By Claire Booth
Photo By: Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley, U.S. Coast Guard
I write novels for a living, but today I thought I’d traffic in truth.
We all know it’s important to remember those who gave their lives for our country. But that sentiment can become an abstract notion on a long, sunny, barbecuing weekend. If you want to pause for a bit and delve deeper into the sacrifices our servicemen and women make, any one of these phenomenal non-fiction books will take you into their lives in vivid, personal detail.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand (2010). The life of Louis Zamperini reads like a novel. But it’s heartbreakingly, astonishingly true. A young troublemaker turned U.S. Olympian becomes a WWII airman. He’s shot down over the Pacific, and then things start to really get bad. Hillenbrand captures his life with such grace and devotion to facts that her book is a non-fiction accomplishment nonpareil. Although nothing matches the
A Rumor of War, Philip Caputo (1977). Caputo was a U.S. Marine in 1965. He served a 16-month tour in Vietnam. He survived and came home. And wrote about it. About, as he says, “the things men do in war and the things war does to men.” The impact this book had when published can’t be overstated. It shook the country’s indifference toward the servicemen and women who fought there. I read this book in college. I think it should be required reading for everyone – a lesson that wars are not abstract, and the people lost to the killing are not statistics.
Black Hawk Down, by Mark Bowden (1999). This is a riveting read that rips along like the latest thriller. But we know it’s true. Bowden’s book chronicles a 1993 battle in Mogadishu, Somalia, that was not part of any official “war,” even though it was the most intense firefight for American servicemen since Vietnam. I’m including it because it serves as an important reminder that U.S. service men and women are put in danger – and many die – even when there isn’t an official war on. They deserve just as much recognition as those casualties of better known conflicts.