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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)
Editor's Note: This article by Hope Hodge Seck originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.
In the wake of a heartwarming viral video that was featured everywhere from Good Morning America to the Daily Mail comes a disheartening revelation: The 84-year-old self-described Army nurse cranking out push-ups in her crisp Vietnam-era uniform might not be who she said she was.
Maggie DeSanti, allegedly a retired Army lieutenant colonel who rappeled out of helicopters in Vietnam, was captured in a video challenging a TSA agent to a push-up competition ahead of a flight to Washington, D.C., with the Arizona chapter of the organization Honor Flight on Oct. 16. The video soon was everywhere, and many who shared it, including Honor Flight, hailed DeSanti's toughness and spirit.
‘Nice girls don't join the military': New commander of Air Force refueling squadron proves her critics wrong
The summer before sixth grade, Cindy Dawson went to an air show with her father and was enamored by the flight maneuvers the pilots performed.
"I just thought that would be the coolest thing that anybody could ever do," she said, especially having already heard stories about her grandfather flying bombers during World War II with the Army Air Corps.
So by the first day of school, she had already decided what she wanted to be when she grew up.
We salute the 93-year-old WWII veteran who refuses to retire, and opened up a 'boozy bakery' instead
Peach schnapps, sex on the beach, and piña colada may be familiar drinks to anyone who's spent an afternoon (or a whole day) getting plastered on an ocean-side boardwalk, but they're also specialty desserts at Ray's Boozy Cupcakes, Etc, a bakery in Voorhees, New Jersey run by a 93-year-old World War II veteran named Ray Boutwell.
A former senior Coast Guard official has been accused of shoplifting from a Philadelphia sex shop.
Rear Adm. Francis "Stash" Pelkowski (Ret.) was accused of stealing a tester item from Kink Shoppe on Oct. 8, according to an Instagram post by the store that appeared online two days later. In the post, which included apparent security camera footage of the incident, a man can be seen looking at products on a counter before picking up an item and placing it in his pocket before turning and walking away.
The Instagram post identified the man as Pelkowski, and said it wished him "all the best in his retirement, a sincere thank you for your service, and extreme and utter disappointment in his personal morals."
SAN DIEGO —The Marines say changes in the way they train recruits and their notoriously hard-nosed drill instructors have led to fewer incidents of drill instructor misconduct, officials told the Union-Tribune.
Their statement about training followed an Oct. 5 Washington Post report revealing that more than 20 Marines at the San Diego boot camp have been disciplined for misconduct since 2017, including cases of physical attacks and racist and homophobic slurs. The story also was published in the Union-Tribune.