The best French Foreign Legion books

3 authors have picked their favorite books about the French Foreign Legion and why they recommend each book.

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In the Foreign Legion

By Erwin Rosen,

Book cover of In the Foreign Legion

This is the ultimate in precise, deliberate, and informed military nonfiction writing. I related to the protagonist as he is a young german who is curious to see the world in 1905. He makes the fateful decision to join the legion and lives through the horrors of service therein, all the while describing the glory, valor, and traditions of this mysterious corpos. The author manages to describe very real events, organize them in a compelling manner, and elucidates a special moment in history.

In the Foreign Legion

By Erwin Rosen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Foreign Legion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

In 1999, I followed my childhood dreams and enlisted in the French Foreign Legion. In 2005, I published my first work, Legion of the Lost, which chronicles my swashbuckling experience serving in the French Foreign Legion. This is my story. 


I wrote...

Legion of the Lost: The true experience of an American in the French Foreign Legion

By Jaime Salazar,

Book cover of Legion of the Lost: The true experience of an American in the French Foreign Legion

What is my book about?

Since 1831, the French Foreign Legion has been a renowned symbol of discipline and solidarity. Made up completely of foreign volunteers, the French Foreign Legion gives men a new lease on life, and a chance to test their limits both physically and mentally. And in 1999, the Foreign Legion was just what American Jaime Salazar was looking for.

From the harrowing physical rigors of Legion basic training to his posting in the 2e REG outside of the tiny village of Saint Christol, from his fierce competitiveness and pride to his ultimate disillusionment with the French Foreign Legion and dramatic desertion, this is the story of Salazar's quest for honor and sacrifice. Legion of the Lost is a compelling, first-hand account of the contemporary French Foreign Legion, sure to dispel myths while, at the same time, add to the legend of the finest trained army of mercenaries the world has ever seen.

Mouthful of Rocks

By Christian Jennings,

Book cover of Mouthful of Rocks: Modern Adventures in the French Foreign Legion

This book was a very compelling read and resonated with me, as the author was a professional and idealist who was drawn into a war that he was not in control of. His casual and all matter of fact style of writing made it a pleasure to read, while still hitting home with his underlying theme. Jennings is an Englishman with few prospects for a prosperous future so he throws his lot in with a motley bunch of foreigners in the service of france. He writes with hilarity and frankness that I was immediately drawn to.

Mouthful of Rocks

By Christian Jennings,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

In 1999, I followed my childhood dreams and enlisted in the French Foreign Legion. In 2005, I published my first work, Legion of the Lost, which chronicles my swashbuckling experience serving in the French Foreign Legion. This is my story. 


I wrote...

Legion of the Lost: The true experience of an American in the French Foreign Legion

By Jaime Salazar,

Book cover of Legion of the Lost: The true experience of an American in the French Foreign Legion

What is my book about?

Since 1831, the French Foreign Legion has been a renowned symbol of discipline and solidarity. Made up completely of foreign volunteers, the French Foreign Legion gives men a new lease on life, and a chance to test their limits both physically and mentally. And in 1999, the Foreign Legion was just what American Jaime Salazar was looking for.

From the harrowing physical rigors of Legion basic training to his posting in the 2e REG outside of the tiny village of Saint Christol, from his fierce competitiveness and pride to his ultimate disillusionment with the French Foreign Legion and dramatic desertion, this is the story of Salazar's quest for honor and sacrifice. Legion of the Lost is a compelling, first-hand account of the contemporary French Foreign Legion, sure to dispel myths while, at the same time, add to the legend of the finest trained army of mercenaries the world has ever seen.

Legionnaire no. 31022

By Thomas Cushny,

Book cover of Legionnaire no. 31022

Cushny wanted to join the royal air force but was barred due to his eyesight. Instead he joined up with the French foreign legion in Algeria. He barely escaped with his life after serving in one of the fiercest moments in its history, the 1920 wars against moroccan separatists and berbers. It paints a shocking portrait of service in the legion.

Legionnaire no. 31022

By Thomas Cushny,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Legionnaire no. 31022 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

In 1999, I followed my childhood dreams and enlisted in the French Foreign Legion. In 2005, I published my first work, Legion of the Lost, which chronicles my swashbuckling experience serving in the French Foreign Legion. This is my story. 


I wrote...

Legion of the Lost: The true experience of an American in the French Foreign Legion

By Jaime Salazar,

Book cover of Legion of the Lost: The true experience of an American in the French Foreign Legion

What is my book about?

Since 1831, the French Foreign Legion has been a renowned symbol of discipline and solidarity. Made up completely of foreign volunteers, the French Foreign Legion gives men a new lease on life, and a chance to test their limits both physically and mentally. And in 1999, the Foreign Legion was just what American Jaime Salazar was looking for.

From the harrowing physical rigors of Legion basic training to his posting in the 2e REG outside of the tiny village of Saint Christol, from his fierce competitiveness and pride to his ultimate disillusionment with the French Foreign Legion and dramatic desertion, this is the story of Salazar's quest for honor and sacrifice. Legion of the Lost is a compelling, first-hand account of the contemporary French Foreign Legion, sure to dispel myths while, at the same time, add to the legend of the finest trained army of mercenaries the world has ever seen.

Legionnaire

By Simon Murray,

Book cover of Legionnaire: Five Years in the French Foreign Legion

This was ‘the book’ that ultimately led to my joining the Legion to attain the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment (2e régiment étranger de parachutistes). 

I had the distinct honour to interview Mr. Simon Murray, and discuss his meaningful book. Mr. Murray's compelling first-hand account of his time with the REP during the Franco-Algerian war (1960s) is the example of what a Legionnaire represents. Mr. Simon Murray, CBE is a British Hong Kong-based businessman, adventurer, and author.

Legionnaire

By Simon Murray,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'One of the greatest adventure stories in years.' - Chris Patten

'The drama, excitement and colour of a good guts-and-glory thriller.' - Dr. Henry Kissinger

The French Foreign Legion - mysterious, romantic, deadly - is filled with men of dubious character, and hardly the place for a proper Englishman just nineteen years of age. Yet in 1960, Simon Murray traveled alone to Paris, Marseilles, and on to Algeria to fulfill the toughest contract of his life: a five-year stint in the Legion. Along the way, he kept a diary.

Legionnaire is a compelling, firsthand account of Murray's experience with this…


Who am I?

One has to learn about France's Military history to understand the Legion. I served in her ranks, and my efforts are to help educate those interested in facts. That is why I wrote the book Appel: A Canadian in the French Foreign Legion and continue to laisse with the Legion to try and help increase recruitment.


I wrote...

Appel: A Canadian in the French Foreign Legion

By Joel Struthers,

Book cover of Appel: A Canadian in the French Foreign Legion

What is my book about?

In Appel, Joel Struthers recounts the dangers and demands of military life, from the rigours of recruitment and operational training in the rugged mountains of France to face-to-face combat in the grasslands of some of Africa’s most troubled nations.

Told through the eyes of a soldier, and interspersed with humorous anecdotes, Appel is a fascinating story that debunks myths about the French Foreign Legion and shows it more accurately as a professional arm of the French military. Struthers provides insight into the rigorous discipline that the Legion instills in its young recruits, who trade their identities as individuals for a life of adventure and a role in a unified force whose motto is “Honour and Loyalty.”

The French Foreign Legion

By Douglas Porch,

Book cover of The French Foreign Legion: A Complete History of the Legendary Fighting Force

If interested in the Legion's history this is the book to read. As its title suggests it’s a complete history of the legendary fighting force. The author Dr. Douglas Porch is an American military historian, and academic. Dr. Porch has written more than eight books and numerous other publications, mostly about French Military History and French Colonialism. 

The French Foreign Legion

By Douglas Porch,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Known for its austerity and discipline, deprivation and sacrifice, the French Foreign Legion is perhaps the most intriguing and famous fighting force in the world. For 170 years, jobless, homeless and loveless men have found in the Legion a sense of purpose worth all the rigors and risks of serving in the world's longest-standing mercenary army. One of the rewards for which men sign on with the Legion is French citizenship, and every legionnaire may claim it after serving three years with good conduct. The Legion has never had any problem attracting recruits: seven out of ten applicants are still…

Who am I?

One has to learn about France's Military history to understand the Legion. I served in her ranks, and my efforts are to help educate those interested in facts. That is why I wrote the book Appel: A Canadian in the French Foreign Legion and continue to laisse with the Legion to try and help increase recruitment.


I wrote...

Appel: A Canadian in the French Foreign Legion

By Joel Struthers,

Book cover of Appel: A Canadian in the French Foreign Legion

What is my book about?

In Appel, Joel Struthers recounts the dangers and demands of military life, from the rigours of recruitment and operational training in the rugged mountains of France to face-to-face combat in the grasslands of some of Africa’s most troubled nations.

Told through the eyes of a soldier, and interspersed with humorous anecdotes, Appel is a fascinating story that debunks myths about the French Foreign Legion and shows it more accurately as a professional arm of the French military. Struthers provides insight into the rigorous discipline that the Legion instills in its young recruits, who trade their identities as individuals for a life of adventure and a role in a unified force whose motto is “Honour and Loyalty.”

Devil's Guard

By George Robert Elford,

Book cover of Devil's Guard: The Fascinating, True Story of the French Foreign Legion's Nazi Battalion

I had read this years ago but listened to the audiobook recently. Story of a former German Waffen-SS officer fighting with the Legion in the First Indochina War. The book is presented by the author as nonfiction but considered to be untrue by military historians and usually sold as fiction. Regardless it’s a great read and or listen. This is my Legion entertainment choice! If interested a book set is available with its best-selling series (six books) that has sold over a million copies.

Devil's Guard

By George Robert Elford,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

One has to learn about France's Military history to understand the Legion. I served in her ranks, and my efforts are to help educate those interested in facts. That is why I wrote the book Appel: A Canadian in the French Foreign Legion and continue to laisse with the Legion to try and help increase recruitment.


I wrote...

Appel: A Canadian in the French Foreign Legion

By Joel Struthers,

Book cover of Appel: A Canadian in the French Foreign Legion

What is my book about?

In Appel, Joel Struthers recounts the dangers and demands of military life, from the rigours of recruitment and operational training in the rugged mountains of France to face-to-face combat in the grasslands of some of Africa’s most troubled nations.

Told through the eyes of a soldier, and interspersed with humorous anecdotes, Appel is a fascinating story that debunks myths about the French Foreign Legion and shows it more accurately as a professional arm of the French military. Struthers provides insight into the rigorous discipline that the Legion instills in its young recruits, who trade their identities as individuals for a life of adventure and a role in a unified force whose motto is “Honour and Loyalty.”

Tomorrow to Be Brave

By Susan Travers, Wendy Holden,

Book cover of Tomorrow to Be Brave: A Memoir of the Only Woman Ever to Serve in the French Foreign Legion

This is the remarkable, true story about an upper-class English woman, Susan Travers, who was chauffeur to French General Pierre Koenig during his North Africa campaign leading the Free French Foreign Legion while attached to the British 8th Army. Koenig became famous for holding out against German General Erwin Rommel at the battle of Bir Hakiem. Susan chose to remain at Bir Hakiem when all other women had been evacuated. At the height of the battle, running out of ammunition, Koenig ordered the evacuation and she drove him through machine-gun fire and a minefield, spearheading the hair-raising escape for the 3,000 soldiers. Susan was my friend and I was the first person to whom she revealed her secret love affair with Koenig, the basis of this book.

Tomorrow to Be Brave

By Susan Travers, Wendy Holden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tomorrow to Be Brave as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

I must be something of a specialist on the impact of conventional and guerrilla warfare on the civilian population. Truth is, leaving school, I never intended to have anything to do with war beyond the books I enjoyed reading. On leaving the military in my 30s I employed the only skills I had and managed organisations and mostly news teams operating in conflict zones all over the world. I matured into a crisis manager, responding and consulting to crisis situations such as kidnap & ransoms, and evacuations from conflict zones. Most of the characters in my books are real, good and bad, taken from the vast theatre of my own experiences. 


I wrote...

First into Action

By Duncan Falconer,

Book cover of First into Action

What is my book about?

A dramatic personal account of life inside the UK's Special Boat Service. The memoir describes how Duncan Falconer joined the Royal Marines and, due to a series of unusual events, on completion of his Commando course, was sent to the SBS HQ in Poole to take part in the gruelling selection process along with 150 other Marines. Falconer was not expected to last a week. Three months later, on completion of the course, and along with just 8 other men, he was accepted into the ranks of the SBS, the youngest ever to join the unit in the modern era. First Into Action is packed with, often sad, sometimes hilarious, anecdotes of his life and times in the service.  

Hell In A Very Small Place

By Bernard B. Fall,

Book cover of Hell In A Very Small Place: The Siege Of Dien Bien Phu

My 5th choice which I’m currently listening to is not directly Legion related however for those who are interested in the Legion’s history The 1954 Siege of Dien Bien Phu is an important one. Having visited Dien Bien Phu as a tourist, and to pay my respects to the Legionnaires who fought. So, the more I can read and or listen to about this pitch battle the better. The author, acclaimed scholar, and reporter was a prominent war correspondent in Indochina during the 1950s and 1960s. 

Hell In A Very Small Place

By Bernard B. Fall,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Hell In A Very Small Place as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The 1954 battle of Dien Bien Phu ranks with Stalingrad and Tet for what it ended (imperial ambitions), what it foretold (American involvement), and what it symbolized: A guerrilla force of Viet Minh destroyed a technologically superior French army, convincing the Viet Minh that similar tactics might prevail in battle with the U.S.

Who am I?

One has to learn about France's Military history to understand the Legion. I served in her ranks, and my efforts are to help educate those interested in facts. That is why I wrote the book Appel: A Canadian in the French Foreign Legion and continue to laisse with the Legion to try and help increase recruitment.


I wrote...

Appel: A Canadian in the French Foreign Legion

By Joel Struthers,

Book cover of Appel: A Canadian in the French Foreign Legion

What is my book about?

In Appel, Joel Struthers recounts the dangers and demands of military life, from the rigours of recruitment and operational training in the rugged mountains of France to face-to-face combat in the grasslands of some of Africa’s most troubled nations.

Told through the eyes of a soldier, and interspersed with humorous anecdotes, Appel is a fascinating story that debunks myths about the French Foreign Legion and shows it more accurately as a professional arm of the French military. Struthers provides insight into the rigorous discipline that the Legion instills in its young recruits, who trade their identities as individuals for a life of adventure and a role in a unified force whose motto is “Honour and Loyalty.”

The War for Africa

By Eeben Barlow,

Book cover of The War for Africa: Conflict, Crime, Corruption and Foreign Interests

A difficult book to find, but worth it. Barlow was the founder of Executive Outcomes or “EO,” the (in)famous mercenary corporation based out of South Africa in the 1990s. Now decommissioned, no other private military company has since rivaled EO’s power. When I worked in Africa, I would look to the EO alumnae network for talent. That and former French Foreign Legionnaires. In this memoir, Barlow reflects on his time as a private military commander, his missions, what he’s learned. It’s not prose but it is honest, and the best window into today’s market for force.


This book is currently not available on Bookshop.org or Amazon.

The War for Africa

By Eeben Barlow,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

Dr. Sean McFate is an expert on international relations and a former military contractor. He is a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington DC think tank, and a professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, Syracuse University's Maxwell School, and the National Defense University. He began his career as a paratrooper and officer in the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division. 


I wrote...

The New Rules of War: How America Can Win--Against Russia, China, and Other Threats

By Sean McFate,

Book cover of The New Rules of War: How America Can Win--Against Russia, China, and Other Threats

What is my book about?

The New Rules of War has been called the “The Freakonomics of modern warfare”. It was named a “Book of the Year” by The Economist, The Times [UK], and Evening Standard. Additionally, it is an Amazon bestseller and Editor's Pick, and is included on West Point’s “Commandant’s Reading List”. 

The book provides ten new rules of modern warfare and explains how to win. China, Russia, and Iran understand these new principles but the “West” doesn't and struggles against weak foes like terrorists and the Taliban. But we can win, if we update our strategic IQ. Admiral Jim Stavridis, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, said: “Sean McFate is a new Sun Tzu.” In the U.K it is titled: Goliath: Why the West Doesn't Win Wars. And What We Need to Do About It

The Astonished Man

By Blaise Cendrars,

Book cover of The Astonished Man

Reading Balise Cendrars—The Astonished Manis like stepping into another universe, so strange, exotic, and weird are the tales he has to tell. Once again, travel and adventure are the main themes. But what’s real and what is unreal is almost impossible to tell as the author constantly blurs fact with fiction. There are tales of how he lost an arm, encounters with Mexican millionaires, gypsies, a stint in the French Foreign Legion, and vivid exploits in South America and Africa. The fact that this great writer is not better known is a constant source of bafflement, for his prose is dazzling, thought-provoking, and illuminating!

The Astonished Man

By Blaise Cendrars,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I’ve been obsessed with travel and novels that feature travel in the narrative since my early teens. A near-death experience at the age of nineteen, forced me to confront my own limited life experiences and encouraged me to travel the globe and see some of the world we live in before it was too late, as there’s nothing worse than too late. Also growing up on an inner city council estate instilled a desire to escape the urban environment and international travel and travel writing satisfied those compelling urges.


I wrote...

Burrito Deluxe

By Joseph Ridgwell,

Book cover of Burrito Deluxe

What is my book about?

From the mean streets of East London to the intoxicating thoroughfares of Mexico City, emerges a tale of two young men disconnecting from all forms of technology and society at large in a mad chase for freedom. Set in London and Mexico, the novel chronicles the end of youth and idealism and a total rejection of the modern world.

Burrito Deluxe tells of drunkenness, East End underworld escapades, trips to sacred Mayan temples, psychedelic peyote visions, hippy lifestyles, romantic liaisons, and the search for the legendary Lost Elation at the mystical Beach of the Dead. Burrito Deluxe is a Joseph Ridgwell special—the true story of two young men in search of freedom and adventure, but finding nothing but lies, dreams, insanity, and death.

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