I’ve just finished reading Anthony Swofford’s book Jarhead (made into a movie starring Jake Gyllenhal a couple years back). As a former Marine, it hit home, emotionally, many times.
In short, I recommend this book to anyone who has limited exposure to the insides of a modern American infantry unit at war, even though the book will resonate with former Marines more than it will for life-long civilians. Swofford does an excellent job illustrating the brutality and naivety of the average Marine trooper; an impression that matched my own time as a peace-time Marine.
It was also enlightening in showing me how little I once knew about the world, how far I’d come in wizening and growing up, because I saw myself in the stupid brutality of Swofford’s Marines. But it also reminds me something about my current students, who, while on a very different path than these Marines, are generally not any more wizened or educated about the world than we were.
Also, while the movie was excellent and did a good job at representing most of the ideas in the book, it is no replacement. It’s an enjoyable read to boot (no pun intended).