July 10 Book Club Selection: Sebastian Junger's 'War'

The third Paws & Effect Book Club selection for 2014 is "War," by Sebastian Junger. The discussion will take place 6:30 to 8 p.m., Thurs., July 10 at the Grand View University main campus library, Des Moines, Iowa.

The library is located on East 14th Street, between Grandview and Morton Avenues. For directions to campus and maps, click here.

The 2011 book was written by Sebastian Junger, who also wrote "The Perfect Storm". Junger, along with photographer Tim Hetherington, repeatedly embedded as media with a U.S. infantry company in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley in 2007-08. In 2010, they made an Oscar-nominated documentary "Restrepo." A second documentary about the experience, "Korengal," will be released theatrically later this year.

As narratives, "War" and "Restrepo" are complements to each other. In far more detail and depth, however, the book tells the story not only of how the soldiers of Battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team fought the fight, but how they came to the fight in the first place. It also tells where it left them afterward.

One of the soldiers mentioned in "War" is Iowan Salvatore Giunta, who received the Medal of Honor for actions described in the book. Junger's "War" is an accessible, enlightening, and sometimes gritty read for those who want to learn about how American soldiers lived, fought, died, and survived in Eastern Afghanistan. By way of example, here are some quick excerpts of the plainspoken prose from the hardcover edition:

Every time you drove down the road you were engaged in a twisted existential exercise where each moment was the only proof you'd ever have that you hadn't been blown upon the moment before. [p. 142] 

Rear-base limbo: an ill blend of apprehension and boredom that is only relieved by going forward where things are even worse. [p. 199] 

When I asked the men about their allegiance to one another, they said they would unhesitatingly risk their lives for anyone in the platoon or company, but that the sentiment dropped off pretty quickly after that. By the time you got to the brigade level–three or four thousand men–any sense of common goals or identity was pretty much theoretical. [p. 242]

The book is available in bargain-priced hardcover, trade paperback, mass-market paperback, and other formats.