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Places and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning

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From a decorated Marine war veteran and National Book Award finalist, an astonishing reckoning with the nature of combat and the human cost of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. "War hath determined us..." - John Milton, Paradise Lost Toward the beginning of Places and Names, Elliot Ackerman sits in a refugee camp in southern Turkey, across the table from a man named From a decorated Marine war veteran and National Book Award finalist, an astonishing reckoning with the nature of combat and the human cost of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. "War hath determined us..." - John Milton, Paradise Lost Toward the beginning of Places and Names, Elliot Ackerman sits in a refugee camp in southern Turkey, across the table from a man named Abu Hassar, who fought for al-Qaeda in Iraq and whose connections to the Islamic State are murky. At first, Ackerman pretends to have been a journalist during the Iraq War, but after establishing a rapport with Abu Hassar, he takes a risk by revealing to him that in fact he was a Marine special operation officer. Ackerman then draws the shape of the Euphrates River on a large piece of paper, and his one-time adversary quickly joins him in the game of filling in the map with the names and dates of places where they saw fighting during the war. They had shadowed each other for some time, it turned out, a realization that brought them to a strange kind of intimacy. The rest of Elliot Ackerman's extraordinary memoir is in a way an answer to the question of why he came to that refugee camp, and what he hoped to find there. By moving back and forth between his recent experiences on the ground as a journalist in Syria and its environs and his deeper past in Iraq and Afghanistan, he creates a work of remarkable atmospheric pressurization. Ackerman shares vivid and powerful stories of his own experiences in combat, culminating in the events of the Second Battle of Fallujah, the most intense urban combat for the Marines since Hue in Vietnam, where Ackerman's actions leading a rifle platoon saw him awarded the Silver Star. He weaves these stories into the latticework of a masterful larger reckoning with contemporary geopolitics through his vantage as a journalist in Istanbul and with the human extremes of both bravery and horror. At once an intensely personal story about the terrible lure of combat and a brilliant meditation on the larger meaning of the past two decades of strife for America, the region, and the world, Places and Names bids fair to take its place among our greatest books about modern war.


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From a decorated Marine war veteran and National Book Award finalist, an astonishing reckoning with the nature of combat and the human cost of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. "War hath determined us..." - John Milton, Paradise Lost Toward the beginning of Places and Names, Elliot Ackerman sits in a refugee camp in southern Turkey, across the table from a man named From a decorated Marine war veteran and National Book Award finalist, an astonishing reckoning with the nature of combat and the human cost of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. "War hath determined us..." - John Milton, Paradise Lost Toward the beginning of Places and Names, Elliot Ackerman sits in a refugee camp in southern Turkey, across the table from a man named Abu Hassar, who fought for al-Qaeda in Iraq and whose connections to the Islamic State are murky. At first, Ackerman pretends to have been a journalist during the Iraq War, but after establishing a rapport with Abu Hassar, he takes a risk by revealing to him that in fact he was a Marine special operation officer. Ackerman then draws the shape of the Euphrates River on a large piece of paper, and his one-time adversary quickly joins him in the game of filling in the map with the names and dates of places where they saw fighting during the war. They had shadowed each other for some time, it turned out, a realization that brought them to a strange kind of intimacy. The rest of Elliot Ackerman's extraordinary memoir is in a way an answer to the question of why he came to that refugee camp, and what he hoped to find there. By moving back and forth between his recent experiences on the ground as a journalist in Syria and its environs and his deeper past in Iraq and Afghanistan, he creates a work of remarkable atmospheric pressurization. Ackerman shares vivid and powerful stories of his own experiences in combat, culminating in the events of the Second Battle of Fallujah, the most intense urban combat for the Marines since Hue in Vietnam, where Ackerman's actions leading a rifle platoon saw him awarded the Silver Star. He weaves these stories into the latticework of a masterful larger reckoning with contemporary geopolitics through his vantage as a journalist in Istanbul and with the human extremes of both bravery and horror. At once an intensely personal story about the terrible lure of combat and a brilliant meditation on the larger meaning of the past two decades of strife for America, the region, and the world, Places and Names bids fair to take its place among our greatest books about modern war.

30 review for Places and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    If there is one thing I've learned by reading history, watching the news, reading the paper, it is that we are never told the whole story. Ackerman, who served five tours in Afghanistan and other hot spots, makes this even more apparent in this book. We are shown on the television only as much as is needed to sway the public to the opinion our government wants us to have. Things are never so clear cut not one sided as they are made out to be. It is hard to gain understanding for countries and cu If there is one thing I've learned by reading history, watching the news, reading the paper, it is that we are never told the whole story. Ackerman, who served five tours in Afghanistan and other hot spots, makes this even more apparent in this book. We are shown on the television only as much as is needed to sway the public to the opinion our government wants us to have. Things are never so clear cut not one sided as they are made out to be. It is hard to gain understanding for countries and cultures we only know from these news feeds. Even after reading this book from which I gained some knowledge, I cannot say I totally understand what we as a whole are doing or why. This book skips around from his experiences to his return, now living in Turkey and revisiting places he fought, friends he met from both sides. We hear his views and others as well. The rise of different groups such as ISIS were formed due to power vacuums, in Iraq the downfall of Sadaam. That many of those who fought in these wars only to return after their enlistment has ended he explains as follows, "That so many of us wen to war in this part of the world, only to return, send no surprise. For some of us,the wars have gone on so long that we lack context for life outside of them." " This isn't a cause, although it can be. This isnt a particular war, but it's often that too. If I were to describe it, I'd say it's an experience so large that you sink to insignificance in it's presence. And that's how you get lost in it." He explains PTSD, giving a different interpretation that one I thought I understood, to one that the way he tells it makes perfect sense. The story on Berghoff and the hardships of those who are trying to escape Syria. An interesting read for those who want a better understanding of the varied situations in the Middle East.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Marialyce

    Certainly there can be no better person to write a book about his experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan than Elliot Ackerman. This author has been decorated with many of our country's highest honors after serving five tours of duty in places most of us have read about but never really knew. Jan and I discovered in this book a world that held no answers but just a desire to know if the wars fought really in the end have meaning for those lost, and for those who returned all of whom were scarred in Certainly there can be no better person to write a book about his experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan than Elliot Ackerman. This author has been decorated with many of our country's highest honors after serving five tours of duty in places most of us have read about but never really knew. Jan and I discovered in this book a world that held no answers but just a desire to know if the wars fought really in the end have meaning for those lost, and for those who returned all of whom were scarred in some way. Honestly, it is hard for me to come to grips with this story for it contains no answers only questions as to our involvement in the conflicts we have found ourselves in for many years. Countless lives have been lost, including those of friends of the author and yet we have no resolution, no ending, no ability to see the fruits of our lost soldiers and the work of those who have come back home ladled with illness, stress, and PTSD. How can we reconcile the loss? Is it through understanding of our enemies humanity? Even if we get to know them, as Mr Ackerman was able to do, can the rest of the world understand that humanity can only succeed when the strife between nations ceases. We can declare a win and yet the minute we leave, the radical Islamic groups move right back in. Afghanistan, and to the same extent Iraq, have a tribal culture that has been in place for centuries. How can the US, or in fact any nation, hope to break that? The author points to the futility of the struggle. War does not solve anything really but it does create sorrow, pain, and the unending losses that plagued a nation. It has certainly plagued our nation. They say that there are always two sides to every story, and in this book we get to see the other side, the side that is hidden as the horrific scenes of warfare play across our TV screens and are broadcast in our news outlets. I live in a military area. I know people who have fought in both Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, and I have seen the lives they now live. Many of them have medical problems, suffer from combat stress, and yet when or if their country asked them to, they probably would go once again into the war zone. I had to wonder at the conclusion of the eye opening book, whether the author would ever do what he did once again. I tend to think the answer would be no. We can't and shouldn't be the world's police. Thanks go out to Elliot Ackerman, Penguin Press, and Edelweiss for an advanced copy of this thought provoking book. Also Mr Ackerman, thank you for your service to our nation. To see both our reviews and an author dialogue, you can go here: http://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpress...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Ackerman joined the Marine Corps in 1998 because having grown up beyond American shores he appreciated the values of what it means to be an American and wanted to give something back. He also wanted to know that what he did ‘mattered’. And then 9/11 happened! Ackerman was in the thick of the fighting in Fallujah, including a firefight from Hell that lasted 12 incredible hours. The lieutenant commander was awarded the Silver Star for his leadership in that engagement. He served five tours of duty Ackerman joined the Marine Corps in 1998 because having grown up beyond American shores he appreciated the values of what it means to be an American and wanted to give something back. He also wanted to know that what he did ‘mattered’. And then 9/11 happened! Ackerman was in the thick of the fighting in Fallujah, including a firefight from Hell that lasted 12 incredible hours. The lieutenant commander was awarded the Silver Star for his leadership in that engagement. He served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan—some as a Special Forces operative. This multifaceted memoir reflects Ackerman’s personal journey in trying to understand the turmoil in the Mideast. He talks with Abu Hassar, who fought for al-Qaida in Iraq. Even though they fought on opposite sides, they were both veterans of the same battles. They knew what each other went through! Ackerman seeks purpose after serving through writing about the Mideast and developing his own traditions to remember those who died alongside him. Never forget! Highly recommend.

  4. 5 out of 5

    JanB

    The author, a highly decorated Marine turned reporter, has a long list of accomplishments. A quick google search outlined his many awards and honors, both military and literary. Very impressive. It is from his viewpoint as both soldier and journalist that he tries to make sense of a war that “left a wake of destruction, forcing (us) to craft new lives from the ruins”. A war where the paradox is that the greatest achievements are tied to the greatest failures, where victory is tied to defeat. A w The author, a highly decorated Marine turned reporter, has a long list of accomplishments. A quick google search outlined his many awards and honors, both military and literary. Very impressive. It is from his viewpoint as both soldier and journalist that he tries to make sense of a war that “left a wake of destruction, forcing (us) to craft new lives from the ruins”. A war where the paradox is that the greatest achievements are tied to the greatest failures, where victory is tied to defeat. A war where winning battles is not as much of a problem as rebuilding after the battles, both physically and politically. The latter is, of course, a complicated matter in such a politically unstable area. The unintended consequences of war. The author offers no answers, but the questions exist between the lines of his stories. As the title suggests, the book is a series of essays about the places he’s been and the names of fellow soldiers and resistance fighters. The ‘places’ sections were sometimes difficult for me to follow since I’m unfamiliar with the area. The ‘names’ sections, the human stories, were what I was especially drawn to. The book ends with his Silver Star citation for his actions during the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004. Woven throughout the narrative of his gallantry in action are the flashback memories he experiences when he returns as a reporter. It is an extremely powerful piece of writing. Ackerman’s love of the military and his fellow soldiers is evident in these pages. The human and political costs are brilliantly outlined. I appreciate that the author doesn’t tell us what to think but instead makes us feel and gives us much to ponder. This was a buddy read with Marialyce! For our duo review of this book please visit: https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres... • Many thanks to Shina at Penguin Press for a free copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    Memoir, essay collection, journalism, geopolitical analysis, personal reckoning and closure after combat?: this collection is all these things. What links the pieces are Ackerman's probing intelligence, emotional honesty and the authenticity of his experiences. The decades of war in Iraq, Afghanistan, now Syria have left their impact on the American psyche (it's no coincidence that Vietnam keeps being mentioned) and have also thrown up authors who have taken their combat experiences and turned t Memoir, essay collection, journalism, geopolitical analysis, personal reckoning and closure after combat?: this collection is all these things. What links the pieces are Ackerman's probing intelligence, emotional honesty and the authenticity of his experiences. The decades of war in Iraq, Afghanistan, now Syria have left their impact on the American psyche (it's no coincidence that Vietnam keeps being mentioned) and have also thrown up authors who have taken their combat experiences and turned them into harrowing, thoughtful, impactful pieces of writing: Kevin Powers is one, Elliot Ackerman another, though their styles are very different. The final section which intersperses Ackermann's memories between the lines of his Silver Star citation is particularly accomplished, a tense, taut, account that puts us at the centre of battle. From memories of US Marine ops in Fallujah to strange meetings with would-be enemies who turn out to have unexpected commonalities, this is a raw, haunting but also deeply thoughtful and human response to what is happening in the Middle East, and its effects on one man. Unlike previous wars which may have had a defined beginning and ending, for Ackermann's generation of soldiers the only closure possible is one that is self-defining and self-imposed. This book charts how hard the process of letting go is. (Penguin ARC from Amazon Vine)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Stevens

    Oh my. I adored this short yet weighty accounting of the author’s dealings with war. Ackerman was drawn to become a Marine during the post- 9/11 period, then deployed multiple times to Iraq, then went to Syria as a civilian to see that conflict for himself. This book is long on descriptions of his interactions with the people he encountered, and the newspaper type accounts of dates, places, events serve the human story. Throughout he seems to “love the questions” more than answer them, and to “li Oh my. I adored this short yet weighty accounting of the author’s dealings with war. Ackerman was drawn to become a Marine during the post- 9/11 period, then deployed multiple times to Iraq, then went to Syria as a civilian to see that conflict for himself. This book is long on descriptions of his interactions with the people he encountered, and the newspaper type accounts of dates, places, events serve the human story. Throughout he seems to “love the questions” more than answer them, and to “live everything.” (Rilke). I love him for this. He has no easy answers, or even easy accounts of events. As someone who has brushed up against just a little of the complexity of war, I truly appreciate his patience and honesty with all that is unresolved in the world and in himself. Having also loved Ackerman’s novel “Dark at the Crossing” I now think I must read all that he has written. May he have a long and fruitful writing career. Big thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin Press for the ARC of this wonderful book in exchange for my honest review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Zulfiya

    This is an honest review in exchange for the copy provided by the publisher. Phew ... it was a long, painful, and necessary read. Places and Names is an ideal name for this book as it reflects its mosaic nature. Some might argue that such nature would only make reading difficult, and the book can be unreadable, and the answer is - yes and no at the same time. Somehow, even though it does not contribute to the evenness of the narrative, it also underlines that there could not be a narrative as it This is an honest review in exchange for the copy provided by the publisher. Phew ... it was a long, painful, and necessary read. Places and Names is an ideal name for this book as it reflects its mosaic nature. Some might argue that such nature would only make reading difficult, and the book can be unreadable, and the answer is - yes and no at the same time. Somehow, even though it does not contribute to the evenness of the narrative, it also underlines that there could not be a narrative as it is a book of recollections of people and places from different times. Even though the perspective is mostly from the current point of view, it is also a military travelogue of sorts. In this book, Ackerman takes us to the places he visited during truce and war, and the impact is mostly on human relationship and introverted analysis. There was something in the book that made me watch his interviews, and in one of them, he was asked about the military opponents, and he answered sarcastically that he possibly had done something sacrilegious for trying to humanize the people on the other side of the battle field. Plus, the question was really stupid and shallow - thus, kudos to the author for answering with dignity and compassion. What I liked in this book is the emotional detachment ( not emotional coldness) - the chronicler's POV that documents losses and death in black and white; as a result, making it even more emotionally impactful. The last chapter was funny in the "cringeworthy" way. On one hand, his attempt to decode the dry and official report language was even hilarious, and on the other hand, it shows what is often hidden from the eyes of a layman - all pain, commitment, fatigue, exhaustion, and military action non-stop. As I mentioned earlier, this was not the easiest read, and neither it should have been, but a necessary one, and it left a long-lasting impression that is still fresh after some time.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Tennis

    I enjoy reading veteran authors but had somehow not read any of Ackerman's work in the past. That changed when my book club picked "Waiting for Eden". After that I finished his other books. Though none of his material is considered light and fluffy feel good sh*t of Hallmark, he tells one helluva story. My favorite like from this memoir in essays was this one (page numbers approximate as I was reading an Advance Copy) - “I wear a black steel bracelet on my wrist. It’s got Dan’s name on it, and t I enjoy reading veteran authors but had somehow not read any of Ackerman's work in the past. That changed when my book club picked "Waiting for Eden". After that I finished his other books. Though none of his material is considered light and fluffy feel good sh*t of Hallmark, he tells one helluva story. My favorite like from this memoir in essays was this one (page numbers approximate as I was reading an Advance Copy) - “I wear a black steel bracelet on my wrist. It’s got Dan’s name on it, and the date November 10, 2004. I wear it for him, but for others too. Next to that bracelet is another, a plastic one threaded with pink hearts and blue stars that my three-year old daughter made for me. If it weren’t for the steel bracelet, the plastic one wouldn’t exist. When I think about my wars, and what happened, I do sometimes ask myself if it was worth it. But I’m not thinking about Bush or Obama, or about Iraq or Afghanistan. I’m thinking about Pratt and Ames, and of course Dan, and unfortunately other friends like him. I wonder what they’d say. I hope they’d think what we did for each other was worth it.” – p. 66 (from Expatriates)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Ford

    Author Thomas E. Ricks described Elliot Ackerman’s voice as “too close for comfort,” and author Phil Klay said the author “brings a novelist’s skill with language” and “a reporter’s eye for detail.” I can’t put it any more succinctly than that. It felt at times like Ackerman was across from me at a bar, telling me his story about war and returning (both home and overseas). In so many subtle ways, he paints such a visceral tableau that you’re transported to a border crossing in Syria or sweating Author Thomas E. Ricks described Elliot Ackerman’s voice as “too close for comfort,” and author Phil Klay said the author “brings a novelist’s skill with language” and “a reporter’s eye for detail.” I can’t put it any more succinctly than that. It felt at times like Ackerman was across from me at a bar, telling me his story about war and returning (both home and overseas). In so many subtle ways, he paints such a visceral tableau that you’re transported to a border crossing in Syria or sweating through your uniform during the Battle of Fallujah. We’ve long been a fan of Ackerman’s work here at Writer’s Bone and he continues to set the bar even higher with each time out. Perhaps one of these days we’ll be able to buy him a beer and hear some of these stories in person. We (and I mean humanity) certainly need all of them now more than ever.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Biography & Memoir

    It’s hard to square the picture of the mild-faced writer looking out from the back flap of his book with the knowledge that this same man served five combat tours over eight years in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the process earning a Silver Star, a Bronze Star for Valor, and a Purple Heart. But Elliot Ackerman’s PLACES AND NAMES quickly dispels that feeling of cognitive dissonance. In its 18 loosely connected pieces, the battle-tested ex-Marine reveals his skills as a journalist and memoirist, as he It’s hard to square the picture of the mild-faced writer looking out from the back flap of his book with the knowledge that this same man served five combat tours over eight years in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the process earning a Silver Star, a Bronze Star for Valor, and a Purple Heart. But Elliot Ackerman’s PLACES AND NAMES quickly dispels that feeling of cognitive dissonance. In its 18 loosely connected pieces, the battle-tested ex-Marine reveals his skills as a journalist and memoirist, as he probes for understanding in the ongoing cauldron of conflict that is the Middle East and engages with searing memories of his own combat experiences. Ackerman’s book ranges as far back as November 2004, when he led a platoon of Marines into bloody hand-to-hand combat in the Second Battle of Fallujah in Iraq. Most of the entries, however, are concentrated in the period from 2013 to 2015, as he ventures to the borderland between Turkey and Syria, amid the Syrian civil war and the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS or Daesh, as it’s known in Arabic), and ventures back to Iraq. Though the book’s episodic pieces are dated by year and season, they’re presented without chronology. That fact, coupled with the complexity of the political and military landscape in which Ackerman dwells, presents challenges for readers not steeped in these subjects. In 2013, Ackerman settles into a villa in the Turkish town of Gaziantep, near the Syrian border, home to an organization run by an American named Matt, who’s working with international organizations providing humanitarian aid to victims of the Syrian conflict. From there (and later from Istanbul), he ranges into northern Syria, Turkey and Iraq, accompanied at times by an anti-Assad activist from Damascus named Abed, who becomes a close friend. Ackerman comes to view the two of them as “veterans of the same conflict, one in which democratic and high-minded ideals have bogged down in a quagmire of Islamist dogma and sectarian bloodshed.” Together they “reckon with the destruction our causes left in their wake and consider how to move on from the wreckage of our experience.” Reflective of that process are Ackerman’s conversations with Abu Hassar, an acquaintance of Abed. He’s a former al-Qaeda fighter in Iraq and now an opponent of the Assad regime in Syria, who has spent three years in prison as a result of that opposition. In a chilling piece entitled “A Thousand Discords,” Ackerman describes an encounter with Abu Hassar, in which his former nominal, if not actual, enemy coolly surveys the roiling conflicts of the Middle East, but then casually pivots to an apocalyptic vision that’s every bit as terrifying as the biblical Armageddon, only in this version the armies of Islam will emerge triumphant. Though the journalism in pieces like that one is observant and informative, the sections of PLACES AND NAMES more accurately characterized as memoir are its most engrossing. Ackerman’s recollections of his experience in Fallujah, the subject of the book’s final two entries, provide its most gripping moments. In “Back to the City,” he returns to the scene of some of the fiercest fighting there, observing that “visiting this city as a former Marine feels like walking through New Orleans if your name is Hurricane Katrina.” According to planners, Ackerman’s unit entered the battle facing an anticipated casualty rate of 70 percent, a prediction that turned out to be low. Among the platoon’s members who didn’t survive was Dan Malcom, Ackerman’s close friend and frequent chess partner. He marks Malcolm’s passing by wearing a black steel bracelet bearing his friend’s name and the date of his death --- November 10, 2004 --- alongside a plastic bracelet made by his own three-year-old daughter. “If it weren’t for the steel bracelet, the plastic one wouldn’t exist,” he writes. “A Summary of Action” intersperses Ackerman’s description of his Fallujah experience with excerpts from the Silver Star citation that honored him for “a level of bravery, composure under fire, and combat leadership that is beyond expectations.” His goal in fashioning the account was to provide “the kind of things that don’t make it into formal government documents, the personal reflections that fill the lines between them,” and he succeeds masterfully in that task. The contrast between the often bloodless bureaucratic jargon of the citation and the sheer terror of Ackerman’s retelling is jarring. His is a collection of picture postcards from a trip to hell, focusing on the frantic first few days of the battle, in which he was wounded, followed by house-to-house engagement in a hostile urban environment that at times felt like “a month-long game of Russian roulette.” The vivid descriptions of how he and his comrades fought for survival on unimaginably perilous terrain are as close as one can come on the page to the reality of combat. Though there’s heroism described on the pages of PLACES AND NAMES, the book’s tone is pensive. Even as he recognizes that “if purpose is the drug that induces happiness, there are few stronger doses than the wartime experience,” Ackerman is weary of battle and grateful to have survived. His verdict on the experience is that contradiction is “hardwired into war too: feeling fear to express courage, forfeiting freedoms to protect them, and, of course, killing for peace.” With works of fiction like Kevin Powers’ THE YELLOW BIRDS and Phil Klay’s REDEPLOYMENT, and nonfiction that includes Sebastian Junger’s WAR, the seemingly endless conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan already have spawned an impressive body of literature. To that collection of excellence, add Elliot Ackerman’s unforgettable PLACES AND NAMES. Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg

  11. 4 out of 5

    James Beggarly

    The book starts with talk of confusion and there was plenty of confusion as the author spent eight years as a Marine fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan and further confusion as he goes back to this area as a journalist. But the stories he tells of his time as a soldier and now covering continuing conflicts in Syria and Iraq are clear eyed and unsentimental, even if the author is still too close to his memories to see what it all means. That will take years to become clearer, but this book at The book starts with talk of confusion and there was plenty of confusion as the author spent eight years as a Marine fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan and further confusion as he goes back to this area as a journalist. But the stories he tells of his time as a soldier and now covering continuing conflicts in Syria and Iraq are clear eyed and unsentimental, even if the author is still too close to his memories to see what it all means. That will take years to become clearer, but this book at least lets you walk in parts of this land and see a piece of its recent history. An amazing read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Booknblues

    I thought Elliot Ackerman's book Places and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning would be an excellent choice for rounding out my knowledge of Syria, but I can't say that this is true. Rather it addresses the very 21st century issue of war in the Middle East and specifically the effects on the participants: "Along the periphery of Syria’s civil war, I often meet veterans of the last decade’s wars, wanderers amidst the Arab Spring’s upheaval. Places like Tahrir, Aleppo, Tunis, and Taksim posse I thought Elliot Ackerman's book Places and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning would be an excellent choice for rounding out my knowledge of Syria, but I can't say that this is true. Rather it addresses the very 21st century issue of war in the Middle East and specifically the effects on the participants: "Along the periphery of Syria’s civil war, I often meet veterans of the last decade’s wars, wanderers amidst the Arab Spring’s upheaval. Places like Tahrir, Aleppo, Tunis, and Taksim possess a new and yet familiar allure, promising to replace names we’ve let go: Ramadi, Helmand, Haditha, Khost. When we meet, we talk about the other things we’re doing: field researcher, writer, photojournalist, whatever. Our current “professions” are often described with a shrug of the shoulders, followed by a spell of silence, as if our true profession is the unspoken one—the one we left behind." Ackerman is very familiar with war in the Middle East as he was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He has difficulty leaving it and has returned to view the struggle against ISIS in both Syria and Iraq as a journalist. His book is as much a memoir as it is an investigation and we travel with him back and forth through his experiences in the past and present. Here is a conclusion he makes after observing Iraq's Special Tactical Regiment in action: " “What did you think?” Tahrir asks. Before I can answer, he continues, “They’re as good as most Americans.” I can’t disagree, but the conclusion is unsettling. With select units like the Special Tactical Regiment, the United States has managed to create a security apparatus built in its own image. These elite groups are well trained and well equipped and have won decisive battles against the Islamic State in Fallujah and Ramadi. They will do the same in Mosul. But winning battles was never the US military’s problem. The problem was always what came after, the rebuilding." While this book was not quite what I was expecting , I found it interesting and engaging.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Parker

    I highly recommend this book. It will help you grasp what has been going on in the Middle East and what soldiers experience. Elliot Ackerman's, Places and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning was a challenging read for me because I have allowed myself to ignore these horrible wars that so many have fought in. I can not do this book justice with this review, but I must share a couple small pieces. Ackerman's writing taught me some of the history of the Middle East and how and why the people c I highly recommend this book. It will help you grasp what has been going on in the Middle East and what soldiers experience. Elliot Ackerman's, Places and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning was a challenging read for me because I have allowed myself to ignore these horrible wars that so many have fought in. I can not do this book justice with this review, but I must share a couple small pieces. Ackerman's writing taught me some of the history of the Middle East and how and why the people continue to fight. As I was reading, I was wondering why Ackerman had returned to the Middle East. Then he explained why he and others return. "Dreams, an intense weight of sadness -these manifestations of our wartime experience could surely be classified as PTSD, but the more insidious form of PTSD is the purposelessness associated with giving up the war. To be happy one must have a sense of purpose... The soldier leaves home at a young age and begins taking this strongest drug, in effect freebasing the crystal meth of purpose. But eventually the war ends, the soldier returns home... Nothing compares to what he has just done." The final chapter is A Summary Of Action, which is a summary written by Ackerman's company commander about what happened during Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq between 10 November and 10 December 2004. Ackerman was being recommended for a Silver Star. Ackerman includes this summary with personal reflections, things that do not make it into formal documents. I was astonished by the information in this summary. It was helpful to get a clearer understanding of what these marines experience. It was also horrifying.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dan Wilson

    Maybe 2.5*'s. This is a book by a former Marine who served 5 tours in Afghanistan & Iraq. He is a decorated veteran who displayed great courage in the 2nd Battle of Fallujah and was awarded the Silver Star for bravery. The book centers around 2 former adversaries and their journeys around Syria & Iraq. Visiting the places he fought was a trip down memory lane. I don't quite understand the need to return. My family members who fought and served in Iraq and Afghanistan don't want anything Maybe 2.5*'s. This is a book by a former Marine who served 5 tours in Afghanistan & Iraq. He is a decorated veteran who displayed great courage in the 2nd Battle of Fallujah and was awarded the Silver Star for bravery. The book centers around 2 former adversaries and their journeys around Syria & Iraq. Visiting the places he fought was a trip down memory lane. I don't quite understand the need to return. My family members who fought and served in Iraq and Afghanistan don't want anything to do with either of them. The book is an extremely easy read but is very disjointed. The best chapter in the book is the last one where he details part of his battle in Fallujah. Too bad the rest of the book was not this interesting. This is a book one can definitely leave off their reading list.

  15. 4 out of 5

    John Baker

    Makes a foreign war you remember from the news feel personal. Great mix of modern journalism stories and historical Marine stories from the Middle East made better by some great insight and wisdom. Like recognizing that for most people what gives meaning in life is having a sense of purpose. For the young marines that end up in war that purpose is rerally clear -- achieve their mission, protect their fellow marines. This is like the crystal meth of purpose. When they come back they have to learn Makes a foreign war you remember from the news feel personal. Great mix of modern journalism stories and historical Marine stories from the Middle East made better by some great insight and wisdom. Like recognizing that for most people what gives meaning in life is having a sense of purpose. For the young marines that end up in war that purpose is rerally clear -- achieve their mission, protect their fellow marines. This is like the crystal meth of purpose. When they come back they have to learn the amount of purpose most people have is the equivalent of drinking Coors Light. Working for your kids, sitting on the porch watching life go by, is meaningful but it is the drinking Coors Light of purpose.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Luke Johnson

    This memoir from Elliot Ackerman, decorated veteran of the post 9/11 Middle East wars, is a very jumpy recollection. I keep forgetting that I'm not really a fan of memoirs as they don't really build to a climax more often than not. If there is a point Ackerman is trying to make I didnt really get it. There's no thesis statement, no arguement. Instead, the reader does get some rather harrowing details of servicemen dying and the house to house fighting during the battle of Fallujah. Nothing but re This memoir from Elliot Ackerman, decorated veteran of the post 9/11 Middle East wars, is a very jumpy recollection. I keep forgetting that I'm not really a fan of memoirs as they don't really build to a climax more often than not. If there is a point Ackerman is trying to make I didnt really get it. There's no thesis statement, no arguement. Instead, the reader does get some rather harrowing details of servicemen dying and the house to house fighting during the battle of Fallujah. Nothing but respect and gratitude to Mr Ackerman and all those who served but the non-linear nature of this book and an unnecessary breakdown of his Silver Star commendation letter didn't do it for me.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Places and Names is another spectacular piece of writing from Elliot Ackerman. I felt like I was watching a silent war movie, with his words as the subtitles. I could almost feel the grit of the dust on my skin as Mr. Ackerman took me through his days as a Marine and later, as a civilian returning to the war zone. Both thoughtful and thought provoking, you will want to settle in with your favorite beverage for this page-turning memoir that will stay with you long after you have finished reading.

  18. 5 out of 5

    James Brundage

    He is a fantastic writer and is able to create wonderful narratives. An extremely effective and engaging storyteller. I'd also describe this as a fairly non-traditional memoir of sorts, but I think it tells exactly the story he wants the world to know. A fantastic book. I can't wait to read the next thing from him.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Bailey

    I've really searched for the word to describe my feelings for this book--"appreciate" seems too cold, but "enjoy" is too frivolous for a deeply personal memoir about fighting, and brotherhood, and war and its aftermath. This book gives an immediacy to events that many of us just know from the news, and it highlights the complexity of the emotions and experiences of those who fight for us. I've already discussed this book with my father, a veteran of a different era, and I've recommended this boo I've really searched for the word to describe my feelings for this book--"appreciate" seems too cold, but "enjoy" is too frivolous for a deeply personal memoir about fighting, and brotherhood, and war and its aftermath. This book gives an immediacy to events that many of us just know from the news, and it highlights the complexity of the emotions and experiences of those who fight for us. I've already discussed this book with my father, a veteran of a different era, and I've recommended this book to several friends. This is a different kind of war story, and it reminds us that every person who fights has a unique story that we are rarely permitted to share.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    Intense feeling of war throughout the book!

  21. 5 out of 5

    PWRL

    A

  22. 4 out of 5

    Charles McCaffrey

    An unbelievably insightful and personal memoir on modern politics and warfare - a must-read!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Karin

    Ackerman's writing is *the* writing to read to understand military life post 9/11. Outstanding and effective.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Glen

    Reading about war is hard for me but this is well done. #non-fiction

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cristie Underwood

    The author wrote a memoir that perfectly captured the triumphs and setbacks of her life. It was easy to empathize with the author due to the raw writing.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nicci Obert

  27. 5 out of 5

    John Hunter

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

  29. 4 out of 5

    Zach Kelsey

  30. 4 out of 5

    Katya

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