Mamie's Take Ten

 "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

A Soldier of the Great War Cover Image
ISBN: 9780156031134
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Published: Mariner Books - June 1st, 2005

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.

Going After Cacciato Cover Image
ISBN: 9780767904421
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Broadway Books - September 1st, 1999

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.

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802145314
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Grove Press - May 10th, 2011

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: A Novel of Love and War (Vintage International) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780679776819
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - June 2nd, 1997

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.

All Quiet on the Western Front Cover Image
ISBN: 9780449213940
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ballantine Books - March 12th, 1987

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.

The Glad River Cover Image
ISBN: 9781573124454
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Smyth & Helwys Publishing - June 21st, 2013

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.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Vintage International) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780804171472
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Published: Vintage - April 14th, 2015

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.

The Kite Runner Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594631931
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - March 5th, 2013

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.

Johnny Got His Gun Cover Image
ISBN: 9780806528472
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Citadel Press - July 1st, 2007

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.

Atonement Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385721790
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Anchor Books - February 25th, 2003

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.