The NY Times ran a story last week about what it called "a wave of military memoirs." (You can read it here, if you can get past the paywall.)

American Sniper was featured in the story, and we're always grateful for the plug. But "military memoirs" have a long and distinguished history in American literature, starting with what I think is one of the best, Private Yankee Doodle, which tells the story of a soldier in the Revolution. Joseph Plumb Martin's firsthand tale is priceless just for its portrayal of Washington and the other generals. (Probably not what you'd expect; if you think Chris's comments on the "head shed" are hard, just wait until you read Martin's.)

American Sniper does a bunch of things that other books in the current "wave" don't do, which helped set it apart. One of the more obvious is the inclusion of Chris's wife's voice, which adds a great deal of depth, and authenticates the very frank and detailed talk about love and marriage. But irregardless, the book certainly answers the most basic requirement of the genre: a firsthand view of what it was like on the front line.

One of my favorite memoirs is a book on the Vietnam War by Joseph T. Ward called Dear Mom: A Sniper's Vietnam. As you can tell from the title, the book does consider the effects of war on the home front, admittedly tangentially. It's a very powerful book, and I highly recommend it for many reasons. It shows how much war and the role of snipers has changed in forty-some years - and how much they haven't.

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