Modern War Lit: 8 Astonishing Books By Returning Veterans
Less than one percent of the U.S. population has served in this century's conflicts, but a new wave of literature written by returning veterans offers a bridge to understanding their experiences. By Alexander HulsMay 24, 2017 9:57 AM
Less than one percent of the U.S. population has served in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan throughout the 2000s. Most Americans don’t know someone who fought in those wars — let alone understand what these veterans went through “over there.” That gap has been called the military-civilian divide.
But in the last decade, a bridge is being built between that divide in an unexpected way: a wave of critically acclaimed war literature by veterans of the Middle East operations, writing about the very conflicts they served in, or their experiences coming home. “It’s as real as I can make it,” writes Brian Castner, one of those veteran authors, and that quote tidily summarizes what unites modern war lit. These books — eight of which you’ll see below — present an opportunity for civilians to better understand what these soldiers went through, and what it was like over there, where even the soldiers themselves weren’t always sure what they were accomplishing.
While none of the authors presume their individual works speak for all veterans’ experiences, collectively they do offer willing readers a comprehensive range of experiences and insights — and not just into the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts; like all great war books, they achieve something universal. They are all a testament to, as Ross Ritchell puts it in the dedication in his novel about the Iraq War, “those who do it, those who did, and those who will.” But the eight books below — and the trend they belong to — especially afford the chance to better understand that less than one percent so few of us know.