Grove Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

The Three Battles of Wanat

And Other True Stories

by Mark Bowden

From one of the nation’s top journalists, a fascinating and thought-provoking collection of war reportage and other pieces for the Atlantic, Vanity Fair, and more.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 496
  • Publication Date January 10, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2625-2
  • Dimensions 5" x 5"
  • US List Price $17.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 496
  • Publication Date January 05, 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2411-1
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $27.00

About The Book

New York Times bestselling author Mark Bowden has had a prolific career as one of America’s leading journalists and nonfiction writers. His new collection, The Three Battles of Wanat, features the best of his long-form pieces on war, as well as notable profiles, sports reporting, essays on culture, and more.

Including pieces from the Atlantic, Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, this collection is Bowden at his best. The titular article, “The Three Battles of Wanat,” tells the story of one of the bloodiest days in the War in Afghanistan and the extraordinary years-long fallout it generated within the United States military. In “The Killing Machines,” Bowden examines the strategic, legal, and moral issues surrounding armed drones. And in a brilliant piece on Kim Jong-un called “The Bright Sun of Juche,” he recalibrates our understanding of the world’s youngest and most baffling dictator. Also included are profiles of newspaper scion Arthur Sulzberger; renowned defense attorney and anti-death-penalty activist Judy Clarke; and David Simon, the creator of the now-legendary HBO series The Wire.

Absorbing and provocative, The Three Battles of Wanat is an essential collection for fans of Mark Bowden’s writing, and for anyone who enjoys first-rate narrative nonfiction.


“Absorbing long-form pieces on war, politics, and culture.” —Library Journal

“Deeply researched work on war, profiles of prominent, interesting people and sports personalities, and a variety of general interest essays represent fine examples of contemporary journalism, as the author himself looks to his investigative models such as Nellie Bly, Ida Tarbell, and John Hersey . . . Readers of Bowden’s work are assured of honest, straightforward, painstakingly researched essays.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Mark Bowden marshals his finest for The Three Battles of Wanat.” —Vanity Fair

“In Mark Bowden’s four decades as a reporter, he has been honing his skills going after the second look–the return to an event or a story once the proverbial dust has settled, to ‘dig deeper and write longer’ in order to understand what really happened. In this process he has become a passionate advocate for long-form journalism and one of its more successful practitioners . . . The story of the three versions of the battle for Wanat is a good place to begin. Bowden is so good at what he does best–highlighting the human angle of battles large and small–that the reader is led to consider what another round of “boots on the ground” could actually mean.” —Susan Linnee, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“An enthralling look at the journalist’s last decade in feature writing, sports reporting and personal essays . . . The appeal of The Three Battles of Wanat is near-universal; the beauty of the collection lies in its versatility. There’s something for everyone . . . Each article featured in The Three Battles of Wanat is solidly researched and easy to read–Bowden’s stories pull you in with their fascinating subject matter, then keep you there with ever-deepening levels of detail he builds.” —Winnipeg Free Press (Canada)

“Bowden is consistently curious about the anonymous, often invisible operators who power modern warfare–drone operators, intelligence agents, special forces teams . . . Bowden tells a good story.” —Michael Schulson, Salon

“This book, like all of Bowden’s work, features carefully researched and well-written stories . . . [an] incredible talent for prose . . . Bowden profiles a range of people, from Vice President Biden to Kim Jong Un to reporter David Simon, and . . . manages to make them more than just names on a page, names we’ve all heard in the news: he makes them real . . . Bowden presents the stories in such a way that you can almost forget they are real—they read like an artful novel.” —University of Delaware Review


An Amazon Best Book of the Month in nonfiction


One man on the rocky slope overhead was probably just a shepherd. Two men was suspicious, but might have been two shepherds. Three men was trouble. When second platoon spotted four, then five, they prepared to shoot.

Dark blue had just begun to streak the sky over the black peaks that towered on all sides of their position. The day was July 13, 2008. Captain Matthew Myer stood beside the driver’s side door of a Humvee parked near the center of a flat, open expanse about the length of a football field where the platoon was building a new combat outpost. The vehicle was parked on a ramp carved in the rocky soil by the engineering squad’s single Bobcat, with its front wheels high so that its TOW missiles could be more easily aimed up at the sheer slopes to the west. The new outpost was hard by the tiny Afghan village of Wanat, and the 49 American soldiers who had arrived just days earlier felt dangerously exposed.

Myer gave the order for an immediate coordinated attack with the platoon’s two heaviest weapons, the TOW system and a 120 mm. mortar, which sat in a small dugout a few paces west of the ramp surrounded by HESCO barriers, canvas and wire frames that are filled with dirt and stone to create temporary walls. The captain was walking back to his command post about 50 yards north when the attack started.

It was twenty minutes past four in the morning. Myer and second platoon, one of three under his command scattered in these mountains, were at war in a place as distant from America’s consciousness as it was simply far away.