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.

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The books I picked & why

We Were Soldiers Once... and Young

By General Harold Moore, Joseph Galloway,

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

Why did I love 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.

By General Harold Moore, Joseph Galloway,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked We Were Soldiers Once... and Young as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'If you want to know what is was like to go to Vietnam as a young American... and find yourself caught in ferocious, remorseless combat with an enemy as courageous and idealistic as you were, then you must read this book. Moore and Galloway have captured the terror and exhilaration, the comradeship and self-sacrifice, the brutality and compassion that are the dark heart of war' THE TIMES


In November 1965, 450 men of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, under the command of Lt.Col. Hal Moore, were dropped by helicopter into a small…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Bảo Ninh,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Sorrow of War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the semi-autobiographical account of a soldier's experiences. The hero of the story, Kien, is a captain. After 10 years of war and months as a MIA body-collector, Kien suffers a nervous breakdown in Hanoi as he tries to re-establish a relationship with his former sweetheart.

Book cover of The Things They Carried

Why did I love 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.

By Tim O'Brien,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked The Things They Carried as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The million-copy bestseller, which is a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling.

'The Things They Carried' is, on its surface, a sequence of award-winning stories about the madness of the Vietnam War; at the same time it has the cumulative power and unity of a novel, with recurring characters and interwoven strands of plot and theme.

But while Vietnam is central to 'The Things They Carried', it is not simply a book about war. It is also a book about the human heart - about the terrible weight of those things we carry through…

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

Why did I love 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. 

By Wallace Terry,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Bloods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK • The national bestseller that tells the truth about the Vietnam War from the black soldiers’ perspective.

An oral history unlike any other, Bloods features twenty black men who tell the story of how members of their race were sent off to Vietnam in disproportionate numbers, and of the special test of patriotism they faced. Told in voices no reader will soon forget, Bloods is a must-read for anyone who wants to put the Vietnam experience in historical, cultural, and political perspective.

Praise for Bloods

“Superb . . . a portrait not just of…

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

Why did I love 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.

By James H. Willbanks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Abandoning Vietnam as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

To achieve this goal, America poured millions of dollars into training and equipping the South Vietnamese military while attempting to pacify the countryside. Precisely how this strategy was implemented and why it failed so completely are the subjects of this eye-opening study. Drawing upon both archival research and his own military experiences in Vietnam, Willbanks focuses on military operations from 1969 through 1975. He contends that Vietnamization was a potentially viable plan that was begun years too late.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Vietnam War, Vietnam, and war?

9,000+ 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 194 books about the Vietnam War
Vietnam Explore 130 books about Vietnam
War Explore 285 books about war

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