Welcome to Booked! A feature where we ask author to share their favorite books with our readers. Contributing today is Joe Abercrombe, author of several well-regarded fantasy novels, including The First Law trilogy, Best Served Cold and his new novel, The Heroes. Here, Abercrombie writes about David Finkel’s The Good Soldiers:
For quite a long time the bulk of my reading (and I read a lot less than I used to, I’m sorry to say) has been non-fiction, mostly history, and a lot of that military history. In preparing for my most recent book, The Heroes, which is a book about war, I read quite a bit more military history. In ages past a real understanding of what went on in given wars was left up to storytellers and novelists some time after the fact, or to historians long after. In recent times, the policy of embedding journalists with front line units has led to some gripping and immersive non-fiction appearing almost while the wars in question are still playing themselves out. Such was the case with the best book I read last year, David Finkel’s The Good Soldiers, an account by an embedded journalist of the experience of one US battalion involved in the chaotic aftermath of the Iraq War. Finkel’s book is non-fiction, but written with a novelist’s eye for character, theme and language. He removes himself from the book entirely and lets the characters, and the terrible situations in which they find themselves, do the talking. The portraits of bemused commanders trying to cling to optimism, of weary veterans struggling with shell-shock, of the wounded whose lives have been irreversibly changed, and of the struggles of their families back home, are so intimate and convincing that when you are suddenly confronted by a photograph of one of the soldiers in question, you are suddenly and shockingly reminded that this is not a novel, but a true account, and the people in it real people. Brilliant.