2015 Commandant’s Reading List

Booksby Steve Lancaster6/29/15
The common conception of a Marine is that he or she some kind of a knuckle-dragging thug whose sole intellectual foundation is combat. Every few years the Commandant of the Marine Corps publishes a recommended reading list for Marines. This list is widely distributed to all ranks. Officers and NCOs are required to read many of these and other titles, but in the course of a career they will need all of them and many more. So what is the well-rounded Marine reading in 2015?

MARINE! THE LIFE OF L.T. GEN. LEWIS B (CHESTY PULLER), USMC (RET) Burke Davis. Amazon: $7.99
Did anyone really think that would not be at the top of the list?

AMERICAN SPARTANS: THE U.S. MARINES: A COMBAT HISTORY FROM IWO JIMA TO IRAQ. James Warren. Amazon: $21.95
An excellent current history of the Corps

FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
James Bradley and Ron Powers. Amazon: $5.99
Iwo Jima, and the story of the flag raising

THE ART OF WAR,
Sun Tzu. Amazon: $.99
Timeless classic on strategy

ATTACKS,
Erwin Rommel. Amazon: $12.99
Patton thought it was the source for German tactical thinking and provides insight into WW I battles.

ON KILLING; THE PHYSCHOLOGICAL COST OF LEARNING TO KILL IN WAR AND SOCIETY, Dave Grossman
Amazon: $7.99
If you want to understand basic training and advanced infantry school this is a must have.

JUST AND UNJUST WARS; A MORAL ARGUMENT WITH HISTORICAL ILLUSTRATIONS, Michal Waizer. Amazon: $9.99
Justifications for wars from the Greeks to Iraq. Some good, some questionable, some with no justification.

TEAM OF RIVALS: THE POLITICAL GENIUS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN, Doris Kearns Goodwin. Amazon: $11.99
A look at Lincoln as a manager

SOURCES OF POWER: HOW PEOPLE MAKE DECISIONS
Gary Klein. Amazon: $20.15
Not all decisions are arrived at in a rational manner. Understanding the process improves the chances of making the correct decision under stress.

BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM, James McPherson
Amazon: $9.99
One of the best general histories of the War of Northern Invasion.

THE VIRTUES OF WAR, Stephen Pressfield
Amazon: $11.99
Excellent history of Alexander

DIPLOMACY, Henry Kissinger
Amazon: $16.99
Like him or hate him most of the last 40 years has his stamp on it.

LANDSCAPE OF HISTORY: HOW HISTORIANS MAP THE PAST
John Lewis Gaddis. Amazon: $7.14
History majors required reading at most universities.

LITTLE BOOK OF ECONOMICS, HOW THE ECONOMY WORKS IN THE REAL WORLD,
Greg Ip. Amazon: $13.00
Simple explanation of macroeconomics that normal people can understand.

THE REVENGE OF GEOGRAPHY: WHAT THE MAP TELLS US ABOUT COMING CONFLICTS AND THE BATTLE AGAINST FATE,
Robert D. Kaplan. Amazon:  $12.24
In the age of the global warrior we must have a macro view of geography, or as real estate agents say, location, location, location.

DERELICTION OF DUTY: LYNDON JOHNSON, ROBERT MCNAMERA, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF, AND LIES THAT LED TO VIETNAM
H. R. McMaster. Amazon: $14.16
I reviewed this book last year. It is a key work to understanding what went wrong in Vietnam, and what is going wrong today in the ME.

ENDER’S GAME,
Orson Scott Card. Amazon: $7.99
If you are a science fiction fan, this novel will make you think.

I would include TACTICS OF MISTAKE,
Gordon Dickson. Amazon: $8.79
The Dorsai, the best warriors in the galaxy, like the Marines, I recommend all of the Childe Cycle.

There you have it, a somewhat shortened list. I left out some works that are either to0 Corps specific or technical to be of general interest. We quit the Neanderthal business in Belleau Wood although my wife told me the other day, “Even for a Marine you’re a Neanderthal,” and I took it as a complement. • (1101 views)

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3 Responses to 2015 Commandant’s Reading List

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Ah, a Dickson fan. Of course, many of his Dorsai books aren’t technically part of the Childe Cycle, and the cycle (which he never completed) is about much more than the Dorsai.

    I have several of these books, including The Art of War, Attacks, Battle Cry of Freedom, Team of Rivals, Ender’s War, and (of course) the Dickson books. (I think Tactics of Mistake may have been the first book of his that I read, in fact.) I have some of Pressfield’s books, possibly including the one listed here, and would recommend his book on Thermopylae (which focuses on the Spartan culture as well as the battle itself). Of course, locating the books may not always be as easy as remembering whether or not I have them.

    • Steve Lancaster says:

      Tim,
      I thought of you when I saw Enders Game on the list, and yes I favor Dickson a lot one of the funnest of his books is the Dragon and the George, a reverse take on St. George and the dragon story.

      I am working on a review of Donald Kagan’s book, The Origins of War. Ancient Greeks and worse.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    There are at least a couple books on the list that intrigue me. A couple I have downloaded the Kindle sample for. Hope I have time to get to them. Thanks for the reading list, Steve.

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