10 books like Fortunate Son

By Lewis B. Puller Jr.,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Fortunate Son. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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With the Old Breed

By E.B. Sledge,

Book cover of With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa

A question I’m often asked is if I’m related to Eugene Bondurant Sledge, whose classic work from World War II became the basis for the HBO miniseries, The Pacific. Though I don’t know, when reading Sledge’s work, I found the way he described the horrors of combat in manners that pricked at the edges of my own war experience. (“His intestines were strung out among the branches like garland decorations on a Christmas tree.”) Sledge has been one of the few who explains the moral injury soldiers face on the battlefield long before the term became common in the Iraq and Afghan Wars. His novel impacted me so deeply, I quote him in my book.

With the Old Breed

By E.B. Sledge,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked With the Old Breed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The inspiration behind the HBO series THE PACIFIC

This was a brutish, primitive hatred, as characteristic of the horror of war in the Pacific as the palm trees and the islands...

Landing on the beach at Peleliu in 1944 as a twenty-year-old new recruit to the US Marines, Eugene Sledge can only try desperately to survive. At Peleliu and Okinawa - two of the fiercest and filthiest Pacific battles of WWII - he witnesses the dehumanising brutality displayed by both sides and the animal hatred that each soldier has for his enemy.

During temporary lapses in the fighting, conditions on…


Flags of Our Fathers

By James Bradley, Ron Powers,

Book cover of Flags of Our Fathers

In Flags of Our Fathers, James Bradley recounts a story not so unlike my own and many other sons born of this generation of leathernecks. James is the son of John Bradley, who served on Iwo Jima as a corpsman and was awarded the Navy Cross for his service. He also was one of the boys who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi.

Flags is the result of James Bradley’s research and interviews with survivors of the battle for Iwo Jima, after his father’s passing. At times Flags reads like an action thriller, its battle sequences authentic not only in their depiction of all the clichés Hollywood made famous in the 1950s but in its realism of the true horrors of war, and the impact it had on the survivors.

Flags of Our Fathers

By James Bradley, Ron Powers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Flags of Our Fathers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • This is the true story behind the immortal photograph that has come to symbolize the courage and indomitable will of America

In this unforgettable chronicle of perhaps the most famous moment in American military history, James Bradley has captured the glory, the triumph, the heartbreak, and the legacy of the six men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima. Here is the true story behind the immortal photograph that has come to symbolize the courage and indomitable will of America.

In February 1945, American Marines plunged into the surf at Iwo Jima—and into history.…


The Secret Piano

By Zhu Xiao-Mei, Ellen Hinsey (translator),

Book cover of The Secret Piano: From Mao's Labor Camps to Bach's Goldberg Variations

Zhu Xiao-Mei was born to middle-class parents in post-war China. Taught to play the piano by her mother at age 10, she developed into a prodigy.

But in 1966, when Xiao-Mei was seventeen, the Cultural Revolution began, and life as she knew it changed forever. One by one, her family members were scattered, sentenced to prison or labor camps. By 1969, the art schools had closed, and Xiao-Mei spent the next five years at a work camp. Life in the camp was nearly unbearable, thanks to horrific living conditions and intensive brainwashing. Yet through it all, Xiao-Mei clung to her passion for music.

Heartbreaking and heartwarming, The Secret Piano is the true story of one woman’s survival in the face of unbelievable odds—and in pursuit of a powerful dream.

The Secret Piano

By Zhu Xiao-Mei, Ellen Hinsey (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Zhu Xiao-Mei was born to middle-class parents in post-war China, and her musical proficiency became clear at an early age. Taught to play the piano by her mother, she developed quickly into a prodigy, immersing herself in the work of classical masters like Bach and Brahms. She was just eleven years old when she began a rigorous course of study at the Beijing Conservatory, laying the groundwork for what was sure to be an extraordinary career. But in 1966, when Xiao-Mei was seventeen, the Cultural Revolution began, and life as she knew it changed forever. One by one, her family…


Wave of Terror

By Theodore Odrach, Emma Odrach (translator),

Book cover of Wave of Terror

Hidden from the English-speaking world for more than 50 years, this panoramic novel begins with the Red Army invasion of Belarus in 1939. Ivan Kulik has just become headmaster of school number 7 in Hlaby, a rural village in the Marsh of Pinsk. Through his eyes, I witnessed the tragedy of Stalinist domination where people are oppressed, randomly deported to labor camps, or tortured in Zovty Prison in Pinsk.

The author’s individual gift that sets him apart from his contemporaries is the range of his sympathies and his unromantic, unsentimental approach to the sensual lives of women. His debt to Chekhov is obvious in his ability to capture the internal drama of his characters with psychological conciseness.

This historical novel serves as a stern warning against adopting socialism in America.

Wave of Terror

By Theodore Odrach, Emma Odrach (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This panoramic novel hidden from the English-speaking world for more than 50 years begins with the Red Army invasion of Belarus in 1939. Ivan Kulik has just become Headmaster of school number 7 in Hlaby, a rural village in the Pinsk Marshes. Through his eyes we witness the tragedy of Stalinist domination where people are randomly deported to labour camps or tortured in Zovty Prison in Pinsk. The author's individual gift that sets him apart from his contemporaries is the range of his sympathies and his unromantic, unsentimental approach to the sensual lives of females. His debt to Chekhov is…


The Things They Carried

By Tim O'Brien,

Book cover of The Things They Carried

Reading The Things They Carried, which I’ve read at least a dozen times, always takes my breath away. With the way that O’Brien has laid out this book, as much is written in the silences, in what he doesn’t write, as in what he has written, and what he writes is some of the most powerful writing about war ever written.

The Things They Carried

By Tim O'Brien,

Why should I read it?

14 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…


Psychiatric Casualties

By Mark C. Russell, Charles Figley,

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

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.   

Psychiatric Casualties

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…


What It Is Like to Go to War

By Karl Marlantes,

Book cover of What It Is Like to Go to War

The sheer number of times I cried in this book is absurd. Marlantes is a Vietnam veteran and Navy Cross recipient who chronicles his journey leaving Yale University to serve as a Marine lieutenant in Vietnam. Throughout, he chronicles the struggle to readjust to civilian society and intermingles religion, philosophy, and psychology while recounting some of his most harrowing tales of combat. If you’ve ever had a loved one or friend serve who came home different and wondered why or how you can help, this is the book to read. 

What It Is Like to Go to War

By Karl Marlantes,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked What It Is Like to Go to War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Matterhorn" author Karl Marlantes' nonfiction debut is a powerful book about the experience of combat and how inadequately we prepare our young men and women for the psychological and spiritual stresses of war. One of the most important and highly-praised books of 2011, Karl Marlantes' "What It Is Like to Go to War" is set to become just as much of a classic as his epic novel "Matterhorn". In 1968, at the age of twenty-two, Karl Marlantes was dropped into the highland jungle of Vietnam, an inexperienced lieutenant in command of a platoon of forty Marines who would live or…


Becoming Men of Some Consequence

By John A. Ruddiman,

Book cover of Becoming Men of Some Consequence: Youth and Military Service in the Revolutionary War

The men who fought the American Revolution were often young, in their teens and twenties, and the war coincided with their transition to adulthood, interrupting the traditional passage into beginning a career and forming a family. Ruddiman recaptures what it meant for the revolution to happen not just at a particular time in the nation’s history but at a particular time in the lives of the men who fought it. For officers, the war was an unmatched opportunity to enhance their social status because it cemented their reputation as gentlemen—especially when they really weren’t genteel by any other standard. It’s a reminder that status mattered a lot, even in an army fighting against aristocracy.

Becoming Men of Some Consequence

By John A. Ruddiman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Becoming Men of Some Consequence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Young Continental soldiers carried a heavy burden in the American Revolution. Their experiences of coming of age during the upheavals of war provide a novel perspective on the Revolutionary era, eliciting questions of gender, family life, economic goals, and politics. ""Going for a soldier"" forced young men to confront profound uncertainty, and even coercion, but also offered them novel opportunities. Although the war imposed obligations on youths, military service promised young men in their teens and early twenties alternate paths forward in life. Continental soldiers' own youthful expectations about respectable manhood and their goals of economic competence and marriage not…


Gods Go Begging

By Alfredo Vea,

Book cover of Gods Go Begging

Vea’s novel is as ambitious, complex, and surreal a story about the horrors of Vietnam (and post-Vietnam) ever written. A Vietnam vet himself, Vea traces the efforts of several men and women who try to purge their Vietnam ghosts while finding a way to curtail the violence convulsing contemporary America. Jesse Pasadoble, the protagonist, is a defense attorney in San Francisco, hardened and embittered by his Vietnam experience. While his journey toward redemption, as well as that of an Army chaplain who goes AWOL in Vietnam, may require a “willing suspension of disbelief,” Vea skillfully pulls it off, helped in no small way by the many allusions to jazz, specifically the inimitable works of John Coltrane and Charles Mingus. 

Gods Go Begging

By Alfredo Vea,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gods Go Begging as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Luminous... a beautiful book." - Carolyn See

For Vietnam veteran Jesse Pasadoble, now a defense attorney living in San Francisco, the battle still rages: in his memories, in the gang wars erupting on Potrero Hill, and in the recent slaying of two women: one black, one Vietnamese. While seeking justice for the young man accused of this brutal double murder, Jesse must walk with the ghosts of men who died on another hill... men who were his comrades and friends in a war that crossed racial divides.

Gods Go Begging is a new classic of Latino literature, a literary detective…


The Great Alone

By Kristin Hannah,

Book cover of The Great Alone

With the stark backdrop of the wilds of Alaska, one might be lured into thinking the desolate yet stunning landscape with danger at every turn is at the heart of The Great Alone. It is however, the story of domestic abuse, trauma, and a father suffering from PTSD that captivated my attention into the wee hours of the night. I found the thread of the human spirit, not only desperate to survive, but to thrive, to be one of the most enduring and poignant themes of the novel. Happily-ever-after isn’t a requirement of the books I enjoy. It is however, a satisfying and realistic ending that makes a book stand out for me. This was definitely one of those reads.

The Great Alone

By Kristin Hannah,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Great Alone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone, a desperate family seeks a new beginning in the near-isolated wilderness of Alaska only to find that their unpredictable environment is less threatening than the erratic behavior found in human nature.

#1 New York Times Instant Bestseller (February 2018)
A People “Book of the Week”
Buzzfeed’s “Most Anticipated Women’s Fiction Reads of 2018”
Seattle Times’s “Books to Look Forward to in 2018”

Alaska, 1974. Ernt Allbright came home from the Vietnam War a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes the impulsive decision to move his wife and daughter…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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