As men, rightly or wrongly, we are judged by our bookshelves. Our reading choices speak to who we are intellectually, as well as what kind of men we are. Every man’s bookshelf should contain a book about war, and one of my favorites is Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger.
Jünger was a German soldier during WWI. His memoir has been diligently translated from his original German writings, and the firsthand account gives a unique, upfront view of the chaos that is war.
Although this book is about a war that took place nearly 100 years ago, many of the struggles faced by its soldiers are timeless. Jünger balances the camaraderie forged in battle with the simple enjoyment of sharing tobacco or alcohol with fellow troops. He also details the terrible pain of losing men to the horrific weapons of the era. Exploding shells and mortars, launched from a great distance, would rain down shards of hot metal. Vicious and deadly gas attacks wreaked havoc on the battlefield. In spite of these heinous and awful weapons there was also a sense of respect for enemy soldiers. On many occasions, the ranking officer on both sides would call for a short-term cease fire so the soldiers could trade goods and stories.
Jünger will keep you on the edge of your seat as he lays out his detailed recollection of close-quarters enemy attacks going stretching from his trench, across “no man’s land,” and to the front door of the enemy. Although sniper attacks, hand grenades, shelling, and several gunshot wounds color Jünger’s battle career, he always returned to fight and was promoted several times during the war.
This book is a fast read and will certainly add to the manliness quotient of your bookshelf. Storm of Steel is a true classic that should be part of your library.