The coming months will bring a number of noteworthy memoirs and biographies that make the realities of war more personal by focusing on the individual’s experience. The most prominent title is Thirteen Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War by John McCain and Mark Salter (Simon & Schuster, Nov.), which covers conflicts from the Revolutionary War to the present day.
The psychological consequences of war are movingly portrayed in Brian Turner’s My Life as a Foreign Country (Norton, Sept.), the account of an Iraqi War veteran who, upon his return home, is haunted by visions in which he sees himself as a drone aircraft. The other standout in this category is Yochi Draezen’s The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War (Crown, Oct.), an inspiring but tragic story of a family who had to cope with the loss of two sons, one to suicide, and changed the armed services’ attitudes toward mental illness in the process.
Without Warning: A Soldier’s Extraordinary Journey by Damien Thomlinson and Michael Cowley (Harper, Nov.) recounts an Afghanistan vet’s triumph over physical adversity after losing both his legs to an IED. In Rise: A Soldier, a Dream, and a Promise Kept by Daniel Rodriguez with Joe Layden (HMH, Oct.), Rodriguez describes his struggles with PTSD, and how he managed to earn a spot on the Clemson University football team, fulfilling a promise made to a fallen comrade. The continued fame of Seal Team Six will attract readers to The Last Rescue: How Faith & Love Saved a Navy SEAL Sniper by Howard Wasdin with Joel Kilpatrick (Thomas Nelson, Oct.).
Heading the list of more traditional biographies is George Marshall by Debi and Irwin Unger with Stanley Hirshson (Harper, Nov.). The authors describe their work, which does not shy away from chronicling Marshall’s failures, as an “analytical biography seeking to uncover the nature of Marshall’s contribution to winning the Second World War and defining the peace that followed. It emphasizes the extraordinary force of his authority and personality and how these qualities emerged within a rather ordinary middle class boy in late 19th-century America who stood out neither as a scholar nor an athlete.” Another Marshall, Andrew, who is the director of the Office of Net Assessment, the Pentagon’s internal think tank, receives overdue recognition in The Last Warrior: Andrew Marshall and the Shaping of Modern American Defense Strategy by Andrew Krepinevich and Barry Watts (Basic, Jan.). The Accidental Admiral: A Sailor Takes Command at NATO by Adm. James Stavridis (Naval Institute Press, Oct.) is the autobiography of the first Navy officer chosen as supreme allied commander for global operations at NATO, and covers his involvement with the organization in Afghanistan and Libya, as well as its handling of the Syrian civil war.
Staff Sgt. Michael Golembesky, who served both in Iraq and Afghanistan, and John R. Bruning have coauthored Level Zero Heroes: The Story of U.S. Marine Special Operations in Bala Murghab, Afghanistan (St. Martin’s, Sept.), which recounts seven brutal months in the lives of a Marine special operations team. A former British officer identified only as Monty B describes his craft in A Sniper’s Conflict: An Elite Sharpshooter’s Thrilling Account of Hunting Insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq (Skyhorse, Oct.). St. Martin’s has carved out a niche in the military memoir subgenre—another former sniper, gunnery sergeant Jack Coughlin, draws on his wartime experiences in Shock Factor: American Snipers in the War on Terror, written with John R. Bruning (Oct.), and January brings The Reaper: Autobiography of One of the Deadliest Special Ops Snipers by Nicholas Irving with Gary Brozek.
The resurgence of Israeli-Palestinian violence will draw readers to Soldier in the Sinai: A General’s Account of the Yom Kippur War by Maj. Gen. Emanuel Sakal (Univ. of Kentucky Press, Oct.), a searing look at his country’s “prewar deficiencies on all levels—tactical, operative and strategic,” as well as Israel’s policies on pre-emptive strikes. Sakal contends that the “IDF missed an opportunity that would have tilted the balance of the entire war: fewer Israeli casualties, a shorter war, more impressive Israeli military and political gains, and less dependency on American assistance.”