Book Club Reviews

LitPicks™ are written with Book Clubs in mind. Every month we we publish three reviews—one in each category—to satisfy different styles for reading and discussing:

A Lighter Touch: books that can delight, offer hope, or inspire personal reflection.

Wonderfully Written: books that engage on a deeper level for personal or literary discussions.

Great Works: books that have stood the test of time and offer a more complex vision of humanity.

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LitPicks Book Reviews—March 2014

Theme—War Lines: Front and Behind
Extraordinary books continue to be written about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
, and despite lack of war coverage in the media—or maybe because of it—we believe these books are important. They cover those on the front lines and those behind the lines (who plan war).
 

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Thank You for Your Service
David Finkel, 2013
272 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
March, 2014
About a third of the way into this book, we're taken into a Pentagon conference room where sit generals, a colonel or two, and Peter Chiraelli, the Army's Vice Chief of Staff. It's a task force on suicide that meets every month.

The officers are trying to get a handle on the high rate of military suicide (higher than in the general population), and so they talk about numbers, review cases and try, always, to arrive at a "lesson learned"—what did we learn from this one death that could help prevent others. It's a steep learning curve.

 

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Redeployment (Stories)
Phil Klay, 2014
400 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
March 2014

The twelve stories in this remarkable collection—about soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan—vary in length, but the one thing they have in common are characters struggling to cope with their wounds—wounds that, for the most part, are psychic.

The stories explore the bonds of comradeship, the difficulty of religious faith in war, the unsettling linkage between sex and violence, and the ever presence in war of terror and anger. In one story, the men chant "kill, kill, kill," taking perverse pride in their company's kill rate. When a fresh recruit makes his first combat hit, they celebrate his loss of "virginity."

 

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Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War
Robert M. Gates, 2013
640 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
March, 2014

"One damn thing after another" is how Robert M. Gates would describe a day at the helm of Defense. Being secretary was a job he didn't want and one he didn't like once he got there, but his love for the soldiers, and sense of commitment to them, trumped any personal desire.

That love, at times personal and nearly obsessive, served as the overarching theme of Gates's tenure at Defense and also of his memoir. In reading his 640-page blow-by-blow "report," we can only be thankful that someone—and, in this case that someone was at the very top—paid such close attention to the needs of the "kids" on the front lines.

 

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