my friend, jh, gave me a book to read last week. it’s an old book about the vietnam war. a war in which i have some personal experience. the book is by tim o’brien, ‘the things they carried’, is it’s title. it’s a very good book and i’d reccomend it to anyone who has a taste for good writing. you may not like the subject matter but sometimes good writing wins the day. so in the spirit of good writing winning the day i have some other book suggestions for you. you may not like them as well but it will be your loss and for sure you will lose some historical perspective about stuff and the vietnam war. you may not care about that part of our history but it’s still here and now and there as well. more on that later.
i began reading books about the vietnam war over 25 years ago. at the last sorta count i think the number was over 300 and counting. here are some that i think you should read. if for no other reason than just for some good writing. plus you might learn something along the way.
one of the first books i read on the topic was by, bernard fall, a frenchman who wrote several good books about the war. his first, if i’m not mistaken, was, ‘hell in a very small place – the siege of dien bien phu’. another of his books worth reading is ‘street without joy’. those two sad wonderful accounts of the french and their time vietnam may not be for everyone but i think everyone should read them.
one of the premier books by an american concerning the war would be neil sheehan’s book, ‘a bright shining lie – john paul vann and america in vietnam’. a great book. i was so stoked when i finished it i actually found his phone number listed in washington dc and called his house. he wasn’t home. i yammered at his wife for a bit and hung up. yeah, it’s that good.
there are 2 books out there or used to be out there that were written about air america, the 3 letter agencies airline in nam. one i know isn’t out there anymore or at least i don’t think so but finding it would be very well worth your time and money. that book would be christopher robbins’, ‘air america’. not the sappy crappy movie of the same name, or fuck, it could be for all i know. a great book about some very brave men. he has another book concerning the war in laos, one of the added attactions to the war in nam. it’s title is, ‘the ravens’. a really good book about some more brave men and their time in laos being semi secret. it’s funny it’s sad and it is good.
of course then there’s michael herr’s book, ‘dispatches’ , which probably should be required reading in history classes. fat chance of that ever happening. a bit too real for the suits. another along the same lines but more in a traditional vein would be james r. ebert’s book, ‘a year in a life – the american infantryman in vietnam, 1965-1972’. it pretty much sums up the harrowing life of a grunt. i’m sure a grunts life hasn’t changed much since alexander or hannibal or before.
i can hear you snoring, however, just bear with me and i’ll piss you off soon enough.
there’s a newer book out there that i think is right up there with sheehan’s, john vann book, and that book would be, ‘the cat from hue’, by john laurence, an old cbs newsman who covered the vietnam war from 1965 to 1970. it took him a number of years to get the book done and out but he hits notes pretty much on evey page. fine writing like all the books mentioned but his sings and plays notes hard to hit, let alone find. there are more, hundreds more, out there. maybe i’ve whetted your appetite for some reading about our recent past. i hope so. just do it.