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In Conversation with Sebastian Junger @ The Nantucket Book Festival

June 15, 2023 @ 9:00 am 5:00 pm

Sometimes you read a great book and recommend it to others.

On rare occasions, one great book leads you to read another book by the same author, and another, and another . . . .

That is the case for me with Sebastian Junger.

I’d personally recommend starting with War, published in 2010, based on Junger’s multiple journeys embedded with a U.S. Army platoon in one of the most remote and dangerous outposts in Afghanistan. Then I recommend watching Restrepo, the accompanying documentary he and his journalistic partner, Tim Hetherington, created during those embeds. It is an unforgettably immersive experience — one of the most highly acclaimed war documentaries ever made.

Or you could begin in 2016 with Tribe, a deeply reported and philosophical reflection on what gives human beings meaning and purpose in life. It includes Junger’s well-researched and, what you may consider, counterintuitive insights on PTSD.

You could also begin, where most readers who know Junger’s work began, with The Perfect Storm, the riveting 1997 best seller that put Junger on the map. The Perfect Storm is a masterfully reported story of a commercial swordfishing boat that gets caught in a once-in-a-hundred-year storm, facing hundred mile an hour winds and waves up to a hundred feet high.

His latest book does not involve a dangerous journey but enabled him to share his hard-earned insights on the meaning of the book’s title: Freedom. Junger never tells us what to think in any of his books. In this case, he inspires us to do our own hard thinking about what our obligations are, as individuals, in a free society.

It was while writing Freedom at home in Cape Cod, after several decades of high-risk assignments as a war reporter in Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and elsewhere, that Sebastian Junger had his closest call with death, barely surviving a ruptured aneurism, causing him to quickly lose more than half of his blood. This traumatizing, near-death experience happened at a time when he had the most to lose. Because at that time, as he was approaching the age of 60, Junger had recently become a parent. Fatherhood has reshaped his own understanding of his body of work – and of his future.

One more thing.

If you’re still not sure where to begin with Sebastian Junger’s work, I recommend starting with our wide-ranging conversation from June 2023 at the Nantucket Book Festival by clicking the Play icon at the top of this story.