#2: Dog Soldiers (1974), by Robert Stone

“You seem just like an ordinary guy. Why’d you try it?”
“We’re all just ordinary guys.”

For many years I found it hard to believe that the Vietnam War ended only 7 years before I was born. Even at the height of our Middle East misadventure of the last decade, I had to remind myself that the public furor was but a fraction of the Vietnam War’s. Comparing our relative tranquility to the utter chaos depicted in Rick Perlstein’s long but fascinating book Nixonland makes it seem like Vietnam was a relic of a long-buried era. Race riots. Cambodia. Manson. Watergate. Watchwords that are now shorthand for a period defined by paranoia, drugs, and uprising.

As always, the era’s popular culture reflected this. I wasn’t alive to see Saigon fall, but I have seen the iconic movies (Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, Platoon, et al.) and read the seminal books (The Things They Carried, Dispatches), all painting a bleak picture of a country at war both overseas and with itself.

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