Manning

 

 

You Know When the Men Are Gone (novel)

Siobhan Fallon

 

 

Uniform (novel)

Lisa Stice Houlihan

 

 

Eleven Days (novel)

Lea Carpenter

 

 

The Longest Night (novel)

Andria Williams

 

 

My Life with a Wounded Warrior

Pamela Foster

 

 

 

 

Other

On War

Dave Grossman

*****

 

On Combat

Dave Grossman

***

 

The Lessons of Terror

Caleb Carr

 

 

The Roots of War and Terror

Anthony Stevens

 

Stories in Uniform

Readers Digest

 

 

Battle Dress (novel)

Amy Efaw

 

 

Many books—you choose!

Stephen Ambrose

 

Once a Warrior Always a Warrior

Charles W. Hoge

∆ Army colonel

 

Post Trauma Stress

Frank Parkinson

 

 

War on the Mind

Peter Watson

 

 

In Search of the Warrior Spirit

Richard Strozzi-Heckler

 

The Theater of War

Bryan Doerries

 

 

 

 

Movies

Forbidden Games

French, WWII

*****

 

Come and See

Russian/Belarussian, WWII

*****

 

Kolonel Radl

German, WW II

***

 

Ran

Japanese, feudal

***

 

Platoon

Vietnam

***

 

Hurt Locker

Iraq

***

 

Taking Chance

Iraq

*****

 

American Sniper

Iraq (better than the book)

 

 

Conscientious Objector

WWII (Desmond Doss)

*****

 

Hacksaw Ridge

WWII (Desmond Doss)

**

Writing Image