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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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  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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beautifully written account about combat

makes the combat experience somewhat understandable for somebody who had never been there.
the author is very honest and thorough about all aspects of it. Even the ones that are surely unpopular.

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Good book

Loved the book, it really helps you understand what veterans go through. I recommend this book to all mature readers

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Soul rendering story

This is the most heart felt rendition of this topic I have read/heard. Should be required reading at the Pentagon and VA.

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Every combat veteran should read.

My uncle recommended this book for me. He was a Marine rifleman in Vietnam and I a Marine with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. This truly is Karl Marlantes' song. I am grateful that he would share some of his experiences and his thoughts about not only what it is like to be in combat but also what it is like to come home. Marlantes introspection is amazing and helped me put together my thoughts about my experiences. Again, it is an amazing book.

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The mental health of warriors should a priority.

The concept of preconditioning warriors prior to reaching the battlefield, and support post-battle is imperative.

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Mandatory Reading

True masterwork. I believe that he articulated perfectly a lot of the thoughts that followed me the three years after I left the infantry, but was unable to structure legibly.

The honesty cuts like a knife and I found myself having to turn it off on two occasions. Narrator Bronson Pinchot brings the appropriate tone to every part.

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  • D
  • 07-09-16

Balanced study of the good and bad of war and why war will never go away

Should be required reading for those who go to war, those who send them to war, and those who care for them when they return.

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Half going to war, half about coming home

This was a good read and it is a service to us all to take the time and courage to put this in writing. I did have a lot of takeaways but the expectation should be that this is as much of not more about dealing with the implications of war in soldiers and how society deals with it as much if not more than simply what the experience of combat is like.

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Amazing Author and Narrorator

I love this book. I first read his other book Matterhorn and loved that but this his me on a different level. As a combat veteran, this book will bring you to tears from time to time and actually brings to light things you aren't even aware of until it's spoken. It enlightened me and damn near brought tears to my eyes several times.

The author is amazing and the narrator did a very impressive job. I would recommend this to any fellow combat veteran.

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Essential reading

This should be required reading for all high school students, regardless of whether they are considering military service or not, all warriors &, especially, those who would be party to any decisions to place anyone in potential combat situations. Our world needs more open discussions on the realities of war & its consequences, not just the jingoistic "celebrations" of "our heroes" without the associated appreciation & support our warriors need & deserve.

Bronson Pinchot's performance is outstanding!!! His appropriate gravity and compassion made this book compelling.