The Vietnam War is one of the most important parts of US history. Because of its historic importance, many books have been written about the war or based on it. Whether you are interested in learning more about the war itself, the moral challenges that it presents, or the mentality of a warrior, reading a book about this American war is a great idea.
The Best Vietnam War Books
There are so many titles written on this matter that it can be very difficult to know what the best book is. A lot of different titles, belonging to different genres, have been released that all focus on this conflict within Vietnam. Famous titles like Rumor of War by Philip Caputo and When Heaven and Earth Changed Places by Le Ly Haslip and Jay Wurts are already well-known but there are many more to choose from.
So, which other Vietnam War novels should you read if you want to know more about this period of time? Here are some of the top options:
The Sympathizer – Viet Thang Nguyen
For fans of historical conflicts, this book is a great one to start with. It tells the story of a North Vietnamese man who is playing the part of a mole in the army of the South Vietnamese. He is then sent into the United States to stay hidden in an exile South Vietnamese community there. There is a lot going on in this book, making it a title that could belong in multiple genres at once. It can be called an immigrant story, a story of war, a historical narrative, or even a title based on dark comedy.
The Things They Carried – Tim O’Brien
Tim O’Brien wrote this title based on his own experiences of seeing how foreign policy establishment led to a war of sheer Homeric scale. The book is a collection of short stories about Americans fighting in Vietnam. For anyone who wants to read how a real American war feels like from the perspective of those fighting it, this is an excellent choice.
This book has long been recommended and read by people interested in the Vietnam Conflict. This title is even recommended by Karl Marlantes who is an ex-US Marine and an author himself. There are even plenty of The Things They Carried essays written by students that can teach a lot about the Vietnam War. Reading some of these essays can give you a good idea of how much influence a title like this can have on the minds of readers.
The Sorrow Of War – Bao Ninh
This title follows the story of a fictional character by the name of Kien. Kien belongs to the North Vietnamese army and later transforms into a writer. The author of this title carefully navigates Kien’s transformation and all of the struggles he faced during the process, including the struggle to fight through memories of the conflict.
Close Quarters – Larry Heinemann
Close Quarters is the very gripping tale of a fictional character, Philip Dosier. The story follows him as he gets drafted and serves in a tour of the war. This novel is considered to be one of the best titles on the Vietnam Conflict because of its very rich and strong characters as well as the tendency to become a fast page-turner for most readers.
Dirty Work – Larry Brown
This book is a bright shining example of how a dialogue between different people who have served in military combat can lead to a gripping reading experience. Larry Brown created this book almost completely as a collection of dialogues and monologues between men who are at a veteran’s hospital.
The Quiet American – Graham Greene
This is a novel that is narrated in the first person by Thomas Fowler, who is a journalist. The story revolves around how French colonialism broke down in Vietnam and how the US was involved in the conflict that took place. Greene has written a lot of different titles but this remains to be one of the most recommended to date.
The Short-Timers – Gustav Hasford
The Short-Timers was supposed to be part of a trilogy of titles written on the Vietnam Conflict but the author died before he could complete the other two. This one is based on Hasford’s own experiences of the conflict. Even though the book is not in print anymore, it was adapted into a movie by the name of ‘Full Metal Jacket’.
Dog Soldiers – Robert Stone
A story of a sailor traveling back home from Vietnam and a war correspondent, this title is regarded as one of the best ones written about the Vietnam Conflict. The story is not just about the war but also about drug smuggling. It won the National Book Award back in 1974 in the Fiction category and is a must-read for anyone interested in American wars.
Over the years, there have been a lot of different works detailing what led to the conflict and how it happened. Authors and journalists like David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan, and Bernard Fall not only wrote about the conflict from their own perspective but also covered various real stories about war crimes and more. This just goes to show how important the job of writers and journalists is when it comes to recording and broadcasting historical stories, whether about World War II or the Vietnam Conflict. And that is why it is important for young readers to read such titles so they can approach the subject in a way that is comfortable for them.