Last time I wrote a “real” post here, I talked about things I wanted to read while away on a trip. I easily managed to read item number one on the list, David Finkel’s outstanding new book, The Good Soldiers. In that post, I wondered if the book would live up to the comparisons being made about it, for instance, that it was as good as Craig Mullaney’s book. Short answer: you should read it; it is really good. I would rank it just as high as Mullaney’s book, although it is somewhat different. Mullaney tells his story first-person; it’s his life. His tale is mainly focused on his small unit, a platoon of the 10th Mountain Division. Finkel goes third person about a particular unit, an Army infantry battalion that deploys to Baghdad as a part of “the surge.” The main protagonist is the battalion’s commanding officer, and the narrative follows the unit from before it even existed (it was stood up specifically to be a part of the surge) until it returns from its 15 months in Iraq. Soldiers is a bit depressing, illustrating the grim personal toll in casualties suffered by this American battalion inside the surge and some of the effects on families of the wounded, often horribly so – burns, multiple amputations, and other dismemberment mainly from explosively-formed penetrator (EFP) roadside bombs that cut through even armored Humvees like a knife. A continuous theme found throughout the book is the disconnect between the strategy set forth by top policy-makers and the reality on the ground, something that may well be a real factor in Afghanistan right now.
Here is what I wrote about the book over at Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6633912-the-good-soldiers
I didn’t do as well with the other items on my reading list – too busy seeing the many sights and taking a lot of pictures. Here are some of my favorites: