- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at email@example.com.
It is always great to read a book about a place when you are in that place — for example, reading Killer Angels while on a trip to walk the Gettysburg battlefield, or Son of the Morning Star while driving across Montana or Wyoming.
But you can’t always be on location. Where in the U.S. would be the best place to read a Vietnam novel? I think probably Louisiana, with the humidity off the sea, the strange birds singing, the rats hiding in the palm trees, the pervasive fog of official corruption. Likewise, novels about the war in Afghanistan would do well in the dry mountains of New Mexico. (Santa Fe reminds me some of the Kabul I knew many decades ago, whilst Albuquerque has a Kandahar-like climate.)
Iraq novels are harder to land. I dunno where in the U.S. I would want to read one. I guess in a dust storm in southern Arizona. But I don’t think we really have a place similar to Baghdad — that is, a huge, fetid, humid metropolis surrounded by dry desert. L.A. may be an awful city, but even so it doesn’t even come close.
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