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

Draw Your Weapons

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  213 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
A single book might not change the world. But this utterly original meditation on art and war might transform the way you see the world--and that makes all the difference.

"How to live in the face of so much suffering? What difference can one person make in this beautiful, imperfect, and imperiled world?"

Through a dazzling combination of memoir, history, reporting, visual c
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 4th 2017 by Random House
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

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

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Draw Your Weapons, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Draw Your Weapons

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An amazement, Sentilles's fractured meditation on art and war and the deep pangs of suffering that reverberate from them is my favorite nonfiction book of the year. With a style that seems to be illuminated by the art (photography) theory of Susan Sontag, Walter Benjamin, and John Berger, Sentilles go in many deep directions at once throughout this dazzler. Her personal stories about her friendships with a dying WWII-era pacifist and a former soldier who worked at the Abu Ghraib prison are the g ...more
Text Publishing
‘Sentilles combines fragments of narrative, memoir and journalism to plot a peripatetic path through contemporary debates about war and suffering. She considers whether it is possible for art- and image-making to re-engage viewers who feel overwhelmed or apathetic, while restoring dignity to those affected by conflict. In a book with no images, Sentilles interrogates many photographic works that depict violence and suffering, to grapple with the question: do we look or look away?…Sentilles argue ...more
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, north-america
Her collage-style writing reminded me of both Eduardo Galeano & Kurt Vonnegut; the style fit her musings & topics very well. It's hard to explain the breadth & scope of this work, from small notes of individual moments, art, perception, death, life, God, photography, peace, soldiers, objectors, freedoms, to quantum physics, photography, & more. A call not only for action but also thought, not only seeing but perceiving.
Michael Livingston
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved this - a hard to describe meditation on violence, photography, art and life. Sentilles draws together seemingly unconnected sources and somehow creates something moving, unsettling and deeply humane. Probably one to read a few times.
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Draw Your Weapons was a non-fiction novel thrust into my hands on Love Your Bookshop day. Something different to try, I was so glad I went out of my comfort zone. A difficult one to summarise as it is nothing like anything else I have read. A collection of anecdotes, snippets of information about everything from war and violence to art and photography to psychology and theology. This book examines the relationship we have with violence and war and how it interacts with all these mediums and theo ...more
Holli Keel
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Riveting and poetic; the best book I’ve read in a long time. The ending gave me chills. Sarah Sentilles took ten years to write this book, and I’m glad she stuck with it. It’s a book as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen, despite its difficult, often uncomfortable subject matter.

Studying to be a priest, Sentilles viewed two photographs and decided to study photography and art instead. Because of her background, the book is woven together with a unique perspective. She discusses art, violence, w
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This could very easily be one of the top 10 books I've read!
Eryn C
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This one is going to haunt me for awhile. Thought-provoking, impactful, uncomfortable.

Some have criticized the format of the book - it's a bunch of very short essays all strung together - but I think this was a smart choice on Sentilles' part. There is some disturbing content here and it's much easier to digest in small bits throughout than it would be all at once.
Aidan Gowland
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: forever-wars
I received an advanced review copy of this book but will be purchasing a copy, because I know I will return to it time and time again.

I am afraid to read another book for a long time, because I know it won't be able to move me the way this book did, nor will it be as well written.

I started this book yesterday looking for a story, and insight. What I got was an exposé of war, an intimate account of family, a portrait of complicity and citizenship, and friendship.

I was put off at first by the st
Christa Van
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing

A meditation on war, suffering, objecting and art. This book primarily focuses on the story of two people, a World War II conscientious objector and an Iraq War veteran who was stationed at Abu Ghraib prison. Yet somehow, so much more is covered. Sentilles moves from one part to the next at a clip but somehow it all comes together to make an impressive whole. The language is wonderful and the purpose of the words is obvious. At times it so dark you feel like you can't continue reading but then s
Larissa Lio
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Draw your weapons is a very moving and thought provoking book.It makes your uncomfortable and to think. It took me a while to read this book and i even went out and signed out from the library to finish it. Its one of the most powerful books that i have read this year and would really recommend it to others.
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Lovely, deeply moving. As a war tax resister (who owed the IRS a lot of money this year because of the sale of my old home in Montana) this book came along at just the right time to help me formulate my letter to them and to buck up my courage to redirect the money to Poor Peoples Campaign. Highly recommended whether you're an activist or not. What a heart!!
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book. It is powerful, meditative, emotional - this is easily one of my favorite books.

Time and again I found myself stopping to really think about the concepts that Sarah Sentilles, the author, was illustrating and the connections she was able to draw between taking a principled approach to peace, art and the act of creating, war and power, and memory and history. I also really loved the unusual narrative. It was almost as if she was weaving together memoir, historical recor
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
To use some dated (but perhaps ironic, in this case) phrasing, I was blown away by Draw Your Weapons. I experienced the book as an exquisite meditation/indictment/inspiration/call to action, and delighted in the intricacy of the seemingly disparate threads that ultimately comprise the “whole cloth” of being human. This is one of the few books I will undoubtedly read again - to savor, to absorb, to integrate more deeply into the meaning I continually make of our being in this world.
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
While it took me a while to get through, I absolutely LOVED Draw Your Weapons by Sarah Sentilles. Taking a while to read something is usually due to slow pace or a writing style that conflicts with my taste, but that was not the case here. I think there were just a lot of heavy thoughts to meditate on and I often found myself inspired to write or research topics while reading.

Sentilles has a narrative style that incorporates her views, life experience, world history, and current events into the
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
This is a 21st Century essential book.

It's a collage that reminded me of Eduardo Galleano - and that's no small thing as Galleano may be the great collagist of literature but whereas he goes for the universal first, Sarah Sentilles goes from personal to universal, and that with great effect.

Draw Your Weapons follows a few lives, actually incidents in lives, and links them to mores, customs, and arts of our time. Incarceration, torture, war, photography, video games, poetry, the Bible, and the ep
CJ Alberts
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Truly a moving book. Sarah was my professor while I was in college and I had the privilege of working through a lot of the ideas she develops in this book through our course work. Above all else, I love how she dissects and struggles with the morality of photography. Such an interesting idea to wrestle with in current times. Please read this book, it will spark something inside of you to reach further.
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My mom reads more than anyone I know. She gave this book a strong five stars and said it moved into her top ten ever favorites. That's a bold statement. I started reading it and like so many books that are hard, I said to her, "I don't know, Mom. It's going to be sad." She said, "It is a tough book, but you should know about it so keep going."
In the nonfiction Draw Your Weapons, Sentilles writes about two photographs. The first photograph is of an older man holding a violin. We learn throughout
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A book about art used during war and peace. Sarah the author begins with two photographs, one is the famous photo of a man in Abu Ghraib prison standing on a box with wire electrodes in his hands, a head covered by a black hood and a makeshift top covering him. The second is from a newspaper, an elderly man holding a violin he made 60 years ago in a prison for conscience objectors. In her class she's teaching a young man who was in Abu Ghraib expresses weird beliefs and art work. Visiting the el ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nicole Kapise-Perkins
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I don't often give books a 5-star rating. I enjoy much of what Goodreads recommends, and if I really like it I rate it so. But for a 5-star, the book has to hit me hard, pull me in, and refuse to let me go even after I have finished reading it. Sarah Sentilles' 'Draw Your Weapons' is hands-down the best book I have read all year. It is gripping, graphic, an eye-opening journey into the world that we live in, so beautiful, so unfair, and sadly, so violent. It is a story of war and pacifism, of th ...more
Margaret Sankey
Jun 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Sentilles has here the material for a half dozen solid essays, but she has put them into a blender and it's now a "meditation". The core of the work is the friendship and activism of Howard Scott and his roommate Gordon Hirabayashi--the federal government jailed Scott for declaring his status as a conscientious objector and sent Hirabayshi to an internment camp over his legal resistance. Meanwhile, there's material on drone operators, a veterans student Sentilles has in class who served at Abu G ...more
Lacy Johnson
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What does it do to us, to our humanity, to always be consuming images of one another’s destruction? To whom do these images belong? What right do we have to look at other people’s pain? Draw Your Weapons is the culmination of thirteen years spent pursuing answers to these questions, which seem to grow only increasingly urgent and unanswerable over time. Draw Your Weapons leaves no stone unturned in this book that is part anti-war manifesto, part art criticism, part memoir — and entirely a work o ...more
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
@Sarah Sentilles’s Draw Your Weapons is one of those books that you inhale word by word, line by line, with pen in hand to underscore the choicest passages. With beautifully understated lyricism, Sentilles creates a collage meditation on art, violence, torture, love, family, photography, photography-and-violence, and cellular biology (very interesting that trauma can be passed down through the generations). The brevity of her style—she’s fond of the short paragraph—serves as a welcome counterpoi ...more
James Whitmore
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, nonfiction
Liked the collage technique. I took down random notes of facts and things that moved me, nearly all unrelated to the main narrative about the two photos. I liked that the format encouraged me to do that - it’s the kind of book that you get out what you put in. I liked the repetition of the thesis about photography, which helps make sense of quite an academic idea, from its origins to its use in drone warfare in drones. I am slightly unsatisfied and troubled by the conclusion - I wanted a step by ...more
Kylie Cardell
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sentilles has nailed the collage essay form, so hot right now in the vein of Maggie Nelson, Rebecca Solnit, strong shades of David Shields (but Sentilles has no qualms about sharing her excellent research sources!) Extraordinary (&satisfying) formal achievements aside, this book is urgent and powerful, continuing long running debates about the ethics of viewing and representing other people's pain and trauma, about the consumption and circulation of visual testimony, & the chilling gamif ...more
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I haven't read a book quite like this one. Sentilles composed a meditation on pacifism, war, and art that isn't quite a memoir, isn't exactly a philosophical argument, but draws on both of those, while telling the stories of two men whom Sentilles interviewed for the book. One man was an activist for pacifism during World War II, and was imprisoned for his efforts. The other is still a soldier in the US army, and had been stationed at Abu Ghraib after the infamous photos were published. I highly ...more
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
One of my favorite books to have read in 2017. Sentilles weaves together in an intriguing format various reflections on the aesthetics and representation of suffering, theology, literary criticism, and memoir. I was partial to her eloquently rearranged summaries of Elaine Scarry, Judith Butler, and Susan Sontag, but there's so much more than that to love.

There is something beautifully meta about this book in the hands of someone who also researches/writes about/teaches about suffering: I want t
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sarah Sentilles has achieved something with this book I can't quite describe. How she writes a book based on two true-life photographs - two very different images, both a result of war - and weaves not only the people in the photos together but North America's violent history using stories, art, interviews, her own life, and even redacted government documents, is a testament to her brilliant writing and creativity. This book is a masterpiece of non-fiction and I recommend it highly. I will be re ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
Sarah Sentilles is the author of A Church of Her Own and Taught by America. She is a scholar of religion and earned a bachelor's degree in literature from Yale and a master's of divinity and a doctorate in theology from Harvard. She lives in Portland, Oregon.