Monday, April 22, 2013

Your Favorite War Novel?


I will pick two. One I read at the right age and one I read about the war that most affected me.

CATCH 22 by Heller surely sums up best the ludicrous nature of war. THE THINGS THEY CARRIED by Tim O'Brien reminds me what the war in Vietnam was like.

How about you?

30 comments:

Bill Crider said...

Many long years ago, when I was doing my student teaching, a kid named Ronald Swank came up to me after class and asked me if I wanted a book. I said, "Sure," and he handed me the paperback of CATCH-22. He said, "I like war books. This isn't a war book." After I read it, I knew what he meant. It's one of my favorite books, no matter what it is.

Anonymous said...

I like the O'Brien too. Also on Vietnam I'd pick Joe Haldeman's WAR YEAR and Stewart O'Nan's THE NAMES OF THE DEAD. I know you said "novel" but there are also a lot of good non fiction books on Vietnam.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think THE NAMES OF THE DEAD is the only O'Nan book I have not read.
And the war at home is done well in books like ATONEMENT.
Reading MARCH right now, a novel about the Civil War.
CATCH 22 has to be one of the best books of the 20th century no matter what the criteria.

John said...

Strangely for someone who grew up in the Viet Nam era it was the books about WWI that stayed with me the most. A MIDNIGHT CLEAR and
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT are two that still haunt me.

In college I performed in a very smart and very moving production of OH! WHAT A LOVELY WAR (also about WWI) that profoundly affected me.

Speaking of plays there is a very nasty play called LIFE AND LIMB by Keith Reddin that has a lot of resonance today. Though set in the Korean War era it still has a subtle power.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, God. I love William Wharton's A MIDNIGHT CLEAR. And the movie was good too. I haven't heard his name in years.

Dan_Luft said...

I don't know if this is off topic but I have been telling people for years that MOTHER NIGHT is Vonnegut's best novel. It's the story of an American playright who spends the war in Germany posing as a Nazi sympathizer while he is acting as a spy for the US. I love it and its the book that first turned me on to Vonnegut.

sandra seamans said...

It's been years since I read it, but The Winds of War by Herman Wouk. I liked that it wasn't just about war but the effects of the war on the families at home.

Dave Zeltserman said...

Catch-22 is also one of my favorite books, and as Bill Crider's friend told him, it's not really a war book.

Dave Zeltserman said...

If we include the cold war, and go with the thought that Catch-22 is something other than a war book, I'll go with The Spy who Came in from the Cold.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am going to suggest LIFE AFTER LIFE and A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT too.

Joe Barone said...

I don't remember details of many of the books I read so many years ago, but I sure remember several things from CATCH 22. That book involved such a combination of tragedy and humor.

James Reasoner said...

It's hard to go wrong with CATCH-22. More traditional war novels I like are FROM HERE TO ETERNITY and HARM'S WAY by James Bassett (made into the movie IN HARM'S WAY). The military soap operas by W.E.B. Griffin (Bill Butterworth) are pretty entertaining, although almost all the war takes place off-screen.

pattinase (abbott) said...

COLD MOUNTAIN was a good one.

Kieran Shea said...

CATCH-22, THE MOON IS DOWN, ONE COUNT TO CADENCE, and for post-war havoc Nichols' overlooked AMERICAN BLOOD.

Elizabeth Foxwell said...

_The Return of the Soldier_ by Rebecca West is very good.

Gerard said...

I could not think of one off hand but wondered enough to check my notes.

THE SILENT MEN by Richard Dickinson was quite good.

Probably an Alan Furst novel or two. Same for Bernard Cornwell's SHARPE series.

ONCE AN EAGLE is good and covers several wars from WWI to early Vietnam.

DOG COMPANY SIX about Korea was decent.

COMPANY K by William March.

BIRDSONG has some great writing about WWI trench and mining warfare.

ORDINARY HEROES by Scott Turow.

Allan Mallinson wrote some cavalry novels set in the Napoleonic era that were quite interesting.

Anonymous said...

Robert Stone, Dog Soldiers
Bobbie Ann Mason, In Country


Jeff M.

Jerry House said...

1422 iplacefiLet's not forget the original war novel (and one of the greatest), THE ILIAD.

Richard R. said...

I'd probably pick THE THIRTEENTH VALLEY and PORK CHOP HILL. I remember reading a really good one that takes place in the Pacific during WWII but don't remember the name.

Anonymous said...

No one has mentioned Gone with the Wind (novel, not movie) which opens the day before the firing on Fort Sumpter and ends the year after Reconstruction forces withdrew from Georgia.
Deb

Anders E said...

No contest, it's gotta be THE GOOD SOLDIER SVEJK.

pattinase (abbott) said...

That is a great one, indeed. I read it the summer after I graduate from high school. One of the first books my future husband pushed on me.

Todd Mason said...

Among those that haven't been cited yet:

JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN by Dalton Trumbo
APRIL MORNING by Howard Fast
SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut (though Dan Luft's suggestion of the more surreal MOTHER NIGHT is sapient)
THE SHORT-TIMERS by Gustav Hasford

Even though it's not a novel, TALES OF SOLDIERS AND CIVILIANS by Ambrose Bierce, who anticipated Heller and most of these other folks, also including Crane

Some guy named Tolstoi wrote one...

pattinase (abbott) said...

SOPHIE'S CHOICE, ANDERSONVILLE and the Pat Barker RENGENERARION series.
So many books about the war at home in UK, of course.

Todd Mason said...

Favorite sf novels about war, along with the Vonnegut:

THE BIG TIME by Fritz Leiber
ARSLAN by Mary/M. J. Engh
WAR WITH THE NEWTS by Karel Capek

kind of a lop-eared item, though predictive in a fashion of WWI:

WHEN WILLIAM CAME by Saki

Todd Mason said...

I haven't yet read Kantor, nor Cozzens, nor even Gore Vidal's WW2 novel...all have received mixed reviews in my ken, though all have their advocates...

I still need to read THE KILLER ANGELS, for that matter. And I like Shaara.

Gerard said...

Re: famous novels, I too thought of KILLER ANGELS but I have never read it. I would think RED BADGE OF COURAGE would be a favorite of many. But, maybe RED has fallen into "they forced me to read it in school" territory.

I read THE SHORT-TIMERS after hearing is was the basis for FULL METAL JACKET.

A memoir that some people call fiction is FORGOTTEN SOLDIER by Guy Sajer.

Todd Mason said...

I tumbled to THE SHORT-TIMERS after Frederik Pohl described how he was instrumental in getting it published, through meeting Hasford at the Clarion Writers' Workshop...

Hasford being a pretty tragic case.

neer said...

I'd go for Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front; Mulk Raj Anand's Across the Black Waters; and Green'e The Quiet American.

Todd Mason said...

THE QUIET AMERICAN and (in a sense relevant) THE COMEDIANS good...