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Greatest Books About War Every Man Should Read

The most compelling books about war are sure to fascinate any reader who is studying the world of battle.

By Mark TurnerPublished 6 years ago 4 min read
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These books about war recall the world that revolves around war and the study of history. There have been thousands of novels written about war, but only few can be recommended the highest. As the best war books go, the inclusion of both history and emotion need to be married.

This list holds the reads that every man should read, in order to become educated about the reality of life at battle, as well as the sacrifices that so many made in years past. They are stories that will live on for years to come as classic staples in American literature. We are sure you will find one that you will be intrigued by, no matter the year it was written.

Steven Pressfield wrote one of the most enticing books about war titled Gates of Fire. Written in 1998, the historical fiction novel provides a soldier's point of view in the Battle of Thermopylae. This was not a common storyline to many ancient historians, making this novel a history maker. Xeones, a non-citizen of Sparta, was born in Astakos, and was one of only three Greek soldiers left after the battle.

Taught at the Marine Corps Basic School at Quantico, the United States Naval Academy, and West Point, the novel is on the Commandant of the Marine Corps' reading list. Why? Because it teaches the true themes of the military: honor and duty.

One of the most classic war books, this satirical novel was written in 1961 by Joseph Heller. The setting is placed during World War II and follows an Air Force B-25 bombardier stationed on Pianosa. However, he desires to escape the reality of the war, in fear of the madness that is consuming him. What measures will he go to in order to free himself?

With inspiration from his own journey as a bombardier in World War II, Joseph Heller created the novel that will forever be remembered and taught. The novel has even been considered one of the most influential in the twentieth century.

War and Peace is one of the finest books about war and is considered a staple piece of literature. The novel takes place in Russia of 1812 during Napolean's invasion. It follows a total of five families and their stories during this crucial time in history. War and Peace is also known for its length, being one of the longest novels ever published.

To write his historical novel, Leo Tolstoy interviewed people who lived through the French invasion as well as read from biographies, letters, notes, and journals from the time, because the book was written 60 years after the Napoleonic Wars.

Highlighting the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, Ernest Hemingway wrote the character of Robert Jordan, an American soldier against the Nationalists. His mission is to create an explosion of a bridge while the city of Segovia is under attack.

Published in 1940, this war novel is among many others of Hemingway's to be a great success. He derived the title from the poet John Donne's prayers about health. With themes of bigotry, suicide, camaraderie, and communism, the novel is known for both its imagery and narrative style.

Margaret Mitchell is the author of Gone with the Wind, Vivien Leigh's coming of age story while living during the American Civil War, as she must force her way out of poverty, all while struggling to balance her love affairs with Leslie Howard and Clark Gable.

With over 30 million copies sold, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and adapted into a successful war film, this is definitely one of the most popular books about war.

Written by a German veteran of World War I, Erich Maria Remarque describes the tolls war takes on a soldier, both physically and mentally, during and after the war. Themes surround the struggles that soldiers suffer from while trying to adapt back to a civilian life, post-combat. Published in 1928, the novel still stands true to the hardships of war and was adapted into a film of the same name, which won an Academy Award in 1930.

Though On War is technically an unfinished work, edited and published primarily by the author's wife, it is still considered one of the greatest books about war in history. The book expands on the military strategy of Prussia and was written prior to the Napoleonic wars.

This book is still constantly referenced still today, because of its focus on strategic thinking. Though it may have caused some controversy, the book still stands as one of the most accessible analyses of the military so far back into history.

Taking place in the Vietnam war, Michael Herr tells his story as a war correspondent working for Esquire magazine. A different perspective than many war novels, this journalistic book was published in 1977 and was one of the first pieces of literature to portray Vietnam for an American audience. Dispatches was recently reprinted in 2009, the novel is still relevant today and will be always remembered and referenced to as classic literature.

Winner of both the Salon Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 2001, Austerlitz tells the story of Austerlitz, a historian, and how he met the narrator during both the 60s and then not again until the 70s.

As one of the most heart-wrenching books about war, this was W.G. Sebald's final novel, which blends both fact and fiction. However, this novel is considered to be a tough read, even among war novels. This is due to the writing style Sebald chose to tackle, with a lack of paragraphing and complex, lengthy sentences.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote one of the most impressive books about war with Slaughterhouse-Five, a novel that tells Billy Pilgrim's story as an American soldier during World War II and after.

However, the novel begins as Pilgrim believes he is being held in an alien zoo in the future. As the story unfolds, events like firebombing, being a prisoner of war, and postwar obstacles are all prominent. Certain events were derived from Vonnegut's own life; the novel is part fictional, part factual. And it's worth a read from any war buff.

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About the Creator

Mark Turner

Retired Marine who takes better care of his car than his home

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