The best books about Vietnam from a multitude of sources

Who am I?

Myra MacPherson is an acclaimed author of five books and a journalist. She was hired by Ben Bradlee for the Washington Post where she spent twenty years and specialized in politics, in-depth human interest stories, profiles, and covered five presidential campaigns. During four decades of reporting she interviewed famous figures such as Fidel Castro, Helen Keller, and the mother of serial killer, Ted Bundy, as well as several Presidents.  Of all the milestone political moments MacPherson covered nothing impressed friends and family more than the 1964 landmark and legendary first American live concert of the Beatles (in the Nation’s Capital), which propelled them into international fame. MacPherson has continued her long career as a journalist, with articles in national magazines on the internet. Her most current -- Forgotten Father of the Abortion Movement, in The New Republic -- tackles abortion rights, which remains a highly controversial politicized battle nearly a half-century since abortion was declared legal in 1973.

I wrote...

Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation

By Myra MacPherson,

Book cover of Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation

What is my book about?

Joseph Heller, author of the iconic Catch 22 said of MacPherson’s book, "there has been no better body of war literature that I know of."

MacPherson was shaped by the men and women she interviewed and for decades has written and lectured on the lies of U.S.war policies and war’s aftermath.  (Her book was the first to examine an unknown term when originally published, PTSD.) She traveled to Vietnam to interview a few veterans who returned to aid Vietnamese; children who are still being born crippled from dioxin Agent Orange poisoning, and those maimed and killed when yesteryear’s unexploded bombs are accidentally triggered today. To her, the truth lies in books by both Vietnamese and Americans, and even then it won’t be all the truth about a war that spanned 10 years, killed 2 million Vietnamese civilians, and devastated American families of fallen soldiers. While she respects many outstanding and acclaimed books, she has picked these for their unique perspective.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of On the Ho Chi Minh Trail: The Blood Road, the Women Who Defended It, the Legacy

Why did I love this book?

Sherry Buchanan takes us on the Ho Chi Minh trail in a riveting and as relevant a journey to study today as it was 50 years ago. She charts new territory - especially in the vivid, often heartbreaking stories of women who fought in the war as teenagers and the forced roles of housewives who stood on rooftops facing death to shoot down US planes that bombed their homes. Buchanan details the countless centuries of Vietnam's perilous path to freedom. But her vivid writing and crystal clear interviews with women--their youthful dreams and present-day realities--shine a powerful light on a war and a previously unexplored dimension that should never be forgotten.

By Sherry Buchanan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On the Ho Chi Minh Trail as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Part travelogue, part history, and part reflective meditation on conflict and reconciliation, Sherry Buchanan's new book offers both a personal and historical exploration of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, highlighting the critical role women militia and soldiers played in defending the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Vietnam War. Accompanied by two travelling companions, Buchanan winds her way from Hanoi in the north to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, in the south. Driving through the spectacular scenery of Vietnam and Laos, she encounters locations from the Truong Son mountains, the Phong Nha Caves, ancient citadels and Confucian temples to…

Book cover of You Don't Belong Here: How Three Women Rewrote the Story of War

Why did I love this book?

Another laudatory new book that tells the untold courageous story of three women journalist who “didn’t belong here” (in Vietnam) and defied rules, prejudice, and combat to cover the Vietnam War, thus shaping coverage that reflected new dimensions and paved the way for a new generation of women to cover the war. Their stories--a French, an Australian, and an American--are marvelously captured by Becker. From the very beginning, when no media outlet would hire them, these three women showed amazing grit, including paying their own way to Vietnam and freelancing for meager money, before they received a modicum of acceptance. Becker, who was a correspondent in Cambodia, writes about them with personal knowledge and understanding.

By Elizabeth Becker,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked You Don't Belong Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The long buried story of three extraordinary female journalists who permanently shattered the official and cultural barriers to women covering war.

Kate Webb, an Australian iconoclast, Catherine Leroy, a French dare devil photographer, and Frances FitzGerald, a blue-blood American intellectual, arrived in Vietnam with starkly different life experiences but one shared purpose: to report on the most consequential story of the decade.

At a time when women were considered unfit to be foreign reporters, Frankie, Catherine and Kate paid their own way to war, arrived without jobs, challenged the rules imposed on them by the military, ignored the belittlement and…

Book cover of Street Without Joy: The French Debacle in Indochina

Why did I love this book?

This brilliant classic of military history and human folly, first published in 1961, should have been read by America’s “best and brightest” architects of America’s 10-year fiasco. French Journalist and historian Bernard Fall vividly captured the sights, sounds, and smells of the brutal conflict between the French and the Communist-led Vietnamese nationalists. I get angry every time I think of the arrogance of America’s leaders who never examined Fall’s insightful warnings of the futility of jungle fighting that would defeat the United States in the bloody years to follow. Fall’s blueprint for disaster graphically shows that even with lethal modern military force, the French could not defeat the hit-and-run tactics, ambushes, booby traps, and nighttime raids that would become drastically familiar to American troops. The final French downfall ended at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Street Without Joy has remained in print for half a century and I stress that it should still be required reading.

By Bernard B. Fall,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Street Without Joy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1961 by Stackpole Books, Street without Joy is a classic of military history. Journalist and scholar Bernard Fall vividly captured the sights, sounds, and smells of the brutal-- and politically complicated--conflict between the French and the Communist-led Vietnamese nationalists in Indochina. The French fought to the bitter end, but even with the lethal advantages of a modern military, they could not stave off the Viet Minh insurgency of hit-and-run tactics, ambushes, booby traps, and nighttime raids. The final French defeat came at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, setting the stage for American involvement and a far bloodier…

The Quiet American

By Graham Greene,

Book cover of The Quiet American

Why did I love this book?

Carrying on where Bernard Fall left off, Greene’s novel, published the year after Dien Bien Phu, details the end of French colonialism and the beginning of American covert actions. Greene paints a dark picture of --and questions-- America’s growing involvement in Vietnam. This is personified in the character of a brash idealistic young CIA agent who plots secret actions that backfire disastrously. The tale is narrated by a cynical British journalist and a subplot features a love triangle between the journalist, the CIA agent, and a young Vietnamese woman. The larger historic picture threads through the lives and loves of the three main characters in a novel praised for its prescient prediction of the United States fate in Vietnam. Greene’s large body of work reveals his mastery of capturing evocative characters as they live through global turmoil and The Quiet American is no exception.

By Graham Greene,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Graham Greene's classic exploration of love, innocence, and morality in Vietnam

"I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused," Graham Greene's narrator Fowler remarks of Alden Pyle, the eponymous "Quiet American" of what is perhaps the most controversial novel of his career. Pyle is the brash young idealist sent out by Washington on a mysterious mission to Saigon, where the French Army struggles against the Vietminh guerrillas.

As young Pyle's well-intentioned policies blunder into bloodshed, Fowler, a seasoned and cynical British reporter, finds it impossible to stand safely aside as an observer. But…

Book cover of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

Why did I love this book?

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is one of the most remarkably inventive debut novels I have read and the enormous acclaim for this young poet turned novelist is deserved. Vuong’s writing leaps from stunning poetic phrases to brutally searing coming-of-age passages that surely seem to reverberate with his own experiences as a Vietnamese American, whose own life began in Vietnam. The novel’s form is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written by Little Dog when he is in his late twenties, the letter goes back and forth in time as he depicts a family barely coping with the violent Vietnam war. “Little Dog” explores epic themes like race, class, and homosexuality but always in human terms that are at times ferociously honest and at others, tender and compassionate. For example, no woman who has her nails done in a salon with overworked and underpaid Vietnamese women should feel indifferent after reading of Little Dog’s mother, who is bent over from hours of sitting in one position and suffers from breathing in harsh acrylic chemicals. A big tip—paid directly to the worker—is the least one could do. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous follows Little Dog from a life of feeling different and unwanted to being able to survive and in the end, feel a measure of belonging.

By Ocean Vuong,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An instant New York Times Bestseller!

Longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction, the Carnegie Medal in Fiction, the 2019 Aspen Words Literacy Prize, and the PEN/Hemingway Debut Novel Award

Shortlisted for the 2019 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

Winner of the 2019 New England Book Award for Fiction!

Named one of the most anticipated books of 2019 by Vulture, Entertainment Weekly, Buzzfeed, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe,, Huffington Post, The A.V. Club, Nylon, The Week, The Rumpus, The Millions, The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, and more.

"A lyrical work of self-discovery that's shockingly intimate and insistently…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Vietnam, love triangle, and the news media?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Vietnam, love triangle, and the news media.

Vietnam Explore 130 books about Vietnam
Love Triangle Explore 61 books about love triangle
The News Media Explore 19 books about the news media

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