Adult Program Ideas

In November 2014, ILA partnered with the Illinois Humanities Council to bring Phil Klay, National Book Award winning author of Redeployment, to three communities in southern Illinois. Klay did public programs at the Carbondale Public Library, Urbana Free Library, and the Old State Capitol in Carbondale. Carbondale Public Library Director Diana Brawley Sussman described the event in “Phil Klay Comes to Carbondale,” published in the ILA Reporter.

Live author events are a terrific way to engage audiences, both military and civilian, but there are a wealth of other ideas from films, to book discussions, to presentations by local scholars and community members. The following titles, organized by era, are drawn in part from an article by George Packer, “Home Fires,” which appeared in The New Yorker on April 7, 2014, and are updated regularly—please send your suggested additions to!

World War I


The Great War and Modern Memory

Fussell, Paul

Classic study of the English literature of the First World War, named one of the 20th century’s 100 Best Non-Fiction Books.

Good-Bye to All That: An Autobiography

Graves, Robert

Poet and soldier Robert Graves’ memoir of the loss of innocence that came with his wartime experiences.

A Farewell to Arms

Hemingway, Ernest

Hemingway’s love story between a wounded ambulance driver and a nurse contrasts the grim reality of war and the romance of the protagonists, written when the author was only 30 years old.

World War II


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Hillenbrand, Laura

By the author of Seabiscuit, this tells the story of a former Olympic runner who survives as a prisoner of war in the Pacific.


Flights of Passage: Recollections of a World War II Aviator

Hynes, Samuel

The author was a World War II pilot as a teenager, but this memoir has the brilliant writing of a man who became a literature professor at Princeton after the war.


Berlin Noir: A Trilogy

Kerr, Phillip

These three novels and others featuring Bernie Gunther as a German police officer turned private detective and opponent of the Nazis are wonderfully dark and defiant.


When Books Went to War

Manning, Molly Guptill

Tells of enlisted men during World War II whose one and only form of entertainment became reading, and the role of librarians in developing Aremd Service Editions, specially designed paperbacks that fit in soldiers’ pockets.


Jukebox Queen of Malta

Rinaldi, Nicholas

Wartime romantic comedy in the vein of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres.

Vietnam War


Tree of Smoke

Johnson, Denis

A sprawling novel of Vietnam and winner of the National Book Award and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.


Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

Marlantes, Karl

Written by a Vietnam veteran who graduated from Yale and published more than 30 years after the end of the war, it was rejected several times before becoming a bestseller.


If I Die in a Combat Zone; The Things They Carried, Going After Cacciato

O’Brien, Tim

O’Brien’s memoir, short stories and novels are among the most authentic writing about wartime in the 20th century.


The Lotus Eaters

Soli, Tatjana

Soli’s first novel tells the story of a female war photographer caught up in danger, adrenalin, and politics at the end of the war.

Iraq and Afghanistan


Green on Blue

Ackerman, Elliot

Ackerman did five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. This first novel is told entirely through the eyes of Aziz, a young Afghan.

Dust to Dust

Busch, Benjamin

Memoir of two tours in Iraq by a veteran who was also an actor on HBO’s The Wire and is the son of novelist Frederick Busch.

The Good Soldiers; Thank You for Your Service

Finkel, David

In these two books, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and MacArthur fellow David Finkel was embedded with units in Iraq and back in the U.S. after deployment


Klay, Phil

A collection of short stories from the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan by Darmouth grad Phil Klay; called “masterly” and “the best literary work thus far written by a veteran of America’s recent wars” by a graduate of Dartmouth College.

Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting; The Yellow Birds

Powers, Kevin

Poet and novelist Kevin Powers is one of the best know writers of the Iraq war and a National Book Award finalist.

Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War

Thorpe, Helen

This new title from author Helen Thorpe traces the stories of three women who enlisted in the Indiana National Guard through deployment and return to civilian life.

Here, Bullet; My Life as a Foreign Country; Phantom Noise

Turner, Brian 

Turner’s memoir and two books of poetry document his experiences in Iraq.

Love My Rifle More Than You; Plenty of Time When We Get Home

Williams, Kayla

Arabic linguist and intelligence officer with the U.S. Army in Iraq and one of the few female voices in the literature of war.

iREAD Summer Reading Programs

Since 1981, iREAD provides high quality, low-cost resources and products that enable local library staff to motivate children, young adults, and adults to read.

Visit the iREAD website »