Friday, January 01, 2010

War Through the Generations: Vietnam War Challenge

It never really crossed my mind to give up the War Through the Generations Challenge, even after I made the decision to take a reading challenge hiatus. While a new challenge is starting up, in my mind, it is just a part of the bigger whole, and therefore, not really a separate challenge. I was eager to see what war we would be reading about next. Would it be the American Civil War? I could certainly use a challenge for that one. I have quite a few books that would fit into that category. World War I would do just as nicely too. When I saw that the focus of 2010 will be the Vietnam War, I knew I would join in. This one is too close to home not to.

There was a time when I was a daddy's girl. My father took me to my first ballet. I remember dressing up, so proud to be wearing my "nylons" (tan tights). We had dinner, just the two of us, at a Mexican restaurant before the show. I was beyond thrilled. We saw one of my favorite fairy tales, Sleeping Beauty. It is a memory I hold close to my heart. My father is a book lover and has a massive collection of books. Is it any surprise then that I followed in his footsteps?

My father has a love for history, including war history. I'm sure that's in part where my interest in the subject came from as well. World War II is a special favorite for both of us. Then there is the Vietnam War.

My dad is a Vietnam Veteran. He was an enlisted man, having joined the Marine Corps right out of high school. His time in the war was a part of his life he never talked about, other than a funny story here and there. I knew it haunted him. I could see it in his eyes. I longed to know that part of him, to understand what he went through. As a result, I began reading as much as I could about the war, and even watched quite a few movies based on the conflict. As an adult, I have a better understanding of why he kept that part of his life closed off from me.

My personal goal is to read at least five (5) books related to the Vietnam War. Anna and Serena have graciously agreed that watching a movie related to the Vietnam War may count towards this challenge too. I may have to take them up on that idea!

Tentative Reading Ideas for the Vietnam War Challenge:
The Things They Carried by Time O'Brien
Dragon House by John Shors
Paco’s Story by Larry Heinneman (challenge group read selection)
Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King
Novel Without a Name by Duong Thu Huong
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

I'd love to hear of any titles relating to the Vietnam War that you might recommend. Are you participating in the challenge? What will you be reading?

About the Vietnam War Challenge:
The 2010 War Through the Generations reading challenge will focus on The Vietnam War (1959-1975), which is technically a Cold War military conflict and is sometimes referred to as the Second Indochina War.

The fighting occurred in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam and relates to the rise of Communism in Asia following the defeat of the French, who had colonized the region, during WWII.

The challenge will run from January 1, 2010, through December 31, 2010.


This year you have options when reading your fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, etc. with the Vietnam War as the primary or secondary theme.

Books can take place before, during, or after the war. Books from other challenges count so long as they meet the above criteria.

Dip: Read 5 books in any genre with the Vietnam War as a primary or secondary theme.

Wade: Read 6-10 books in any genre with the Vietnam War as a primary or secondary theme.

Swim: Read 11 or more books in any genre with the Vietnam War as a primary or secondary theme.

The War Through the Generations Challenges are hosted by Anna and Serena. For more information about the Vietnam War Challenge or to sign up visit the challenge website. The challenge website has a great list of recommendations as well, a feature that comes in mighty handy for me!

© 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. I think you picked some truly interesting reads for this challenge and I can understand why you would want to read them. I'm sure that after you review some of them I will find myself having to read them too...I already know that I must read The Things They Carried.

  2. I can certainly understand why you'd sign on for this challenge, Wendy. I doubt I'll join in, but I have a book in TBR that seems like it might fit in with it, if you haven't read it already. Falling Through the Earth by Danielle Trussoni is the memoir of a Vietnam veteran's daughter. I've read an excerpt from it, but haven't gotten to the whole book yet. Maybe this year...

    BTW, based on your recommendation, I bought a copy of The Book Thief today :-).

  3. I would liken your emotional tie to Vietnam sort of like mine for WWII. Nevertheless, I still look forward to this challenge. My parents were not a part of the war, but a good friend was and I look forward to learning more about it. I just bought The Things They Carried today on my Kindle!

    FYI, I am a self-proclaimed fangirl of Sarah Waters. You can't really go wrong with anything she has written, but I'm finding Fingersmith (which I am reading right now) to be mind-blowing.

  4. It sounds like you have to do this challenge! I'm doing it too. I would suggest reading After the Flag Has Been Folded by Karen Spears Zacharias. (This book was originally titled Hero Mama in case you run across a used copy.) Good luck with the challenge.

  5. I'm interested in hearing your thoughts as you read through this challenge. My Dad is a WWII veteran and rarely talks about it either. I think that is a common thing among veterans especially those of his generation. I enjoyed reading your sweet memories of your father.

  6. Definitely stick with O'Brien's The Things They Carried. I first discovered O'Brien's work as a teenager, and his words made quite an impression on me. I'm looking forward to reading more of him during this challenge.

  7. The Ha-Ha might's about a man with a brain injury (from the Vietnam War), although the entire book is set in the US. It's more about how he lives and deals with his injury.

  8. Great selections for the challenge! I love O'Brien, Heinemann, and Shors!

    I've got you listed on the official participants page.

    Also, the new buttons are here:

    Also, if you have anything you would like to offer up as a guest post for the Vietnam War challenge this terms of funny stories, we'd be happy to share them. Just drop us an email at warthroughgenerations AT gmail DOT com

  9. Just stopping by to wish you a very Happy New Year!


  10. Very interesting idea. I'm going to look into the Vietnam War book challenge. Thanks for discussing it and I thank the men and women like your father who made so many sacrifices during a time when much of the country was turning their back on them.

  11. I'm thinking about this one. Vietnam has a special place in my heart.

    I read Philip Caputo's "A Rumor of War" years ago and will recommend it without reservation.

    Interesting that it was your father who fought in Vietnam; for me it was three cousins, none of which came back unchanged by their experiences. It was also my brother, who in 1970 had a draft number in the 30s. I can remember him telling my parents that if they announced they were going to draw his lot, he was going to enlist so he could go where he wanted to go. They never called his lot, thankfully.


  12. I'm so glad you're joining us again this year. I have familial connections to both WWII and Vietnam, which is one of the reasons why we're tackling these first.

    We have a few of the same books on our reading lists. I look forward to your reviews.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  13. Staci - I've been meaning to read The Things They Carried for years now. I figure this is a good time.

    Florinda - Thanks for the recommendation, Florinda. I haven't read that one. It sounds like I should though.

    I hope you like The Book Thief! Now I'm nervous. LOL

    Sandy - I'm really looking forward to finally reading The Things They Carried.

    Fingersmith seemed to be winning out on Twitter last I checked. I'm glad you are enjoying it. I'm trying to avoid looking at the results of the official poll just yet.

    Kathy - I'm so glad you are joining in with this challenge too. I'll have to look for After the Flag Has Been Folded. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Kristy - Yes, I think it is common of war vets to avoid talking about their experience, at least with those who haven't been through it too. When my dad started meeting up with some of his fellow serviceman years later, he finally had someone to talk about it with--it really did him good.

    Amanda - That one is a sure thing. I was the one who recommended it to my dad and my coworker to read, both of whom loved it. It's about time I read it.

  14. Jill (Softdrink) - I think I saw that one on the recommendation list. I hadn't known what it was about though as they only list the titles. It sounds interesting. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Serena - Thanks! I am looking forward to the group read. I've already ordered a copy of the book. :-)

    And thank you for the heads up about the new button. I'll get that added to my side bar tonight.

    Carey - Thank you, Carey! I hope you have a happy New Year too.

    Linda (Glory Bee) - There's a special place in my heart for Vietnam veterans. I hope you do consider joining the challenge!

    CJ - Thanks for the recommendation, CJ! I haven't read that one yet. I'm glad your brother ended up not having to go.

    Anna - Thank you for hosting it! I'm really looking forward to the challenge. One of my grandfather's was in the military during WWII, although he was stationed in Australia and never saw any action (thank goodness!).

  15. That is such a great idea, I would love to read something about Vietnam war too, so I'll look forward to your progress in the challenge.

  16. This is a really, really challenge. I think your dad is really cool and a hero. Have a good time with the challenge, Wendy!

  17. I'm actually reading a nonfic book about the Vietnam war that I'd highly recommend: The Girl in the Picture by Denise Chong. I should be reviewing it soon. :)

  18. I'm really looking forward to The Lotus Eaters!

  19. Violet - It was such a complex conflict, that's for sure. It's been awhile since I last read a book on the subject and so I'm eager to dive back in.

    Alice - Thank you, Alice, for your kind words! I don't think my dad thinks of himself much as a hero, but I always tell him so. :-)

    Eva - I look forward to reading your review of The Girl in the Picture!

    Lisa - Me too! It sounds like it will be a good one.

  20. Just have to say that I love your little poll that you have... I voted for my favorite Sarah Waters but I'm sure any book will be fantastic!

    Good luck with your challenge. I'm still a bit on the fence with this one as I'm not quite sure if I even have any books that would fit for this one.

  21. What a great challenge. I took a Vietnam history course in college, taught by a history prof and a pych prof who did 2 tours in Vietnam. When he wasn't teaching, he was working at the nearby Vet's hospital with patients with PTSS. Anyway, the text of our class I HIGHLY recommend, even before you read anything else: Stanley Karnow's VIETNAM: A HISTORY. It is very readable and is really essential for an understanding of what happened there.

    And while we read several books, I have to agree with Caputo's Rumor of War. Really fantastic. I'll have to go search my shelves for other Vietnam books. I haven't read them in 20 years!

  22. I've never been that interested in reading about the recent wars for some reason. I guess because it's still fresh in everyone's minds.

  23. What a great challenge for you! I haven't read any of the books on your list, but I have The Things They Carried by Time O'Brien on my Filling in the Gaps list, too. I hope you enjoy the challenge and learn a lot!

  24. Iliana - Thank you! I figured I could use a little help from my readers. :-)

    Thank you too for the good luck wishes. I am having to purchase several of the above books (I only have two of them). Thank goodness for gift cards.

    Sarah (SmallWorld) - I have read VIETNAM: A HISTORY. It's been many years, but that was one of the books I pulled off my father's shelf when I was going through my Vietnam War reading phase. The course you took sounds like it was fascinating.

    Jen - I can understand that. I'm really interested in current events and history so I enjoy reading about stuff like this.

    Kristi - Thanks, Kristi. I think it will be interesting. I'm especially interested in exploring the fiction written about the Vietnam War, which is why most of my choices fall into that category. I kind of burned out on the nonfiction years ago. I figure it's worth dipping into again a little.

  25. I recommend Father of All Things by Tom Bissell. It's about a son who takes his Marine father back to Vietnam recently. Lots of interesting war history with memoir of his parents/childhod and then the travel aspects. LOTS in this both then and now.

  26. THE THINGS THEY CARRIED is a really good book. Good luck with your challenge!

  27. Care - Thank you for the recommendation, Care. That does sound like a good one.

    Marie - I'm looking forward to that one especially. :-)

  28. I am only going to participate in two challenges. One is American Civil War and War Through the Generations. Studying history at the grad level lends itself to this nicely, so I don't know if it is a huge challenge. However, I would be reading novels most likely as opposed to the non-fiction required in my coursed. I'm glad you are doing this one too. I might have to use one or two of your titles. :)

  29. Wisteria - I'm glad you're participating in this one too. :-) I look forward to seeing what you decide to read!

  30. I'm participating in this one as well, for much the same reasons. In fact, I'm only delaying my sign-up post because I'm waiting for my dad to give me some info about his tour in Vietnam. One of my book will be a reread of something I read many years ago; it's called ONCE A WARRIOR KING, and if I recall, it paralleled my dad's experiences pretty closely. I'd recommend that one, if you are looking for more titles to add to you list.

  31. How wonderful to connect with your dad's history through your reading! My dad is a WWII vet and very close lipped about it. I've always tried to read what I could about that era for the same reasons that you are seeking out Vietnam War era literature! I took a year long course in college on history of Vietnam War. We read a book called Tears Before the Rain by Larry Engleman. The book is first person accounts of Vietnamese people. I remember really enjoying the perspective because you don't get it in a lot of the books written about Vietnam. I look forward to your updates!

  32. Heather - I am glad you are participating too! I don't think I've read Once a Warrior King. I'll have to look for it. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Kathleen - I'm definitely interested in reading something from different perspectives as well so I'll have to look for Tears Before the Rain. Thank you for the recommendation.

  33. My father is also a Vietnam Vet - I read The Things They Carried for the first time in high school as an attempt to understand that part of his history. It is truly brilliant. The Quiet American is wonderful, too.

    I will definitely be doing this challenge - and The Dragon House and The Lotus Eaters are waiting on my shelf. :)

  34. Carrie - I am glad you would recommend both The Quiet American and The Things They Carried. I only found out recently that O'Brien's book is fiction with sprinklings of the author's real life. I'd always thought it was nonfiction for some reason.

  35. Wendy - he does have a memoir about his experiences - it's called "If I Die in a Combat Zone." Reading "The Things They Carried" is quite an experience though - it's like reading a memoir, even though I know that parts of it were fiction.

  36. Thanks B for recommending After the Flag has been Folded. Rarely do we hear about the effects of war on families. As a daughter of a solider killed in action, this is as much my mother's story as it is my father's.

  37. Wendy -- I want to THANKS your dad for his sacrifices to come and help us when the country was turning back on him and the others. I really think your dad is hero. Without him, I weren't be in better place now :) Although my family did gone through fears and tears through all that years, we happy that Vietnam is lot better than it used to be. We thought of our family who still there and hope someday they come down to America to visit us :)

    I be interested to hear what you got to say about the books you choosen to read. Plus the documentary films as well :)

  38. Carrie - Thank you for the title! I'll have to look for that one.

    Karen - Thank you for the recommendation, Karen!

    Julia - Thank you so much, Julia. I will definitely share your kind words with my dad. I know they will mean a lot, especially from you.


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