In looking for the best books of (every) month, we read as much as we can. But let's face it: every month there is a mountain of new titles, and sometimes we overlook something deserving. That's what happened with Matti Friedman's Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier's Story, published in May. I might have been dissuaded by the title, which belies the weight of it--it's no The Things They Carried, Unbroken, or even Homage to Catalonia. But upon opening the book, we learn that Pumpkin refers to an isolated hilltop outpost in southern Lebanon, one link in Israel's line of defense against Hamas to the north, and as it turns out, directly below. Flowers is code for casualties, many of which befell a unit called the Fighting Pioneer Youth during a nighttime raid on the garrison, seemingly conducted more for recruitment material than strategic gain. The attack resonated throughout Israel, undermining the standards of clear-cut victory and the assumption that strength equals safety, setting a template for the two (and counting) decades that followed. Friedman was one of those kids on the Pumpkin that day, and his account of the events, the soldiers stationed there, and its far-reaching aftermath is all the more harrowing for its clear-eyed examination of postmodern warfare and all of its absurdities--Catch-22, but without the jokes.
See more of the our picks in Biographies & Memoirs, and browse all of the Best Books of the Year So Far.
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