Monday, November 24, 2014

Diversity in Books: Military by Chris of WildMooBooks

Please welcome back Chris of Wildmoo Books!  

Diversity in Books: Military 

The issue of diversity in books and reading books about diversity is once again a hot topic. I’m going to assume that anyone reading this article already understands and values the importance of diversity within novels as well as the importance of seeking out books that bridge social divides.

Most conversations about books & diversity seem to focus on race and gender, with some voices advocating for class, sexual orientation, cultural, and religious diversity.

There’s another divide that I’m concerned about that I think can begin to be bridged by reading and that’s the military-civilian divide.

Most 'first world' countries no longer have compulsory military service and now have a huge percentage of civilians with no connection to the military. This translates into voters, business leaders, and politicians who do not have a basic understanding of or interest in the military. The military machines of these countries are increasingly controlled by very small inner circles.
Some experts believe that the increased military actions of the U.S. may be due to having an all-volunteer force and a citizenry that has, to be blunt, no skin in the game. About 0.5 % of Americans serve in the military, down from 12% during WWII when it seemed like “everyone” was in the military or had a family member that served.

Here’s a link to an article on the topic that also contains links to some of the primary articles on the issue of the military-civilian divide.

On a personal level, I’m a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who identifies as a lesbian. More people have been shocked by my “coming out” as a veteran than as a lesbian, which I think speaks volumes about people’s experience with and/or awareness of these segments of society. I’ve recently had friends from two different families with zero military experience who had their worlds rocked when their teens announced they want to join the military.

Reading about the military can help people understand various aspects of the military beyond the stereotypes, headlines, and Hollywood glamorization. Granted, there are many books that glamorize the military or that are action-adventure tales bordering on fantasy. These books may be entertaining, but they do little to help bridge the military-civilian divide. In fact, some may even widen the gap. But there are, however, some thoughtful novels and memoirs written by veterans as well as thought-provoking nonfiction works by civilians.

Two of my recent favorites are Matternhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes and The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier’s Education by Craig Mullaney.

Two highly readable, nonfiction titles by civilians that I often recommend are Soldier’s Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point by Elizabeth D. Samet and Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow.

Two recent titles by women veterans are Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq by Jessica Goodell and Hesitation Kills: A Female Marine Officer’s Combat Experience in Iraq by Jane Blair.

Two online resources for finding more military books:
Military Professional Reading Lists: Reading lists from each branch of the military.
War Through the Generations: Reading challenge & book reviews grouped by war.

To sum up: Why read about the military? I think the two primary reasons are:
1. To understand the service and sacrifice of your fellow citizens.

2. To understand what your government is doing or has done in the world or within its borders.

All of my reading recommendations concern the U.S. because that's my area of interest, but I’d love to hear recommendations from readers around the world. Thanks for reading!


  1. Great article! I have only read a handful of books focusing on military, but would love to read more. My most recent military read was Unbroken. I really loved it. Have you read this one yet?

    1. Thanks, Tif! No, I haven't read Unbroken, but I've given it as a gift and the recipients loved it. I've been thinking about reading it before seeing the movie. When the book first came out and was a huge hit I resisted reading it because of its popularity. Too cool for school and all that...even though I should know better by now. :)


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