The best books about the combat soldier’s experience in the Vietnam War—military fiction at its best

Rick DeStefanis Author Of Valley of the Purple Hearts
By Rick DeStefanis

The Books I Picked & Why

The Things They Carried

By Tim O'Brien

Book cover of The Things They Carried

Why this book?

The Things They Carried is a collection of short stories, (or vignettes if you will), that delves into the psychological factors of war and combat through the words and actions of the young combatants. Tim O’Brien reflects his personal experiences in Vietnam by giving readers an up-close and intimate glimpse into the hearts and souls of combat veterans through fiction. As with many of his works, it is difficult at times to tell a difference. O’Brien said, (and I paraphrase) emotional truth as told in fiction often transcends that of a simple “war story.” There is no glorification of war in these stories, and if one is seeking a flag-waving, feel-good ending, this book may not be to their liking. It is, however, one of the best written.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

A Rumor of War: The Classic Vietnam Memoir

By Philip Caputo

Book cover of A Rumor of War: The Classic Vietnam Memoir

Why this book?

A best-selling memoir, A Rumor of War, is a recounting of a young United States Marine officer’s experiences during the earliest stages of the war in Vietnam. Philip Caputo writes with the authority of a man who saw it through the macro-lens of personal experience and pulls no punches for himself or those involved. His memoir begins with military training in 1960 and ends with his return as a journalist in 1975 to witness the fall of Saigon. Lauded as one of the classic books about the war in Vietnam, this is one any student, writer, historian, or otherwise would do well to read.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Ship Me Home

By Tim O'Brien

Book cover of If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Ship Me Home

Why this book?

Although units in other parts of the country experienced vastly different wars from the Marine, Army Airborne, and Cav units in the north, all were wrought with the same inanity of a war lacking clear goals and objectives—other than surviving. Many units simply had more time to think about it before their times came. O’Brien again uses his superior writing skills in this memoir to reflect the daily lives, frustrations, and sudden moments of unbridled terror the foot soldier faced. This book is an excellent portrait of the average grunt’s life in the Nam.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Charlie Mike

By Leonard B. Scott

Book cover of Charlie Mike

Why this book?

In this novel, Leonard Scott utilizes his experience as a U.S. Army officer to tell a story about five people involved in the Vietnam War. One is an NCO with the 75th Rangers. Another is a rebellious rich girl who joins the Red Cross and volunteers for duty in Vietnam. The third is a company commander for the 75th Rangers, and the fourth is a young North Vietnamese Army Platoon leader. Scott’s book weaves an exceptionally well told saga and became one of my five choices because it captures the essence (or if you will: the grotesque stench) of the war in Vietnam from several perspectives, including that of an enemy soldier.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Dispatches

By Michael Herr

Book cover of Dispatches

Why this book?

Michael Herr was a correspondent for Esquire Magazine, covering the Vietnam War from late 1967 to early 1969. In this non-fiction book written in 1977, only two years after the war ended, he recounts with unerring accuracy the horrors of war and the daily lives of soldiers in a combat zone. He also captures the broader picture of the war as only a correspondent based in Saigon could, giving the reader a glimpse into the absurdity by which those orchestrating the war explained their actions. This immediacy to the time of the events leads to an insightful and informative book.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists

Distantly Related Book Lists