Karyn L. Barr
June 18, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

These compelling war memoirs both provide well-informed peeks at post-9/11 military life. Army captain Exum offers a fast-paced, politically unbiased account of the UPenn grad’s time in Ranger school and Afghanistan in 2002, but his naive prose style and tendency to reference literary greats (Shakespeare, Walker Percy) sometimes prove distracting. However, veteran ”Rolling Stone” journalist Wright delivers a provocative, personality-driven portrait of his experience last spring with 23 First Recon Marines in Iraq. Though it’s somewhat disturbing to learn about soldiers’ cheeky ways (one Marine thinks it ”f — ing rules” that war pilots get to kill ”hundreds of thousands” with one bomb), the shockingly honest, carefully balanced look at modern war is a truly compulsive read. Army: B+ Kill: A

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