The best books on the psyche of disabled war veterans

Why am I passionate about this?

A Canadian academic, Michael J. Prince is an award-winning author in the field of modern politics, government, and public policy. The Lansdowne Professor of Social Policy at the University of Victoria, he has written widely on issues of disability activism and social change, including on veterans and their families. He is co-author, with Pamela Moss, of Weary Warriors: Power, Knowledge, and the Invisible Wounds of Soldiers, New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2014. 


I wrote...

Weary Warriors: Power, Knowledge, and the Invisible Wounds of Soldiers

By Michael J. Prince, Pamela Moss,

Book cover of Weary Warriors: Power, Knowledge, and the Invisible Wounds of Soldiers

What is my book about?

Weary Warriors explores the impact of armed conflicts on the human body, mind, and soul of combatants across two centuries of wars in modern times. It offers a history of military psychiatry from the American Civil War to the recent Afghanistan conflict. The invisible wounds of combat and warfare are themselves a military occupation of the individual veteran’s body, personality, human spirit, and life. Cultural constructs of masculinity are also examined. A complex interplay of truths and traumas, and of power relations and diagnostic and treatment practices, operate through dynamic relationships of combat, care, and control.    

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The War Come Home: Disabled Veterans in Britain and Germany, 1914-1939

Michael J. Prince Why did I love this book?

The aftermath of the Great War for wounded and shattered soldiers is carefully examined in this comparative study of two belligerent nations. The great paradox recorded here is how British veterans struggled on the margins of their society, denied legal rights and employment support, while, through state programs, German disabled veterans were more likely reintegrated into their economy. “Disabled veterans,” Cohen concludes in this fascinating study, “were the Great War’s conspicuous legacy.” Tragically, the same might be said of subsequent major armed conflicts. What I got from this book is the absolute importance of decisions following the Great War in shaping the indifference and support toward veterans over the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.  

By Deborah Cohen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Disabled veterans were the First World War's most conspicuous legacy. Nearly eight million men in Europe returned from the First World War permanently disabled by injury or disease. In The War Come Home, Deborah Cohen offers a comparative analysis of the very different ways in which two belligerent nations--Germany and Britain--cared for their disabled. At the heart of this book is an apparent paradox. Although postwar Germany provided its disabled veterans with generous benefits, they came to despise the state that favored them. Disabled men proved susceptible to the Nazi cause. By contrast, British ex-servicemen remained loyal subjects, though they…


Book cover of Battle Exhaustion: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Canadian Army, 1939-1945

Michael J. Prince Why did I love this book?

The development of military neuropsychiatry in the Mediterranean and European theatres of operations in World War II, through the work of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps is vividly recounted through interviews and primary documents of those involved. The immediately pressing concepts of battle stress and exhaustion and a soldier’s breaking point are addressed by scientific methods, including personnel selection interviews by psychiatrists to determine the emotional and temperamental stability of recruits and thus their assumed effectiveness as soldiers. Fundamental tensions between military imperatives and clinical practices are particularly revealed. I highly recommend this book for its insights into the tensions between medical intentions and military imperatives at times of intense, sustained combat.

By Terry Copp, Bill McAndrew,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

At the outset of the Second World War Canadians wanted to avoid the horrors encountered on the western front in 1914-18, one of the most significant of which was "shell shock." Most medical personnel preferred not to assign to combat those who showed neurotic symptoms during training, but this approach was challenged by the Canadian Psychological Association and by the new Personnel Selection Directorate established in 1941. Personnel Selection claimed to be able to distinguish, before training, between those suited and those unsuited to combat duty. However, when Canadian troops went into battle in Italy, the preparatory work seemed to…


Book cover of Psychiatric Power: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1973--1974

Michael J. Prince Why did I love this book?

This consummate French philosopher explores the lineage of psychiatry as an intertwined field of knowledge and form of power. For Foucault, moving beyond asylums, in the nineteenth and twentieth century armies called on psychiatry to assert the reality of military power and the functioning of military purposes. A similar relationship has taken place with the family in relation to nation-states and military establishments. The author provides many useful concepts to appreciate the psychiatrization of soldiers as shocked, exhausted, hysterical, neurotic, and traumatized, among other diagnostic categories. From this work, a significant value I gained is a historical understanding of how modern psychiatry developed in relation to armed forces and warfare.

By Michel Foucault, Jacques Lagrange (editor), Arnold I. Davidson (editor) , Graham Burchell (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this addition to the College de France Lecture Series Michel Foucault explores the birth of psychiatry, examining Western society's division of 'mad' and 'sane' and how medicine and law influenced these attitudes. This seminal new work by a leading thinker of the modern age opens new vistas within historical and philosophical study.


Book cover of Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda

Michael J. Prince Why did I love this book?

Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire is the highest-ranking military officer who has come out and publicly talked about his psychiatric struggles with flashbacks, depression, and suicidal thoughts. This is his story as the commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda in 1993-94. Woven into his narrative is an account of the onset of traumatic stress and of his reactions to what psychiatry refers to as PTSD. This is a brutally honest book by a high-ranking military officer about the unspeakable inhumanity of civil war and the terrible vulnerability of international peacemakers. It is a story of one of the walking wounded who survived the genocide as a moral witness.  

By Roméo Dallaire,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shake Hands with the Devil as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For the first time in the United States comes the tragic and profoundly important story of the legendary Canadian general who "watched as the devil took control of paradise on earth and fed on the blood of the people we were supposed to protect." When Romeo Dallaire was called on to serve as force commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda, he believed that his assignment was to help two warring parties achieve the peace they both wanted. Instead, he was exposed to the most barbarous and chaotic display of civil war and genocide in the past decade, observing…


Book cover of Psychiatric Casualties: How and Why the Military Ignores the Full Cost of War

Michael J. Prince Why did I love this book?

As American veterans and academics, both authors personally and professionally know the subject of modern warfare, stress disorders, and military mental health. This book examines the invisible injuries of psychiatric casualties from combat. The authors scrutinize what they call the dark side of military mental health and, in considerable detail, expose this darkness, which they show to be systemic and multifaceted in how it inflicts wounds on military personnel. The book ends with options for changing military mental healthcare and moving toward a resilient and mentally healthy military.  I appreciate this book because it demonstrates from the perspective of insiders how military culture and practices continue to harm those veterans with invisible wounds.   

By Mark C. Russell, Charles Figley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The psychological toll of war is vast, and the social costs of war's psychiatric casualties extend even further. Yet military mental health care suffers from extensive waiting lists, organizational scandals, spikes in veteran suicide, narcotic overprescription, shortages of mental health professionals, and inadequate treatment. The prevalence of conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder is often underestimated, and there remains entrenched stigma and fear of being diagnosed. Even more alarming is how the military dismisses or conceals the significance and extent of the mental health crisis.

The trauma experts Mark C. Russell and Charles Figley offer an impassioned and meticulous critique…


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The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

By Kathryn Betts Adams,

Book cover of The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

Kathryn Betts Adams Author Of The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I was first a clinical social worker and then a social work professor with research focus on older adults. Over the past few years, as I have been writing my own memoir about caring for my parents, I’ve been drawn to memoirs and first-person stories of aging, illness, and death. The best memoirs on these topics describe the emotional transformation in the writer as they process their loss of control, loss of their own or a loved one’s health, and their fear, pain, and suffering. In sharing these stories, we help others empathize with what we’ve gone through and help others be better prepared for similar events in their own lives.

Kathryn's book list on Memoirs illness aging death moving vivid prose

What is my book about?

The Pianist's Only Daughter is a frank, humorous, and heartbreaking exploration of aging in an aging expert's own family.

Social worker and gerontologist Kathryn Betts Adams spent decades negotiating evolving family dynamics with her colorful and talented parents: her mother, an English scholar and poet, and her father, a pianist and music professor. Their vivid emotional lives, marital instability, and eventual divorce provided the backdrop for her 1960s and ‘70s Midwestern youth.

Nearly thirty years after they divorce, Adams' newly single father flies in to woo his ex-wife, now retired and diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Their daughter watches in disbelief…

The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

By Kathryn Betts Adams,

What is this book about?

Grounded in insights about mental health, health and aging, The Pianist’s Only Daughter: A Memoir presents a frank and loving exploration of aging in an aging expert's own family.

Social worker and gerontologist Kathryn Betts Adams spent decades negotiating evolving family dynamics with her colorful and talented parents: her English scholar and poet mother and her pianist father. Their vivid emotional lives, marital instability, and eventual divorce provided the backdrop for her 1960s and ‘70s Midwestern youth.

Nearly thirty years after they divorce, Adams' father finds himself single and flies in to woo his ex-wife, now retired and diagnosed with…


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Interested in veterans, Rwanda, and Germany?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about veterans, Rwanda, and Germany.

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