Fight to the Finish: Two Books About the Killing of Osama Bin Laden

SaranelsonBy Sara Nelson

Generally, I think you'd say I'm a mostly fiction reader, with a little memoir, some biography and the occasional think-y book thrown in for balance. The one thing you'd probably never say -- just ask the people who know me -- is that I'm known for my opinions on books by or about soldiers (except maybe The Yellow Birds, but that, again, is fiction).

I disclaimed as much when I previously wrote:

OK, so I'm not an aficionado of the genre: I've never seen Delta Force or read any of the other books about Navy Seals... In fact, I'm the mother of a MAM (military aged man in SEAL parlance); we're not generally the ones who love to read about anybody's children putting themselves in serious harm's way -- even for love of country, let alone the pure thrill of it.

 As a MOMAM, I admit to fascination with Mark Owen's descriptions in No Easy Day, particularly about his childhood in rural Alaska: "My parents never let me play with toy guns because by the time I was finished with elementary school I was carrying a .22 rifle;" Less appealing, perhaps, but still fascinating was the stuff about the practical jokes SEALS play on each other: Hanging a bra on a buddy's backpack? Slipping a sex toy into someone else's bag of gear? This is a book that celebrates a certain kind of man and a certain kind of brotherhood.

 There's none of that cartoonishness in The Finish, Mark Bowden's measured, reportorial account of the same topic. Instead, Bowden includes accounts of private conversations he had with Barack Obama, as well as interviews he did with some of Owen's very same SEALS. Ultimately he produces a better, more balanced, more interesting book -- which is why it's higher on our list.

But then, it depends what you're in the mood for. If you're hankering for what Jonathan Segura called, in Publisher's Weekly, "gear porn," No Easy Day is the book for you. If what you'd like is a more thoughtful account of how the Obama administration made one of the most important decisions of its first presidency, buy Bowden.

Both of these books can be found in our 2012 Best Books of the Year. Click here to see all our editors' picks.


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