Best books on modern or recent civil wars?
February 21, 2017 11:52 AM   Subscribe

Looking for good books, both fiction and narrative nonfiction, set in or ostensibly about civil wars in the modern era. Google keeps turning up American Civil War results, but I'd like a window into what happens and what it looks like in the modern era when a society tears itself apart. Double bonus points if the book deals with ethnic cleansing or genocide. Here is a picture of a one-eyed, three-legged rescue dog as a palate cleanser. Thank you in advance!
posted by schadenfrau to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Alistair Horne's A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962
posted by gyusan at 12:12 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Survival in the Killing Fields is an autobiography of a man who survived the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. He went on to have quite a life afterward. Be warned that it is an absolutely brutal read. It's great, though, and it goes into detail near the beginning about how it all happened and how people reacted early on.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:23 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Check out the works of Ryszard Kapuscinski. The Emperor, Shah of Shahs, and Another Day of Life fall squarely into what you seem to be looking for. Parts of the Soccer War, too.
posted by cgs06 at 12:43 PM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War by Peter Maas. It covers the civil war and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. I can't recommend it highly enough. He covered the war for the Washington Post, and wrote this when he got home, describing the people he met and the events he witnessed there. The portraits are vivid and his perspective is deeply felt and deeply humane. It's a great book.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 12:47 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Pretty much anything by Kemal Kurspahic about the Serbo-Croatian conflict and Sarajevo in the 1990s. Excellent writer, he was the editor-in-chief of Sarajevo's largest newspaper throughout the civil war, he saw it all first-hand, and he reports both what happened and the historical reasons behind it. (He only left Sarajevo in the end because he was struck by a sniper's bullet and needed to evacuate for extensive medical care.)
posted by easily confused at 12:59 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Romeo Dallaire was the commander of UN forces during the Rwandan genocide, and he wrote a book called Shake Hands With The Devil about his experiences. I haven't read the book, but every interview with and article about him has fascinated me.

Perhaps too tangential, but Samantha Power's book A Problem from Hell is about America's various (non)responses to genocides in the 20th century. The focus isn't on the genocides themselves, but rather why the US does (and more often doesn't) intervene in them. She became the US ambassador to the UN under Obama.
posted by lilac girl at 1:03 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Michael Jackson, In Sierra Leone (Duke UP, 2004).
posted by Sonny Jim at 5:13 AM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oksana Zabuzhko's The Museum of Abandoned Secrets gives a powerful picture of how Ukraine was torn apart during and after WWII (in what was essentially a civil war, though it's not usually called that); I reviewed it here.

Mikhail Sholokhov's And Quiet Flows the Don is considered the classic novel of the Russian Civil War (I haven't read it); an excellent history of the war is Evan Mawdsley's The Russian Civil War (I can recommend plenty of other books on the subject if you're interested).
posted by languagehat at 7:52 AM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Skull Beneath the Skin has some powerful storytelling about civil conflicts in Zaire/Congo, Angola, Liberia, Rwanda, Somalia, Nigeria and Kenya.
posted by clawsoon at 7:22 PM on May 20, 2017

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