10 books like War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

By Chris Hedges,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

Globalization and War

By Tarak Barkawi,

Book cover of Globalization and War

Barkawi speaks of war as a form of “interconnection” among peoples and wisely reasons that we have to talk about war from a global perspective if we are truly to understand it. War may be an extension of politics, to quote a certain Prussian, but it’s also a social activity. And that activity has been globalized for far longer than many of us might think.

I really enjoy the way Barkawi weaves together a global story of war, culture, and identity. His case study on the Indian Army—he argues it was at “once a tool and an object of imperial control”—is superbly fascinating and highlights how localities can be affected by martial activities from faraway, distant places.

Globalization and War

By Tarak Barkawi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

War doesn't just tear nations apart-it brings peoples and places closer together, providing a new lens on globalization. This book offers a fresh perspective on globalization and war, topics rarely considered together. It conceives war as a form of interconnection between home and abroad, and as an occasion for circulation and interchange. It identifies the political and military work required to create and maintain a free-trading world, while critiquing liberal and neoliberal conceptions of the pacific benefits of economic globalization. Speaking from the heart of old and new imperial orders, Tarak Barkawi exposes the Eurocentric limitations of military history and…


From Coveralls to Zoot Suits

By Elizabeth R. Escobedo,

Book cover of From Coveralls to Zoot Suits: The Lives of Mexican American Women on the World War II Home Front

I teach at a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) and it’s important for my students to identify with the historical actors we study. Escobedo resonates with them because she artfully discusses how the “Good War” was perceived within Mexican American families living in Southern California. She argues that Mexican American women, especially those working in the defense industry, were “racially malleable” and members of an “in-between” community during the war.

There’s so much going on in this story—insights into race and gender, sexuality and family dynamics, fears about “race mixing,” and wartime demographic shifts. Yet in all this, Escobedo never loses sight of the women themselves and their powerful voices.

From Coveralls to Zoot Suits

By Elizabeth R. Escobedo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From Coveralls to Zoot Suits as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During World War II, unprecedented employment avenues opened up for women and minorities in U.S. defense industries at the same time that massive population shifts and the war challenged Americans to rethink notions of race. At this extraordinary historical moment, Mexican American women found new means to exercise control over their lives in the home, workplace, and nation. In From Coveralls to Zoot Suits, Elizabeth R. Escobedo explores how, as war workers and volunteers, dance hostesses and zoot suiters, respectable young ladies and rebellious daughters, these young women used wartime conditions to serve the United States in its time of…


War Time

By Mary L. Dudziak,

Book cover of War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences

When do wars begin? When do they end? Dudziak maintains that these questions aren’t so easy to answer and that there is a disconnect between the practice of war and how we imagine war. Part legal history, part memory study, War Time forces us to reevaluate the balance between national security and individual rights and how war itself can distort what should be, but often isn’t, a sense of equilibrium between the two.

In many ways, Dudziak and Hedges make for a great pairing because they both challenge us to reconsider our definitions of war. Plus, there’s a brilliant discussion on “wartime” versus “peacetime” using a chart of American military campaign medals that is itself worth the price of admission. 

War Time

By Mary L. Dudziak,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When is wartime? On the surface, it is a period of time in which a society is at war. But we now live in what President Obama has called "an age without surrender ceremonies," when it is no longer easy to distinguish between wartime and peacetime. In this inventive meditation on war, time, and the law, Mary Dudziak argues that wartime is not as discrete a time period as we like to think. Instead, America has been engaged in some form of ongoing overseas armed
conflict for over a century. Meanwhile policy makers and the American public continue to view…


No Good Men Among the Living

By Anand Gopal,

Book cover of No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes

I have been teaching about the wars in Afghanistan since 2004 and this book is the best at showcasing how individual lives are indelibly affected by armed conflict. Gopal is fabulous in humanizing his characters—a Taliban commander, a member of the US-backed Afghan government, or a village housewife. And he demonstrates how none of these people fit neatly into the preconceived categories applied to them by Americans.

Perhaps better than any other book on Afghanistan after 9/11, Gopal also reveals the limits of US military power overseas. In many ways, the presence of American soldiers exacerbated local conflict rather than ameliorating it. A powerful book arguing against those who extol the value of “generational wars” to achieve US foreign policy objectives.

No Good Men Among the Living

By Anand Gopal,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Good Men Among the Living as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Through their dramatic stories, Gopal shows that the Afghan war, so often regarded as a hopeless quagmire, could in fact have gone very differently. Top Taliban leaders actually tried to surrender within months of the US invasion, renouncing all political activity and submitting to the new government. Effectively, the Taliban ceased to exist - yet the Americans were unwilling to accept such a turnaround. Instead, driven by false intelligence from their allies and an unyielding mandate to fight terrorism, American forces continued to press the conflict, resurrecting the insurgency that persists to this day. With its intimate accounts of life…


The Transnational World of the Cominternians

By Brigitte Studer,

Book cover of The Transnational World of the Cominternians

For a long time, studies of the Comintern focused on the political organization itself. Brigitte Studer’s work focuses on developing a cultural history of the organization, focusing on what she calls the “Cominternians,” the various communists who worked in the apparatus. Here, she uses a variety of lenses, from Moscow as a transnational hub, to the role of gender, to the impact of the Stalinist terror on these members. By also focusing on a wide array of experiences, she showcases the hope many Cominternians had, but also the betrayal they experienced as Stalinism changed the movement in the 1930s. Partially responsible for the transnational turn in Comintern studies, this book is a must-read for anyone looking to know more about the organization. 

The Transnational World of the Cominternians

By Brigitte Studer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The 'Cominternians' who staffed the Communist International in Moscow from its establishment in 1919 to its dissolution in 1943 led transnational lives and formed a cosmopolitan but closed and privileged world. The book tells of their experience in the Soviet Union through the decades of hope and terror.


The Encyclopedia of Military History from 3500 B.C. to the Present

By Richard Ernest Dupuy, Trevor N. Dupuy,

Book cover of The Encyclopedia of Military History from 3500 B.C. to the Present

Dupuy & Dupuy’s Encyclopedia of Military History is the historical bedrock of strategic studies. Despite its name, it is not so much an encyclopedia, as a readable chronological account of world history. It is integrated with insightful commentary on technology, tactics, leadership, and society, presented at the beginning of each chapter, and within sections dedicated to specific battles and wars. Although Wikipedia now exceeds it in the detail of the events and the background of the conflicts covered, Wikipedia lacks a roadmap or the careful examination of the cumulative historical changes that underpin warfare. I assign this fourteen hundred-page text as the primary text in my introduction to strategic studies course. 

The Encyclopedia of Military History from 3500 B.C. to the Present

By Richard Ernest Dupuy, Trevor N. Dupuy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Encyclopedia of Military History from 3500 B.C. to the Present as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


The Art of War in Western World

By Archer Jones,

Book cover of The Art of War in Western World

If you are to be a serious student of war, warfare, and tactics, then you will need a general reference guide. This book should be your go-to reference for general knowledge on this subject. Jones elegantly combines three major components of war (tactics, strategy, and logistics) to explain the last 2,500 years of military history, from phalanxes in ancient Greece through to the Thirty Years’ War that shaped modern Europe. Well written and thoroughly researched, I have kept it on my desk for the last thirty years.

The Art of War in Western World

By Archer Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Art of War in Western World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The magnum opus of one of America's most respected military historians, "The Art of War in the Western World" has earned its place as the standard work on how the three major operational components of war - tactics, logistics, and strategy - have evolved and changed over time. This monumental work encompasses 2,500 years of military history, from infantry combat in ancient Greece through the dissolution of the Roman Empire to the Thirty Years' War and from the Napoleonic campaigns through World War II, which Jones sees as the culmination of modern warfare, to the Israeli-Egyptian War of 1973".


Pan-Asianism and Japan's War 1931-1945

By Eri Hotta,

Book cover of Pan-Asianism and Japan's War 1931-1945

Important for Japan’s shifting policy in China, but also for the responses in China and in Russia.  Identifies key figures in the military responsible for war planning and their conflicts as well as the role of the emperor. This book emphasizes the twisting path toward Pearl Harbor and how it might have been avoided.

Pan-Asianism and Japan's War 1931-1945

By Eri Hotta,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pan-Asianism and Japan's War 1931-1945 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The book explores the critical importance of Pan-Asianism in Japanese imperialism. Pan-Asianism was a cultural as well as political ideology that promoted Asian unity and recognition. The focus is on Pan-Asianism as a propeller behind Japan's expansionist policies from the Manchurian Incident until the end of the Pacific War.


Warfare and Armed Conflicts

By Micheal Clodfelter,

Book cover of Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures, 1492-2015

Warfare and Armed Conflicts is indeed an Encyclopedia, arranged chronologically, that surveys five centuries of battles and wars. What makes it so indispensable is that it focuses not on the chronology of events or personalities, but primarily on the presentation of available numbers, including the size of armies in battles, personnel casualties, and equipment losses. A study of strategy, war causation, victory, and defeat, depends heavily on understanding the relative strengths and capabilities of adversaries, which makes this text so valuable for understanding the causes of the outcomes of battles and wars. The presentation of numbers often challenges the conventional wisdom of events, and helps explain the periodic disasters of military history.    

Warfare and Armed Conflicts

By Micheal Clodfelter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In its revised and updated fourth edition, this exhaustive encyclopedia provides a record of casualties of war from the last five centuries through 2015, with new statistical and analytical information. Figures include casualties from global terrorism, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the fight against the Islamic State. New entries cover an additional 20 armed conflicts between 1492 and 2007 not included in previous editions. Arranged roughly by century and subdivided by world region, chronological entries include the name and dates of the conflict, precursor events, strategies and details, the outcome and its aftermath.


Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age

By Peter Paret (editor), Gordon A. Craig (editor), Felix Gilbert (editor)

Book cover of Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age

Makers of Modern Strategy, comprising 29 essays, is the most compact compendium of the key strategic ideas from the last three centuries, which influence contemporary events. It is a substantial revision of a seminal 1943 text published by Princeton University to inform strategic studies analysts during the Second World War. It is primarily rich in linking national strategies to key thinkers, in historical context, and it covers the full spectrum of social, historical, institutional, economic, revolutionary, and military practices. It is often assigned as standard text in senior military staff colleges. Several of its essays are mandatory readings in my strategic studies classes, particularly on insurgency, and the strategic theories that informed the Third Reich war aims.  

Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age

By Peter Paret (editor), Gordon A. Craig (editor), Felix Gilbert (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The essays in this volume analyze war, its strategic characterisitics and its political and social functions, over the past five centuries. The diversity of its themes and the broad perspectives applied to them make the book a work of general history as much as a history of the theory and practice of war from the Renaissance to the present. Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age takes the first part of its title from an earlier collection of essays, published by Princeton University Press in 1943, which became a classic of historical scholarship. Three essays are repinted…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in military history, the Balkans, and Central America?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about military history, the Balkans, and Central America.

Military History Explore 31 books about military history
The Balkans Explore 15 books about the Balkans
Central America Explore 27 books about Central America