What Are the Best Military Fiction Books of All Time?

Best Military Fiction Books

Have you ever read books in the genre of military fiction? Military fiction books can be exciting, thought-provoking, somber, and even humorous.

We’ve already told you what we think are the best non-fiction military books of all time. Now, we wanted to give you a list of military fiction books that we think are worth your time.  

You may have already read or at least have heard of some of the books in this list. Other titles may be new to you. But you can be sure that each one depicts military life in such realistic detail, you’ll think you’re reading a piece of non-fiction at times.

Top 10 Military Fiction Books

Here’s our list of top 10 military fiction books. Don’t agree with us? Did we forget to include your favorite military fiction book? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

1. Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

This famous novel focuses on Joe Bonham, a young American soldier who is hit by an artillery shell while on the frontlines of battle during World War I. He wakes in a hospital bed to find that he’s lost his arms and legs and he’s unable to speak, see, or hear.

Throughout the book, the reader bears witness to all of Joe’s thoughts, flashbacks, and hallucinations as he is trapped in his life of complete solitude.

Famously, the novel was the inspiration behind the song “One” by Metallica. The band actually owns the rights to the movie adaption of the novel and clips from the film are shown during Metallica concerts.

2. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller 

Best Military Fiction Books

This classic military novel is a satire that seeks to reveal the absurdity of war. The novel focuses on the protagonist named Youssarian, who is an American bombardier stationed in Italy during World War II.

Like all bombardiers, Youssarian is required to fly a specific number of missions in order to complete his service. The only problem is that magic number keeps increasing, so whenever our hero thinks he’s flown his last mission, he learns that he’s not quite done.

Youssarian concocts a scheme to get himself declared insane so he can be excused from service altogether. However, his plans are foiled when he comes up against the bureaucratic rule known as Catch-22.

The rule states that any man who willingly continues to fly dangerous bombardier missions must be insane. Therefore, any request to be removed from service only proves that the man is sane, and ineligible to be removed from service.

Frustrated and scared, Youssarian’s actions get more and more irrational until he can’t be ignored any longer.

3. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

The premise of this novel is as simple as it is nightmarish. What if the Axis powers were victorious in World War II? What would life be like if the United States was under the control of Germany and Japan? Can a small rebel faction of former U.S. military members fight back against the brutal regimes that control the world? It’s a jaw-dropping account of what could have been, but thankfully never was.

4. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

Written in 1895, this novel endures as one of the most realistic depictions of military life and war in a work of fiction. It follows Henry Fleming, a young Union soldier who deserts his regiment during the heat of battle.

He wanders the countryside overwhelmed with guilt and shame, longing for a wound to show his bravery. Eventually, Fleming finds the courage to rejoin his regiment and carries the flag of his country into battle.

Crane is often praised for his ability to portray the thoughts and feelings of a young, frightened man faced with the very real prospect of dying in battle.

5. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien

Best Military Fiction Books

This is one of those military novels that many people think is non-fiction, due to the fact that author Tim O’Brien survived his tour of Vietnam and incorporated much of his real-life experiences into the novel. Howeverit’s actually a classic work of fiction.

The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company during their tour in Vietnam. You learn about the lives of each man though memories, flashbacks, and intimate conversations with one another.

It was praised as a ground-breaking novel when it was first published in 1990, and continues to be taught in high schools, colleges, and writing seminars today.

6. The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

The Yellow Birds is an emotionally charged narrative that isn’t afraid to look at the horrors of the battlefield and the very real burdens soldiers carry when they return home.

In the story, we follow the naive teenager Private Murphy and the slightly older and wiser Private Bartle, as they struggle to retain their humanity and sanity in spite of the atrocities they’ve witnessed during the Iraq War.

At the core of the story is Bartle’s promise to Murphy’s mother that he will return her son home safely to her. Brilliant foreshadowing reveals that only Bartle will survive the war and return home without his younger comrade. We continue to follow Bartle when he’s back in the United States as he deals with a growing sense of despair, crushing guilt over not being able to save his friend, and an addiction to alcohol. 

This novel shows the impact of war that lasts long after a soldier has left the battlefield and what it takes for that soldier to save himself from the trauma he’s endured.

7. The Glorious Cause by Jeff Shaara

Best Military Fiction Books

You may have learned about the American Revolution in school, but it was probably never told to you like this. Shaara’s work of historical fiction brings the most famous figured of the Revolutionary War to life with stunningly realistic dialogue and rich descriptions of conflicts and battles.

You’ll join General George Washington as he made the fateful decision to cross the Delaware River. You’ll meet Nathaniel Greene who was the finest commander serving Washington.

You’ll be there as the British General, Charles Cornwallis, surrendered to Washington at Yorktown. And, of course, you’ll meet the finest statesmen of his day, Benjamin Franklin, as he convinced the French to join the colonies in their fight against their common British enemy.

It’s a wonderful telling of how brave and brilliant American revolutionaries did the impossible to gain independence from British rule.

8. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

Considered to be one of Ernest Hemingway’s finest works, this classic military novel takes place during the Spanish Civil War. In that conflict, the Nazi-backed Spanish Nationalist Faction was fighting to overthrow the Second Spanish Republic, which was in control of the country at the time.  

Despite the U.S. government claiming neutrality in the conflict, approximately 3,000 Americans traveled to Spain to fight on the side of the Second Spanish Republic.

Hemingway’s novel focuses on one of those American volunteers, Robert Jordan. The novel explores the changes Jordan goes through as he confronts the realities of being a participant in a war that isn’t his to fight.

9. Redeployment by Phil Klay

Best Military Fiction Books

This collection of short stories gives voice to the men, women, soldiers, and civilians who were on the front lines of the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Author Phil Klay injects much-needed humanity into these wars that faded into the background of everyday American’s consciousness as they seemingly continued without end.

This collection won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2014 and was also selected as one of the 10 best books of 2014 by the New York Times.

10. The Hunters by James Salter

The Hunters has been called a landmark achievement in military literature. The story centers on Cleve Connell, an Air Force Captain who arrives in Korea with the single goal of becoming an ace fighter pilot. In order to achieve his goal, he must shoot down at least five MiG-15 fighters—the chosen aircraft of communist North Korean army.

Despite Connell’s single-minded focus, he fails to complete missions and subsequently loses confidence in himself as others question his abilities.

Then, one fateful night, flying 40,000 feet above the Yalu River, Connell gets his chance at redemption by saving the lives of his fellow airmen in an act of breathtaking bravery.

Start Reading Military Fiction Today 

These are just 10 of the fiction military books that we recommend you add to your reading list. There are countless other military fiction titles to be sure, so just pick one that looks interesting to you. We bet you’ll be hooked on military fiction.

Make Sure Your Resume Isn’t Fiction

If you’re a recently separated servicemember who’s ready to transition to the civilian workforce, then be sure to contact Empire Resume.

We’ll transform your military experience and achievements into a military to civilian resume that tells employers the true story about the value you’ll bring to their organization.

Plus, we offer a $25 discount to all servicemembers and veterans. Get started today!

Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for both professionals and servicemembers transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and was responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance. 

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