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What It Is Like to Go to War [Kindle Edition]

Karl Marlantes
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (367 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Book Description

From the author of the award-winning, best-selling novel Matterhorn, comes a brilliant nonfiction book about war

In 1968, 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 What It Is Like to Go to War, 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. Marlantes weaves riveting accounts of his combat experiences with thoughtful analysis, self-examination, and his readings—from Homer to The Mahabharata to Jung. He makes it clear just how poorly prepared our nineteen-year-old warriors are for the psychological and spiritual aspects of the journey.

Just as Matterhorn is already being acclaimed as acclaimed as 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.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2011: With unflinching honesty, bestselling author Karl Marlantes tells us What It Is Like to Go to War in his compassionate, powerful narrative on Vietnam. Marlantes does not shy away from recounting experiences that, outside the arena of war, are horrifying or embarrassing and addresses a soldier’s self-imposed “code of silence” as an attempt to fit back in to a society that “simply wants us to shut up about all of this.” While American pop culture celebrates the warrior spirit and winning the battle, “reconciling the moral conduct we are taught... with the brutal acts we do in war has been a problem for warriors of good conscience for centuries.” Marlantes tempers the brutal truths of fear, power games, and courage with a thoughtful prescription for our soldiers’ well-being; caring for our soldiers and their families differently will benefit society as a whole. In What It Is Like to Go to War, Marlantes sets a new standard for understanding the experience of war. --Seira Wilson

Review

“Karl Marlantes has written a staggeringly beautiful book on combat—what it feels like, what the consequences are and above all, what society must do to understand it. In my eyes he has become the preeminent literary voice on war of our generation. He is a natural storyteller and a deeply profound thinker who not only illuminates war for civilians, but also offers a kind of spiritual guidance to veterans themselves. As this generation of warriors comes home, they will be enormously helped by what Marlantes has written—I’m sure he will literally save lives.”—Sebastian Junger

“Marlantes brings candor and wrenching self-analysis to bear on his combat experiences in Vietnam, in a memoir-based meditation whose intentions are three-fold: to help soldiers-to-be understand what they’re in for; to help veterans come to terms with what they’ve seen and done; and to help policymakers know what they’re asking of the men they send into combat.”—The New Yorker

What It Is Like to Go to War is a well-crafted and forcefully argued work that contains fresh and important insights into what it’s like to be in a war and what it does to the human psyche.”—The Washington Post

“Marlantes is the best American writer right now on war . . . With What It Is Like to Go to War a second Marlantes book resides on the top shelf of American literature.”—Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead

What It Is Like to Go to War ought to be mandatory reading by potential infantry recruits and by residents of any nation that sends its kids—Marlantes’s word—into combat.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“In this thoughtful, literate work of self-exorcism, Marlantes tells tales of incredible bravery as well as brutality.”—People Magazine

“A precisely crafted and bracingly honest book."—The Atlantic

“Marlantes knows what he writes. . . Raw, unsettling honesty pervades the work.”—Time.com

“Marlantes has written a sparklingly provocative nonfiction book. . . He is an exceptional writer and his depictions here are vivid.”—BookPage

“A gripping, first-person plea to consider the impact on the human spirit of being a soldier.”—Huffington Post

“To say that this book is brilliant is an understatement—Marlantes is the absolute master of taking the psyche of the combat veteran and translating it into words that the civilian or non-veteran can understand. I have read many, many books on war and this is the first time that I've ever read exactly what the combat veteran thinks and feels—nothing I have ever read before has hit home in my heart like this book.”—Gunnery Sergeant Terence D’Alesandro, 3rd Batallion, 5th Marines, U.S. Marine Corps

“Wrenchingly honest. . . . Digging as deeply into his own life as he does into the larger sociological and moral issues, Marlantes presents a riveting, powerfully written account of how, after being taught to kill, he learned to deal with the aftermath.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A valiant effort to explain and make peace with war’s awesome consequences for human beings.”—Kirkus Reviews

What It Is Like to Go to War offers profound insight on how we must prepare our youth who become our warriors for their hard and uncompromising journey through war’s hell and back home again.”—Vietnam Magazine

“With war such a part of contemporary American life, this book is deeply important, as timely and urgent as contemporary on-the-ground reporting from Afghanistan and Iraq.”—The Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A sound debunking of anything smacking of the glory of warfare—but written with compassion, honest and wit for men and now women who fight and for all of those who care about them.”—St. Louis Dispatch

“A slim spiritual guide. . . Marlantes’s book is a sincere plea for better soldiers and veterans.”—Seattle Weekly

What It Is Like to Go to War is a courageous, noble and intelligent grapple with myth, history, and spirituality that beautifully elevates the cultural conversation on the role of the military in today’s world. It is an emotional, honest, and affecting primer for all Americans on war and the national psyche, and we ignore this book at our own peril.”—Ed Conklin, Chaucer’s Books, Santa Barbara

Product Details

  • File Size: 373 KB
  • Print Length: 273 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0802119921
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; Reprint edition (August 30, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005FFPVCM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,173 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
216 of 225 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading. August 7, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a remarkable book. I haven't read a lot of military literature, fiction or non-fiction; I have no personal connection to the military and never served. But I am a high school teacher, and every year I see some number of students -- sometimes more, sometimes less; quite a lot more since the economy sank in 2008 -- leave high school and go off to serve their country. I wanted to get some perspective on what they were in for, and perhaps a better idea of why they did it, why they signed up when the conventional wisdom is always for young men and women to go to college.

I got that perspective. And much more. I got a real glimpse into a soldier's heart and mind, told with clarity and great intelligence and heroic honesty; if for nothing else (and of course there is much), Marlantes should be honored for his willingness to delve so very deep into his own experiences, and to share them with the reading public in stark, perfect detail, hiding nothing. It made the book difficult to read at times, an experience that I can only think would be a thousand times more intense for fellow soldiers, but it made the book that much more necessary to read.

I also got led through an insightful plan for how a modern nation should treat its soldiers, how they should be trained, how the officers should deal with their commands, how the public should treat their warriors before, during, and after combat.
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445 of 472 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Speaking of the Unspeakable August 4, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I went off to war in 1942, and spent my time bombing Germany and watching my fellow flyers die at an alarming rate. Thus, I can attest that the author's splendid piece of writing conveys a realistic picture of war and its effect on the human spirit. General Sherman is reported to have said, "War is Hell". It certainly is, as the author found in the jungles of Vietnam, and I found at 25,000 feet above Germany. War is fire and explosions and machine guns pounding and dying men screaming for help. The author lost many members of his platoon. I lost five of my crew killed, and two (including me) wounded. Thus, war's combat is the same, wherever and whenever we find it.
Likewise, the effects of combat on humans seem to be the same, no matter which war we consider. In Vietnam, the author describes his post traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) that caused trouble even after he had come home. His description had a familiar ring. I fought it for eight years after World War Two ended. Now, I read in newspapers that PSTD is a major problem for troops back from the Iraq and Afghan wars.
But some things have changed. When I went off to war, it seemed like the whole nation was supporting me, and we came home from the war to adulation and happy times. In contrast, when the author came home, a young woman spit at him, and people expressed their contempt. Today, it is remarkable if we hear anything on the news about our troops in the Middle East.
This very readable narrative is fascinating and disturbing, but it is well-worth your time.
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106 of 112 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In this reflective memoir, Karl Marlantes, writer of the widely acclaimed Vietnam War book Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, takes a probing look at his own experiences of going to war, and of coming home again. Because it is more of a series of reflections than a continuous narrative, I will review it in kind, with some impressions and appreciations. First, Marlantes's book is honest, sometimes brutally so. And I think this is one of the keys that makes it work. The reader gets the distinct impression that he has carefully worked and reworked his memories until they come out as honestly and completely as possible. Even though at times this means recounting memories of his own brutalities in war. But along with these sometimes tortured memories come candid memories of his own emotions, impressions, and motivations that help bring the experience of war to life. They also guarantee that war isn't glorified, and neither is the warrior. Instead, we meet the brutality along with the valor.

A second impression one gets is that these are carefully analyzed reflections. He has quite obviously held his own experiences, indeed his own person, under the light of careful scrutiny. This means the narratives and accounts he relates are thick descriptions of events, filled out with his own psychological analysis about not only what he and those around him experienced but why. And this also means he often extends his reflections beyond his own experiences, through an analysis of why, to a discussion of what we might constructively draw from them. One key example that comes up repeatedly in the book is the experience of coming home from war.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Training, supporting the warrior mind & soul
Insightful and self-effacing exploration of the warrior's mind and soul, and how to prepare both for the challenge of killing and help both recover once back home from... Read more
Published 3 days ago by Anthony Prudori
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
it is an excellent read and highly recommended for anyone in the military.
Published 5 days ago by Carole Cruz
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent.
Published 11 days ago by Boisegrampa
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophical and Practical
Authors approaches war from a philosophical, personal, and mythological approach.
Found the practical advice on the importance of rituals and ceremony very interesting.
Published 11 days ago by Chris
4.0 out of 5 stars This Jarhead knows of what he speaks
Marlantes is a fine writer. He offers up some philosophical ideas and touches on a great many thoughts not normally associated with combat. Read more
Published 17 days ago by robert J patterson
2.0 out of 5 stars A Novel of Arrogance and Self-justification of Ignorance
Arrogant tone, justification of youthful ignorance and blind following of a flawed way of thinking. The author is an example of the American who did not think when he was a young... Read more
Published 24 days ago by R Kelly
5.0 out of 5 stars Excelent!
It takes you to the battle that goes on in the mind of the warrior
Published 27 days ago by Scalpel MD
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I started reading it but haven't finish; the narrative is alluring but seems at time repetitive.
Published 1 month ago by Quoc A. Nguyen
5.0 out of 5 stars Teamwork and firepower was our best chance of surviving
As a former Korean War veteran, Rifleman.. Your presentation, this morning, touched a tender nerve.
We shared a similar experience. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Curtis James Morrow aka Kojo-Achampong
5.0 out of 5 stars In " What it's Like to Go to War" Karl Marlantes describes his own ...
In " What it's Like to Go to War" Karl Marlantes describes his own personal journey to make sense of his experiences in Vietnam. Read more
Published 1 month ago by William R. Croninger
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More About the Author

A graduate of Yale University and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, Karl Marlantes served as 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. His debut novel, Matterhorn, will be published in April 2010 by Grove/Atlantic.

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