Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Friend or pho?: a Vietnam reading list you may not recognize

I asked my old friend Quang X. Pham, who left Vietnam as a refugee, then became a Marine pilot and later a successful executive and author, and who may run for Congress soon, for suggestions on a reading list about the Vietnam War. This is an unusual list. I’ve only read two of his selections. ...

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I asked my old friend Quang X. Pham, who left Vietnam as a refugee, then became a Marine pilot and later a successful executive and author, and who may run for Congress soon, for suggestions on a reading list about the Vietnam War. This is an unusual list. I've only read two of his selections. I actually bought one of those, Sorrows of War, on a streetcorner in Hanoi, along with some bootlegs of Tom Waits CDs. Me: "Why do you have the complete works of Tom Waits for sale?"

Saleslady: "Tom Waits is very, very popular in Hanoi!" (Of course.)

I asked my old friend Quang X. Pham, who left Vietnam as a refugee, then became a Marine pilot and later a successful executive and author, and who may run for Congress soon, for suggestions on a reading list about the Vietnam War. This is an unusual list. I’ve only read two of his selections. I actually bought one of those, Sorrows of War, on a streetcorner in Hanoi, along with some bootlegs of Tom Waits CDs. Me: “Why do you have the complete works of Tom Waits for sale?”

Saleslady: “Tom Waits is very, very popular in Hanoi!” (Of course.)

By the time we landed back in the US of A, I’d finished the book, which was memorable.

Take it away, Quang:

  • In the Jaws of History, Bui Diem, South Vietnam’s ambassador to the U.S. reflects on the diplomacy of the war
  • Buddha’s Child, Nguyen Cao Ky, South Vietnam’s flamboyant Air Marshal/Vice President’s second memoir
  • Counterpart: A South Vietnamese Navy Officer’s War, Kiem Do
  • The Sorrows of War, Bao Ninh, fiction, a former North Vietnamese soldier writes about his experience in the American War
  • Fortunate Son, Lewis Puller, Jr., Pulitzer Prize winner for biography, the only son of the most famous Marine recalls the Vietnam War and its aftermath

Test on Tuesday.

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Thomas 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 ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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