John Crawford was on his honeymoon and two credits away from college graduation when an e-mail informed him that his Florida National Guard unit would be sent to Iraq for the March 2003 invasion--a mission that ended up lasting much longer than he and his cohorts were promised. In The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq (Riverhead), Crawford provides a vivid, harrowing account of his experience first in the desert and then in a busy and mostly hostile city. He and his fellow guardsmen--many of them younger than their own constantly malfunctioning Vietnam-era guns and gear--wear out their boots on endless patrols through sweltering Baghdad streets, sidestepping piles of rotting feces while watching warily for snipers and IEDs. Their enterprise rapidly devolves into a futile exercise in quagmire logic, waiting to be attacked then pursuing the attackers, and often raiding dozens of homes in search of culprits they can barely identify. Crawford never pretends to get the point of it all. Instead he shows how an atmosphere of oppressive tedium, constant danger, and pointless, sickening violence can drive a disoriented combat infrantryman to the point of viewing all Iraqis as a mass of undifferentiated, dehumanized "hajjis." Crawford avoids any explicit discussion of politics in this memoir, but in interviews he's had plenty to say about the administration that sent him into hell for no good reason. Tue 4/11, 7:30 PM, Barbara's Bookstore, 1100 W. Lake, Oak Park, 708-848-9140.