RaveForeign AffairsVerini’s deeply reported, beautifully written first-person account results from many months on an extremely dangerous assignment ... Arriving late also means seeing the conflict with fresh eyes ... So his account of Iraqis, both soldiers and civilians, feels fresh, and it presents an occasion to examine the broader questions posed by the conflict’s recent events ... Verini doesn’t bother with tired questions about Islam and whether there is something uniquely pathological about Arabs or Muslims. He does situate the rise of ISIS in age-old atavistic impulses ... combat books can only go so far in documenting the plight of civilians; in Verini’s, anecdotes of officers jauntily disregarding danger, or of the soldiers obscenely taunting one another about their sisters, sometimes blur together or narrowly avoid cheerleading ... Verini does an excellent job of describing the Iraqi leg of the elephant and his starting point: guilt. He assigns much of it to U.S. policies and the leaders in Iraq and elsewhere whom those policies have supported or tolerated ... Verini is right to talk about an entwined Iraq and America.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewAzadeh Moaveni has written a powerful, indispensable book on a challenging subject: the inner lives and motivations of women who joined or supported the Islamic State militant group. It is a great read, digestible and almost novelistic, but it is much more than that. Guest House for Young Widows: Among the Women of ISIS tackles many taboos that have hampered cleareyed discussion of Islamist extremism in general and ISIS in particular. The book provides an illuminating, much-needed corrective to stock narratives, not only about the group that deliberately and deftly terrified officials and publics across the world, but also about the larger war on terror and the often ineffective, even counterproductive policies of Western and Middle Eastern governments ... Finally, for all its compelling material, one of the book’s lasting accomplishments is its form. It is a master class in illustrating the big picture through small stories. And it uses women’s experiences — still so often framed as a subplot — to reach the heart of ISIS. Centering a narrative on women leads, here, to a superior analysis of the overall subject, and this is a lesson with applications far beyond ISIS.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewPlaces and Names is a classic meditation on war, how it compels and resists our efforts to order it with meaning. In simple, evocative sentences, with sparing but effective glances at poetry and art, he weaves memories of his deployments with his observations in and near Syria. He pulls off a literary account of war that is accessible to those who wonder \'what it’s like\' while ringing true to those who—each in his or her own way—already know ... Does Ackerman really think Abed’s grass-roots Syrian movement parallels the United States’ ocean-crossing, false-pretext invasion of Iraq? I doubt it, based on the other things he writes. And whose \'democratic ideals\' were at work in Iraq ... Ackerman doesn’t clarify. Mostly, though, he deftly evokes resonances and contrasts. As Syrians process their war, he processes his ... there is an honesty in keeping conclusions at arm’s length. This is a Marine’s-eye view. Marines aren’t supposed to talk politics. Their wars have not ended.