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September 22, 2008 9:44 PM   Subscribe

In short, What are the best books (especially books), movies or other media about Vietnam that you know of? (Including the French War.)

Fiction or non-fiction.

I've read Caputo's Rumor of War, Karnow's Vietnam, A History and Sheehan's A Bright and Shining Lie.
posted by MasonDixon to Society & Culture (33 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
The Quiet American is excellent, although it's set in the 50s rather than the 60s.
posted by sonic meat machine at 10:15 PM on September 22, 2008

"In Country" by Bobbie Ann Mason comes to mind in a more indirect "effects of the war" kinda way, there was a movie too. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien is shocking and moving. Two of my favorites on the subject.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:16 PM on September 22, 2008

Michael Herr's "Dipatches" is worth checking out. It was the first book I read on the Vietnam War and I've re-read it twice since. Herr is an excellent writer/reporter.
posted by IdiBot at 10:20 PM on September 22, 2008

2nd Dispatches. Superbly written, intensely memorable.
posted by Rumple at 10:29 PM on September 22, 2008

Thirding Dispatches and seconding The Quiet American. And The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien is most excellent.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:37 PM on September 22, 2008 has a list of book about Vietnam. Paul Ham's new book is worth a read.

Note that many veteran journalists of the Vietnam was criticise Herr as being more interested in his own image than the story or subject.
posted by mattoxic at 10:41 PM on September 22, 2008

There is a book called The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh. It's written from the Vietnamese perspective, about a young man in the NVA. I read it for a class several years ago and really liked it.
posted by number9dream at 11:07 PM on September 22, 2008

Nthing The Things They Carried and also O'Brien's If I Die in a Combat Zone.

The Village by Bing West
Carrying the Darkness by Ehrhart (poetry),
Fields of Fire by James Webb
We Were Soldiers Once... And Young by Lt Gen Harold Moore (also an excellent movie).

And of course the other classic Vietnam movies - Platoon, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Good Morning Vietnam, Born on the Fourth of July, Hamburger Hill...
posted by lullaby at 11:09 PM on September 22, 2008

Good Morning, Vietnam
posted by Autarky at 11:12 PM on September 22, 2008

As mentioned, Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, but also Going After Cacciato and his nonfiction If I Die in a Combat Zone. Also Tobias Wolff's memoir In Pharaoh's Army.
posted by headnsouth at 11:12 PM on September 22, 2008

Good question. Good answers. Particularly "Dispatches" and "Bright Shining Lie". I've seen no mention yet of:

Tobias Wolff's "In Pharaoh's Army". It's pretty much the real life sequel to "This Boy's Life" (movie and book).

Shelby L. Stanton's "The Rise and Fall of an American Army". A thorough history of pretty much every ground force engagement (1965-73).

Michael MacLear's "Ten Thousand Day War"

Worth noting: the Americans lose in all three.
posted by philip-random at 11:13 PM on September 22, 2008

John M. Del Vecchio's The 13th Valley is an extremely accurate and detailed, though fictionalized, account account of a U.S. Army operation in the last stages of the Vietnam War.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:20 PM on September 22, 2008

It's "just" a newspaper series, but the Toledo Blade's 2003 series on American war crimes in Vietnam is excellent journalism and a fascinating read.
posted by Rumple at 11:24 PM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

I thoroughly recommend A Life In A Year by Roger Ebert, which is specifically about the draftee experience in Vietnam and is a fantastic collection of interviews and first-person pieces.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:30 PM on September 22, 2008

On the fiction side of things, I really enjoyed Dennis Johnson's Tree of Smoke, but reactions seem to be pretty mixed.
posted by aspo at 12:00 AM on September 23, 2008

Very good suggestions. I think the only important novel I haven't seen mentioned is Patches Of Fire by Albert French. And although Tim O'Brien has been mentioned several times no one has specifically recommended In The Lake Of The Woods, his fictionalised look at My Lai and probably his best novel (although that is a very hard decision to make.) The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh is ficitional autobiography like O'Brien's earlier novels and he is just as good a writer.

Dispatches is absolutely essential and I would also strongly recommend Mark Baker's oral history Nam.
posted by ninebelow at 2:28 AM on September 23, 2008

Thirding The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh.

Also, the movie Heaven and Earth directed by Oliver Stone is an often overlooked account of Vietnam through the eyes of a Vietnamese girl who marries a GI and settles in America after her family is torn apart by the war.

For the Vietnam capstone class I took over the summer, the non-fiction material i.e. Pentagon Papers, political build up to the war, American strategy, etc... was taken from the Columbia Guide to the Vietnam War.

In class we also watched excerpts from Hearts and Minds and The Fog of War, two well done documentaries of the Vietnam War.

As for other media, I asked a question here about songs relevant to the Vietnam War.
posted by clearly at 3:52 AM on September 23, 2008

posted by bru at 5:55 AM on September 23, 2008

Tim Page's Page after Page is interesting from the non-combatant photographer point of view. You might find his gonzo style a little trying, but considering the amount of damage he survived, it's remarkable he can write at all.
posted by scruss at 6:30 AM on September 23, 2008

All mentioned before, but confirming:
Halberstam - The Best and the Brightest (Really the best for the political side of things)
Herr - Dispatches (Gritty)
Sheehan - Bright, Shining Lie

Movie: Apocalypse Now
posted by vito90 at 6:47 AM on September 23, 2008

apocalypse now was based on gustav hasford's book the short-timers. that and the two sequels are free to read on his site.
posted by beefetish at 8:52 AM on September 23, 2008

Dream Baby is a really good horror novel set in Vietnam.
posted by rfs at 9:51 AM on September 23, 2008

Daniel Hallin's book The "Uncensored War" is a good academic analysis of the American press and broadcast media during Vietnam.
posted by foodmapper at 10:13 AM on September 23, 2008

Depending on how narrow your question is meant to be, you might like Lan Cao's Monkey Bridge. The novel is mainly about two Vietnamese immigrants to America, mother and daughter, who flee Vietnam right at the end of the war. It is not primarily concerned with the war and its effects, but the war and events during it are integral to the plot, and it does a good job of showing you what the war and post-war flight was like for two generations of Vietnamese people.
posted by fidelity at 10:15 AM on September 23, 2008

I read David Lamb's Vietnam, Now recently and was rather intrigued. Lamb was in Vietnam as an American journalist during the war and returned there as a correspondent for a few years in the late '90s...the book delves into the changes of the past few decades and provides a good intro/context for the outsider.
posted by kittyprecious at 10:36 AM on September 23, 2008

Bernard Fall's Hell In a Very Small Place is an excellent account of the siege of Dien Bien Phu.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 10:47 AM on September 23, 2008

Nth-ing O'brien's The Things They Carried.
posted by paulg at 12:04 PM on September 23, 2008

apocalypse now was based on gustav hasford's book the short-timers.

Nope. Apox Now was based on Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" if anything. Full Metal Jacket was based on Hasford's book.
posted by philip-random at 1:50 PM on September 23, 2008

Fidelity, stuff like that is well within bounds. I'm interested in the concentric circles surrounding the actual conflict from France in Indochina to America's need to vicariously re-fight the war via John Rambo and Chuck Norris. From books to websites to newspaper articles.

These look like great recommendations so far. Thanks.
posted by MasonDixon at 2:08 PM on September 23, 2008

Strong second for Mark Baker's oral history collection - nothing but stories from soldiers in the thick of war: Nam.
posted by mediareport at 8:41 PM on September 23, 2008

I see someone's already mentioned Bernard Fall's Hell In a Very Small Place; his Street Without Joy chronicles some of the campaigns leading up to Dein Bein Phu (Operation Lorraine, Operation Camargue, and, of course, the street without joy.)
posted by suncoursing at 9:22 PM on September 23, 2008

Chickenhawk by Robert Mason
posted by clanger at 1:28 AM on September 27, 2008

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