San Francisco Public Library

On the Same Page: What It Is Like to Go to War

book cover What It Is Like to Go to War
by Karl Marlantes
In 1968, at the age of 23, Karl Marlantes was dropped into the highland jungle of Vietnam, an inexperienced lieutenant in command of a platoon of 40 Marines who would live or die by his decisions. This powerful account of combat during the Vietnam War is this year’s Calfornia Reads selection of Cal Humanities, in partnership with the California Center for the Book. Marlantes survived, but like many of his brothers in arms, he has spent the last 40 years dealing with his time at war. This book was selected in association with Cal Humanities’ War Comes Home initiative.

Written nearly 40 years after his own tour of duty in Vietnam, Marlantes’ book recounts his experience of going to war and coming home through the lens of time and memory, illuminated by insights drawn from his study of history, literature, psychology, and philosophy. With unflinching honesty Marlantes offers the reader a window into the mind, heart, and soul of a combat veteran, revealing his thoughts and feelings, then and now, about a wide range of topics: the meaning of loyalty, the morality of war, the complexity of truth, the healing power of narrative, the importance of empathy, and the changing nature of justice and war in a globalized era. Through sharing his own story, Marlantes aims to make his readers, including current and future service members, veterans, civilians, and policy makers, more aware of the human costs of war for individuals, families, and communities, as well as to raise searching questions about the way in which we prepare for war and cope, as individuals and as a society, with its aftermath

About The Author

Karl Marlantes is a graduate of Yale University and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. While serving as a Marine in Vietnam, he was awarded the Navy Cross and the Bronze Star for valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten air medals. He is the author of the bestselling and award winning novel Matterhorn.


Named one of the best books of 2011 by The New Yorker, Book Page, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, and The Huffington Post, the Library Journal reviewer called the book, “A gutting look into the psyche of a soldier, adding flesh to the often flat and stereotyped personage. Humanizing, empathetic, and wise, this reading experience will light corners in the human experience often judged dark