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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.

Critic Reviews

“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 Ratings

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Superb Book!!

If you could sum up What It Is Like to Go to War in three words, what would they be?

I didn't like this book...I LOVED this book!!! So informative, and so from-the-heart! I have an even deeper respect for the Marines and ALL of our military personnel!!

What did you like best about this story?

I liked the honesty and candor with which the author wrote. It truly helped open my eyes.
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What about Bronson Pinchot’s performance did you like?

Straight-forward speaking.

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

Thought you knew what happened in 'Nam, get a REAL inside feel for it here!!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • Tulsa, OK, United States
  • 02-04-13

I wasn't Impressed at all. Sorry I bought it.

Is there anything you would change about this book?

This book was certainly not what I was expecting and was a big disappointment. The story was slow and confusing at times.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant!

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

This book was brilliant! Marlantes is one of the preeminent writers of war for our time. After reading Matterhorn, which I loved, I listened to this. There were times I had to stop and take a break because it is quite heavy. Marlantes writes about killing, maiming, death, grief, shame, guilt, courage, loyalty and heroism. He covers Jungian philosophy, Catholic and tribal traditions, Greek myth and classical history. He has killed, been responsible for his own men being killed and has the self-knowledge, education and command of language to express the different states and emotions he has experienced in the past forty years. He is a warrior and a Rhodes scholar, and his scholastic background helps him communicate the experiences that normally transcend words. Marlantes has put a lot of though into this subject for decades now and has chosen his words beautifully.

His brutal self-honesty was shocking, and too me, took more courage than running head on into a barrage of fire. He lays his soul bare for all of us too see so that our society can learn from the perpetual state of war we seem to find ourselves in generation after generation and so that our warriors can return intact physically as well as emotionally and spiritually.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A different kind of war story

Would you listen to What It Is Like to Go to War again? Why?

I would listen again. I would recommend this book to those who have experienced combat and those who are about to become involved in combat. I don't pretend to understand what Vietnam veterans lime Marlantes went through. He provides insight with the benefit of coming to grips with his own demons from Vietnam. Marlantes sometimes wanders into a spiritual analysis of warfare that felt strangely foreign to me. His insights were always interesting even when I had trouble comprehending his intended impact on the reader. I was made well aware of the fact that he was a man who had been forever changed by war. With that in mind, I had no problem letting him run into strange views and interpretations about life in general. It is a good book, but do not go into it expecting a story you might hear sitting at the local VFW with a few cold brews extolling the glory of war.

Would you be willing to try another book from Karl Marlantes? Why or why not?

I look forward to reading Marlates' book, Matterhorn. I would definitely encourage those who are dealing with their own war demons. I think some of his views are dead on, while I can only raise eye brows at others. Again, I have not reservations about letting him go on with his thoughts. He has been there and he deserves his right to talk about it from his point of view. Some of his fellow veterans might disagree with him, and they have earned that right as well. I feel that Marlantes has a deep love for his country, the Corps, and those men and women who are called upon to engage in "policy by other means.

Which scene was your favorite?

I was especially touched by some of his descriptions of actual combat experiences and his responsibility to make life and death decisions for his men.

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

I was greatly moved by his discussion of moral obstacles he faced in going to war. The Vietnam war forced men who were too young to make conscious decisions that would have been challenging for even the wisest among us. The fact that Marlantes seems to be still on a journey of resolving these issues forty years later helped me get a better grasp of just how much combat experiences steeps into ones marrow, and becomes one with the mind and Psyche.

Any additional comments?

I found his discussion of religious issues strange (not necessarily in a bad way). He is a great story teller; however, there were points in his story where I simply had to dismiss what he was saying and conclude that I have reference point to understand nor jude the validity of his statements. I felt Bronson Pinchot did an excellent job of narrating the story. If you are easily offended by the "f" word, you may want to steer clear. Marlantes was a Marine, and the language sometimes brought back my own flashbacks of being with the Marines at Camp LeJeune. I gave the story a modest three due to the fact that he sometimes went on rants, and at other times the overall story was disjointed, however, I did find the book worthwhile, and I will likely revisit parts of it again as I do more research on the war in Vietnam.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Hugh
  • Woodbridge, VA, United States
  • 11-10-12

A "Stand-alone" commentary about tragic futility.

If you could sum up What It Is Like to Go to War in three words, what would they be?

A full study about how the youth of modern civilization is unprepared for the ancient savagery of war.
It is also a view into the politics of the military service and it's "imbalances".

Who was your favorite character and why?

N/A

Have you listened to any of Bronson Pinchot’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

N/A

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

The politics of phony engagement and battle-damage reporting.

Any additional comments?

God bless the U.S.Marines and their standards.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • albert
  • lawrence, NY, United States
  • 07-02-12

war is hell, but ......

Would you listen to What It Is Like to Go to War again? Why?

yes, absolutely

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

page 1-- last page

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

karl marlantes

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

all of the above, and a couple of other ones

Any additional comments?

one of the great books you read in a life time

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • RAZ
  • Woodbury, MN USA
  • 06-20-12

Every American should have to read

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

People should know what it is like to go to war.

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

Saving Private Ryan

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

NA

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

The dream that Marlantes experienced

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Charles
  • LYNDON STATION, WISCONSIN, United States
  • 05-14-12

So So.

I am a Nam Vet also. I did not find this book as interesting as I thought I would. It was ok. Nothing that great.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • FREDERICK
  • tavares, FL, United States
  • 03-06-12

Very well done ,

Would you consider the audio edition of What It Is Like to Go to War to be better than the print version?

Malantas brings into light what it is to go full cycle with from wanting to be a warrior, to being a warrior and to finally realyzing the price you pay . He has come a long way on his trip , Freddy 60 - 68 Semper Fi

Who was your favorite character and why?

All the fallen real warriors. That never made it back to tell their story. Malantas was here to let us know the real deal.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Well written however title may be misleading.

Matterhorn is one of the best books I have ever listened to and I guess I expected this to be a story about Karl Marlantes preparing for and getting ready to go to war. It is not. The book is well written and has a good purpose and, being a former soldier, I think it says a lot young men going to war need to hear however the reader needs to be prepared for what they are going to hear/read. I think another title would have been more appropriate. I hope Mr. Marlantes continues to write.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful