The Fighters: Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, by C.J. Chivers, Simon & Schuster, New York, N.Y., 2018, $28

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist C.J. Chivers has crafted a masterpiece of military history in The Fighters. This powerful book details the lives of six individuals who served in the United States’ two most recent wars and the price they paid to serve their country.

The book is not for the squeamish. Though it is not overly gory, it paints a powerful picture of the horrors of combat and the toll it takes on those who go into harm’s way. The author knows well of this experience; before becoming a war correspondent for The New York Times, he was a Marine and served in Operation Desert Storm.

Chivers sums up his purpose for writing in the preface:

All of them had personally grueling wartime experiences. Most of them suffered wounds—physical, psychological, moral or all three. Together, their journeys hold part of the sum of American foreign policy in our time.

With care and candor he traces the life path of each veteran, from his childhood and reasons for joining the military to his combat experience and its impact on his life. The Fighters is a brutally honest examination of what war does to the soul and brings into sharp focus the necessity of being absolutely sure of the purpose, goals, strategies and end results before asking citizen soldiers to stand on the front line to defend American interests.

—Dave Kindy