The best books about the Vietnam War from different POVs

Who am I?

I was always fascinated by the Vietnam War since my older sister’s friends went off to fight in it. After getting my PhD and writing about World War I and World War II, I returned to Vietnam by getting involved with veterans groups and taking veterans and students to Vietnam. Since then I have written widely on the topic, teach about the Vietnam War, and have been involved in several major Vietnam War documentaries for outlets including the History Channel and National Geographic Channel. From those early days I have read everything I can get my hands on about the war, about my generation’s war.

I wrote...

The Boys of '67: Charlie Company's War in Vietnam

By Andrew Wiest,

Book cover of The Boys of '67: Charlie Company's War in Vietnam

What is my book about?

The Boys of ’67 tells the story of one combat company in the Vietnam War – Charlie Company, 4th of the 47th Infantry. Called up in the largest draft call of the entire war, the men of Charlie Company were a slice of Americana – city slickers, surfers, sharecroppers, bikers, and preachers. They trained together for eight months, becoming brothers in the process, and shipped out to Vietnam. During their year in combat, the 160 originals of Charlie Company lost 26 killed and 105 wounded in days of grueling combat that changed the young men forever. 

They returned to a country that had changed dramatically – a country where their service and sacrifice were not valued, and the men and their families still live with the war today. This is their story.

The books I picked & why

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We Were Soldiers Once... and Young

By General Harold Moore, Joseph Galloway,

Book cover of We Were Soldiers Once... and Young

Why this book?

I gravitate to books that stress the humanity of the war in Vietnam. This wonderful book, written by the commander of the unit involved in the battle and the brave US reporter that stood at his side, draws the reader in to understand and empathize with the young Americans who fought on that fateful field known as LZ X-Ray. 

Beyond being a gripping war story that will have you on the edge of your seat, We Were Soldiers also describes perhaps the most important single moment in the Vietnam War in which America first tested its helicopter war against the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong. This battle solidified the flawed American strategy against a foe that had taken our measure. We Were Soldiers mixes deep importance with the eternal story of young men at war in an unforgettable way. Its style greatly impacted my own writing.

The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam

By Bảo Ninh,

Book cover of The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam

Why this book?

Too often the “enemy” in Vietnam is only a shadowy or perhaps superhuman figure in books on the war.  This book, though, is different. A book that is never quite sure whether it is an autobiography or fiction tells the haunting story of Kien, a North Vietnamese soldier – one of only a handful of his unit to survive the conflict. The book jumps backward and forward in time, lurching the reader; leaving the reader confused; just as Kien felt as the war tore his world apart. 

From hunting through the jungle for dead bodies to the strains of battle, to the beauty of family and leaving his love behind to go to war, to a broken life after the war’s end, The Sorrow of War makes the reader feel for the ultimate humanity of Kien and hurting for his loss.

The Things They Carried

By Tim O'Brien,

Book cover of The Things They Carried

Why this book?

Perhaps the American novel of the Vietnam War. Veterans, like Tim O’Brien, often find it difficult to put their wartime experiences into words – but they also need to put those experiences into words to heal.  In a series of short stories that range from a cataloguing of what soldiers carried into battle to a visit to the battlefront by a soldier’s girlfriend to a soldiers’ baptism of fire, The Things The Carried takes the reader through heartrending, implausible, hyper-realistic, and gut-wrenching stories of what American soldiers went through in Vietnam. The prose is simple, yet breathtaking. The stories are unbelievable, yet real. 

This is perhaps the best book to make you feel like you are in Vietnam and also understand the war’s impact on soldiers.

Bloods: Black Veterans of the Vietnam War: An Oral History

By Wallace Terry,

Book cover of Bloods: Black Veterans of the Vietnam War: An Oral History

Why this book?

This was the first collection of oral histories that I ever read from the Vietnam War. Reading history done this way, with the men speaking for themselves, opened a new world for me. It allowed me to understand that it is only by talking to and with our veterans that the true depth of the combat experience can be delved. Terror, camaraderie, death, honor, humor, compassion, and boredom – the full human story of Vietnam and war is on display in Bloods. And it was this book that taught me to be an oral historian. 

On top of that, Bloods also, of course, makes clear the uniqueness of the Black experience in Vietnam – fighting a war for America while the country wrestled with its eternal question of race. This book is good and important for so many reasons. 

Abandoning Vietnam: How America Left and South Vietnam Lost Its War

By James H. Willbanks,

Book cover of Abandoning Vietnam: How America Left and South Vietnam Lost Its War

Why this book?

A perfect example of what a well-researched and written academic book on the Vietnam War should be.  Abandoning Vietnam tells the critical story of the military side of how America exited its conflict in Vietnam. In most western books on the Vietnam War, our allies in Vietnam, the South Vietnamese, are missing. But this book makes clear South Vietnam’s manifold strengths and clear weaknesses and why our alliance with them failed. The failure of that alliance not only cost more than 50,000 American lives but cost the Vietnamese millions and cost South Vietnam its very life. 

We like to forget what happened there in the wake of our defeat, but this book won’t let you forget. Reading this pushed me to write my own book to further the story.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Vietnam War, Vietnam, and war?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Vietnam War, Vietnam, and war.

The Vietnam War Explore 147 books about the Vietnam War
Vietnam Explore 101 books about Vietnam
War Explore 203 books about war

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Braiding Sweetgrass, With the Old Breed, and Stalingrad if you like this list.