100 books like To Start a War

By Robert Draper,

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

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of The Devil You Don't Know: Going Back to Iraq

Emma Sky Author Of The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq

From my list on what the Iraq War was like for Iraqis.

Why am I passionate about this?

I served in Iraq as Governorate Co-ordinator of Kirkuk for the Coalition Provisional Authority, 2003-2004; and as advisor to the Commanding General of US Forces in Iraq from 2007-2010. I retain a deep love of the country and am a regular visitor. I teach about the Middle East and Global Affairs at Yale University. 

Emma's book list on what the Iraq War was like for Iraqis

Emma Sky Why did Emma love this book?

What did the Iraq War look like from the perspective of Iraqis? In most accounts of the Iraq War, Iraqis only feature as terrorists or victims. This book explains how Iraqis felt about the invasion of the country; what relations were like between returning exiles and those who had remained in Iraq all along; and the hopes that Iraqis had for their country. It is really well written and engaging.

By Zuhair al-Jezairy, John West (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Devil You Don't Know as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1979, journalist Zuhair al-Jezairy fled Iraq and certain death after openly criticising Saddam's regime. Twenty-five years later he is back, and cautiously celebrating the toppling of the hated Ba'ath Party.

As editor of a newspaper, he breaks the Oil for Food scandal, disclosing the names of Arab and Westerners who were involved. He then sets up a television company and travels all over Iraq, documenting the country's descent into sectarianism and hopeless violence, soon becoming a target himself.

Al-Jezairy's first-hand accounts of the looting of Baghdad, the destruction of government buildings, and indiscriminate bombings are a searing, personal and…


Book cover of Frankenstein in Baghdad

Andy Owen Author Of Land of the Blind

From my list on books that capture the tragedy and comedy of war.

Why am I passionate about this?

War is perhaps the most extreme human activity. I have seen firsthand some of these extremes in Iraq and Afghanistan. I now write about the philosophy and ethics of war and geopolitics, exploring some of the impacts and enduring truths that war and its conduct tell us about ourselves that might be hidden under the surface of our everyday lives. The books I have chosen here explore, with elegance, sensitivity, and sometimes brutal and unflinching honesty, what the battlefield exposes, showing us that there is both tragedy and comedy at the extremities of human nature, and without one, you cannot really truly appreciate the other.

Andy's book list on books that capture the tragedy and comedy of war

Andy Owen Why did Andy love this book?

I have recommended this novel as it is one of the few to come out of the Iraq war written by an Iraqi writer, telling its story from the point of view of the local Iraqis. 

Hadi, an old junk dealer, dismayed by the hasty burials of incomplete bodies after the daily bombings, puts together a body from the parts he finds. This composite body, he calls “Whatsitsname,” becomes possessed with the soul of a bombing victim and sets about killing those responsible for turning Baghdad into a slaughterhouse.

Blending its style between war fiction, horror, and fantasy, this darkly effective satire of the fatal logic of sectarianism follows Whatsitsname as he expands his scope, claiming: “There are no innocents who are completely innocent, and no criminals who are completely criminal.”

By Ahmed Saadawi,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Frankenstein in Baghdad as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*Man Booker International Prize finalist*

"Brave and ingenious." -The New York Times

"Gripping, darkly humorous . . . profound." -Phil Klay, bestselling author and National Book Award winner for Redeployment

"Extraordinary . . . A devastating but essential read." -Kevin Powers, bestselling author and National Book Award finalist for The Yellow Birds

From the rubble-strewn streets of U.S.-occupied Baghdad, Hadi-a scavenger and an oddball fixture at a local cafe-collects human body parts and stitches them together to create a corpse. His goal, he claims, is for the government to recognize the parts as people and to give them proper burial.…


Book cover of Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East

Patricia Goldstone Author Of Aaronsohn's Maps: The Man Who Might Have Created Peace in the Modern Middle East

From my list on changing discussions about the modern Middle East.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the Middle East ever since being taken to see Kismet at the age of 3. I travel there extensively, married into it, and have lived inside the Middle East community in the US for the past thirty years. I’m also a journalist, a playwright, and the author of three non-fiction books, Making the World Safe for Tourism, Aaronsohn’s Maps, and INTERLOCK: Art, Conspiracy, and The Shadow Worlds of Mark Lombardi. Although I wouldn't argue that the issue of women’s rights isn't an urgent one, as a woman who focuses on history and geopolitics, I’m often disturbed at how it's being used to whip up popular emotion and obscure other driving forces. 

Patricia's book list on changing discussions about the modern Middle East

Patricia Goldstone Why did Patricia love this book?

I’m going to be sneaky here and wedge two books in for the price of one. Kim Ghattas’ Black Wave is a beautifully written and reported, intimate history of the destructive ideological rivalry between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, a rivalry fuelled by the “tilt” policy of the Ronald Reagan administration that pitted the former allies against each other in an effort to keep them both weak (and unlikely to lead OPEC to attack the West again as they did in 1973). Ghattas, a Beiruti journalist who was friends with Jamal Khashoggi, grounds her history of the devastating cultural and geopolitical upheaval that followed in the personal and highly emotional stories of public intellectuals and other progressive thinkers who fought the Dark Age descending on the Middle East.

She finds her creation moment in the 1979 Iranian revolution, which occurred in the same year as the siege of the…

By Kim Ghattas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Blistering' Sunday Times
'Indispensable' Observer
'Fascinating' The Times
'Brilliant' Peter Frankopan
'Revelatory' Lindsey Hilsum

A timely and unprecedented examination of how the modern Middle East unravelled, and why it started with the pivotal year of 1979. Shortlisted for the Cundhill History Prize 2020

'What happened to us?'

For decades, the question has haunted the Arab and Muslim world, heard across Iran and Syria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and in the author's home country of Lebanon. Was it always so? When did the extremism, intolerance and bloodletting of today displace the region's cultural promise and diversity?

In Black Wave, award-winning journalist…


Book cover of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

Ethan Chorin Author Of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Story-lover Middle East expert Curious Iconoclast Optimist

Ethan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Benghazi: A New History is a look back at the enigmatic 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, its long-tail causes, and devastating (and largely unexamined) consequences for US domestic politics and foreign policy. It contains information not found elsewhere, and is backed up by 40 pages of citations and interviews with more than 250 key protagonists, experts, and witnesses.

So far, the book is the main -- and only -- antidote to a slew of early partisan “Benghazi” polemics, and the first to put the attack in its longer term historical, political, and social context. If you want to understand some of the events that have shaped present-day America, from political polarization and the election of Donald Trump, to January 6, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Russian expansionism, and the current Israel-Hamas war, I argue, you need to understand some of the twists and turns of America's most infamous "non-scandal, scandal.”

I was in Benghazi well before, during, and after the attack as a US diplomat and co-director of a medical NGO. I have written three books, and have been a contributor to The NYT, Foreign Affairs, Forbes, Salon, The Financial Times, Newsweek, and others.

By Ethan Chorin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On September 11, 2012, Al Qaeda proxies attacked and set fire to the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, killing a US Ambassador and three other Americans.  The attack launched one of the longest and most consequential 'scandals' in US history, only to disappear from public view once its political value was spent. 

Written in a highly engaging narrative style by one of a few Western experts on Libya, and decidely non-partisan, Benghazi!: A New History is the first to provide the full context for an event that divided, incited, and baffled most of America for more than three years, while silently reshaping…


Book cover of The Rope

Emma Sky Author Of The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq

From my list on what the Iraq War was like for Iraqis.

Why am I passionate about this?

I served in Iraq as Governorate Co-ordinator of Kirkuk for the Coalition Provisional Authority, 2003-2004; and as advisor to the Commanding General of US Forces in Iraq from 2007-2010. I retain a deep love of the country and am a regular visitor. I teach about the Middle East and Global Affairs at Yale University. 

Emma's book list on what the Iraq War was like for Iraqis

Emma Sky Why did Emma love this book?

Kanan is an Iraqi exile who was very supportive of the US invasion of Iraq. In The Rope, he provides a fictional account of what happened in the country, placing responsibility for the rise of sectarianism and the descent into civil war at the feet of Iraqi Shia leaders. It’s a brave and honest book. 

By Kanan Makiya,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the best-selling author of Republic of Fear, here is a gritty and unflinching novel about Iraqi failure in the wake of the 2003 American invasion, as seen through the eyes of a Shi‘ite militiaman whose participation in the execution of Saddam Hussein changes his life in ways he could never have anticipated.
 
When the nameless narrator stumbles upon a corpse on April 10, 2003, the day of the fall of Saddam Hussein, he finds himself swept up in the tumultuous politics of the American occupation and is taken on a journey that concludes with the discovery of what happened…


Book cover of Echo in Ramadi: The Firsthand Story of US Marines in Iraq's Deadliest City

Johnnie M. Clark Author Of Guns Up!: A Firsthand Account of the Vietnam War

From my list on war and the Marines.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a combat Marine, I believe these books honor the brave men who served and died for America. I joined the Marine Corps at 17 years of age after graduating from St. Petersburg High School. I served as a machine gunner with the famed 5th Marine Regiment during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. I was wounded 3 times by mortar round, grenade, and gunshot. I've written nine books around these subjects as well as an off-Broadway stage play titled The Battle For Nong Son. Many of my books are recommended reading for all newly commissioned officers at The Basic School. I am the recipient of the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association Brigadier General Robert L. Denig Memorial Distinguished Service Award for writing, as well as the Silver Star, 3 Purple Hearts, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm, the Civil Action Combat Medal, and the Marine Combat Ribbon among other decorations.

Johnnie's book list on war and the Marines

Johnnie M. Clark Why did Johnnie love this book?

Major Scott Huesing is a Marine after my own heart. He was once a Lance Corporal and understands the Corps from top to bottom. He was the combat leader for Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines during their bloody battles in the deadliest city of the Iraq War. Reading this book taught an old Marine what the new Corps is like.

By Scott A. Huesing,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2019 Gold Medal Award, Best Military History Memoir, Military Writers Society of America

Ranked in the "Top 10 Military Books of 2018" by Military Times. 

"In war, destruction is everywhere. It eats everything around you. Sometimes it eats at you." —Major Scott Huesing, Echo Company Commander

From the winter of 2006 through the spring of 2007, two-hundred-fifty Marines from Echo Company, Second Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment fought daily in the dangerous, dense city streets of Ramadi, Iraq during the Multi-National Forces Surge ordered by President George W. Bush. The Marines' mission: to kill or capture anti-Iraqi forces.…


Book cover of The U.S. Army in the Iraq War Volume 1: Invasion Insurgency Civil War 2003 – 2006

Kenneth M. Pollack Author Of Armies of Sand: The Past, Present, and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness

From my list on Middle East military history.

Why am I passionate about this?

After college I joined the CIA. They assigned me to the Iran-Iraq military account so I had a front-row seat for the Persian Gulf War. I went on to do two tours at the NSC and a quick stop at DoD in between, all working on Middle East political and security issues. I was unexpectedly thrown out by Bush II in 2001 and so had to flee to the think tank world. I’ve since written ten books on the political-military affairs of the Middle East and am now working on my eleventh, a history of the U.S. and Iraq since 1979 titled The Iraq Wars.

Kenneth's book list on Middle East military history

Kenneth M. Pollack Why did Kenneth love this book?

This is the first volume of the U.S. Army’s official two-volume history of the Iraq War, from 2003 to 2006. They are big and long, but if you are serious about military history or the Middle East, you owe it to yourself to read them. If you do, you will be richly rewarded. Like the famous U.S. Army “Green Books” of World War II, The U.S. Army in the Iraq War is magnificent. You could not imagine that a government product could be so gracefully written, so wise, and so insightful. Together, the two volumes cover the entire span of the conflict, brilliantly explaining what happened and why, and providing a new and comprehensive understanding of one of America’s longest and most important conflicts.  

By Joel D. Rayburn, Frank K. Sobchak,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The U.S. Army in the Iraq War Volume 1 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Iraq War has been the costliest U.S. conflict since the Vietnam War. To date, few official studies have been conducted to review what happened, why it happened, and what lessons should be drawn. This publication, The U.S. Army in the Iraq War Volume 1: Invasion Insurgency Civil War 2003 – 2006, is the Army’s initial operational level analysis of this conflict, written in narrative format, with assessments and lessons embedded throughout the work. This study reviews the conflict from a Landpower perspective and includes the contributions of coalition allies, the U.S. Marine Corps, and special operations forces. Presented principally…


Book cover of Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad

Darin Pepple Author Of Dodgebomb: Outside the Wire in the Second Iraq War

From my list on the Iraq War without fake Hollywood nonsense.

Why am I passionate about this?

Being an Iraq War veteran and former Army officer, I cringe at the prevailing Hollywood cliché that stereotypes everyone that served in Iraq as Special Forces with crazy PTSD or being some broken human being. It’s apparent that popular movies and books on this war were produced without any veteran input, usually done by authors completely unfamiliar with the military and this region. I wrote my book Dodgebomb to insert reality into the narrative—that most servicemembers were regular men and women who expertly fought jihadists, rebuilt this country, and tried to instill democratic self-determination while reconciling impossible political and strategic goals that muddled completing the job.

Darin's book list on the Iraq War without fake Hollywood nonsense

Darin Pepple Why did Darin love this book?

This compelling history of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division’s armored spearhead into Baghdad details the coup de main that broke the Saddam’s regime’s grip on Iraq. Rich with exploits of individual soldiers, tank operations, and combat this nonfiction work relates the initial success in the war when victory seemed obtainable in months not years. I thoroughly enjoy this history because it illustrates the early war’s events accurately without politicized narrative and details just how daring and complicated this decisive attack was. If more people read this history, then our society could remember and have a fairer discourse on the Iraq War.

By David Zucchino,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“A Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter provides a brilliant account of the harrowing drive into Baghdad by an American armor brigade.” —Seattle Post-Intelligencer
 
Based on reporting that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Thunder Run chronicles one of the boldest gambles in modern military history: the surprise assault on Baghdad by the Spartan Brigade, the Second Brigade of the Third Infantry Division (Mechanized). Three battalions and fewer than a thousand men launched a violent thrust of tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles into the heart of a city of five million people—and in three days of bloody combat ended the Iraqi war.…


Book cover of My War: Kiling Time in Iraq

Ronny Bruce Author Of The Grunts of Wrath: A Memoir Examining Modern War and Mental Health

From my list on infantry life during modern war.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an OG ATLien (born in Atlanta, Georgia) and served in the US Marine Corps and the US Army. I hold a degree from Kennesaw State University and taught high school social studies from 2004 - 2006, before my military reenlistment which jumpstarted the events in my memoir.   

Ronny's book list on infantry life during modern war

Ronny Bruce Why did Ronny love this book?

My War is a true story set in 2004 post-invasion Iraq told by a US Army grunt on the bottom of the totem pole.

As a former infantryman near the bottom myself, I could relate to the rollercoaster ride war grunts endure that can go from extreme boredom and amp up to fierce combat in an instance. Buzzell’s language is grunt speak which is unrefined and full of profanity, not for everyone, but it’s the perfect dialect for describing everything from battles to talking trash with other grunts.

I also appreciated that Buzzell guided us through his life as a struggling twentysomething, before joining the army, rather than taking the reader straight to battle. Gen Xers will love \m/.

By Colby Buzzell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Colby Buzzell traded a dead-end future for the army-and ended up a machine gunner in Iraq. To make sense of the bloody insanity surrounding him, he started a blog about the war and how it differed from the government's official version. As his blog's popularity grew, Buzzell became the embedded reporter the Army couldn't control-despite its often comical efforts to do so.

The result is an extraordinary narrative, rich with unforgettable scenes: the Iraqi woman crying uncontrollably during a raid on her home; the soldier too afraid to fight; the troops chain-smoking in a guard tower and counting tracer rounds.…


Book cover of Here, Bullet

Barbara Nickless Author Of Blood on the Tracks

From my list on what it is like to go to war and come home.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an award-winning and bestselling author who teaches creative writing to veterans as part of a collaboration between the Department of Defense and the National Endowment for the Arts. I’m also an Air Force brat who grew up around military folk. After traumatic events gave me personal experience with post-traumatic stress disorder, I better understood why veterans don’t talk about their time in war. The books on this list are some of my favorites for capturing the terror of battle and the difficulty of reintegrating into a society that gives little thought to the human cost of war. 

Barbara's book list on what it is like to go to war and come home

Barbara Nickless Why did Barbara love this book?

This collection of poems by an Iraq war veteran opens a door into the crazy, horrifying world of America’s time in Iraq. I used this book while teaching a section on poetry to combat veterans at the local university. For some of these men and women, the poems offered their first glimpse into the power of verse. Turner showed my students how, through the searing beauty of words made into images, it was possible to capture—and thus contain—the horrors of war. As Turner writes:

This is a language made of blood.
It is made of sand and time.
To be spoken, it must be earned.

By Brian Turner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A first-person account of the Iraq War by a solider-poet, winner of the 2005 Beatrice Hawley Award.

Adding his voice to the current debate about the US occupation of Iraq, in poems written in the tradition of such poets as Wilfred Owen, Yusef Komunyakaa (Dien Cai Dau), Bruce Weigl (Song of Napalm) and Alice James’ own Doug Anderson (The Moon Reflected Fire), Iraqi war veteran Brian Turner writes power-fully affecting poetry of witness, exceptional for its beauty, honesty, and skill. Based on Turner’s yearlong tour in Iraq as an infantry team leader, the poems offer gracefully rendered, unflinching description but,…


Book cover of Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Ice Man, Captain America, and the New Face of American War

Jerry Stahl Author Of Nein, Nein, Nein!: One Man's Tale of Depression, Psychic Torment, and a Bus Tour of the Holocaust

From my list on turning insane personal history into entertainment.

Why am I passionate about this?

Jerry Stahl is an American novelist and screenwriter. His latest release, Nein, Nein, Nein! One Man’s Tale of Depression, Psychis Torment, and a Bus Tour of the Holocaust relieves Stahl’s group tour to concentration camps in Poland and Germany. He has written a number of novels including Perv: A Love Story, Plainclothes Naked, I, Fatty, Pain Killers, Bad Sex on Speed, and Happy Mutant Baby Pills: A NovelStahl got this start publishing short fiction, winning a Pushcart Prize in 1976 for a story in the Transatlantic Review. His 1995 memoir Permanent Midnight was adapted into a film starring Ben Stiller as well as the screenplay for Bad Boys II, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.

Jerry's book list on turning insane personal history into entertainment

Jerry Stahl Why did Jerry love this book?

Technically the reportage of a Rolling Stone writer embedded with Marines 2002, Evan Wright’s first-person account of young men at war is, in some ways, as much a story of the author’s experience of W’s nation building as it the story of the soldiers themselves. Wright earned the respect of the men he rolled with by riding on point, or in the lead vehicle, where he was sure to take enemy fire. It’s his description of what drove him to face such danger that makes the writer at once relatable and brave: “Partly it was about not losing face. I reverted to like, a twelve-year-old on the playground. I wouldn’t back down. And there were times when I knew we’d be shot at, and I’d fantasize about getting taken out of being embedded. But then I’d make it through and not be injured, and I’d be flooded with this deep…

By Evan Wright,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Based on Evan Wright's National Magazine Award-winning story in Rolling Stone, this is the raw, firsthand account of the 2003 Iraq invasion that inspired the HBO (R) original mini-series.

Within hours of 9/11, America's war on terrorism fell to those like the twenty-three Marines of the First Recon Battalion, the first generation dispatched into open-ended combat since Vietnam. They were a new pop-culture breed of American warrior unrecognizable to their forebears-soldiers raised on hip hop, video games and The Real World. Cocky, brave, headstrong, wary and mostly unprepared for the physical, emotional and moral horrors ahead, the "First Suicide Battalion"…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Iraq, the Iraq War, and groupthink?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Iraq, the Iraq War, and groupthink.

Iraq Explore 85 books about Iraq
The Iraq War Explore 57 books about the Iraq War
Groupthink Explore 8 books about groupthink