Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Author: Michael Herr Publication Date: 1977 Category: Memoir, Autobiography, Journalism, War Who'll want to read it? People interested in the Vietnam War, fans of Rolling Stone magazine, people who like 'Gonzo Journalism' (such as Hunter S Thompson's works) Point of no return: "Going out at night the medics gave you pills, Dexedrine breath like dead snakes kept too long in a jar." Classic line: "'Boo-sheeit! Ain't never gettin' hit in Vietnam.'
'Oh no? Okay, mothaf***er, why not?'
''Cause,' Mayhew said, 'it don't exist.' It was an old joke, but this time he wasn't laughing." What's it all about? Fans of Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket will recognise moments in this book, because Michael Herr was co-writer of both of those movies. Herr was in amongst the action covering the Vietnam War back when 'embedded journalists' meant something entirely different. Herr recounts his adventures along with cameraman Sean (son of Errol) Flynn, with a style that could almost be described as hallucinogenic. It's very evocative, and anyone interested in war or Vietnam should not miss this book. Fans of Hunter S Thompson or Rolling Stone in its glory days will want to pick this title up if they haven't already. One of the most important works to come out of a horrible war. Publisher: Picador

Slaughterhouse 5

Author: Kurt Vonnegut Publication Date: 1969 Category: Science Fiction, War, American Fiction Who'll want to read it? Anyone interested in American literature but wants an easy read, science fiction fans after something a little more 'out there', World War II buffs Point of no return: "And, even if wars didn't keep coming like glaciers, there would still be plain old death." Classic line: "So it goes." What's it all about? Vonnegut uses the premise of a man who has been abducted by aliens and subsequently able to travel in time to revisit the firebombing of Dresden in World War II. Some of the history is dated - it cites David Irving as a serious historian even though virtually all of his work has been discredited (he is a holocaust revisionist for one). But if you ignore that, you're left with a sterling work of fiction. Vonnegut's experiences as a prisoner of war in World War II are relived through the character Billy. Pain, suffering, anguish and death are all exposed unflinchingly, yet there is a beautiful optimism underlying the novel. It is also rich in humour and, unlike some American literature, not heavy-going - light readers will love it as much as the scholarly types. If you love science fiction, war novels or any American fiction, you need to add this book to your reading list. Publisher: Vintage

The Forever War

Author: Joe Haldeman Publication Date: 1974 Category: Science Fiction, American Fiction, War Who'll want to read it? Sci-fi buffs and war fiction fans, especially of the Vietnam War Point of no return: "'Tonight we're going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man.' The guy who said that was a sergeant who didn't look five years older than me. So if he'd ever killed a man in combat, silently or otherwise, he'd done it as an infant." Classic line: "I suspected that the next time humans met Taurans in ground combat, we would be more evenly matched. And I was right." What's it all about? Humanity is at war with the mysterious Taurans. Faster than light travel is achieved by sling-shotting around certain types of stars: only trouble is, doing so sends you into the future anywhere from ten to a hundred years. Haldeman creates a brilliant allegory for the Vietnam war, with soldiers returning to Earth finding a world utterly alien to them. The only comfort they can find is in the military they hate so much. This book is a must-read for any sci-fi fan, and for any war buff who wants an insight into the emotional conflicts of the American soldier who served in Vietnam. Publisher: Millennium

Friday, December 07, 2007

My Little Blue Dress

Author: Bruno Maddox Publication Date: 2001 Category: Fiction, Satire, Humour Who'll want to read it? 25-40's, anyone out for humour with a difference Point of no return: "But the arrival of puberty changed all that. All of a sudden I was something, something people understood, a teenage girl, and as long as everyone was staring glazedly at my chest, I realized, the chances of their catching a glimpse into my soul and rejecting me for what they saw there were thrillingly remote." Classic line: "The fact that I delivered a letter today... Does that make me a postman?" You'll have to read the book to see why it's a classic. What's it all about? It's not about an old woman writing the memoirs of her life since her birth on 1 January 1900, but you'd be forgiven for thinking that. What starts off as a whimsy story of an old woman reliving her past twists and turns into a classic metanarrative tale. It would be easy to get a story like this wrong. But Maddox uses the right combination of self-effacement and urban alienation. He couples this combination with hilarious situations to create a delightful read. Especially likeable is his description of New York nightclubs: It's worth reading for them alone. Publisher: Abacus