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Editorial Reviews

During the troop surge in Iraq in 2007, Washington Post journalist David Finkel was embedded for eight months with Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich - a determined, optimistic, inspired leader - and his unit: the 2-16 Second Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment from Fort Riley, Kansas.

The 2-16 were deployed at the time in an area of intense insurgent activity in eastern Baghdad. Finkel writes, “From the beginning I explained to [the soldiers] that my intent was to document their corner of the war, without agenda. This book, then, is that corner, unshaded.” In fact, much of the book’s success stems from the open access granted to Finkel and the soldiers’ willingness to share their stories.

Finkel casts light on virtually all aspects of the 2-16’s “corner of the war”, including unflinching descriptions of deaths, and the profoundly destructive injuries inflicted by improvised explosive devices. Finkel’s descriptions are deeply moving and in many cases profoundly disturbing. But this is war, this is what the soldiers experienced, and Finkel aims to document the sacrifices these soldiers made that enabled the surge to succeed.

The Good Soldiers, besides being a valuable and unforgettable document, honors the men of the 2-16 Second Battalion. Written as a nonfiction novel, its prose style is simple and brilliantly effective.

Relatively new to audiobook narration, actor Mark Boyett has a strong, young voice whose articulation, pace, and clarity will resonate inside a car, a hall, or your head. He easily and naturally shifts his voice from the narrator’s point of view to the words of the many people chronicled in this book. A great range of emotions is expressed in The Good Soldiers, and Boyett adeptly inhabits these characters as he gives voice to the words they express. –David Chasey

Publisher's Summary

It was the last-chance moment of the war. In January 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new strategy for Iraq. He called it "the surge". "Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Well, here are the differences," he told a skeptical nation.

Among those listening were the young, optimistic Army infantry soldiers of the 2-16, the battalion nicknamed the Rangers. About to head to a vicious area of Baghdad, they decided the difference would be them. Fifteen months later, the soldiers returned home forever changed.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter David Finkel was with them in Bagdad almost every grueling step of the way. What was the true story of the surge? Was it really a success? Those are the questions he grapples with in his remarkable report from the front lines.

Combining the action of Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down with the literary brio of Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, The Good Soldiers is an unforgettable work of reportage. And in telling the story of these good soldiers, the heroes and the ruined, David Finkel has also produced an eternal tale - not just of the Iraq War, but of all wars, for all time.

©2009 Dave Finkel; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • 100 Notable Books of 2009 (The New York Times)
  • Best Books of 2009 (Publishers Weekly)
  • Best Nonfiction of 2009 (The Boston Globe)
  • Best Reads of 2009 (Slate.com)
  • Best Books of 2009: Nonfiction (Christian Science Monitor)
  • "Finkel's keen firsthand reportage, its grit and impact only heightened by the literary polish of his prose, gives us one of the best accounts yet of the American experience in Iraq." (Publishers Weekly)
    "A superb account of the burdens soldiers bear." (Kirkus Reviews)

    What members say

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    • Overall

    Not for the Fainthearted!

    A searing account of the trials, wounds, and frustrations of a battalion of combat infantry soldiers posted to a dangerous region of Baghdad during the 2007 "surge." The writing is riveting: direct, factual and first-hand. The author was "embedded" with the soldiers for eight months of their 15 month tour of duty. He describes in vivid detail the injuries (14 were killed) suffered by the soldiers from hidden roadside explosives, a menace these troops faced every day. You will take from this book an unforgettable appreciation of the combat horrors our troops face in Iraq and Afghanistan. We all owe them a monumental debt of gratitude for the dangers they face and the wounds so many of them and their families have endured.
    My only criticism of the book is that its focus on the frustrations, injuries and deaths suffered by these soldiers appears calculated to lead to a foreordained conclusion that the whole deployment was pointless and that the Iraqis they were trying to help were hopeless, incompetent, or hostile. There is an "Oh, by the way" tone to the relatively few mentions of the successes that were achieved during the surge: much reduced death rates among coalition troops, improved security in much of Baghdad; even functioning gas stations in the battalion's own area.
    The book clearly illustrates the hard choices we face in dealing with the violent extremists in the Middle East. They are brutal and without conscience or good sense in inflicting terror, torture and destruction on any (including their neighbors) whom they see in their way. Our military response is at best a stopgap: it is necessary for self defense, but it does not build the personal ties or trust and goodwill we need in order to build lasting peace and security.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful

    • Overall
    • W
    • 12-02-09

    Gritty and Real

    A harrowing story, noteworthy for its gritty realness. The Finkle accomplishes the difficult task of telling the story of the 2-16 apart from any narrative on his own time in Iraq. He writes simply of what happened to the men fighting the war.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful

    • Overall
    • Craig
    • Tacoma, WA, United States
    • 08-09-10

    Hate the rant...

    Can't get over the ranting about one persons perspective. The soldiers I know had a very different experience. Sorry I just could not get over the constant pounding and interjecting of politics in this book. Rather than state a fact or opinion and leave it at that the author continues to beat you over the head with it as though I did not hear or understand it the first time.

    5 of 9 people found this review helpful

    • Overall
    • Performance
    • Story

    Raw and riveting....without an a political agenda

    Simply put, one of the best accounts of what a combat arms soldier experiences. David has not only be able to capture the action but more importantly he has given the audience a glimpse of the internal struggle soldier have after conflict. Thank you for translating the difficult experiences and feelings that are so hard to describe.

    • Overall
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    • Story

    Insider view of the war in Afghanistan

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

    It's a well written and well told story that only enhanced my admiration for the soldiers who served. It's a "hard" book to listen to because of the price they paid, and the uncertainty about whether any of it made a difference. At this point in history, we just don't know how this will all play out. Highly recommended because in a democracy, citizens have to understand the costs of the decisions their government makes.

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    • Performance
    • Story

    Must read!!!!

    But it's one of those books you can only read once. This book is a breath-taking, surreal story that really helps you understand what these soldiers went through. If you love history this is a book for you.

    • Overall
    • Performance
    • Story

    Great book! Wonderfully descriptive!

    I really enjoyed the descriptive style used. The reader is well selected for his style and cadence. Great match! Great book!

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    • Story
    • John C
    • Deport, Texas United States
    • 01-07-17

    Phenomenal book

    This book ells the story of the soldiers, commander and occasionally the interpreters of 2-16 during their deployment in the years 2007-08.

    The book is told from a neutral stand point and does not delve into the politics of the war, or the surge though the author is a little harsh on Colonel K. The 2-16 was deployed into a very difficult situation and the cost was high in both physical and mental casualties.

    The author and narrator do an excellent job portraying the human cost of the war and for this alone the book is worth listening.

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    • Performance
    • Story

    One of the best war books

    I've listened to a lot of History/war books. This is up there as one of my favorites. The story follows each character for long enough and in great detail so that you are heartbroken when one dies in combat. Many books they have so many characters coming and going that you really don't get an attachment to any of them.

    The performance by the narrator is excellent.

    Highly recommended!

    • Overall
    • Performance
    • Story

    Interesting read.

    At first I had a little difficulty with the authors repetitious writing style. Example: rather than John George, Jack and Jim looked across the street, the author would write John looked across the street, George looked across the street, Jack looked across the street, Jim looked across the street... But ultimately I got used to it and found the book interesting though not the best on teh subject of Middle Eastern combat. Try Carnivore by Dillard Johnson, Eyes of Orion by trybula. House to house by Bruning. Not a good day to die by Cox