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Extended Audio Sample Jarhead: A Marines Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles Audiobook, by Anthony Swofford Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (4,637 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Anthony Swofford Narrator: Anthony Swofford Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: November 2005 ISBN: 9780743548885
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Now a Major Motion Picture from Universal Pictures

New York Times bestselling author Anthony Swofford weaves his experiences in war with vivid accounts of boot camp, reflections on the mythos of the marines, and remembrances of battles with lovers and family.

When the U.S. Marines -- or "jarheads" -- were sent to Saudi Arabia in 1990 for the first Gulf War, Anthony Swofford was there. He lived in sand for six months, he was punished by boredom and fear, he considered suicide, pulled a gun on a fellow marine, and was targeted by both enemy and friendly fire. And as engagement with the Iraqis drew near, he was forced to consider what it means to be an American, a soldier, a son of a soldier, and a man. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A searing contribution to the literature of combat.” 

    New York Times

  • “A brutally honest memoir…gut-wrenching frontline reportage.” 

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “One of the best books ever written about military life.” 

    Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down

  • “A bayonet in the eye…brutal and unforgettable.” 

    Sacramento Bee

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A USA Today Bestseller
  • A 2003 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Current Interest

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Josh | 2/20/2014

    " I was first introduced to Anthony Swafford's writing in the magazine DETAILS -- when I found an abandoned copy of his book in an Atlanta coffee shop I decided to read it, aware that it was being made into a film. This chronicle of his service in the Marines during the Gulf War was at once disturbing and intriguing -- certainly illuminating. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nathan | 2/16/2014

    " A good book on the accounts of a hard marine during the gulf war. The stories are real and in his mind and you get to see how war experiences change the main character. Also it is far better than the movie that followed. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Victoria Harben | 2/11/2014

    " Brutal honesty, incredible poignancy, and subtle hilarity create a memorable book. The straightforward prose makes it feel like Swofford is talking straight to you, yet his writing style is mesmeric and like a true storyteller. The organization is brilliant and it flows easily. Swofford sets the standard for first-hand accounts of war; it is shrewd and timeless. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 James | 2/10/2014

    " I was stationed at 29 Palms at the same time as the author, and his descriptions of life as a Marine grunt ring hilariously and poignantly true. Sad, funny, and enlightening. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jerome | 1/28/2014

    " You really don't want to live in this guy's head for 254 unremarkable pages. The sub-title says that this is "a marine's chronicle of the gulf war and other battles" but the book is really only about the marine - Swofford. Not the Marine Corps, not the war. The incidents portrayed are nothing more than backdrop for Swofford to talk about himself -his self-pity and his sense of superiority to others. No matter what Swofford claims to be talking about, the only thing that he really talks about is himself - Consider these two accounts: the first we hear of his girlfriend while he is in the gulf, is when he suspects she is cheating on him. We have no idea who she is, how they met, what she looks like or even what he thinks of her - he merely mentions that he is sure she is cheating because she works in a hotel and claims to "have a good friend". The incident is not about infidelity but about how easy it is for Swofford to play the victim and feel sorry for himself. This is pretty much true of all people in the book. Second example: a friend from the Marine Corps dies back home after serving his commitment. Swofford creates a chapter not about his friend, or grief or insights or revelations about how those might affect him. All his observations are about how he knew the deceased better than the mother and how pathetic the mother is because she didn't really know her son the way Swofford knew him. Not once does he consider that the mother may have known another side of her son, one not shown to a buddy in the corps. Getting into a rough bar fight after the funeral he observes of the strangers in the bar that "those men had actually shown Troy more respect than his family and friends becasue the family and friends had loved Troy and with their selfishness and love had wanted him to again be a part of their world." This sounds more like territorial posseviness - who gets to claim the memory of the deceased - the mom or the other marine who wants him to belong to his own world instead. Swofford shallowly doesn't even see he is doing just what he blamed the mom for. Though he is quick to let you know he carries around books like "Myth of Sisyphus" or "Portable Nietzche", the books are also mere props - ways to show his superiority but the subtly and refelction required to understand these books never comes out. No woman in the book comes out well - they are either there as "pay for" or as girlfriends or wives who will almost certainly cheat on you. While Swofford is capable of writing a sentance and even portraying anectodotes, the book as a whole lacks cohesiveness or depth and becomes monotonous - sort of like he makes the Marine Corps sound - drinking, womanizing, self-pity and rude behavoir in an endless cycle. The only real war going on in this book is that Swofford can't decide if he hates himself or feels superior to everyone else or both. Upon reading the book, one is asked to believe that scout/sniper platoons are populated with the dregs of the Marine Corps. He doesn't see fit to introduce one character without mentioning the criminal offense that landed that new sniper in his STA platoon. One new indoc had been busted for lusting after a colonel's daughter, another for theft and fraud - throughout the book he describes in depth his own kleptomaniacal, homicidal, suicidal and adolescently sexual compulsions. In short, he never grew up, and hates the Marine Corps for trying to make him do so. His attempts to put his MOS in historical context take up about a page - he briefly explains the origin of the word "ghillie", opines that in World War I German snipers shot from open positions on the battlefield, and that Marines used night vision technology to kill significant numbers of Japanese in the Battle for Okinawa. (They did?) He never gets around to describing his training in much detail, and while he occasionally graces us with a description of the sniper's hardware, it is done merely to illustrate the criminal absurdity of giving great power to simple men. The author's references to supposedly accurate memories come off often as too contrived and on several occasions simply impossible. For example, he describes the chewing out of an unwilling non-rate by his platoon sergeant as ending with "because I'm an E-6 and you're an E-3!" There is no way that any self-respecting Staff Sergeant in the Marine Corps would ever refer to himself as an "E-6" to a Lance Corporal, especially during an ass-chewing. Never, not even in the Wing. Professor Swofford's contradictions, both practical and literal, abound. He smugly reflects repeatedly on the elite nature of STA, and then dismisses almost all of his platoon members as psychological loose cannons, thieves, beggars, drunkards, lazy, slovenly, untrustworthy slackers. He describes in haughty, offended detail the obscenities bellowed at him in boot camp, then proceeds to fill the entire book with language that one would not at all expect of a professor of literature. This book is inconsistent and devoid of significance, especially in a post-9/11 world. It is brimming, however, with scatological insight, impotent paranoia, decadent navel contemplation. On one thing he was consistent, however. The author urinated on himself in boot camp while a DI yelled at him, and he did so again while being shelled in the Gulf War. Obviously, his bladder cannot be trusted under stress. We should all get down on bended knee and thank God he never had to actually shoot anyone. In one memorable, though overwrought anecdote, the author depicts in exquisitely revolting detail his time on the crapper-burning detail in the desert. All Marines well know that when in the field, or in a tent city, the least qualified, most undisciplined platoon members would be selected for this choice assignment. For this duty he was well chosen indeed, though apparently he never came to appreciate the lesson in having been given the assignment. 1. He should have written the book as a novel (preferably a humorous novel). It would have been more believable and less irritating. Of course, as a novel it would not have made a best seller list. 2. He tried too hard for shock value. I was not at all shocked, but was, as above, irritated. 3. The scout/snipers I was familiar with were, in general, somewhat more intelligent than the run-of-the-mill infantrymen, were motivated and respectful, spent most of their time doing map work for the S-2, and generally bitched and moaned when the H&S CO Gunny made them do things like stand CP security. They certainly were not the supermen that Swofford makes them out to be. In addition, my experience was that there really isn't much need or use for snipers in a Marine Corps infantry battalion. 4. I generally dislike and am suspicious of anyone who deliberately knocks the common rifleman, particularly when he is a staff pogue who has never experienced the day-to-day grind of living in the muck and the mud. Swofford spent most of his time in "the rear" and some in the "rear rear". 5. I really distrust people who for one reason or another think that someone with a particular talent or specialty is a cut above the normal Marine. 6. There are far too many tidbits he offers that simply could not have been true. 7. His book is much like Oliver Stone's Platoon - a compilation of anecdotes, hearsay, metaphors and other such apocrypha all neatly compressed into a narrow time frame and presented as a personal experience. 8. I particularly dislike the (universally false) presentation of all officers as complete jerks. For example, I do not know a single officer or stereotype of one who would tell the Marine cleaning a 4-holer to replace a drum right now so that the officer could use the 4-holer. Too, as a member of the battalion staff, Swofford would not have developed such disdain toward all officers, or if he did, would not have lasted long as a STA member. 9. Virtually all the sex [stuff] is overdone and thrown in for, as above, shock value. I suppose Swofford thinks it represents some sort of realism, but most of the stories he relates are the sort that are bantered about in jest. To have us believe that in 1989 (post Tailgate) some Marine [engaged] a broad on the hood of a jitney while it was being driven out the gate at Olongapo (and didn't get court martialed and discharged) is a real stretch. Besides, jitneys probably weren't allowed aboard the base. 10. As near as I can tell, Swofford received "incoming" on two occasions during his 4-day war, none of it being small arms fire. While being on the receiving end of a few artillery rounds or RPGs is an interesting experience, there is absolutely nothing that compares to having several thousand AK-47 or other small arms rounds shot directly at your forehead by a couple hundred guys only a few meters away. His being "nearly killed" by a booby trap is a ridiculous effort at a claim to fame. I am "nearly killed" every time I drive down the highway. 11. The highest of his touted "decorations" is the Combat Action Ribbon; some of the ordinary 0311s he disparages might wonder how he earned it. 12. So he saw a bunch of dead bodies. Big deal. 13. He must have been a big, self-centered jerk at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. 14. His book is filled with lies. All too many of them. They are not just exaggerations. Twice within the book he discusses inveterate liars, one being a fellow STA Marine, and the other being himself. There no doubt is something Freudian going on there. 15. Swofford has some real personality problems. His continuous reliance on sex stories goes beyond normality. There is something fishy underneath it all. He needs to grow up emotionally so that he can present immature emotions with some authority. 16. Swofford is at best an ordinary writer, certainly not gifted. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Blake Rose | 1/6/2014

    " Very good book! No sugar coating, not sensory, just a good nitty gritty account of the real Gulf War. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 J. Dunn | 1/1/2014

    " A war memoir that is harsh, at times brutal, but also very thoughtful as well. I can understand how Abu Gharib happened, reading this, but I can also see why there is such shame in the military in the aftermath of it. A portrait of the double life men trained to kill but expected to sometimes be humane and eventually to rejoin society, struggle to lead. Hard to pigeonhole, and provides no easy answers, which is probably appropriate for such a book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tom | 12/31/2013

    " I was disappointed in the presentation; I realize that it is popular with many, but was not for me. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gina R | 12/21/2013

    " Great book. I should have paid attention. Loved the movie too. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ross Mitchell | 12/8/2013

    " There are enough swear words in this book to last two lifetimes. I just wonder, are all marines as stripped of values and honor as this guy is? I wanted to stop reading after chapter one, but I didn't. Same after chapter two, and three, and so on. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 kait | 11/20/2013

    " listened to the audio book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 gabrielle | 10/12/2013

    " This was an excellent book, which is not to say that I enjoyed reading it. At all. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Doug Vanderweide | 10/11/2013

    " A well-written book, if a bit focused on the tedium and eccentricities of military life. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Justin Meek | 10/7/2013

    " I accidentally got caught up in the book and couldn't put it down until I finished reading it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Susie | 8/6/2013

    " Openned my eyes to probably one of the most difficult aspects of military life- waiting for the impending war. Enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek tone of the memoir. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brent | 7/27/2013

    " Talking about the book here- haven't seen the movie. Enjoyed it... nearly earned a 4. (Can't we do half stars here?) "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ken Keith | 4/9/2013

    " Look, the military is a bureaucracy-there are times when you wait, and train, and wait some more. Some people are incompetent, sometimes it sucks; but nowhere near the way the author makes out. So many of the event in this book are either hearsay, exaggeration, or flat out lies. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dianne | 2/4/2013

    " a Marine in the first Gulf War--a culture I know nothing about. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Anne | 1/16/2013

    " One of the few instances in which I can say the movie is better than the book. Anthony Swofford is whiney and self-entitled. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Erika Krueger | 12/12/2012

    " I read this book because I was curious. I can't say it was enjoyable to read, but it was honest and raw. Sometimes that's hard to find. A relief from a constant string of Oprah books. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mandy McCarthy | 10/31/2012

    " One of my all time favourites. Top ten. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Chris Peterson | 8/20/2012

    " Sucked. I thought I'd like it because war books can be cool, but this one was terrible. The author is an arrogant prick. We get it, you're anti-war! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Derrick | 8/5/2012

    " This isn't your typical soldier/war memoir. It's cerebral, and somewhat strange. I found it an interesting first-hand analysis of what happens to soldiers when the opportunity to fight becomes a giant anti-climax. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chrissy | 8/4/2012

    " A fantastically chilling gulf war memoir that speaks hauntingly poetic measures against the senselessness of an American tradition which leaves thousands dead, and thousands more lost in the desert of the things that they have done and seen and the things that they have not done. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ben | 1/30/2012

    " Hypnotic. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tim | 6/11/2011

    " Deeply cynical, and at times, deeply beautiful, memoir written from Desert Storm "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Colette | 6/3/2011

    " A little repetitive and sometimes seemingly disingenuous, the book is cringe-worthy to those who are antiwar. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jimmy | 5/8/2011

    " I can't help but to think that he exaggerated here and there. Nonetheless, worthwhile reading. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Anne | 4/8/2011

    " One of the few instances in which I can say the movie is better than the book. Anthony Swofford is whiney and self-entitled. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Salvatore | 4/1/2011

    " A memoir about a Marine fighting in the first Gulf War. I thought the writing was a little clunky in spots but overall it was a good story, often gut wrenching. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laura | 3/23/2011

    " I enjoyed this the first time I read it, but it took a second reading to realize the brilliance. Cannot wait for his fiction. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 David | 2/12/2011

    " Probably very realistic but I found it dreary and depressing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Matt | 1/30/2011

    " Swofford is damn good at what he does in this book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Maureen | 1/14/2011

    " ˜Not my favorite format for a book, but some very powerful personal stories about young men at war. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 John | 1/9/2011

    " Saw the film one night on TV. The book is even better. Read it in one sitting on a long airplane ride. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ross | 1/8/2011

    " There are enough swear words in this book to last two lifetimes. I just wonder, are all marines as stripped of values and honor as this guy is? I wanted to stop reading after chapter one, but I didn't. Same after chapter two, and three, and so on. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 George | 11/13/2010

    " A good personal account of the Gulf War and Marines. Not sure if this guy is typical and in some ways I am not impressed with him, but worth reading. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mike | 11/6/2010

    " This may be the most realistic book about enlisted men in war. No political correctness in the language - lots of artful cursing and nicknames for the natives. "

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About the Author
Anthony Swofford served in a U.S. Marine Corps Surveillance and Target Acquisition/Scout-Sniper platoon during the Gulf War. After the war, he was educated at American River College; the University of California, Davis; and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has taught at the University of Iowa and Lewis and Clark College. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New York Times, Harper's, Men's Journal, The Iowa Review, and other publications. A Michener-Copernicus Fellowship recipient, he lives in New York.