A Blog of Flashbacks
Military Books: Selected list of books about war, the people who have fought them, and, sometimes, those who stayed home
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.
***** Changed my life direction, opinions, or the direction of my work.
∆ 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.