American Sniper, Chris Kyle, Jim DeFelice and Scott McEwan (Wm. Morrow)

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If you’re wondering why it takes multiple cowriters for Navy SEALs sniper Kyle to tell his story, consider this: Jim DeFelice, coauthor number two, is the author of numerous military thrillers. He clearly appears to have been brought on board to give Kyle’s story the requisite oomph. And it worked. The book reads like a a first-person thriller narrated by a sniper. The bare-bones facts are stunning. Kyle has the most confirmed kills of any U.S. military sniper (more than 150), two Silver Stars, and at least one confirmed bounty on his head. The book follows his career from 1999 to 2009, and, like Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead (2003), it portrays a sniper’s life as a mixture of terror and mind-numbing boredom. The book never glorifies what Kyle did for a living, but it’s not an apologia, either. Kyle doesn’t spend a lot of time justifying his chosen profession, preferring instead to give readers a sense of what it is like to be a sniper, which lets us speculate as to whether we would have what it takes, if the situation called for it. A first-rate military memoir.

This review originally appeared in Booklist, December 2011.

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