Whether you are a reader or a writer here on SOFREP — some of us are both — you probably have a list of your favorite “war books.”  You know the ones; they are those books that are seminal works on the art of war, on the warrior culture, and on the history of battles, military campaigns, and world wars.  The shelves are filled with volumes of these martial tomes, and there is not enough time in the day to read all of the ones you wish.  Such is life.

In addition to the stand-out, and obvious, classics on the warrior culture, there are also those books out there (in this case, all fiction books) that are unintentionally about war, or the warrior ethos.  You might be thinking, “What the hell does that mean?”  I am glad you asked.  Allow me to explain.

Some great works of literature — as well as movies, songs, plays, etc — might not be intentional artistic renderings of the warrior ethos are, nevertheless, just that.  They are literary works of art that describe what it means to be a professional soldier, or to live a warrior’s life, or to serve alongside your fellow man, as brothers, in the field of combat.  While some do take place in a martial setting — such as “The Afghan Campaign,” for example — they did not necessarily set out out to be books on the warrior ethos.  They might have just set out to be fiction books, meant to entertain.  They became much more, though.

Somewhere along the way, the authors of these particular books — all English-language, because I speak primarily English, and am lazy — tapped into a vein of truth, and drew forth through the catheter of their craft some undeniable truths about what it means to be a warrior.

They might have pulled out of an apocalyptic tale about a father and son the fundamental reason why men fight and die, as Cormac McCarthy did, in “The Road.”  They might have come across the true nature of the brotherhood of an elite, like Tom Wolfe did in “The Right Stuff.”  Or, maybe they discovered what it means to wage a months or years-long campaign, and how that shapes the common soldier, as Steven Pressfield did in “The Afghan Campaign,” and Larry McMurtry accomplished in “Lonesome Dove.”  Finally, maybe they just happened into describing the warrior ethos of never quitting and never leaving a man behind, as Andy Weir did in “The Martian.”

Whether they intended these books to be reflections on the warrior ethos, or simply inadvertently made them so as they sought to describe deeper human truths, is really of no concern.  Intentional or not, these five books go a long way in painting a picture of the warrior’s mind, spirit, and attitude.  If you want to begin to understand what it means to embody that warrior ethos, and experience what it means in war and beyond, then these books are a good place to start.  Happy reading.

The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe.  This 1979 book, and winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction, is ostensibly about the first men chosen to be Project Mercury astronauts for NASA.  Among them was the American Titan, John Glenn, thus making this a fitting book with which to start our list.  “The Right Stuff” is much more than a recounting of the lives of these men, though.