Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Good War: An Oral History of World War II” as Want to Read:
The Good War: An Oral History of World War II
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Good War: An Oral History of World War II

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  2,266 ratings  ·  151 reviews
In The Good War Terkel presents the good, the bad, and the ugly memories of World War II from a perspective of forty years of after the events. No matter how gruesome the memories are, relatively few of the interviewees said they would have been better off without the experience. It was a central and formative experience in their lives. Although 400,000 Americans perished,...more
Paperback, 608 pages
Published January 1st 1997 by New Press, The (first published 1984)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Good War, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Good War

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Ensiform
A collection of reminisces and insights on the war. It's mostly American, but there are German, Japanese and Russian voices as well. Even so, the years 1939-41 are almost totally ignored, which is a surprising weakness is what is otherwise an immensely important book. The tales told here present hundreds of horrifying, bizarre and amazing images that linger on later. Perhaps the most memorable is the legless ex-GI, deformed from radiation and now become head of the National Association of Atomic...more
Cal40
Dec 04, 2013 Cal40 is currently reading it
My 89 year-old grandfather Joe fought in the war, and I know he's told me a few war stories before, but I'm sad that I can only remember one:

Joe was the head of his infantry, and his little group had gotten their jeeps stuck in a muddy ditch outside of base. They had been pushing for at least an hour, but the mud was really thick. A general from base was calling for their men to report back for lunch in the mess hall. Joe was getting annoyed that it was taking this long for the men to free their...more
Tommccoy26
"The Good War" is advertised as an oral history of World War II as told by veterans and citizens on many fronts - which, technically, it is. However, Terkel seems to have taken a definite anti-war stance with this book. Rather than presenting a balanced view of World War II by telling both the positive and the negative, he has chosen to include interviews with a disproportionate number of veterans who were discriminated against or were treated poorly by their officers; people who were victims of...more
Ruth
World War II was the background of my childhood. I was 6 when it started and 10 at the end. At that age, what is, is. I accepted this setting for my young years and never thought about how strange it was to be in this situation. It wasn’t until years later that I began to understand.

Here he interviews soldiers, sailors, marines, men, women, Americans, Germans, Japanese… A full panoply of the participants, no matter what age, no matter at home or in battle.

Studs Terkel is a maestro of the intervi...more
Marie
An absolute must-read. These personal accounts show the varied tapestry of a war - make it something you can relate too. So many years in history classes left me with no real sense of the war - and I certainly couldn't be bothered to remember if the Battle of the Bulge was after D-day or what... no, this book has me understanding the war, knowing its important events and many, many unimportant ones.

The black soldier fired on by white soldiers in a US base on US soil - because they suspected thei...more
Mark
An important, indispensable book that should be required reading. Terkel interviews a wide spectrum of people and gathers their reflections and experiences regarding World War II and the aftermath. The range of people is remarkable. We hear from GIs, Rosie the Riveters, scientists that helped make the A-Bomb, Japanese-Americans that were interred here in the U.S., and many, many other eyewitness accounts to history. Terkel does not paraphrase; the text retains the actual words of these individua...more
Douglas Cavanaugh
Feb 04, 2014 Douglas Cavanaugh rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: High school students, anyone born after 1980
Recommended to Douglas by: no one in particular
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I read it as a follow-up to this author's Great Depression release called, 'Hard Times,' which I enjoyed very much, too.

This book, in essence, is a collection of some 70-odd personal interviews of people who participated in World War II in one way or another. Since Terkel chose such a wide array of interviewees, the reader gets a well-deserved variety of what happened to the individuals who fought in and survived that war. Very real stories, both positive and ne...more
Alger
More 4 1/2 since this is a mountain of a tome and inevitably includes some lengthy accounts that add nothing to the sum total of the book except more pages, but this is STUDS *freaking* TURKEL so the book gets a full star extra credit and I round down to stay within the bounds of Goodreads ratings.

This is such a Chicago kind of book, the kind that builds out of the grittiest possible material and ends up with something majestic. It is hard not to read this book as a correction to the more recent...more
Dana Gynther
I was fascinated by this book-- so much depth, so many points of view. A must-read for anyone interested in WWII (or American History). Too bad Studs T. wasn't around throughout history to cherry-pick interviews with major and minor players-- wouldn't it be fascinating to read real oral histories of Napoleon's wars, Roman invasions, etc?
Mike Kabongo
Truly excellent oral history.
This is a collection of skillfully elicited accounts of the World War Two stories covering the lives of men and women from all walks of life. Studs Terkel was just an amazing historian and interviewer. These histories will give a personal touch to your knowledge of the war to end all wars.
Simon Kissam
This was really good, and showed a lot of how the war affected Americans, along with a few other people. That's the major reason I'm giving this four stars, is because it says an "Oral History of WWII" which implies that it covers all of WWII from all sides, however it doesn't really, it's mostly American, though does have a few international people. The stories of those affected by the war were really well done, and showed how the American populace was led to believe things about the Japanese a...more
Stop
Jun 10, 2009 Stop added it
Shelves: interviewees
Read the STOP SMILING interview with Studs Terkel:

BEHIND THE BILLBOARDS
By Danny Postel and JC Gabel

(This interview originally appeared in the STOP SMILING Chicago Issue)

Studs Terkel is “as much a part of Chicago as the Sears Tower and Al Capone,” a BBC journalist once remarked.

Indeed, just as tourists to the “city of the century” throng to the skyscraper's observation deck and make their way to one or another of the gangster's old haunts, many a writer has pilgrimaged to the Uptown home of Chica
...more
Jack
“The Good War” by Studs Terkel

...I wish I had read this book a long time ago. “The Good War” covered the oral history of World War II from a wide variety of perspectives. Some were veterans, others were civilians. Of note, there were the conscientious objectors, the Latino zoot suit rioters, the physicists part of the atom bomb development, journalists and cartoonists during the war, African-Americans and minorities in the military, and regular small-town residents economically affected by the w...more
Daniel Harrison
A great and entertaining book based on first-person accounts of the tortures and pain that many suffered during in World War II. The accounts range from Jews in the halocaust to Japenese-Americanin citizens relocated for matters pretaining to national security after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The accounts also include German, American, Russian(and so on), soldiers that served from the front lines to working back at command. The stories tell of the terrifying demands of some and the hate targeti...more
Ilya
Interviews with about 100 Americans and about a dozen foreigners about the Second World War. These run the gamut from ordinary GIs and deported Japanese Americans to, for example, John Kenneth Galbraith, the economist who implemented price controls and fought inflation during the war, and Telford Taylor, the chief American prosecutor at Nuremberg. When people in their 60s reminisce about their 20s, there are bound to be mistakes; an American soldier who met the Russians at the Elbe mentions a he...more
Tim
Of course it was amazing- it's Studs Terkel. Dood had a knack for getting awesome interviews with such a breadth of people. It took me forever to read this because I've been reading stuff on the side and reading a lot of comics lately, so the beginning of the book is somewhat hazy for me. There was really amazing/crazy stuff in the beginning about the Pacific theatre and the Japanese policy of living off the land (ie. stealing farmers' stuff) wherever they were in the Pacific instead of providin...more
Justin
An indispensable work. A straightforward oral history of World War II, from the grunts to the top brass, from women at the factories to women at home, from Japanese-American internees to war profiteers, from FDR's bureaucrats to Red Cross workers.

The quote marks around "The Good War" are not accidental. To wit:

For the old Iowa farmer, it was something else. Oh yes, he remembered the Depression and what it did to the farmers: foreclosures the norm; grain burned; corn at minus three cents a bushe
...more
Will Fleming
This is a fascinating book, as an alternate perspective on a piece of history that is such an ingrained piece of our cultural memory and that is so often adapted for film & TV that the reality of it can sometimes seem remote. This isn't a history of WW II in the way most histories are. It's a collection of interviews with people who were involved: mostly american soldiers, but also women who became "Rosie the Riveter", Asian-Americans who dealt with the internment camps, and even a few Germa...more
Ryan
A wonderful collection of oral interviews with men and women who participated in World War II, in all places and on both sides. The viewpoints are as varied as the interviewees, their unfiltered words providing a look into facets of the war passed over or incompletely represented by history books and documentaries. One gets a sense not only of what the war was like, but of the politics, culture, attitudes, and everyday realities of the era, a part of the picture all too often muted in war docume...more
Samuel
Whereas I will always love Howard Zinn for exposing me to the simple fact that there is an entirely different interpretation of History, and also of the world out there. I appreciate Turkel's obvious effort to get multiple perspectives from various sources in all areas of society men, women, rich, poor, officer, enlisted, civilian white and non-white. Through these efforts he is able to better weave a fabric of stories which paints a more accurate and complete picture of America in that era, at...more
Author Annette Dunlea
The Good War: An Oral History of World War 11 by Studs Terkel (Book Review)
This bestseller by Studs Terkel was republished in 1997 by New Press. It won The Pulitzer Prize for non fiction and rightly so. The author presents over 120 interviews with people of all classes and all levels of involvement in World War 11. He interviews people both famous and infamous from both sides to give us as many perspectives as possible. It is a unique collection of primary sources on World War 11 and it is movi...more
DT
I read this book because it was mentioned as an inspiration for World War Z, which I really liked.

Terkel interviews a wide variety of people: American, German, Japanese, Russian, French, English. We get soldiers, entertainers, civilians, scientists, spies, government officials, lawyers, and their children. He chooses to group the histories thematically, rather than chronologically, so you're jumping around a lot in time. While some of the stories are not quite as interesting to me personally, t...more
Abby
Continuing my unintentional theme of World War II, I spotted this book while weeding the 940 section of the library and was reminded that I had been meaning to read it ever since I found out that Max Brooks had based his World War Z on Terkel's style of oral history vignettes. While quite a lengthy book, it is perfected edited and each person's story both stands well on its own and contributes to a broader narrative. Lacking any fundamental statement about the nature of war, Terkel instead choos...more
S.
Aug 28, 2013 S. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: hookah
this is a fairly legendary work, and I was pleasantly surprised to see German accounts and Japanese oral histories included in what the title would seem to suggest is part of that Brokaw agit-prop genre, 'Greatest Generation.' d'ya know statistical analyses has been carried out on WW2 combat medal citations and contemporary war medal citations and they show that people got WW2 medals for less important things than they do today? in other words, during WW2, you got a Medal of Honor if you merely...more
Richard Pittman
This book works on so many levels. First, it is a "people's history" of the Second World War. Second, it is an interesting survey of 1980s attitudes towards nuclear weapons. The first level is intentional. The second probably isn't, but makes the book continue to be relevant today.

The book itself is really fascinating. Studs Terkel records dozens of interviews with the people who lived through WWII, both soldiers and civilians. It never occurred to me that people like grocers and professional si...more
nanto
Nama Studs Terkel baru saja saya kenal. Dari buku Tahun yang Tak Pernah Berakhir, saya menemukan namanya di catatan kaki nomer 4 pada Bab Pengantar.

Buku Tahun yang Tak Pernah berakhir sudah 80% saya baca. Pengantarnya khusus saya print agar saya bisa lebih leluasa mencorat-coret. Ketiga editor buku Tahun yang Tak Pernah berakhir, John Roosa, Ayu Ratih, dan Hilmar Farid menuangkan beberapa persoalan metodologis dan teknis tentang sejarah lisan. Pembukaannya mengungkap hal yang tak biasa, "Sejarah...more
Jared Ure
Interesting take on WWII. The author uses statistics and firsthand accounts to support his ideas (which I always find more compelling), which are quite simply that WWII shaped the entirety of American culture, and the way Americans view history, both before and after the war--and that many of the things we assume do, in fact, make an ass out of u and me.
Eric Lawson
Read this book back in college. Really appreciate Studs Terkel as a story-teller. This was just as good as Working. He finds these people to open up and share their lives, sometimes even if it is not pretty. Good read and goes by fast. Good to hear the unsung stories which is what most of the war was about rather than the glamour of war.
Nick
Like Howard Zinn's 'People's History of the United States' this is a very disillusioning book. If your idea of World War II is a European struggle into which American reluctantly but decisively entered on the side of truth, justice, and liberty for all, then this will probably be an uncomfortable read. From the grunts on the ground to the generals in charge, from the women entering the workforce for the first time to the POWs overseas, this is a picture of a big, ugly mess in which folks nonethe...more
Dan  Logue
First of all, Studs Terkel is simply a phenomenal name. I can't imagine introducing oneself as "Studs" ever really getting old. I can think of a few professions for which that name seems particularly apt.

In The Good War, Studs puts together a collage of specific experiences and individual perspectives from WWII through excerpts of retrospective first-person accounts of the war. As emotionally intense as it is at times hilarious, this collection of stories reminds me of Al Santoli's Everything We...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Ashes to Ashes: America's Hundred-Year Cigarette War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris
  • The Rising Sun: The Decline & Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-45
  • And Their Children After Them: The Legacy of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: James Agee, Walker Evans, and the Rise and Fall of Cotton in the South
  • Nazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Extermination, 1939-1945
  • Japan at War:  An Oral History
  • Brave Men
  • The Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts After Communism
  • Gandhi's Truth: On the Origins of Militant Nonviolence
  • Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution
  • Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45
  • Company Commander: The Classic Infantry Memoir of World War II
  • The Professional
  • So Human an Animal: How We are Shaped by Surroundings and Events
  • A Sense of Where You Are: Bill Bradley at Princeton
  • Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land, Revised and Updated
  • Incredible Victory: The Battle of Midway
  • Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II
  • Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay
33716
Terkel won the Pulitzer prize in 1985 for his interviews with ordinary people in such books as Working, The Good War, and Hard Times. Often called an Oral Historian, Studs Terkel preferred to be known for playing music on the radio.
More about Studs Terkel...
Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression Division Street: America Race: How Blacks And Whites Think And Feel About The American Obsession Hope Dies Last: Keeping the Faith in Difficult Times

Share This Book