Says Jess: I am a bit of a slouch when it comes to keeping time with current releases, but I am a big fan of the New York Public Library. Here are … five books I read that were pretty awesome.
“Living With Honor,” by Sal Giunta. This guy is the first living veteran to be awarded the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War. You would think his memoir would be filled with bravado and all kinds of exciting tales (some parts of it are like that), but he really dives much deeper, relating what being a soldier in Afghanistan was like. You’d also think this book would be really depressing (he lost his best friend in the battle that recommended him for the Medal of Honor) but it’s actually very uplifting.
“Here I Am,” by Alan Huffman. Tim Hetherington died at the age of 40 while photographing the front lines in 2011 in Libya. His death really shook me, as I had found and fell in love with his photos a few months prior. Alan Huffman has written some books about African history, so he’s got an interesting perspective on Tim’s philanthropic efforts while photographing conflicts in Africa and the Middle East. It’s a wrenching read, but inspiring, in that it shines a light on his generosity and humor.
“War,” by Sebastian Junger. I checked this book out a few years ago, and, along with the related documentary, “Restrepo,” I think it is the catalyst that moved me to work with veterans in comic-book form. Engrossing, provocative, but not political, it’s an incredible book. This nonfiction work catalogs time spent in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan with a platoon of young Marines.
“War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning,” by Chris Hedges. If you’ve gotten this far on my list, perhaps you think I’m a war lit junkie, but it turns out there are just a lot of great writers writing about the cost of war (in our era of multi-war waging, this is probably a good thing). At any rate, Chris Hedges has a reputation of being very incisive and direct in his writing. This is a slim volume that makes quick work of dissecting the conflicts Chris reported on during his career, and why men are drawn, decade after decade, to fight in war.
“Alan’s War,” by Emmanuel Guibert. This is a graphic novel, which follows an Army private through the latter part of WWII. It’s drawn in lush ink washes and is a fabulous read. The author met this veteran in southern France who moved there after his time in the military and was in old age by the time they began work together.
Jess Ruliffson is a Brooklyn-based cartoonist best known for her fine work detailing the lives of returning veterans.
A version of this story first ran in the New York Post’s Parallel Worlds blog.