Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Yellow Birds” as Want to Read:
The Yellow Birds
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Yellow Birds

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  23,678 ratings  ·  3,318 reviews
With profound emotional insight, especially into the effects of a hidden war on mothers and families at home, The Yellow Birds is a groundbreaking novel about the costs of war that is destined to become a classic.

"The war tried to kill us in the spring," begins this breathtaking account of friendship and loss. In Al Tafar, Iraq, twenty-one-year old Private Bartle and eight
Hardcover, First Edition, 226 pages
Published September 6th 2012 by Little, Brown and Company
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 Yellow Birds, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Alym Definitely for anyone who is thinking seriously about joining the military. Younger readers would not "get" the full horror of war and PTSD.…moreDefinitely for anyone who is thinking seriously about joining the military. Younger readers would not "get" the full horror of war and PTSD.(less)
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  23,678 ratings  ·  3,318 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Yellow Birds
Jeffrey Keeten
Sep 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
"THE WAR TRIED to kill us in the spring. As green greened the plains of Nineveh and the weather warmed, we patrolled the low-slung hills beyond the cities and towns. We moved over them and through the tall grass on faith, kneading paths into he windswept growth like pioneers. While we slept, the war rubbed its thousand ribs against the ground in prayer. When we pressed onward through exhaustion, its eyes were white and open in the dark. While we ate, the war fasted, fed by its own deprivation. I ...more
J.L.   Sutton
May 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Kevin Powers’ The Yellow Birds is a powerful novel which centers on a soldier fighting in the Iraqi War and what awaits him when he returns to civilian life in Virginia. Powers’ opening lines—“The war tried to kill us in the spring”—exemplifies how difficult it is for soldiers to figure out where they fit into the dying going on around them. It wasn’t other soldiers or countries or their leaders or politicians, it was the war that tried to kill them. Thus begins a poetic and brutal account of ho ...more
Jun 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: war, blog
I've put off writing this review for a few days now while I mulled the book over because something in it just didn't work for me. And this, indeed, is a conundrum, because this novel should have been tailor-made for me. Generally speaking, I'm a fan of contemporary war novels. I don't enjoy them as escapist entertainment; I take them seriously and I respect them because I want to learn, I want to listen, I want to know what it's like to go to war without actually having to go to war. In some way ...more
Richard Derus
Oct 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Yellow Birds wins the 2012 Guardian First Book Award! Review can now be found at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud!

The 2017 film stars Alden Ehrenreich as Bartle, gets a solid 4 stars of five from me, and is available free to Amazon Prime members.
``Laurie Henderson
Let me tell you right now that this book is going to hurt.

The suffering the Iraqi War veterans endure in this book will touch a raw spot in you that you might prefer not to experience.

You will probably, like me, have a lump in your throat and teary eyes most of the time when reading this excellent first novel by Kevin Powers. 5 stars all around and I'm looking forward to reading all future books by Powers, a combat veteran of the Iraq war.
Oct 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
As a chaplain in a VA hospital, I don't meet many former warriors who consider themselves heroes, nor many who think that war is necessary. There is nothing romantic or beautiful about it. Some will speak broadly of their experience, but only a few will talk about its horror. And so I turn to literature to help me understand.
I think of The Iliad, 1 and 2 Samuel, War and Peace, All Quiet on the Western Front, Blood Meridian, Catch 22, Slaughterhouse Five, and The Naked and the Dead. I add to the
The first lines of Kevin Powers The Yellow Birds announces that it intends to be a classic war novel, to be placed on the shelf somewhere between All Quiet on the Western Front and The Things They Carried:

The war tried to kill us in the spring. As grass greened the plains of Nineveh and the weather warmed, we patrolled low-slung hills beyond the cities and towns. We moved over them and through the tall grass on faith, kneading paths into the windswept growth like pioneers. While we slept, the w
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
First off, I want to say that the problem with this book is probably with me. Many deeper, more thoughtful readers loved it, and I might have enjoyed it more if I was in the mood for a book I had to really concentrate on and think about, and if I had someone there to explain all the lyrical, beautifully written, but somewhat confusing prose. I had to keep rereading, but even now I am not sure of what happened or why in parts of the book. It is the story of a soldier serving in Iraq in 2004. He h ...more
The Yellow Birds is a fictionalised account of a young American soldier’s experiences while on a tour of duty in Iraq in 2004. That this book has been published and is getting a wide readership is important because any and every account, in whatever medium, which underlines the absurdity of war is needed urgently until the sending out of young men to fight senseless wars becomes a thing of the past. 
Powers was 17 when he joined the army and what I'd really like to have read is his diary from th
Oct 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
My dad was a cold warrior, serving in the Air Force from before my birth to well into my adult years. Part of that time was spent serving in Vietnam and Thailand (and, yes, there was combat in Thailand at the time) where he was a radio operator who also served on base defense whenever his base was attacked. Apparently, this happened a few times in his stay in Southeast Asia. As a boy, being a boy, I asked my Dad "Dad, did you ever get a purple heart?". He responded "No way! I kept my ass down! T ...more
Sep 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Lawyer by: NYTimes Book Review
The Yellow Birds: Kevin Powers' Novel of Young Men at War

Why the title, The Yellow Birds? Kevin Powers took it from a traditional marching cadence that's been around a long time.

A yellow bird
with a yellow bill
was sitting on
my window sill
I lured him in
with a piece of bread
and then I smashed his f**king head.

Yellow birds in step

I can add little to what my friend Jeff Keeten has said about this powerful and terrible beauty of a book. While I read it first, and recommended it to him, you w
On the day I finished this book and decided it was one of the most overrated things I've read in ages, it won the Guardian's first book award for 2012. Ha. I am obviously in a minority with my opinions about The Yellow Birds - I can find few negative reviews (certainly none from critics), and it seems none of those who dislike it do so for all the same reasons as me.

The Yellow Birds is a vague, hazy story about two American soldiers: John Bartle and his young, naive friend, Daniel Murphy, known
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow! I don't really know what to say about this book. The prose was a bit "fancy" for me but the story, I think, is very important. Being that the author was there, I'm assuming it is an accurate portrayal of the horrors of the war. It is such a sad and horrible story but also a very good story (does that make sense?). It is hard to imagine what these young men and women go through and then to come back here and try to live a "normal" life, seems almost impossible. This has been made into a movi ...more
David Baldacci
Nov 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This fictionalized account of a soldier's time in the Middle East has received critical attention from all corners, and deservedly so. It’s a book that will make you think long after the last page has fallen. ...more
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
1.99 Kindle Special

Lyrical, brutal prose. Kevin Powers was 17 when he joined the army, the lieutenant in his novel was in his early 20's. I realized while reading this book the very high price of freedom, I suppose that's true of all wars. As with The Things They Carried, Lone Survivor and other books I've read this is one I won't forget! Heavy on my heart. Great first novel on a difficult subject.
Jul 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Contrary to most of the other reviewers, I loved this. Absence of strict plot does not a bad novel make.

It is certainly more poetic than books that are strictly categorized as novels these days. I think war stories in particular benefit from a more poetic, stream-of-consciousness type writing. Seldom does war itself follow a strict plot line, why would war literature do so.

Characters may be deemed somewhat lacking, but the story isn't really about them, it's about the experience, and I think P
Timothy Urges
Nothing is more isolating than having a particular history.
Aug 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc
The inundated reports of wars and turmoil in the middle-east have created blind eyes and death ears to many as the death toll ever increases and people have lost count on the fallen.
Death seems to not be noticed as much as it should, except that is, for those that have lost loved ones of kin, love, and friendship in these wars plaguing the earth. This story could possibly win the attention of those guilty of this and make the dead count for those readers in the alien region of understanding this
Larry Bassett
Oct 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
The boys go off to kill and be killed:
The colonel cleared his throat and pulled a pair of glasses out of his pocket and rested them on the bridge of his nose. One of the sergeants came over and shined a small flashlight on the colonel’s piece of paper. “Boys,” he began, “you will soon be asked to do great violence in the cause of good.” He paced back and forth and his boot prints in the fine dust were never trampled. Each step was precise and his pacing only served to firm and define the track
Dec 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Some people are just born to write. Kevin Powers, in this debut book, is certainly one of them. The Yellow Birds is breathtaking good, profoundly insightful and written with an incredible amount of emotional precision.

Some might compare it to other war-themed books: The Naked and the Dead, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Things They Carried, or even A Separate Peace. They would, in my opinion, be misguided.

This is not the quintessential book about the Iraqi War, even though the settings are
Jake Goretzki
I really wanted to like this, having been drawn to the back story and - like a lamb to the slaughter - the 'All Quiet on the Western Front' analogies.

Now obviously, there is great value in the account and it’s a strong addition to the growing ‘Iraq novel’ genre. There’s also enough brutality and insight to make it a pretty hard-hitting read. What disappoints is that it’s all pretty disconnected and often just plain overwritten.

To be generous, perhaps the idea of a solider-poet in the Iraq war
Sep 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Blurry and Vivid, At Times Agonizing, Gaze into Ponderous Reality of Veteran of War in Iraq

A splendid short novel looking into the mind of a combat soldier, the war he survived, and the murders of body and soul that he witnessed. The story offers perhaps an understanding, in part, of the military's escalated suicide rate now.

Private Bartle, the protagonist, speaking of trying to cope with everyday existence back home:
"You want to fall, that's all. You think it can't go on like that. It's as if y
“Ma, I am enlisting,” said the Boy

“But…why? You are so young?,” said the Mother worried and perplexed.

“I am 18,” said the boy, “quite capable of doing what I want to do,” he added with emphasis and a certain vehemence in his tone.

“But….why? I don’t understand this sudden decision,” said the mother again

“I need to be a man and what better way to become one than to go fight for my country,” said the boy in a tone that brooked no argument.

“But you are a man to me.. isn’t that enough?,” asked the mo
‘The Yellow Birds’ by Kevin Powers is only 226 pages long, but its weight is massive. With some of the most beautiful language that I’ve recently read, Powers explodes onto the page with the ponderous heft of war, its often horrific images and terrible consequences, but with such tenderness and grace, with such poetic imagery, that I had to back away at times from my reading just to keep from being totally absorbed. Some of it is hard hitting for me because my 18 year old grandson is in the US a ...more
Ron Charles
Nov 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war-fiction
Halfway through our ongoing war on terror, a scholar at the University of East London estimated that a new book on terrorism was being published in English every six hours. Fiction writers were slower to engage with Sept. 11, but by 2006, the attacks and America’s response were becoming a touchstone for major novelists, including Jonathan Safran Foer, Ian McEwan, Claire Messud, Ward Just, John Updike, Don DeLillo, Joseph O’Neill, Andre Debus III, Lorrie Moore, Allegra Goodman, Sue Miller and man ...more
Dec 29, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
I’ve been sitting here thinking about what I want to write and tell you about this book, but it’s really.. really hard.. The storyline in itself isn’t that hard.

It’s told from John’s POV. He’s thinking back to when he was in the military and stationed in Iraq in 2004/05. He’s thinking about his friend Murph and how a war can change a person.

This in itself isn’t that hard to explain, but I find it really hard to figure out if I liked it or not. And how do I review a book if I don’t even know if I
Oct 24, 2017 rated it liked it
“The world makes liars of us all.”
“The Yellow Birds” is a novel I will have to think about some more, and possibly read again before I feel I have a fully formed view of it. This is a text that I think is ridiculously overpraised and it is overwritten, and yet it is a good book, and at times it is beautifully written and realized.
The text shifts between the present (mainly 2005, after the narrator’s tour of duty) and his time in country in Iraq (fall of 2004). This is an effective narrative choi
Feb 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
This is the first time I've given a 2 and I feel I need to defend it. Clearly, I'm in a minority here versus some heavyweight critics.

While Powers is capable of some gorgeously crafted writing, the reason I opted for "It's ok" instead of "I liked it" is that to be honest, I didn't like it. Not because of the subject matter but because I didn't feel it worked as a novel.

This was written as a novel, not a memoir, so I judged it in terms of the story it told, not the truth it might have been conve
Jun 11, 2013 rated it liked it
I’d like to accord Kevin Powers’ book the same respect I give him and all our vets back from Iraq, but a book isn’t a man and a book doesn’t automatically earn my deference and appreciation. I didn’t dislike the novel, and I tried liking it harder even to the point of starting it for a second read as soon as I finished it. I love its opening paragraphs (shades of Hemingway there, I thought), but after that I had a hard time warming to the book which felt to me as if it was trying too hard in all ...more
Nov 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites

I'm kind of sorry but I'm probably not going to write an english review, because...I can't. I need to talk about it in my native language to try to write something that does (hopefully) make sense.

"The war tried to kill us in the spring. As grass greened the plains of Nineveh and the weather warmed, we patrolled the low-slung hills beyond the cities and towns. We moved over them and through the tall grass on faith, kneading paths into the windswept growth like pioneers. While we slept, the w
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: The Yellow Birds - Kevin Powers - 4 stars (PBT Horizons Iraq) 6 19 Jan 27, 2019 02:53PM  
Spoiler Alert - So what really happened? 24 817 Aug 22, 2018 06:14AM  
Fiction Fanatics: April 2015 - The Yellow Birds 2 18 Apr 09, 2015 11:07AM  
2015 Reading Chal...: The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers 1 16 Feb 24, 2015 06:28PM  
Men's Book Club: This topic has been closed to new comments. (BoM) Nov. & Dec. 14 - The Yellow Birds 5 23 Dec 08, 2014 06:32AM  
ARVRLS Book Club: read a book in 2 days! 1 9 Nov 28, 2014 07:34AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Poets of World War II
  • Poems from the Women's Movement (American Poets Project)
  • Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
  • Thank You for Your Service
  • Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Its Songs
  • The Portable Beat Reader
  • A Treasury of War Poetry British and American Poems of the World War 1914-1917
  • Redeployment
  • Fives and Twenty-Fives
  • The Good Soldiers
  • Shot Down: The True Story of Pilot Howard Snyder and the Crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth
  • Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War
  • The Love Song of Jonny Valentine
  • My War Gone By, I Miss It So
  • Shiver
  • The Discarded Daughter Book 1 - Discarded: A Pride & Prejudice Variation
  • Sent for You Yesterday
  • Crossing the River
See similar books…
Kevin Powers was born and raised in Richmond, VA. In 2004 and 2005 he served with the U.S. Army in Mosul and Tal Afar, Iraq. He studied English at Virginia Commonwealth University after his honorable discharge and received an M.F.A. in Poetry from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin in 2012.

Related Articles

Danielle Evans was just 26 when she released her short story collection Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self in 2010, a multi-award-winning...
16 likes · 1 comments
“There is a sharp distinction between what is remembered, what is told and what is true.” 47 likes
“All pain is the same. Only the details are different.” 40 likes
More quotes…