My top 10 fiction and non-fiction books to read on Vietnam

Recommended Reading  Vietnam

Below you will find a list of interesting, insightful and above all true-life  or true-to-life books on Vietnam. If you are going to Vietnam, these books will make your journey more meaningful. If you haven’t been yet, or don’t even plan to go, they will still enrich your knowledge about a beautiful part of the world with tragic recent history. Sad, amusing, or full of hope, both historical accounts and fiction,  – you won’t be able to put these books down. Just click on the picture of the book for more information… or to purchase it.

Catfish and Mandala (2000, Picador) by Andrew X Pham
Fantastic piece of travel writing and childhood reminiscence by a young Vietnamese American about his return to Vietnam for the first time since his family fled when he was a young boy. Awesome!

When Heaven and Earth Changed Places (1993, Plume) by Le Ly Hayslip  An autobiography of a young Vietnamese girl during the Vietnam War. Experience what life was like for the general populace during the war.

The Cat from Hue: A Vietnam War Story (2002, Public Affairs) by John Laurence
With over half a decade of service as a war correspondent in Vietnam, John Laurence earned deserved accolades for his reportage. In this superb book, The Cat from Hue, he returns to that time, drawing on long-buried memories to capture the confusion, deceit, and terror of the era.

A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam (1989, Vintage) by Neil Sheehan.   The definitive expose on why America lost the war, won the Pulitzer Prize for non- fiction in 1989.

The Girl in the Picture (2001, Penguin, reissue) by Denise Chong
One of the most enduring photos from the Vietnam War was of Kim Phuc as a little girl running naked and screaming from a napalm attack on her village. This is her biography telling what happened after the attack and right up into here adult life after the photo was taken.

Over The Moat (2004, Picador) by James Sullivan
True story written by a young American tourist who fell in love with a woman from Hue in the early 90’s. Well written and engaging. A very good insight into Vietnamese culture.

The Quiet American (1996, reprint, Penguin) by Graeme Greene  Perhaps the most well known book set in Vietnam in the English language. Described in 1956 as a novel “of sexual intrigue, savage warfare, and some mystery”.

The Sorrow of War (Reprint 1996, Riverhead Books) by Bao Ninh
Sad, reflective, poetic book written by a North Vietnamese soldier. Banned in Vietnam. Highly recommended.

One Crowded Hour (1987, Collins Publishing) by Tim Bowden
Biography of Australian combat cameraman Neil Davis≠ dramatic life in Southeast Asia from 1964-1985, covering the Vietnam and Cambodian conflicts.

The House on Dream Street (2003, Seal Press) by Dana Sachs
Entertaining insight into a young American woman’s experience of living for a year in Hanoi during the mid 1990’s.

Wishing you hours of great reading!

Want to go to Vietnam with us? Check out our website for fantastic women-only trips!


  1. Amie Lout · · Reply

    Linda L.T. Baer’s book Red Blood, Yellow skin is a fantastic read on the family life of Baer’s before the wars in Vietnam. It’s intense and graphic, but I can’t imagine in her circumstance that it wouldn’t be. Her site is for her info and info on her book.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation – there are so many good books to read on Vietnam and so many different perspectives to see it from!

  2. Martha Hogan · · Reply

    An excellent read is “The Headmasters Wager” by Vincent Lam. He is a Canadian author and doctor who has won the Giller Prize (a Canadian award) for a previous book. This book is based in Vietnam during the 60’s.

    1. Thanks Martha, sounds like yet another fascinating account of Vietnam. There are truly so many interesting stories – as I sure there will be from Syria nowadays too – to help us understand what people when through in that time.

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