Saturday, January 2, 2010

Books I may read for the Vietnam War Reading Challenge

Thought I'd browse the library's online catalog to see what books we have on Vietnam War, so I can prepare for the Vietnam War Reading Challenge. I need to read (at least) 5 books.

Here is the long list... I wrote down which books appealed to me the most based on the brief descriptions. Not in any particular order. I think I'll mark those I want to read more in teal... guess I will have lots of back up choices if I can't finish the ones I picked (yes I do abandon books if it can't keep me interested! Too many books, too little time...) I will try to pick a variety from different angles.

Non Fiction:

Wandering Souls: Journeys With the Dead and the Living in Viet Nam by Wayne Karlin (2009) - a Vietnam War veteran who returned to face the family of the man he killed

Keep Your Head Down: Vietnam, the Sixties, and a Journey of Self-Discovery by Doug Anderson (2009) - memoir, dysfunctional childhood, PTSD, drug abuser, teacher, poet

SEAL Warrior: Death in the Dark: Vietnam 1968--1972 by Thomas Keith (2009) - a superb, nuts-and-bolts account of the weapons, gear, preparation and tactics his unit employed; he includes frustrations along with triumphs.

Surviving Hell: A POW's Journey by Leo Thorsness (2008) - During an 1967 mission he was shot down over North Vietnam. Injured and captured, he spent six years in the Hanoi Hilton.

Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter and Vietnamese Communist Agent by Larry Berman (2008) - the Time reporter who spied for North Vietnam throughout the Vietnam War.

We were Soldiers Once...And Young: Ia Drang-The Battle That Changed The War In Vietnam by Harold Moore and Josephy Galloway (1992) - In the first significant engagement between American troops and the Viet Cong, 450 U.S. soldiers found themselves surrounded and outnumbered by their enemy. This book tells the story of how they battled between October 23 and November 26, 1965

The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang (2008) - Yang recounts the harrowing journey of her family from Laos to a refugee camp in Thailand to the U.S. Eventually settling in St. Paul, Minnesota, their struggle was not over. As Yang wryly notes, they studied the Vietnam War at school, without their lessons ever mentioning that the Hmong had been fighting for the Americans.

Last Night I Dreamed of Peace: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram by Dang Thuy Tram (2007) - In 1970, while sifting through war documents in Vietnam, Fred Whitehurst, an American lawyer serving with a military intelligence dispatch, found a diary no bigger than a pack of cigarettes, its pages handsewn together. Written between 1968 and '70 by Tram, a young, passionate doctor who served on the front lines, it chronicled the strife she witnessed until the day she was shot by American soldiers earlier that year at age 27.

Lions of Medina: The Marines of Charlie Company and Their Brotherhood of Valor by Doyle Glass (2008) - Based on extensive interviews with survivors of Operation Medina, as well as with the friends and families of the men who didn’t make it back, Lions of Medina takes readers through the tragedy and triumphs of war, and into the heart of a close-knit group of warriors who fought, bled, and died together, and the spirit of loyalty and camaraderie that binds them to this day.

365 Days by Ronald J. Glassner (2003) - In this gripping account of the human cost of the Vietnam War, Ron Glasser offers an unparalleled description of the horror endured daily by those on the front lines. "The stories I have tried to tell here are true," says Glassner in his foreword. "Those that happened in Japan I was part of; the rest are from the boys I met. I would have liked to disbelieve some of them, and at first I did, but I was there long enough to hear the same stories again and again, and then to see part of it myself."

Wounded: Vietnam/Iraq by Ronald J. Glasser (2006) - Glasser, who served as an Army physician during the Vietnam war, details the breakthroughs in technology, medical procedures and body armor that have made the Iraq war more survivable than previous conflicts but notes a depressing side effect: soldiers now survive horrific wounds that would have killed them in the past, wounds that will saddle them with physical and financial burdens for decades to come.

The Twins Platoon: An Epic Story of Young Marines at War in Vietnam by Christy Sauro (2006) - Sauro's modest study of 150 men from Minnesota who enlisted in 1967 adds respectably to the literature of the Vietnam War. After the thoroughly grim ordeal of basic training, the young midwesterners finished advanced training just in time to arrive in Vietnam at the end of the year. Based on extensive interviews with a cross section of the surviving veterans, the book makes rather grim reading. But then, it's about young Americans in a rather grim war.

War of Numbers: An Intelligence Memoir by David H. Hackworth (1998) - Adams, an intelligence analyst with the CIA, discovered evidence in 1966 that the number of Vietnamese communist soldiers in Vietnam was closer to 600,000 than the 280,000 count made by the Pentagon. Unable to persuade CIA director Richard Helms to convene a board of inquiry, he unsuccessfully took his appeal to Congress and the White House, then resigned from the agency in '73 to write this account of the affair.

This Must Be My Brother by Leann Thieman (1995) - Two housewives who had never been out of Iowa, Thieman and Dey were officers in the Iowa chapter of Friends of Children of Vietnam (an organization that, during the Vietnam War, raised money and supplies for Vietnamese orphans and also processed adoptions). In early April 1975, they were asked to fly into Vietnam and bring back six babies for adoption. As the fall of Saigon became imminent, however, President Ford approved a massive ``baby lift,'' and the six babies became two hundred.

12, 20 & 5; a doctor's year in Vietnam by John A. Parrish (1972)

Of Spies and Lies: A CIA Lie Detector Remembers Vietnam by John F. Sullivan (2002) - There is no shortage of Vietnam War memoirs, of course, but here is one with what just might be a unique perspective: the war as seen by a CIA agent responsible for polygraphing prisoners of war, potential allies, and even his own colleagues.

One Day Too Long by Timothy Castle (2000) - From October 1967 to March 1968, the United States operated a top-secret radar system in Laos near that country's border with North Vietnam. This was a provocative move: Laos was a neutral country. Yet the air force desperately needed all-weather bombing capability in the region, and so the Pentagon decided to take a chance. When Communist troops learned of Site 85, they hit it hard. The result: "The largest single ground combat loss of U.S. Air Force personnel in the history of the Vietnam War." The public still does not know what happened to nine of the men posted at Site 85.

Left for Dead: A Second Life after Vietnam by Jon Hovde and Maureen Anderson (2005) -  As a twenty-year-old soldier in Vietnam, Hovde lost an arm and a leg when the armored personnel carrier he was driving hit an antitank mine. He was nearly left for dead when the medic at the scene accidentally took his pulse in the arm that had been severed. For weeks, doctors gave Hovde very little chance of survival. When Hovde finally returned home, the transition was not easy. The straightforward words of a highway patrolman finally opened his eyes to his reckless behavior: "Why would a guy like you, who's survived all you survived, want to come back and kill yourself on our highway?"

The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle against America's Veterans by Aaron Glantz (2009) - Glantz offers a thorough account of the plight U.S. vets face back home—from the understaffed Veterans Administration perversely geared to saving money at the expense of vets in dire need of help, to concomitant medical and social ills, including undiagnosed brain injuries and the too frequent perils of homelessness, crime and suicide.

Waiting wives : the story of Schilling Manor, home front to the Vietnam War by Donna Moreau (2005) -  Waiting Wives: The Story of Schilling Manor, Home Front to the Vietnam Wartells the story of the last generation of hat-and-glove military wives called upon by their country to pack without question, to follow without comment, and to wait quietly with a smile. A heartfelt book that focuses on this other, hidden side of war,Waiting Wivesis a narrative investigation of an extraordinary group of women. A compelling memoir and domestic drama,Waiting Wivesis also the story of a country in the midst of change, of a country at war with a war.


KIA: A Dr. Kel McKelvey Novel by Thomas D. Holland (2008) - forensic thriller about a Native American who went missing shortly before his tour of duty in Vietnam was scheduled to end and whose remains the Vietnamese may have just turned over to present-day American authorities.

Absolution by Miriam Herin (2007) - Part murder mystery, part legal thriller, part reflection on the Vietnam War in light of current wars, this novel finds Maggie Delaney recovering from the violent death of her husband, Richard, as the young man accused of the crime goes to trial. Richard Delaney, successful lawyer, Vietnam War veteran, father, and husband, was gunned down by Anh "Billy" Nguyen at a drugstore near his office. What at first seemed an unfortunate random act of violence becomes complicated when a prominent attorney who is a veteran of the antiwar movement joins the defense team.


Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata (2007) - Grades 5-8 - a stirring, realistic story of America's war in Vietnam, using the alternating viewpoints of an army dog named Cracker and her 17-year-old handler, Rick Hanski, who enlists to "whip the world" and avoid a routine job. From their training at a base in the U.S, complete with mean sergeant and close buddies, to their stalking the enemy, the heartfelt tale explores the close bond of the scout-dog team, relating how it detects booby traps and mines, finds the enemy, rescues POWs, and returns home to a heroes' welcome.


  1. Thanks for the recommendations! I've read several Vietnam books, but none of these. I look forward to seeing which ones you choose.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  2. Thanks Anna - I can't wait to see what everyone's reading!

  3. I've added the ones not on our recommended reading list to the list at the War Through the Generations blog. Also The new Vietnam Challenge Buttons have arrived!