Author: Chris Kyle
First Published: 2012
Page Count: 379
Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*
Rating: 5/5 Stars
*Best Book of 2012 on Without a Book
Chris Kyle opens up to the reader about the real world of war, how he became the best sniper in U.S. history, and what it’s really like for a soldier on and off the battlefield.
*Kyle mixes laugh-out-loud humor with brutal honesty in his narrating *Adrenaline pumping combat scenes *Story goes far beyond Kyle’s life as a sniper
*Kyle’s personality and values might not mesh with other readers
“People ask me all the time, ‘How many people have you killed?’ My standard response is, ‘Does the answer make me less, or more, of a man?'” Chris Kyle is, as of now, the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. He not only holds the longest kill with a sniper rifle, but he also carries the record for the most kills. However, these records are only single pages of an in-depth memoir about the life of a born and raised Texan who gets thrown into some fairly perilous situations during his career as a SEAL. The reader sees what it takes to become a soldier of war, what these warriors face out on the battlefield, and how that affects the families of a soldier in this fascinating book.
From the prologue, Kyle hits the reader with the disturbing story of how he got his first kill as a sniper. In six pages he not only starts the book off with a bang (no pun intended), but he sets the tone for the rest of the book. Kyle is as down-to-earth honest as he can get about his feelings on war, the people he was killing, and the reality of what it’s actually like on the battlefield. He doesn’t dance around the details; the story of his time in combat is raw and real. Most of the story is about the different situations he was thrown into while he worked as a SEAL, but I also enjoyed the small, yet poignant paragraphs that his wife, Taya, includes in the book. It humanizes Kyle, but it also reveals the silent struggle of the families of American soldiers. Kyle also is an incredible narrator. He tries to find a balance between good ol’ boy humor, honesty, and humility when describing his time as a SEAL and his personality really drives the story more than anything. And even though this book is about his accomplishments, Kyle doesn’t miss an opportunity to honor his fellow comrades and tell a bit of their story because, in his eyes, he’s just another soldier among a group of talented warriors.
While I had no problem with Kyle’s personality or his values, other readers might disagree with his views on the world. If you have a problem with war or the use of the military as a solution to national problems, don’t read this book… just don’t. From the get-go, Kyle spells out to the reader that it will always be God, country, and family above all else. He also hammers home that he enjoys his job, killing enemies in battle is great, and every single person he gunned down was pure evil. Kyle does explain how he comes to hold these views but for some readers, his opinion might clash too much with their own opinion, making him an unlikeable narrator for some. I do admit there were moments in the book where Kyle’s decision to place country over family was really difficult for me to relate to, because the stories from his wife’s point of view make you wonder how he could choose to place war over the struggles of his family. However, he is never apologetic about his stance and has an “it is what it is” view on how the reader should handle his views. I found his brutal honesty refreshing and his opinion on war and what fighting in the war entails to be understandable; it just might not be for everyone.
When I heard about this book, I thought it might be something interesting to check out if I ever got around to it. It turned out to be up there with some of the best books I’ve ever read. The story is extremely moving, but it’s not a completely grim war story. It opens your eyes to what really happens in modern warfare. And even though Chris Kyle has done exceptional things, he insists that he’s just an average solider, and after reading this book you realize it’s true. His life story is incredible but there are surely many more like his. This book isn’t about the greatest sniper in U.S. history, it’s just one story of a soldier’s life. There is so much patriotism in this book you almost feel like you should be sitting out in some cornfield reading this book with an ice-cold beer (and I’m not even a big fan of beer) in your hand while “American Child” by Phil Vassar plays in the background. The things Chris Kyle and his comrades have been through for this country is beyond inspiring. Thank you for your service Mr. Kyle and for all of those soldiers whose story is not a part of his but whose service is just as important. Bravo.
*Film Adaptation: (Starring Bradley Cooper 2014)