Looking for a gift for a current events junkie? Give current events followers on your list one or more of the terrific books on the Iraq War, terrorism and the war on terror that have come out in the last several years. Here are some of the most highly touted and well written war on terror and Iraq war books to have been published recently.
Paul Rieckhoff was among the first to be deployed to Iraq in 2003. In irreverent prose, he tells the soldiers' side of the American invasion, from waiting for war while living on MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) and cigarettes, to knocking in Iraqis' doors in search of illegal weapons, to returning to the United States which, oddly, didn't look like a country at war. Rieckhoff went on to found the non-profit Operation Truth, which has been renamed Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American (IAVA).
Michael Gordon, the New York Times' chief military correspondent, and General Bernard E. Trainor, a former Marine Corps lieutenant general and military correspondent, tell the story of the Iraq invasion from the point of view of its military planners and those who executed the plans. Their detailed documentation and meticulous explanations will fascinate those with an interest in military strategy, as well as in the current war.
Hugh Barlow explores suicide bombing as an evolved, aggressive form of ancient martyrdom. There aren't many books about suicide bombing that you can take with you to the beach or the slopes, but this is one of them. While the topic isn't light, Barlow's storytelling touch is. His idea about the evolution of martyrdom is provocative, and his walk through history offers many points worth thinking about, as we seek ways to address today's "predatory martyrdom"
Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks' Fiasco is an extended, informed indictment of U.S. "adventurism" in Iraq, and its consequences through mid-2006, when he completed the book. A year later, the detailed account of the beginning of the Iraqi insurgency are still relevant, for the military (which has put it on forthcoming syllabi at the Army War College) and for anyone interested in understanding developments in a war that is likely to continue, in some guise, for many years.
Rajiv Chandresakeran's colorfully written narrative about the American "green zone" in Baghdad tells the story of the period immediately following hostilities, when Iraq was governed by the American "Coalition Provisional Authority." The tone is brisk, the tales of incompetence and avarice, as well as good intentions, are fascinating. Chandrasekaran is a Washington Post managing editor and former Baghdad bureau chief.
Hoffman's introduction to terrorism is an oldie at this point, but it's still a goodie as a basic primer on how terrorism was named and evolved, and how it has changed over the last couple hundred years. First published in 1998, Inside Terrorism was helpful in defining terrorists as "violent intellectuals" seeking political change, instead of just crazy people, as had often been previously thought. The book was re-released in 2006 and packed with information from a longtime professional student of terrorism.
Washington Post reporter Anthony Shadid's Pulitzer Prize winning book begins in the months, and then the hours, before American invasion of Iraq began. Shadid, who has long experience reporting from the Arab world and speaks Arabic, contextualizes the Iraqi response to American actions in history before and after 9/11. His quietly compelling prose paints a picture of how everyday Iraqis understood events in their country in 2003.
Lawrence Wright's gripping tale of the men who conceived of the 9/11 attacks won a 2007 Pulitzer Prize and a host of other awards. And no wonder: The work combines history, reportage and Wright's own observations in a page-turning narrative that helps make readers make sense of how Osama bin Laden and others in his coterie saw the world, and why they sought its violent transformation.
If you've had enough of the non-fiction world, how about an action packed, super dystopic terrorism thriller, replete with fanatics of all stripes and faiths? Bear leads readers on the trail of a new strain of anthrax in plot that goes from Seattle to Baghdad to Jerusalem and back again, with periodic stops at FBI training ground, Quantico, of course.
This collection of interviews will interest those watching how journalists and journalism report on current conflicts, in a technological era that has changed war reporting forever. The editors Stephen Hess and Marvin Kalb convened panels of journalists and public officials, then let them talk about reporting from Washington and from the field. What they have to say about how what they do shapes their own profession and public perceptions, is thought provoking throughout.