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'The Forever War'

Chilling on-the-ground accounts of war in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Dexter Filkins, war correspondent for The New York Times, fittingly begins his wonderfully written and carefully researched debut book, The Forever War, in the middle of a nightmarish battle in Fallujah, Iraq.

It is November 2004: “The marines were pressed flat on a rooftop,” Filkins writes, “[I]t was 2 a.m. The minarets were flashing by the light of airstrikes, and rockets were sailing on trails of sparks.” By battle’s end, seven pages later, you will be wrung out.

Having covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, including four dangerous years reporting from Iraq, Filkins focuses on much more than the fragile security situations of both places.

He explores the positions of Iraq’s many factions from Sunni insurgents to Shia jihadists to Iraqi government officials to everyday Iraqis simply trying to avoid getting killed in the constant crossfire.

In Afghanistan, he observes the effects of a centuries-old culture of war, where shifting loyalties and betrayals are daily occurrences: “War was serious in Afghanistan,” Filkins writes, “It was part of everyday life. It was a job. Only the civilians seemed to lose.”

Filkins’s meticulous attention to detail and his bravery (sometimes blending into complete disdain for his own safety) is evident on every page. He interviews the type of extremists who kill and kidnap on a daily basis and who would just as soon kill him.

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