Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman

Rate this book
The bestselling author of Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, and Under the Banner of Heaven delivers a stunning, eloquent account of a remarkable young man’s haunting journey.

Like the men whose epic stories Jon Krakauer has told in his previous bestsellers, Pat Tillman was an irrepressible individualist and iconoclast. In May 2002, Tillman walked away from his $3.6 million NFL contract to enlist in the United States Army. He was deeply troubled by 9/11, and he felt a strong moral obligation to join the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Two years later, he died on a desolate hillside in southeastern Afghanistan.

Though obvious to most of the two dozen soldiers on the scene that a ranger in Tillman’s own platoon had fired the fatal shots, the Army aggressively maneuvered to keep this information from Tillman’s wife, other family members, and the American public for five weeks following his death. During this time, President Bush repeatedly invoked Tillman’s name to promote his administration’s foreign policy. Long after Tillman’s nationally televised memorial service, the Army grudgingly notified his closest relatives that he had “probably” been killed by friendly fire while it continued to dissemble about the details of his death and who was responsible.

In Where Men Win Glory, Jon Krakauer draws on Tillman’s journals and letters, interviews with his wife and friends, conversations with the soldiers who served alongside him, and extensive research on the ground in Afghanistan to render an intricate mosaic of this driven, complex, and uncommonly compelling figure as well as the definitive account of the events and actions that led to his death. Before he enlisted in the army, Tillman was familiar to sports aficionados as an undersized, overachieving Arizona Cardinals safety whose virtuosity in the defensive backfield was spellbinding. With his shoulder-length hair, outspoken views, and boundless intellectual curiosity, Tillman was considered a maverick. America was fascinated when he traded the bright lights and riches of the NFL for boot camp and a buzz cut. Sent first to Iraq—a war he would openly declare was “illegal as hell”—and eventually to Afghanistan, Tillman was driven by complicated, emotionally charged, sometimes contradictory notions of duty, honor, justice, patriotism, and masculine pride, and he was determined to serve his entire three-year commitment. But on April 22, 2004, his life would end in a barrage of bullets fired by his fellow soldiers.

Krakauer chronicles Tillman’s riveting, tragic odyssey in engrossing detail highlighting his remarkable character and personality while closely examining the murky, heartbreaking circumstances of his death. Infused with the power and authenticity readers have come to expect from Krakauer’s storytelling, Where Men Win Glory exposes shattering truths about men and war.
From the inside cover of ISBN 0385522266 / 9780385522267

383 pages, Hardcover

First published September 15, 2009

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Jon Krakauer

46 books13.9k followers
Jon Krakauer is an American writer and mountaineer, well-known for outdoor and mountain-climbing writing.


Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
13,939 (36%)
4 stars
15,239 (40%)
3 stars
6,558 (17%)
2 stars
1,495 (3%)
1 star
648 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,365 reviews
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,309 reviews120k followers
August 25, 2022
Pat Tillman was a top-notch safety with the Phoenix Cardinals of the NFL. He was an incredibly intense guy, always looking to challenge himself, to push himself past his limits. But he also had a sensitive, emotional side and an intellectual curiosity, exceptional in his chosen profession. He came from a close-knit family that held the military in high regard and was touched deeply when the USA was attacked on and subsequently went to war following 9/11. Setting aside his lucrative football career, Tillman and his brother, Kevin, joined up, intent on going to Afghanistan to fight.

Pat Tillman - image from Huffington Post

Krakauer braids several strands here, one of Tillman, a biography that offers enough warts to matter, the second a look at the events leading up to the Afghan war, pretty much all warts, and a third, which looks at the specifics of how Tillman was used by political types, how he was killed and how the military and politicians handled his passing.

Tillman comes across as a compelling character, a Renaissance grunt. But I would have liked for Krakauer to have at least looked at the possibility that there was an explanation for some of Tillman’s behavioral choices that was less than laudatory. Maybe the guy was, in addition to his other characteristics, an adrenalin junkie, who went out of his way to take unnecessary risks.

Jon Krakauer - image from CNN

There were many irregularities in the investigation of Tillman’s death. The officer assigned to conduct the investigation was a captain, and thus could not investigate any officers of higher rank, which would have included the Major who gave the order to split up the squad Tillman was in, a crucial aspect of the tragedy. Tillman’s uniform and body armor was not left on Tillman’s body, to be removed at his autopsy. Instead a captain had it put into a bag, then ordered a sergeant to burn it. Tillman’s personal notebook was also burned. When Tillman’s brother Kevin tried to reach platoon members to find out exactly what had happened, a Captain told at least one platoon member to say nothing about friendly fire. When the medical examiner was told that Tillman had been killed by the Taliban, but saw from the body that this was not the case, he asked the Criminal Investigation Division to look into the case, but CID refused. Seeking to distract public attention from the Abu Ghraib scandal, which broke the day Tillman’s body was returned to his family, the Bush administration sought to highlight Tillman as an American hero. Part of that was to award him posthumous medals. PFC Bryan O’Neal was ordered to type out a witness statement in support of Major Hodne’s Silver Star recommendation, “but after he wrote, his words were embellished so egregiously that he never signed it.” (p298)

A remarkable life went to waste here. Krakauer does a good job of showing the value that was lost and the values of those who tried to hide the truth of that waste.

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages

FWIW, Krakauer’s FB and Twitter pages seem to have been largely abandoned
Profile Image for Jason.
114 reviews626 followers
December 28, 2009
I'm active duty military and can partly--partly--understand why Pat Tillman turned down a 3.6 million dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals, and, instead, enlisted in the Army as a grunt for $1200 per month. I use money as the central metric of Tillman's decision because it's the one most non-active duty military readers will misunderstand. I'll try to explain his decision from our (military) perspective.

Let me start by saying I would not have made the same financial decision, despite the uber-patriotic shadow of 9-11 that led many of us to change our lives and some of us to join the military. This was Pat Tillman's decision, and I respect it. I joined 5 years before 9-11, and am proud to have deployed multiple times to Operations Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Iraqi Freedom (OIF). If I wasn't already part of the military, I may have joined after watching the towers fall, but I can't be sure. (A few formidable years encompass major changes in a young man's place and perspective with issues like this). But, I know for sure that I would not have joined and turned down $3.6 million. I know myself, my family, our financial position, and our plans for retirement, so financial security would have trumped my patriotism. That's okay. There's nothing wrong with that. There's thousands of ways to be good Americans and support the troops without joining the military. However, Tillman was inspired, and money had nothing to do with his decision.

When you join the military, you don't join for the money. Pat Tillman knew this. Unless you become a 3- to 4-star general, you will probably live like 99.7% of retired military personnel--a life with a modest pension, and, very likely, a second career starting in your early-40's. In fact, many young enlisted, active duty troops with large families actually require food stamps and extra financial help at Christmas. There are no NFL contracts in the military. However, as a 25 year old, Pat Tillman already received several hundred thousand dollars from the NFL. His wife worked, they had no kids, and it seems they lived well within their means. So, it's safe to say that Pat Tillman had enough money to lean on. He could serve his 3 year tour, return to the NFL, and likely pick up financially where he left off--albeit with a more worldly perspective.

From Where Men Win Glory I understand Pat Tillman as an aggressive, slightly hyper, type-A, alpha-male with a consuming urge to challenge himself both physically and mentally. He was a natural athlete, a raucous drinker, and a thrill seeker, yet he displayed a cool mettle, a certain sangfroid, that counterbalanced his testosterone. He even had a touch of the numinous, in spite of his agnosticism. Most importantly he had a set of morals by which the actions in his life were strictly defined and measured. His personal principles demanded that he bite the most out of life, masticate everything, and leave no opportunity untasted. Many men (and women--but I'll stick with the masculine pronoun from here out) in the military have these attributes. The military offers guys like this a chance to play really hard with big toys that bring hellfire and break things. The military also offers man an opportunity to make a difference, to fight for a cause Tillman considered noble, to defend your country, to apply all the previous attributes against a daily workload. For many, it's the best job in the world, and it's the job they'll talk about most as a grandfather.

Tillman, though, for me, remains a bit of an enigma. Why was he the only professional athlete in America since WWII that postponed a million dollar career to bring hellfire and break things? Here's what I think: despite his age, Tillman was still in that post-pubescent stage of life where a boy, just arriving at manhood, considers desperately where his mark in life will lie. Who am I; what will I be; will I share with a spouse/kids; does this damn college degree really matter; how long will I be in control; have I done anything worthwhile yet? It's a youthful angst. I had it. My buddies went through it. I still experience shades of it as I contemplate the intersections and turnpikes of my life. Tillman hadn't made that decision yet. Good for him. And what an awesome spouse he had that understood and supported his decision. She was (and is forever) a quintessential military spouse. My heart goes out to her. Pat Tillman--at a crucial point in his life--felt there was something more rewarding serving in the Army than serving as a Cardinal. He was 3.6 million dollars sure he wanted a military experience defending freedom before defending the backfield as a strong safety.

Two things crush me about this story. One, Tillman was killed during his first encounter with troops in contact (TIC), and two, the army used his death for internal propaganda and subsequently tried to cover it up. Tillman knew death was a possibility, so he entered that decision with a clear mind. But to die at your first hostile exchange with enemy fire, and from friendly fire at that!! Goshdarn, that sucks. Worse, the army made 7 successive investigations into his death, each one revealing new information while continually redacting previous conclusions. It's the cover up that makes me throw up a little in my mouth, as it did many of the junior level soldiers when told to hide the truth, even from his brother who was also in the firefight, until an official investigation could be completed. The Army provided false information for his eulogy, and the White House procrastinated releasing to the media until they could frame the story. It's shit like this that reminds me the machine is too big, or we're too politically correct, or that somehow we've lost the value and sacrifice of the individual to the State. I pray that it doesn't happen that often, but when it does, it's necessarily egregious. And it happened to Pat Tillman and his family.

5-stars for Pat Tillman. But only 3-stars for the author, Jon Krakauer. I've only read one other book by Krakauer, Into the Wild, but he uses the exact same formula. He investigates the death of a young male, in an austere environment, under very dubious circumstances, and which has generated voluble public debate. He's a tenacious reporter and reveals the facts in an engaging way. He's slightly biased, but not to an unreasonable extent, and his author's voice is relatively settled. However, neither book presents much more than an extremely long series of articles that you'd find in a distinguished newspaper or popular outdoor magazine. It's simply a journalistic exposé.

Profile Image for Matt.
935 reviews28.6k followers
March 27, 2020
“Man, supposing you and I, escaping this battle, would be able to live on forever, ageless, immortal, so neither would I myself go on fighting in the foremost nor would I urge you into the fighting where men win glory. But now, seeing that the spirits of death stand close about us in their thousands, no man can turn aside nor escape them, let us go on and win glory for ourselves, or yield it to others.”
- Homer, The Iliad (Richard Lattimore translation)

American professional football is an extremely martial sport.

Designed as a more ordered form of rugby, football’s calling card is violence. Players crash together: huge blocks; vicious tackles; and whiplash-inducing collisions. When a play is over, there are bodies strewn on the field. The warlike lexicon of football plays into this conceit: the linemen are in the trenches; the defense blitzes the quarterback in an attempt to sack him; the minute-to-minute struggle occurs for control of the line of scrimmage. In case you missed the point, the coaches will tell you that their teams are in a battle or war.

Professional football owners have fostered this image, and have taken millions of dollars from military recruiters. Thus, it is not surprising that so many games feature a pre-kickoff flyover by jet-fighters.

Undoubtedly, football is dangerous. That is becoming more apparent with every CT scan. Nevertheless, football is not war. It is not even close.

Patrick Tillman knew this better than anyone. He was a hardworking, hard-hitting safety at Arizona State University who was later drafted by the Arizona Cardinals. Despite lacking certain physical qualities – height, blazing speed – he did well enough to earn a contract that would’ve made him a millionaire. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Tillman walked away from that contract to join the Army.

He became the most famous soldier in America. With his lantern jaw, shaved head, and Popeye physique, he looked like a recruiting poster. He became an Army Ranger, served a tour in Iraq, and then went to Afghanistan.

You probably know the rest. Or at least you think you do.

Jon Krakauer, a journalist known mostly for adventure writing such as the Everest disaster epic Into Thin Air, tells Tillman’s story – what he terms Tillman’s “odyssey” – in the uneven-yet-worthwhile Where Men Win Glory.

The structure Krakauer employs alternates vignettes of Tillman’s life with the goings-on in Afghanistan that eventually led to the American invasion in 2001. For example, Krakauer starts with Tillman’s birth in California in 1976. Then, he switches perspective to Afghanistan where, in the closing hours of 1979, the Soviet Union invaded with the 40th Army. The oscillation between the intimate, personal story of Tillman, and the larger, context-creating story of Afghanistan, continues until the two parallel strands intersect outside the village of Sperah, near the Pakistan border, on April 22, 2004.

Normally, I’m all for context. The problem, here, is that it causes unevenness in the narrative. For long stretches of time, we are away from our main point of interest – Tillman – and wallowing in the sad history of Afghanistan: the insurgency against the Soviet-backed ruling party; the resulting invasion by the Soviets; the aid provided by the CIA, in the form of money and missiles; the defeat of the Soviets; the post-Soviet power vacuum that saw the rise of the Taliban; and the creation of al-Qaeda, which used Taliban-led Afghanistan as a staging area. When we are away from Tillman, we lose sight of the human dimension of what is, after all, an intensely human story.

Moreover, the historical perspective sometimes feels a bit like filler. For instance, Krakauer devotes several pages to an overly-detailed account of the Florida recount fiasco, and the US Supreme Court’s highly partisan decision in Bush v. Gore. This struck me as exceptionally needless; for purposes of Tillman’s story, it suffices that Bush became president.

I also got the sense that Krakauer is a bit out of his depth – or at least his comfort zone – when writing about Afghanistan. This is not his ken – outdoor writing is – and though he is an able journalist, he relies heavily on secondary sources such as Steve Coll (Ghost Wars) and Lawrence Wright (The Looming Tower) to fill these sections. This is not to say these sections are unreadable, only that they are tentative, and rely on the intellectual lifting of others.

The sections focusing on Tillman are better. However, Krakauer is hampered by the fact that, with the exception of Tillman’s wife, Marie, the Tillman family did not cooperate with Krakauer on this book. As a result, Krakauer had to rely heavily on secondary sources, chiefly the book written by Tillman’s mother. Where he can, Krakauer tracks down willing interviewees with some perspective on Tillman’s life. He talks, for instance, with the people involved in a vicious fight that resulted in Tillman’s arrest for felony assault (he eventually pled to a misdemeanor in juvenile court).

The lack of cooperation leads to gaps, which Krakauer attempts to overcome by focusing on those parts of Tillman’s life he can uncover. There is, for example, a lot of space devoted to Tillman’s seasons with the Arizona Sun Devils and the Arizona Cardinals. Unfortunately, Krakauer isn’t much of a sportswriter. While he has conquered the towering heights of Everest, the gridiron proves more difficult. At one point, Krakauer relates this shining gem of football wisdom:

The Cornhuskers…scored nine touchdowns by halftime, a school record, and the final score [against the Arizona Sun Devils] was 77-28. The loss was especially humbling for the Sun Devils’ defense. If a football team racks up that many points, it suggests that the team being scored against has some serious defensive flaws.

As far as insights go, this is on par with the wetness of rain and the brightness of the sun.

What understanding we achieve of Tillman’s life is mostly provided by Tillman himself, by way of his diary entries. The man who comes across in these pages is beautifully complex, intelligent, profane, and contradictory. In short, a fascinating, relatable human being. Through his writings, you watch Tillman struggle with the friction between his deeply held principles and the competing duties to his wife, his family, and his country. Eventually, of course, his duty to country won out, and he walked away from his wife, his job, and enviable financial security to join an institution that is not exactly noted for prizing individuality and progressive thinking (both of which Tillman had in abundance).

While in Afghanistan, part of Tillman’s unit was ambushed by the Taliban. In the resulting firefight, Tillman was shot three time in the forehead by a Squad Automatic Weapon fired by a fellow US Ranger. Krakauer does an admirable job piecing together the story of this ambush, with a careful, bullet-by-bullet account that tries to instill some coherence to an inherently chaotic situation. He also provides a couple of helpful maps to help the reader follow the movements of Tillman’s unit up to the time of his death.

The Army knew right away that Tillman’s death had been caused by friendly fire. However, the Army, with the blessing of the Pentagon and the White House, decided to take short-term advantage of the situation by covering up the blunder, pushing through a Silver Star, and scoring a huge propaganda coup. Eventually, of course, in no small part due to the efforts of the Tillman family, the truth dribbled out. By that time, though, the nation had mostly moved on.

To me, that’s part of the importance of a book like this.

Frankly, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan never directly affected me. Sure, I had friends who served, and every once in a while I’d walk down to the Post Office and send them care packages. But for the most part, I could tune in and tune out at will. There was no sense of shared sacrifice. No draft and no tax hikes. In short, it was frighteningly easy to tune out years (and years, and years, and years) of violence. More than that, a lot of what I think I know is just not true.

Where Men Win Glory provides an important corrective to my stunted knowledge about our still-ongoing wars. It attempts to rescue the truth from a history that is still very fluid.

Still, in my opinion, this is not Krakauer’s strongest effort. He is at his best when he can empathize with his subject, and see in him something that is within himself. When Krakauer strays to topics like Afghan history, football, or politics, his writing becomes a bit uncertain. When he sticks close to Tillman, though, he is fine.

I was hoping, however, for more than fine.

Pat Tillman’s story feels tailor-made for a writer like Krakauer. Tillman is a lot like Christopher McCandless, the central figure of Into the Wild, Krakauer’s controversial, deeply-felt classic about a privileged boy who walked into the wilderness and died. Both Tillman and McCandless were intellectually gifted, well-read, and deeply philosophical. Both came from comfortable backgrounds, which they gave up in order to follow certain internal imperatives. Both bucked the system, and refused to obey the conventional wisdom imposed by society. Both died due to tragic mistakes. And both left themselves open to criticism by those who cannot understand their willingness to sacrifice concrete assets to pursue ephemeral callings.

The power of Into the Wild comes from Krakauer’s personal connection to McCandless. Krakauer saw him in heroic terms, while many – if not most Americans – viewed him as a naïve dope, giving up a comfortable future to starve in the Alaskan wilds. In McCandless, Krakauer saw himself as a young man, driven by urges that could not be placed into words. The only difference between them was that Krakauer survived his mistakes.

There is a resonance in Into the Wild that is lacking in Where Men Win Glory. Krakauer never finds a connection with Tillman, a connection that would have landed with greater impact than a lazy retelling of his football career.

No matter. Tillman’s story is enough, without any annotation. He was the rarest of individuals: a person of strong beliefs willing to transform those beliefs into action. Even though there is a lot of extraneous information in Where Men Win Glory, ultimately Tillman’s incredible personality shines through. He embodies all that is terrible in war and wonderful in humanity. He deserves to be remembered, even as his war grinds endlessly on, and even as his sacrifice recedes to a historical footnote.
Profile Image for Philip.
984 reviews264 followers
March 1, 2016
The back cover of my book reads, “Pat Tillman walked away from a multimillion-dollar NFL contract to join the army and became an icon of post 9/11 patriotism. When he was killed in Afghanistan two years later, he became a tool for White House propaganda. Thus a legend was born…”

Throughout the book, Krakauer makes multiple references to how Pat Tillman didn’t grant interviews after enlisting, or how he didn’t want, “them to parade me through the streets” to advance a political agenda. I’m not excusing the Bush administration’s mishandling of the incident, but this book does just that. It parades Tillman – once again – through the streets in order to advance a political agenda; this time it’s the left’s, not the right’s.

Maybe Krakauer thought he had to counter-balance the right and therefore be much more forceful with his arguments, but I swear, there were times I thought he was going to say George W. Bush secretly flew into Afghanistan and gleefully pulled the trigger himself – and that’s just as shameless given what Pat said he wanted. (Or didn’t want.)

Not only that, but it seemed like some of Krakauer’s research was shoddy, or at least his conclusions could be questioned. For instance, there are the flight tapes from Nasiriyah (pg. 204). “He was allowed to take it, whereupon he ‘mistakenly’ inserted the tape into the cockpit video camera and recorded over it, erasing it.” Those are some pretty hefty quotes around mistakenly. The thing is, evidence gets lost, or broken, or misplaced more often than one might think. But, because it was supposedly “key” evidence, there’s no way it was a mistake, obviously it was a “mistake.” Right?

Or a few pages later on 210 where it says, “Henry Waxman later alleged that Wilkinson delayed the mission to allow a Special Operations video crew to shoot the rescue for the news media. Although these allegations have not been substantiated…” If they haven’t been substantiated, maybe you shouldn’t include them…

Even the section where they discuss Tillman’s clothes being burned… did it bother me that they typically don’t burn the clothes, and why the heck did they in this case? Yes. But we never hear from the defense. It’s a trial where only one side’s giving the closing argument.

My biggest problem with the book though is the number of soldiers Krakauer throws under the bus. It’s one thing to call out and blast elected officials with low popularity ratings, but something else altogether to call out the people on the ground – especially if you’re wrong. And there’s a chance that Krakauer’s conclusions and even the Tillman family’s conclusions are wrong. These people on the ground (including Tillman) have to make split second life or death decisions. Sometimes it seems like there is no right choice. To be killed in your first fire-fight has to suck. To have a part in any friendly-fire killing – not to mention one of an icon – has to suck. To be thrown under the bus for it? Well that REALLY has to suck.

So, why 3 stars if I found the book so disagreeable? It was well written. It stretched me to think about war, and patriotism, and propaganda – both right and left. And I’m rating the book, not how the book aligns with my views. I don’t want to give a decent, thought provoking book one star because I disagree with some of its politics. How’s THAT for open-mindedness?
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,777 reviews14.2k followers
January 26, 2020
Finished last night, and to say I found this book disturbing is an understatement. Lies, and more lies from begining to end. I'm not a naive person, and I realize that there are many things the government keeps from the public despite politicians consistent vows of transparency. An election that should never have been won, aided by our own Supreme court, to a war that should never have been, aided by manipulations of epic proportions, to the suffering of Tillman's family and the extensive cover up that ensued. This is democracy?

Maybe you remember Tillman from the football field? This undersized young man who out performed many. This is his story, the story of a man who wanted to do the right thing. Felt he should fight for his country, honor his freedom and the opportunities he had been given. His life, his love of family, his wife, his country. A life that ended to soon and would be used by the government in a wag the dog scenario.

Takes us into the Bush/Gore election year, the background of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. So many things not right, can't quite wrap my head around all the gross manipulations from beginning to end. The forming of Al Queda and their hatred of the Western Invaders. Has the promise of a government for the people by the people gone astray? Read this and you can form your own answers.

Profile Image for Malia.
Author 6 books568 followers
May 4, 2019
This is another totally absorbing book by Jon Krakauer. I read Missoula before and couldn't put it down and the same was the case with this one. I didn't know much about Pat Tillman, but Krakauer made him seem a fleshed out, multi-dimensional man and is story all the more tragic for it. Truly a moving, engaging read and one I certainly recommend!

Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com
Profile Image for La Petite Américaine.
207 reviews1,443 followers
February 27, 2011
I wanted a biography of Pat Tillman, not a scathing critique of the Bush administration. While the actions of George W. Bush and his staff regarding the events surrounding Tillman's death are totally relevant to the story, here Krakauer abandons his usual objectivity and jumps head-first into an attack on Bush that leaves the author sounding like nothing more than a pissed-off liberal Seattle-ite. (And I can say that because was a pissed off liberal Seattle-ite.) Ugh. Go cry into your cappuccino.

It's infuriating that such a beautiful and well-told biography suddenly veers off course and tosses the reader in the middle of an old political debate.

I don't need Jon Krakauer to tell me Geroge W. Bush was a horrible president. I lived through 8 years of that smug bastard and I don't want any more. I DON'T WANT ANY MORE. The only thing that pisses me off more than George W. Bush are people who keep going on about him. Let's drop it, shall we?

I wish Krakauer had dropped it. He let his anger at Bush destroy his own story, taking an otherwise perfect biography and turning it into a story of old-hat politics.

Sucked. But because half was good, I'll put it on my meh-whatever shelf.
Profile Image for Miranda.
21 reviews3 followers
June 1, 2010
When I first started the book, I asked myself if I liked the character of Pat Tillman. I didn't understand why I was having such a problem with him. But my problem wasn't with him, it was with Krakauer and his kiss-assery, if I may. The hero treatment was way too much for me. Although, Tillman is a hero in many people's eyes and an overall good guy, it felt like he just couldn't be any guy. He had to be "unafraid to buck the herd", "defend honor, with fists if necessary", "Tillman...virtually indestructible", and was "uncommonly resistant to the temptations of the baser human appetites". Hell, he used ODYSSEY in the title! I could go on forever! There's even several paragraphs about how Tillman wanted to meet Noam Chomsky which seems useless until you realize Krakauer wanted to throw that in there because his friend noted that their minds operated the same way. Oh wait, actually that was useless.

Really? I almost disliked myself reading this book because I saw how cynical I was becoming with each chapter filled with adoration for Tillman. With that, I thank Krakauer for featuring the history of Afghanistan's civil wars because without it, I would have lost my mind. My suspicions on why he did this were confirmed towards the end. A lot of what was happening in Afghanistan possibly mirrors American policy or how Pashtunwali beliefs mirrored Tillman's own beliefs. I enjoyed that aspect and probably found that's what saved the book.

There are several wasted paragraphs and chapters on superfluous information. I see what he was trying to do with involving the Jessica Lynch story. Clever but annoying in the end. This was the same with other chapters. I felt like I answered my question on whether I liked Tillman's character when we got to journal entries. It was there that I felt he was real, while in Krakauer's own accounts, he relishes in the myth of Tillman. He should have relied more on Tillman's writings than on his own.

I don't think I'd ever read Krakauer again. I wonder if the author has an obsession with grandeur and the romance of people rather than letting these people be beautiful and wonderful on their own. As far as I know, this is his second book featuring white, upper middle class, men who are well educated but are looking for adventure in the most drastic ways. Though educated, they don't use their heads much. Rather their hearts. And this is not a bad thing but I wish Krakauer realized that instead of writing these ballads. Tillman didn't have to be boy wonder. The author even ends with the idea that Pat possessed no tragic flaw. But why would that be so bad? Pretty good read, good history, but in most cases, much too much.
259 reviews23 followers
February 24, 2011
Pat Tillman, it appears, is everyone's political platform. Krakauer decries the use of Tillman's life and death for political ends, then goes on to use Tillman to preach about the evils of the Bush administration. By the end of the book, I wondered if this was more about Pat Tillman's life or Krakauer's hatred of Bush.

There's even a whole chapter about the Bush-Gore election. I'm not sure why.

Outside of the political screed, I was a little irritated by the obviousness of Krakauer's man-crush on Tillman, especially the breezy treatment given to Tillman's brutal beating of a fellow teenager (I don't know about you, but I would call an assault that results in its victim requiring 5 dental surgeries a felony and an inexcusable lack of self-restraint). There are other things, but I won't go into them.

Pat Tillman, in my mind, was not a terrifically remarkable man outside the fact that he was a great athlete who was able to chase a little leather ball around a football field. Should I care that he fancied himself a philosopher?

Tillman left a lot of money on the table when he joined the Army to fight for what he believed in. So did Osama Bin Laden, who gave up an allowance of $1 million per year in order to become one of the most hated men in the world. Bin Laden, it might be argued, actually gave up a whole lot more, and achieved a lot more, than Tillman ever did. Maybe Krakauer can write a book about him next.

At the end of the book, Krakauer states that Tillman is a wonderful example of Nietzsche's Ubermensch, and implies that the USA could use more men like him. Sorry if I disagree.

The tragedy of Pat Tillman's death was the cover-up by the government and the military, and the fact that many of those involved were actually rewarded for lying. I applaud Krakauer for his efforts to uncover the truth. The information he provided was fascinating. That's why this book gets two stars.
Profile Image for Julia.
2,034 reviews58 followers
January 2, 2010
This is at once a biography of Pat Tillman, a history of Afghanistan, the Taliban (they originally formed to stop bandits from shaking down the populace at checkpoints) and the cover up of Tillman’s fratricide.

Having read and been very impressed with Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven, I was expecting – and got— a complex story. As a non-football fan, I don’t know the difference (or if there is one) between a sack and a tackle or a fullback, a free safety and a linebacker. But who Tillman was is only partially a superlative football player: he was a thoughtful, curious, sincere, fun-loving man. On his off- season time away from football he ran marathons and triathlons, read Chomsky and did graduate work in history. Tillman “stubbornly insisted on doing the right thing” which Krakauer calls his tragic virtue. I am glad to have read this book, which is a biography of an honorable man, an indictment of the war and the men who are conducting it, and a celebration of the good men and women waging it.
Profile Image for Maricruz.
426 reviews54 followers
October 10, 2021
Empiezo a preguntarme si Jon Krakauer ha escrito algún libro que no resulte deprimente. También si habrá escrito alguno aburrido, de esos que te dejan fría y se te hacen larguísimos. Por el momento los tres libros que he leído suyos (Hacia tierras salvajes, Mal de altura y este que ahora reseño) me han resultado apasionantes. Y mira que en este último, Donde los hombres alcanzan toda gloria, al principio me costó meterme. Sobre todo porque Pat Tillman, como protagonista, me resultaba del todo indiferente, las partes dedicadas a su carrera deportiva me daban ganas de saltármelas y su decisión de alistarse en el ejército me hacía poner los ojos en blanco. Por eso me sorprendió la tristeza que sentí al llegar al capítulo en que se narra su muerte. Claro que para entonces ya estaba completamente enganchada con la historia, y Jon Krakauer me había convencido ya de que Tillman era una persona excepcional. Qué cabrito el Krakauer, cómo logra que te metas en una historia hasta las trancas.

Muy recomendable también para entender el estropicio de la intervención estadounidense en Afganistán e Irak, y su responsabilidad, más bien su culpa, en la situación actual.
Profile Image for Valerity (Val).
974 reviews2,747 followers
June 28, 2016
An excellent look at the life and sad, premature death of Pat Tillman, former NFL player who gave up a career playing football to enlist in the military. His brother he was so close to also followed him into danger after feeling like they needed to be doing more in the era of post 9/11.

Knowing what happens to Tillman it's difficult to keep reading, but knowing the kind of writing that Krakauer is known for producing, one just keeps going, sure that the read will make it worth getting through in the end.
May 5, 2011
There is so much to say about this travesty that was fostered on Pat Tillman and his family. To know that there are people in our military who are so devious and such cover up liars is super upsetting. Jon Krakauer paints a very depressing picture of the events that surrounded Pat Tillman's death. The fact that Pat will killed by friendly fire is horrible, but the idea that the army covered up this occurrence was awful. Soldiers are often killed by friendly fire and many of our troops are aware that this is a possibility. Most alarming in Pat's story was that others tried to advance their own careers by covering up what had happened.

Pat was a noble young man, a man who wanted to achieve that ability to be a man who is willing to stand up and do what he considers was right. Pat's being an "alpha male" as the author keeps on saying of him perhaps was the reason why he was where he wound up. It was infuriating to read of the many ways the government tried to "glorify" Pat's enlistment as well as his death. It was not as if his death was recognized for the tragedy it was but more for what the notoriety could do for others. How tragic too, was the fact that his family could not get the full story and were led astray by the many incorrect things that were said and done.

All in all this was a maddening read for me. It gave one pause to consider that if we conduct ourselves in this manner, what hope is there for any of our soldiers in the military. The book left me feeling depressed and somewhat helpless as I am sure The Tillmans have felt many times. What a shame that Pat's act of courage and bravery have been so overshadowed by deceit and lies.

The only complaint I have against the book is that the inherent dislike one feels that Mr Krakauer bears for the former President. In a way, it spoils the telling of this story as it is inappropriate when writing a biography to infuse your own ideas on the reader.

Profile Image for Christopher Saunders.
930 reviews860 followers
February 18, 2023
Jon Krakauer's Where Men Win Glory examines the life and myth of Pat Tillman, the football player-turned-soldier who died in Afghanistan in April 2004, becoming a poster boy for the American war effort. The truth was much more complicated: Tillman had strong doubts about the War on Terror and the Bush Administration, and his death came in an inglorious friendly fire incident, facts which were covered up by the Army in favor of sanitized war propaganda. Krakauer interviews Tillman's friends and family, depicting a tough-minded, intellectually curious young man who was far from the simple patriot presented to the public. Despite reputation as a hell raiser in high school (including a drunken assault which nearly killed a bystander), Tillman was at heart a gentle and thoughtful man who loved travel, relished food, read voraciously and loved his brother and wife. As a safety for the Arizona Cardinals, he quickly transcended a low draft status and became one of the NFL's top defensive players. After 9/11, a sense of duty compelled him to enlist in the Army Rangers; but a tour in Iraq, a war Krakauer shows he never believed in, disillusioned him and his stint in Afghanistan had a disastrous end. Krakauer somewhat hamfistedly parallels Tillman's early life with the rise of al-Qaeda and the Taliban for historical context; he fares better showing the Bush Administration's propaganda apparatus, not only lying about the war's justifications but spinning heroic tales from inglorious grains of fact (the similarly exaggerated Jessica Lynch story, in which Tillman played a peripheral role, is discussed at length). Tillman's death, coming soon after the revelation of torture at Abu Ghraib, was a boon for American warmakers; no longer able to speak for himself, or express his doubts about the war, Tillman became a pluperfect patriot that grossly misrepresented the complicated figure he was. Krakauer's book pays due tribute by providing readers a glimpse at Pat Tillman, a man whose principles proved a "tragic virtue" that led to his needless death.
37 reviews
April 4, 2013
I was looking for a book about Pat Tillman, but instead found a book that, in my opinion, used him as an excuse, or means, to simply bash the Military, Bush administration, CIA and the wars we are engaged in. I had read prior books by Mr. Krakauer and enjoyed them, but honestly, after reading this book I find myself wondering how accurate or slanted those books were, as this book definitely had an agenda to me, which was not to focus on Pat Tillman. Sure, he's talked about a lot, but it felt like a preamble to the real purpose of the book.

I realized that when there were pages dedicated to discussing the election results between Gore and Bush - what did that have to do with Pat Tillman? Was the auther implying that if Gore won, Pat would not have died? Maybe it was backdrop to us entering the war, but talking about how Gore won the popular vote but lost the electoral college due to the Supreme Court wasnt part of the story I thought I was going to read.

I was not looking for that when I picked it to read, but instead was wanting better insight into Pat Tillman, and others like him, as well as a more unbiased picture of what happened that evening. Instead, I got a political rant that used allegations and rumors to paint a quite negative picture of almost everyone in the book.

The writing was good, but not great - more like long magazine articles that had the benefit of hindsight, and used that hindsight to pass judgment. For me, having never been in combat or shot at, I refuse to judge those that are in battle or combat - I can only imagine the stress and fear, and have no idea how I would act in that circumstance, so who am I to pass judgement?

If anyone is interested in reading about what motivates a person to go to war, I highly recommend "Fearless - the Adam Brown Story". I was hoping this book would be in that vein, but it wasnt.
Profile Image for Paul Eckert.
Author 14 books46 followers
July 11, 2010
In a perfect world, everyone would have their biography written by Jon Krakauer after their death, and that book could be passed down through the generations, and people would truly understand who you were, and they would learn something and be inspired by your story.

Unfortunately, we live in a less than perfect world, and if Jon Krakauer writes a book about you, then your death was untimely, tragic, and undeserved.

Where Men Win Glory is the story of Pat Tillman, the NFL football player that gave up a $3 million contract to enlist with the US Army to kill those responsible for the 9/11 attacks in Afghanistan. He was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan, and a circus of government cover ups and lies ensued.

We quickly learn, however, that there was a lot more to Pat Tillman than just this one selfless act of patriotism. Tillman was a complex individual, at once a fiercely independent alpha-male that defied the odds to accomplish his dreams, and also a super-sensitive, intelligent guy that eloquently and fearlessly expressed his deepest emotions in a journal.

The Krakauer formula of alternating between character profile and historical works yet again in this book. He seamlessly interweaves the history of Afghanistan history, the rise of the Taliban, the Bush presidency, and Pat Tillman's high school and college years. We see how these independent events eventually converge into 9/11, which inspired Tillman to join the Army, and also led to his death. The history of Afghanistan is really interesting, and it gives a deeper understanding of its people and the chaos it's been through in the last 30 years. The history of the Bush presidency was also interesting, and included some facts that I was unaware of. Some will be tempted to say Krakauer betrays a political bias against Bush. Despite any bias, Krakauer sticks to the facts, and these facts never seem intended to get in a cheapshot at Bush, but rather show how executive-level decisions can affect the lives of ordinary people.

Krakauer uses interviews and anecdotes from family and friends, colleagues, co-workers, and direct passages from Tillman's diary to build the fascinating story of Pat Tillman and who he was beyond the headlines. Even though I'm rather cynical about the military and how it's used in America, I was truly inspired by Pat's strong work ethic and sense of duty in his story. But I was equally inspired by his introspective journal writing, and I have been trying to write more in a journal that sees entries often six months apart.

The unintended effect of this story was that at times it made me really sad. Though it does a great job of celebrating Tillman's life, we often view his loss through the eyes of family and friends, and it's just heartbreaking. I haven't lost a lot of people in my life, so stories like this help me sympathize with those that have.

Krakauer's prose is at turns grandiose, informative, and heartbreaking. I caught myself wishing he would write about my life, but without the grisly death and everything.

I listened to the audiobook version, and Scott Brick did an excellent job of narrating the story. His voice perfectly embodies the spirit of Krakauer's writing, lending it the appropriate level of gravitas and timbre.

Highly recommended, especially for fans of Jon Krakauer's writing.

Profile Image for Mateo.
110 reviews22 followers
January 7, 2010
It's no accident that Where Men Win Glory is framed by quotes from Homer and Aeschylus, because, make no mistake about it, this is a Greek tragedy, the story of a heroic, if flawed, human being who is played with by the gods like a fly by wanton boys. In this case the gods are the neoconservative hawks who brought the war in Iraq down upon our heads, and the book is an indictment--yes, okay, a searing indictment--of the foolishness, hubris, and evil at the root of this immoral war. It's also one of those books that you'd like to give to anyone who's thinking of signing up for the Army, because it's hard to imagine anyone reading about all the crack-house errors that go into a SNAFU battle like al Nasiriyah (in which one US battalion called for A-30 Warthog strikes, shooting uranium-depleted bullets at 60 rounds a second, against another), or the one in which Pat Tillman was killed by his own troops, without seriously questioning the glories of war. If you thought Black Hawk Down could show you what really serious shit looks like when it hits a big, deadly fan, you'll find the second-by-second accounts of Where Men Win Glory to be just as appalling and irresistible.

Krakauer seems incapable of writing a book that is not riveting, and in Pat Tillman he has a naturally riveting subject: a jock who read Emerson and Chomsky, a macho athlete who was an outspoken atheist and supporter of gay rights, a multimillionaire who drove a beat-up Volvo station wagon, a soldier thoroughly opposed to the war in which he fought but whose sense of duty precluded any action but to serve his country as he'd agreed to do. (To be fair, Krakauer's weakness is that he almost always admires his subject too much, and there is a bit of hero-worship here, too. Still, Tillman was a remarkable man.) That this very private man's public heroism should wind up as P.R. fodder for the corrupt machinations of Halliburton and Bush is a tragedy that perhaps even Homer could not have anticipated.

A definite must-read.
Profile Image for Dan.
1,135 reviews52 followers
May 1, 2020
John Krakauer has published six book-length works of non-fiction. He is most widely known for his reporting on the climbing tragedy that occurred on Mt Everest in 1996 that became the book Into Thin Air. It is widely considered the best book on mountaineering ever written.

This book — Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman — was published in 2009 several years after Tillman’s death by friendly fire in 2004. It was published with the cooperation of Tillman’s wife Marie and it is a tear-jerker.

I didn’t start out liking this biography.
Krakauer, the author, knows little about football and football was definitely a large part of Pat Tillman’s life prior to his enlistment. Despite his small size, Tillman was both driven and highly intelligent. He worked his tail off and hit the weights in high school and won a scholarship to ASU. Within a few years he became one of the best linebackers in the country at the college level. Due to his small size, he was not selected until the last round the NFL draft in 1998 by the Arizona Cardinals. In his three years in the NFL he became one of the leagues best players at strong safety leading in tackles. We get a notion of Pat’s character both on and off the field from the book. He is an enigma — both a wild man and a very thoughtful person.

Then 9/11 happens. The tragedy affects Tillman very deeply. He declines an offer from the LA Rams for a $10 million contract and stays with the Cardinals for the league minimum. By the next spring his attention turns toward the war in Iraq and Tillman decides to walks away from the NFL at the peak of his career. He enlists with the Army Rangers — his bit to help win the war against terrorism.

Pat enlists with his younger brother Kevin, who is also his best friend. The Pentagon is notified that the NFL star has enlisted. Tillman is aware that his enlistment is being covered widely in the media and he expects he will be manipulated. He states to his friend that the Bush administration will exploit him in the event of his death and he writes in his will that there shall be no parade, public ceremony nor chaplains at his funeral. Tillman clearly saw the possibility of the dark scenario that sadly unfolded just two years later!

It is the second half of the book that is so extraordinarily well wrought and heartbreaking. Perhaps only Krakauer could have told the story so well — both the level of detail and dramatic story telling receive the highest marks.

In a minute-by-minute commentary Krakauer describes Pat’s last day on earth, April 22, 2004, when he headed out on that mission in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border. Just hours after Pat is killed, we learn of the lies communicated by the Pentagon to the family. That is that Pat died during a terrorist ambush — rather than by the friendly fire that actually killed him. Even Pat’s brother, Kevin, who was only a few hundred yards away at the time of Pat’s death was also lied to. The Tillman tragedy occurred during the same week as Abu Ghraib and Rumsfeld felt the administration could not simultaneously weather the outrage if the real Tillman story were publicly known at that time.

If you’ve read Krakauer then you know he is a truth seeker, and he is brutally candid in his assessments. In this case his outrage is directed at the military brass for the coverup. He also does not paint a flattering picture of the men in the Humvee who manned the machine guns that mowed down Pat Tillman. But Krakauer also makes it clear that there was no malice in the men who pulled the trigger.

4.5 stars. This story was even better told and more emotionally impacting than Blackhawk Down — another notable and great book in this genre.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
46 reviews29 followers
February 3, 2010
The story of Pat Tillman is probably already somewhat familiar to many from news headlines - he's the Arizona Cardinals player who turned down a multi-million football contract to go fight al quaeda in Afghanistan after 9/11 only to be killed by friendly-fire. Of course, the Bush administration, wanting to use Tillman to hype the glory of war, covered up the circumstances of his death at first, making it a bigger headline later. If the government had been truthful from the start, Tillman's name likely would have been long-forgotten by anyone that didn't watch football.

The cover-up is the hook Krakauer uses to lead us into the story of Tillman's life, which is almost more compelling than the Army's lies about his death. Just as with Krakauer's earlier books, I couldn't put this down once I started reading. It's like best people-watching in book form, though sad. The beginning does start out a little slow as he gives the history of Afghanistan that led us to where we were in the early 2000s. That history lesson does pay off in the end.

Relying on Tillman's journals, interviews with Tillman's widow and his Army buddies, as well as congressional testimony and a book by Tillman's mother, Krakauer gives such a realistic, detailed description of the guy that you feel like you don't necessarily know him, but know the guy he was, if that makes any sense. Tillman kind of lives by his own code. He gets into ASU on a football scholarship, but also graduates with honors. He reads Noam Chomsky and Homer, but also likes to drink and tells a French guy glaring at him when drunk one night "you'd be speaking German if it wasn't for us." When he first signs on as a pro-football player with the Cardinals, he rides a bike to practice because he doesn't yet own a car (like practically unheard of in Phoenix.) He's this hot football player with long hair who marries his first girlfriend, despite spending four years separated while he attends one of the biggest party schools. All of which makes him sound a bit like a man of contradictions, but really, Krakauer reveals a guy who is open-minded but lucky enough in life to be able to live by his ideals. At the same time, Tillman almost admits as much in one of his journals, and he comes across as humble and likable.

I have to admit that part of the reason I was interested in reading this was that Tillman went to Arizona State the same years I did and I remember the excitement over football the year that our team not only beat Nebraska but made it to the Rose Bowl. I didn't know him or even clearly remember him being on the football team as I never actually went to a football game. (The only person I remember being on the football team was Jake Plummer and I only knew his name because I worked at the student paper and at one point Plummer had told one of the sports reporters to "go eat a dick sandwich," which of course immediately became a running joke, and eventually Halloween costume...)

Reading this, I can see that there's no reason I would have known Tillman. I could totally place his type of crowd in college, through Krakauer's details.

Krakauer tries to tell two stories here. The one about Tillman and one about the problems with the war being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. The latter story he doesn't dig into as much and he comes at it with such an anti-Bush opinion from the start that it was hard for me to completely trust his reporting or conclusions, even though I'm totally anti-Bush. The cover-up over Tillman's death is maddening and, if there had never been the faked WMDs, that alone would have made me disbelieve anything else the Bushies said.

Anyway, read the book to be annoyed all over again with Bush and the Iraq war and the mishandling of the Afghanistan war. But really, it's the story about Tillman, and the love story between he and his wife, that really makes this worth it. And Krakauer really nails the ending.
Profile Image for Adrienne.
22 reviews
January 22, 2010
I'm a huge Krakauer fan, but this book was not his best work.

The transitions between Afghan military history and US involvement in that country's affairs, and more personal information about Pat Tillman
are rather awkward.

Also, as much as I can't shake a stick at a man who gives up a sweet NFL career to join the military - I found Tillman to be a somewhat irritating character for his lack of realism or maturity. I believe he could have done much more good staying here and using his status and money to act as an agent of change, rather than to go over and fight in Afghanistan. Now he's gone, and can do no more. However, his choice to get his hands dirty and fight like anyone else can never be underestimated.

For those who haven't seen much information about Afghanistan's history leading up to our invasion post-911, this is a great book to get an overview of all of the many invasions and forms of government inflicted upon this small and destitute country.

The examination of Tillman is somewhat starry-eyed, but still a solid character study - just not incredibly interesting.

I wanted to love this book, but I only sort of like it.
Profile Image for Shaun.
Author 4 books176 followers
August 27, 2016
I really enjoy Krakauer's writing, so much so that this is the fourth book written by him that I've read in the past year. I also purchased two other books (on this topic) and a documentary after reading his version of the Pat Tillman story. Thus it goes without saying that I gave this five stars.

What is the book about?

The obvious answer is Pat Tillman, the famous football player who gave up a multi-million dollar contract to enlist in the army after the September 11th attacks. Pat's story alone is a remarkable one.

But it's not just a story about Pat, as interesting as his life was. It is also a recounting of America's complicated relationship with the Middle East, including early U.S. support of groups - which coincidentally evolved into al-qaeda and the Taliban - that could help nullify the Soviet threat.

Except, that's not all. It's also a story about propaganda, lies, political whitewashing, and doublespeak.

And somehow, Krakauer weaves it all together into one cohesive and riveting read.

Would recommend to Krakauer fans - he does not disappoint - and/or anyone with an interest in Pat Tillman and his story. Complementary themes that might interest are the cover-up angle as well as the extraordinary sacrifices that military families make(that most of us are spared)during times of war.

Other Krakauer books I enjoyed:

Into the Wild
Into Thin Air
Under the Banner of Heaven
Profile Image for AWBookGirl.
212 reviews10 followers
September 6, 2011
I’ve been finished with Jon Krakauer’s Where Men Win Glory for over a week now. But this is one of those books that stirs up emotions, ones like anger and frustration, and it took me some time to figure out what exactly I want to say.

Jon Krakauer has covered in other books a fundamentalist Mormon sect murder, the 1996 Everest disaster, and the story of an Emory University kid trying to make it in the wilds of Alaska. I read and really liked all of those books, so when I saw Where Men Win Glory on a recent bookstore trip, I picked it up without hesitation.

You probably remember the story of Pat Tillman. He was the Arizona Cardinals football player, who left behind a fairly lucrative NFL career to enlist, with his brother Kevin, in the Army after 9/11. After a tour first in Iraq, Tillman was killed by friendly fire during his last tour in Afghanistan.

In true form, Krakauer provides a thorough history of Pat Tillman, from his early sports days to the time he spent in Juvenile Hall for fighting, to his relationship with friends and family, and of course his decision to enlist and all its repercussions.

Also in true form, Krakauer lays out the very facts that incited the anger and frustration I felt when I was reading this book. I remember bits and pieces of the story but when it broke, I was working some crazy hours and not paying too much attention to the news. I missed the full ramifications of the story. Reading this, I finally understood.

So what brought on the anger and frustration? Two things: Krakauer explains how the Army completely failed to follow protocol, thereby failing Tillman’s company, and of course, Tillman himself. Then, the whole cover up that ensued after his death, a cover up that reached all the way to White House Staffers. Had Tillman’s family not been who they are, we might never have known about the fratricide.

This is what Krakauer does best. He weaves the history and backstory into the crux of the real story. He presents his facts and interviews and stirs the emotions in his readers. In Into Thin Air, you feel the desperation of those stranded on Everest, and in Where Men Win Glory, you feel the anger, frustration, and determination of the Tillman family in the aftermath of his death.

Krakauer writes non-fiction, but his books read like novels. He takes an unusual circumstance and weaves facts together in a way that keeps the reader turning the page, wanting to know what happens next, even if we already know the outcome of the story.
Profile Image for Garrett.
71 reviews8 followers
August 12, 2017
I really like Krakauer, and he is an excellent, thorough, chronicle storyteller. If you enjoy Krakauer and his style of writing, you should pick this up. You'll enjoy it, as I did.

I enjoyed both the story of Tillman (and by extension, a part and parcel analysis of the military's role in his death) with the modern history of Afghanistan - a history with which I was previously unaware. As a separate story, the modern history of the Middle East is fascinating, but this history doesn't really have much to do with Pat Tillman as a person. A big part of the presentation was that Pat was a complete person and has been undersold as a person because of the common framing he has as an NFL player and/or martyr, and advancing Afghanistan as needed context is more in service of Krakauer's disgust with the Bush administration and the military than it does with Tillman, the person.

More on Krakauer in a moment.

The book also blows the myth of George W. Bush to smithereens. Now, in the era of Trump, we're hungry for any semblance of humanity in politics, and we have collectively forgotten the heinous actions of his presidency. And for why? - because of his friendship with Michelle Obama? It wasn't long ago that we, as a country, wondered aloud if W. would go down as one of the all-time worst presidents in American history.

To be honest, the brief history of the Middle East and Afghanistan Krakauer provides was my favorite part, and I'll be following up on this newfound intrigue. I wish Krakauer wrote more narrative history. Again, he's deft at chronicle narration.

The thing about Krakauer: he editorializes. A lot. He will let you know what he thinks about everything as he goes. I happen to agree with his sentiments, general conclusions, and his writing demeanor, so I enjoy that added flavor. If that's not your style, you will probably find it grating. If you're a staunch neo-con, you will probably find the book unreadable.

But if you're a fan of Krakauer's already, you know better by now. If he is famous for the stories he tells, the controversies that surround his books come as a close second.

3.5/5 Rounded up.
Profile Image for Neil.
6 reviews1 follower
October 24, 2009
What I wanted from this book was an in-depth investigation into Pat Tillman's death and the ensuing cover-up by the military and our government. What I got instead was a quasi-biography of Tillman coupled with a parallel discussion of the Bush administration's handling of Iraq and Afghanistan. Neither bothered me terribly, I guess, since I attended ASU at the same time Tillman did and was a huge fan of his from the very start, and since I voted against Bush twice. But still, be aware of the subject-matter of the book if you choose to read it. Tillman himself was an amazing character, more amazing than even I had realized given his background, his age, and his career. It is undeniable that he made a choice that 99.99% of Americans would not make if they were in his shoes. A choice, of course, that he paid for with his very life. He did it simply because he felt it was the right thing to do, and not for money (which he gave up) or fame (which he already had). That extremely compelling aspect of Tillman's personality was very poorly explored and highlighted in Krakauer's book. I learned details of his life and death that I didn't know before, which is fine. But the book was not gripping, as Tillman's actual story deserves to be.
Profile Image for Donna.
3,972 reviews53 followers
December 27, 2015
This is my 3rd or 4th Jon Krakauer book. I like the idea behind his books and I can appreciate the research that goes into all of them, but I'm having a tough time embracing the actual published works.

This one was a sad story which I found interesting and I think this story needs to be told. But the author diddled around along the way in his build up. I would have skimmed some parts if I was actually reading this. But I did the audio and skimming is hard to do on my mp3 player. The buttons are too sensitive to do that and usually costs me more time. So 3 stars for the overall content, but I'd prefer less dry tangents. Scott Brick, the narrator, was the spoon full of sugar.
Profile Image for Laura.
460 reviews7 followers
October 27, 2022
Nothing like the summer reading list kicking my butt into reading a book I’ve wanted to read since publication.

Do I enjoy Krakauer’s non-fiction? Yes. Did I live in Arizona for the first half of my life? Also yes. Do I have a tough-guy combat pilot Army veteran father? Yup. And… Did my time at Arizona State University coincide with Tillman’s. Bingo. Basically I had a host of reasons this book piqued my interest.

And after years of procrastination, I devoured it in two days. Fascinating account of a man who loved physicality, learning, and defending his principles. I wonder what truly happened to him in Afghanistan.
Profile Image for Joseph Stieb.
Author 1 book148 followers
July 31, 2016
Jon Krakauer writes so well about people who are obsessed with pushing their limits and the tragedies that often result from their drive and determination. The climbers in Into Thin Air, Chris McCandless in Into the Wild, and now Pat Tillman. It's hard to conclude that Tillman was anything but an admirable and remarkable person. Tillman was driven by an obsessive desire to better and test himself in the realms of academics, sports, life, and even random things like making risky jumps at national parks. This drive got him into the NFL, which didn't seem to change him very much. He even turned down a massive contract with the Rams to show his loyalty to the Cardinals, an exceedingly rare move today. This work is not mere hagiography as Krakauer explores the many excesses of his personality, things that drove his family crazy and even put him in juvenile detention for a few months before he entered college. He might have even been too intense of a person for someone like me to want to hang out with, but I definitely see the magnetism of his personality. We could all do well to have a little McCandless or Tillman in ourselves, a little feeling of never quite being satisfied with what we are doing and who we are. On the other hand, the tragic flaw (or virtue?) of these people is that this feeling becomes a compulsion. They feel almost trapped by it, as if settling for normalcy will kill them. What ends up killing them, in contrast, is the last attempt to better themselves.

In the grand scheme of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the Pat Tillman story is an anecdote, but it nevertheless reveals a lot about the conduct of these wars. Tillman fit poorly into any patriotic narrative that the Army or the Bush administration wanted to spin. His signing up seemed to have as much to do with the desire to better and test himself as it did with post-9/11 patriotism. He thought the war in Iraq was a foolish, almost imperialist campaign and he held little respect for the Bush administration or the Army as an institution. He was quite liberal and an atheist, in contrast to the Bible-thumping GOP. He (quite admirably) gave no interviews about his decision to leave the NFL to join the Army and resented the Army and Rumsfeld's attempts to use him as a recruiting tool. When he was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan, the DoD saw a propaganda disaster on their hands: How would it look, as Iraq slipped into chaos in 2004, if the most famous soldier in the US military died as a result of poor tactical leadership and confusion? Wouldn't it look so much better to portray his death as a heroic one, going down in a hail of Taliban bullets trying to protect his friends? Not crouching in terror behind a boulder while his comrades blasted away at him, finally killing him with three rounds from a SAW to the head?

Well, that's exactly what the Army, the DoD, and the Bush administration did with Pat Tillman. They cooked up a number of irregularities in the handling of his body and the reporting of his death to his family. They pressured/ordered his comrades to deceive his family and keep silent about what really happened. They trumpeted a story of heroic death to pump up two flagging wars, just as they had done with Jessica Lynch. This part of the story is truly shameful. I don't remember getting quite this angry while reading a book in the recent past. I was particularly pissed upon learning that a colonel had insisted on the presence of a chaplain at Pat's memorial service even though Pat was an atheist and specifically requested that no religious personnel be part of his burial. Of course, the story got out about the details of Tillman's death, thanks largely to the dogged intervention of his family, and the Bush administration found itself with another scandal on its hands that they pretended to know nothing about. What's remarkable to me about this story is the idea that lying about one soldier's death could have compensated for the disasters unfolding in these two conflicts, especially Iraq. Resorting to this expediency showed a desperation in these institutions and "leaders," a willingness to sacrifice the truth about a good person for short-term gain that turned into long term loss when the truth further undermined the public's trust. This book will leave you very disappointed and saddened by the actions of your government.

Pat Tillman doesn't deserve more credit for joining the Army because he gave up an NFL contract to do so. Millions of Americans have done this, and their sacrifices and sufferings, including those of their family, are just as real and meaningful. Tillman may have been a unique person in a lot of ways, but he's not uniquely heroic. I think he'd be the first person to agree with these statements.

I'd recommend this book to all fans of Krakauer as well as anyone interested in a fascinating character study. I found certain parts of the book to be a little dragged out, especially the details on Afghan history that I knew well already and the intricate details of the Jessica Lynch case. Still, Pat Tillman is a fascinating character to think and read about. I even found myself running extra hard on my daily runs because of his relentless commitment to self-improvement.
226 reviews44 followers
September 26, 2009
"My heart goes out to those who will suffer. Whatever your politics, whatever you believe is right or wrong, the fact is most of those who will feel the wrath of this ordeal want nothing more than to live peacefully."

This isn't a book you critique. This book critiques you. When's the last time you looked at yourself in the mirror and earnestly rated your patriotism? How much of the news feeds related to the Global War on Terror do you really believe? Would you leave behind a wife and a multi-million dollar job in the limelight to take up arms in an impossible terrain and join a war that goes against everything you believe in? What are you really willing to do to defend the freedoms most people take for granted daily? Do you think you could participate in the fabrication of how a soldier's life came to an end? Are you willing to give a family member to the Armed Services, knowing just how untrustworthy people in even - and dare I say, especially - the highest ranks can be?

My younger brother, who joined the Army earlier in the year, mentioned that he wanted to read this book. I remembered enjoying Krakauer's "Into the Wild," so I gave this book a shot. Then it wound up giving me an unexpected shock. While I was expecting a biographical account of Tillman's life, I was in no way anticipating that it would be paralleled with a sequence of events that led to the perpetual conflicts in the Middle East we all know as being helpless. I learned more about modern-day history in the middle east in reading this book than I ever did reading any history books in school, where they make sure kids are current on events that occurred 200 or 2000 years ago but rarely clue them into the kind of events happening now which will most affect their life upon graduation. I love my country and I absolutely bow down to every American and Ally who has sacrificed their lives to first capturing and then maintaining the freedoms that we enjoy today. But I'm not proud of how America has handled itself behind closed doors. I'm disgusted with many of the unrighteous foreign affairs and sickening bold-faced lies I read about in this book. I am stunned we would sink so far below the principles our country was founded upon.

Pat Tillman gave up everything for this great country and, in return, his country used him as a marketing tool to recruit more soldiers and win more supporters of a war that serves as yet another in a long line of examples of history repeating itself. As Kissinger said of Vietnam: "We lost sight of one of the cardinal maxims of guerilla war: the guerilla winds if he does not lose. The conventional army loses if it does not win." If history really is properly regarded as the "progress of ideas rather than merely a record of human events," then apparently we haven't been paying attention to the progress we are supposed to be making.

Not many of the recruits he attended boot camp with inspired confidence in Tillman. In his own words: "One thing I find myself despising is the sight of all of these guns in the hands of children. Of course we all understand the necessity of defense...It doesn't dismiss the fact that a young man I would not trust with my canteen is walking about armed..." Tillman didn't know it at the time, but he was foreshadowing his own demise. It wasn't Afghans who took his life - it was his own men. How ironic that tragic incidents such as this have been coined "friendly fire." What's friendly about being shot by your own men? But apparently these incidents are commonplace in any war. "Chaos is indeed the normal state of affairs on the battleground, and no army has figured out a way to plan effectively for, let alone alleviate, the so-called fog of war. When the military is confronted with the fratricidal carnage that predictably results, denial and dissembling are its time-honored responses of first resort." If I believed in war - any war - to begin with, maybe I could live with that, but what I can't live with is a man who gave up everything for his country being used to manipulate public opinion about the value of war and the state of a presidency. Tillman's family deserved the truth but instead it got one big lie after another. The Army's chain of command for covering up the truth is infuriatingly ridiculous, and the treatment Tillman's family received as thanks for sacrificing their treasured loved one is the saddest showing of honor I can imagine.

This book affected me in many ways. It made me want to hug my wife tighter. It made me want to take my dog out on longer walks. It made me want to send a dozen black roses to every crooked politician in charge of the coverups described. It made me want to shake my head and cry and even vomit as I read about American soldiers being killed in battle - against themselves. But most importantly, I think, this book made me want to live every ounce of freedom we Americans have with a driving, spirited force in honor of a man who lived his values rather than just talked about them. Pat Tillman was a man of action. Regardless of his country's grotesque mishandling of his passing, nothing can take away from this man's true legacy.

Profile Image for Alex Black.
688 reviews50 followers
August 21, 2019
I want to start by saying that I don't think this book is any less well done than any of Krakauer's other work (that I have read so far). My lower rating is personal taste and not a comment on the quality of this book. Krakauer is a wonderful nonfiction writer, a great researcher. He does a fantastic job of explaining difficult concepts to the layperson.

But going in, I expected this book to be more about Tillman's death and the government cover up. That seemed to be what the synopsis implied and that was what I was interested in. His death didn't occur until around page 250 (out of about 350 pages). Most of this book focused instead on Tillman's life and his motivations for joining the army, which I personally had very little interest in. If you want to learn more about Pat Tillman as a person, I highly recommend this book.

I personally found Tillman rather unlikable. Which isn't to say I think he was a bad person, I just didn't like him and it made reading this book more unpleasant than it otherwise would have been. Krakauer said repeatedly how sensitive Tillman was, how kind, how humble, how thoughtful. But he acted like the entitled football players I went to school with; they got their way so often they came to believe they inherently deserved more than other people. In high school he got in frequent fights, eventually beating someone so bad they wound up in the hospital. He was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, but the judge knocked it down to a misdemeanor so he wouldn't lose his football scholarship.

Then there were the other small things, like partying late at night even though his wife had work early in the morning and continuing even after she asked him to stop. Or telling a Frenchman that he'd be speaking German if it weren't for us. Or risking his death for pointless stunts just because it was entertaining. It felt like everyone anecdote involved him being arrogant or self centered or hotheaded. He just wasn't someone I liked. This wouldn't have mattered if the book had been mostly about the aftermath of his death, but it was largely about Pat Tillman the person, and I wasn't interested.

I really enjoyed the political elements of this book. Krakauer obviously has a liberal bias (which I found kind of funny considering how hard he generally tries to keep himself out of his books), but his information and facts were sound. I think it's probably good to know the bias going in, but it didn't detract from the book at all for me. I was a child in the early 2000s so while I remember a fair number of events, I don't understand their significance. I remember the Jessica Lynch rescue, but not the scandal around the lies involved. It was fascinating to fill out my knowledge, and I definitely learned a lot from this book.

The way Krakauer delved into friendly fire was fascinating. It wasn't just Tillman's story, but friendly fire in general. He covered some other incidents and discussed its history in war a bit. It was one of my favorite aspects of the book because I hadn't realized how prevalent friendly fire was. At one point he gave percentages for how many casualties (fatal and non fatal included) were from friendly fire and in Iraq it was 41%, which is apparently not too far from the norm. Afghanistan was 13%. I literally had no idea it would be anywhere near that high. If asked to guess before this book, I would have said less than 10%.

Which also leads into the discussion on the military and how cover ups happen. I'd have a hard time arguing that the military is good at keeping friendly fire incidents quiet since I thought it was so much lower. I appreciated Krakauer explaining the chain of command and how it happened, but I will admit I struggled following some of it. There were too many military titles, names, and weapons for me to keep it all straight in my head. My only complaint here is that I wish there'd been more about friendly fire in general and how the military deals with it. There was enough, but that was the worthwhile part of the book for me.

The last small critique I had is the sexism. I don't think it was coming from Krakauer, but just the people in the book. There was a "boys will be boys" vibe to Tillman's childhood and the fights he got into. His wife at one point made a comment about how he was becoming so sensitive he was growing breasts. Tillman himself discussed how he thought the Afghan men were effeminate. It wasn't a big part of the book, but I definitely cringed when I came across those bits. It was never discussed critically and I definitely got the feeling that Krakauer was just capturing these people's lives, but it was rather unpleasant to read.

I did still contemplate giving this book four stars, especially once we actually got up to the friendly fire incident, but I just don't think it was quite there for me. Still a very worthwhile read, but not one of my favorites from Krakauer. If you like Krakauer in general, I'd recommend picking this up.
Profile Image for Romany Arrowsmith.
371 reviews33 followers
March 16, 2021
Krakauer as always delivers a stunning and intimate piece of journalism. The emotional timbres of his books change, appropriately, with the subject matter: beneath his cool writerly remove the reader nevertheless sensed sympathetic admiration for Christopher McCandless in "Into the Wild" and deeply ashamed grief in "Into Thin Air". In "Where Men Win Glory" it is disgust and horror that crackle off the pages, condemning the US army and government for their cynical, damaging, and self-serving cover-up of Tillman's death by friendly fire.

This is the kind of read that is so distressing it makes you long for China to take over America's position on the world stage. I don't say this flippantly or out of a naive disregard for China's own atrocious treatment of its and other countries' citizens. But when will America pay for what its military and intelligence organizations have done to the world?? It's been nothing but "blowback" since Day 1. Malice and incompetence at the top, incompetence and arrogance at the bottom. Donald Rumsfeld, Cond0leezza Rice, George W., Karl Rove, Stanley McChrystal and all those other assholes ought to be tried for war crimes, of course. Major David Holdne (now Colonel!!!) and Captain Dennis Santare at a bare minimum should also specifically be tried and convicted for their parts in the various tragedies described in this book. I yearn for an afterlife just so that supreme moron Kauzlarich ends up in eternal hellfire. So many others. Even the fellow rangers who looked Spc. Kevin Tillman in the eye and lied to him about his brother's death "because they were ordered to". Tracks with Sebastian Junger's observation that men excel at physical acts of valor, but moral courage is the domain of women. I rolled my eyes at this observation when I read it years ago, but every day that I live confirms in my mind that many men fully capable of jumping on a grenade cannot stand up to even one other man for the sake of human dignity and compassion. I have this haunting suspicion that underneath many men's arguments against allowing women into combat rules is a well-suppressed terror that we will see them as they are: weak in places where they are "meant" to be strong...

The only person who actually did his fucking job with integrity was the military autopsy guy, Dr. Mallak. This is, in my firsthand experience, a completely accurate representation of the ratio of "honorable men" to "thieves, rapists, and the mentally incompetent" in the US armed forces. Part of what deepens this tragedy is that Pat Tillman was so obviously a human being on the Mallak side of the ratio, even one that rarely exists inside or outside of the military: physically strong, a genetic monster, but also exceedingly kind, clever, brave, loyal, and thoughtful. He would have made an excellent general, governor, president, whatever. It's clear that a man like him could have done so much good in the world. Instead he got his head exploded like a stray dog on a hillside in Afghanistan.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,365 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.