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The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education Hardcover – February 19, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 262 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Young Captain Mullaney’s admirable, literate autobiography, that of a veteran of combat in Afghanistan, adds much to knowledge of the modern army and makes a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate over what a “warrior” is these days. Mullaney wryly recounts his years at West Point and as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, then writes eloquently of infantry combat and the persistent burden of guilt for not bringing all his men home even as he makes his account a tribute to his fellow warriors. He concludes with sidelights on his teaching post at the U.S. Naval Academy and the moving story of his younger brother’s graduation from West Point and subsequent passage into the ranks of the warriors himself. Almost impossible to put down for anyone interested in the modern U.S. Army or in modern warfare in general. --Roland Green


Advance Praise for The Unforgiving Minute

“Keenly intelligent war memoir whose central question is, “What is a man?”’… A philosophically ambitious account of coming to adulthood.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Craig Mullaney has lived every kind of American life—he has been a working- man’s son, a prize scholar, a soldier—and what’s come out of it is a classic memoir about what it means to be American. By marching so many terrains, he has covered the subjects central to every life: courage, pain, loyalty, honor, friendship, love and the tests any good life faces, year by year, minute by minute. He has also produced a page-turner, a brutally honest account of West Point life, the innocence-abandoned experiences of an American abroad at Oxford, and ultimately an indelible story of life and death on the battlefield. In words his squadmates might recognize, I recommend The Unforgiving Minute without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.”
—David Lipsky, contributing editor to Rolling Stone Magazine and author of the New York Times bestseller Absolutely American

The Unforgiving Minute is the ultimate's soldier's book—universal in its raw emotion and its understanding of the larger issues of life and death. Mullaney, a master storyteller, plunges the depths of self-doubt, endurance, and courage. The result: a riveting, suspenseful human story, beautifully told. This is a book written under fire—a lyrical, spellbinding tale of war, love, and courage. The Unforgiving Minute is the Three Cups of Tea of soldiering.”
—Ahmed Rashid, author of the New York Times bestseller Taliban and Descent into Chaos

“Mullaney writes a great story—a true privilege to read. Entertaining, balanced, and graceful, The Unforgiving Minute is a powerful narrative of purpose, responsibility, courage, and personal growth. Every young man and woman in America should read this book, and aspire to his standard of public service.”
—General Wesley Clark, USA (Ret.)

“The Unforgiving Minute is one of the most compelling memoirs yet to emerge from America’s 9/11 era. Craig Mullaney has given us an unusually honest, funny, accessible, and vivid account of a soldier’s coming of age. This is more than a soldier’s story; it is a work of literature.”
—Steve Coll, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars and The Bin Ladens

The Unforgiving Minute is the poignant true story of a young man’s unusual education from the classrooms of West Point and Oxford to his development as a leader, son, brother, husband and friend. In this powerful book, we share in the remarkable experiences of a Rhodes Scholar, and the heartache and pride of a soldier. I admire Craig Mullaney’s courage, and thank him for his service.”
—Senator Richard Lugar, former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

“Craig Mullaney is an exemplar of the next great generation of Americans, those who are serving and sacrificing on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is a compelling, can’t-put-down book, a well-written, memorable description of preparing for war and leading in combat.”
—Joe Klein, Time Magazine political columnist and author of New York Times bestseller Primary Colors

“No matter how many books you have read about the rigors of basic training and the terrors of war, you should read this one. Mullaney's keen eye for detail, lively narrative style, and capacity for self-reflection—unusual in many soldiers—make an old story new and gripping.”
—Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University

“Craig Mullaney adds his name to the very few among of us who have the intelligence, sensitivity and skill to share the unforgiving sadness and the unparalleled joy of leading men and women in combat. The Unforgiving Minute should be required reading for all who serve in the White House and Congress and for those who aspire to leadership. Read it. Twice.”
—Paul Bucha, West Point Class of 1965, Medal of Honor recipient and past president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society

“Craig Mullaney puts the reader in the muddy boots of a combat leader as he marches a path from West Point to Afghanistan and back again. Weaving action and reflection, The Unforgiving Minute is fast-paced, entertaining, and rich with insight and wisdom. A great debut from a leader to watch.”
—General Barry McCaffrey, USA (Ret.)

“Intimate and evocative in the tradition of the best coming-of-age memoirs, The Unforgiving Minute accurately captures what it is to prepare for the ultimate responsibility of leading soldiers in war, a demand as much intellectual as physical, as much about compassion as discipline. By turns thoughtful, hilarious, gut-wrenching, and inspiring, The Unforgiving Minute is as gripping and addictive as it is perceptive and honest.”
—Lieutenant General F.L. Hagenbeck, U.S. Army

"Craig Mullaney has served his country twice: first by leading his men at war, and now by remembering. He has done both with skill and honor. Mullaney's memoir is the thinking soldier’s guide to modern combat, told with a novelist's eye for detail and a philosopher's penchant for perspective. It is a story well worth reading."
—Bill Murphy Jr., author of IN A TIME OF WAR: The Proud & Perilous Journey of West Point's Class of 2002

“No one describes more clearly how a boy becomes a man than Craig Mullaney in this masterpiece of self-awareness. No American can read this book and ever again forget what we owe to others for giving to us a society filled with so many choices that we have the freedom to make for ourselves.”
—David L. Boren, former U.S. Senator and longest serving chairman of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee

“An honest account of the closeness and the distance between a father and a son and the highs and lows of military life. A heart-breaking account of what it is like to be responsible for the life and death of America's most precious asset: the Combat Warrior. A must read for all combat leaders.”
—Lieutenant General Ronald Coleman, U.S. Marine Corps

"The Unforgiving Minute tells the story of a fiercely passionate young man and provides important insight into a new greatest generation—his comrades in arms who serve in a time of war. Read this book to get a sense of their courage and sacrifice."
—Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl, USA (Ret.), author of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife

The Unforgiving Minute is a literate and thoughtful memoir that is a valuable contribution to both the genre and to our understanding of contemporary conflict.”
—Andrew Exum, author of This Man's Army

The Unforgiving Minute is a wonderful, beautifully written story of the education and development of a young soldier-scholar, the coming of age of an infantry officer, and the exercise of a small unit leader's responsibilities in a tough, complex, and frustrating situation in Afghanistan. It captures particularly eloquently and movingly the relationships among those who walk point for our nation as part of that most elite of fraternities, the brotherhood of the close fight.
General Petraeus

“A poignant and evocative book about the great hurdles in coming of age: love, death, belief, and betrayal…I couldn’t stop reading.”
—Nathaniel Fick, author of The New York Times bestseller One Bullet Away

“Craig Mullaney’s memoir is a story of our time, from West Point to combat in Afghanistan and back. A thousand years from now, historians wanting to know about life in America after 9/11 would do well to look at this book. Equally important, it is an enjoyable and honest book. Read it.”
—Thomas E. Ricks, author of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, and senior military correspondent for The Washington Post,

“The young Army officer at the center of this tale provides a searing and honest account, full of small victories, significant losses, and eventually the greatest of all triumphs: self-awareness and understanding. This is a marvelous read, full of life lessons on every page, written in a modest and unflinching style—a classic memoir.”
—Admiral James Stavridis, Commander, U.S. Southern Command

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; 1st edition (February 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594202028
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594202025
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (262 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #506,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Unforgiving Minute is a spectacularly written, extremely accurate depiction of the life of a US Army Officer involved in the Global War on Terror. As a member of the West Point class of 2000, I've shared many experiences with Craig. These include not only our time at West Point, but also time that I spent at the same locations in Afghanistan a year after Craig. His accuracy and presentation are astounding, and the challenges he faces are real.

Beginning with his time as a cadet, Craig takes us through his 4 years at West Point, his time in Ranger school, and his attendance at Oxford as a Rhode's Scholar. He takes us on a journey of developing relationships with his soldiers, and then testing and growing those relationships on the battlefields of Afghanistan. The struggles that he details are something that all Army leaders deal with, but few can put to paper as well as Craig has.

In addition to all that, this book is a love story and a story of family hardships. This book is truly a page turner that I recommend to anyone. "The Unforgiving Minute" is an instant classic that I will read over and over again.
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This is the life story of West Point graduate... Rhodes Scholar... Afghanistan veteran... Craig Mullaney... who also believe it or not... wound up teaching at the Naval Academy. The author takes you from his childhood which included great admiration for his hard working Father, to an in depth look at life for a plebe at the hallowed grounds of West Point. It's invigorating for the reader as Craig describes the demanding goals that are set so high for our future leaders... both physically... and academically. The smallest detail is never small enough to be overlooked. A tiny... seemingly insignificant detail now... can save a life on the battlefield. One of the most enjoyable parts of this literary journey are the quotations that are peppered throughout the story. They range from Plato: "ONLY THE DEAD HAD SEEN THE END OF WAR." to "WHO SEEKS PEACE MUST PREPARE FOR WAR."

After West Point Craig wins a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, and in my opinion this is the one part of the book that loses a little traction. After completing his Oxford education the author enters Ranger School... and during this portion of his training it is literally impossible not to be in absolute awe of these future leaders of America. As an honorably discharged Viet Nam era veteran, I am amazed at the capability to push both the body... and the mind... past any logically accepted limits... and to have the inner strength and fortitude... to push both of them together in harmony. Another laudable character trait constantly displayed by the author throughout this story... is the fact that he... openly shares his fears... doubts... and uncertainties... with the reader. A sterling example of this is when he asks a war veteran: "HOW DO YOU KNOW HOW YOU'LL HANDLE COMBAT?" "YOU WON'T HE RESPONDED.
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Format: Hardcover
I live in Berkeley, CA, and like most of the population here, am as far to the left politically as it is possible to get. I have always had a negative view of the military in general and in particular, of the kind of person who would volunteer for it. It has seemed to me to be the sort of thing men (and to a lesser extent women) do who want to have power over others, and who need to feel superior to others. Needless to say, news from Abu Ghraib did nothing to change my perception of this.

Mullaney's story, however, has changed my mind. His sense of integrity, honor, and humility, along with others he served with, comes across so clearly in his writing, that I have had to re-evaluate my beliefs about military culture. He is the kind of person I would actually trust to carry a gun, and to represent the U.S. in other countries. I can only assume that he would not love the army so much unless it was filled with other people holding values similar to his. He wrote in the Author''s Note that he hoped his book would help America better understand its military. He has done that for me, and I believe many like me will feel the same.

I recommend this book to every American--to those who love the military, and especially to those who think they hate it.
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Format: Hardcover
Mullaney's book is moderately well-written but fails to deliver. I salute his service, but as an Iraq war vet, I am very disappointed by his lack of leadership, and I am equally disappointed with the book. As such, it is probably good that Mullaney decided to leave the Army when his contract was up.

The author boasts his blue-collar, Irish-Catholic upbringing, but as and adult he completely disrepsects and literally turns his back on his hard-working father, whom he can't bring himself to forgive for his parent's divorce. When writing about one of his men who was killed in combat, Mullaney devotes several pages focused on his feelings, which is fine as one of the book's themes, but it leaves the (correct) impression that Mullaney is way too into himself to be a good military leader. For example, in true narcissistic fashion, he couldn't even bring himself to respond to a touching letter written by the dead soldier's dad. What kind of leadership is that? Then, after his return from Afghanistan, he visits the dead soldier's grave, but can't overcome his own self-absorbed emotions to pay a visit to the kid's dad. Maybe he has a problem with father figures. Ironically, in the end, Mullaney "forgives" himself for the death of a soldier, but never forgives his own dad for the divorce.

I'm sure Mullaney is a bright guy, but what comes across is a very shallow intellectualism. Two stars is the most I can recommend. Save your money.
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