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The Good Soldiers

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  4,420 ratings  ·  677 reviews
It was the last-chance moment of the war. In January 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new strategy for Iraq.He called it the surge. “Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Well, here are the differences,” he told a skeptical nation. Among those listening were the young, optimistic army infa ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published September 15th 2009 by Sarah Crichton Books (first published January 1st 2009)
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This is a great book, a horror story which needed telling and a book which could actually change people’s minds.

It must be said that The Good Soldiers is mainly about men being maimed and killed. The good soldiers from America drive slowly through some of the worst parts of Baghdad and of course they are very frequently blown up. David Finkel reports the story of one army unit between January 2007 and April 2008, when the author was with them - in the famous word, "embedded". In those few months
As much as I liked this book, I hated it, too. You see, my husband was in the same brigade as 2-16. He was not at FOB Rusty, but at another FOB as part of the surge. We haven't talked much about what he saw during his two deployments. He isn't an infantryman, never has had to patrol, etc. However, he had to go outside the wire, as any and all soldiers are wont to do. Until this book, I could never imagine what that entailed.

My heart breaks for the soldiers of 2-16. The ones who were killed and
Will Byrnes
Up close and personal, The Good Soldiers is a brutal, bloody, real portrait of contemporary war, complete with excrement-filled trenches, good intentions, too many severed human parts, and some questionable leadership. It is as disturbing as it is informative.

What did the surge in Iraq look like from the inside? How do you get the locals to trust you? How do you patrol an area when your vehicles are constantly being blown up by IEDs and other deadly devices? How do you sustain an optimistic out
Dear Goodreads Web Designer:

Your star rating system needs a new button. Perhaps completely off the scale, a little red x labeled "fucking painful, read it anyway." Or something along those lines.

Sincerely, Kate

I didn't like this book. I don't think anyone could like such a bloody first hand look at an army regiment in Baghdad during the Surge. This is a very painful account, which makes me credit and also dislike it. Because any non-sociopath reading about the gazebo at the Brooke Army Medical
Some of you may remember the book Blood Makes the Grass Grow Green where I started a blog comment war with a friend of the author. I just couldn't stand the attitude of the writer and didn't believe that it was a true memoir. I just didn't think that the war in Afghanistan was really what he said. So I wasn't looking forward to reading this novel by a Pulitzer Prize winning author, because I figured it would be another liberal take on why war is bad.

But, oh, I was wrong. This is one of the fines
May 23, 2010 Lori rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everybody, but especially Bush, Cheney, Obama, Biden, Gates & everybody at the Pentagon right now
A sad book, but very powerful. An astounding piece of journalism that reads like the finest fiction. Everybody, but especially those people who make decisions about the war - any war - should read it.

I would also like to recommend it to all the students who were in my interactive design class, or were taking classes in my program between the spring of 2007 and the spring of 2008. Why? Here's the answer . (It's my extensive review of the book, but I feel this isn't the right place for it.)

Scott Belsky
He pulled a piece of copper shrapnel out from the webbing of his fingers. He wore a short sleeve shirt to show off the zigzag scars along his arms. He popped a fake eye made to look like the crosshairs of a rifle scope into his hollow eye socket. He said, “I want people to know the price of war” (210).

This is just one of the wounded soldiers David Finkel writes about in his brutal but compelling book The Good Soldiers. The book chronicles the troops of the 2-16, one of the battalions who served
My son was in this battalion and is an admirer of the battalion commander, "Col K" as everyone calls him. I had heard many of the stories in this book but not in their totality. David Finkel has written an intense, compelling, and emotional account that succeeds in covering the war on so many facets simultaneously: strategic, operational, tactical, homefront, and the Iraqi perspective as well. A map would have been nice but this was not an account written to stop and reference maps, but to be re ...more
This is a not book about platoon level combat despite what the book blurb says. It is a book about soldiers, Iraqis, others getting blown up, maimed, shot, killed, ruined without any overarching theme or story other than it is due to the surge. Here is a journal entry from one of “The Good Soldiers”, which pretty much sums up the tone of the entire book.

“I’ve lost all hope. I feel the end is near for me, very, very near.
Day by day my misery grows like a storm, ready to swallow me whole and take
Anne Tommaso
What a powerful book. Almost every description and detail is emotionally moving in some way, and there are some that are so, so tragic. I had to take breaks to process what I was reading. David Finkel's writing is excellent and well crafted. With humility and respect for his subjects, Finkel lets the unbelievable details, language of the soldiers, and the perspective and thoughts of Ralph Kauzlarich speak for themselves. There is so much human suffering and human dignity in this book.
Beautifully done and crushingly sad. From their arrival in Iraq for the 2007-2008 "surge" to their departure 15 months later, the book chronicles the experiences of one Army battalion's soldiers, from the commanding officer to the most junior troops, and their families, including the deaths and maimings and in some cases their slow psychological and spiritual disintegration. For me, this was one of those books that left me just sitting after I finished it, unable to stop thinking about the stori ...more
Harrowing. Riveting. Unbelievably sad. David Finkel's all-access, on the ground reporting from the Iraqi War during "the surge" of 2007 into 2008 does a fantastic job of putting us with the 2-16 Infantry Battalion with which he was embedded, as they try to makes sense of a increasingly senseless situation, and get out of there, not just alive, not just without losing a hand, or a leg, or, in the case of one guy, both legs, one arm, one hand, ears, and eyelids, but with a measure of dignity and t ...more
Elizabeth Sulzby
In-depth study of one battalion deployed to hardest part of Baghdad from beginning of "surge," David Finkel's The Good Soldiers (2009) is one of the most engaging, best written, and most revealing of the Iraq/Afghanistan books. Finkel takes the reader into the points-of-view of all levels of this battalion's experiences and context.

Note: I am not going to use names in this review to avoid spoilers. I am also accepting the author's reporting as factually based. I have some background knowledge w
Kristen Lemaster
I think this is a must-read for every American, especially those who have family or friends serving in the military and who have been somehow touched by the war on terrorism since 9/11. This is such a heartbreaking and honest portrayal of the real price of war - like The Things They Carried, but more factual while still retaining that engaging storytelling aspect. I cried and laughed and kept reading because you realize sometimes that's all you can do, just keep going, like these soldiers do, th ...more
Sep 16, 2011 Susan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Susan by: all Americans
Shelves: 2011-reads, audio
Each year, my daughter's university chooses a theme for the freshman writing seminar and assigns a reading to go along with the theme. I like to read the books also as the selections tend to be outside my normal choices and they broaden my knowledge and thinking on the topic. The Good Soldiers was the book chosen this year. I found it to a description of the war in Iraq that was very painful to listen to. I brought my experiences as a mother to the reading and found it so difficult to read about ...more
When I bought this book the lady at the register told me, "You're the first woman to ever buy this book!" Unfortunately no special prize comes with that. But I highly recommend this book to peoples of all genders. I've tried to read several books about the Afghanistan/Iraq wars, but I was never very interested in the long backstory and all the laborious details about politics and behind-doors meetings and whatnot. This book ignores all of that and takes the reader directly to the soldiers on the ...more
Wow. This book was so difficult to read, even though it had a lot going for it. The writing style was excellent. I felt like I got to know the people featured in the opening chapters. The author seemed to do a superb job getting into the mindset of these soldiers and showing the shift from hopeful optimism (we're going to win this war) to grim reality (friends are dying every week, and for what?). Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich is often quoted as saying, "It's all good." Later in the book, after losi ...more
Stephen Dorman
Like a number of books on the Iraq war this has it's flaws. As an embedded reporter it's more or less inevitable that Finkel can only provide a narrow US perspective on events. He is, generally, unflinching in doing so and the book reads well.

You will however search in vain for any but the most cursory Iraqi perspective. Injuries and deaths of US soldiers are dwelt on at great length, Iraqis, by and large, die off-screen. Voiceless, faceless, lifeless.

That said, reading between the lines can giv
Liza Gilbert
I really hate reading about war. I find it nauseating, and I find the whole process of combat stupid.

That said - if I had to read a book about the Iraq war, I'm glad it was this one.

I was blown away by the author's organization. Although the story is told chronologically, it tells the stories of dozens of different soldiers yet remains very organic in how those histories are told.

There are definitely some sections that one should not read while eating, before eating, after eating, or while think
David Finkel, a reporter who lived with an Army battalion during the Iraqi surge, describes in great detail some of the tragic events that took place during their deployment and the backstories of some of the soldiers affected by those events. His narrative does not give a political opinion either way; rather, the theme that he does make very clear in his book is that the political pundits (both Republican and Democrat) were (and are) out of touch with the reality of the Iraqi ground war. One th ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Although the writing on the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan has been solid—Doug Stanton's recent Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan (2009), Thomas Ricks's Fiasco (**** Nov/Dec 2006), and Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City (**** Selection Jan/Feb 2007) come to mind—David Finkel's unflinching reporting brings an immediacy to the war experience that critics welcomed as necessary (despite more than a few uncomf ...more
The Good Soldiers is about the micro, not the macro, nor about strategy, politics, or protestors. It's focus is on the day to day experiences of a battalian of troops during the '07 Iraq surge and it gives updated meaning to Sherman's quote that "war is hell." The descriptions of patrols taken on humvees leave a reader tensed for the moment of an IED explosion and when they occur the intensity quickly morphs into horror and disgust as images of injury and suffering fly off the page. The nausea b ...more
If you dont hate war, after you read this book there is a good chance that you will and rightfully so. A visceral raw account of the 2-16 troops 15 months in Iraq and part of its time at home. The author at the beginning of every chapter has a quote from Bush during this time period claiming how 'The Surge' was working, yet the reality on the ground follows in the chapter and shows it was doing nothing but getting our guys killed in a quicker manner. Absolutely heart breaking but necessary readi ...more
Now here is a book that will turn your hair white.
It is a confronting book and had me so depressed by the closing chapters that I wanted to find a bar. And get so completely wasted to drown out my misery....and I don't even drink. That's how much it got under my skin.
Dropped a star. Really wanted to give it 5. In the end, there were a few things the author did that I didn't like and I made the tough choice to drop a star. 4 stars is still a top rating in my book though.
This book made me feel bad. I guess that's a good thing for a book about war.
How does one describe a war? Was there ever a war that seemed like a success? Oh yes--I remember now. The one Bush,Jr declared finished after a month or two.

Imagine you are lying flat on the hot, dusty surface of a road east of Baghdad, in Rustamiyah. Like an IED, say, or an EFP. (Improvised Explosive Device or Explosively Formed Penetrator) Imagine you take a picture of the world from that viewpoint. I felt Finkel's book allowed us to view the war in Iraq from a similar vantagepoint. A single
Mikey B.
This is very graphic account of the Iraq war from the ground perspective of the American soldier. I am not exactly sure why this title was chosen because I don’t get any feeling of goodness coming out of these 273 pages. Instead soldiers die horrifically, are bodily mutilated and will suffer for the rest of their lives. The soldiers who do survive without physical disabilities will doubtless experience deep mental anguish for the duration of their lives. Many of them were taking sleeping pills d ...more
This is a very sad book and written in an unusual way. It's not so much a story - with your typical arc and characters - as a series of journal entries. Because of that, there is something a bit more raw and powerful to the writing. It took me a few chapters to get used to but once I did I admired that Finkel didn't try to do too much with this book or the material. He, of course, writes mostly about the bad days, which make for a more interesting read and have more of an impact on soldiers but ...more
It is one thing to realize that you have turned into your mother, it is quite another to turn into your dad. I remember a teenage point in my life where I counted all the 'military' books in our house, I was trying to prove a point that we were not like 'normal' families, most 14 year olds do not read Colin powell's biography. my dad was brainwashing me...

Okay, so my point is that this book is astonishing, I can not believe that I am just now reading it. the author takes a genuine interest in th
Holly Morrow
Intense. The Good Soldiers is about the 2-16 infantry battalion in Iraq, written by a journalist who spent 8 months deployed with them. It is almost repetitive in being unrelentingly grim -- soldiers getting up every day to set out on convoys through Baghdad, which to them is basically a gauntlet of RPGs, IEDs, EFPs, and several other acronyms all of which stand for insurgents trying to kill them. Most of the time they're not even doing anything on their convoys, just driving through the city k ...more
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David Finkel is a staff writer for The Washington Post, and is also the leader of the Post’s national reporting team. He won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting in 2006 for a series of stories about U.S.-funded democracy efforts in Yemen. Finkel lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife and two daughters. Email him at
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“I can see the little girl, the face of the little girl. And as much as people say that they don't care about these people and all that, I don't care about these people - but I do, at the same time, if that makes any sense. They don't want to help themselves, they're blowing us up, yeah, that hurts, but it also hurts to know that I've seen a girl that's as old as my little brother watch me shoot somebody in the head. And I don't care if she's Iraqi, Korean, African, white - she's still a little girl. And she watched me shoot somebody.” 2 likes
“He is a true casualty of battle. There's not a physical scar, but look at the man's heart, and his head, and there are scars galore.” 2 likes
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