I have never been to war but have always been fascinated by history, specifically our world’s long track record of epic conflict. While on holiday over the Christmas break I had the opportunity to read What It Is Like To Go To War by Karl Marlantes.

It is VERY different than anything I have ever read before with the author opening up in a way that few do, uncovering every deep and ugly thought and emotion of the impact that war had on him as a young man (specifically – Vietnam). He also make far reaching observations on the state of society that I found captivating, and disturbing. This one in particular, on evil:

Evil is very ordinary. We don’t have to look far to see its causes. It’s the little things, such as being as tired and not inspecting the mortar tripod closely enough, or not recycling the plastic or letting kids eat junk food that abuses their health because parents’ working or social life is more important that preparing a decent meal at home…. Cruelty is as mundane and common as cruelty in child rearing.

Many will find this a very uncomfortable read (I did). There is nothing glorious about war or the savagery of humanity and Marlantes does not shirk from the dark, even his own dark side. In the end, I would agree with this recommendation that all young people who sign up for a warrior’s job should read this book (or one’s like it). It makes one think broadly, well beyond the bravado and glory stories of a hill taken.

A book that makes me think, well past the day that the last page was read.

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