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What It Is Like to Go to War Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; First Edition edition (August 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802119921
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802119926
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (288 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2011: With unflinching honesty, bestselling author Karl Marlantes captures What It Is Like to Go to War in his compassionate, powerful narrative on Vietnam. By recounting experiences that, outside the arena of war, are horrifying or embarrassing for the soldiers who lived them, Marlantes exposes veterans' self-destructive code of silence as the price for re-entering our society. American pop culture celebrates the warrior spirit, winning the battle, but the reality for soldiers is that “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

“Karl Marlantes, author of the excellent What It Is Like To Go To War, cautions his audience to understand the cost to the human psyche in sending others to kill in our names or for policies decided by politicians determined to use (and abuse) the power entrusted to their office.”—Daily Planet

“Karl Marlantes’ What It Is Like to Go to War is a deeply personal account of dealing with his harrowing time as a Marine Corps officer in Vietnam. . . . Marlantes’ fiction might be just too wrenching for some readers to believe.”—Logos

“This absolutely unique and lucid personal account and analysis will be read with profit by scholars, general readers, and most particularly, by veterans of close combat. . . . The author is qualified by experience, education, temperament, and skill as a writer to make penetrating observations. Many are graphic, bold, and shocking. Some are erudite; some are ethereal; all are worthy of careful consideration. . . . His method is to reflect on a point important to him, to illustrate it with an anecdote or a combat experience, and to mull it over in sparkling prose that has the reader hanging on every word. . . . Mastery of our language and the creative use of poetic devices and images make his pronouncements memorable. . . . Marlantes has joined a short list of authors whose experience, sensitivity, and skill enable them to share wisdom with those among us who would understand.”—Parameters

What it is Like to Go to War is already considered by many a modern classic. . . . The former Marine has three main goals in this unflinchingly honest look at what it means to be a soldier in a war: to let potential soldiers understand what to expect, to help veterans better cope with what they’ve experienced, and to help policy makers truly comprehend what it means when they send combat troops into a war zone.”—Bradenton Herald

“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

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.

Customer Reviews

I read it in hard copy and listened to the audio book.
Miriam Sonn Raabe
The book has helped me understand not only what war itself is like, but what it's like when a soldier returns, or tries to return, to civilian life.
Alan Beggerow
Karl Marlantes is also the author of "Matterhorn", an excellent Vietnam War novel very much based upon his personal experiences.
Bruce Trinque

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

412 of 437 people found the following review helpful By George Webster, Ph.D., VINE VOICE on 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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188 of 197 people found the following review helpful By Theoden Humphrey VINE VOICE on 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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101 of 106 people found the following review helpful By James Korsmo VINE VOICE on August 19, 2011
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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