13 books directly related to the Gulf War 📚

All 13 Gulf War books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Call-Sign Kluso: An American Fighter Pilot in Mr. Reagan's Air Force

By Rick Tollini,

Book cover of Call-Sign Kluso: An American Fighter Pilot in Mr. Reagan's Air Force

Why this book?

Plenty of memoirs have been written by combat pilots, but Call Sign Kluso is truly one-of-a-kind. It weaves a captivating personal narrative within the context of America’s resurgence from the post-Vietnam era, while demonstrating the US Air Force’s transformation into the high-tech, cutting-edge organization that defeated Saddam Hussein during Operation Desert Storm. 

My War Gone By, I Miss It So

By Anthony Loyd,

Book cover of My War Gone By, I Miss It So

Why this book?

The effects of war don’t only affect the soldiers on the battlefield. This memoir by British war correspondent Anthony Loyd, who covered the war in Bosnia and the conflict in Chechnya, and was himself a veteran of the Persian Gulf War, illuminates the mindset and the consequences felt by anyone involved or witness to acts of violence in war. By turns brutal and lyrical, it is not a narrative of distant analysis that one would expect from a journalist. Loyd states unequivocally that to be “neutral” no matter what actually undermines an honest accounting of conflict and the actors involved. He is also honest about his own attraction to war and delves into the reasons why. This book is an insightful first-person account of many of the issues Junger and Grossman examine in their more academic works.

The Fist of God

By Frederick Forsyth,

Book cover of The Fist of God

Why this book?

Though not Forsyth’s best-known thriller, The Fist of God is reputedly his favorite. I credit this to the fascinating complexity of the storylines, one subplot after another intricately woven together, and to the way this complexity mirrors the time and circumstance of its setting: the first Gulf War. Forsyth’s vision of the mysterious weapon of mass destruction is a supergun, innocently developed by a Western engineer, but repurposed by the Iraqis as a means to launch a massive gas attack against an invading force. Though The Day of the Jackal has always been a political thriller favorite of mine, after reading The Fist of God I was inclined to agree with Forsyth that this may be his best.  

Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat

By Dan Hampton,

Book cover of Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat

Why this book?

Few histories have been written about the F-16, much less from the perspective of the pilots who flew it in combat.  Dan Hampton offers his unique insights into the world of American airpower. From Desert Storm to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Hampton logged 608 flight hours across 151 combat missions. From this deftly written account, we relive the days of “Shock and Awe” from the pilot’s seat.  

Perilous Glory: The Rise of Western Military Power

By John France,

Book cover of Perilous Glory: The Rise of Western Military Power

Why this book?

John France has a knack for making the history of war interesting and readable, without taking away its gore and horror, without making you think it in any way romantic or desirable. The title already captures it: the book is largely about the rise of Europe (or later: the West) on the back of military prowess, but at what perilous price! The book aptly traces military traditions and continuity of ideas and concepts, but also profound changes, from Antiquity to the present, giving us a grasp of the essence of warfare during different periods. This book can be said to replace Sir Charles Oman’s old classic.

Moving Mountains: Lessons in Leadership and Logistics from the Gulf War

By William G Pagonis, Jeffrey L. Cruikshank,

Book cover of Moving Mountains: Lessons in Leadership and Logistics from the Gulf War

Why this book?

I think that General Pagonis wrote an instant classic. On the battlefield in Iraq, Pagonis began and ended every day by asking, what do we do if Saddam attacks today? I held large classes, he recalls, open to anyone, but especially to our talented reserve forces, to discuss scenarios and potential solutions.

He would ask questions like, "A ship docked at Ad Dammam this morning. It's ready to be unloaded, but the onboard crane breaks. What do you do?" Or, "We suddenly find out we're receiving 15,000 troops today instead of the usual 5,000. How do we adjust to the increase?"

He constantly told people that we all needed to do our Monday-morning quarterbacking on Saturday night, before problems arose. I and everyone I know could benefit from such a policy. The added benefit of this approach was that it promoted collaborative talks about problems and responsibilities across ranks and functions. And, these dry runs over potential problems proved extremely helpful when, for example, they did receive 15,000 people in one day.

General Pagonis realized that they had to do more than just fight fires. They needed a structure, one step removed, that could look ahead and prepare for any eventuality. So he created a logistical cell, separate from the group that was handling day-to-day concerns, to act as an ad-hoc think tank. Their job was to assemble facts and point out whenever they thought the campaign was moving in the wrong direction. In short, the author's approach to accomplishment is a text-book prescription for self-starting and, I think, a minor masterpiece!

The Past as Future

By Jurgen Habermas, Max Pensky (translator),

Book cover of The Past as Future

Why this book?

In addition to being postwar Germany’s most important philosopher, Habermas is also its leading public intellectual. In this volume of his “short political writings” Habermas develops his ideas on a number of concrete issues in the memory politics of postwar Europe that emerged in the early 1990s – including conservative attempts to normalize the Holocaust, the effects of German unification, and the implications of the fall of communism for the EU – in an accessible manner through a series of interviews. This format also allows him to open up the question of the status of public intellectuals and their role in the democratic public sphere, which is the subject of my current book project on Habermas as a public intellectual.

The Colonel of Tamarkan: Philip Toosey and the Bridge on the River Kwai

By Julie Summers,

Book cover of The Colonel of Tamarkan: Philip Toosey and the Bridge on the River Kwai

Why this book?

This is a book about Lieutenant Colonel Philip Toosey, the man who commanded the POWs who built the "bridge over the River Kwai". Many people, possibly most, know about this bridge from the film, The Bridge on the River Kwai, starring Alec Guinness. I recall discussing the film with a friend – a man who helped build the real bridge – and to quote him referring to the film, ‘British officers just didn’t behave like that’.

Years later, whilst traveling and writing, I sat through the night, on a rickety wooden verandah, a few hundred yards from the Kwai bridge reading a copy of The Colonel of Tamarkan, drinking Chang beer, being bitten by mosquitoes, and thinking about my friend and his pals, the ones buried in the cemetery a mile or so away. That’s where this book has meaning to me…

Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists, and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia

By Robert Lacey,

Book cover of Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists, and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia

Why this book?

Better known these days for his writing on the palace dramas of the British royal family and being the historical adviser to the Netflix series The Crown, Lacey previously wrote the 1981 doorstopper The Kingdom: The History of Saudi Arabia to 1979. That was the year of the seizure by Sunni extremists of the Grand Mosque in Mecca as well as the Iranian (Shia) revolution.

This latest volume, published in 2009, looks at Saudi Arabia and the transition which was already taking place before the current King Salman took the throne and before anybody had heard of MbS.

Bravo Two Zero: The Harrowing True Story of a Special Forces Patrol Behind the Lines in Iraq

By Andy McNab,

Book cover of Bravo Two Zero: The Harrowing True Story of a Special Forces Patrol Behind the Lines in Iraq

Why this book?

This is a detailed account of a secret military mission behind enemy lines during the first Gulf War and how a series of minor setbacks can quickly escalate into a full-blown disaster. I first read it years before I'd had any knowledge of a battlefield. I read it again after I'd been caught up in my own terrifying experience of combat and took away a new appreciation of the realities of war – how stress on the battlefield narrows the field of vision to minute details which distort what is really going on. It's a lesson about war, but also about life – even with all the planning and the training, it's almost impossible to control what happens in the heat of battle. 

Rescue Pilot: Life-Saving At-Sea Navy Helicopter Missions

By Dan McKinnon,

Book cover of Rescue Pilot: Life-Saving At-Sea Navy Helicopter Missions

Why this book?

Dan McKinnon was a navy helicopter pilot who was airborne near an aircraft carrier during flight operations so pilots who had mishaps could be quickly and safely recovered. This is a story about an unusual type of flying, one that provides another layer of safety for naval operations at sea.

The Question of Palestine

By Edward W. Said,

Book cover of The Question of Palestine

Why this book?

This was the first book to bring in one place the Palestinian narrative after years of denying it and allowing only the Israeli/Zionist narrative to dominate both the public and the scholarly domains in the West. Said's elegant prose contributed made that history accessible to a large audience of readers.

The President's Gardens

By Muhsin Al-Ramli, Luke Leafgren (translator),

Book cover of The President's Gardens

Why this book?

I’ve just returned from a research trip to Iraq (one of many settings for my next book: stay tuned). I took along two Iraqi novels, The President's Gardens and Daughter of the Tigris (they’re really just one; the first literally ends with the words to be continued) and I was as stirred by reading them as by what I saw there. While we protest Russia’s outrageous rape of Ukraine, we forget the hideous mess that America’s unjustifiable invasion left in Iraq. Even under Saddam Hussein, Iraq was considered the flower of Arab culture, a land overflowing with poetry, music, and art. Today much of it is rubble. Masterfully, Al-Ramli describes the latter with all the breathtaking beauty of the former. This ranks among my most moving reading experiences ever.