Chicken Soup For The Warrior’s Soul

Leadership
Photo by Lance Cpl. Rebecca Eller

Oprah’s Book Club doesn’t form the backbone of most service members’ reading lists — our self-help books usually are about other types of self-improvement. As fun as the latest Brad Thor or Dale Brown novel is, most military personnel will pick these apart like they will a military movie — “That’s not the gear that guy would really use!” or “No way one guy takes down that many bad guys by himself!”


At the same time, the standard “professional military education” reading lists aren’t usually the type of book one wants to take on vacation. Honestly, who wants to read Thucydides unless they’re forced to?

So, here are some military and professional books I’ve read that fill the bill — fun page-turners with some professional development thrown in. Not the trendiest, the oldest, or the latest, but ones I’ll grab off the shelf on a lazy afternoon, whether going to the beach or the can.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies” by Jared M. Diamond

Ever wonder why some nations became empires while others devolved into cesspools and backwaters we police to this day? This book is about how geography, climate, flora, and fauna from thousands of years ago created the civilizations and societies that shape our lives and foreign policy today.

Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power” by Victor Davis Hanson

From the opposite side of the spectrum, Victor Davis Hanson describes how Western civilization’s unique values and culture made its military dominance possible. Plus, this book is a refresher on the great battles, like Salamis and Cannae, that all military professionals are supposed to know about, but rarely do. In truth, neither Diamond’s nor Hanson’s views are likely the whole story, but a good reader can take in both to draw his or her own historical picture.

On Killing” by Dave Grossman

Why can some people kill and others can’t? What makes a good soldier on the battlefield? Why can some people move on seemingly unscathed after experiencing close combat yet others are wracked with PTSD? Grossman may not close the book completely on those questions, but anyone who’s served in the military will see his eyes opened wide. This is required reading for anyone who deals in the business of violence.

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety” by Eric Schlosser

This book interspaces the history of nuclear weapons control with a riveting account of a catastrophic Titan missile mishap. What can go wrong, will go wrong. It offers an intense lesson in both the risks of nuclear armageddon and the importance of setting the right priorities.

A Sense of Honor” by James Webb

The only fiction book on this list. I read this in high school when I was just starting to think about joining the military and I still return to it from time to time. It’s the story of how a Naval Academy firstie takes a plebe under his wing during the Vietnam War. Harsh training teaches both the plebe and the reader about discipline and duty.

Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War” by Robert Coram

This biography is about how a lone pilot went from being ace of the base to inventing maneuver warfare. John Boyd redefined how air combat is conducted, how fighter aircraft are designed, and began the wave that culminated in a fundamental change in how the American military fights wars. Anyone who wants to be a military innovator has to read this book.

“Know yourself and seek self-improvement” is a cliche every military leader hears. Too often, that line becomes an excuse to impose homework on subordinates. But, being a good reader is essential to being a good thinker, which is essential to being a good leader. Good books make the medicine go down a lot easier.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs paid $13,000 over a three-month period for a senior official's biweekly commute to Washington from his home in California, according to expense reports obtained by ProPublica.

Read More Show Less
Saturday Night Live/screenshot

President Donald Trump said that "retribution" should be "looked into" after this week's opening skit of Saturday Night Live featured Alec Baldwin being mean to him again.

Read More Show Less
Staff Sgt. John Eller conducts pre-flights check on his C-17 Globemaster III Jan. 3 prior to taking off from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii for a local area training mission. Sgt. Eller is a loadmaster from the 535th Airlift Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

CUCUTA, Colombia — The Trump administration ratcheted up pressure Saturday on beleaguered Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, dispatching U.S. military planes filled with humanitarian aid to this city on the Venezuelan border.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan speaks at the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (Reuters) - Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Saturday he had not yet determined whether a border wall with Mexico was a military necessity or how much Pentagon money would be used.

President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border without congressional approval.

Read More Show Less
A pair of U.S. Navy Grumman F-14A Tomcat aircraft from Fighter Squadron VF-211 Fighting Checkmates in flight over Iraq in 2003/Department of Defense

Since the sequel to the 1986 action flick (and wildly successful Navy recruitment tool) Top Gun, was announced, there's been a lot of speculation on what Top Gun: Maverick will be about when it premieres in June 2020. While the plot is still relatively unclear, we know Tom Cruise will reprise his role as Naval aviator Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, and he'll be joined by a recognizable costar: The iconic F-14 Tomcat.

It looks like the old war plane will be coming out of retirement for more than just a cameo. A number of recently surfaced photos show an F-14 Tomcat aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, alongside Cruise and members of the film's production crew, the Drive's Tyler Rogoway first reported earlier this week.

Read More Show Less