100 books like The Sympathizer

By Viet Thanh Nguyen,

Here are 100 books that The Sympathizer fans have personally recommended if you like The Sympathizer. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

Norrin M. Ripsman Author Of The Oracle of Spring Garden Road

From my list on novels that nail the endings.

Why am I passionate about this?

Too often, I find that novelists force the endings of their books in ways that aren’t true to their characters, the stories, or their settings. Often, they do so to provide the Hollywood ending that many readers crave. That always leaves me cold. I love novels whose characters are complex, human, and believable and interact with their setting and the story in ways that do not stretch credulity. This is how I try to approach my own writing and was foremost in my mind as I set out to write my own book.

Norrin's book list on novels that nail the endings

Norrin M. Ripsman Why did Norrin love this book?

While John Le Carre wrote many fine books, with some unforgettable classics at his peak, this novel was a revelation.

In this short book, he captures the character of the wonderfully crusty, dissatisfied Leamas, the interdependence of love and betrayal, the frustration and interminable waiting of spying, and the moral bankruptcy essential to pursuing higher objectives. 

But for me, the perfect ending, devastating and true to both the character and the Cold War Berlin setting, makes this book memorable.

By John le Carré,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked The Spy Who Came in From the Cold as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Our Kind of Traitor; and The Night Manager, now a television series starring Tom Hiddleston.

The 50th-anniversary edition of the bestselling novel that launched John le Carre's career worldwide

In the shadow of the newly erected Berlin Wall, Alec Leamas watches as his last agent is shot dead by East German sentries. For Leamas, the head of Berlin Station, the Cold War is over. As he faces the prospect of retirement or worse-a desk job-Control offers him a unique opportunity for revenge. Assuming the guise of an embittered…


Book cover of Dog Soldiers

Max Ludington Author Of Thorn Tree

From my list on 1960s counterculture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated with the sixties and its counterculture ever since I was about eleven or twelve, and I found out that the summer I was born, 1967, was called the Summer of Love. Because of this fascination, I started reading writers like Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson at an early age. Then, I became a lover of the Grateful Dead and went on tour with them as a fan for a couple of years in my late teens. It was the best way remaining in this country, in the 1980s, to be a hippie in some real way. I still love the music and literature of that time.

Max's book list on 1960s counterculture

Max Ludington Why did Max love this book?

This book lays bare the furious tensions in American society during the Vietnam era. I have read it three times, and each time, it reveals new treasures and nuances.

It’s a dark story about a war correspondent who decides to get rich by smuggling heroin home from Vietnam. So, while it opens in Saigon, most of the book is set in a California riven by culture clashes and soured idealism. Stone is one of America’s best late-twentieth-century novelists.

By Robert Stone,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Saigon during the last stages of the Vietnam War, a small-time journalist named John Converse thinks he'll find action - and profit - by getting involved in a big-time drug deal. But back in the States, things go horribly wrong. His courier disappears, probably with his wife, and a corrupt Fed wants Converse to find him the drugs, or else.

Dog Soldiers is a frightening, powerful, intense novel that perfectly captures the underground mood of the United States in the 1970s, when amateur drug dealers and hippies encountered the violent world of cops on the make and professional killers.…


Book cover of The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam

Christopher Goscha Author Of Vietnam: A New History

From my list on memoirs on the Vietnam Wars from a Vietnamese perspective.

Why am I passionate about this?

Who hasn’t seen the classic American movies on the Vietnam War–Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, or Platoon? They are fine films, but have you ever asked yourself where the Vietnamese are? Save for a few stereotyped cameo appearances, they are remarkably absent. I teach the history of the wars in Vietnam at the Université du Québec à Montréal. My students and I explore the French and the American sides in the wars for Vietnam, but one of the things that I’ve tried to do with them is weave the Vietnamese and their voices into our course; this list provides a window into those Vietnamese voices. 

Christopher's book list on memoirs on the Vietnam Wars from a Vietnamese perspective

Christopher Goscha Why did Christopher love this book?

This is an autobiographical novel that will change your perspective on the Vietnam War. The protagonist of the story, Kien, leaves Hanoi to join the ranks of those going south to liberate the country from the Americans and their South Vietnam allies.

It’s 1965. The Americans are invading. Scores of young men and women like Kien march off in a great patriotic wave from the North to save the South. The patriotic groundswell doesn’t last long though, as Bao Ninh plunges us into the brutality of the Vietnam War.

Through Kien, we discover for the first time what the experience of war was for the other side without the patriotic glitz. It’s not pretty, and yet Bao Ninh succeeds in humanizing the North Vietnamese soldier before our eyes.

It makes for a very powerful read. And like so many other soldiers making it home alive, the return to civilian life…

By Bảo Ninh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the semi-autobiographical account of a soldier's experiences. The hero of the story, Kien, is a captain. After 10 years of war and months as a MIA body-collector, Kien suffers a nervous breakdown in Hanoi as he tries to re-establish a relationship with his former sweetheart.


Book cover of The Things They Carried

Ellen Birkett Morris Author Of Beware the Tall Grass

From my list on a well-rounded look at Americans touched by the Vietnam War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am passionate about the Vietnam War because my male relatives served and came back changed by the experience. I spent ten years as the editor of The Patton Saber, writing articles about the experience of World War II soldiers, but when I came across an idea for a novel about past life memories, I decided to focus on memories of the Vietnam War. What I love about this list is that it reflects many facets of the war, including soldiers, nurses, veterans, and the family members touched by those affected by war.

Ellen's book list on a well-rounded look at Americans touched by the Vietnam War

Ellen Birkett Morris Why did Ellen love this book?

O’Brien’s depiction of American soldiers in Vietnam was vivid and moving. It gave me a deeper understanding of the soldier’s experience. His artful use of the metaphor of what they carried revealed not only the items on hand but also the psychological baggage each soldier dealt with.

The stories were haunting and made me a full witness to the complexity of war and the many ways it is experienced. It is artfully written, moving, complex, touching and unforgettable.

By Tim O'Brien,

Why should I read it?

20 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 Bloods: Black Veterans of the Vietnam War: An Oral History

Andrew Wiest Author Of The Boys of '67: Charlie Company's War in Vietnam

From my list on the Vietnam War from different POVs.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was always fascinated by the Vietnam War since my older sister’s friends went off to fight in it. After getting my PhD and writing about World War I and World War II, I returned to Vietnam by getting involved with veterans groups and taking veterans and students to Vietnam. Since then I have written widely on the topic, teach about the Vietnam War, and have been involved in several major Vietnam War documentaries for outlets including the History Channel and National Geographic Channel. From those early days I have read everything I can get my hands on about the war, about my generation’s war.

Andrew's book list on the Vietnam War from different POVs

Andrew Wiest Why did Andrew love this book?

This was the first collection of oral histories that I ever read from the Vietnam War. Reading history done this way, with the men speaking for themselves, opened a new world for me. It allowed me to understand that it is only by talking to and with our veterans that the true depth of the combat experience can be delved. Terror, camaraderie, death, honor, humor, compassion, and boredom – the full human story of Vietnam and war is on display in Bloods. And it was this book that taught me to be an oral historian. 

On top of that, Bloods also, of course, makes clear the uniqueness of the Black experience in Vietnam – fighting a war for America while the country wrestled with its eternal question of race. This book is good and important for so many reasons. 

By Wallace Terry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK • The national bestseller that tells the truth about the Vietnam War from the black soldiers’ perspective.

An oral history unlike any other, Bloods features twenty black men who tell the story of how members of their race were sent off to Vietnam in disproportionate numbers, and of the special test of patriotism they faced. Told in voices no reader will soon forget, Bloods is a must-read for anyone who wants to put the Vietnam experience in historical, cultural, and political perspective.

Praise for Bloods

“Superb . . . a portrait not just of…


Book cover of Alfabet/Alphabet

Julie Sedivy Author Of Memory Speaks: On Losing and Reclaiming Language and Self

From my list on immigration and identity.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a language scientist and a writer, but most of all, a person who is smitten with language in all its forms. No doubt my fascination was shaped by my early itinerant life as a child immigrant between Czechoslovakia to Canada, with exposure to numerous languages along the way. I earned a PhD in linguistics and taught linguistics and psychology at Brown University and later, the University of Calgary, but I now spend most of my time writing for non-academic readers, integrating my scientific understanding of language with a love for its aesthetic possibilities.

Julie's book list on immigration and identity

Julie Sedivy Why did Julie love this book?

Lovers of language will be entranced by this slim volume. The book contains 26 short pieces, each centered around a Dutch word beginning with a different letter of the alphabet and its English translation. Each segment is a poetic meditation on some aspect of the author’s transition from her first home in the Netherlands to her second home in Canada, and with it, her transition from the Dutch language to English. 

The author explores themes such as how English speakers perceive her mother tongue as alien, the profound emotional connection she feels for Dutch, which she describes as “my pulse music, my bone resonator, my umbilical ligature,” and the paradox of her identification with a mother tongue whose speakers do not always welcome her complicated ethnic identity. 

This is not a book to read quickly. It’s a book to be savored, ideally in the small, intense doses provided by each…

By Sadiqa de Meijer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

alfabet / alphabet is the record of Sadiqa de Meijer?s transition from speaking Dutch to English. Exploring questions of identity, landscape, family, and translation, the essays navigate the shifting cultural currents of language by using an eclectic approach to storytelling. As such, fellow linguistic migrants to anglophone Canada will recognize elements of their experience in alfabet / alphabet, while lifelong English speakers will perceive their mother tongue in a new light.


Book cover of Stranger in a Strange Land

John Walters Author Of The Misadventures of Mama Kitchen

From my list on celebrating the psychedelic sixties.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became a young man near the end of the sixties, and I have always been enthralled by the era's various idiosyncrasies, both good and bad. For instance, I loved the complex yet pleasant rock music and the freewheeling lifestyle. On the downside, the war in Vietnam cast its pall over the times, and I narrowly escaped being drafted and sent off to Southeast Asia. Overall, it was an era in which good and evil were starkly defined, and many people were attempting to create a better, more peaceful world. There is still much we can learn from this time.

John's book list on celebrating the psychedelic sixties

John Walters Why did John love this book?

Although this book is ostensibly set in the future, countercultural enthusiasts of the sixties were quick to claim it for their own, with its references to transcendental enlightenment, out-of-body experiences, communal living, and free sex.

It became a best-selling phenomenon as contemporary young people reacted positively to its iconoclastic attitudes. That's what happened to me, too, when I came across the book shortly before the move to the Bay Area that opened my eyes to the reality of the psychedelic sixties.

By Robert A. Heinlein,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Stranger in a Strange Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The original uncut edition of STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND by Hugo Award winner Robert A Heinlein - one of the most beloved, celebrated science-fiction novels of all time. Epic, ambitious and entertaining, STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND caused controversy and uproar when it was first published and is still topical and challenging today.

Twenty-five years ago, the first manned mission to Mars was lost, and all hands presumed dead. But someone survived...

Born on the doomed spaceship and raised by the Martians who saved his life, Valentine Michael Smith has never seen a human being until the day a…


Book cover of I Am David

Jonny Steinberg Author Of A Man of Good Hope

From my list on exile, refugees and people on the move.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2010, I met a Somali refugee in Cape Town. His name was Asad Abdullahi. He told the tale of his life with a richness bordering on genius and I was hooked. I spent the next two years tracing his childhood footsteps through the Horn of Africa, looking for anyone and everyone he had encountered. In the course of writing a book about him, I read countless other books about exile, migration, and human beings on the move. My five recommendations are among the books that helped me imagine the experience of exile best. 

Jonny's book list on exile, refugees and people on the move

Jonny Steinberg Why did Jonny love this book?

My mother read this book to me over the course of several weekday afternoons. I was nine, maybe ten. The book’s protagonist, David, is a boy who escapes from a concentration camp somewhere in Eastern Europe and walks to Denmark in search of his mother. Lying next to my own mother, on her bed, listening to her voice, cocooned by her love, I identified so very powerfully with this unrooted, solitary, questing boy. It stirred me more than anything else I read as a child. There is something in a refugee’s tale that is so primal, so hard to shake off. There but by the grace of God go I, I thought, every time my mother opened the book to read some more.

By Anne Holm, L.W. Kingsland (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked I Am David as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

This is the story of a young boy's journey through Europe after escaping from the camp where he has lived all his life. Faced with a host of new experiences, David gradually begins to understand the world around him.


Book cover of This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart: A Memoir in Halves

Julie Sedivy Author Of Memory Speaks: On Losing and Reclaiming Language and Self

From my list on immigration and identity.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a language scientist and a writer, but most of all, a person who is smitten with language in all its forms. No doubt my fascination was shaped by my early itinerant life as a child immigrant between Czechoslovakia to Canada, with exposure to numerous languages along the way. I earned a PhD in linguistics and taught linguistics and psychology at Brown University and later, the University of Calgary, but I now spend most of my time writing for non-academic readers, integrating my scientific understanding of language with a love for its aesthetic possibilities.

Julie's book list on immigration and identity

Julie Sedivy Why did Julie love this book?

This is one of the most innovative and intriguing memoirs I have read. Its structure is inspired by the visual image of the line that runs through the Punjab region, partitioning Pakistan from India. The book is separated into halves: one half relates the stories of the author’s parents, who were born on opposite sides of the line, and the other presents the author’s own experiences and observations as a second-generation immigrant. Nothing about the design of the book indicates which half should be read first—a hint that the reader will be invited to consider the resonances running in both directions across the generations.

The theme of fragmentation and division is, paradoxically, the glue that binds the various elements of the book together. The author explores the arbitrary lines, imposed by historical and cultural forces, that divide people from each other and that split their selves into parts. The portrait…

By Madhur Anand,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE 2020 GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD FOR NONFICTION

“Wondrously and elegantly written in language that astonishes and moves the reader…This is an important book: an emotional and intellectual tour de force.” —Jane Urquhart

An experimental memoir about Partition, immigration, and generational storytelling, This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart weaves together the poetry of memory with the science of embodied trauma, using the imagined voices of the past and the vital authority of the present.

We begin with a man off balance: one in one thousand, the only child in town whose polio leads to partial paralysis.…


Book cover of Homeland Elegies

Julie Sedivy Author Of Memory Speaks: On Losing and Reclaiming Language and Self

From my list on immigration and identity.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a language scientist and a writer, but most of all, a person who is smitten with language in all its forms. No doubt my fascination was shaped by my early itinerant life as a child immigrant between Czechoslovakia to Canada, with exposure to numerous languages along the way. I earned a PhD in linguistics and taught linguistics and psychology at Brown University and later, the University of Calgary, but I now spend most of my time writing for non-academic readers, integrating my scientific understanding of language with a love for its aesthetic possibilities.

Julie's book list on immigration and identity

Julie Sedivy Why did Julie love this book?

This book calls itself a novel, but it is deeply intertwined with the author’s own life and experiences as a second-generation immigrant from Pakistan. The chapters often read more like incisive personal essays than segments advancing the plot of a conventional novel, as the author grapples with the economic obsessions and spiritual poverty of contemporary American culture, the experience of everyday racism and the rage it provokes, and the feelings of alienation that many immigrants feel from both their country of origin and their adopted home. 

The central preoccupation of the book is the difficulty of living as a complete, nuanced, self-contradictory individual in a world that forces you to choose—between cultures in conflict with each other, between absolutist world views that permit no ambivalence, between economic success and authenticity. It is a tension that may be especially pronounced in an immigrant’s life, but one that entraps everyone and results…

By Ayad Akhtar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This "beautiful novel . . . has echoes of The Great Gatsby": an immigrant father and his son search for belonging—in post-Trump America, and with each other (Dwight Garner, New York Times).

One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year 
One of Barack Obama's Favorite Books of 2020
A Best Book of 2020 * Entertainment Weekly * Washington Post * O Magazine * New York Times Book Review * Publishers Weekly * NPR * The Economist * Shelf Awareness * Library Journal * St. Louis Post-Dispatch * Slate
Finalist for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medal for…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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