War Canon

Pun intended.

I always like to think about books about certain topics or with common themes that are otherwise quite different (same with music, actually.) Take war, for example. There are tons of war stories, starting from at the very least Antiquities. Say we were to take the best and/or most important literature about war. What would we have to include? What would definitely not belong in the canon?

I have a few starting candidates:
The Iliad: Homer is brilliant (the Lombardo translation is best to bring out the tone, IMHO.) He paints the gritty scene of armies meeting with his extended metaphors and individual match-ups, his account of the back-and-forth of battle. As an added bonus, it’s really, really old, and really, really unique.
All Quiet on the Western Front: The ultimate anti-war novel. This is such a shoe-in, I’m not sure I have anything more to add.
Black Hawk Down (Mark Bowden): This book really isn’t literature, but I think it belongs here anyway. Why? 1) Influence – it actually had a real effect on American attitudes. 2) Detail – no other non-fiction work that I have read contains the level of detail, brought about thanks to the massive amount of resources available to Bowden. 3) Age (or lack thereof) – it’s still very recent.

Obviously, this isn’t even a drop in the bucket. Further, I’m not exactly qualified to make these judgements – but I know lots of Dopers are far more qualified. That brings us to the last question: on what basis should one judge war stories?

The Forgotten Soldier, despite controversy is an excellent read.

Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels pretty much say it all for the Napoleonic period at sea.

I am reading Memoirs and Letters U.S. Grant. Very well written civil war story…

Guns Up! by Johnnie Clark is a great read – even though every cliche’ you ever heard about Vietnam seems to have actually happened to the author.

Are we counting nonfiction? Because if so, we ought to include Sun Tsu’s The Art of War and Caesar’s The Gallic Wars, at the very least. Plus several others in similar veins that I’m not remembering right now.

On the fiction side, Catch-22.

Band of Brothers - Stephen Ambrose

Wonderful suggestions (and I mean that for everyone.) And yes, we are including non-fiction (Black Hawk Down is non-fiction, for one.)

I have to vote for Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo for the greatest anti-war novel ever, though All Quiet has been one of my favorites forever.

If we’re allowed to include books about fictional wars, I’m voting for The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. Even if it isn’t allowed in the official “war canon” it’s still a very thought provoking book.

I’d suggest The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, to this list.

A bit more anecdotal would be one of my favorite WWII books: U-505 by RADM Daniel Gallery. Part autobiographical account, and part meticulously researched view of the U-Boat war I think it works very well on both counts.

I would think no war book list would be complete without Slaughterhouse Five

RIP Kurt.

Clausewitz’s book, On War, available online for free, and there are many annotated versions in print.

Rommel’s papers regarding strategy and tactics were printed in German in 1937. There are several English translations around now. This one seems to be highly rated. It was considered seminal reading at the time, and his insights shaped the German blitzkrieg attacks. I’ve only read bits of it and would love to actually read through the whole thing sometime.

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane.

“The Guns of August” by Barbara Tuchman.

:smack: Should have thought of that one. Obviously classic.

Keep them coming, all!

How about The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer.

I haven’t read it, but A Savage War of Peace by Alistair Horne, about the Algerian War, is considered a classic.

Oh yeah, forgot about this earlier: A Soldier of the Great War, a darn good read, though not concerned exclusively with war.

You’d have to include Xenophon, Herodotus, and Thucydides.

**Bridge on the River Kwai ** and The Guns of Navarone are to me the archetypes of the “commando raid.” Both even have the cliche of having a precise deadline for the demolition.

I own a copy, it’s an excellent book.

This is fiction, but Loyd Little’s Parthian Shot, which unfortunately is out of print, is well worth a search, IMHO. Let’s just say that before I read it I would never have believed that a satiric novel set in the Vietnam War even existed, let alone that it could be so hilarious.