Located at Morningside College

Non Fiction Text Review 2

Where Men Win Glory The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer chronicles the life of star football player and American hero Pat Tillman. Pat Tilman was a standout linebacker at Arizona State University. He was subsequently selected in the 1998 National Football League draft by the Arizona Cardinals. After playing safety for Arizona he declined to renew his contract after the 2001 season was over. Tilman moved by the events of September 11th enlisted in the United States Army. 

            Going into this book I was unsure what to expect. With a title like The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, I would expect a wide focus on his life. As a sports fan, I was hoping that there would be a focus on his athletic career. Jon Krakauer decides to dedicate much of the book to Pat Tillman’s time in the military. Krakauer had access to Pat Tilman’s diary that he kept while he was serving in the army. Due to this, the author is able to use quotes throughout the book giving us insight into Tilman’s thoughts.   

            When I first started reading this book, I had a difficult time getting started. Unlike my previous book Can I Keep My Jersey by Paul Shirley which I had no problem reading. I think part of this is because Where Men Win Glory starts off at a snail’s pace talking about how the events that transpired in Afghanistan during the cold war created terrorist cells throughout the middle east. While I think It is important to explain to the reader how these things came to be, it wasn’t what I was expecting. 

            I think part of the reason I enjoyed Can I Keep My Jersey was because it got straight into the workout with the Lakers without going too much into who Shirley was right away. This book takes the opposite approach. If I read the first few chapters I would have thought it was a generic book about the Iraq war or the Taliban. While there are references to Pat Tillman in the first chapter, we don’t know much more than he was a football player. Once you get a few more chapters into the book Krakauer spends some time on what Tillman’s upbringing was like growing up and playing football. I wish Krakauer would get to this earlier as I think It would be important for the reader to know. More so than the history of Afghanistan during the cold war. 

            The best part of the book is when the author spends time talking about Tillman’s time playing football. Particularly the brief portion on the night Tillman was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals. Again, it reminded me of Paul Shirley what he was going through being drafted. Another subject the book spends much time on is the death of Pat Tillman and the controversy surrounding it. I would say the last third of the book is focused on this and the fallout following the friendly fire incident. 

            I did enjoy the book the farther I read particularly towards the end when Krakauer detailed the attempted coverup from the Military following the Pat Tillman accident. Prior to reading this book, I had no idea the length the government went to cover up the fact that Tillman died by friendly fire. The parts where the book lost me was when it went into the political climate surrounding the middle east. Like I said earlier I think there is merit to including this information, I just would expect to see it in a history book as opposed to a book about Pat Tillman. 

            Jon Krakauer’s writing style is very dry and unengaging. The book is split into four parts that each focus on a particular aspect. For example, part four which I found the most engaging focused on the aftermath of Tillman’s death. Instead of featuring diary exerts from Tilman like the other three parts, Krakauer interviews people who were close to Tillman personally and from his time in the military. My least favorite part was part two which mostly focuses on how the Taliban came to power and the conflicts in Afghanistan during the cold war. As someone who enjoys history, I did learn some things that I wasn’t aware of regarding the Russian insurgency attempts in the late twentieth century.

            One thing that I appreciated as a reader was the maps and diagrams that are throughout the book. There are multiple maps that serve to give the reader a sense of how a certain event unfolded. My favorite example of this is on page 220 that shows a map of a firefight that Tillman was involved in. It goes into great detail breaking down everything that happened over an hour-long encounter. I think that It helps the reader visualize the event better as I found it confusing while just reading the text. 

            Overall there are certain things that I like about Where Men Win Glory, I don’t think I would go through it again. Krakauer failed to keep me engaged when I was reading. When I was reading Paul Shirley’s book I wanted to keep reading to the next encounter or event that was going on in Shirley’s life. With this book, I felt that It was more focused on the events around the war and the terrorist attacks on the twin towers than Pat Tillman’s life or athletic career.           

1 Comment

  1. fuglsang

    I think it’s a question of purpose, Matthew. You wanted to read a sports book, but Krakauer was doing history/biography. It’s also intended to be a critique of government and military leaders who are more interested in politics than their soldiers.

    I haven’t read this book, but I think my reaction would be similar. Given the title, I want a book about Tilman the athlete, not a history of wars in Afghanistan.

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