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The Forever War

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  9,127 ratings  ·  878 reviews
From the front lines of the battle against Islamic fundamentalism, a searing, unforgettable book that captures the human essence of the greatest conflict of our time.

Through the eyes of Dexter Filkins, the prizewinning New York Times correspondent whose work was hailed by David Halberstam as “reporting of the highest quality imaginable,” we witness the remarkable chain of
Hardcover, First Edition (U.S.), 342 pages
Published September 16th 2008 by Borzoi Books/Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
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Juliana This book can be obtained for free as a loan from your public library both as paper as well as audiobook.
Nate Hill This is a true account of the conflicts and politics of Afghanistan and Iraq and there are graphic depictions of violence. That being said I think eve…moreThis is a true account of the conflicts and politics of Afghanistan and Iraq and there are graphic depictions of violence. That being said I think everyone should read it.(less)

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Will Byrnes
Dexter Filkins - image from PRH Speakers

This is a bleeding, personal image of real-world horror. Filkins dots his canvas largely in red, with the bloodshed he has seen in war, in Afghanistan, Iraq, on 9/11. The book is comprised of many short passages, images of participants, of events, that offer a visceral experience of these zones of death, deceit and confusion. He does not make pronouncements on what he has witnessed, but puts the images out there for the reader to absorb. This is a must re
Riku Sayuj

The Last War

Intolerance is not an intrinsic feature, it is a derived one. Derived from threat. Threatened religions have always been intolerant, with no exceptions. And threatened societies have always been prone to adopt the militant versions of their religions, hoping to rally for one great push, one blind atrocity before they can resume their daily lives on the other side of the abyss.

Media likes to portray this desperate rally as an obscenity, as a characteristic. And that is where brutally
Jan 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: donald; nobody with a weak stomach
i was initially irritated by filkins refusal to widen focus and take in the broader picture, y’know, the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind the iraq war -- i wanted a top-down history starting with the geo-political chessboard and ending with boots on the ground. i was quick to realize i had put my own demands, the demands of a history book, on what is something entirely different. filkins knows that, generally speaking, the participants in wars (even in the age of internet, tivo, and cell phone) do not hav ...more
Oct 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pro-patria-mori
Technically, The Forever War is a work of reportage - magnificent reportage, in fact - but that's not all it is. For one thing, Filkin's tone is at times more personal, more anguished, than conventional journalism usually allows. For another, the cumulative impact of the pieces is beyond the literary reach of your average hack reporter. I'd suggest, then, that it belongs to that growing subgenre known as survivor literature: traveller's tales, in effect, brought back from a netherworld of human ...more
Mar 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Dexter Filkins, the author of The Forever War, is a New York Times foreign correspondent who covered the middle east from Afghanistan's Taliban rule in 1998 to Iraq through 2006.

I should probably confess right away that I'm not a fan of journalism. I resent the whole idea of getting information from people who are in the business of selling it. I don't know what the alternative would be, but seems like a conflict of interest.

On top of that, there is the issue of bias. We all have it.
Saadia B. || Hustle, Bustle and Hurdles
Almost one of the first books I read on wars and its catastrophes. Horrifying statistics and incidents. We can’t end wars by starting another.
Jim Coughenour
Sep 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politicalinsight
I have a shelf of books on Iraq & Afghanistan – mostly unfinished because the absurdity and the carnage, the futility and mendacity, are too dispiriting and I have to put them down. Filkins has written something different, a first person account of what it's like to be in the midst of American soldiers and Iraqi citizens – his book is a series of vignettes, carefully observed and plainly written. It pretty much avoids the political background and concentrates on the foreground, people he knows, ...more
Sep 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
5 STARS, one of the best books on the Iraq war (and the Afghan war to a lesser extent) ever written. Featuring large cojones, smashed sterotypes, WTF, tragedy, hope…

OK, Mr. Filkins clearly has a pair of big, hairy ones considering the situations he gets himself into voluntarily or haphazardly. Jogging in Baghdad in the midst of the emerging civil war? Meeting with insurgents in Ramadi, sitting with Mahdi Army types in the middle of the siege of Najaf, into Fallujah with the Marines, showing up a
Mikey B.
In many ways this is a very straight-forward account of the American occupation of Iraq. The beginning of the book is about Afghanistan (about 70 pages) – then it shifts to Iraq. The author does not follow a narrative or time-line flow.

He explores themes and focuses on the individuals involved. For the most part he does not judge – that is left to the reader. Mr. Filkins is an excellent observer and recorder - it is this situational documenting that allows us to learn and evaluate. And we do ind
Dec 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When you invade and break countries, bad shit usually happens.

Doesn't always have to, but the dial leans that way.

Good shit happens too, but it needs nurturing, time, and a whole pile o' shit-ass luck, especially when what was broken is used to seeing it all go down through a different set of goggles.

The bad shit needs little prompting—it's nature's wily stunted bastard child hopped up on Skittles™ and chuffing smoke.

Be very careful when you break shit like countries. Try and think things throug
Apr 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Naeem by: John Hickey (Ithaca College librarian)
I withheld a star despite my belief that this book MUST be read; read today.

Filkins writes about his experiences as a war reporter in Afghanistan and Iraq (mostly the book is about Iraq). It is composed of short, medium, and long vignettes. He makes no effort to connect them.

It works as fiction works, implicitly. Mainly Filkins describes his situations and leaves his readers the job of interpreting. Some of these are as mundane as jogging along the Tigris river. Others are in the middle of fire
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Chaos, cruelty, hopelessness: It’s all here in this tome of despair, a New York Times reporter’s vignettes of the wars he saw in Afghanistan and Iraq. These mind numbing pages repeat one episode of senseless violence after another. I feel so sorry for these people. I can’t imagine living in their world. Filkins depicts the clueless Bush administration trying to impose American values on an Iraqi culture it does not understand. An awful tyrant was replaced with a veritable hell. As one Iraqi put ...more
Dana Stabenow
Oct 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Impossible to praise this book too highly. It doesn’t tell how we got into Iraq and Afghanistan, or how to get out of it, no blame assigned, no pointing of fingers, this isn’t that book. It’s just a reportorial account of what Filkins saw when he was stationed in both places as a journalist, a book that counts the human cost of war. He is an extraordinarily able writer, his prose is so sharp it leaves marks on your skin. Some examples:

[in Afghanistan:] Sometimes on the street a woman would pass
Nov 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
I expected this book, a NYT reporter's stories of Iraq and Afghanistan between 2000 and 2006, to be a chore or a penance, like The Dark Side. While it's disturbing in its own way, it's a gripping read, more Black Hawk Down than political analysis. Filkins may have been fundamentally an observer but he manages to write about his experiences in a way that draws the reader into the middle of the action.

Filkins was sent to report on the Taliban before 9/11, and the book opens with him witnessing a s
Nov 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Powerful collage of the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Heartfelt tribute. Memorable evocation of the tragic and often surreal situations at play.
Robert Morris
Feb 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Whoof. This is a powerful-ass book. Cold-hearted pundit that I am, I was hoping for more of a narrative history of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that would help me make snide commentary. That is not this book. It is much more valuable than that. Dexter Filkins worked for American newspapers in Afghanistan in the 1990s, and, most importantly for this book, in Iraq from 2003 to 2006. There is some coverage of Afghanistan, before and after the US invasion, and one particularly effecting chapter ...more
Jess Van Dyne-Evans
Dec 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I can't remember who recommended this book, so I don't know who to thank...but I walked away from this book with my mouth open, shaking my head in awe.

This man can *write*. He brought scenes from war-ravaged countries into my living room, and found a way to accentuate both the devastation and the quiet small moments, creating a book that horrifies and educates and gives you hope, all at once.

Really, read this.
Sep 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The best book yet on Iraq, from a Taliban execution in 1998 to the WTC, where Filkins sees an intestine lying on the ground, to Iraq, where an attempt to get the story gets a Marine killed. Visceral, smart, funny, and pained (the acknowledgements mention, in passing, that these experiences destroyed his marriage), with sweeping, memorable images of devastation and meaningless absurdity mixed with short-short stories--a fitting equal to Herr's Dispatches, and also sneakily alluding, I would guess ...more
Jul 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hookah
21 July 2013

very impressive, very high 4 pushing the 5, with Filkins synthesizing detail, the background and incident in a superb and spell-binding text. combines the best of his professional training and his life experience (Filkins was born in 1961) to create arguably the most impressive embedded reporter book of the Iraq War. richly deserves the 4.2 it is currently tracking on Goodreads.

11 February 2015

reiterate 4 stars 4/5, although what stands out now is how Filkins' seniority as a correspo
Charlie  Ravioli
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
An amazing book. Sad, brutal, spiritual, unbelievable, violent, mind-numbing are all adjectives that aptly describe this book. There are probably at least 500 more. It's various stories told by a New York Times war correspondent from his time in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The stories reminded me a lot of the book Redeployment I read around this same time last year. The book is kind of all over the place, various stories that don't really follow any sequence per se other than the descent and dest ...more
Feb 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Filkins is a journalist who witnessed the terrorist attack of 911 firsthand, his Middle East assignments preceded 911 and later followed the U.S. deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

His book shares a title with Joe Haldeman's 1974 The Forever War. Like Haldeman's science fiction, we are quickly immersed in the ludicrous unstoppable momentum of war. Filkins, like Haldeman, might ask, 'when will these heart wrenching totally destructive conflicts ever end.'

I would agree with other reviews of this
May 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Terrific. My only complaint is that the story ends before more current events, such as the Surge, take place. (I’d love to read Filkins on-the-ground take on that.) However, there is a moment late in the book where Filkins interviews an Iraqi terrorist who is getting more than a bit sick of Al-Qaeda (the "foreigners") killing fellow Iraqis. It's something of a sea change, since the result is an ordered hit against two Al-Qaeda gunmen. I was also hoping for more on Afghanistan, probably because i ...more
Steve Horton
Sep 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: iraq
Amazing, riveting, powerful, All Quiet on the Western Front . A great piece of war literature that transcends adjectives. See the haunted look in Dexter's eyes on the dust jacket flap? He poured his soul into this magnificent work. A must read for anyone interested in the export of democracy.
Mar 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, war, mideast
This heartbreaking and graphic daily war diary by a news reporter is a necessary complement to other books on the overarching politics of the war. The tragedy and terror of war comes through clearly. For our fighting men and women, and the people of Iraq, we get a better look at their lives.
Tom Hembree
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely incredible and heartbreaking - Everyone should read this.
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Please read Mikey b’s review for this book. His review led me to this great book. It’s a triumph for Mr. Filkins. I couldn’t put it down until I finished.
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very gritty, but captivating read. Although I admit that it was not what I expected from reading its description...
I was expecting a central narrative: A story about the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, told through the eyes of author Dexter Filkins.
However, The Forever War is not that. It is a rather loosely formatted telling of the author's personal experiences in the fields, reporting on these wars.
I became a bit conflicted; I was hoping for a central theme and a bit more of a
Justin Pahl
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Honestly, if I could, I’d give this book like 8 stars. It deserves all the stars.

That’s a bad way to begin a review, but hopefully it captures my passion for “The Forever War”. It’s a difficult book to describe. Like all great books, its greatness is completely unique; it can’t be replicated or explained, only experienced. The basic outline is pretty simple: Filkins is in Afghanistan pre-9-11. There are vignettes – citizens whose lives have been ruined by the Taliban; a Taliban execution; an old
Feb 25, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
The Forever War is an attempt on the “War is Hell” theme. Unfortunately there’s no perspective, insight, analysis or even poignancy to the writing and the narrative is at best disjointed. There’s very little empathy for the U.S soldiers the author encounters. They’re all lumped together as clueless as to what they’re fighting for, their method of fighting, and especially “understanding” the local population.

As for the “locals” themselves they too are treated with a not so subtle level of contem
Greg Brown
Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Already, the Iraq War is fading from our memory. 2003 already seems in the distant past, and the withdrawal in 2011 is getting there. Still wrought with civil war, our attention has already shifted to other wars, both present and potential: Iran, Libya, Syria.

This amnesia should be surprising. the Vietnam War—a similar quagmire—traumatized the nation, and led to a suspicion of the military that only started to thaw by the time of Desert Storm. Yet there's one important difference: the draft is g
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42 likes · 14 comments
“The most basic barrier was language itself, very few Americans in Iraq whether soldiers or diplomats or news paper reporters could speak more than a few words of Arabic. A remarkable number of them didn't even have translators. That meant for many Iraqis the typical 19 year old army corporal from South Dakota was not a youthful innocent carrying Americas good will, he was a terrifying combination of firepower and ignorance.” 6 likes
“I fared better than many of the people I wrote about in this book; yet even so, over the course of the events depicted here, I lost the person I cared for most. The war didn't get her; it got me.” 3 likes
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