Three times in the last week, I’ve been asked for audiobook recommendations and three times, I’ve gone to our shelves and handed someone The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. The first two times, when I started to explain what the book was about, I got very strong “No, thank you!”s. The final time, the customer did check it out, possibly because I’ve recommended things for her before and she seems to have not hated them, possibly because I also gave her I’m Down, Mishna Wolff’s biography, which should bring a smile to her face, and possibly because I told her I’d had a hard time selling it to others and she took pity on me. I hope she won’t be disappointed because The Yellow Birds is an exquisite story.
The Yellow Birds is a novel about the Iraq War. Powers is an Iraq War veteran and he has a surprisingly lyrical style. Two soldiers, Bartle and Murphy, meet in boot camp and the story follows them to Iraq and back home. Because of its subject matter, it is not an easy read, but it is a beautiful book, probably the most beautiful one I read last year. I can’t speak for the audiobook, read by Holter Graham, but since he’s also the narrator on audiobooks for Richard Ford and Chad Harbach, it’s probably well done. If you haven’t had a chance to read it or were avoiding it because of the subject matter, please give it a shot. I wouldn’t attempt to push it on customer after customer if I didn’t believe in its worth.
Here are some other fiction titles about the Iraq War, written by those who lived it.
- Fobbit by David Abrams
- Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
- Fire and Forget: Short Stories edited by Roy Scranton and Matt Gallagher