I talk with Sebastian Junger about Tribe, the book that after two decades as a war correspondent and documentary filmmaker is the best-selling author's manifesto. Our conversation moves from the history of Native American tribes to survivors of AIDS to veterans returning to the States. Underpinning it all is an argument about our innate desire for a tribal group of friends, how the modern life cleaves us from that, isolates us, and literally sickens us, and what we can do to get back the egalitarianism that comes with a tribal outlook. My time with Sebastian had a profound impact on me. I'm betting it'll do the same for you.
Tribe is unlike any of Junger's other books or films or even any of his pieces in Vanity Fair, where he's a contributing writer. Tribe is a distillation of what he's seen and learned from a life abroad, from locales that have brought him acclaim (like an Oscar nod for his film Restrepo) but unsettled him to his core. (Junger is honest about the PTSD he's suffered from his years in war zones.) Tribe is a book I'm constantly recommending, and my interview is itself a distillation of my favorite parts of the book.
The camaraderie soldiers feel, the sense that we are most fully alive when our lives are most at risk, is also a theme of Chris Hedges' book, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. When Sebastian and I talk about the resiliency of the human spirit, and how Londoners felt during the Blitz, that idea is a chapter in Malcolm Gladwell's book David and Goliath. I like both of these books a great deal, but it's Tribe that led me to them.