War! Huh! What is it Good For?

Absolutely nothin’ – apart from heartbreaking, brutal, sometimes funny & always deeply affecting war memoirs.

I’ve confined my selection to 20th Century conflicts, but of course these are just the tip of the literary iceberg. Ever since, aged 13, I discovered up Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall, the first book in Spike Milligan’s World War 2 memoir series, I have been drawn to this genre. As an insight into how ordinary people cope with the devastation of war, these 10 books are hard to beat. The Rupert Brooke/Wilfred Owen collection isn’t strictly speaking a memoir, clearly, but I think the poems qualify as condensed, intense memories of the unspeakable horror of the trenches.

Selected Poems cover

7. Selected Poems

Rupert Brooke & Wilfred Owen
Dispatches cover

8. Dispatches

Michael Herr
Goodbye to All That cover

9. Goodbye to All That

Robert Graves
Quartered Safe Out Here cover

10. Quartered Safe Out Here

George MacDonald Fraser