american-sniperOne of the best movies that I have seen in recent times  is American Sniper. Obviously fake baby aside, it was an excellent film with some powerhouse performances. I had no idea at the time that a book of the same name had been written in 2012.

The popularity of the movie meant that it was hard to get my hands on a copy, but I finally did, and sometime last week I completed reading it. I read it on the train each morning and afternoon on my way to and from work, and as such it was good to read as the stories that are told tend to cover a small amount of page space. This means that if you are commuting it is easy to find a convenient place to stop and pick up from later.

That (being able to find an easy place to stop and start), and the final twenty or so pages are about the only things I enjoyed about it. The final pages are where Kyle gets into the meaning of war and its effect on him, others, and those he loves. He also describes the adjustment back into civilian life, and how this is no easy feat, and communicates this well.

The rest of the book though, is pretty much a big collection of bar stories. The kinds of short anecdotal type stories that you would expect to hear while drinking with buddies, or cooking a BBQ. I very quickly tired of seeing paragraphs start with “This one time,” and “One day,” and “On one occasion” etc. Very little detail is given like “we went in, cleared things up, and then got taken back to base”. It feels like in his rush to tell as many stories as possible, all detail is sacrificed in place of volume.

Having read books like Lone Survivor and Black Hawk Down and being engrossed in the detail and development of their stories, it was quite a u-turn to read a military book that contained so little in the way of specifics. Admittedly, the above two books are all about one event whereas American Sniper is about the author’s whole career, but nonetheless, the bits and pieces were so short and light on detail that I often finished them thinking “what was the point of including that?” The whole book kind of felt like the publishers said “You have 500 pages, fill them up with as many stories as possible” and off he went.

Overall I would say it is the perfect book for reading on the toilet, on the train, or on holiday. Or better still, just watch the movie.

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