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What It Is Like to Go to War

What It Is Like to Go to War Cover

What It Is Like to Go to War

By Karl Marlantes

Grove Press, Paperback, 9780802145925, 272pp.

Publication Date: September 11, 2012

#3 on's 10 Best Books of 2011
The New Yorker Favorite Books from 2011
Hudson Booksellers Best Books of 2011
Barnes & Noble Best Nonfiction Books of 2011
St. Louis Post Dispatch Favorite Books of 2011
A Shelf Awareness Reviewer's Top Pick of 2011

One of the most important and highly-praised books of 2011, Karl Marlantes's What It Is Like to Go to War is set to become just as much of a classic as his epic novel Matterhorn.

In What It Is Like to Go to War, Marlantes takes a deeply personal and candid look at the experience and ordeal of combat, critically examining how we might better prepare our young soldiers for war. War is as old as humankind, but in the past, warriors were prepared for battle by ritual, religion, and literature--which also helped bring them home. In a compelling narrative, Marlantes weaves riveting accounts of his combat experiences with thoughtful analysis, self-examination, and his readings--from Homer to the Mahabharata to Jung. He makes it clear just how poorly prepared our nineteen-year-old warriors--mainly men but increasingly women--are for the psychological and spiritual aspects of their journey.

Praise For What It Is Like to Go to War

Karl Marlantes has written a staggeringly beautiful book on combat . . . In my eyes he has become the preeminent literary voice on war of our generation. He is a natural storyteller and a deeply profound thinker . . . As this generation of warriors comes home, they will be enormously helped by what Marlantes has writtenI’m sure he will literally save lives.”Sebastian Junger

Marlantes is the best American writer right now on war and the extreme costs to society of sending young men and women off to combat without much of a safety net for them when they land back home. . . . With What It Is Like to Go to War a second Marlantes book resides on the top shelf of American literature.”Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead

Marlantes brings candor and wrenching self-analysis to bear on his combat experiences in Vietnam, in a memoir-based meditation whose intentions are three-fold: to help soldiers-to-be understand what they’re in for; to help veterans come to terms with what they’ve seen and done; and to help policymakers know what they’re asking of the men they send into combat.”The New Yorker

A precisely crafted and bracingly honest book.”The Atlantic

What It Is Like to Go to War is a well-crafted and forcefully argued work that contains fresh and important insights into what it’s like to be in a war and what it does to the human psyche.”The Washington Post

With an intellect as sharp and critical as Marlantes’, and a temperament not afraid to display confusion or remorse, What It Is Like” is more than worth the effort of any reader.”Los Angeles Times

What It Is Like to Go to War ought to be mandatory reading by potential infantry recruits and by residents of any nation that sends its kidsMarlantes’s wordinto combat.”San Francisco Chronicle

Marlantes delivers one of the most powerful meditations on the meaning of war and its impact. A necessary book as America welcomes home a new generation of veterans.”The Daily Beast

A gripping, first-person plea to consider the impact on the human spirit of being a soldier.”Huffington Post

To say that this book is brilliant it an understatement . . . I have read many, many books on war and this is the first time that I’ve read exactly what the combat veteran thinks and feelsnothing I have ever read before has hit home in my heart like this book.”Gunnery Sergeant Terence D’Alesandro, 3rd Batallion, 5th Marines, U.S. Marine Corps

What It Is Like to Go to War offers profound insight on how we must prepare our youth who become our warriors for their hard and uncompromising journey through war’s hell and back home again.”Vietnam Magazine

Marlantes knows what he writes. . . Raw, unsettling honesty pervades the work.”

In this thoughtful, literate work of self-exorcism, Marlantes tells tales of incredible bravery as well as brutality.”People Magazine

A gutting look into the psyche of a soldier, adding flesh to the often flat and stereotypes personage. Humanizing, empathetic, and wise, this reading experience will light corners in the human experience often judged dark.”Library Journal

[I]ntense, thoughtful. . . vivid and hair-raising. . . indelible and cinematic. . . For anyone civilian or otherwise interested in gaining a more thorough and nuanced understanding of the role of the military in American society, What It Is Like” is required reading.”The Capital Times

Marlantes has written a sparklingly provocative nonfiction book. . . He is an exceptional writer and his depictions here are vivid.”BookPage

With war such a part of contemporary American life, this book is deeply important, as timely and urgent as contemporary on-the-ground reporting from Afghanistan and Iraq.”The Minneapolis Star Tribune

A sound debunking of anything smacking of the glory of warfarebut written with compassion, honest and wit for men and now women who fight and for all of those who care about them.”St. Louis Dispatch

A slim spiritual guide. . . Marlantes’s book is a sincere plea for better soldiers and veterans.”Seattle Weekly

[Marlantes’s] research and rationale form a voice of reason with a reason to be heard . . . Those who support the troops will read this book and will better understand what it is like to go toand come back fromwar.”Air Force Times

[C]athartic . . . I remember learning about how to go to war, but there was little discussion about what it was like to go to war and its place in the human experience. . . . [A] compelling testimony for the contemporary warrior.”US Naval Institute

Karl Marlantes seeks to tell the truth about combat . . . What It Is Like to Go to War is both a memoir and a meditation. . . It’s also peppered with heartfelt stories about his fellow Marines.”Boulder Daily Camera

With unflinching honesty, bestselling author Karl Marlantes tells us What It Is Like to Go to War in his compassionate, powerful narrative on Vietnam. Marlantes does not shy away from recounting experiences that, outside the arena of war, are horrifying or embarrassing . . . He tempers the brutal truths of fear, power games, and courage with a thoughtful prescription for our soldiers’ well-being; caring for our soldiers and their families differently will benefit society as a whole. Marlantes sets a new standard for understanding the experience of war.”

Wrenchingly honest. . . . Digging as deeply into his own life as he does into the larger sociological and moral issues, Marlantes presents a riveting, powerfully written account of how, after being taught to kill, he learned to deal with the aftermath.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A valiant effort to explain and make peace with war’s awesome consequences for human beings.”Kirkus Reviews

What It Is Like to Go to War is a courageous, noble and intelligent grapple with myth, history, and spirituality that beautifully elevates the cultural conversation on the role of the military in today’s world. It is an emotional, honest, and affecting primer for all Americans on war and the national psyche, and we ignore this book at our own peril.”Ed Conklin, Chaucer’s Books, Santa Barbara