Larry H. Addington, America’s War in Vietnam: A Short Narrative History. Indiana University Press, 2000.
Short account of the Vietnam War from a military and political perspective. A good introduction to the topic.
George C. Herring, America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975. Fourth Edition. Mc-Graw Hill, 2001.
Concise political and social narrative of the Vietnam War, tracing it from the anti-French insurgency to the fall of Saigon. More concerned with policy and domestic American political and social impacts than military action, though major campaigns and events (like the Tet Offensive and LINEBACKER II) are discussed.
Michael H. Hunt, A Vietnam War Reader: A Documentary History from American and Vietnamese Perspectives. The University of North Carolina Press, 2010.
Comprehensive and well-selected collection of primary documents related to the Vietnam War from both American and Vietnamese perspectives, drawing from major political figures and military leaders to average soldiers and peasants.
Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: A History. Second Edition. Penguin, 1997.
Companion book to 1984 PBS series on the Vietnam War. A journalist who covered Vietnam for 25 years, Karnow’s account is authoritative, even if dated.
Guenter Lewy, America in Vietnam. Oxford University Press, 1980.
An illustrated and annotated atlas of the Vietnam War from before the 1950s through to its aftermath.
The Anti-War Movement
Charles DeBenedetti, An American Ordeal: The Antiwar Movement of the Vietnam Era. Syracuse University Press, 1990.
Assessment of the Anti-War movement as a cultural and political movement that ultimately became confused in its purposes and objectives because of its dualistic nature.
Adam Garfinkle, Telltale Hearts: The Origins and the Impact of the Vietnam Anti-War Movement. Palgrave Macmillan, 1997.
Argues that the radicalism of young critics in the Anti-War movement alienated many middle-class critics of the war who were prepared to speak out against it, possibly prolonging the war instead of helping to end it.
Simon Hall, Peace and Freedom: The Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements in the 1960s. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.
Examines links and differences between the two great social movements of the 1960s, emphasizing their shared objectives as well as the points of division between them.
Jeff Kisseloff, Generation on Fire: Voices of Protest from the 1960s, An Oral History. The University Press of Kentucky, 2007.
Accounts from Fifteen activists and cultural revolutionaries opposed to the Vietnam War, ranging from musicians to everyday people – including an account of Kent State University shooting victim Allison Krause based on interviews with her mother and former boyfriend.
Carl Oglesby, Ravens in the Storm: A Personal History of the 1960s Anti-War Movement. Scribner, 2008.
Memoir and history of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and his own efforts to speak out against the war and steer the SDS away from the radicalism that ultimately pulled the movement apart.
Melvin Small, Antiwarriors: The Vietnam War and the Battle for America’s Hearts and Minds. SR Books, 2002.
Traces the origins, activities, and influence of the Anti-War movement in the United States. Not only examines the actions of the movement, but the responses it provoked from the American public and political leaders.
Melvin Small, Covering Dissent: The Media and the Anti-Vietnam War Movement. Rutgers University Press, 1994.
Account of how the media covered – and at times misreported – the Anti-War movement.
The American Experience in Vietnam
Christian G. Appy, Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides. Penguin, 2004.
Insightful account of war collected from oral histories and interviews with dozens of individuals from all sides of the political debate and within the government and military in the United States.
Philip Caputo, A Rumor of War. Holt Paperbacks, 1991.
Powerful account of first years of Vietnam War by former Marine Lieutenant Caputo. Excellent job in portraying erosion of initial enthusiasm and optimism of American forces in Vietnam in face of realities of national insurgency.
Michael Herr, Dispatches. Vintage, 1991.
Collection of short essays written by correspondent Herr from 1968 through 1977. Purportedly, some of images and vignettes find their way into films like Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket.
Harold G. Moore and Joseph Galloway, We Were Soldiers Once . . . And Young: Ia Drang – The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam. Harper Perennial, 1993.
Account of 1965 battle of Ia Drang Valley, first major encounter between US forces and North Vietnamese and NLF forces and first combat experience of 1st Cavalry (Airmobile) Division, by Lt. Colonel Harold Moore.
First published in 1990, O’Brien’s literary memoir captures the futility and the tragic black humor of the average American’s experiences in the Vietnam War.
Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character. Simon and Schuster, 1995.
Groundbreaking survey of combat trauma as a consequence of war, using analogies to Homer’s Iliad .
Wallace Terry, Bloods: Black Veterans of the Vietnam War: An Oral History. Ballantine Books, 1985.
First collection of oral history accounts of African-American veterans of Vietnam War. Extremely evocative and powerful accounts of pain, rage, and triumph against both the enemy and the racism plaguing American society.
James Westheider, Fighting on Two Fronts: African Americans and the Vietnam War. NYU Press, 1999.
Academic history of the challenges facing African-Americans in the Vietnam War, both at home and in the military. Excellent companion to Terry’s Bloods.
The Vietnamese Perspective
Frances Fitzgerald, Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam. Back Bay Books, 2002.
A journalistic account of the Vietnamese perspective of the war, based on hundreds of oral interviews and personal visits throughout the country. Essential overview of how Vietnamese experienced the conflict.
Le Ly Hayslip, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places. Plume, 1996.
Story of a young Vietnamese woman, and the brutalization she experienced from all sides during the war. A rare but typical account of the impact of the Vietnam War on civilians caught between the crossfire.
Truong Nhu Tang, A Vietcong Memoir: An Inside Account of the Vietnam War and its Aftermath. Vintage, 1986.
Written by one of the National Liberation Front’s founders,makes case that the NLF made political compromise between North and South impossible.
Dang Thuy Tram, Last Night I Dreamed of Peace: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram. Broadway (reprint), 2008.
The diary of a young North Vietnamese military physician killed by American forces at the age of 27 in 1970. While expressing bitterness toward American forces throughout, it is also a poignant indictment of the brutality of war.
Karen Gottschang-Turner, Even the Women Must Fight: Memories of War from North Vietnam. Wiley, 1999.
Historical overview of contributions made by North Vietnamese women in the war against the United States and Republic of [South] Vietnam, based on interviews and archival research.