Thunder Run by Los Angeles Times correspondent Dan Zucchino (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2004) "is a powerful narrative and blow-by-blow account – literally, in some cases – of the first American unit to run the gantlet and roar into Baghdad in April 2003, setting the stage for the collapse of Saddam Hussein," says Peterson. "Zucchino masterfully weaves an oral history of the fighting, drawn from the soldiers that fought it."
For strong combat narrative, Dan Murphy (Monitor Middle East correspondent based in Cairo) recommends Cobra II (Pantheon, 2006) by Michael Gordon. "It's the inside story of the planning and execution of the invasion and occupation plan for Iraq, mostly from the US military perspective," says Murphy.
For insight into what happened after the fall of Baghdad, Carroll recommends Imperial Life in the Emerald City (Knopf, 2006) by Washington Post bureau chief Rajiv Handrasekaran. The book, she says, "provides a comprehensive and authoritative view into the complex and often impenetrable organization of diplomats, bureaucrats, spin doctors, and consultants that shaped the important formative months after the fall of Baghdad." Murphy calls it "a good primer on the absurdity, incompetence, and nepotism of the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority]."
Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife (Praeger, 2002) by John Nagl "is not an Iraq book, but it's the counterinsurgency book that's on every war commander's desk in Baghdad," says Murphy. "It looks at why the British succeeded in their counterinsurgency campaign in Malaysia and why the US failed in Vietnam." Nagl is considered one of the US's leading experts on counterterrorism and recent editions of the book are updated to include Nagl's firsthand observations of the situation in Iraq.