The best books about the Fall of Saigon

Many authors have picked their favorite books about the all of Saigon and why they recommend each book.

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Catfish and Mandala

By Andrew X. Pham,

Book cover of Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam

This New York Times Notable Book of the Year by a Vietnamese-American who was forced to flee his native country after the fall of Saigon is both travelogue and memoir, beautifully written, and a profound meditation on identity.

Who am I?

About thirty years ago I learned that my great-grandaunt Annie was, arguably, the first woman to circle the world by bicycle (1894-1895) and I spent years rescuing her story from the trash bin of history, for she was virtually forgotten for more than a century. An avid cyclist myself, Annie became both my muse and my inspiration. She was an outlandish character who stepped far outside the bounds of what was expected for women of her time; among other things, she was the married mother of three young children when she took off from Boston for fifteen months on the road, and she pioneered sports-related marketing for women, securing corporate sponsors and adorning her body and her bicycle with advertisements wherever she traveled.

I wrote...

Spin: A Novel Based on a (Mostly) True Story

By Peter Zheutlin,

Book cover of Spin: A Novel Based on a (Mostly) True Story

What is my book about?

Who was Annie Londonderry? She captured the popular imagination with her daring 'round the world trip on two wheels. It was, declared The New York World in October of 1895, "the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman."

But beyond the headlines, Londonderry was really Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, a young, Jewish mother of three small children, who climbed onto a 42-pound Columbia bicycle and pedaled away into history. Reportedly set in motion by a wager between two wealthy Boston merchants, the bet required Annie not only to circle the earth by bicycle in 15 months but to earn $5,000 en route, as well. This was no mere test of a woman's physical endurance and mental fortitude; it was a test of a woman's ability to fend for herself in the world.


By Michael Maclear, Hal Buell,

Book cover of Vietnam: A Complete Photographic History

Twenty chapters and 732 pages, not including the Preface, Acknowledgements, Introduction, and Chronology, of the history of the Vietnam War. From the Preface, you are thrown into a photograph-rich hardback book that covers the beginnings of what lured the French to Indochinatrade, to the final surrender in April 1975. Gritty, sometimes horrifying black and white pictures jump out at you from the pages. There are over 2,000 photographs and maps inside the book. It is truly the book for anyone interested in the Vietnam War.

Who am I?

I am a retired police officer, except I don’t write about law enforcement. I write about the military. My degree is in Political Science and History. I am a meticulous researcher. My emphasis has been on the Vietnam War. My father served in both the U.S. Navy and the Army National Guard. One of my great uncles served in Africa during WWII. His brother during the Occupation of Germany. I have a step-uncle who spent time as a POW in Laos during the Vietnam War. My step-father served in the Army National Guard, and my step-brother in the U.S. Army, Korea and Ft. Hood.

I wrote...

The Jackson MacKenzie Chronicles: In the Eye of the Storm

By Angel Giacomo,

Book cover of The Jackson MacKenzie Chronicles: In the Eye of the Storm

What is my book about?

War, it changes everyone and everything it touches. But especially the men who live in the trenches who fight the battles. Lt. Colonel Jackson Joseph MacKenzie is one of those men. He grew up in the shadow of a legendary Marine. Part of a family tradition to serve, he joined the United States Army. His first war in Korea taught him death the hard way, both personal and professional. His second in Vietnam taught him never-ending pain. And betrayal by those above him. Those he trusted. Given a top-secret mission to help end the war, he carried out his orders. Then upon his return, they disavowed any knowledge of it. He found himself in a six-by-eight cell with no way out and no hope.

A Rumor of War

By Philip Caputo,

Book cover of A Rumor of War: The Classic Vietnam Memoir

Caputo’s 1977 Vietnam War memoir is important because it transcends the typical battlefield diary and fulfills the author’s literary intentions of portraying this soldier’s spiritual and psychological changes. In our 2005 interview, Caputo noted that he wanted to “recreate the war as concretely as possible,” which he certainly does through the eyes of a Marine infantry officer. But for me and many Vietnam veterans, Caputo, through his own story, also traces our soldier evolution through stages of innocence about war, disturbing war experiences, and choices between good and evil. Caputo’s narrative voice and detailed descriptions reflect his journalistic background, and the book’s moral underpinnings emerge from his “Catholic imagination.” On another level, the memoir also subtly reveals America’s own loss of innocence and growing cynicism about the nature and goals of the Vietnam War.  

Who am I?

From an early age, I have made a life out of listening to, telling, teaching, and writing about war stories. I am intrigued by their widespread personal and public importance. My changing associations with these stories and their tellers have paralleled evolving stages in my life—son, soldier, father, and college professor. Each stage has spawned different questions and insights about the tales and their narrators. At various moments in my own life, these war stories have also given rise to fantasized adventure, catharsis, emotional highs and lows, insights about human nature tested within the crucible of war, and intriguing relationships with the storytellers—their lives and minds.

I wrote...

Writing Vietnam, Writing Life: Caputo, Heinemann, O'Brien, Butler

By Tobey C. Herzog,

Book cover of Writing Vietnam, Writing Life: Caputo, Heinemann, O'Brien, Butler

What is my book about?

My book includes extended conversations with four prominent American soldier-authors (Philip Caputo, Larry Heinemann, Tim O’Brien, and Robert Olen Butler) who fought in the Vietnam War. These individuals tell their life stories, discuss their writing process, and advise on the teaching of writing. In addition, the authors share their war stories, specifically what they did in war, what the war did to them, and how and why they wrote about their war experiences. These conversations, along with richly annotated life chronologies, reveal that these four prizewinning authors have diverse upbringings, values, war experiences, life experiences, writing careers, and literary voices. Together, their four life and war stories also present a mini-tableaux of the fascinating and troubling time of 1960s and 1970s America.