The best books about the Iraq War without fake Hollywood nonsense

Who am I?

Being an Iraq War veteran and former Army officer, I cringe at the prevailing Hollywood cliché that stereotypes everyone that served in Iraq as Special Forces with crazy PTSD or being some broken human being. It’s apparent that popular movies and books on this war were produced without any veteran input, usually done by authors completely unfamiliar with the military and this region. I wrote my book Dodgebomb to insert reality into the narrative—that most servicemembers were regular men and women who expertly fought jihadists, rebuilt this country, and tried to instill democratic self-determination while reconciling impossible political and strategic goals that muddled completing the job.


I wrote...

Dodgebomb: Outside the Wire in the Second Iraq War

By Darin Pepple, Renée Farrar (editor), Jeremy Klinger (illustrator)

Book cover of Dodgebomb: Outside the Wire in the Second Iraq War

What is my book about?

Dispelling Hollywood clichés about the Global War on Terrorism, Dodgebomb is a satirical war novel that captures what an Iraq deployment was like for the common soldier. This realistic, relatable story follows a U.S. Army lieutenant and his platoon as they go out on patrol each day and try to stay alive. It reveals the trials of the regular guys; unassuming, ordinary soldiers who fought Al Qaeda, broke bread with sheiks, and tried to understand what it was all for. Gritty and unpretentious, Dodgebomb captures the raw edge of the Iraq War without the usual inaccuracies or politicized themes that dominate this genre.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Fives and Twenty-Fives

Darin Pepple Why did I love this book?

This novel about a U.S. Marine Corps road clearance platoon is one of the few fiction books out there that genuinely conveys the Iraq War experience. The deployment story, intertwined with post-war vignettes from its primary characters, captures the authentic perspectives and sensory feel of daily patrols in Anbar without the hackneyed action hero plot lines usually tacked on to sell books. Its accurate detailing of Marine Corps culture while translating it for the uninitiated with the author’s talented prose makes this a compelling and insightful journey into what this war was.

By Michael Pitre,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fives and Twenty-Fives as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's the rule-always watch your fives and twenty-fives. When a convoy halts to investigate a possible roadside bomb, stay in the vehicle and scan five meters in every direction. A bomb inside five meters cuts through the armor, killing everyone in the truck. Once clear, get out and sweep twenty-five meters. A bomb inside twenty-five meters kills the dismounted scouts investigating the road ahead.

Fives and twenty-fives mark the measure of a marine's life in the road repair platoon. Dispatched to fill potholes on the highways of Iraq, the platoon works to assure safe passage for citizens and military personnel.…


Book cover of House to House: A Soldier's Memoir

Darin Pepple Why did I love this book?

This visceral infantryman’s memoir of combat in Iraq gives authentic firsthand details of clearing houses of jihadists in street fighting operations. Brutally descriptive about tactics, engagements, casualties, and the enemy, this book details the more conventional side of the war compared to the unorthodox counter-insurgency campaigns that dominated most of the conflict. House to House resonated with me because it showed how modern war can still devolve into bitter, bloody, Stalingrad-style engagements despite the existence of high-technology wonder weapons that are supposed to sanitize and civilize warfare.

By David Bellavia, John Bruning,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE CLASSIC SOLDIER’S MEMOIR FROM MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT STAFF SERGEANT DAVID BELLAVIA

“A rare and gripping account of frontline combat.”—LTG (Ret.) H.R. McMaster, author of Dereliction of Duty

“They used to say that the real war will never get in the books. Here it does, stunningly.” —Thomas E. Ricks, author of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq and Making the Corps

“To read this book is to know intimately the daily grind and danger of men at war.”—Anthony Swofford, New York Times bestselling author of Jarhead

One of the great heroes of the Iraq War, Staff Sergeant David…


Book cover of The Glass Factory

Darin Pepple Why did I love this book?

A gut-wrenching true account about a U.S. Army soldier’s horrific wounding and recovery, The Glass Factory entails the unfathomable physical and emotional costs on veterans and their families in the Iraq War. This book was an authentic Iraq War story to me because it showed the casualty evacuation and horribly painful rehabilitation process often ignored by more vainglorious authors. However, instead of dwelling on victimhood and hurt, the author’s journey has an uplifting message of overcoming hardship and growth as a human being and citizen.

By Braxton McCoy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Glass Factory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 2006, Sgt. Braxton McCoy (Ret.) was severely wounded by a suicide bomber in Ramadi, Iraq, and later told he may never walk again. After nearly a decade of physical therapy and rehabilitation Braxton has not only regained the majority of his strength, but he has now climbed mountains and competed in endurance races. This book follows his story from the day he was wounded through his nearly decade long rehabilitation. Along the way he finds himself trying to adapt to the world with a mind and body he no longer understands. Braxton battles not just physical and mental trauma,…


Book cover of Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad

Darin Pepple Why did I love this book?

This compelling history of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division’s armored spearhead into Baghdad details the coup de main that broke the Saddam’s regime’s grip on Iraq. Rich with exploits of individual soldiers, tank operations, and combat this nonfiction work relates the initial success in the war when victory seemed obtainable in months not years. I thoroughly enjoy this history because it illustrates the early war’s events accurately without politicized narrative and details just how daring and complicated this decisive attack was. If more people read this history, then our society could remember and have a fairer discourse on the Iraq War.

By David Zucchino,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“A Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter provides a brilliant account of the harrowing drive into Baghdad by an American armor brigade.” —Seattle Post-Intelligencer
 
Based on reporting that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Thunder Run chronicles one of the boldest gambles in modern military history: the surprise assault on Baghdad by the Spartan Brigade, the Second Brigade of the Third Infantry Division (Mechanized). Three battalions and fewer than a thousand men launched a violent thrust of tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles into the heart of a city of five million people—and in three days of bloody combat ended the Iraqi war.…


Book cover of 7 Nissan

Darin Pepple Why did I love this book?

An obscure esoteric graphic novel, this seemingly crudely drawn book (and others by this author) genuinely showcases the brutal, tedious lifestyle that soldiers endured for years in Iraq. By telling the stories ignored by more cliché heroic works, things like a lieutenant being covered in raw sewage, Sisyphean Army work, and patrols, or casual violence, this book is a surprisingly honest glimpse into the day-to-day of the Iraq War. Be advised, I have a weakness for crass, dark soldier humor, so more highbrow readers may want to steer clear of this author.

By Keith Schnell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 7 Nissan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An unremarkable mission by an unremarkable unit on an unremarkable day of the Iraq War turns into an extended metaphor for the entire conflict in this graphic novel based on actual events.


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The Road from Belhaven

By Margot Livesey,

Book cover of The Road from Belhaven

Margot Livesey Author Of The Road from Belhaven

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Reader Secret orphan Professor Scottish Novelist

Margot's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

The Road from Belhaven is set in 1880s Scotland. Growing up in the care of her grandparents on Belhaven Farm, Lizzie Craig discovers as a small girl that she can see the future. But she soon realises that she must keep her gift a secret. While she can sometimes glimpse the future, she can never change it.

Nor can Lizzie change the feelings that come when a young man named Louis, visiting Belhaven for the harvest, begins to court her. Why have the adults around her never told her that the touch of a hand can change everything? When she follows Louis to Glasgow, she begins to learn the limits of his devotion and the complexities of her own affections.

The Road from Belhaven

By Margot Livesey,

What is this book about?

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy, a novel about a young woman whose gift of second sight complicates her coming of age in late-nineteenth-century Scotland

Growing up in the care of her grandparents on Belhaven Farm, Lizzie Craig discovers as a small child that she can see into the future. But her gift is selective—she doesn’t, for instance, see that she has an older sister who will come to join the family. As her “pictures” foretell various incidents and accidents, she begins to realize a painful truth: she may glimpse the future, but…


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