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30 Books Mattis Thinks Every Good Leader Needs To Read
James Mattis, the Marine Corps general-turned secretary of defense, is known for many things, including his prolific reading list. We know everyone jokes that Marines can’t read, but Mattis has probably perused more books in a year than most people manage in a lifetime.
He sat down with Foreign Policy and listed some of the books he believes that every military leader should read.
“You need to have that broader reading as you grow and personally develop so you can actually do the job as a military officer,” he said.
It’s a hefty list, but here are 30 of Mattis’ favorite books.
With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by E. B. Sledge (1981)
One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer by Nathaniel Fick (2005)
It takes big brass ones for a field-grade officer to write a book about how America’s generals should have told their Vietnam-era leaders that the war was dumb. But that’s what Maj. H.R. McMaster did in his 1997 doctoral dissertation. Now, McMaster, who pioneered some of the Army’s biggest counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq, is a three-star general and President Trump’s national security advisor. Who says dissent in uniform is a bad idea?
Fighting Talk: Forty Maxims on War, Peace, and Strategy by Colin Gray (2007)
The Future of Strategy by Colin Gray (2015)
Military Innovation in the Interwar Period by Williamson Murray (1996)
Before the First Shot Is Fired: How America Can Win Or Lose Off The Battlefield by Tony Zinni (2014)
Scipio Africanus: Greater Than Napoleon by Basil H. Liddell Hart (1926)
Hannibal is typically the leader remembered as one of the world’s greatest military leaders, but Liddell Hart suggests his adversary, Scipio Africanus, was the better general. For those who study military strategy, it is Africanus whose stratagems and ruses still remain useful today.
My American Journey by Colin Powell (1995)
The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer (1971)
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (1994)
Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield (1998)
So you saw the movie “300”? It’s not even the best fiction about Sparta’s epic stand of 300 soldiers against the 2 million Persians at Thermopylae. That honor goes to Pressfield, who translated his experiences as a Marine into 480 B.C. Sparta in this novel. It’s been providing in-the-field moto for grunts for almost two decades.
Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War by Robert Gates (2014)
The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant (1968)
The Greatest Raid of All by Lucas Phillips (1958)
The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant by Ulysses S. Grant (1885)
Grant, who served in the U.S. Army in both the Mexican-American War and the Civil War, saw his career culminate in two terms as president of the United States. Written for money in Grant’s old age, his autobiography describes his battles and his foes in surprisingly clear, thoughtful language.
March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam by Barbara Tuchman (1984)
The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman (1962)
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (2004)
Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy (1987)
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD)
When Adm. James Stockdale was shot down and became a prisoner of war in Vietnam, he attributed his survival to studying stoic philosophies, particularly Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations.” Aurelius, the Roman emperor, wrote his simple rules for living by candlelight, and they were never meant to be published. But they’ve been a source of strength for warriors and everyday civilians ever since.
Diplomacy by Henry Kissinger (1994)
World Order by Henry Kissinger (2014)
Defeat into Victory by Viscount Slim (1956)
Just and Unjust Wars by Michael Walzer (1977)
When he was running a guerrilla army, Mao Zedong said, “We have no use for asinine ethics.” Princeton philosopher Michael Walzer uses this quote as a jumping-off point for his book, which asks: How do you square the strategic, sometimes dirty demands of war with the ethical demands of being a not-terrible human? Philosophy is rarely so accessible — or so important for the warfighter to grasp.
War, Morality, and the Military Profession by Malham Wakin (1979)
For Country and Corps: The Life of General Oliver P. Smith by Gail Shisler (2009)
Sherman: Soldier, Realist, American by Basil H. Liddell Hart (1929)
The Rules of the Game by Andrew Gordon (1996)
The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye (1978)
A word that could once not be mentioned in court — torture — was front and center on Friday as a military tribunal prepares to take on the long-delayed trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the confessed chief plotter of the 9/11 attacks, and four other defendants.
"I know torture's a dirty word," defense attorney Walter Ruiz told the tribunal. "I'll tell you what, judge, I'm not going to sanitize this for their concerns."
The suspect in the death of 21-year-old U.S. Marine Cpl. Tyler Wallingford, who was fatally shot in the barracks of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort more than nine months ago, was found guilty in military court of involuntary manslaughter earlier this month and sentenced to more than five years.
A 19-year-old Army private who died during basic training earlier this month was posthumously promoted to private first class, just before friends and family gathered for a memorial service to honor his life on Jan. 16.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars has demanded an apology from President Trump over recent comments in which he downplayed the seriousness of traumatic brain injuries suffered by American troops in an Iranian missile attack.
"The Veterans of Foreign Wars cannot stand idle on this matter," William "Doc" Schmitz, VFW National Commander, said in a statement Friday, noting TBI is a serious injury known to cause depression, memory loss, severe headaches and other symptoms in the short and long-term.