cover image The Vietnam War: An Intimate History

The Vietnam War: An Intimate History

Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns. Knopf, $60 (640p) ISBN 978-0-307-70025-4

This lavishly illustrated large-format book from frequent collaborators Ward and Burns (The Roosevelts) serves as the companion volume to the eponymous 18-hour, 10-part PBS documentary from Burns and Lynn Novick. The work follows the usual Ward and Burns formula of mixing solid historical narrative with personal stories of both the famous (in this case, mainly politicians and military leaders from all sides of the conflict) and the ordinary (troops, war journalists, and anti-war activists). Well-written and deeply researched, this history covers virtually every aspect of the French and American wars in Vietnam from 1945 to 1975, focusing mainly on military, diplomatic, and political issues. Individual tales of Army infantrymen, Marine grunts, and other combatants are woven throughout the larger narrative. There is virtually no new history here, however, and a number of the personal stories included here can be readily found in memoirs and other books, including those of Vietnam War veteran writers Philip Caputo, Tobias Wolff, Karl Marlantes, W.D. Ehrhart, Tim O’Brien, Joan Furey, and John Musgrave, and the Vietnamese novelist Bảo Ninh, as well as the work of the former war correspondents Neil Sheehan, John Laurence, and Joe Galloway. Nevertheless, anyone looking for an expansive overview of the Vietnam War will find much to admire here. Maps & photos. (Sept.)