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What It Is Like to Go to War | [Karl Marlantes]

What It Is Like to Go to War

In 1969, at the age of twenty-three, Karl Marlantes was dropped into the highland jungle of Vietnam, an inexperienced lieutenant in command of a platoon of forty marines who would live or die by his decisions. Marlantes survived, but like many of his brothers in arms, he has spent the last forty years dealing with his war experience.
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Publisher's Summary

From the author of the bestselling and award-winning Matterhorn comes a brilliant nonfiction book about war and the psychological and spiritual toll it takes on those who fight.

“I wrote this book primarily to come to terms with my own experience of combat. So far—reading, writing, thinking—that has taken over thirty years.”

In 1969, at the age of twenty-three, Karl Marlantes was dropped into the highland jungle of Vietnam, an inexperienced lieutenant in command of a platoon of forty marines who would live or die by his decisions. Marlantes survived, but like many of his brothers in arms, he has spent the last forty years dealing with his war experience. In his first work of nonfiction, Marlantes takes a deeply personal and candid look at what it is like to experience the ordeal of combat, critically examining how we might better prepare our soldiers for war.

Just as Matterhorn is already acclaimed a classic of war literature, What It Is Like to Go to War is set to become required reading for anyone—soldier or civilian—interested in this visceral and all-too-essential part of the human experience.

Karl Marlantes, a cum laude graduate of Yale University and Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, was a marine in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten Air Medals. He has lived and traveled all over the world and now writes full time. He and his wife, Anne, have five children and live on a small lake in Washington.

©2011 Karl Marlantes (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“A staggeringly beautiful book on combat…[Marlantes] is a natural storyteller and a deeply profound thinker.” (Sebastian Junger, New York Times bestselling author)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (289 )
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  •  
    Lynn BEAUMONT, TX, United States 09-05-11
    Lynn BEAUMONT, TX, United States 09-05-11 Member Since 2005
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    "Destined to become a Classic"

    Karl Marlantes [Matterhorn: A Novel of the Viet Nam War] returns with What It is Like to Go to War. His new book is a nonfiction, philosophical, historical, memoir and reflection on his days as a Marine in Viet Nam. Frankly, I have never read anything quite like this book and suggest that anyone who is concerned for the country or has a friend, son, daughter, brother, sister, or lover who has experienced battle (virtually or otherwise) will find it very helpful. This book is beautiful, gut wrenching, and deeply moving. Marlantes has done us all a great service and has shown great courage in revealing his personal story. He has rewarded us many times over for his thoughtful analysis and reflection on war and what it means to the human spirit. The sections on how to welcome the veteran home and to help one with post traumatic stress are worthy of group discussion. I hope that this book gains a wide readership immediately. It is, in my view, going to become a classic of the genre. Please make time for this book. Bronson Pinchot's narration is excellent.

    25 of 25 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John United States 07-22-12
    John United States 07-22-12 Member Since 2012

    I love to read!

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    "Been there, done that..."
    Would you consider the audio edition of What It Is Like to Go to War to be better than the print version?

    Yes,it succeeds on an emotional level that you miss in print.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of What It Is Like to Go to War?

    Very thought provoking. The part on "NUMBNESS" is so true and insightful.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The TOTALITY of thought about the oral experience will bring a curious person who has never "BEEN THERE" as close as they will ever come to the experience of being THERE.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Yes- made me face my experience and cried at the epiphany....


    Any additional comments?

    Everyone should read it. Especially those people thinking of joining the military.
    I think it should be required reading for high school students.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim Diestel 06-11-12
    Jim Diestel 06-11-12 Member Since 2006
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    "How to recover your morals after war"
    What made the experience of listening to What It Is Like to Go to War the most enjoyable?

    nuggets of insights throughout the book. This book has application to psudo-war situations like business and coaching.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The deep thought and crisp articulation.


    What about Bronson Pinchot???s performance did you like?

    clear and emotionally delivered; the author couldn't have read it any better.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I would listen to a passage and then have to spend an hour in thought; extemely impactful.


    Any additional comments?

    Every returning soldier should read plus every politician who votes to send troops into harms way. But it should also be read by business executives as it has as much bearing in this less extreme world.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    gerry milton, ON, Canada 11-30-11
    gerry milton, ON, Canada 11-30-11 Member Since 2010
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    "A Wonderful Perspective Into a Philospher Warrior"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Mr Marlantes provides a rare glimpse into the mind of a Rhodes scholar who has experienced the extremes of war, and whose intellect allows him to share a deeper understanding of humanity and war. I cannot do his vision justice in this brief review, and recommend you give it a listen.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Bronson's performance matches that of the Matterhorn, with its collection of entertaining voices, but here his voice talent shines in the many quotes from ancient foreign books and myths.


    Any additional comments?

    Previous reviews noted a wish for more gripping war stories per Mattehorn, but I was pleasantly surprised at the way he explained Matterhorn events as real life horrors for him - which made the book even more meaningful for me.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Delta, UT, United States 11-23-11
    Richard Delta, UT, United States 11-23-11 Member Since 2007
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    "Well written and thought out"

    I listened to Matterhorn and could not wait to get Karl Marlantes "What it is like to go to War. I was amazed at the people he referred to in his book, like John Bly. I have read his works "Iron John" many years ago and enjoyed them. I would read anything Marlantes writes he is a thinker and well versed. Well written thanks Marlantes. I even bought the book. Dick from Delta

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lake San Francisco, CA, United States 09-20-11
    Lake San Francisco, CA, United States 09-20-11 Member Since 2010
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    "More than I'd imagined"

    The author and I inhabit the same age cohort. His descriptions of the moral domain of combat, and the context in which the war in Viet Nam was fought, but particularly what it was like to come home, broke my heart. It is so important that others read this account so that we can begin, collectively, to understand the terrible forces unleashed in those of us who find ourselves pursuing this path as young people.
    Aside from being a great story teller, Marlantes has taken a depth psychological view of the subjective domain of the Warrior. He writes about the "temple of Mars", in a way that enlivens the commentary on morality that is his central thesis.
    I like to think that I was savvy enough to have seen the handwriting on the wall by the end of the summer of 1966, where I'd been closely exposed to the life of a Marine fire team during an exercise at Camp Pendleton. As a 20 year old midshipman, I knew deeply that the grunt who was leading our little patrol, though he was my age, was inhabiting a different universe than mine, but not that different than the guy in Texas who had just wiped out 20+ students firing as a sniper from the Texas Tower. I decided at that point, I wasn't looking to get a Marine commission. Didn't think I needed to be a hero, and realized I'd rather have a steel hull around me than a jungle. Consequently, I have no PTSD. As a result, my coming to terms with Viet Nam has taken a different shape. I became a family therapist and have spent well over thirty years grappling with the struggles that all of us, particularly men, have in reconciling the parts of ourselves that go to war. I am very thankful for this book in a way that is quite personal and yet hope that everyone can find some link to the personal stories about war that haunt American lives.

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas United States 09-09-11
    Douglas United States 09-09-11 Member Since 2003

    Urgyen Menla

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    "Powerful"

    Very powerful biographical story of a Vietnam War Marine officer. Should be required reading for all Americans, especially those who make war decisions. Like Sebastian Junger's book "War," this is an unabashed look from the inside of the experience of being in a front line unit.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie la vernia, TX, United States 12-31-12
    Julie la vernia, TX, United States 12-31-12 Member Since 2012
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    "A must read for anyone questioning his/her sanity"
    Would you consider the audio edition of What It Is Like to Go to War to be better than the print version?

    Mr. Marlantes segues quite a bit in this book, and sometimes I had difficulty switching mental gears. I think I might have understood the change in thought if I'd seen a paragraph break or something. Overall, the listening was enjoyable, but I really could not tell the voice belonged to Bronson Pinchot!


    What other book might you compare What It Is Like to Go to War to and why?

    A Rumor of War by Phil Caputo. He wrote his book before PTSD became a diagnosis; however, his descriptions of the "blank stare" and the soul-crushing effects of war were right on the mark.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Oh holy cow, yes. PTSD is one of the things that one either associates with crazy vets strung out on drugs and alcohol, unable to keep a job or a home, or a label one hides behind to excuse poor behavior. NOTHING prepared me for Iraq or GTMO. In both deployments I was on a detainee health mission. I wasn't in combat (well, minus rockets fired at us). I didn't experience any of the raw trauma my fellow nurses did in the early years of the war and during the surge. My unit jokingly called what we were traumatized from was the Groundhog Day effect (referencing the Bill Murray movie). However, it was no joke. When I got home, I was lost. I sought help. I answered honestly the millions of questionnaires the Army had us fill out.... over and over and over. Yet, if I wasn't suicidal, which I wasn't, no one cared too much to figure out what was wrong with me. Overloaded behavioral health system, I guess, and I kept getting the, "You're a nurse, you'll seek out help if things get worse, right?" Mr. Marlantes hits the core of the problem of PTSD in that unless one is prepared physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, the effects of war will suck the life right out of you. It was a year and a half after I redeployed (means to go home for you non-military folk, not go back to theater) that I finally got the help I needed. It didn't take much- therapy, meds, and going to church- but I'm finally at peace with Iraq. As I prepare to head to Afghanistan this spring, I know more, but trust me, I WILL be talking about what I'm feeling and I WILL be attending church. This book is a must read for any person who has been to the Gulf during OEF or OIF. Even if you think you don't have PTSD and you're just crazy, you might feel differently after reading this book.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. Hall Citrus Heights, CA USA 08-20-12
    D. Hall Citrus Heights, CA USA 08-20-12 Member Since 2006

    Retired Reader

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    "Battle Weary"
    Where does What It Is Like to Go to War rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This was a good book. It increased my compassion and empathy for our citizen soldiers. Vietnam and our current crop of wars leave scars that are with us forever.


    What other book might you compare What It Is Like to Go to War to and why?

    Different approach but similar to "The Things They Carried" as both books write about the scars war leaves on our mind and soul - on our very existance.


    Which character – as performed by Bronson Pinchot – was your favorite?

    I did not have a favorite, but I had compassion for each of them.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Wounds of war


    Any additional comments?

    Marlantes went through some painful times. I appreciate his sharing them with us.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kazuhiko TUXEDO PARK, NY, United States 08-07-12
    Kazuhiko TUXEDO PARK, NY, United States 08-07-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Recommended for everybody"

    I do not like wars. They should be obsolete by now. But I know they will be around for some time. So, I need to understand what it is like. This book was amazing. It was educational in so many levels. I am grateful that this author survived the war and the post-war condition/environment to tell us what he went through during and after the war honestly and frankly. Also, the narrator was so natural that I assumed the author was reading this until I checked. I will listen to this again.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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