Best books … chosen by Geoff Dyer

Geoff Dyer’s latest novel, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, won the Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction.­ Below, the author of The Missing of the Somme chooses his

The Face of War by Martha Gellhorn (Atlantic Monthly Press, $18). From the Spanish Civil War to Vietnam and beyond—a superb selection of Gellhorn’s best-known pieces, including the ­classic report from an RAF bomber station in 1943.

The Soccer War by Ryszard Kapuscinski (Vintage, $14). Dispatches from the Polish foreign correspondent who spent 30 years witnessing coups, revolutions, and wars. Kapuscinski was one of the greatest writers of the second half of the 20th century, and this collection has everything: stunning immediacy, edge-of-the-seat danger, philosophical digressions, and endless compassion.

Dispatches by Michael Herr (Vintage, $14). Gonzo in Nam. An example of how reportage passes into the realm of myth, and of how the voice of an individual writer captures the default style of a much larger experience—in this case of American involvement in Vietnam.

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The Forever War by Dexter Filkins (Vintage, $15). At first, Filkins seems a little too consciously the self-appointed heir of Herr. Then, as these bulletins from Afghanistan and Iraq pile up, his own style emerges, one perfectly adapted to the contradictions and ultimate absurdity of the mission he is witnessing.

Generation Kill by Evan Wright (Berkley, $15). This is the book that the 2008 HBO miniseries was based on. Wright was embedded with the 1st Recon Marines as they traveled from Kuwait to Baghdad in a convoy of unarmored Humvees. It leaves you full of admiration for the soldiers and aghast at the ineptitude of the larger purpose.

A Train of Powder by Rebecca West (Ivan R. Dee, $17). Not a report from the front line but a characteristically inspired account of the aftermath of war, specifically the trials at Nuremberg, “a citadel of boredom” where “an iron discipline met that tedium head on.”

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