30 of The Greatest War Novels of All Time

For better or worse, conflict is an inherent part of human nature. So long as there have been people on this planet, we’ve been willing to kill and maim one another in order to get what we want. Over the centuries, however, society has managed to put up guards against the worst parts of ourselves by establishing and enforcing social norms. However, the few instances in which we allow ourselves to be as brutal and wicked as we truly are, is in war.

Much of the appeal of novels, essays, and reported stories on war is driven not by a morbid curiosity in conflict so much as a desire to better know who we are, what we’re capable of, and what the cost of indulging in the most base parts of ourselves truly is. There is a responsibility, in fact, for civilians to understand the cost of conflict if not personally, then at least in some broader intellectual sense. We believe that many if not all on our list of the best war books accomplishes this goal. Whether you’re interested in reading more about the strategies and battles of ancient Greece as told by Homer, or you want to get a more intimate understanding of the war that we’ve been engaged in for the past 16 years, you’ll find some great reads below.

1. 1776 by David McCullough

David McCullough, one of the most respected American historians alive today, lays out in fine detail the human story behind the fight for independence from Great Britain. He gives equal time to examining the decisions made by George Washington, the Royal family, and their generals on the other side of the Atlantic. Read More.
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2. A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo

Vietnam didn’t start with a bang. It crept up on the American people incrementally over a series of years until it was too big to ignore. Phillip Caputo was in the first ground combat unit to be deployed in the country back in 1965, and among the first to come home broken, confused, and wasted emotionally. His memoir about, “the things men do in war and the things war does to men” is one of the defining accounts of the United State’s defeat in Vietnam. Read More.
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3. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Many Americans cite the Vietnam war as the beginning of their disillusionment with military and federal leadership. For Germany, the same had happened more than thirty years earlier during WWI. Few novels better capture the sense of hopelessness and loss that inhabited the trenches of that first World War than Erich Maria Remarque’s novel. Read More.
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