The best Vietnam War books 📚

Browse the best books on the Vietnam War as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam

The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam

By Bảo Ninh

Why this book?

Much of America’s voluminous literature, scholarship, and films on the Vietnam War focus on the suffering of American G.I.s. This novel takes us into the heart of a North Vietnamese soldier struggling with PTSD. It is a gripping, wrenching tale of lives uprooted, futures destroyed, and dreams torn apart. It is a story that humanizes those seen as enemies: average people caught in the madness of war.

From the list:

The best books on knowing your enemy

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Book cover of The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried

By Tim O'Brien

Why this book?

This is a collection of (probably) semi-autobiographical stories about the author’s experience in the Vietnam War (and some childhood thrown in for good measure) utilizes tremendous craft of efficient prose. The author opens up the world and characters in it for us to crawl inside and root around and explore. In so doing we can see common threads of humanity emerge throughout these stories and characters in an otherwise completely inhospitable and inhuman environment. 

From the list:

The best books to begin understanding interconnectedness

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Book cover of The Sympathizer: A Novel

The Sympathizer: A Novel

By Viet Thanh Nguyen

Why this book?

The narrator of this novel is a North Vietnamese spy embedded in a South Vietnamese refugee community in California. Full of treachery, duplicity, and betrayal, it is also hilariously funny. More than any other novel I’ve read, it captures the milieu of exile perfectly. Waiters, taxi drivers, and corner-store owners plotting murder in California and counter-revolution back home; wars from across the ocean fought all over again on the streets of Los Angeles. Every modern tale of exile resonates in this novel.

From the list:

The best books about exile, refugees and people on the move

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Book cover of The Mountains Sing

The Mountains Sing

By Mai Phan Que Nguyen

Why this book?

Although it is the most recently published of this group, The Mountains Sing has already been widely read, reviewed, and translated and is justifiably on its way to becoming a mainstay in the literature of the Vietnam War. The novel serves as a welcome counterpoint to Graham Greene’s Phuong and much other fiction about the war and Vietnam; what the writer wants to—and powerfully succeeds in doing—is to present non-Vietnamese readers not only with female central characters who break the Madame Butterfly/Miss Saigon/Quiet American stereotypes, but whose voices take us into the heart of the country itself, the painful history…

From the list:

The best books about the Vietnam War that reflect or contend how they depict the reality of the war

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Book cover of Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

By Karl Marlantes

Why this book?

Karl Marlantes' deeply personal and gritty account of combat in Vietnam is rivaled only by Eugene Sledge’s Pacific War classic With the Old Breed. Filled with action, emotion, and inner reflection, Matterhorn sweeps the reader along with a Marine platoon plunging into the dark and dangerous jungle where seasoned guerrillas and North Vietnamese Army troops seek to destroy them. The author Karl Marlantes, a Yale graduate, left his Rhodes scholarship to go on active duty with the Marines in Vietnam.
From the list:

The best books for understanding America and her enemies in wartime

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Book cover of The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson

The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson

By Robert A. Caro

Why this book?

Imagine you’re Vice President Lyndon Johnson on Nov. 22, 1963. The Secret Service just hustled you into a secure room at the Dallas hospital where doctors are desperately trying to keep President John F. Kennedy alive after an assassination attempt. What’s going through your mind? If Kennedy dies, what are your next steps? Robert Caro found out. Pulitzer-winner Caro is the greatest historian of our lifetime—and a brilliant, accessible writer who makes it impossible to put down a 700-page nonfiction book. The Passage of Power is the fourth of a planned five-volume biography of Johnson, the man who helped turn…

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The most well written political biographies

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