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.
Every service member in the United States has access to an annually updated list of texts that aims to set the standard for leadership and esprit de service. The reading lists are released by each branch’s Service Chief, which typically include stories of the respective branch’s history, modern leadership methods, and anecdotes of integrity and valor. This year, however, Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, went in a new direction with the release of his 2016 reading list — which has garnered the respect and intrigue of many.
A few years ago, an email from Marine Gen. James Mattis began to make its viral way around the Internet. In it, Mattis extolled the importance of reading to gain an understanding of history, taking advantage of the experience of previous warfighters in order to prepare oneself for the future fight.