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Books

Cover for Fobbit
Fobbit
David Abrams
The Second World War brought us Catch-22 and now the war on terror has brought us a triumph of military satire to call our own. Fobbit takes us onto an American base in Baghdad, where what's happening outside the razor-wired walls is often less important than how the news is going to play back home.
Why We Love It
Told in alternating chapters by an Army Public Affairs Official named Chance Gooding, his nosebleed-prone boss, Stacie Harkleroad, the wonderfully inept Captain Abe Shrinkle, and the put-upon Colonel Vic Duret, Fobbit brilliantly recreates the high-stakes absurdity of a war built entirely on spin.

Chance Gooding, who is "in the war but not of the war," makes for an eminently likable guide as we try to get our bearings in the chaos of wartime Iraq. But it's the far less likable Abe Shrinkle and Stacie Harkleroad who really steal the show, constantly toeing the line between caricature and character in a most delicious way. And as the American occupation hurtles toward its all-important (for spin reasons, of course) 2000th casualty, the action takes on a hallucinatory momentum.

Added bonus is you'll be boning up on your history and current events, laughing all the while. And get a load of those names. Have you ever seen better outside of Dickens? Us either.

Cover for The Red Badge of Courage
The Red Badge of Courage
Stephen Crane
During the Civil War, a Union Army soldier flees the battlefield in terror and then must contend with his own internal shame. A gripping exploration of heroism, cowardice, and one boy’s maturation, told in a simple, gripping prose that — rumor has it — taught Hemingway how to write.
Why We Love It
Chances are you had to read this in high school. Chances are you didn't make it all the way through. But here's the thing: you're not going to believe what a page-turner this is. We were all wrong in high school. We were too young for this level of psychological naturalism. It wasn't our fault. Blame the education system, but do give this book another shot.

This is a war novel with none of the traditional trappings of the genre that often bog it down. We are given no dates, no locations, not told who won or lost any given skirmish, and, in fact, have no sense of the larger war at all. Instead, what we are given is a psychological portrait of fear — and resentment and fury and bravery and solipsistic cowardice — so searing and modern and pulsing with blood and neurons and realness, that you won't believe it hasn't been optioned by HBO yet. (Maybe it has been?)