Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War
By Mark Bowden
Grade Levels: 9+ and Adults
Although we often focus on fiction, Black Hawk Down is one of the most influential works of non-fiction to have been published in the past few decades and was a finalist for the 1999 National Book Award for Nonfiction. Released that year and based on events that happened in the 1993 “Battle of Mogadishu” between US forces taking part in UN peacekeeping operations in Somalia and Somali militiamen, the book is the work of Mark Bowden of The Atlantic. The book was so well received that it was adapted into a movie that was released in 2001 to moderate success.
The book is uniquely insightful because of the amount of research that went into its creation. Bowden had already written 29 articles on the Battle of Mogadishu for The Philadelphia Inquirer and had amassed a substantial amount of material ranging from US Army records to interviews with civilian bystanders to aerial footage. The result is a granular look into how the peacekeeping mission escalated into a full pitched battle. It provides multiple different perspectives on events to a minute-by-minute level, that both give a sense of the chaos of the situation while also working to untangle exactly what was happening and when. The book is named after one of the key events of the battle, when two US Army Black Hawk helicopters were shot down, necessitating the rescue of the surviving crew.
This would be a perfect book to recommend to students with an interest in military history. It’s also a great way to entice students who may have an interest in military drama but have never read serious non-fiction or history before. The subject matter will draw students in and they will be exposed to a great model of non-fiction writing. As it is written by a journalist, the book is an example par excellence in longform journalism - any student with aspirations to write in journalism, history, or study foreign policy would be well served diving into this piece of history.