A Warscapes Compilation

Warscapes asked readers to share titles of books evocative of war and conflict that have made a lasting impact on them – works which inherently provide a deeper exploration of peoples and places caught in cycles of violence that run deeper than one can garner from the daily news.

We were grateful for the enthusiastic response from avid readers across the world.

The two most frequently cited titles were:

  1. Dispatches

    by Michael Herr, a visceral and lyrical memoir about the Vietnam war

    Michael Herr



  2. Memory for Forgetfulness

    by Mahmoud Darwish, unique prose-poem sequences that evoke the Israeli invasion of Beirut in 1982.


  3. Homage to Catalonia

    The ShortlistFollowing are additional titles that garnered multiple mentions:by George Orwell (1938) Journalist and novelist George Orwell’s personal account of experiences and reflections during the Spanish Civil War.

  4. Hiroshima

    by John Hersey (1946) Told through the memory of survivors, this is a journalistic account of what happened on the day that the United States dropped an atom bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

  5. Catch-22

    by Joseph Heller (1961) Now celebrating 50 years, this novel follows Captain John Yossarian and several other characters as they navigate bureaucracy, absurdity, injustice and greed during World War II.

  6. Gravity's Rainbow 

    by Thomas Pynchon (1973) A sprawling epic novel about the deployment of V-2 rockets by Nazis during World War II.

  7. Pity the Nation 

    by Robert Fisk (1990) An epic account of the Lebanese civil war and the crisis of Israel and Palestine during the eighties through the eyes of a fearless journalist.

  8. Regeneration Trilogy

    by Pat Barker (1991) A novel based on real-life accounts of British army officers being treated for shell shock during World War I.

    Pat Barker



  9. Black Hawk Down

    by Mark Bowden (1999) An account of the urban battle that raged in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993 between US Special forces and Somali militias headed by warlord Mohammed Farrah Aidid.

  10. My War Gone By, I Miss It So

    by Anthony Loyd (2001) An English journalist’s memoir about his experiences in Bosnia and Chechnya. 

  11. War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning

    by Chris Hedges (2003) Drawing from his experience as a journalist and using references to combat literature, this book offers philosophical insights into war. 

  12.  Half of A Yellow Sun

    by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006) An epic novel about the three-year Biafran civil war experienced through the eyes of Ugwu, a young domestic servant and the wealthy twin sisters, Olanna and Kainene.

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie



  13. War

    by Sebastian Junger (2011) An on-the-ground account of a single platoon on a 15-month tour of duty in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley.


    Sebastian Junger



  14. Murder City

    by Charles Bowden (2011) An account of drug trafficking in the Mexican city of Juarez, and the violence and corruption that it gives rise to. 

  15. History of the World since 9/11

    by Dominic Streatfeild (2011) A journalist interweaves eight narratives to offer an analytical portrait of the war on terror. 

  16. Basetrack One-Eight

    edited by Amy Pereira (2011) A chronicle of the deployment of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment to Helmand province in Afghanistan.

    Karen Rose Blaisure, Tara Saathoff-Wells, Angela Pereira, Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, Amy Laura Dombro



  17. Road of Bones

    by Fegal Keane (2010) A story of the catastrophic battle of Kohima, a remote Indian village by the Burmese border where Indian and British troops fight the Japanese army. 

  18. The Good Soldiers

    by David Finkel (2010) Washington Post journalist chronicles the 15-month deployment of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion in Baghdad during 2007 and 2008.

    David Finkel



  19. Matterhorn

    by Karl Marlantes (2010) A novel about a young Lieutenant and his Bravo Company who are dropped rinto the middle of the Vietnam War.

  20. The Weight of a Mustard Seed

    by Wendell Steavenson (2009) A narrative reconstruction of the life of Iraqi General Kamel Sachet in an attempt to understand the workings of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

  21. All Things Must Fight to Live

    by Bryan Mealer (2008) A journalist’s account of the brutal history of war, violence, rape and massacre in the Congo.  

  22. Forever War

    by Dexter Filkins (2008) A foreign correspondent composes rich vignettes based on his experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Dexter Filkins



  23. This Republic of Suffering

    by Drew Gilpin Faust (2008) An historical study, which attempts to understand the effects of the carnage caused by the American civil war.

  24. Gangs, Politics and Dignity in Cape Town

    by Steffen Jensen (2008) A study of a single township in Cape Town, South Africa, the ongoing legacy of apartheid and the crime, violence and gang politics that emerges from this environment

  25. The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War

    by David Halberstam (2007) Published posthumously, this is an analytical account of the Korean War and also focuses on the politics of USA, USSR, China, North and South Korea at the time.  

  26. A Long Way Gone

    by Ishmael Beah (2007) A memoir about a young boy from Sierra Leone who gets swept up as a child soldier in the country’s long civil war.  

  27. Song For Night

    by Chris Abani (2007) A Nigerian author’s novel about a young boy’s journey through a brutal West African war.

  28. Not a Good Day to Die

    by Sean Naylor (2006) An embedded journalist’s account of the 101st Airborne Division troops who fought a difficult battle against Al-Qaeda.  

  29. Imperial Life in the Emerald City

    by Rajiv Chandrasekaran (2006) An account of the luxurious life inside Baghdad’s Green Zone which was the headquarters of the American occupation of Iraq. 

  30. This is our War: A Soldier’s Portfolio

    by Devin Friedman (2006). A presentation of 256 photos American soldiers in Iraq that offers a view of the war from their perspective.  

  31. A Long, Long Way

    by Sebastian Barry (2005). Young Irish protagonist William Dunne leaves his family to enlist as a soldier and experiences the horrors of World War I. 

    Sebastian Barry



  32. The March

    by E.L Doctorow (2005) An historical novel set during the end of the American Civil War narrated through a diverse cast of characters that is caught in the violence. 

    E.L. Doctorow



  33. War Trash

    by Ha Jin (2004). A novel about the experiences of Chinese prisoners of war held by Americans during the Korean War through the eyes of Yu Yuan, a young Chinese army officer.

    Ha Jin



  34. Shake Hands with the Devil

    by Romeo A. Dallaire (2003) A chronicle of Dallaire’s several months as a Force Commander of UN Assistance Mission to Rwanda where he witnessed the genocide.

  35. Sarajevo Marlboro

    by Miljenko Jergovic (2004)  A debut collection of short stories about Sarajevo during the war. 

    Miljenko Jergovic



  36. The Bullet Collection

    by Patricia Sarafian Ward (2003) A novel about the adolescence of two sisters set in war-torn Beirut during the Lebanese civil war.

    Patricia Sarrafian Ward



  37. Berlin: The Downfall 1945

    by Antony Beevor (2002) A narrative history of the Battle of Berlin in 1945 and the defeat of the German army which ended World War II. 

  38. Landscapes of War

    by Juan Goytisolo (2001) Prolific Spanish novelist explores the relationship between the West and Islam with impressionistic and subjective reportage pieces from Sarajevo, Algeria, West Bank, Gaza and Chechnya. 

  39. Wolf Dreams

    by Yasmina Khadra (1999) A novel about civil war in nineties Algeria by the notorious author who writes under a female pen name. 

    Yasmina Khadra


  40. The Yellow Wind

    by David Grossman (1998) The Israeli novelist’s account of his observations from West Bank in 1987 and the plights of the occupier and the occupied in the Israel-Palestine territories. 

  41. The Rape of Nanking

    by Isis Chang (1997)A non-fiction account of the massacre and atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army in Nanking, China during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

  42. Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life

    by Jon Lee Anderson (1997) An epic biography of Che’s extraordinary life.

  43. Massacre at El Mozote

    by Mark Danner (1994) A reconstruction of the events in El Mazote in El Salvador where a group of American-trained Salvadoran soldiers brutally massacred hundreds of villagers.

  44. Birdsong

    by Sebastian Faulks (1993) Part of a trilogy, this novel charts the life of Stephen Wraysford as it runs parallel to the history of World War I.

  45. The English Patient

    by Michael Ondaatje (1992) Set during World War II, this novel uses a non-linear narrative style to tell the stories of a burned Hungarian man, his Canadian nurse, a Canadian-Italian thief, and an Indian engineer of the British Army. 

    Michael Ondaatje



  46. Sarajevo Blues

    by Semezdin Mehmedinovic (1992) A collections of stories poems about Sarajevo during the war.

    Semezdin Mehmedinovic



  47. Things They Carried

    by Tim O'Brien (1990) A collection of related stories about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War.

  48. The Story of Zahra

    by Hanan al-Shaykh (1986) A feminist novel about an anti-heroine Zahra who struggles as a misfit in Lebanese society, and comes of age during the civil war.

  49. Diary of the Cuban Revolution

    by Carlos Franqui (1982) A collection of letters, interviews and reflections about the Cuban revolution of 1959 complied by a true insider.  

  50. A Midnight Clear

    by William Wharton (1982) Set in 1944, this is the story of Sergeant Will Knott and five other GIs who establish an observation post in an abandoned chateau close to the German lines.

  51. Third World War: The Untold Story by John Hackett

    by John Hackett (1982) A novel about a war breaking out between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces. 

  52. Waiting for the Barbarians

    by J. M Coetzee (1980) An allegorical novel about an Empire and a tiny frontier settlement told through the eyes of a loyal Magistrate who is complicit in the violence of the oppressors.

  53. No-no Boy

    by John Okada (1979). A novel about the aftermath of Japanese American internment during World War II that heralded a Japanese-American literature. 

  54. Dusklands

    by J.M Coetzee (1974)The Nobel laureate’s first novel comprising two narratives, one about the Vietnam war and the other about a colonial hunting expedition.

    J. M. Coetzee


  55. Tamas

    by Bhisham Sahni (1974) An epic novel about the Partition of India in 1947.

    Bhisham Sahni



  56. The Best and the Brightest

    by David Halberstam (1972) This book focuses on the foreign policy decisions that led to the war in Vietnam.

    David Halberstam



  57. Stillwell and The American Experience in China

    by Barbara W. Tuchman (1972) A history of China from 1911 to World War II through the story of Joseph Stillwell, the military attaché to China from 1935-39.

  58. The Aubrey/Maturin Novels series

    by Patrick OBrian (1969-2004) A series of 20 nautical novels centered around naval officer Jack Aubrey during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. 

  59. Children of the New World

    by Assia Djebar (1962) A novel about the Algerian fight for independence against the French told through the interlocking narratives of different women in a small village.

  60. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

    by William L. Shirer (1960) A comprehensive and masterful historical study of the rise of the Third Reich and the advent of Adolf Hitler. 

  61. The Longest Day

    by Cornelius Ryan (1959) A narrative account of D-Day, the first day of the World War II invasion of Normandy, this work brings together accounts from diaries, reports as well as official records.

  62. Life and Fate

    by Vasily Grossman (1959) A novel about the Battle of Stalingrad that is critical of Stalinism.

  63. On the Beach

    by Nevil Shute (1957) A post-apocalyptic novel about the end of the world due to nuclear war set in Australia in 1963. 

    Nevil Shute



  64. Eastern Approaches

    by Fitzroy MacLean (1949) An autobiography of Maclean’s travels as a diplomat through the ex-USSR, Central Asia, North Africa and ex-Yugoslavia.

  65. The Fugitive

    by Prameodya Ananta Toer (1947) A novel by prolific Indonesian novelist written in Dutch labor camp about a young nationalist soldier who is betrayed by a fellow officer.

    Pramoedya Ananta Toer


  66. Johnny Got His Gun

    by Dalton Trumbo (1938) An anti-war novel about a young soldier Joe who wakes up disabled from having fought in World War I and reflects on the myths and realities of war.

    Dalton Trumbo, E. L. Doctorow



  67. Testament of Youth

    by Vera Brittain (1933) A memoir focusing on the impact of World War I on the lives women and middle class civilians in Great Britain.

  68. All Quiet on the Western Front

    by Erich Remarque (1929) This is a novel about the physical and mental strain experienced by German soldiers during World War I. 

    Erich Maria Remarque



  69. War Against War

    by Ernst Friedrich (1924) This is a biographic sketch of Friedrich, a socialist who refused to serve in World War I and also contains a collection of gruesome photographs that reflect the reality of war. 

  70. Storm of Steel

    by Ernst Jünger (1920) A memoir of Jünger’s experiences as an officer on the Western front during World War I.

  71. Specimen Days and Collect

    by Walt Whitman (1882) Prolific American poet’s intimate observations and reflections on the Civil War era and its aftermath.

  72. War and Peace

    by Leo Tolstoy (1869) A epic novel about five aristocratic families leading up to the French invasion of Russia and the Napoleonic wars. 

  73. The Mahabharata

    (circa 3rd century BC) An Indian epic written in Sanskrit charts the dynastic struggle for the throne of Hastinapura. Internecine conflicts turn into a long and bloody war between family members. The Hindu holy book, The Bhagvad Gita is narrated by Krishna during this war.

    Warscapes weighs in...

    Advisory Board member Dinaw Mengestu focused on non-fiction titles which, he says, "I've found myself returning to during my own reporting." Mengestu picked three by Jean Hatzfield, a french journalist who has produced an astonishing range of work on Rwanda. He went there to report on the genocide in 1994 and eventually left his daily reporting job to focus solely on researching the region and the genocide's impact.

    Mengestu's recommendations include:

  74. Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak

    by Jean Hatzfield.

  75. The Antelope’s Strategy: Living in Rwanda after the Genocide

    by Jean Hatzfield.

  76. Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak

    by Jean Hatzfield.

  77. Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War

    by Mark Danner (2009). A seasoned journalist explores the consequences of American engagement with the world.

  78. In the Footsteps of Dr. Kurtz

    by Michela Wrong (2002) An historical account of the rise and fall of Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

  79. The Teeth May Smile But the Heart Does Not Forget

    by Andrew Rice (2009) A journalist follows tribunals and truth commissions in Uganda seeking justice and catharsis in the aftermath of dictator Idi Amin.

  80. Salvador

    by Joan Didion (1994) A focus on El Salvador in 1982, at the height of a brutal civil war.

    Advisory board member Irene Staunton chose books that "made an indelible impression, though each was read many years ago." Staunton explains that, "What perhaps they have in common in very very different ways, are the secrecy and silences that are bred of fear, of shame, and of the need to protect future generations from the worst horrors."

    Joan Didion



  81. The First Polka

    by Horst Bienek (1978) A novel about a family of Polish and German origin in Silesia just before the outbreak of World War II.

  82. Alone in Berlin

    by Hans Fallada (1947) A novel based on the true story of a couple who committed acts of civil disobedience in Berlin during World War II. 

    Hans Fallada



  83. A Thousand Splendid Suns

    by Khaled Hosseini (2007) The story of two Afghan women spanning the 1960s until 2003.

    Warscapes Editors Bhakti Shringarpure & Michael Bronner chose novels, poems and non-fiction that mainly drew on conflicts from the last fifty years.

    Novelist (and Advisory Board member) Nuruddin Farah's entire oeuvre is dedicated to exploring violence in his native Somalia from the dictatorship of Siad Barre until the ongoing civil war. An author of three trilogies and multiple other novels and essays, these titles offer a mere sampling

  84. Sweet and Sour Milk 

    (1980) is about a man's investigation of his twin's violent death in an atmosphere of political tyranny.

  85. Secrets 

    (1998) about the protagonist Kalaman whose search for his identity becomes a metaphor for the civil war.

    Nuruddin Farah


  86. Links 

    (2005) is about Jeebleh who returns to war-torn Mogadishu to reconcile his past.

    Nuruddin Farah



  87. Allah is not Obliged

    by Ahmadou Kourouma (2002) A fictional memoir narrated by an unlikeable, ironic, nonchalant and bloodthirsty child soldier.

    Ahmadou Kourouma



  88. State of Siege

    by Juan Goytisolo (1995) A labyrinthine, postmodern novel about the siege of Sarajevo.

    Juan Goytisolo



  89. Sitt Marie Rose

    by Etel Adnan (1978) Seven narrators reveal the true story of Marie Rose Boulous who was abducted and executed by Christian militias during the Lebanese civil war. 

    Etel Adnan



  90. A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam

    by Neil Sheehan (1988) A reporter’s emersion in the passion and folly of the Vietnam War.

  91. Winners And Losers: Battles, Retreats, Gains, Losses, And Ruins From The Vietnam War

    by Gloria Emerson (1972) Home from Vietnam, where she covered the war for The New York Times, Emerson’s withering dispatch from the US on the war’s lasting impact.

  92. Autumn of the Patriarch 

    by Gabriel Garcia Márquez (1975) The writer’s impressionistic chronicle of an eternal dictator, based on real-life Caribbean tyrants and the atrocities “necessary” to keep them in power.

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez



  93. Beneath the Lion's Gaze

    by Maaza Mengiste (2011) A novel about a family caught in the violence of the military coup of 1974 which overthrew the regime of Haile Selassie. 

  94. The World's Embrace 

    by Abdellatif Laabi (1993) A collection of poems about Laabi's experience with imprisonment, torture and inhumanity during the regime of Hasan II in Morocco.

    Abdellatif Laabi, Victor Reinking, Anne George, Edris Makward



  95. The Wretched of the Earth

    by Frantz Fanon (1961) Dictated to his wife in a feverish three weeks before he died, this is a prophetic book about colonialism, revolution and violence.

  96. Spain in our Hearts

    by Pablo Neruda (1938) Horrified by the civil war and the murder of his friend, Federico García Lorca, this is Neruda’s most politically passionate series of poems.

  97. The Quiet American

    by Graham Greene (1955) The quintessential anti-war novel based on Greene's experiences as a war correspondent in French Indochina from 1951-1954, foreshadowing the American disaster in Vietnam.

  98. Spain, Take this Chalice from Me

    by César Vallejo (1939) The Peruvian poet’s feverishly written collection from 1937, completed in the wake of his last visit to Spain amid the horror of the civil war.

  99. Journal, 1955-1962, Reflections on the French-Algerian War

    by Mouloud Feraoun (2000) Posthumously published journal about the daily life of people caught in a savage war. 

  100. Petals of Blood

    by Ngugi wa thiong'o (1977) A novel about four characters caught in the midst of the Mau Mau rebellion from Kenya's most prolific novelist. 

    Ngugi wa Thiong'o



  101. Victims of a Map

    by Adonis, Mahmoud Darwish and Samih Al-Qasim (2008) A haunting collection of poems from three of the greatest poets of the Arabic language. 

    Adonis, Mahmud Darwish, Samih al-Qasim