Six Books for Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day! I hope you are all having a nice holiday–complete with burgers and barbecue and sunshine. I think it’s important to stop on this holiday and think about those who have given their lives for our country, so today I’ve chosen six books about our troops to give you a chance to learn more about the brave men and women who have fought for our country throughout our nation’s history.

These are some of my favorite books, and they range from fiction to nonfiction to a mixture of both. I hope they grab your interest as much as they have grabbed mine!

1. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

It’s no wonder this book won a Pulitzer Prize–it’s a phenomenal read. The book is about the battle of Gettysburg, and if you think Shaara can’t write a whole book about just four days, you’re wrong. Shaara takes the real life figures of Lee, Longstreet, Buford, and Chamberlain and shows through their eyes what the battle must have been like. This book is really innovative in its style. After Michael Shaara’s death, his son Jeff began writing more books in the same vein. Jeff Shaara actually wrote two more books that complement The Killer Angels to create a Civil War Trilogy. Those books are Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure.

2. The Glorious Cause by Jeff Shaara

Speaking of Michael Shaara’s son, here’s one of his books! Jeff Shaara is one of my favorite historical fiction authors–I own every single one of his books. My favorite thing about his writing is also my favorite thing about his father’s–his books take real people and transform them into characters. This book is the second in Shaara’s duo about the American Revolution, which begins with Rise to Rebellion. The key characters in this installment are George Washington, Charles Cornwallis, Nathaniel Greene, The Marquis de Lafayette and Benjamin Franklin, with plenty of other famous characters in the mix. If you’re interested in learning about the ideas and the battles of the American Revolution, this would be a great book for you!

3. To the Last Man by Jeff Shaara

Now that I’ve introduced you to Michael Shaara and his son Jeff, I’ll jump back into chronological order with this book about WWI. To the Last Man is one of my favorite Shaara books, mainly because it tells the lesser-known story of WWI. So much has been written about WWII, but I think sometimes WWI gets forgotten. This standalone book starts in 1916, and tells the story of the last years of the war. My favorite part of this book is the emphasis on aviation in the war. This was really the first war in which airplanes were used to any advantage, and the Red Baron is a key figure in the book, along with the American pilots in the Lafayette Escadrille. If you’re looking to start reading Shaara books, start here–because it’s not part of a series, it’s just one excellent book about WWI.

4. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

This book tells the incredible story of Louie Zamperini, a troubled youth/Olympian/WWII airman. This book follows Zamperini’s journey home after a crash leaves him stranded at sea. The challenges he faces throughout the story are mind-boggling, but my favorite part of this book is the story of Zamperini’s redemption. This is a nonfiction book that reads like a novel, and once you start turning the pages, you won’t want to stop. If you haven’t already read this bestseller, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

5. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

The Things they Carried is a really fascinating look at the Vietnam War. The author, Tim O’Brien, was a Vietnam war vet, and one of the characters in the book is named after him. Though the book is technically categorized as “fiction,” it also includes a lot of memoir and nonfiction. It covers a span of about 30 years, and it speaks a lot about memory and the power of storytelling.

6. American Sniper by Chris Kyle

The last book I’m sharing with you today is American Sniper, the memoir of Chris Kyle–a Navy SEAl with the most recorded sniper kills. This book was difficult to read, and it doesn’t shy away from the tough questions about war. I didn’t see the movie for a few different reasons, but I’m glad I read the book because it gave me a new and better appreciation for what our troops today are facing.

So there you have it! Six books for Memorial Day. Take some time on your day off to think of those who have given their lives for our country. It’s because of them that we have the freedom to learn and live as Americans. We should remember them and respect their sacrifices, because freedom isn’t free.


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