war on the rocks

A Vietnam War Reading List, Brought to You by the War Hall

February 27, 2017

UPDATED 3/3: To supplement the original list, we added more than 20 books that you recommended, as we requested, via social media. Thanks for the input, especially if you understood that your favorite book’s non-presence on the original list was not an insult of some sort. New items are marked with an asterisk. We’ll be making more of these readings lists in the War Hall. Get in earlier on the process by joining up

The War Hall is one of the two pillars of our new membership program. It is where members of the War on the Rocks tribe convene to talk about strategy, educate each other, chat about procurement decisions, share reading lists, participate in book clubs, and debate the future of international order. Soldiers, spooks, scholars, sailors, airmen, officials, and more can be found wandering the virtual hall at any given movement.

Late last year, we gathered in the War Hall to share our favorite books about Vietnam. And now, we share the reading list that emerged from that discussion with the rest of you.

You can be a part of the War Hall by becoming a member today.

Sam Adams, War of Numbers: An Intelligence Memoir (Steerforth, 1998).

*Tad Bartimus, War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters Who Covered Vietnam (Random House, 2002)

Phillip Caputo, A Rumor of War (Holt, 1977).

Clark Clifford with Richard Holbrooke, Counsel to the President: A Memoir (Random House, 1991).

Mark Clodfelter, The Limits of Air Power: The American Bombing of North Vietnam (Bison Books, 2006).

Greg Daddis, Westmoreland’s War: Reassessing American Strategy in Vietnam (Oxford University Press, 2014).

John M. Del Vecchio, The 13th Valley (St. Martin’s Griffin, 1999).

William Duiker, The Communist Road to Power in Vietnam (Westview Press,1981).

David Elliot, The Vietnamese War: Revolution and Social Change in the Mekong Delta, 1930–1975 (Routledge, 2006).

*Gloria Emerson, Winners and Losers: Battles, Retreats, Gains, Losses, and Ruins from a Long War (Random House, 1977).

*Jeffrey Ethell and Alfred Price, One Day in a Long War: May 10, 1972, Air War, North Vietnam (Random House, 1989).

Bernard B. Fall, Street Without Joy (Stackpole Books, 2005).

Frances FitzGerald, Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam (Back Bay Books, 1972). Note: One WOTR member raised David Marr’s notable and memorable negative review of this book in The Journal of Asian Studies (1973).

*Ronald J. Glasser, 365 Days (Three, 2014).

*Tom Glenn, Last of the Annamese (Naval Institute Press, 2017).

*Zalin Grant, Facing the Phoenix: The CIA and the Political Defeat of the United States in Vietnam (W.W. Nortan & Co, 1991).

Graham Greene, The Quiet American (Penguin Classics, 2004).

David Halberstam, The Making of a Quagmire: America and Vietnam During the Kennedy Era (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007).

David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest, 20th anniversary ed. (Ballantine, 1993).

David Halberstam, Ho (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007).

*Gustav Hasford, The Short-Timers (Bantam, 1983).

*Larry Heinemann, Paco’s Story (Vintage, 1987)

Michael Herr, Dispatches (Vintage, 1991).

Michael Hiam, Who the Hell Are We Fighting? The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars (Steerforth, 2006).

*Duong Thu Huong, Novel Without a Name (Penguin, 1996).

Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: A History, 2nd ed. (Penguin Books, 1997).

*Yusef Komunyakaa, Dien Cai Dau (Wesleyan, 1988)

Gary Kulik, “War Stories”: False Atrocity Tales, Swift Boaters, and Winter Soldiers―What Really Happened in Vietnam (Potomac Books, 2009).

*Nguyen Cao Ky, Twenty Years and Twenty Days (Stein and Day, 1976).

Fredrik Logevall, Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam (Random House, 2012).

*Fredrik Logevall, Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam (University of California Press, 1999).

Robert Mann, A Grand Delusion: America’s Descent Into Vietnam (Basic Books, 2001).

David Maraniss, They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967 (Simon & Schuster, 2004).

Karl Marlantes, Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War (Grove Press, 2011).

Robert Mason, Chickenhawk (Penguin Books, 1983).

H.R. McMaster, Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam (Harper Perennial, 1998).

Marshall L. Michel, Clashes: Air Combat Over North Vietnam, 1965-1972 (Naval Institute Press, 1997).

Marshall L. Michel, The Eleven Days of Christmas: America’s Last Vietnam Battle (Encounter Books, 2001).

Harold G. Moore and Joseph Galloway, We Were Soldiers Once…and Young: Ia Drang – The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam (Presidio Press, 1992).

*Mark Moyar, Phoenix and the Birds of Prey: Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism in Vietnam (Bison Books, 2007).

Lien-Hang Nguyen, Hanoi’s War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam (University of North Carolina Press, 2012).

*Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer (Grove Press, 2016). Note: This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was recommended by many on social media. In light of the author’s objections about our “terrible” list, we hope this is a small improvement. Several of our writers are fans of his work. 

*Viet Thanh Nguyen, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (Harvard University Press, 2016).

Bao Ninh, The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam (Riverhead Books, 1996).

*Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried (Mariner Books, 2009).

*Tim Page, Page After Page: Memoirs of a War-Torn Photographer (Atheneum, 1989).

Douglas Pike, Viet Cong: The Organization of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (MIT Press, 1966).

*John Prados, The Blood Road: The Ho Chi Minh Trail and the Vietnam War (Wiley, 1998).

Jeffrey Race, War Comes to Long An: Revolutionary Conflict in a Vietnamese Province (University of California Press, 1972).

*Richard H. Schutlz, The Secret War Against Hanoi: The Untold Story of Spies, Saboteurs, and Covert Warriors in North Vietnam (Harper Perennial, 2000).

Donn A. Starry, Armored Combat in Vietnam (Bobbs-Merrill Co, 1981).

James B. Stockdale, Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot (Hoover Institute Press, 1995).

*Trương Như Tảng, A Vietcong Memoir: An Inside Account of the Vietnam War and Its Aftermath (Vintage, 1986).

*Lynda Van Devanter with Christopher Morgan, Home Before Morning: The True Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam (Warner Books, 1984).

*Jim Webb, Fields of Fire (Bantam, 2008).

*Gene Wentz and B. Abell Jurus, Men in Green Faces: A Novel of U.S. Navy SEALs (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012).

*Bruce Weigl, The Circle of Hanh: A Memoir (Grove Press, 2000)

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