The most recommended books on the Iraq War

Who picked these books? Meet our 50 experts.

50 authors created a book list connected to the Iraq War, and here are their favorite Iraq War books.
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What type of Iraq War book?


Book cover of American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History

Robert Patrick Lewis Author Of Love Me When I'm Gone: The True Story of Life, Love, and Loss for a Green Beret in Post-9/11 War.

From my list on non-fiction on US special operations at war.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a former Green Beret and combat veteran of OIF (Iraq), OEF (Afghanistan), and OEF-TS (North Africa). My first unit within Special Forces is the oldest within SF, and as such, I had the opportunity to work alongside some legends amongst men, people who were there in the early days of Special Operations. After leaving Special Forces I have written three published Special Operations-focused books, both fiction and non-fiction, which has led to a life of studying everything there is to know about Special Operations, the intelligence behind wars, and the history of both.

Robert's book list on non-fiction on US special operations at war

Robert Patrick Lewis Why did Robert love this book?

Books that tell the story of Special Operations soldiers fighting in the Global War on Terror typically focus all of their efforts on adrenaline, explosions, the men, and the teams. While those are all critical elements and essential to the stories, most of them leave out one of the most crucial factors to keeping Special Operations troops in the fight.

In Special Forces, we had many sayings, but one of the most important was, if momma ain’t happy, Joe ain’t happy.” 

All active duty soldiers engaged in war, even we Special Operators, depend on our families to keep us going. These may be the details required to keep the household running, keeping the family happy, healthy & fed (as nearly all Special Operators are extremely family-oriented), but also to be the rocks that we can fall back on when needed, the support to keep us pushing forward, and…

By Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, Jim DeFelice

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Former U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle tells the story of his legendary career, from 1999-2009, during which time he recorded the most confirmed sniper kills (officially a record 155, though the real number is even much higher) in the history of the United States military, any branch, from 1776 to present. Nicknamed The Legend by his fellow SEALS, Kyle's service in Iraq and Afghanistan earned him seven medals for bravery, including two Silver Stars. With the pacing of thriller, "American Sniper" vividly recounts Chief Kyle's experiences at key battles, including the March on Baghdad (beginning of Iraq War), Fallujah, Ramadi,…

Book cover of The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq

John A. Nagl Author Of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam

From my list on the exorbitant cost of America’s War in Iraq.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a retired Army officer who served in a tank unit in Operation Desert Storm. After that war, I became convinced that the future of warfare looked more like America’s experience in Vietnam than like the war in which I had just fought. I taught at West Point and then served in another tank unit early in the war in Iraq before being sent to the Pentagon where I helped Generals David Petraeus and Jim Mattis write the Army and Marine Corps doctrine for counterinsurgency campaigns. I am now studying and teaching about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a professor at the U.S. Army War College.  

John's book list on the exorbitant cost of America’s War in Iraq

John A. Nagl Why did John love this book?

Packer examines why the United States invaded Iraq without a just cause and without a plan for what to do once it succeeded in toppling Saddam Hussein. He explains the critical first few months of the war that set the course for everything that followed in a searing examination of America’s extraordinary hubris in the “War on Terror.” What sets Packer’s work apart is his ability to explain events in the White House and Pentagon and tie them to their bitter denouement on the streets of Baghdad. He tells the story of a big war of choice gone badly wrong before the first shots were fired. 

By George Packer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Named One of the 10 Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review

Named one of the Best Books of the Year by The Washington Post Book World, The Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, Los Angeles Times Book Review, USA Today, Time, and New York magazine.

Winner of the Overseas Press Club’s Cornelius Ryan Award for Best Nonfiction Book on International Affairs

Winner of the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism

The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq recounts how the United States set about changing…

Book cover of Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat

Mike Guardia Author Of Tomcat Fury: A Combat History of the F-14

From my list on military aviation.

Why am I passionate about this?

Mike Guardia is an Amazon Top 100 Bestselling Author and military historian. A veteran of the United States Army, he served six years on active duty (2008-2014) as an Armor Officer. He has written and lectured on various topics of modern military history, including guerrilla warfare, air-to-air combat, and World War II in the Pacific. He holds a BA and MA in American History from the University of Houston.

Mike's book list on military aviation

Mike Guardia Why did Mike love 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.  

By Dan Hampton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Viper Pilot" is the high-octane memoir of one of America's elite aviators: a twenty-year battle-seasoned pilot who flew 151 combat missions in the world's most iconic fighter plane - the F-16 Fighting Falcon - the Viper as its pilots call it. A fighter pilot who came of age at the end of the Cold War, Dan Hampton was one of the flyers scrambled into the skies on 9/11. With the onset of the Iraq War, he saw extensive action and was one of the Wild Weasels, a select cadre of highly trained, innovative, and gutsy fighters who flew into hostile…

Book cover of The Devil You Don't Know: Going Back to Iraq

Emma Sky Author Of The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq

From my list on what the Iraq War was like for Iraqis.

Why am I passionate about this?

I served in Iraq as Governorate Co-ordinator of Kirkuk for the Coalition Provisional Authority, 2003-2004; and as advisor to the Commanding General of US Forces in Iraq from 2007-2010. I retain a deep love of the country and am a regular visitor. I teach about the Middle East and Global Affairs at Yale University. 

Emma's book list on what the Iraq War was like for Iraqis

Emma Sky Why did Emma love this book?

What did the Iraq War look like from the perspective of Iraqis? In most accounts of the Iraq War, Iraqis only feature as terrorists or victims. This book explains how Iraqis felt about the invasion of the country; what relations were like between returning exiles and those who had remained in Iraq all along; and the hopes that Iraqis had for their country. It is really well written and engaging.

By Zuhair al-Jezairy, John West (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Devil You Don't Know as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1979, journalist Zuhair al-Jezairy fled Iraq and certain death after openly criticising Saddam's regime. Twenty-five years later he is back, and cautiously celebrating the toppling of the hated Ba'ath Party.

As editor of a newspaper, he breaks the Oil for Food scandal, disclosing the names of Arab and Westerners who were involved. He then sets up a television company and travels all over Iraq, documenting the country's descent into sectarianism and hopeless violence, soon becoming a target himself.

Al-Jezairy's first-hand accounts of the looting of Baghdad, the destruction of government buildings, and indiscriminate bombings are a searing, personal and…

Book cover of It's My Country Too: Women's Military Stories from the American Revolution to Afghanistan

Ryan Leigh Dostie Author Of Formation: A Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line

From my list on women in the United States military.

Why am I passionate about this?

The relationship between servicewomen and the US military is a complicated one. It’s love, strength, comradery, and also abuse, manipulation, sexual harassment, and soul-crushing institutional betrayal. After leaving the military, I found most books or movies didn’t adequately represent this complex relationship, either ignoring the abuse altogether, or focusing too much on it and erasing the bravery and resilience of women service members. I strive to write books that better represent this conflicting relationship, and I hope this book list helps better reflect women’s experiences in the US military.  

Ryan's book list on women in the United States military

Ryan Leigh Dostie Why did Ryan love this book?

This incredibly well-researched and powerfully written anthology does the one thing I always want to remind people: that women have always served and fought for our country. Women are usually invisible when it comes to military representation, especially in a historical sense. Either ignored or forgotten, our existence has continuously been minimalized. Bell and Crow’s anthology, with acute detail, tells stories of women who served from the birth of our nation up to modern day. In excerpts from diaries, letters, oral histories, published and unpublished memoirs, generations of women reveal why and how they chose to serve their country, often breaking the social norms, even to great personal peril. An excellent reference guide to get that one, random guy to shut up when he complains “women don’t belong in the military.”    

By Jerri Bell (editor), Tracy Crow (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked It's My Country Too as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This inspiring anthology is the first to convey the rich experiences and contributions of women in the American military in their own words-from the Revolutionary War to the present wars in the Middle East. Serving with the Union Army during the Civil War as a nurse, scout, spy, and soldier, Harriet Tubman tells what it was like to be the first American woman to lead a raid against an enemy, freeing some 750 slaves. Busting gender stereotypes, Josette Dermody Wingo enlisted as a gunner's mate in the navy in World War II to teach sailors to fire Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns.…

Book cover of Footfall

S.R. Algernon Author Of Cooling Season

From my list on science fiction that will change your perspective.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an American author and have been an avid reader of science fiction for nearly forty years. I studied science fiction in college, along with biology and other subjects. My undergraduate honors thesis was a discussion of postwar Japanese science fiction that included a translation from the original. I have a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology and have published papers on learning in machines, humans, and humpback whales. I have taught and studied in Japan and Singapore, and critiqued fiction for several years with I have published many science fiction stories from various perspectives. The Hugo finalist, "Asymmetrical Warfare" tells the story of an alien invasion of Earth from the invader’s perspective.

S.R.'s book list on science fiction that will change your perspective

S.R. Algernon Why did S.R. love this book?

I have a soft spot for stories written from non-human perspectives, and Footfall sticks out in my mind as a prime example of the subgenre. It follows the story of an invasion of Earth by a species called the Fithp, which has a herd-like social structure. The scenes told from the point of view of the invading Fithp present the first contact and alien invasion tropes in a new way. 

The unfolding conquest of Earth gives us a glimpse into Fithp minds and, most importantly, a look at ourselves from an outside perspective. It is a bit of a slow burn, but for me the world-building paid off in the end.

Footfall inspired me to write several short stories about alien invasion.

By Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Considered by many readers the best alien invasion novel to date, FOOTFALL was called “thought-provoking and exciting” by Library Journal and “the best of its genre” by The New York Times.

An alien craft is approaching Earth. Attempts to communicate go unanswered. The welcoming committee of Americans and Russians at a space station is blasted, its occupants killed or captured. Soon the entire Earth, with special emphasis on the United States, is bombarded by asteroids, destroying dams, highways, and infrastructure. The message to humans: total surrender or death to all. A giant rock, the “footfall”, is launched towards Earth, causing…

Book cover of The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family

Jessica Scott Author Of A Soldier's Promise: A Coming Home Anthology

From my list on the Iraq War that go beyond bullets.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a soldier, an author, and an army wife – the last fifteen years of my life have revolved around dealing with the fallout of the Iraq war, not only for my family but also as a soldier and a veteran. I write books because I wanted to read about people who stayed in the military after the war started. The best writing advice I ever got came from Robyn Carr who said, write the book that only you can tell. Wrestling with the legacy of a war that we as soldiers did not choose as we return home was something I deeply wanted to understand, both as an army officer and a novelist.

Jessica's book list on the Iraq War that go beyond bullets

Jessica Scott Why did Jessica love this book?

I served in the 1st Cav when Black Sunday happened and then, a few years later, read this book as a newly commissioned second lieutenant, serving in 3HBCT, 1st Cavalry Division several of the men featured in Raddatz’s book. 

It provided deeply personal insights into why the boss was driven the way that he was. It was absolutely devastating to read the horror of a lost platoon alongside the struggles of the families back home. Through deeply personal narratives, Raddatz drives home the importance of being prepared for the worst both for the soldiers deployed and the families back home, managing rumors and fear during a mass casualty event, and the will to stay connected to those you served with.

Coming up on the 20-year anniversary of Black Sunday, I give cadets who ask me to commission them a copy of this book – it reminds all of us of…

By Martha Raddatz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

ABC News’ Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz shares remarkable tales of heroism, hope, and heartbreak in her account of “Black Sunday”—a battle during one of the deadliest periods of the Iraq War.

The First Cavalry Division came under surprise attack in Sadr City on Sunday April 4, 2004. Over 7,000 miles away, their families awaited the news for forty-eight hellish hours—expecting the worst. In this powerful, unflinching account, Martha Raddatz takes readers from the streets of Baghdad to the home front and tells the story of that horrific day through the eyes of the courageous American men and women…

Book cover of Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq

Barbara Nickless Author Of Blood on the Tracks

From my list on what it is like to go to war and come home.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an award-winning and bestselling author who teaches creative writing to veterans as part of a collaboration between the Department of Defense and the National Endowment for the Arts. I’m also an Air Force brat who grew up around military folk. After traumatic events gave me personal experience with post-traumatic stress disorder, I better understood why veterans don’t talk about their time in war. The books on this list are some of my favorites for capturing the terror of battle and the difficulty of reintegrating into a society that gives little thought to the human cost of war. 

Barbara's book list on what it is like to go to war and come home

Barbara Nickless Why did Barbara love this book?

During America’s recent wars, Americans who felt they had few career prospects enlisted. Some were looking for a steady paycheck. Others for adventure and a chance to see the world. Many signed up out of a sense of patriotic duty after the events of 9/11. Goodell volunteered for Mortuary Affairs. She and her peers processed the bodies of those killed in combat. The title comes from instructions given by her commanding officer to members of his unit who are sketching the bodies as they arrive: when a body part is missing, “shade it black.” Harrowing and poignant, Shade it Black reminds us of the innocence of those we send to war.

By Jessica Goodell, John Hearn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 2008, CBS' Chief Foreign Correspondent, Lara Logan, candidly speculated about the human side of the war in Iraq: "Tell me the last time you saw the body of a dead American soldier. What does that look like? Who in America knows what that looks like? Because I know what that looks like, and I feel responsible for the fact that no one else does..." Logan's query raised some important yet ignored questions: How do the remains of service men and women get from the dusty roads of Fallujah to the flag-covered coffins at Dover Air Force Base? And what…

Book cover of The Prisoner in His Palace: Saddam Hussein, His American Guards, and What History Leaves Unsaid

Matthew Alford Author Of Union Jackboot: What Your Media and Professors Don't Tell You about British Foreign Policy

From my list on to completely reverse your whole brain.

Why am I passionate about this?

“The truth is exactly the opposite of the words” - I just noticed on my door, I still have an old sticker that bears those words.  I guess, I’ve tended to find that common-sense assumptions about major things – politics, religion, war, love, good and evil, relationships, and so on – are simply not accurate and more the results of lazy thinking, ignorance, politics, or ideology. I did a PhD in propaganda, which led me to an eclectic freelance career investigating conspiracy theories, making documentaries, writing novels, doing stand-up comedy, and suchlike – so I have a background in engaging big and crazy ideas.

Matthew's book list on to completely reverse your whole brain

Matthew Alford Why did Matthew love this book?

Saddam Hussein – the dictator of Iraq – was the West’s defining turn-of-the-century uber-villain, an image which this book overturns on a deeply personal level. While Saddam is shown to be a monster (he casually laments how his sadistic sons took it a bit far), he nonetheless somehow wins the compassion of his American captors who fall to blubbering pieces as he proceeds to the gallows.

By Will Bardenwerper,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Prisoner in His Palace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Prisoner in His Palace is an evocative and thought-provoking account of how the lives of twelve young American soldiers deployed to Iraq are upended when they're asked to guard the most 'high-value detainee' of all, the notorious dictator Saddam Hussein.
What the self-dubbed 'Super Twelve' experience in the autumn of 2006 is cognitive dissonance at its most extreme. Expecting to engage with the enemy 'outside the wire', they're suddenly tasked with guarding and protecting a notorious dictator until he can be hanged.
Watching over Saddam in a former palace the soldiers dub 'The Rock' and regularly transporting their prisoner…

Book cover of The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq

Andrea Rugh Author Of Egyptian Advice Columnists: Envisioning the Good Life in an Era of Extremism

From my list on how culture influences Middle Eastern history.

Why am I passionate about this?

From over three decades of work on development projects in countries of the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Africa, I am convinced that when efforts fail, it is invariably because we lack the cultural understanding of what people want or how we provide it. These books all reinforce my point by either underlining the way culture shapes the way people see the world or by showing how when we neglect culture, we do so at our own peril. Culture can be discovered through multiple entry points with these books offering a good start. Even something as mundane as advice columns in newspapers offer political insights when plumbed for the meanings below the surface.

Andrea's book list on how culture influences Middle Eastern history

Andrea Rugh Why did Andrea love this book?

In 2003 Stewart was appointed deputy governor of Amara and then later Nasiriya, both provinces in the remote southern marsh areas of Iraq. His job was to offer reconstruction resources and bring a semblance of order to their civilian government after coalition forces overthrew Saddam Hussein. What he found was two very different kinds of reactions to his advice by the local population. When he returned to see the results of their community-building efforts much later, he was surprised to find that the most contentious group had made the greatest progress. His narrative reminds us that cultures have sub-groups with variations in the way they respond to various sets of conditions. Accepting assistance passively from an outsider rather than negotiating differences upfront can result in a flawed implementation.

By Rory Stewart,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An adventurous diplomat’s “engrossing and often darkly humorous” memoir of working with Iraqis after the fall of Saddam Hussein(Publishers Weekly).
In August 2003, at the age of thirty, Rory Stewart took a taxi from Jordan to Baghdad. A Farsi-speaking British diplomat who had recently completed an epic walk from Turkey to Bangladesh, he was soon appointed deputy governor of Amarah and then Nasiriyah, provinces in the remote, impoverished marsh regions of southern Iraq. He spent the next eleven months negotiating hostage releases, holding elections, and splicing together some semblance of an infrastructure for a population of millions teetering on the…