The best books that capture struggling war veterans returning to civilian life

Who am I?

I am an army veteran, a member of the American Legion, and take seriously the treatment of Veterans. I was an educator for 30 years working with k-12 grade school children in Los Angeles. I love to read both military and related fiction and non-fiction. I also love to read historical fiction and non-fiction. I like stories about the human condition, where we come from and how we got to this point, and ones that have uplifting resolutions after the main character has gone through much trial and tribulation. The books I have written fit these categories. 


I wrote...

My War with Hemingway

By James Charles,

Book cover of My War with Hemingway

What is my book about?

Zach, a young veteran, contemplates suicide after a horrific tour in Afghanistan when Ernest Hemingway appears and stops him. He enrolls in college where he falls in love with Jessica, a young woman from a wealthy family. Her love stabilizes him, and Hemingway’s appearances become less frequent, until she doesn’t return to school after break. He confronts her father who tells him he is not to see her again. Alone, haunted by the wars, and with his friend Hemingway pestering him, he descends into alcoholism. Teaming up with one of Zach’s army buddies, and in defiance of her parents, Jessica searches for him. But will they find him in time to save his life? And is her love enough to help him find redemption?

The books I picked & why

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The Sun Also Rises

By Ernest Hemingway,

Book cover of The Sun Also Rises

Why this book?

I’m recommending The Sun Also Rises because it was the first book to capture the essence of soldiers who struggled to return to civilian life. They used alcohol to hide their pain and drown their PTSD, their struggles with masculinity or to regain it, and inability to love. I like the way this book captures the feelings soldiers have when they leave the service, such as loss of purpose. Soldiers today returning from the wars similarly struggle with alcohol, drug abuse, and all too prevalent suicide. However, the sun will rise tomorrow. 

The Sun Also Rises

By Ernest Hemingway,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Sun Also Rises as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Unbroken

By Laura Hillenbrand,

Book cover of Unbroken

Why this book?

The book is much more comprehensive than the film. For me this is an exemplary story of finding redemption and forgiveness after the worst of human imposed torture and misery. Like so many veterans, WWII veteran Louis Zamperini kills the war demon with alcohol. His relationship with his wife and family suffer until Billy Graham helps save him. One of the messages is that hatred will lead you down a self-destructive path. Overcoming your demons and finding forgiveness and redemption will set you free. I raced through this book.

Unbroken

By Laura Hillenbrand,

Why should I read it?

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


A Test of Wills: The First Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery

By Charles Todd,

Book cover of A Test of Wills: The First Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery

Why this book?

I chose this series, not because of the fun crimes Scotland Yard Inspector Rutledge solves, but because he is a soldier from WWI who battles PTSD. He experiences some of the symptoms other soldiers had, or have, following a traumatic war experience. His dead corporal constantly pesters him throughout the series by being a voice in his head. Additionally, after his fiancée leaves him following the war, he has intimacy issues and cannot express his feelings for the woman he loves. To cope with his sleeplessness and PTSD, he immerses himself in the cases he’s assigned. This series, in part, inspired my book. 

A Test of Wills: The First Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery

By Charles Todd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Test of Wills as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Inspector Rutledge left a brilliant career in Scotland Yard to fight in the Great War. It is now 1919, shell shocked and trying to salvage his sanity and fight off the colleagues jealous of his prewar successes he is drawn into the investigation of the murdered Colonel Harris, in a small Warwickshire village. A debut novel.

Regeneration

By Pat Barker,

Book cover of Regeneration

Why this book?

I chose this historical fiction trilogy that explores British officers’ experience with shell shock, later defined as PTSD, during WWI because in that war it was first identified by doctors. It mixes fictional and historical characters, most notably poets Sigfried Sasson and Wilfred Owen, and their stay at a military psychiatric hospital, Craiglockhart in Scotland. Like the other books I recommend, this trilogy details the effects of war on a soldier’s identity and masculinity (many at the time thought these shell-shocked soldiers were less than men for not having a stiff, upper lip and carrying on). And Barker does it with sarcasm and clever dialogue. This trilogy shows how Freudian psychology was first used to treat those who had PTSD from the effects of war. The first book in this trilogy, in part, inspired my own book on the effects of a soldier returning from current wars. 

Regeneration

By Pat Barker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Calls to mind such early moderns as Hemingway and Fitzgerald...Some of the most powerful antiwar literature in modern English fiction."-The Boston Globe

The first book of the Regeneration Trilogy-a Booker Prize nominee and one of Entertainment Weekly's 100 All-Time Greatest Novels.

In 1917 Siegfried Sasson, noted poet and decorated war hero, publicly refused to continue serving as a British officer in World War I. His reason: the war was a senseless slaughter. He was officially classified "mentally unsound" and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital. There a brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. William Rivers, set about restoring Sassoon's "sanity" and sending him back…

Redeployment

By Phil Klay,

Book cover of Redeployment

Why this book?

I chose Redeployment because it’s a quintessential collection of stories told through a contemporary lens about the monotony, and so often the absurdity, of soldiering in general, and combat oftentimes in particular, and the struggle soldiers have when they return to civilian life, which is difficult to say the least. This collection highlights many of life’s, or more particularly, war’s questions of purpose that so often reverberate in a soldier’s psyche long after they return home. 

Redeployment

By Phil Klay,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction

"Redeployment is hilarious, biting, whipsawing and sad. It's the best thing written so far on what the war did to people's souls." -Dexter Filkins, The New York Times Book Review

Selected as one of the best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, Time, Newsweek, The Washington Post Book World, Amazon, and more

Phil Klay's Redeployment takes readers to the frontlines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking us to understand what happened there, and what happened to the soldiers who returned. Interwoven with themes of brutality…

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