The first is Chechnya Diary by Thomas Goltz. He also wrote Azerbaijan Diary, which is quite good. If you want to know what it's like to live through a conflict as a news reporter while making friends with soldiers and civilians there at the same time, it's a great read.
Goltz speaks Azeri/Turkish and Russian, which gave him the ability to communicate with everyone he encounters. Both of his books give a personal detail of war from the viewpoint of the villager, the farmer, the taxi driver.
It took Goltz several years to write this book because he had to dredge up so many bad memories. He's deeply disturbed, but well-informed by the Caucasus.
In that same deeply disturbed frame of mind, we have Jarhead, by Anthony Swofford. I have yet to see the movie, but know that it can't possibly be like the book, or else no one would want to see it. There is very little actual war in this book, and not many shots fired. Most of it is just the random memories of an American boy and the choices he has made that brought him into Desert Shield.
This book is filled with lists: who soldiers write to from the front, and who writes to soldiers. What soldiers really want in various situations, prices of prostitutes in various countries, etc..
If you want to know what the life of a Marine is really like, day-in day-out, maybe you should check it out. It's very reminiscent of movies like Full Metal Jacket & Apocalypse Now. It was interesting listening to this in my car every day to and from work. You'll really pray for and wonder about people you know in Iraq and Afghanistan right now.
Swofford is a non-Christian soldier, who flirts with some deep thoughts and universal emotions. So, if you're turned off by: a lot of foul language, coarse joking, corpse mutilations, prostitution, or submission to authorities, you will not be turned on by this book. Buyer beware.
(Troy and Wes: If you get the book on tape, listen to Tape 1... you'll understand).
I'll have the Book of the Year post up here soon.
Hope I go somewhere that has Internet this Christmas, so I can write more posts. Until then, have a Merry Christmas!