100 books like Vietnam

By Gareth Porter (editor),

Here are 100 books that Vietnam fans have personally recommended if you like Vietnam. 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 Quiet American

David Hagerty Author Of They Tell Me You Are Wicked

From my list on political crime fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Chicago in the waning days of Mayor Richard J. Daley’s machine, which politicized everything from schools to loading zones. Everyone—whether they were civil servants or small business owners—had to pledge loyalty to Da Boss, Hizzoner, or suffer the consequences. As a result, I’ve always gravitated to crime stories with a political element, one showing the effects of big conflicts on regular people. And I’ve written about the same. 

David's book list on political crime fiction

David Hagerty Why did David love this book?

Before the U.S. entered the war in Vietnam, Graham Greene forecast its disastrous consequences. His love triangle, set amid the escalating conflict, perfectly captures the naiveté of American interventionism overseas. I love the subtext of the tale, which is narrated by an embittered British journalist. Although it’s never spoken, we intuit that he is addicted to opium and living the life of a dissolute expatriate. Fowler watches in horror as a U.S. diplomat tries to steal both the woman and the country he has adopted. He claims impartiality and indifference until he cannot any longer.

By Graham Greene,

Why should I read it?

10 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 Saigon: An Epic Novel of Vietnam

Mandaley Perkins Author Of Hanoi, Adieu - A Bitterweet Memoir Of French Indochina

From my list on the French in Vietnam.

Why am I passionate about this?

In the crucial period after the end of WW2 the stage became set for thirty years of war in Vietnam, yet there’s very little written of it. My stepfather was there, and Hanoi, Adieu is a memoir of his experiences and his sentiments about what happened in the country he’d grown to love. I have a fascination for Southeast Asian history and he was keen for me to tell his story such that readers could absorb the history through his book. I have recommended here those I enjoyed and found useful from a historical or atmospheric perspective in the larger context of French Indochina. I hope you will too.

Mandaley's book list on the French in Vietnam

Mandaley Perkins Why did Mandaley love this book?

If you don’t mind a long read and are after a novel rather than non-fiction then this is my pick. It is an epic saga of the last decades of the French in Indochina, following the story of American Joseph Sherman who becomes enchanted by the country and entangled in the lives of two different families, one French and one Vietnamese. It is essentially a love story involving a Mandarin’s daughter but it will give you a flavour of the political plot twists and military conflicts that were the reality of this turbulent period of history. The book spans 50 years to the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, but refreshingly does not try to push any real political perspective. Once again, it is a novel but it will certainly give you a taste of Indochine and an idea of the grand sweep of Vietnam’s tumultuous history. 

By Anthony Grey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An epic saga of love, blood, and destiny in twentieth-century Vietnam: "This superb novel could well be the War and Peace of our age" (San Francisco Chronicle).

Joseph Sherman first visits Saigon-the capital of French colonial Cochin-China-as a young man on his father's hunting trip in 1925. But the exotic land lures him back again and again as a traveler, soldier, and reporter. He returns because of his fascination for the enchanting city-and for Lan, a mandarin's daughter he cannot forget.

Over five decades Joseph's life becomes enmeshed with the political intrigues of two of Saigon's most influential families, the…


Book cover of River of Time: A Memoir of Vietnam and Cambodia

Mandaley Perkins Author Of Hanoi, Adieu - A Bitterweet Memoir Of French Indochina

From my list on the French in Vietnam.

Why am I passionate about this?

In the crucial period after the end of WW2 the stage became set for thirty years of war in Vietnam, yet there’s very little written of it. My stepfather was there, and Hanoi, Adieu is a memoir of his experiences and his sentiments about what happened in the country he’d grown to love. I have a fascination for Southeast Asian history and he was keen for me to tell his story such that readers could absorb the history through his book. I have recommended here those I enjoyed and found useful from a historical or atmospheric perspective in the larger context of French Indochina. I hope you will too.

Mandaley's book list on the French in Vietnam

Mandaley Perkins Why did Mandaley love this book?

Personally, I love historical memoirs, real stories from people who were there. Fast forward 14 years of war from the time Michel left Hanoi to dive into the memoir of another who fell for the allure of Vietnam and Cambodia. British journalist Jon Swain was in the region from 1970 to 1975 and saw the horrors committed by the Khmer Rouge when it finally took Phnom Penh in Cambodia. Having been captured by the Khmer Rouge he was saved from execution only by the actions of The New York Times interpreter, Dith Pran. It was this story and experience that inspired the Oscar-winning movie The Killing FieldsThe author’s love for Indochina shines through the pages despite the fact that he is often sickened by the brutality and atrocities he witnessed. He also successfully captures the doomed atmosphere in Saigon as the Americans and the South Vietnamese realise they…

By Jon Swain,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A splendid memoir...a tale, at once tragic and beautiful, of love and loss, of coming of age and of witnessing the end of Indochina as the West had known it for more than a century."—Los Angleles Times Book Review. From the writer immortalized in the Academy Award-winning film The Killing Fields.


Book cover of Little China: The Annamese lands

Mandaley Perkins Author Of Hanoi, Adieu - A Bitterweet Memoir Of French Indochina

From my list on the French in Vietnam.

Why am I passionate about this?

In the crucial period after the end of WW2 the stage became set for thirty years of war in Vietnam, yet there’s very little written of it. My stepfather was there, and Hanoi, Adieu is a memoir of his experiences and his sentiments about what happened in the country he’d grown to love. I have a fascination for Southeast Asian history and he was keen for me to tell his story such that readers could absorb the history through his book. I have recommended here those I enjoyed and found useful from a historical or atmospheric perspective in the larger context of French Indochina. I hope you will too.

Mandaley's book list on the French in Vietnam

Mandaley Perkins Why did Mandaley love this book?

If you want to immerse yourself in the old French Indochina then this could be the book for you. Published in 1942 it is written by a Brit who describes it as a travel book, but it is a travel book that is replete with history. That the author travelled the Annamese (Vietnamese) lands during a time of peace made it of particular interest to me when working with Michel on his early years from 1936 in Vietnam for my book. In Little China one can immerse oneself in the life of the Annamese people through Brodrick’s descriptive prose of everyday scenes. The book has not only a historical Chronological Table, but an Appendix, a short Bibliography, a map, and a comprehensive Index in case you happen to be looking for something specific. It was published by Oxford University Press.

By Alan Houghton Brodrick,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of People's Diplomacy of Vietnam: Soft Power in the Resistance War, 1965-1972

Alexander Sedlmaier Author Of Protest in the Vietnam War Era

From my list on the international dimensions of the Vietnam War.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historian and someone who grew up in Cold War Berlin, I am constantly inspired by efforts to curb the devastating effects of industrialised warfare. I love learning about people who had the courage to speak up, and how their historical understanding of the military abuse of power enables us to think differently about present-day warfare. So much of my research has been inspired by social movements and their difficult efforts to improve the world. While I am no expert on Vietnamese history, I have been fortunate to have learned a lot about how ingenious the Vietnamese revolutionaries were in actively pedalling the global emergence of Vietnam War protest. 

Alexander's book list on the international dimensions of the Vietnam War

Alexander Sedlmaier Why did Alexander love this book?

Although Robert Brigham’s Guerrilla Diplomacy deserved the attention it got, People’s Diplomacy of Vietnam, in my opinion, does the better job of connecting the dots between the informal or unofficial diplomacy of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) and the National Liberation Front (NLF) on the one hand, and the global campaign aimed at garnering sympathy and solidarity with Vietnam, on the other.

Mehta highlights the various connections with and visits to Vietnam by activists from the West and also from the mass organisations of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. These links “enabled the Vietnamese revolutionaries to exercise international influence on a scale disproportionately larger than their meager economic and military capabilities would have otherwise allowed.” 

By Harish C. Mehta,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked People's Diplomacy of Vietnam as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the first full-length book on the concept of "People's Diplomacy," promoted by the president of North Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, at the peak of the Vietnam War from 1965-1972. It holds great appeal for historians, international relations scholars, diplomats, and the general reader interested in Vietnam. A form of informal diplomacy, people's diplomacy was carried out by ordinary Vietnamese including writers, cartoonists, workers, women, students, filmmakers, medical doctors, academics, and sportspersons. They created an awareness of the American bombardment of innocent Vietnamese civilians, and made profound connections with the anti-war movements abroad. People's diplomacy made it difficult for…


Book cover of Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam

Wendell Affield Author Of Muddy Jungle Rivers: A river assault boat cox'n's memory journey of his war in Vietnam

From my list on the Vietnam war that explore waste and loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

As I write this, I massage aching bits of shrapnel still embedded beneath silvered scars. I’ve read many Vietnam War stories—praising the war, glorifying combat, condemning the war. My stories are 1st person limited POV, voice of a twenty-year-old sailor. My title is a spin-off of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. By the time I wrote my memoir, I realized that our national goals in Vietnam had been Muddy from the beginning. I too, traveled Jungle Rivers. During my time on the riverboat, I witnessed Rivers of blood—rivers of life, trickle across our deck. And yes, Jungle is a fitting metaphor for our life at that time.

Wendell's book list on the Vietnam war that explore waste and loss

Wendell Affield Why did Wendell love this book?

McMaster’s book confirms the corruption, lies, and hubris of national leaders, including the military during the Vietnam era. As a high-ranking officer in the army, I found his in-depth analysis of deception at the top levels very troubling. This is a must-read for every person interested in our history—especially to understand the mistakes of the Vietnam War—the quagmire that pulled us in. 

By H R McMaster,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"The war in Vietnam was not lost in the field, nor was it lost on the front pages of the New York Times or the college campuses. It was lost in Washington, D.C." -H. R. McMaster (from the Conclusion) Dereliction Of Duty is a stunning analysis of how and why the United States became involved in an all-out and disastrous war in Southeast Asia. Fully and convincingly researched, based on transcripts and personal accounts of crucial meetings, confrontations and decisions, it is the only book that fully re-creates what happened and why. McMaster pinpoints the policies and decisions that got…


Book cover of Marigold: The Lost Chance for Peace in Vietnam

Alexander Sedlmaier Author Of Protest in the Vietnam War Era

From my list on the international dimensions of the Vietnam War.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historian and someone who grew up in Cold War Berlin, I am constantly inspired by efforts to curb the devastating effects of industrialised warfare. I love learning about people who had the courage to speak up, and how their historical understanding of the military abuse of power enables us to think differently about present-day warfare. So much of my research has been inspired by social movements and their difficult efforts to improve the world. While I am no expert on Vietnamese history, I have been fortunate to have learned a lot about how ingenious the Vietnamese revolutionaries were in actively pedalling the global emergence of Vietnam War protest. 

Alexander's book list on the international dimensions of the Vietnam War

Alexander Sedlmaier Why did Alexander love this book?

In January 1966, Ho Chi Minh said in an eye-opening discussion with Polish diplomat Jerzy Michałowski: “We don’t want to become the victors; we just want the Americans to piss off!”

This was in the run-up to the Polish-Italian peace initiative codenamed “Marigold”. Exploring the latter in great detail, James Hershberg in 2012 brought forth the straightforward argument that it could have succeeded in ending the war before 1968. Using new evidence from Polish, Italian, and Vietnamese sources, he penned an enormous (almost 900 pages), yet accessible book exposing how the Johnson administration sabotaged this genuine peace effort with an eye to winning on the battlefield.

The result is Marigold: The Lost Chance for Peace in Vietnam, a most impressive addition to the international history of the Vietnam War.

By James Hershberg,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of The Nightingale's Song

Nicholas Warr Author Of Phase Line Green: The Battle for Hue, 1968

From my list on the Vietnam War from a Marine infantry officer who fought there.

Why am I passionate about this?

I enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps in 1966 and was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program. As a Marine officer, I served one 13-month combat tour in the Republic of Vietnam from November 1967 to December 1968. During my tour, I led Marines through some of the heaviest fighting in the war, including the historic Battle for Hue City during the Tet Offensive of 1968. I will never forget my Marines, who always, always rose and faced the enemy, risking their lives for their fellow Marines and the people of South Vietnam. I experienced first-hand the brutality of war and the loss of too many of my Marines, at the hands of our fierce enemy, the Viet Cong, and the NVA, and at the hands of our own leaders who valued historic real estate over the lives of the young Americans who served in “The ‘Nam.” I am extremely passionate about this topic and feel strongly that every American should study this war and learn the facts about what happened there – the good, the bad, and the ugly – to ensure we as a nation never again send our troops into harms’ way without our nation’s full support.

Nicholas' book list on the Vietnam War from a Marine infantry officer who fought there

Nicholas Warr Why did Nicholas love this book?

Robert Timberg weaves together the lives of Annapolis graduates John McCain, James Webb, Oliver North, Robert McFarlane, and John Poindexter, all of whom are key players in the drama of the Vietnam War, to reveal how the War continues to haunt America. Casting all five men as metaphors for a legion of well-meaning if ill-starred warriors, Timberg probes the fault line between those who fought the war and those who used money, wit, and connections to avoid battle. A riveting tale that illuminates the flip side of the fabled Vietnam generation -- those who went.

By Robert Timberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Presents the story of five top graduates of Annapolis who served heroically in Vietnam and rose to national prominence during the Reagan years.


Book cover of The Hidden History of the Korean War, 1950-1951: A Nonconformist History of Our Times

James N. Butcher Author Of Korea: Traces of a Forgotten War

From my list on the Korean War from someone who served there.

Why am I passionate about this?

James Neal Butcher is a professor emeritus of the Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota. At age 17, he enlisted in the US Army during the Korean War. He served 2 years in a parachute infantry division (82nd Airborne). He volunteered for service in the Korean War and served one year as an infantry soldier in the 17th Infantry Regiment during the war including the battles for Jane Russell Hill in October 1952 and Pork Chop Hill in April 1953. In 2013 he published a memoir of his early life and his military experience Korea: Traces of a forgotten war. 

James' book list on the Korean War from someone who served there

James N. Butcher Why did James love this book?

The Hidden History of the Korean War by I. F. Stone was originally published in 1952 during the Korean War and republished in 1970 at a time in which the US was engaging in the Vietnam War. This controversial book provides viewpoints that are not widely accepted historically. The author raises questions about the origin of the Korean War and makes the case that the United States government manipulated the United Nations and was critical that the U.S. military and South Korean governments extended the war by undermining the efforts to complete the peace talks.

By I.F. Stone,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hidden History of the Korean War, 1950-1951 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Reexamines the causes and course of the Korean War, discusses U.S. war propaganda, and analyzes U.S. foreign policy


Book cover of America's Cold War: The Politics of Insecurity

Andrew Payne Author Of War on the Ballot: How the Election Cycle Shapes Presidential Decision-Making in War

From my list on the politics of war.

Why am I passionate about this?

I take great pride in having somehow turned a passion for visiting presidential libraries into an academic career. I’ve now conducted extensive research at eight of them, and have future projects lined up to get me to the rest. This experience means I can and frequently do ruin family gatherings by challenging distant relations to quizzes about obscure details involving presidential pets. But it has also left me well-placed to write a number of articles and books exploring how domestic politics shapes the development and execution of U.S. foreign policy. I’ve done this while affiliated with the University of Oxford and, more recently, at City, University of London. 

Andrew's book list on the politics of war

Andrew Payne Why did Andrew love this book?

This was the book that got me hooked on the study of U.S. foreign policy.

I vividly remember debating the grammatical merits of the word “intermestic” with my undergraduate adviser. (Full disclosure: he was a skeptic; I was in favour.) But we both agreed that the term it introduced to describe the connection between the international and domestic dimensions of policy was fundamentally apt.

This remains my go-to book to get up to speed on the domestic politics of any major foreign policy challenge of the Cold War period. And it should be yours, too.

By Campbell Craig, Fredrik Logevall,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A creative, carefully researched, and incisive analysis of U.S. strategy during the long struggle against the Soviet Union."
-Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy

"Craig and Logevall remind us that American foreign policy is decided as much by domestic pressures as external threats. America's Cold War is history at its provocative best."
-Mark Atwood Lawrence, author of The Vietnam War

The Cold War dominated world affairs during the half century following World War II. America prevailed, but only after fifty years of grim international struggle, costly wars in Korea and Vietnam, trillions of dollars in military spending, and decades of nuclear…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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