What are the best military books of all-time?
It’s a challenging question to answer considering there are so many types of military books.
For example, some of the works of fiction rival the best non-fiction military books.
Consequently, we’ve divided the best military books of all-time into separate genres.
Learn more about the 25 Best Military Books of All-Time.
Best Military Books (Non-Fiction)
The best military books are often non-fiction because they are based on real events or soldiers.
Biographies (review Top 10, below) highly personal accounts during warfare while others document important series of events.
You could easily narrow down the best military books by conflict (WWI, WWII, Vietnam, etc) or era.
Nevertheless, here is our 10 personal favorites:
#1. Black Hawk Down
- Author: Mark Bowden
- Publisher: Signet Books (1999)
“Black Hawk Down” was originally a book before it was adapted into a film starring Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, and Eric Bana.
It’s definitely worth reading the book even if you have watched “Black Hawk Down” beforehand.
The tremendous story is retold by journalist Mark Bowden as he recounts the events of October 3, 1993.
During that day hundreds of elite Army soldiers were trapped behind enemy lines fighting off a resistance of thousands.
“Black Hawk Down” is wonderfully researched with interviews that capture, minute-by-minute, what unfolded.
#2. The Forever War
- Author: Dexter Filkins
- Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (1974)
“The Forever War” presents an insider’s look into radical Islam and the foreign conflicts that have aided it.
Foreign journalist/correspondent Dexter Filkins begins by highlighting the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Then, decades later, the aftermath of September 11 along with the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The book is told on the ground level as Filkins received first line access to the events unfolding in the Middle East.
“The Forever War” features individual stories from people (ranging from citizens to soldiers) impacted by the events in Afghanistan.
#3. The Art of War
- Author: Sun Tzu
- Publisher: China (5th century BC)
“The Art of War” has long been considered one of the best military books.
Impressively, “The Art of War” was conceived over 2,000 years ago yet still remains relevant in modern warfare.
The book has long been viewed as a must-read for basic military theory and strategy.
Moreover, “The Art of War” dives into other aspects that influence society such as psychology, economics, and politics.
It’s worth a read to understand where most modern books about the military draw their inspiration.
#4. Band of Brothers
- Author: Stephen Ambrose
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster (1992)
“Band of Brothers” is another famous Hollywood production that started out as a book.
Historian Stephen Ambrose invites readers to follow a group of soldiers from enduring basic training in 1942 to the liberation of Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest in 1945.
Like most books, the historic account gets into more detail than what you see with the HBO series (although excellent, in it’s own right).
“Band of Brothers” takes you into what it was like to serve in WWII along the Western Front.
#5. The Guns of August
- Author: Barbara Tuchman
- Publisher: Macmillian (1962)
“The Guns of August” is a Pulitzer-Prize winning book.
It’s often acknowledged as a masterpiece among books to do with military history.
As a result, “The Guns of August” opens in 1914 set amongst the backdrop of World War I.
The book details the first month of WWI which would assist in upending the rest of the world.
“The Guns of August” presents a magnificent background of the people and events that contributed to World War I.
- Author: David McCullough
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2005)
“1776” is designed to retell a year that would lead to the birth of a new nation.
Of course, you cannot make a list of the best military books without including some that get into the history of the American Revolution.
Thus, “1776” chronicles the year in extraordinary detail as readers march along with the Continental Army.
While it’s not the only book on the American Revolutionary War it ranks among the best ever produced.
#7. We Were Soldiers Once… And Young
- Author: Harold Moore and Joseph Galloway
- Publisher: Random House (1992)
“We Were Soldiers Once… And Young” is the harrowing tale of the first significant engagements in Vietnam.
The year, 1965, is still considered one of the most savage in all the years U.S. Armed Forces were involved in Vietnam.
Consequently, the book is presented by a military lieutenant as well as war reporter that saw first-hand the events of The Battle of the la Drang Valley.
The story tells the perseverance and bravery of 450 soldiers surrounded by 2,000 enemy troops.
#8. The Pentagon Wars
- Author: James Burton
- Publisher: Naval Institute Press (2014)
“The Pentagon Wars” presents a rare glimpse inside the headquarters of the Department of Defense (DoD).
Former Air Force Colonel James Burton provides readers with rare insights.
Colonel Burton, who spent 14 years developing new weapons systems for the government, details many of the breakthroughs (and failures).
He notoriously clashed with the Pentagon and was renowned for disrupting the system.
Later, “The Pentagon Wars” inspired a comedy film based on the story.
#9. One Bullet Away
- Author: Nathaniel Fick
- Publisher: Houghton-Mifflin (2005)
“One Bullet Away” grants rare access inside the life of a Marine Corps officer.
Nathaniel Fick, who previously studied at Dartmouth, elected to join the Marines in the late 90s.
As a result, “One Bullet Away” provides details into the training and mindset of the Marine Corps.
Furthermore, readers experience a wide range of combat experiences during Fick’s deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Author: James Bradley
- Publisher: Little Brown (2003)
“Flyboys” is one of many military books written about WWII.
Notwithstanding, it continues to rank among the best books ever produced about the conflict.
“Flyboys” presents the story of 9 Americans that were shot down over the Pacific.
George H.W. Bush was among the pilots rescued before he went on to serve as the 41st President of the United States.
However, the story of the 8 other pilots, has remained a mystery until recently.
Author James Bradley (who also wrote “Flags of Our Fathers”) presents a well researched and memorable read.
Honorable Mention: Best Military Books (Non-Fiction)
- D-Day: June 6, 1944 (Stephen E. Ambrose)
- Nuclear Weapons (Mark Wolverton)
- On War (Carl von Clausewitz)
- Enemy at the Gates (Vince Flynn)
Best Military Books (Fiction)
There are great military books that are not based on real events, too.
We define these narratives as the best fiction military books.
As a result, the characters are made up by the author yet likely inspired by real people and events:
#1. The Hunt for Red October
- Author: Tom Clancy
- Publisher: Naval Institute Press (1984)
Today, Tom Clancy is one of the most recognizable names in fiction.
However, in 1984, no one was aware when Clancy released his debut novel, “The Hunt for Red October”.
The story depicts a Soviet captain that goes rogue with its cutting-edge submarine, Red October.
Furthermore, it’s the first appearance of Clancy’s most beloved fictional character, Jack Ryan.
You should definitely give “The Hunt for Red October”, or anything Tom Clancy, a try for an entertaining read.
#2. The Things They Carried
- Author: Tim O’Brien
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (1990)
“The Things They Carried” is exceptionally written if not raw and bittersweet.
The book is about a platoon of soldiers fighting on the ground during Vietnam.
“The Things They Carried” is a collection of short stories inspired by real events during author Tim O’Brien’s own service.
Accordingly, the novel is presented as a war memoir to make it feel very intimate and authentic.
#3. All Quiet on the Western Front
- Author: Erich Maria Remarque
- Publisher: Fawcett (1928)
“All Quiet on the Western Front” is widely considered one of the greatest war novels of all-time.
The novel presents the German experience during World War I.
The story was first published in a 1928 newspaper before later being adapted into various editions.
It’s noteworthy that Nazi Germany attempted to ban and burn the book during its reign.
“All Quiet on the Western Front” has sold millions of copies and transpired in numerous languages.
#4. Rescuing Wendy: Delta Force Heroes
- Author: Susan Stolker
- Publisher: Kindle Edition (2018)
Let’s face it, there is no need to make it all bloodbath when you are sitting back to relax and read.
Therefore, why not consider a military romance novel to change it up?
“Rescuing Wendy: Delta Force Heroes” is a necessary companion when military personnel are stationed overseas and away from family.
Follow Aspen “Blade” Carlisle, the last of his Delta Force team to find love.
#5. Missionaries: A Novel
- Author: Phil Klay
- Publisher: Penguin Press (2020)
“Missionaries: A Novel” is a recent novel to debut from USMC veteran Phil Klay.
The thriller takes place in Venezuela as a group of Marines attempt to raid the safe house of a drug lord.
The novel takes an innovative approach by highlighting 4 different lives that are involved in the conflict.
Former President Barack Obama designated it one of his favorite books of 2020.
Honorable Mention: Best Military Books (Fiction)
Best Military Books (Biography)
Biographies often are the best military books because of the personal perspective.
Whether drafted from a first-hand account (autobiography) or co-authored with someone else, biographies reveal anecdotes and information hard to find anywhere else.
As a result, some of the top military biographies are written by veterans as well as prisoners of war (POWs):
#1. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, & Redemption
- Author: Laura Hillenbrand
- Publisher: Random House (2010)
“Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand is often considered one of the best military books of all-time.
It was only recently published in 2010 yet already adapted into a film directed by Angelina Jolie.
Most consider the book far better which tells the incredible story of resistance and survival.
Louie Zamperini survived nearly 50 days on the Pacific after his bomber crashed into the ocean.
Then, he was captured by the Japanese and became a notorious prisoner of war (POW) where he was often targeted by the corporal of the army.
“Unbroken” presents a story of personal redemption and forgiveness, too.
#2. Lone Survivor
- Author: Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson
- Publisher: Little Brown & Company (2007)
“Lone Survivor” was published around a time period where there was an emerging focus on the military following 9/11.
For this reason, the story of “Lone Survivor” was inspiring and kept morale strong amid a difficult campaign in Afghanistan.
It’s another heroic account not to mention testament to survival.
Today, Marcus Luttrell remains active in supporting the efforts of veterans.
#3. American Sniper
- Author: Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, Jim DeFelice
- Publisher: William Morrow & Company (2012)
“American Sniper” Chris Kyle was another noteworthy autobiography that was published during the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was a tremendously respected marksman that recorded more career kills than any sniper in U.S. military history.
He later became a huge champion for war vets yet was tragically killed in 2013.
“American Sniper” is well worth the read in addition to watching the film directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper.
#4. Flags of Our Fathers
- Author: James Bradley
- Publisher: Bantam Books (2000)
Speaking of military stories that got adapted into movies by Clint Eastwood, “Flags of Our Fathers” was originally a book by James Bradley.
The story features an unforgettable chronicle of the 6 men that raised the flag at Iwo Jima.
While the achievement was a major triumph in WWII history it also led to different existences for the men that witnessed it.
Bradley is a terrific writer and pens what is easily considered one of the best military books of all-time.
#5. No Easy Day
- Author: Mark Owen and Kevin Maurer
- Publisher: Dutton Penguin (2012)
“No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden” is one of the most recent military books to become an all-time classic.
There was a little controversy over releasing the confidential details of the mission at the time, but today most consider it a classic.
“No Easy Day” takes readers into the first-person account of Navy SEAL Team Six Operator Mark Owen.
Owen confronted terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden moments before his death in the risky Pakistan raid.
It’s a quality insider’s look into some of the recent special op missions of the Navy SEALs.
#6. Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific
- Author: Robert Leckie
- Publisher: Random House (1957)
“Helmet for My Pillow” inspired the HBO series “The Pacific”.
It tells the first-hand account of Robert Leckie, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps during WWII.
Leckie, who was only 21 when he enlisted, describes his journey from boot camp at Parris Island to the Pacific Theater.
Leckie saw combat and some of his anecdotes were featured in the TV show.
#7. Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman
- Author: Jon Krakauer
- Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (2010)
Pat Tillman is one of the most remarkable men you’ll ever come across.
He was already in the NFL and preparing to sign a multi-million dollar deal before the events of 9/11 transpired.
It motivated Tillman to leave the NFL and serve as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Sadly, Tillman was accidentally killed by friendly fire in 2004 (which led to a whole other controversy the book outlines).
Jon Krakaeur is a well-recognized author that also covered the story of Chris McCandless (“Into the Wild”).
#8. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
- Author: E.B. Sledge
- Publisher: Presidio Press (2007)
“With the Old Breed” is a noteworthy memoir of World War II.
E.B. Sledge served during the Pacific Theater and saw combat in places like Obkinawa and Peleliu.
“With the Old Breed” is a New York Times Bestseller and ranks among the best military books, especially for a memoir.
#9. The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors
- Author: James D. Hornfischer
- Publisher: Bantam Books (2004)
“The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors” is an underrated tale from World War II.
The story tells of the Navy’s Finest Hour during an epic standoff with the Japanese’s massive fleet.
James D. Hornfischer describes the narrative in thrilling detail as Lieutenant Commander Robert W. Copeland addresses his crew on the USS Samuel B. Roberts.
The destroyer was part of the navy battle that took place on October 25, 1944.
#10. Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters
- Author: Dick Winters and Cole C. Kingseed
- Publisher: Dutton Caliber (2008)
If you are a fan of “Band of Brothers” you may not know there are additional memoirs published by Dick Winters.
For fans of the original book or HBO series, Major Dick Winters is among the favorite characters.
The war hero provides more anecdotes of Easy Company, many of which were not featured in the show.
Honorable Mention: Best Military Books (Biography)
- Sleeper Agent: The Atomic Spy in America Who Got Away (Ann Hagedorn)
- The Forgotten 500 (Gregory A. Freeman)
- The Hiding Place (Corrie Ten Boom)
- Grant (Ron Chernow)
- Outlaw Platoon (Sean Parnell and John Bruning)
The best military books of all-time reflect different eras and conflicts.
For this reason, it’s hard to compare a memoir from WWII to an autobiography produced about a veteran from Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, all of these books are impressive and deserving of your time to read.
We divided the best military books of all-time into separate genres to highlight outstanding works in non-fiction, biographical, and fiction.
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