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New York Times bestselling author Mark Bowden has had a prolific career as one of America’s leading journalists and nonfiction writers. His new collection, The Three Battles of Wanat and Other True Stories, features the best of his long-form pieces on war, as well as notable profiles, sports reporting, and essays on culture. Including pieces from the Atlantic, Vanity Fair, New York Times bestselling author Mark Bowden has had a prolific career as one of America’s leading journalists and nonfiction writers. His new collection, The Three Battles of Wanat and Other True Stories, features the best of his long-form pieces on war, as well as notable profiles, sports reporting, and essays on culture. Including pieces from the Atlantic, Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, this collection is Bowden at his best. The titular article, “The Three Battles of Wanat,” tells the story of one of the bloodiest days in the War in Afghanistan and the extraordinary years-long fallout it generated within the United States military. In “The Killing Machines,” Bowden examines the strategic, legal, and moral issues surrounding armed drones. And in a brilliant piece on Kim Jong-un, “The Bright Sun of Juche,” he recalibrates our understanding of the world’s youngest and most baffling dictator. Also included are profiles of newspaper scion Arthur Sulzberger; renowned defense attorney and anti-death-penalty activist Judy Clarke; and David Simon, the creator of “The Wire.” Absorbing and provocative, The Three Battles of Wanat is an essential collection for fans of Mark Bowden’s writing, and for anyone who enjoys first-rate narrative nonfiction.


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New York Times bestselling author Mark Bowden has had a prolific career as one of America’s leading journalists and nonfiction writers. His new collection, The Three Battles of Wanat and Other True Stories, features the best of his long-form pieces on war, as well as notable profiles, sports reporting, and essays on culture. Including pieces from the Atlantic, Vanity Fair, New York Times bestselling author Mark Bowden has had a prolific career as one of America’s leading journalists and nonfiction writers. His new collection, The Three Battles of Wanat and Other True Stories, features the best of his long-form pieces on war, as well as notable profiles, sports reporting, and essays on culture. Including pieces from the Atlantic, Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, this collection is Bowden at his best. The titular article, “The Three Battles of Wanat,” tells the story of one of the bloodiest days in the War in Afghanistan and the extraordinary years-long fallout it generated within the United States military. In “The Killing Machines,” Bowden examines the strategic, legal, and moral issues surrounding armed drones. And in a brilliant piece on Kim Jong-un, “The Bright Sun of Juche,” he recalibrates our understanding of the world’s youngest and most baffling dictator. Also included are profiles of newspaper scion Arthur Sulzberger; renowned defense attorney and anti-death-penalty activist Judy Clarke; and David Simon, the creator of “The Wire.” Absorbing and provocative, The Three Battles of Wanat is an essential collection for fans of Mark Bowden’s writing, and for anyone who enjoys first-rate narrative nonfiction.

30 review for The Three Battles of Wanat: And Other True Stories

  1. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    There is a lot to like in this collection of previously published writings by Mark Bowden. The topics range widely and include war, personal profiles, sports and general things, like his experience trying to raise guinea hens because of their penchant for eating deer tick. The articles reflect his attention to detail, clear writing and sense of humor. The title piece tells about one of the most violent American confrontations with the Taliban in the Afghanistan War. The three battles were: the e There is a lot to like in this collection of previously published writings by Mark Bowden. The topics range widely and include war, personal profiles, sports and general things, like his experience trying to raise guinea hens because of their penchant for eating deer tick. The articles reflect his attention to detail, clear writing and sense of humor. The title piece tells about one of the most violent American confrontations with the Taliban in the Afghanistan War. The three battles were: the engagement itself—where Lt. Jonathan Brostrom was one of 9 fatalities; the battle by his father—a retired Army colonel— to lay blame on the military leadership and chain of command; and the successful fight by Col Bill Ostlund to clear his name. In the piece, Bowden confronts the reader with much to consider about war including courage, waste, confusion, honor, and especially grieving. Two other engaging essays on war are about amazing technological advancements that both assist and challenge combatants. “The Last Ace” tells about how modern fighter pilots have advantages in the air that could not have been dreamed of just a few decades ago, but one needs to balance the jaw-dropping expenses of these planes with their need. “The Killing Machines” considers the history, utility and morality of drones in the so-called war on terrorism. These remarkable machines provide the capability of killing at a distance with no risk to our combatants. Bowden argues that this technological advancement is not unlike the advantage offered by the sling to ancient soldiers. However, its very remoteness presents with moral dilemmas and obligations never before considered. The celebrity profiles were universally enlightening, not so much because of the personalities themselves, but because each is shown coping with an important contemporary issue. Joe Biden on being a humane and approachable politician; Kim Jung Un on the perks and dangers of being and absolute dictator; Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. on the future of print news in the digital age; Judy Clarke on the appropriateness of capital punishment; and David Simon on spin in storytelling. The pieces on sports were lighter but most were quite entertaining. “Attila’s Headset” was a remarkably insightful examination of one of our most successful college football coaches—Steve Spurrier. His wife calls him “a spoiled brat.” Maybe that is what it takes? The hardest job in football turns out to be the guy who calls the shots for the TV coverage. It turns out that this is a much underappreciated, but critical contribution to our enjoyment of these events. Likewise, Bowden’s coverage of the silent count to overcome crowd noise in pro football can only add to the readers’ enjoyment of watching these games. The miscellaneous essays at the end of the book were the weakest part of the collection. Bowden’s battles with guinea hens, as well as his defenses of the Tom Wolfe and the movie Zero Dark Thirty seem to be close to his heart, but carry much less weight than the rest of the collection.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brion

    Good collection of articles (expanded) by Mark Bowden.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Keyton

    A collection of articles, profiles, and essays: some fascinating, some inconsequential, some rereads. All displaying Bowden's characteristic nuance and depth. My faves: The Three Battles of Wanat: the title article on the ethics and fogginess of a battle gone wrong. The Killing Machines: drones, drones, drones Just Joe: an in-depth profile of Joe Biden The Inheritance: exploring the potential paths and pressures of the modern-day press via a profile of NYT's publisher. The Bright Sun of Juche: anecd A collection of articles, profiles, and essays: some fascinating, some inconsequential, some rereads. All displaying Bowden's characteristic nuance and depth. My faves: The Three Battles of Wanat: the title article on the ethics and fogginess of a battle gone wrong. The Killing Machines: drones, drones, drones Just Joe: an in-depth profile of Joe Biden The Inheritance: exploring the potential paths and pressures of the modern-day press via a profile of NYT's publisher. The Bright Sun of Juche: anecdotes and analysis of Kim Jong Un Abraham Lincoln is an Idiot: a review of how Abe was viewed and treated by his contemporaries. (Spoiler: not well)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    A decent collection of published articles ranging from his war reporting to essays on sports and politics. Not quite as entertaining as I had hoped, but still good. I enjoyed the story on Joe Biden, silent count in football, filipino jihadists, modern air warfare, and the current leader of North Korea. I've read quite a few of his books, and I generally find him straightforward and honest, though some of his subjects do not garner a great amount of interest from me. A decent collection of published articles ranging from his war reporting to essays on sports and politics. Not quite as entertaining as I had hoped, but still good. I enjoyed the story on Joe Biden, silent count in football, filipino jihadists, modern air warfare, and the current leader of North Korea. I've read quite a few of his books, and I generally find him straightforward and honest, though some of his subjects do not garner a great amount of interest from me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Garrick Infanger

    I was a little disappointed to discover this is just a collection of his magazine pieces over the years, but his writing is so good I ended up enjoying almost all of the pieces. I only wish he would have included some updates to the pieces or commentary from today's point of view. I was a little disappointed to discover this is just a collection of his magazine pieces over the years, but his writing is so good I ended up enjoying almost all of the pieces. I only wish he would have included some updates to the pieces or commentary from today's point of view.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mart

    There are rare authors who can tie investigative journalism to engaging storytelling. Mark Bowden of the Black Hawk Down fame is certainly one of such. There are some stronger and some weaker stories in this collection but all in all a worthy read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    I really like Mark Bowden's books and articles. This book is a compilation of several of his essays and articles over the past 10 (appx.) years. Mr. Bowden writes about contemporary events, frequently looking for the "story behind the story." This is particularly evident in the first story: The Three Battles... He writes about the chaos of the battle, a father's search for truth and justice, and a leader's burden to defend his judgement. They made their mistakes and they all did their best. That' I really like Mark Bowden's books and articles. This book is a compilation of several of his essays and articles over the past 10 (appx.) years. Mr. Bowden writes about contemporary events, frequently looking for the "story behind the story." This is particularly evident in the first story: The Three Battles... He writes about the chaos of the battle, a father's search for truth and justice, and a leader's burden to defend his judgement. They made their mistakes and they all did their best. That's the reality of life, there is never one story, one truth. All situations are multifaceted. I have to be careful in my review. I really do like Mr. Bowden's selection of topics and his point of view. To that end, I tend to agree with Mr. Bowden's angles and motivations for writing his stories, and the fact that I might not be thinking critically enough about what he is writing. I've read several of his books, I am comfortable with his writing because I know that he is doing his research and I believe that he is acknowledging different sides of the story. This book has a lot of interesting stories: war, sports, personal stories, and essays of his opinion. Overall, I really enjoyed reading.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Christopher McKeon

    This collection of articles by the author of Black Hawk Down shows why long-form journalism is worth paying for. I’m sure many of these stories took months to research and write, but they provide definitive accounts of what actually happened, free from the confusion of contemporaneous reports that may be lacking in detail. There are also some smart pieces in here about the ethics of drone warfare, the demands of broadcasting live sport and what goes wrong when you rely on partisan figures to do j This collection of articles by the author of Black Hawk Down shows why long-form journalism is worth paying for. I’m sure many of these stories took months to research and write, but they provide definitive accounts of what actually happened, free from the confusion of contemporaneous reports that may be lacking in detail. There are also some smart pieces in here about the ethics of drone warfare, the demands of broadcasting live sport and what goes wrong when you rely on partisan figures to do journalists’ jobs (the best part of a decade before Trump). That last one is in reference to conservative American websites, but can just as easily apply to hard left British sites like The Canary - no interest in context, fairness or providing a full picture of their subject, just picking the bits they want to show, context free.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marlon Franchini

    Including pieces from the Atlantic, Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, this collection is Bowden at his best. The titular article, “The Three Battles of Wanat,” tells the story of one of the bloodiest days in the War in Afghanistan and the extraordinary years-long fallout it generated within the United States military. In “The Killing Machines,” Bowden examines the strategic, legal, and moral issues surrounding armed drones. And in a brilliant piece on Kim Jong-un called Including pieces from the Atlantic, Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, this collection is Bowden at his best. The titular article, “The Three Battles of Wanat,” tells the story of one of the bloodiest days in the War in Afghanistan and the extraordinary years-long fallout it generated within the United States military. In “The Killing Machines,” Bowden examines the strategic, legal, and moral issues surrounding armed drones. And in a brilliant piece on Kim Jong-un called “The Bright Sun of Juche,” he recalibrates our understanding of the world’s youngest and most baffling dictator. Also included are profiles of newspaper scion Arthur Sulzberger; renowned defense attorney and anti-death-penalty activist Judy Clarke; and David Simon, the creator of the now-legendary HBO series “The Wire.”

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tim Richman

    The first ten or so reviews I read on Goodreads all seem to sum it up: generally good and interesting stuff, and readers will no doubt have their favourites and not-so-favourites. Mine are the early pieces in the section title "War". This would have been 4 stars for me had I got into it not long after it came out in 2016, but it somehow felt dated to me reading it in 2021. This is perhaps surprising, as there are stories that date back to 2002 and so you'd assume they've been chosen for their ti The first ten or so reviews I read on Goodreads all seem to sum it up: generally good and interesting stuff, and readers will no doubt have their favourites and not-so-favourites. Mine are the early pieces in the section title "War". This would have been 4 stars for me had I got into it not long after it came out in 2016, but it somehow felt dated to me reading it in 2021. This is perhaps surprising, as there are stories that date back to 2002 and so you'd assume they've been chosen for their timelessness to some degree. And yet.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Excellent writing and great storytelling This collection of writings by Mark Bowden showcases his talents very well. He is able to reveal the human story in every piece while maintaining a journalistic distance that gives you the full picture. His writing educated and makes you ask tough questions about any topic or person he engages. Well worth reading, and more than once.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth Flusche

    Like most Short Story Books hard to rate. Wish you could Rate by the Story the Title of course a five, and the stinkers as not finished. Was leaning towards three. Then I hit "The story behind the Story" which put this complete works over the top a 5 star. Like most Short Story Books hard to rate. Wish you could Rate by the Story the Title of course a five, and the stinkers as not finished. Was leaning towards three. Then I hit "The story behind the Story" which put this complete works over the top a 5 star.

  13. 5 out of 5

    charles kamasaki

    Beguiling. StartS a tad slow. Draws you in. Charms, even teaches. Nicely done for a remarkably versatile and learned writer. Outstanding job.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bill Gardner

    An interesting collection of essays and articles from Mark Bowden. The first, and cornerstone piece, regarding the battle at Wanat is superb.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Tollemache

    I have to assume that Mark Bowden had a book contract he needed to round out because that is the best explanation for this "greatest hits" type anthology of previously released pieces. I should say "greatest hits vol II" because he released a book called "Road Work" 10 or so years ago that seemed to fill a similar function. Now that my cons on this book have been aired, I can get into the good stuff. Bowden, a longtime Philly/Baltimore based reporter rose to fame on his landmark book "Black haw I have to assume that Mark Bowden had a book contract he needed to round out because that is the best explanation for this "greatest hits" type anthology of previously released pieces. I should say "greatest hits vol II" because he released a book called "Road Work" 10 or so years ago that seemed to fill a similar function. Now that my cons on this book have been aired, I can get into the good stuff. Bowden, a longtime Philly/Baltimore based reporter rose to fame on his landmark book "Black hawk Down", which gave the notable, but fading from public memory story of the Mogadishu firefight. "BHD" made those events become emblematic of the pitfalls awaiting pre-911 American ideas of nation building. This new book starts out with 3 lengthy essays from the modern era of Muslim world conflict. However the bulkf of the book is series of essays covering any number of topics. Frfankly its the non-war material that is the books best. His writing in defense of Tom Wolfe and his history of the silent snap count in pro football are far more fascinating.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gordon

    Not exactly what I expected. This is a collection of stories from war, business, journalism, sports. The first story of Wanat is certainly worth the read as it recounts the 2008 Battle of Wanat from the point of view of Company Commander / Platoon Leader, then grieving father, and finally Battalion Commander. Knowing the unit and so many of the leaders involved I greatly enjoyed and appreciated the fair and comprehensive accounts as told by Mark Bowden; they represent the multitude of perspectiv Not exactly what I expected. This is a collection of stories from war, business, journalism, sports. The first story of Wanat is certainly worth the read as it recounts the 2008 Battle of Wanat from the point of view of Company Commander / Platoon Leader, then grieving father, and finally Battalion Commander. Knowing the unit and so many of the leaders involved I greatly enjoyed and appreciated the fair and comprehensive accounts as told by Mark Bowden; they represent the multitude of perspectives that result from any battle in war and the untold fog, friction, and unpredictability that are the enduring characteristic of war. As for the rest of the stories...somewhat entertaining, but generally not my favorite genre of reading.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Having read Black Hawk Down, a stimulating look at modern warfare, I decided to take on this work of Mark Bowden. I didn't give a rating because I'm not quite sure how to rate it. It was like reading a large magazine with several articles, some large, about issues of today in politics, economics, journalism, as well as military. It had interesting parts, I'll give it that much, though I had trouble getting through the entire thing because other parts were not as interesting or enlightening. Having read Black Hawk Down, a stimulating look at modern warfare, I decided to take on this work of Mark Bowden. I didn't give a rating because I'm not quite sure how to rate it. It was like reading a large magazine with several articles, some large, about issues of today in politics, economics, journalism, as well as military. It had interesting parts, I'll give it that much, though I had trouble getting through the entire thing because other parts were not as interesting or enlightening.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    An enjoyable read of divergent and not connected short stories written by Mark Bowden over the last 13 years. Some more enjoyable than others. The drier stories I still found I learned something nonetheless. Bowden demonstrates a strong penchant for deep reporting. I plan to read all of his books.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    The first story, which the book was named for, is the best in this compilation of previous published articles. "The Three Battles..." is a fascinating account of before, during and after the incident. The battle itself is just gut wrenching; a must read. The rest is well done, researched, nice work but the subjects are not that interesting. A pretty quick read surprisingly. The first story, which the book was named for, is the best in this compilation of previous published articles. "The Three Battles..." is a fascinating account of before, during and after the incident. The battle itself is just gut wrenching; a must read. The rest is well done, researched, nice work but the subjects are not that interesting. A pretty quick read surprisingly.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Curt

    I did not read all of the stories. I skipped/skimmed about a half dozen ( Biden,the NYT piece and all the sports stories except The Silent Treatment.). If it couldn't hold my interest after five pages I moved on. The other stories ranged from interesting to excellent. I did not read all of the stories. I skipped/skimmed about a half dozen ( Biden,the NYT piece and all the sports stories except The Silent Treatment.). If it couldn't hold my interest after five pages I moved on. The other stories ranged from interesting to excellent.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Denny

    A collection of extended nonfiction articles/essays previously published in journals. Covered a variety of subjects most of which I would not have normally read about.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Paul Downs

    Clear, lucid writing on a variety of subjects. Worth reading, particularly for his viewpoint on military matters.

  23. 5 out of 5

    M Moses

    REALLY disappointing, especially after how much I loved Blackhawk Down.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Russ

    Better title would be "Other Stories plus the Three Battles of Wanat." Better title would be "Other Stories plus the Three Battles of Wanat."

  25. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Bowden knows his stuff and can cut through the fog of war and explain clearly what has happened in a battle. These short essays are intriguing and make you think.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tom C.

    Some of this book is great. Some of it is so boring and uninteresting I skipped it entirely. definitely a 3 star collection.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Shabers

  28. 4 out of 5

    Casey Lynn

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Klodzinski

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rick Vanbuskirk

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