"Although I hate war, some of my favorite books are about it. I believe that if more people read novels like these, we would banish war forever. I’ve been coming to Quail Ridge Books since the olden days at Quail Corners when Linda Walker and two of her friends did a children’s music hour there, and I’ve worked here off and on since the store moved to Ridgewood. Because of Nancy Olson’s recommendations and my job as coordinator of the QRB Signed First Editions Club, I’ve read some of the greatest contemporary literature being published. I also love to think up new projects for store manager Sarah to let me do at the store. Like Take Ten, for example…." -Mamie
Helprin is one of my favorite contemporary writers, and I had a hard time choosing just one war novel by him for Take Ten. This story of an elderly Italian soldier who confronts his shameful military past, coupled with Helprin’s dense, gorgeous writing, is brilliant.
This novel has all the grit and detail of The Things They Carried, but is more of a personal story about one soldier, Cacciato. I was fascinated by the way O’Brien explores the internal world of Cacciato through his day and night dreams, at times giving the novel the feel of magical realism.
More than any other book I’ve read about war, Matterhorn showed me the total disconnect that people who run wars have from the reality of those who fight it. This is Vietnam as we saw it in the Ken Burns series. (Marlantes was one of the commentators.)
Birdsong is a story in two parts. The first is of a British soldier of WWI. The second part is set in the ‘70s and focuses on his granddaughter, who is trying to make sense of her grandfather’s experience. The sections about the tunnelers of WWI and the dangers they faced added depth and tension to the story.
This is one of the classic novels of war, and looks extensively into the plight of the returning soldier who bears scars of his horrific experiences. It is timeless.
Campbell brings his experience as a preacher and civil rights activist to this novel about a soldier from Mississippi who fights in WWII. The title scene is as poignant a portrait of the comradery of war as I’ve ever encountered.
Based on the experiences of Flanagan’s father as a Japanese prisoner of war, this Booker Award-winning novel was one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read. But it’s an important book from a historical perspective, so that we never forget what some endured in the name of war.
Set in Afghanistan during the fall of the monarchy and the rise of the Taliban, The Kite Runner brings home the ruinous effect of war on children. This was a gripping story of the friendship of two young Afghani boys, one wealthy, the other poor. This is a hard look at contemporary warfare.
Never has a book brought home the horror of the aftermath of a war as this novel by Communist-leaning Trumbo. It has particular relevance with respect to today’s wars, where thousands of soldiers survive, but with devastating injuries.
Spanning the period pre-WWII to the present, this Man Booker short-listed novel explores how one person’s actions can impact people for generations. It’s told from multiple viewpoints, including a young writer. I think this is McEwan’s best book to date.