The Vietnam War is one of the most controversial wars in history. This war serves as a reminder that war should never be used to solve political/ideological differences and should only be used when needed for national security.
This war also reminds us how the politicians do not have the right to wage war carelessly without thinking about who will be sent out to fight on their behalf.
Since this is one of the most controversial wars in history, numerous books have been written about it. Here are some of the best Vietnam War books ever written.
List of Top 35 Best Vietnam War Books
Originally published: April 10, 2020
Undaunted Valor is an award-winning book by Matt Jackson. It features a well-written introduction about the Medal of Honor, its recipients and the Vietnam War.
The author tells the story of his father, Captain Humbert Roque “Rocky” Versace who received the Medal of Honor in 1966 for rescuing members of his platoon and also fighting the enemy despite being wounded.
The action leading to this medal took place at Hill 192 in South Vietnam. After Versace was wounded, he refused to be evacuated so that he could continue treating his soldiers and led a successful counterattack against the North Vietnamese Army.
This book is an excellent read for war history buffs who want to learn more about war heroes and the Medal of Honor.
Originally published: October 20, 1992
This book is written by a retired United States Army Lieutenant General and another veteran of the war. This book describes how they got involved in this war and what they went through to complete their missions.
We Were Soldiers Once … and Young: Ia Drang – The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam by Hal Moore and Joseph L. Galloway shares some insights from this war both from the perspective of the leaders and soldiers. It is a good book if you want to read about how it feels like to be at war.
Originally published: March 28, 1990
This novel describes the feelings, emotions, and experiences of young American men while they were involved in this war. This book consists of a collection of stories that are connected to each other by transition paragraphs. The Things They Carried is written from the soldier’s point of view, so readers will not only learn about the war but will also feel how it feels like to actually be there in Vietnam.
The entire novel can be considered as one big metaphor that shows the relationship between fiction and reality. It is not only a very good book for those who are interested in war stories but also for people who just want to read a good story.
Originally published: 1987
The Sorrow of War is the first and probably the best novel to come out of the Vietnam War. It is a memoir about a North Vietnamese soldier recalling his days in the war.
This book poses serious questions regarding life and death, love and hatred, loyalty and betrayal, loss and pain, guilt and denial, etc. This book captures all the feelings and emotions of the soldiers who fought in the war. It also provides a glimpse into the life of people living under communist rule and how they were brainwashed into believing that they were all doing something heroic.
This book is a must-read for people who want to understand why this war took place and how it affected many lives including those of the Vietnamese people.
Originally published: 1977
“Dispatches ” is a collection of war stories by Michael Herr, who was sent to Vietnam during the war and worked as a correspondent for Esquire magazine.
This book gives an insight into what it is like to be in a war. It also gives readers a chance to feel the raw power of the images and experiences that come from a war.
It’s a very interesting book that is full of fascinating stories and anecdotes from the Vietnam War.
6. A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam Book by Neil Sheehan
Originally published: 1988
John Paul Vann was one of the most significant Americans in this war. This book tells two stories which are about John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. The author, Neil Sheehan, is a Pulitzer-winning journalist who covered the Vietnam War.
This book won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 1989 which goes to show that this is one of the best Vietnam War books ever written.
The book tells two stories, one about John Paul Vann and his role in the war and another about America’s role in the war.
7. Matterhorn Novel by Karl Marlantes
Originally published: May 2009
Karl Marlantes served in Vietnam in the 1970s, and this book is based on his experiences. Matteratterhorn is a fiction book that addresses the most significant issues in the war including violence, fear, courage, camaraderie, and many more.
Matteratterhorn was recognized as one of the best books of 2010 by numerous sources including The New York Times Book Review and The Washington Post.
8. The Best and the Brightest Book by David Halberstam
Originally published: 1972
When it comes to great war books, this book definitely deserves a place on this list of best Vietnam War books. This book was written 10 years after the end of the war and shows how politicians can make terrible mistakes when it comes to waging war.
This book is in-depth, narrows in on details, and exposes how very intelligent people can do something that is stupid. The Best And The Brightest shows why it is important for politicians to think before using military force or making war decisions.
9. Fields of Fire Novel by Jim Webb
Originally published: 1978
Fields of Fire is a novel about the Marine Corps’ 3rd tour in Vietnam. This story tells how the war was fought on different fronts and from different perspectives.
This book also describes how the US marines fight to keep their honor as they bond with the Vietnamese people who are risking their lives to show honest friendship despite being at war with each other.
10. Chickenhawk Book by Robert Mason
Originally published: August 1983
This book is a great read for those who want to learn about the real Vietnam War.
Seasoned pilots from the US were being sent to war in places they had not even heard of. They were expected to take care of everything on their own as the army was relying exclusively on air support. From supplies to evacuation, everything was done by the pilots and they were expected to be experts in everything.
This was very difficult for the pilots as they had to deal with inexperienced officers who did not know anything about war on top of that, which made their job even harder.
11. Fire in the Lake Book by Frances FitzGerald
Originally published: 1972
When this book was first published, it became an instant classic of literature written about the Vietnam War. This book has received numerous awards since its release including the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1972.
This book is comprehensive and thorough because it provides a clear picture of America’s involvement with Vietnam starting from 1945 up until 1972 which includes numerous perspectives of people involved with the war.
12. If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Ship Me Home Book by Tim O’Brien
Originally published: 1973
This is one of the best Vietnam War books written about Tim O’Brien’s experience in the Vietnam War.
After serving for ten years, he volunteered to serve in Vietnam. While his book speaks about many things including war memories, it also speaks of the most beautiful love story ever told.
It would be difficult to find a more touching story than the love story told in this book.
13. The Short-Timers Novel by Gustav Hasford
Originally published: 1979
The Short-Timers is a 1979 novel by Gustav Hasford. This book was later used as a basis for the movie Full Metal Jacket. To this day, it continues to be hailed as one of the best war movies ever made.
Soldiers are trained to fight in Vietnam using brainwashing techniques that test their mental strength and character until they are broken down and rebuilt in a proper war machine.
14. The Quiet American Novel by Graham Greene
Originally published: 1955
‘The Quiet American’ novel by Graham Greene, which was first published in 1955, is considered to be one of the best Vietnam War novels ever written. The book explores the personal and political conflicts between Thomas Fowler (British journalist), Alden Pyle (American foreign aid worker), and Phuong (widow of a Vietnamese nationalist) after the death of her nationalist husband.
The book was written as a criticism against America’s attempt to spread its influence throughout the world, and Pyle is portrayed as representing American involvement in Vietnam. The novel has been turned into two films ‘The Quiet American'(1958) and ‘The Quiet American’ (2002).
15. Vietnam Book by Stanley Karnow
Originally published: 1983
Stanley Karnow’s Vietnam book is one of the most exhaustive books on the Vietnam War. The book covers different aspects of the warlike its impact on American society, people who fought (including their stories), and how they were treated when they returned home.
16. The Sympathizer Novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Originally published: April 2, 2015
This book is about a communist spy during the Vietnam War. The author of this book received the Pulitzer Prize for his remarkable story.
This War book is a great source that reflects the history of Vietnam from a communist point of view.
This book tells the story of how a North Vietnamese spy infiltrated South Vietnam and worked as an undercover agent for the Viet Cong. This book also illustrates the life of one Vietnamese man who was torn between two countries which were fighting each other.
17. Killing Zone Can Book by Frederick Downs
Originally published: 1978
This book is a personal journey and memoir of the author. Here Frederick Downs talks about his experience as an army officer for more than two decades participating in wars or conflicts like World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
Frederick Downs also talks about principles and concepts such as duty and honor which were important to him during his military service. He also talks about how this war affected him and his fellow friends and co-combatants.
Frederick Downs also shows the reader the reality of war, such as killing on both sides, and how soldiers had to deal with such situations emotionally or psychologically. This book is a must-read for everyone who would like to learn more about the Vietnam War.
18. Close Quarters Book by Larry Heinemann
Originally published: 1974
This book was written in the early 1970s. This book focuses more on the soldiers who fought in Vietnam. Most wars are not about politics, ideologies, or trying to change the future, but they are always about people and this is what this book reminds us of.
There are numerous interviews with the soldiers in this book. You will learn how these men lived, fought, and died in Vietnam.
19. Marine Sniper: 93 Confirmed Kills Book by Charles W. Henderson
Originally published: 1986
Charles Henderson served as a Marine in the Vietnam War. In this book, he describes some of his experiences during the war and how he managed to become one of the best snipers in Vietnam.
Charles provides some valuable lessons from his experiences about what makes a good sniper and how a true professional should behave while fighting on a battlefield.
Charles provides a look at the Vietnam War through the eyes of one of the best snipers ever to serve in it.
20. Across the Fence: The Secret War in Vietnam Book by John Stryker Meyer
Originally published: 2003
This book revolves around the war between the United States Army and Vietcong. The author was an infantry lieutenant in the Vietnam War. This book contains some accurate details about the war, especially about what it is like for soldiers fighting this war.
Many readers believe that this is one of the best books ever written on the Vietnam War because of its accuracy, especially in terms of equipment and weapons used. Some readers say that the book is not only accurate but also one of the most thrilling war books they have read.
21. In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam Book by Brian VanDeMark and Robert McNamara
Originally published: 1995
The New York Times # 1 Best Seller list for over a year. The book tells the story of Robert McNamara as he tries to find out what happened in Vietnam and why it all went wrong after the war was over. Besides, the author also talks about his regrets as well as those of other people who were involved in this decision-making.
22. The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A Memoir of Friendship, Loyalty, and War Book by Chick Donohue and J. T. Molloy
Originally published: May 2, 2017
The Great Beer Run is one of the best Vietnam War books ever written. It describes war without violence. This book follows two friends who enjoyed partying in their service days in Vietnam, and they were given an order to go out for a beer! The men went on a daring mission behind enemy lines, where they risked their lives to get Italian lager beer for the troops. This book tells a story of friendship and loyalty, which is a great read for anybody.
23. Home Before Morning Book by Lynda Van Devanter
Originally published: 1983
The True Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam is a compelling memoir by Lynda Van Devanter, who served as an army nurse during the Tet Offensive. “Van Devanter’s riveting work offers unparalleled insights into the experience of women in combat and illuminates the deep impact war has on those who serve as well as their families.” Van Devanter’s work has been described as “a ‘must read’ for those who want to understand what really happens to women in war and those who love them.”
24. What It Is Like To Go To War Book by Karl Marlantes
Originally published: 2011
Karl Marlantes served in Vietnam and this book is written with the intention of letting people know what it is like to go to war. This book serves as a reminder that wars are not fought by machines but are actually being fought by young men walking on two legs.
What makes Karl’s work so special is the fact that he does not have the intention of glorifying war, but instead he offers a realistic portrayal of what it is like to be a soldier.
25. Thirteenth Valley Book by John M. Del Vecchio
Originally published: 1982
In this book, John M. Del Vecchio tells a story from the perspective of soldiers fighting in Vietnam which is based on true events. This book reminds us how war turns our heroes into victims and exposes the ugly truth about it.
This best Vietnam War Book is so popular that Hollywood turned it into a movie back in 1982 starring Mark Harmon as Captain Harris and Michael O’Keefe as Calley.
26. The Girl in the Picture Book by Denise Chong
Originally published: 1999
The Girl in the Picture is a novel about Kim Phuc and how her life was in the Vietnam War. Kim Phuc in this book serves as an innocent victim of the war because she could not escape from the napalm bombing that burned off her clothes. This story shows us why wars should never be fought by innocent participants, but only against combatants, and should never be used to settle political differences.
27. Dirty Work Novel by Larry Brown
Originally published: 1989
This is a novel about American soldiers in Vietnam who are trying to survive the war by killing Viet Cong. Larry Brown tells his story in short chapters and with an interesting style of writing.
The book has received positive reviews from both critics and readers. This is one of the best Vietnam War books written on Vietnam mercenaries who do their dirty work in a foreign land.
This is a perfect book for anyone who wants to read an action-packed novel about how the Vietnam War affected the life of one person.
28. The Lotus Eaters Novel by Tatjana Soli
Originally published: March 30, 2010
The novel tells the story of a female journalist who comes to Vietnam in hope of finding the American photographer that she fell in love with over an embedded assignment. The novel was mainly written by referring to various interviews, articles, and memoirs that were recorded during the war. The author gives readers tips about writing fiction that is based on history through this book. The war is told from the point of view of the characters. This book received so many positive reviews and won multiple awards.
29. Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam Book by Fredrik Logevall
Originally published: 2012
Fredrik Logevall is one of the best Vietnam War authors. His book, Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam Book, serves as proof to that statement.
This book covers both Vietnamese history and American history during this time period. Through these pages, the author provides detailed information about how the war was fought on both sides.
30. Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds Book by Christina Eloise Olds, Ed Rasimus, and Robin Olds
Originally published: 2010
The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds is an autobiography by a fighter pilot who flew F-4 during the Vietnam War. This book provides incredible insights into the life and military experiences of a man who experienced it all from shooting down enemies to being shot at himself. It shows how he managed to fly higher despite the heavyweight of equipment on his body. This book also shows how he fought with the American bureaucracy to secure better treatment for his pilots, some of who were shot down behind enemy lines. His efforts contributed to saving thousands of lives in Vietnam.
31. Dereliction of Duty Book by H. R. McMaster
Originally published: September 2, 1997
This is a book about what caused the United States to lose its war in Vietnam. The book highlights how the top military commanders were more interested in protecting their political careers through appeasing the people who were responsible for starting this war rather than doing what was beneficial for them and the country.
The book explains how certain military leaders tried to stop this war while others did not care who was making the decisions, as long as their own careers were protected.
32. Paco’s Story Novel by Larry Heinemann
Originally published: 1986
This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 and is based on Larry Heinemann’s personal experiences fighting in Vietnam. The novel is narrated by a US soldier named Paul Berlin who has been drafted into the war and is angry at having to fight for a country that he doesn’t really feel connected to.
The book is also about trying to make sense of the senselessness of war and how it affects the soldiers that are sent out to fight. It talks about how men turn into beasts, yet they retain some humanity in them even though it might be difficult to see.
33. The Vietnam War: An Intimate History by Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns
Originally published: September 5, 2017
This book examines the Vietnam War from many different perspectives including all sides of the war. The author interviewed 200 people including Vietnamese soldiers, American pilots, nurses, and civilians among others in order to write this book.
This is one of the best Vietnam War books because it not only tells the story from an American perspective but also from a Vietnamese perspective by interviewing both Americans who fought in it and Vietnamese who were there when the war was going on.
34. Street Without Joy: Indochina at War, 1946-54 Book by Bernard B. Fall
Originally published: 1961
This book tells the history of the United States’ involvement in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos. It also discusses how Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon were solely responsible for the destruction of this small country which ultimately led to the rise of Pol Pot. The author does a great job at demonstrating how Kissinger would do anything including committing war crimes just to silence the press, especially the New York Times.
35. About Face Book by David Hackworth and Julie Sherman
Originally published: 1989
Though this book does not focus on the Vietnam War only, it still should be mentioned in this list. This book shows how David Hackworth became a warrior and what he experienced while serving in the US Army during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
Lastly, when it comes to one of the most controversial wars in history, no book can be said to be 100% reliable. That is why you should only take the following books as recommendations. My opinion about them will not affect their place on this list because they are all good Vietnam War books in my eyes. But feel free to if you disagree.
What are the scholarly books on how the cold war led to vietnam?
The Vietnam War was a Cold War conflict. The Communist Party of Vietnam sought to reunite the country by force, while in South Vietnam, anti-communist Vietnamese fought in defense of their homeland. Throughout the course of the war, the Soviet Union and China provided military aid to North Vietnam, fearing an American power grab in Southeast Asia. The American government in turn accused both nations of using North Vietnam as a proxy force to spread communism in the region. This conflict led to the involvement of many of the global superpowers during the Cold War, and would ultimately draw in many other third-world countries.
How many books were written about the Vietnam war?
There are literally countless books written about the Vietnam war. As a matter of fact, it is said that during the Vietnam war, more books were written about the Vietnam war than people who died in the entire conflict.
What are the books on how geography impacted the Vietnam war?
If you are talking about historical accounts of the Vietnam War, check out the following books:
1. South and North Vietnam and their roles in the conflict: a general view of wars history and geography by Marius Lacoste
2. The War Another Country: A Geography Perspective on the Vietnam War by Michael Hutt, Gerald Pawle, David Crouch
3. Bitter Victory: The Defeat of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army, 1965-1975 by David W. P. Elliot
4. The Vietnam War: Its History, Literature, and Music by Bernard Adelsberger, Helen Feinberg
5. A Historical Atlas of the Vietnam War (Studies in Historical Geography) by Thong Nhut Le, Craig Lockard
6. A Military Geography of Vietnam (Defense and Foreign Affairs) by Edwin E. Moise