100 books like On Killing

By Lt. Col. Dave Grossman,

Here are 100 books that On Killing fans have personally recommended if you like On Killing. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Best and the Brightest

James Bradley Author Of Flags of Our Fathers

From my list on war and what it all means.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father, John Bradley, was a veteran and fought on Iwo Jima in World War 2 in 1945. Later I walked in the sands of Iwo Jima and eventually wrote four books about war. I am a New York Times best-selling author and Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood made my first book into a movie, Flags of Our Fathers. I've been traveling in and learning about Asia since 1974, when I attended Sophia University in Tokyo. I am also the host of a podcast called Untold Pacific that mines 40 years of my life to create historical travelogues about the American experience on the other side of the Pacific. 

John and I did a podcast about these book recommendations and if you want to listen to the full episode go here.

James' book list on war and what it all means

James Bradley Why did James love this book?

David Halberstam documents how fools go to war. This book is about the whiz kids that got us into the Vietnam war and ran it under the JFK and the Johnson administrations. The same ones who got us into the Iraq War, the Spanish American War, and so on. There is a quote that I love from this book that effectively says, "they used brilliant policies that defied common sense." And, that sums this all up. These whiz kids ran a war as if it was part of American politics and from thousands of miles away with memos and meetings in DC. They completely screwed it up.

David Halberstam was a correspondent in Saigon and knew these insiders. He wrote about the decision-making that was happening behind closed doors that led to one of our greatest follies. He is a master storyteller and I strongly recommend this book. 

By David Halberstam,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Best and the Brightest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

David Halberstam’s masterpiece, the defining history of the making of the Vietnam tragedy, with a new Foreword by Senator John McCain.

"A rich, entertaining, and profound reading experience.”—The New York Times

Using portraits of America’s flawed policy makers and accounts of the forces that drove them, The Best and the Brightest reckons magnificently with the most important abiding question of our country’s recent history: Why did America become mired in Vietnam, and why did we lose? As the definitive single-volume answer to that question, this enthralling book has never been superseded. It is an American classic.

Praise for The Best…


Book cover of The Things They Carried

Ryan A. Kovacs Author Of Create Destruction: Phase I

From my list on human choice & consequence.

Why am I passionate about this?

I firmly live by the saying, “Where we are in life is a direct reflection of the choices we’ve made, or failed to make.” The theme of choice and consequence has not just been a way of living but the very trope in all my novels. The beauty in showing the process of making a choice, for my characters, in their stories, brings them to life. It forces the reader to step inside that decision tree, to analyze and predict the outcome despite the unknown. We are continuously propelled into the unknown and we make choices based on the notion of understanding what those choices will mean.

Ryan's book list on human choice & consequence

Ryan A. Kovacs Why did Ryan love this book?

Singlehandedly one of the greatest fictional books about war, Tim finds clever ways of imbuing readers with captivating characters.

Each short story gives insight into a war still misunderstood to this day.

As a veteran, I identify with the curious war stories and the unique character attributes displayed throughout them.

While cynical and the fictitious content questioned, The Things They Carried carries the weight of war and its lasting effects. 

By Tim O'Brien,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked The Things They Carried as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

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…


Book cover of Slaughterhouse-Five

Chris Harding Thornton Author Of Little Underworld

From my list on hilarious books that rip your heart from your chest.

Why am I passionate about this?

One of my favorite writers, Ralph Ellison, said art could "transform dismal sociological facts" through "tragi-comic transcendence." For me, finding humor in the horrific is a means of survival. It's a way of embracing life's tragedy and finding beauty. My two novels, Pickard County Atlas and Little Underworld, try to do that.

Chris' book list on hilarious books that rip your heart from your chest

Chris Harding Thornton Why did Chris love this book?

When I say Slaughterhouse-Five is funny, people eye me like I’m a monster. But it is. The New York Times even has my back on this.

Is the novel also gut-wrenchingly tragic and horrifying? Of course. It’s one of the most potent stories ever written, and I’m not sure I’ve encountered anything whose biting satire eviscerates the absurdity of war (and of existence) so well.

Vonnegut balances humor and grief on the head of a pin: “Billy turned on the Magic Fingers, and he was jiggled as he wept.” 

By Kurt Vonnegut,

Why should I read it?

25 authors picked Slaughterhouse-Five as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A special fiftieth anniversary edition of Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece, “a desperate, painfully honest attempt to confront the monstrous crimes of the twentieth century” (Time), featuring a new introduction by Kevin Powers, author of the National Book Award finalist The Yellow Birds
 
Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time
 
Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous World War II firebombing of Dresden, the novel is the result of what Kurt Vonnegut described as a twenty-three-year struggle to write a book about what he had…


Book cover of Tarawa: The Incredible Story of One of World War II's Bloodiest Battles

James Bradley Author Of Flags of Our Fathers

From my list on war and what it all means.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father, John Bradley, was a veteran and fought on Iwo Jima in World War 2 in 1945. Later I walked in the sands of Iwo Jima and eventually wrote four books about war. I am a New York Times best-selling author and Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood made my first book into a movie, Flags of Our Fathers. I've been traveling in and learning about Asia since 1974, when I attended Sophia University in Tokyo. I am also the host of a podcast called Untold Pacific that mines 40 years of my life to create historical travelogues about the American experience on the other side of the Pacific. 

John and I did a podcast about these book recommendations and if you want to listen to the full episode go here.

James' book list on war and what it all means

James Bradley Why did James love this book?

This is the best book on the Pacific campaign in World War 2. Tarawa was a small island the USA wanted to build a landing strip on and the Japanese put 5,000 soldiers in elaborate well built bunkers to defend it. Robert was a war correspondent who was on the beach for the invasion. You are right there with him as he is huddled in fear behind a burned-out tank during the landing. You can feel the bullets pinging near your head and see the dead all around you.

It was a massacre. It started with a rare low tide that prevented the landing craft from reaching the beach. The American troops had to wade through the water while Japanese machine guns raked them. The water turned red with American blood. Robert was there for everything and wrote it all. Even the aftermath as he surveyed the scene with the…

By Robert Sherrod,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the summer of 1943, at the height of World War II, battles were exploding all throughout the Pacific theater. In mid-November of that year, the United States waged a bloody campaign on Betio Island in the Tarawa Atoll, the most heavily fortified Japanese territory in the entire Pacific. They were fighting to wrest control of the island to stage the next big push toward Japan-and one journalist was there to chronicle the horror.

Dive into war correspondent Robert Sherrod's battlefield account as he goes ashore with the assault troops of the U.S. Marines 2nd Marine Division in Tarawa. Follow…


Book cover of Sun Tzu's The Art of War

James Bradley Author Of Flags of Our Fathers

From my list on war and what it all means.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father, John Bradley, was a veteran and fought on Iwo Jima in World War 2 in 1945. Later I walked in the sands of Iwo Jima and eventually wrote four books about war. I am a New York Times best-selling author and Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood made my first book into a movie, Flags of Our Fathers. I've been traveling in and learning about Asia since 1974, when I attended Sophia University in Tokyo. I am also the host of a podcast called Untold Pacific that mines 40 years of my life to create historical travelogues about the American experience on the other side of the Pacific. 

John and I did a podcast about these book recommendations and if you want to listen to the full episode go here.

James' book list on war and what it all means

James Bradley Why did James love this book?

This book is about the art of war, the artistry of war, and the thinking behind war. In The Best And The Brightest David Halberstam documents how the people running the Vietnam War had no grasp of what war was. And, they were going up against Ho Chi Minh who translated this book from Chinese to Vietnamese and ingrained the concepts into his soldiers. 

The Americans had all the technology and industry that was possible during this era. They had machine guns, bombs, aircraft, and helicopters. They were building ports, warehouses, flying over ping pong tables, ice-cold Coca Cola machines, whatever they wanted. And, nobody was thinking about war. They were thinking logically and that all these mechanical things were going to win the war. On the other side, the Vietnamese had this book. They studied this book and they lived this book. I was interviewing a 67-year-old member of…

By Sun Tzu, Lionel Giles (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sun Tzu's The Art of War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A new edition of the trusted Lionel Giles translation of the Ancient Chinese treatise on warfare. It has defined the tactics and strategies on the battlefield and more recently the business world, for the last 2500 years.


Book cover of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

Shugri Said Salh Author Of The Last Nomad: Coming of Age in the Somali Desert

From my list on bringing other cultures to life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am at heart a storyteller, with a special interest in archiving and weaving the tales of my people to give you insight into a culture that is quite different from yours. Like an archaeologist digging a forgotten world, I want to bring these stories to life in the form of words. After a long day of animal herding and chores, my family and I would sit by the fire in a vast, open desert covered in blackness, and share century-old stories. My big ears consumed these stories like a thirsty desert after a long drought, so I could one day share this library of wisdom with others.

Shugri's book list on bringing other cultures to life

Shugri Said Salh Why did Shugri love this book?

This memoir captures the journey of child soldiers during the civil war in Sierra Leone, and shows how once-innocent children with ordinary lives became killing machines in the hands of a ruthless rebel leader. Beah doesn't shy away from the gruesomeness of civil war, but there is beauty in how he weaves this memoir that reads like a novel. Though I am not usually a fan of books with a lot of violence, I was drawn to this one and could not put it down. I believe history is best learned from those who have first-hand experience. This is a one-of-a-kind book and to Beah’s credit, well-written as well. 

By Ishmael Beah,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked A Long Way Gone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. Children have become soldiers of choice. In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this…


Book cover of Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

Martin Pengelly Author Of Brotherhood: When West Point Rugby Went to War

From my list on brotherhood in war – and sports.

Why am I passionate about this?

I played rugby union for Durham University and at Rosslyn Park FC in London. Then I became a reporter and editor, for Rugby News magazine and on Fleet Street sports desks. In March 2002, six months after 9/11 and a year before the invasion of Iraq, my Park team played against the cadets of the United States Military Academy. Years later, settled in New York, I decided to find out what happened to those West Point rugby players in the 9/11 wars, and what their experiences might tell us about sports, war, brotherhood, loss, and remembrance.

Martin's book list on brotherhood in war – and sports

Martin Pengelly Why did Martin love this book?

Junger wrote War, about Afghanistan. But as I found the West Point rugby players’ stories wouldn’t leave me alone, so Junger stayed with those he found in Kunar province.

In Tribe, he considers the ties that bind – notably a focus on the “energy of male conflict and male closeness”. Junger “once asked a combat vet if he’d rather have an enemy or another close friend”. The vet looked at Junger like he was crazy. “‘Oh, an enemy, 100%,’ he said. ‘I’ve already got a lot of friends.’

He thought about it a little longer. ‘Anyway, all my best friends I’ve gotten into fights with – knock-down, drag-out fights. Granted we were always drunk, but think about that.’ He shook his head as if even he couldn’t believe it.”

By Sebastian Junger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the author of THE PERFECT STORM and WAR comes a book about why men miss war, why Londoners missed the Blitz, and what we can all learn from American Indian captives who refused to go home.

Tribe is a look at post-traumatic stress disorder and the challenges veterans face returning to society. Using his background in anthropology, Sebastian Junger argues that the problem lies not with vets or with the trauma they've suffered, but with the society to which they are trying to return.

One of the most puzzling things about veterans who experience PTSD is that the majority…


Book cover of My War Gone By, I Miss It So

Jessica Mudditt Author Of Our Home in Myanmar: Four years in Yangon

From my list on living abroad.

Why am I passionate about this?

I left home in Melbourne to spend a year travelling in Asia when I was in my mid-twenties. I ended up living abroad for a decade in London, Bangladesh, and Myanmar before returning to Sydney in 2016. My first book is about the four years I lived in Myanmar and I’m currently writing my second, which is about the year I spent backpacking from Cambodia to Pakistan. My third book will be about the three years I worked as a journalist in Bangladesh. My plan is to write a ‘trilogy’ of memoirs. Living abroad has enriched my life and travel memoirs are one of my favourite genres, both as a reader and a writer.

Jessica's book list on living abroad

Jessica Mudditt Why did Jessica love this book?

I read this book many years ago and it was a time when I dreamed of being a war correspondent. It made me realise that I wasn’t cut out for it. Loyd’s unflinching account of the Bosnian War in the 1990s was so vivid that it made me physically recoil. I’d have become traumatised if I had seen the things he saw. I admired his powers of description and raw honesty. He is also addicted to smack, which takes him to dark places.

By Anthony Loyd,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked My War Gone By, I Miss It So as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

My War Gone By, I Miss It So is a uniquely powerful piece of writing, unparalleled in the genre. Ex-infantry officer Anthony Loyd arrived in the Balkans hoping to become a war correspondent. He wanted to see `a real war', and in Bosnia he found one. The cruelty and chaos of the conflict both appalled and embraced him - the adrenaline lure of the action perhaps the loudest siren call of all. In the midst of the daily life-and-death struggle among the Serbs, Croatians and Bosnian Muslims he was inspired by the extraordinary human fortitude he discovered. But returning home,…


Book cover of War

Robert Averill Author Of NeuroAdventures: The Art and Science of Hunting and Gathering Happiness

From my list on peak and transformative human experience.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always craved outdoor adventure. My earliest preschool memories include frog hunting in the fields behind my house, and careening down hills around the neighborhood on my metal-wheeled skateboard. In middle school, I progressed to BMX, spearfishing and surfing. After college, I added snow and water skiing, windsurfing, and eventually mountain biking to the mix, and was fortunate to have a career that allowed time and resources to travel the world extensively seeking adventure. Now well into my sixties, I research and write about science, extreme sports, nature and philosophy in between daily hikes and mountain bike rides around the homebase and monthly journeys to destinations unknown.

Robert's book list on peak and transformative human experience

Robert Averill Why did Robert love this book?

I wanted to understand why individuals in our society would volunteer to put themselves in harm’s way by joining—and sometimes reenlisting—to serve on the front lines in a far-flung region of little strategic value to our country (Afghanistan).

In this book, a couple of common themes popped up: camaraderie and heightened states of awareness. The bonds these young men cement when depending upon each other for life and limb take on meaning greater than life itself.

And the strange sense of control—and lack of fear—that can occur on the battlefield when adrenaline kicks in and everything slows down in the mind’s eye has parallels to situations that us outdoor adventure enthusiasts also crave—the “flow experience”—but at a level of intensity I can only imagine.

By Sebastian Junger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the author of The Perfect Storm, a gripping book about Sebastian Junger's almost fatal year with the 2nd battalion of the American Army.

For 15 months, Sebastian Junger accompanied a single platoon of thirty men from the celebrated 2nd battalion of the U.S. Army, as they fought their way through a remote valley in Eastern Afghanistan. Over the course of five trips, Junger was in more firefights than he could count, men he knew were killed or wounded, and he himself was almost killed. His relationship with these soldiers grew so close that they considered him part of the…


Book cover of War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation's Veterans from Post-Tramatic Stress Disorder

Ryan Smithson Author Of Ghosts of War: The True Story of a 19-Year-Old GI

From my list on turning PTSD into post-traumatic growth.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an equipment operator for the Army Corps of Engineers, I didn’t serve in a “combat” role, per se, but the engineers go wherever the military needs things built, so we were often repairing IED damage, hauling supplies outside the wire, or fortifying bases so the infantry, cavalry, etc. could do their job effectively. Coming home, I owe a lot of my successful reintegration to my writing and the many people who encouraged me to share it with the world. Now with my Master of Arts in English, I’ve taught college courses on military culture, and I present for veteran art groups, writing workshops, and high schools and colleges around the country.

Ryan's book list on turning PTSD into post-traumatic growth

Ryan Smithson Why did Ryan love this book?

As a young psychologist during the Vietnam War, Edward Tick served his country not by enlisting himself but through tireless efforts to help those who returned from war traumatized. This was the first book that helped me understand that posttraumatic stress is not just some “disorder” that I’d suffer from forever. Rather, it is simply the human mind’s normal—probably unavoidable—response to combat, and, Tick argues, there is also such a thing as posttraumatic growth. He examines how ancient and modern societies train their warrior classes, noting that the ritualistic civilian-to-soldier process (we’d call it “boot camp” or “basic training”) often lacks a necessary counterpart today: that is, a formal soldier-to-civilian process, and this only compounds the issues of PTSD and the American military-civilian divide.

By Edward Tick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

War and PTSD are on the public's mind as news stories regularly describe insurgency attacks in Iraq and paint grim portraits of the lives of returning soldiers afflicted with PTSD. These vets have recurrent nightmares and problems with intimacy, can’t sustain jobs or relationships, and won’t leave home, imagining “the enemy” is everywhere. Dr. Edward Tick has spent decades developing healing techniques so effective that clinicians, clergy, spiritual leaders, and veterans’ organizations all over the country are studying them. This book, presented here in an audio version, shows that healing depends on our understanding of PTSD not as a mere…


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