The most recommended books about Vietnam

Who picked these books? Meet our 150 experts.

150 authors created a book list connected to Vietnam, and here are their favorite Vietnam books.
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What type of Vietnam book?


Book cover of Fortunate Son: The Healing of a Vietnam Vet

Ronny Bruce Author Of The Grunts of Wrath: A Memoir Examining Modern War and Mental Health

From my list on infantry life during modern war.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an OG ATLien (born in Atlanta, Georgia) and served in the US Marine Corps and the US Army. I hold a degree from Kennesaw State University and taught high school social studies from 2004 - 2006, before my military reenlistment which jumpstarted the events in my memoir.   

Ronny's book list on infantry life during modern war

Ronny Bruce Why did Ronny love this book?

Imagine being the son of the most legendary US Marine of all time? Think those are huge boots to fill?

Lewis B. Puller, Jr.’s father is Lieutenant General “Chesty” Puller – recipient of five Navy Crosses and one Distinguished Service Cross, making him the most decorated marine in history. Puller Jr.’s Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir chronicles his service as a marine lieutenant in Vietnam attempting to fill his father’s enormous shoes. But Junior arrives home early missing both legs, most of his left hand, and a thumb and finger on his right hand after tripping a booby-trapped mine.

Fortunate Son tells the story of a broken man returning to his family, and high-profile legendary father, to attempt to put together the pieces.  

By Lewis B. Puller Jr.,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Lewis B. Puller, Jr.'s memoir is a moving story of a man born into a proud military legacy who struggles to rebuild his world after the Vietnam War has shattered his body and his ideals. Raised in the shadow of his father, Marine General Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, a hero of five wars, young Lewis went to Southeast Asia at the height of the Vietnam War and served with distinction as an officer in his father's beloved Corps. But when he tripped a booby-trapped howitzer round, triggering an explosion that would cost him his legs,…

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

Wendell Affield Author Of Muddy Jungle Rivers: A river assault boat cox'n's memory journey of his war in Vietnam

From my list on the Vietnam war that explore waste and loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

As I write this, I massage aching bits of shrapnel still embedded beneath silvered scars. I’ve read many Vietnam War stories—praising the war, glorifying combat, condemning the war. My stories are 1st person limited POV, voice of a twenty-year-old sailor. My title is a spin-off of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. By the time I wrote my memoir, I realized that our national goals in Vietnam had been Muddy from the beginning. I too, traveled Jungle Rivers. During my time on the riverboat, I witnessed Rivers of blood—rivers of life, trickle across our deck. And yes, Jungle is a fitting metaphor for our life at that time.

Wendell's book list on the Vietnam war that explore waste and loss

Wendell Affield Why did Wendell love this book?

This is the first Vietnam War book I read. For almost ten years I remained silent about my military service—many coworkers did not know I had served, let alone two tours and wounded in action. Caputo’s voice and sense of loss and waste and rage touched so close to my feelings. His gift of words made me live again the countless hours of boredom punctuated by moments of terror—for me, ambushes, mines, incoming artillery, and mortar rounds. Twenty years in the future, when I began writing my stories, I read Caputo’s book again because I hoped to emulate his sense of angst.

By Philip Caputo,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked A Rumor of War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The 40th anniversary edition of the classic Vietnam memoir―featured in the PBS documentary series The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick―with a new foreword by Kevin Powers

In March of 1965, Lieutenant Philip J. Caputo landed at Danang with the first ground combat unit deployed to Vietnam. Sixteen months later, having served on the line in one of modern history’s ugliest wars, he returned home―physically whole but emotionally wasted, his youthful idealism forever gone.

A Rumor of War is far more than one soldier’s story. Upon its publication in 1977, it shattered America’s indifference to the fate of…

Book cover of Bloods: Black Veterans of the Vietnam War: An Oral History

Andrew Wiest Author Of The Boys of '67: Charlie Company's War in Vietnam

From my list on the Vietnam War from different POVs.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was always fascinated by the Vietnam War since my older sister’s friends went off to fight in it. After getting my PhD and writing about World War I and World War II, I returned to Vietnam by getting involved with veterans groups and taking veterans and students to Vietnam. Since then I have written widely on the topic, teach about the Vietnam War, and have been involved in several major Vietnam War documentaries for outlets including the History Channel and National Geographic Channel. From those early days I have read everything I can get my hands on about the war, about my generation’s war.

Andrew's book list on the Vietnam War from different POVs

Andrew Wiest Why did Andrew love this book?

This was the first collection of oral histories that I ever read from the Vietnam War. Reading history done this way, with the men speaking for themselves, opened a new world for me. It allowed me to understand that it is only by talking to and with our veterans that the true depth of the combat experience can be delved. Terror, camaraderie, death, honor, humor, compassion, and boredom – the full human story of Vietnam and war is on display in Bloods. And it was this book that taught me to be an oral historian. 

On top of that, Bloods also, of course, makes clear the uniqueness of the Black experience in Vietnam – fighting a war for America while the country wrestled with its eternal question of race. This book is good and important for so many reasons. 

By Wallace Terry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK • The national bestseller that tells the truth about the Vietnam War from the black soldiers’ perspective.

An oral history unlike any other, Bloods features twenty black men who tell the story of how members of their race were sent off to Vietnam in disproportionate numbers, and of the special test of patriotism they faced. Told in voices no reader will soon forget, Bloods is a must-read for anyone who wants to put the Vietnam experience in historical, cultural, and political perspective.

Praise for Bloods

“Superb . . . a portrait not just of…

Book cover of Saigon: An Epic Novel of Vietnam

Mandaley Perkins Author Of Hanoi, Adieu - A Bitterweet Memoir Of French Indochina

From my list on the French in Vietnam.

Why am I passionate about this?

In the crucial period after the end of WW2 the stage became set for thirty years of war in Vietnam, yet there’s very little written of it. My stepfather was there, and Hanoi, Adieu is a memoir of his experiences and his sentiments about what happened in the country he’d grown to love. I have a fascination for Southeast Asian history and he was keen for me to tell his story such that readers could absorb the history through his book. I have recommended here those I enjoyed and found useful from a historical or atmospheric perspective in the larger context of French Indochina. I hope you will too.

Mandaley's book list on the French in Vietnam

Mandaley Perkins Why did Mandaley love this book?

If you don’t mind a long read and are after a novel rather than non-fiction then this is my pick. It is an epic saga of the last decades of the French in Indochina, following the story of American Joseph Sherman who becomes enchanted by the country and entangled in the lives of two different families, one French and one Vietnamese. It is essentially a love story involving a Mandarin’s daughter but it will give you a flavour of the political plot twists and military conflicts that were the reality of this turbulent period of history. The book spans 50 years to the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, but refreshingly does not try to push any real political perspective. Once again, it is a novel but it will certainly give you a taste of Indochine and an idea of the grand sweep of Vietnam’s tumultuous history. 

By Anthony Grey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An epic saga of love, blood, and destiny in twentieth-century Vietnam: "This superb novel could well be the War and Peace of our age" (San Francisco Chronicle).

Joseph Sherman first visits Saigon-the capital of French colonial Cochin-China-as a young man on his father's hunting trip in 1925. But the exotic land lures him back again and again as a traveler, soldier, and reporter. He returns because of his fascination for the enchanting city-and for Lan, a mandarin's daughter he cannot forget.

Over five decades Joseph's life becomes enmeshed with the political intrigues of two of Saigon's most influential families, the…

Book cover of The Wolfman

James Pack Author Of The Hook

From my list on where real-life horror meets the supernatural.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always had a greater interest in supernatural horror compared to the other subgenres of horror. Another way to describe it is fantasy horror. However, sometimes the fantasy can take away from the overall story. I find the best stories with supernatural elements also have a lot of real-life horror to balance with the fantasy. Magic realism is also a trope of Post-Modern Culture and I find myself drawn to stories with post-modern elements versus those that don’t. These are my top five pics for the best “Real-Life Horror Meets Supernatural Horror” novels.

James' book list on where real-life horror meets the supernatural

James Pack Why did James love this book?

This is perhaps my favorite book of all time. Marlowe Higgins is a werewolf who uses his monthly change to hunt and kill the worst of criminals. The setting mostly takes place in 1993 with a few flashbacks including some time the main character spent in Vietnam during the war. There’s a serial killer targeting young women and Marlowe is hunting for him. He needs a scent or a name before the wolf can find them. And some people suspect Marlowe is the serial killer. The real tragedy of this story is the author died a few months before the book was published. The story is well written. There are plenty of funny moments to go along with the scary parts. If you like werewolves and anti-heroes, you’ll love this novel.

By Nicholas Pekearo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Marlowe Higgins is a hard man; a wanderer. Since being dishonourably discharge after a tour in Vietnam, he's been in and out of prison, moving from town to town, going wherever the wind takes him. He's not really the kind of guy who can stay in one place too long. Every full moon he kills someone. Marlowe Higgins is a werewolf. For years he struggled with his affliction, until he found a way to use his unfortunate curse for good - he only kills really bad people. After years of being on the road, Higgins has found a home in…

Book cover of Novel without a Name

Christopher Goscha Author Of Vietnam: A New History

From my list on memoirs on the Vietnam Wars from a Vietnamese perspective.

Why am I passionate about this?

Who hasn’t seen the classic American movies on the Vietnam War–Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, or Platoon? They are fine films, but have you ever asked yourself where the Vietnamese are? Save for a few stereotyped cameo appearances, they are remarkably absent. I teach the history of the wars in Vietnam at the Université du Québec à Montréal. My students and I explore the French and the American sides in the wars for Vietnam, but one of the things that I’ve tried to do with them is weave the Vietnamese and their voices into our course; this list provides a window into those Vietnamese voices. 

Christopher's book list on memoirs on the Vietnam Wars from a Vietnamese perspective

Christopher Goscha Why did Christopher love this book?

Women participated in the Vietnam War, and Duong Thu Huong was among them. In 1965, she joined the Communist Youth Brigade in Hanoi and found herself within months serving in it on the frontlines in South Vietnam.

Like Bao Ninh, she experienced the horrors of the Vietnam War close-up. In her Novel Without a Name, however, Duong Thu Huong tells her story through the eyes of a young male soldier, Quan. We don’t go into battle with him; rather, we follow him behind the lines, on visits home, in meetings with friends and former lovers, and even into his dreams, where he begins to question the war he is fighting.

It’s a journey into disillusionment, convincingly told by someone who knew what she was talking about. 

By Duong Thu Huong, Phan Huy Duong (translator), Nina McPherson (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Novel without a Name as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Reminiscent of All Quiet on Western Front and The Red Badge of Courage. . . .  A breathtakingly original work."—San Francisco Chronicle

Twenty-eight-year-old Quan has been fighting for the Communist cause in North Vietnam for a decade. Filled with idealism and hope when he first left his village, he now spends his days and nights dodging stray bullets and bombs, foraging scraps of food to feed himself and his men. Quan seeks comfort in childhood memories as he tries to sort out his conflicting feelings of patriotism and disillusionment. Then, given the chance to return to his home, Quan undertakes…

Book cover of We Won’t Go: Personal Accounts of War Objectors

Patrick Parr Author Of One Week in America: The 1968 Notre Dame Literary Festival and a Changing Nation

From my list on America in 1968.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a literary historian and I love reconstructing times in the past with enough factual detail that a reader feels as if they are there with the characters, side-by-side. I didn’t start this way. In fact, I wrote fiction for over a decade. It was only after writing eight atrocious, tension-less, now-in-a-box novels that I realized the books I enjoyed reading most were in the history and biography sections of a bookstore. Still, I was undeniably affected by my years in the trenches of fiction writing. As you may see from my choices, I love reading material from writers attempting to check the pulse of the country at that time. 

Patrick's book list on America in 1968

Patrick Parr Why did Patrick love this book?

We Won’t Go is a treasure trove of primary document material combined with personal accounts of regular American citizens objecting to the war in Vietnam. Instead of understanding the issue at a surface level, the stories Lynd collected help us understand the kind of arguments objectors had not just with the government, but also with each other. “If we try to avoid arrest,” wrote one conscientious objector, “or are content to let our friends be arrested instead of ourselves, we hand over to the government the key to deter everyone by jailing a few.” Whether you agree or not, Lynd’s book will give you a variety of perspectives on the issue, along with the actual ‘conscientious objector’ application.

By Alice Lynd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Won’t Go as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the back of the book: "We Won't Go is a collection of accounts by men confronted with the dilemma of conscience which military service poses. In addition to the accounts of these war registers, We Won't Go contains the full text of the Seeger decision, a copy of the application for conscientious objector status, a selection of documents related to war crimes, and a list of sources of information for those who are faced with the problem of the draft."

Book cover of You'll Like My Mother

Mary Kendall Author Of Campbell's Boy

From Mary's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Storyteller Historian Walking enthusiast Yogi

Mary's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Mary Kendall Why did Mary love this book?

I happened upon a copy of this author's first novel, and all other activity stopped. The plot sucked me right in and kept me there.

This novel exemplifies incredible storytelling, which makes it so sad it is out of print and the author unknown. A movie resulted from the novel in 1972, and the trailer (same title as the novel) really captures the gothic suspense and macabre tone of this work. In sum, it is hard to find stories of this caliber anymore.

By Naomi A. Hintze,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked You'll Like My Mother as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A red mask mystery. Her husband has been killed in Vietnam, her baby due in three weeks with no money, no family support only the words of her husband, "You'll like my Mother". A trip of terror and knife-edge suspense.

Book cover of Three Kingdoms: A Historical Novel

Olivia Milburn Author Of Kingdoms in Peril, Volume 1: The Curse of the Bao Lords

From my list on epic historical narratives from around the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a translator specializing in Chinese historical novels, and also an academic researching marginalized groups in Chinese history—ethnic minorities, the disabled, people with mental health issues, and so on. The treatment of marginalized people tells you a lot about what is going on within mainstream society. I’ve always been interested in stories about people from distant times and places, and I have a particular love of long sagas, something that you can really get your teeth into. Kingdoms in Peril covers five hundred years of history: I translated this for my own enjoyment and was surprised when I realized that I’d managed to write 850,000 words for fun!

Olivia's book list on epic historical narratives from around the world

Olivia Milburn Why did Olivia love this book?

If I were ever going to be marooned on a desert island, and was only allowed one book, this would be my choice.

Three Kingdoms is a book worth rereading, in fact, this is something you can spend the rest of your life thinking about. This epic account of the fall of the Han dynasty has everything—political scheming, great battle scenes, tragic love stories, double and triple-crossing, heroes and villains, bravery and cowardice, and best of all, these are real people, and their choices and failings have real-life consequences, some of which we are still living with today.

By Guanzhong Luo, Moss Roberts (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A material epic with an astonishing fidelity to history."-New York Times Book Review

Three Kingdoms tells the story of the fateful last reign of the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220), when the Chinese empire was divided into three warring kingdoms. Writing some twelve hundred years later, the Ming author Luo Guanzhong drew on histories, dramas, and poems portraying the crisis to fashion a sophisticated, compelling narrative that has become the Chinese national epic. This abridged edition captures the novel's intimate and unsparing view of how power is wielded, how diplomacy is conducted, and how wars are planned and fought. As…

Book cover of Sheepfarmer's Daughter

Nathan W. Toronto Author Of Rise of Ahrik

From my list on military science fiction and fantasy by veterans.

Why am I passionate about this?

I care about military SFF because it has the potential to contribute to a just and prosperous society by building bridges of understanding between military professionals and civilians. I've never served in the military, but I taught operations and strategy to US Army officers for six years, after which I went to Abu Dhabi as one of the founding faculty members of the UAE National Defense College. I wrote a book, How Militaries Learn, which is one of the few academic books on civil-military relations to use large-n statistical analysis. I’ve lived in ten countries and I speak four languages, including Arabic.

Nathan's book list on military science fiction and fantasy by veterans

Nathan W. Toronto Why did Nathan love this book?

We need more characters like Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter, the daughter of a sheep farmer who joins a mercenary company to avoid an unwanted marriage. Moon, who served as a Marine in Vietnam, gives us a perfect hero’s tale. Paksenarrion (“Paks” for short) doesn’t set out to garner fame and glory, but she works hard at what she does, and her moral compass is firmly attuned to a sense of justice and truth. Paks captures everything we want in a hero, and Moon’s understanding of infantry, siege, and melee tactics filters through in subtle yet powerful ways, from details like foot soreness on the march to how most sieges end with rebellion within the gates. Sheepfarmer’s Daughter literally has it all. Go read it today. 

By Elizabeth Moon,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Sheepfarmer's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter may be the daughter of a humble sheep farmer in the far north end of the kingdom, but she dreams of so much more. After refusing her father’s orders to do the sensible thing and marry the pig farmer down the road, Paks, runs away to join a band of mercenaries, dreaming of daring deeds and military glory. But life in the army is different than she imagined, and her daydreams at first seem to be turning to nightmares. But Paks refuses to let her dreams die—and does her duty with honor and integrity. Her path is an…