Tag Archives: books

The CIMSEC Sea Control 2021 Holiday Reading List

By the CIMSEC Sea Control Podcast Team

Aloha Shipmates! We at the CIMSEC Sea Control Podcast have put our heads together to come up with a 2021 Holiday Reading List. We’ve chosen books that we read and loved, and books that we’re looking forward to reading next year. Enjoy!

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Dmitry Filipoff
CIMSEC Director of Online Content

The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life by David Brooks

Brooks has been writing and speaking for years on how individuals discover meaning in their lives and find fulfillment. Philosophical, yet practical and well-grounded in extensive social sciences research, The Second Mountain offers concrete insights into how one can make meaning of their pursuits and redefine their purpose. Brooks dives into specific and fundamental methods of how meaning can be derived, such as through building community, viewing life as a moral struggle, and making sense of individualism and to what extent it can be helpful or self-defeating. Excellently written and candidly delivered, The Second Mountain will enhance self-awareness around some of the most profound concerns of both individuals and societies. 

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguen

A Vietnamese double agent is evacuated to the United States soon after the fall of Saigon, embedding himself into the expat community while faithfully still executing espionage. But while serving as the aide-de-camp to a plotting South Vietnamese general, the sympathizer is torn by questions of identity that return time and time again in his exploits. Northerner or Southerner? Half-white or half-Vietnamese? Victorious revolutionary or dejected exile? The sympathizer deftly navigates both American and Vietnamese society while securing personal bonds against destruction and pursuing his clandestine mission. But how will his conscience evolve in the face of mounting tragedies and double crosses? In this masterfully written work that earned the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, author Viet Thanh Nguyen tells an engrossing tale of torn identity, post-war malaise, and moral tribulation.

The Battle for Leyte Gulf at 75: A Retrospective, Edited by Thomas J. Cutler

The Battle of Leyte Gulf was the last true fleet combat engagement between great powers, and one of the largest naval battles in history. The Japanese and American navies faced off in this climatic engagement toward the end of WWII, and by the end, the Imperial Japanese Navy ceased to exist as a credible fighting force. With no shortage of what-ifs and alternatives, the battle itself was a series of major clashes, deceptions, and controversial command decisions on both sides. In this book edited by Tom Cutler, renowned naval historians analyze and dissect this fascinating battle in all its complexity and scale. The result is a highly insightful work on a historic fleet combat engagement, and a must-read for navalists.

Jared Samuelson
Sea Control Host

The Fall and Rise of French Sea Power: France’s Quest for an Independent Naval Policy, 1940-1963 by Hugues Canuel

This follows the French Navy from its nadir in the smoke and wreckage of Mers-el-Kébir on 3 July 1940, its growth into a mix of French, British and captured Italian and German vessels over the course of World War II, and its gradual reconstruction, in part via NATO funding. Stick around for the notes and bibliography where you’ll find a wealth of NATO history references, and then listen to Sea Control 268 for an interview with the author and Dr. Brian Chao, who compares the French Navy’s rise to China and the PLAN.

The Huntress by Kate Quinn

I don’t make enough time for fiction, but there is a space reserved for the release of every new Kate Quinn novel. Writing aside, I enjoy learning about a piece of history I hadn’t previously encountered. In the case of The Huntress, you’ll be introduced to the Night Witches, the women pilots who served as flying artillery supporting the Red Army during the Second World War.   

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe

Say Nothing appeared on a slew of “best of” lists when it was released in 2019. It explores the disappearance of Jean McConville, a mother of ten who disappeared in December 1972. It is part mystery, part sprawling history of The Troubles from the highest political levels to individual bullet-riddled buildings in the streets of Belfast. 

Voices from the Shoreline: The Ancient and Ingenious Traditions of Coastal Fishing by Mike Smiley

I requested a review copy expecting to find a highly technical description of shoreline fishing techniques. While the book contains excellent descriptions of every method British fishermen have used to bring in salmon and herring over the centuries, it reads like a travelogue. Each chapter is filled with interviews conducted while the author traversed Britain’s west coast fishing towns. The fisherfolk and their slowly dying lifestyle are as much in focus as any specific net type.

Walker Mills
Sea Control Host and CIMSEC Associate Editor

Alpha: Eddie Gallagher and the War for the Soul of the Navy Seals by David Philipps

This new book by Pulitzer-winning, investigative journalist David Philipps not only details the infamous Eddie Gallagher trial and his murder of an ISIS detainee in Mosul, but also the deployment that led up to it. Philipps reconstructs the deployment from interviews with SEALs and other personnel who were there and paints a clear picture of a leadership crisis and an elite culture gone wrong. I found the book to be absolutely riveting and it should be required reading for junior officers.

The Tastes of War: World War Two and the Battle for Food by Lizzie Collingham

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while now, but I was finally convinced to read it cover to cover by an essay in Strategy Bridge. I had admittedly been pilfering it for primary sources about Guadalcanal…But the book is fascinating and covers an aspect of conflict that most Americans don’t consider, yet one that could be increasingly important – especially with sea resource depletion and conflicts over fisheries.

To-Be-Read:

Developing the Naval Mind by Benjamin F. Armstrong and John Freymann

As someone who has written about and promoted more naval-focused education for Marines, this is absolutely on my list to read in 2022. I’m eager to read it based on the strength of Armstrong’s Small Boats and Daring Men (which also made the list), and his other writing which we’ve been fortunate to cover on the Sea Control Podcast.

Marie Williams
Sea Control Editor

Nothing is Impossible: America’s Reconciliation with Vietnam by Ted Osius

This account of the veteran-led U.S.-Vietnamese reconciliation in the 1990s, and of the famous John McCain-John Kerry friendship, got me rethinking what (I thought) I knew about ‘big wins’ in diplomacy, and what patriotism, duty, and trust-building mean in practice. Also, as Southeast Asia is increasingly a site of U.S.-Chinese strategic competition, this book is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the legacy of U.S. military engagement in the region, and the importance of military-to-military relationships going forward.

To-be-read:

The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder by Sean McFate

According to Adm. James Stavridis (ret.) McFate is “a new Sun Tzu.”

Anna McNeil
Sea Control Host

The Great Pacific War: A History of the American-Japanese Campaign of 1931-33 by Hector C. Bywater

Fascinating to think that whether by correlation or causation, this book predicted many of the events of WWII’s War in the Pacific with great accuracy. Writing a whole campaign plan on the basis of a fiction book…surely it is simply not done?!

2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis

I have immense respect for Admiral Stavridis and his ability to interpret the trends of today and project them into the future. If imagination is the key to avoiding strategic surprise, then fiction is the best vehicle by which to deliver the bad news. Also check out our Sea Control 247 where we interviewed the authors!

The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone

Finally! A book about Elizebeth Smith Friedman — a linguist, a cryptologist before it was cool, and she worked for the Coast Guard while we were still under the Department of Treasury. She and her husband, William, worked on some of the most important codes of their time. Nothing reads like the life and times of true heroes. This won NPR’s Best Book of the Year.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

One of my classic favorites, I’m recommending this based on current relevance, it being where the re-branded Facebook name Meta comes from. I’ve read a lot of books written in the cyberpunk genre, and this one was my first; it is the measure against which I compare all others. Not only does it have the Metaverse, but you’ve got a pizza delivery racket run by the Italian mob, levitating skater punks and self-aware robot dogs. Good times. Enjoy!

William McQuiston
Sea Control Editor

Missile Contagion: Cruise Missile Proliferation and the Threat to International Security by Dennis M. Gormley

In the wake of the most recent North Korean long-range cruise missile test and the rapid spread of smaller loitering munitions I found it helpful to sit down with a copy of Dennis Gormley’s prescient 2008 warning.  Dennis Gormley aptly describes the incentives and mechanisms by which cruise missile technology has rapidly spread among smaller regional powers.

Hawaiki Rising: Hōkūle‘a, Nainoa Thompson, and the Hawaiian Renaissance by Sam Low

Hawaiki Rising is an engrossing history of the men and women behind Hōkūle‘a, the modern recreation of a traditional Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe which preserved the fading knowledge of traditional Polynesian navigation techniques and helped kick off the Hawaiian Renaissance. Particularly interesting are the traditional Polynesian navigation techniques which allowed Hōkūle‘a to sail from Hawai‘i to Tahiti without the use of any modern navigational aids.

Joshua Groover
Sea Control Editor

Small Boats and Daring Men: Maritime Raiding, Irregular Warfare, and the Early American Navy by Benjamin “B.J.” Armstrong

In Small Boats and Daring Men, Armstrong argues that traditional historical methods of thinking about naval strategy as a “bifurcated structure” focused on guerre de course (attacks on enemy commerce) and guerre d’escadre (naval war by fleet and warship battles) are incomplete. He proposes guerre de razzia (war by raiding) as the missing component and demonstrates its applicability through an analysis of eight events from the early history of the U.S. Navy including the raids of John Paul Jones, the Barbary and Quasi Wars, the War of 1812, and the US expedition to Sumatra. As a newcomer to naval strategy, I enjoyed the book because Armstrong makes a compelling argument for his case while telling a good story of the events.

To-Be-Read:

War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, by Edward S. Miller

19 Stars: A Study in Military Character and Leadership, by Edgar D. Puryear, Jr. 

Jonathon Frerichs
Sea Control Host

On Operations: Operational Art and Military Disciplines by B. A. Friedman

On Operations is a fantastic follow-up to Friedman‘s On Tactics. He concisely, yet thoroughly, explores the historical origins of the “operational level of war” while simultaneously challenging its very existence. He clearly frames out his challenge to the concept and proposes instead a focus on the application of operational art — the staff work that connects tactics to strategy. A fun read for any military practitioner. You can also check out our interview with Friedman and Tim Heck about their edited volume on amphibious operations On Contested Shores in Sea Control 220.

To Boldly Go: Leadership, Strategy, and Conflict in the 21st Century and Beyond edited by Jonathan Klug and Steven Leonard

This book is the perfect mix of fictional intelligence and envisioned futures of military conflict. The two editors miraculously string together over 25 short stories from a variety of authors — all connected through the framework of military-themed topics of leadership, strategy and conflict. Naval themes resonate throughout the book — making it a must-read for any naval enthusiast. Lastly, there are Easter Eggs galore throughout — I challenge any reader to read it straight through without jumping on Google to discover one of the Easter Eggs. 

Ed Salo
Sea Control Editor

The ‘Stan by Kevin Knodell, David Axe, and Blue Delliquanti, and Machete Squad, by Brent Dulk, Kevin Knodell, David Axe, and Per Darwin Berg

While we think of books that help us to understand war and its consequences, we do not always look at comic books or graphic novels. These two graphic novels that came out in 2018, but that I finally read this year, provide insight into our nation’s 20 year war in Afghanistan in a way that is accessible. The ‘Stan provides illustrated portrayals of interviews with everyone from a
Taliban member, to refugees, to combat troops. Machete Squad is a memoir of a combat medic, and it tells the story of those on the ground. I highly recommend both of these graphic novels.

Information Hunters: When Librarians, Soldiers, and Spies Banded Together in World War II Europe by Kathy Peiss

Kathy Peiss examines efforts of U.S. librarians and archivists during the Second World War, first to gather open source intelligence, and then to gather and preserve books, manuscripts, and other sources during the war and post-war periods to build the Library of Congress and other research collections across the nation. Peiss’ book is a joy to read. It is the perfect companion piece for Robert Edsel’s The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History or Joshua Hammer’s The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts, which also dealt with efforts to save important manuscripts during a more recent war. The book has a place on the book shelf of anyone interested in intelligence gathering, library science, and the power of information warfare.

Andrea Howard
Sea Control Host

While this book is military-forward in outlining the creation of wargaming, the evolution of its purpose, and its lasting impact on military doctrine, Caffrey interweaves his wit and non-military applications throughout this comprehensive history. His research also extends into the realm of civilian and commercial wargaming utility.
The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History by Alexander Mikaberidze
In his coverage of the Napoleonic Wars, Mikaberidze looks beyond the normal lenses, which typically focus on famous battles (from Austerlitz to Waterloo) or Napoleon’s persona. This book gracefully also captures the global context in which the French Revolutions and subsequent warfare transpired, and he expertly blends interactions at the domestic and international levels.

New this year, this book avoids the trap of oversimplifying Russian politics down to unique Russian culture or the cult of personality that is President Vladimir Putin. Instead, Frye drives home the role of Russian public opinion on the complex tradeoffs made by Moscow, paralleling other governments like Venezuela, Turkey, and Hungary.

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That’s all the books for now. On behalf of CIMSEC, we wish you a safe and happy holiday season!

Featured Image: Image: Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

A Holidays 2020 Reading List

By the CIMSEC Sea Control Podcast Hosts

Aloha Shipmates! We at the CIMSEC Sea Control Podcast have put our heads together to come up with a “Holidays 2020 Reading List” or perhaps more appropriately named  “What We Were Able to Read This Year…” reading list. We’ve each chosen a few books that we read and loved this year and are at least tangentially related to international maritime security. We’ve also included a few that either we didn’t get to in 2020 or we’re looking forward to in 2021.

Walker Mills

Missionaries, by Phil Klay, Penguin Press, 2020. 

Missionaries is veteran author Phil Klay’s second work, coming after his award-winning collection of short stories Redeployment (2014). Well-received by U.S. and Colombian critics, Missionaries is a wrenching story about several characters coming together in Colombia as the government was finishing a peace agreement with the FARC in 2015-2016. Klay uses his characters and their lives to explore violence at the human, community, and system levels and its impact on the human soul. 

Feeding Victory: Innovative Logistics from Lake George to Khe Sanh, by Jobie Turner, Kansas University Press, 2020. 

Feeding Victory is an eminently readable book about logistics in war. Jobie Turner, an Air Force colonel, breaks down five different case studies in logistics – all unique in their own way. The history is mixed with analysis and takeaways for the contemporary practitioner. Perhaps most interesting to CIMSEC readers will be the Guadalcanal case study where Turner compares and contrasts Japanese and American expeditionary logistics in the months-long struggle for the island. 

Cod: A Biography of the Fish the Changed the World, by Mark Kurlansky, Penguin Books, 1997.

Though over twenty years old, Cod is still a riveting introduction into the world of commercial fishing through a deep dive into the history of a single fish: Atlantic Cod. Fishing is more relevant than ever – in 2020 the United States Coast Guard released an Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing Strategic Outlook,” massive Chinese fishing fleets off the Galapagos attracted international attention, and the United Kingdom has threatened to use naval vessels to protect its fisheries in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Kurlansky’s book is a quick read and each chapter includes a recipe for cod to help deal with the inevitable craving. Listeners can check out Sea Control 206 about the “Cod Wars” between Iceland and the UK or Sea Control 219 to catch a conversation with USCG Commandant Karl Schultz about the IUU Fishing Strategic Outlook. 

To-be-read:

The Kill Chain: Defending America in the Future of High-Tech Warfare by Christian Brose, Hachette Books, 2020.

Adaptation Under Fire: How Militaries Change in Wartime, by David Barno and Nora Bensahel, Oxford University Press, 2020.

Both of these are books came highly reviewed and despite the fact that I pre-ordered them I still have not managed to read them yet. But I’ve followed the authors’ work at War on the Rocks and intently listen to their podcasting. I’m sure these books won’t disappoint.

2034: A Novel of the Next War, by Elliot Ackerman and James Stavridis, Penguin Press, 2021.

Can’t overstate how excited I am for this one. Ackerman is a former Marine who has written several very good books, including the award-winning Dark at the Crossing, and Stavridis has written several previous books about leadership (including another book on this list) and his extensive Navy experience including serving as former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO.

Jared Samuelson

Learning War, by Trent Hone, Naval Institute Press, 2018.

Selling Seapower: Public Relations and the U.S. Navy, 1917-1941, by Ryan D. Wadle, University of Oklahoma Press, 2019.

These books are paired because they address the question “how did we get here?” for two different communities in the Navy. If you are a surface warfare officer, you have undoubtedly spent hours in the darkened cold of your ship’s Combat Information Center. How did that space come to be, why is it designed the way it is, and what problems was the Navy trying to solve? Learning War addresses all those questions and, if that weren’t enough, you get a graduate-level discussion of the evolution of the officer corps and some early 1900s ship design. Listen to Sea Control 209 with author Trent Hone to learn more. I thought Selling Seapower did much the same for today’s public affairs community, from its birth in the Office of Naval Intelligence, the development of the collateral duty Public Affairs Officer, and the Navy’s relationship with mass media (spanning early radio to film). 

The Alice Network: A Novel, by Kate Quinn, William Morrow Paperbacks, 2017.

The best possible endorsement I can give this book is that I read it in less than 48 hours while co-parenting an infant and doing my day job. It was that good. The pace is incredible and the historical setting will have you picking up your phone to Google “did X really happen” multiple times. The author’s follow-up, The Huntress, is sitting on my to-be-read pile.

The Riddle of the Sands, by Erskine Childers, Modern Library, 2002.

Originally printed in 1903, The Riddle of the Sands was a recommendation from an old friend and former CO that took me completely by surprise. The book is the story of two friends ostensibly on a late summer sailing expedition in the Baltic and North Seas who stumble onto a sinister plot whilst being pursued by German agents. No less than Winston Churchill cited the novel as a reason the British ultimately established multiple naval bases on the North Sea prior to World War I.

To-be-read:

Grey Dawn: A Tale of Abolition and Union, Balance of Seven, 2020, by Sea Control 163 guest and now host of her own podcast, Friday Night History, Dr. Nyri Bakkalian. 

How the Few Became the Proud, Naval Institute Press, 2019 by Sea Control 184 guest Dr. Heather Venable. I have a literal signed copy just waiting to be cracked open. Massive personal failure on my part.

Wargaming Experiences: Soldiers, Scientists and Civilians, by Natalie Wojtowics, J10 Gaming, 2020.

Battle in the Baltic: The Royal Navy and the Fight to Save Latvia & Estonia, 1918-1920, by Steve R. Dunn, Naval Institute Press, 2020.

This book seemed like a logical successor after reading Michael B. Barrett’s Operation Albion: The German Conquest of the Baltic Islands in preparation for Sea Control 168. Cautiously optimistic the author will be coming to a podcast near you in 2021!

Anna McNeil

Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds, by David Goggins, Lioncrest Publishing, 2018.

If talks about resilience and hope are ringing empty in your ears this holiday, or you feel depression and disempowering thoughts setting in, this is the book I suggest you begin with. Cultivate the knowledge that you can and will get through to a brighter future. Then, move forward with intention for the new year ahead.

Honor Harrington series, by David Weber, 2002-2017.

Science Fiction. Space Navy. Military-Industrial complex. Vast sprawling strategic positioning and tactical level skirmishes. Personal assistant on the Commander’s shoulder and in her ear. A female protagonist who lives up to the name Honor. The first of this series, On Basilisk Station, was given to me by my grandfather, a retired U.S. Navy Electronics Technician. It was a large part of the reason I considered joining the Navy. The best fiction is that through which we can more clearly imagine possibilities for ourselves in the real world. Fiction lovers can check out the wrap-up of CIMSEC’s Fiction Week in Sea Control 216 with an interview of the winning authors Mike Burke and Nick Nethery. 

The Good Shepherd, by C.S. Forester, reissue by Penguin Books, 2018.

Yes, Hollywood made a movie of this already, but the discussion on social media about the proper use of helm commands doesn’t even scratch the surface of how much justice is done to the seagoing service. Read the first ten pages and you’ll see why I was suddenly inspired to write Steering Casualty and Tactical Signals drill cards.

To-be-read:

Navigating the Seven Seas of Leadership: Leadership Lessons of the First African-American Father and Son to Serve at the Top in the US Navy, by MSCM (ret) Melvin G. Williams Sr., and VADM (ret) Melvin G. Williams, Naval Institute Press, 2011.

Wisdom direct from the experiences of one very special military family, written down and offered to the benefit of anyone willing to read it. This book was written with such generosity and goodwill toward all mankind that it simply must be on my holiday reading list.

The Military Lens: Doctrinal Differences and Deterrence Failure in Sino-American Relations, by Christopher P. Twomey, Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, 2010.  

I suppose this could be considered a book about peace on Earth. Or rather, understanding how to use the military to lead options other than shooting wars.

Icebound: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World, by Andrea Pitzer, Scribner, 2021.

Get ready to be transported out of your own struggles into the tale of the famous polar explorer William Barentz’s year-long fight for survival in the Arctic. Out in January 2021! 

Jonathon Frerichs

Fleet Tactics and Naval Operations, Third Edition, by Wayne Hughes and Robert Girrier, Naval Institute Press, 2018.

 A Brief Guide to Maritime Strategy, by James R. Holmes, Naval Institute Press, 2019.

During a month-long temporary duty assignment to Naples, Italy, I recognized that I utterly lacked an understanding of how the Navy operates (despite having deployed on three different Marine Expeditionary Units, or MEUs). Seeking answers, I picked up Fleet Tactics and Naval Operations from the Navy Exchange on base. With nothing else to do in the evenings but eat Napoli pizza, I quickly devoured the book and found it immediately valuable in expanding my knowledge of naval operations. Upon completion, however, I found myself thirsting for a better understanding of how naval forces have contributed to obtaining national strategic objectives. 

Enter A Brief Guide to Maritime Strategy – a perfect complement. This short, digestible book is power packed with historical examples and an easy-to-apply framework through which to look at the application of naval forces from competition to crisis to conflict. For either the military historian or the naval practitioner, this book is guaranteed to be a great read and valuable resource. 

The Art of War: A New Translation by Michael Nylan, Sun Tzu, W. W. Norton and Company, 2020. 

I have digested bits and pieces of various translations of The Art of War over my career, but never sat down and read it cover to cover. When I saw @teaandtactics recommend the book, I decided I would bite and resolve my academic shortfall. Combining a depth of Chinese history and a nuanced fluency of the Chinese language, Nylan has created a translation that is easy to read, cover-to-cover. Additionally, in her introduction she provides an opportunity to apply the ideas of strategy and conflict to life outside of war. 

To-be-read:

To Rule Eurasia’s Waves: The New Great Power Competition at Sea, by Geoffrey Gresh, Yale University Press, 2020.

Just received my copy of this book. Upon a quick scan, I am excited to digest the multinational look at great power competition in the maritime domain. Many recent books have focused on looking at great power competition through a bipolar lens (Russia/United States or China/United States) but this book appears to take a much more expansive and systemic look at how great powers compete in the maritime domain. If you’re interested in To Rule Eurasia’s Waves, be on the lookout for a future Sea Control episode. 

The Pacific War trilogy, by Ian Toll, W. W. Norton & Company, 2011-2020.

I continue to see these recommended from military history scholars and servicemembers alike.

Andrea Howard

If 2020 did not provide enough existential fodder for society, The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World  Basic Books, 2018, by Pedro Domingos serves as one of the best introductions on how machine learning – and the prospective development of a unifying master algorithm – will forever alter the world. Unsupervised learning algorithms can structure and illuminate meaning from raw data, and the naval-oriented mind will see the innumerable applications from fire control systems to underwater mapping. 

Shifting over to a work that explicitly discusses the impact of cyber developments in the warfare domain, I recommend Cyber Security and Cyberware: What Everyone Needs to Know by P.W. Singer and Allan Friedman, Oxford University Press, 2014. While exploring the ramifications of the Stuxnet virus and cyber units within the American and Chinese military structures, the authors outline how future conflicts will touch every individual via cybercrime in the financial realm and attacks on infrastructure. 

To round out the two above choices, the Commandant of the Marine Corps’ top choice for 2020 is a strategic must-read. The Kill Chain: Defending America in the Future of High-Tech Warfare by Christian Brose, Hachette Books, 2020 explores the emerging technologies that present disturbing threats to American military superiority, but he also advocates for the development of a battle network of systems (a “kill chain”) to uphold deterrence and ultimately prevent war. 

To-be-read:

For my upcoming deployment, I’m intending to bring along The Leader’s Bookshelf by Admiral James Stavridis and R. Manning Ancell, Naval Institute Press, 2017 to consume the lessons learned from the active and retired four-star military officers’ habits and favorite books. The promised efficiency will be necessary for the small bits of time afforded before hitting the rack and awaking for watch.

Readers and listeners can get to know the podcast team better by listening to Sea Control  214 “Meet the Team!” or finding us on Twitter at @jwsc03@AndreaR_Howard, @WDMills1992, @2BAtSea, and @hoplitemarine

Featured Image: Book collection, photo via the U.S. Naval War College.

Teaching Maritime History – A Suggested Reading List

By Christopher Nelson

At the end of our discussion about the Eighteenth-Century British Royal Navy and her new book, Disciplining the Empire, I asked Professor Kinkel what books she would teach in a graduate level course on maritime history. She kindly provided me a draft syllabus of the books that she would have her students read. 

There are some fascinating titles to add to your reading list. A short description from the publisher follows each book.

From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean (and Beyond)

Carlo M. Cipolla, Guns, Sails and Empires: Technological Innovation and the Early Phases of European Expansion, 1400-1700 (New York: Sunflower Univ. Press, 1966)

“Guns, Sails and Empires is that rarity among works of history: a short book with a simple, powerful thesis that the entire book is devoted to proving. Carlo Cipolla begins with the question, “Why, after the end of the fifteenth century were the Europeans able not only to force their way through to the distant Spice Islands but also to gain control of all the major sea-routes and to establish overseas empires.” (Amazon)

Richard T. Rapp, “The Unmaking of the Mediterranean Trade Hegemony: International Trade Rivalry and the Commercial Revolution,” Journal of Economic History, 35.3 (1975): 499–525

“The shift in the locus of European trade from the markets of the Mediterranean to the North Atlantic overthrew a centuries old pattern of commerce and established the basis for the predominant role of North Atlantic Europe in the era of industrialization. While the expression “commercial revolution” no longer has quite the currency that it once enjoyed, students of the early modern economy have not been negligent about trying to understand the causes of the commercial shift. The impact of entrepreneurship and Weltanschauung, capital accumulation, technical innovation in shipping and industry, and the economic and political organization of nation-states have all received attention from students of the age.” (Cambridge/Journal of Economic History)

Herman Van Der Wee, “Structural Changes in European Long-Distance Trade, and Particularly in the Re-Export Trade from South to North, 1350–1750,” in The Rise of Merchant Empires: Long-distance Trade in the Early Modern World, 1350–1750, ed. James D. Tracy (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990), pp. 14–33

“European dominance of the shipping lanes in the early modern period was a prelude to the great age of European imperial power in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Yet in the present age we can see that the pre-imperial age was in fact more an ‘age of partnership’ or an ‘age of competition’ when the West and Asia vied on even terms. The essays in this volume examine, on a global basis, the many different trading empires from the end of the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century.” (Amazon)

Commodities and Trade

Molly Warsh, American Baroque: Pearls and the Nature of Empire, 1492–1700 (Omohundro Institute, 2018)

“Pearls have enthralled global consumers since antiquity, and the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella explicitly charged Columbus with finding pearls, as well as gold and silver, when he sailed westward in 1492. American Baroque charts Spain’s exploitation of Caribbean pearl fisheries to trace the genesis of its maritime empire. In the 1500s, licit and illicit trade in the jewel gave rise to global networks, connecting the Caribbean to the Indian Ocean to the pearl-producing regions of the Chesapeake and northern Europe.

Pearls—a unique source of wealth because of their renewable, fungible, and portable nature—defied easy categorization. Their value was highly subjective and determined more by the individuals, free and enslaved, who produced, carried, traded, wore, and painted them than by imperial decrees and tax-related assessments. The irregular baroque pearl, often transformed by the imagination of a skilled artisan into a fantastical jewel, embodied this subjective appeal. Warsh blends environmental, social, and cultural history to construct microhistories of peoples’ wide-ranging engagement with this deceptively simple jewel. Pearls facilitated imperial fantasy and personal ambition, adorned the wardrobes of monarchs and financed their wars, and played a crucial part in the survival strategies of diverse people of humble means. These stories, taken together, uncover early modern conceptions of wealth, from the hardscrabble shores of Caribbean islands to the lavish rooms of Mediterranean palaces.” (Amazon)

Nuala Zahedieh, The Capital and the Colonies: London and the Atlantic Economy, 1660–1700 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010)

“Between 1660 and 1700, London established itself as the capital and commercial hub of a thriving Atlantic empire, accounting for three quarters of the nation’s colonial trade, and playing a vital coordinating role in an increasingly coherent Atlantic system. Nuala Zahedieh’s unique study provides the first detailed picture of how that mercantile system was made to work. By identifying the leading colonial merchants, she shows through their collective experiences how London developed the capabilities to compete with its continental rivals and ensure compliance with the Navigation Acts. Zahedieh shows that in making mercantilism work, Londoners helped to create the conditions which underpinned the long period of structural change and economic growth which culminated in the Industrial Revolution.” (Amazon)

Patrick O’Brien, “European Economic Development: The Contribution of the Periphery,”Economic History Review, 35.1 (1982): 1–18

“Economic history has enjoyed a revival in the study of development. Provocative interpretations of the course and causes of long-term growth continue to emerge from the writings of Immanuel Wallerstein, Gunder Frank and Samir Amin. While the basic purpose of their research is to explore the origins of underdevelopment, their commitment to a ‘global perspective’ has led them into wide ranging excursions into the economic history of Western Europe because, to quote Wallerstein, ‘Neither the development nor underdevelopment of any specific territorial unit can be analyzed or interpreted without fitting it into the cyclical rhythms and secular trends of the world economy as a whole.'”

People at Sea

Kris Lane, Pillaging the Empire: Global Piracy on the High Seas, 1500–1750, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2016)

“Between 1500 and 1750, European expansion and global interaction produced vast wealth. As goods traveled by ship along new global trade routes, piracy also flourished on the world’s seas. Pillaging the Empire tells the fascinating story of maritime predation in this period, including the perspectives of both pirates and their victims. Brushing aside the romantic legends of piracy, Kris Lane pays careful attention to the varied circumstances and motives that led to the rise of this bloodthirsty pursuit of riches, and places the history of piracy in the context of early modern empire building.

This second edition of Pillaging the Empire has been revised and expanded to incorporate the latest scholarship on piracy, maritime law, and early modern state formation. With a new chapter on piracy in East and Southeast Asia, Lane considers piracy as a global phenomenon. Filled with colorful details and stories of individual pirates from Francis Drake to the women pirates Ann Bonny and Mary Read, this engaging narrative will be of interest to all those studying the history of Latin America, the Atlantic world, and the global empires of the early modern era.” (Amazon)

Marcus Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700–1750, 2nd ed. (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989)

“The common seaman and the pirate in the age of sail are romantic historical figures who occupy a special place in the popular culture of the modern age. And yet in many ways, these daring men remain little known to us. Like most other poor working people of the past, they left few first-hand accounts of their lives. But their lives are not beyond recovery. In this book, Marcus Rediker uses a huge array of historical sources (court records, diaries, travel accounts, and many others) to reconstruct the social cultural world of the Anglo-American seamen and pirates who sailed the seas in the first half of the eighteenth century. Rediker tours the sailor’s North Atlantic, following seamen and their ships along the pulsing routes of trade and into rowdy port towns. He recreates life along the waterfront, where seafaring men from around the world crowded into the sailortown and its brothels, alehouses, street brawls, and city jail.

His study explores the natural terror that inevitably shaped the existence of those who plied the forbidding oceans of the globe in small, brittle wooden vessels. It also treats the man-made terror–the harsh discipline, brutal floggings, and grisly hangings–that was a central fact of life at sea. Rediker surveys the commonplaces of the maritime world: the monotonous rounds of daily labor, the negotiations of wage contracts, and the bawdy singing, dancing, and tale telling that were a part of every voyage. He also analyzes the dramatic moments of the sailor’s existence, as Jack Tar battled wind and water during a slashing storm, as he stood by his “brother tars” in a mutiny or a strike, and as he risked his neck by joining a band of outlaws beneath the Jolly Roger, the notorious pirate flag. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea focuses upon the seaman’s experience in order to illuminate larger historical issues such as the rise of capitalism, the genesis the free wage labor, and the growth of an international working class. These epic themes were intimately bound up with everyday hopes and fears of the common seamen.” (Amazon)

Sowande M. Mustakeem, Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage (Univ. of Illinois Press, 2016)

“Most times left solely within the confine of plantation narratives, slavery was far from a land-based phenomenon. This book reveals for the first time how it took critical shape at sea. Expanding the gaze even more widely, the book centers on how the oceanic transport of human cargoes–known as the infamous Middle Passage–comprised a violently regulated process foundational to the institution of bondage. Sowande’ Mustakeem’s groundbreaking study goes inside the Atlantic slave trade to explore the social conditions and human costs embedded in the world of maritime slavery. Mining ship logs, records and personal documents, Mustakeem teases out the social histories produced between those on traveling ships: slaves, captains, sailors, and surgeons. As she shows, crewmen manufactured captives through enforced dependency, relentless cycles of physical, psychological terror, and pain that led to the making–and unmaking–of enslaved Africans held and transported onboard slave ships. Mustakeem relates how this process, and related power struggles, played out not just for adult men, but also for women, children, teens, infants, nursing mothers, the elderly, diseased, ailing, and dying. As she does so, she offers provocative new insights into how gender, health, age, illness, and medical treatment intersected with trauma and violence transformed human beings into the most commercially sought commodity for over four centuries.”

Dean King and John B. Hattendorf, eds. Every Man Will Do His Duty: An Anthology of Firsthand Accounts from the Age of Nelson (Henry Holt, 1997)

“The history of the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars comes alive through letters, diaries, official chronicles, accounts of life at sea, and eyewitness descriptions of great sea battles, such as Cape St. Vincent and Trafalgar, the death of Nelson, and more.” (Amazon)

A Maritime World

Andrew Lipman, The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast (Yale Univ. Press, 2015)

“Andrew Lipman’s eye-opening first book is the previously untold story of how the ocean became a “frontier” between colonists and Indians. When the English and Dutch empires both tried to claim the same patch of coast between the Hudson River and Cape Cod, the sea itself became the arena of contact and conflict. During the violent European invasions, the region’s Algonquian-speaking Natives were navigators, boatbuilders, fishermen, pirates, and merchants who became active players in the emergence of the Atlantic World. Drawing from a wide range of English, Dutch, and archeological sources, Lipman uncovers a new geography of Native America that incorporates seawater as well as soil. Looking past Europeans’ arbitrary land boundaries, he reveals unseen links between local episodes and global events on distant shores.” (Amazon)

Michael Jarvis, In the Eye of All Trade: Bermuda, Bermudians, and the Maritime Atlantic World,1680–1783 (Chapel Hill: Omohundro Institute, 2012)

“In an exploration of the oceanic connections of the Atlantic world, Michael J. Jarvis recovers a mariner’s view of early America as seen through the eyes of Bermuda’s seafarers. The first social history of eighteenth-century Bermuda, this book profiles how one especially intensive maritime community capitalized on its position “in the eye of all trade.”

Jarvis takes readers aboard small Bermudian sloops and follows white and enslaved sailors as they shuttled cargoes between ports, raked salt, harvested timber, salvaged shipwrecks, hunted whales, captured prizes, and smuggled contraband in an expansive maritime sphere spanning Great Britain’s North American and Caribbean colonies. In doing so, he shows how humble sailors and seafaring slaves operating small family-owned vessels were significant but underappreciated agents of Atlantic integration.

The American Revolution starkly revealed the extent of British America’s integration before 1775 as it shattered interregional links that Bermudians had helped to forge. Reliant on North America for food and customers, Bermudians faced disaster at the conflict’s start. A bold act of treason enabled islanders to continue trade with their rebellious neighbors and helped them to survive and even prosper in an Atlantic world at war. Ultimately, however, the creation of the United States ended Bermuda’s economic independence and doomed the island’s maritime economy.” (Amazon)

Benjamin Carp, “Port in a Storm: The Boston Waterfront as Contested Space, 1747–74,” Rebels Rising: Cities and the American Revolution (Oxford Univ. Press, 2009), pp. 23–61

“The cities of eighteenth-century America packed together tens of thousands of colonists, who met each other in back rooms and plotted political tactics, debated the issues of the day in taverns, and mingled together on the wharves or in the streets. In this fascinating work, historian Benjamin L. Carp shows how these various urban meeting places provided the tinder and spark for the American Revolution.

Carp focuses closely on political activity in colonial America’s five most populous cities–in particular, he examines Boston’s waterfront community, New York tavern-goers, Newport congregations, Charleston’s elite patriarchy, and the common people who gathered outside Philadelphia’s State House. He shows how–because of their tight concentrations of people and diverse mixture of inhabitants–the largest cities offered fertile ground for political consciousness, political persuasion, and political action. The book traces how everyday interactions in taverns, wharves, and elsewhere slowly developed into more serious political activity. Ultimately, the residents of cities became the first to voice their discontent. Merchants began meeting to discuss the repercussions of new laws, printers fired up provocative pamphlets, and protesters took to the streets. Indeed, the cities became the flashpoints for legislative protests, committee meetings, massive outdoor gatherings, newspaper harangues, boycotts, customs evasion, violence and riots–all of which laid the groundwork for war.

Ranging from 1740 to 1780, this groundbreaking work contributes significantly to our understanding of the American Revolution. By focusing on some of the most pivotal events of the eighteenth century as they unfolded in the most dynamic places in America, this book illuminates how city dwellers joined in various forms of political activity that helped make the Revolution possible.” (Amazon)

Bringing the Sea Home

Nicholas Rogers, Mayhem: Post-War Crime and Violence in Britain, 1748–1753 (Yale Univ. Press, 2012)

“After the end of the War of Austrian Succession in 1748, thousands of unemployed and sometimes unemployable soldiers and seamen found themselves on the streets of London ready to roister the town and steal when necessary. In this fascinating book Nicholas Rogers explores the moral panic associated with this rapid demobilization.

Through interlocking stories of duels, highway robberies, smuggling, riots, binge drinking, and even two earthquakes, Rogers captures the anxieties of a half-decade and assesses the social reforms contemporaries framed and imagined to deal with the crisis. He argues that in addressing these events, contemporaries not only endorsed the traditional sanction of public executions, but wrestled with the problem of expanding the parameters of government to include practices and institutions we now regard as commonplace: censuses, the regularization of marriage through uniform methods of registration, penitentiaries and police forces.”

Eleanor Hughes, ed., Spreading Canvas: Eighteenth-Century British Marine Painting (Yale Univ. Press, 2016)

Spreading Canvas takes a close look at the tradition of marine painting that flourished in 18th-century Britain. Drawing primarily on the extensive collections of the Yale Center for British Art and the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, this publication shows how the genre corresponded with Britain’s growing imperial power and celebrated its increasing military presence on the seas, representing the subject matter in a way that was both documentary and sublime. Works by leading purveyors of the style, including Peter Monamy, Samuel Scott, Dominic Serres,  and Nicholas Pocock, are featured alongside sketches, letters, and other ephemera that help frame the political and geographic significance of these inspiring views, while also establishing the painters’ relationships to concurrent metropolitan art cultures. This survey, featuring a wealth of beautifully reproduced images, demonstrates marine painting’s overarching relevance to British culture of the era. 

Geoff Quilley, “Art History and Double Consciousness: Visual Culture and Eighteenth-Century Maritime Britain,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 48:1 (2014): 21–35

“This article addresses eighteenth-century maritime visual culture and its historiography by questioning fundamental fractures within it and the implications of these for the disciplines of history and art history. Using the Abolitionist print of the Brooks slave ship as a starting point alongside Paul Gilroy’s formulation of “double consciousness,” it questions the bypassing of the Black Atlantic and the wider maritime sphere within the history of eighteenth-century British art and argues for a revision of the periodization, classification, disciplinary boundaries, and ideological parameters by which it has been defined, to take full account of the significance of the maritime sphere.” (Project Muse)

Projecting Power

Richard Harding, Seapower and Naval Warfare, 1650–1830 (Routledge, 1999)

“From the author of ‘Amphibious Warfare in the Eighteenth Century’ and ‘The Evolution of the Sailing Navy, 1509-1815”, this book serves as a single- volume survey of war at sea and the expansion of naval power in the 18th century. The book is intended for undergraduate courses on 18th century European history, and for amateur and professional military historians, and for navy colleges, and navy and ex-navy professionals.”

Sam Willis, Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century: The Art of Sailing Warfare (Boydell Press, 2008)

Our understanding of warfare at sea in the eighteenth century has always been divorced from the practical realities of fighting at sea under sail; our knowledge of tactics is largely based upon the ideas of contemporary theorists [rather than practitioners] who knew little of the realities of sailing warfare, and our knowledge of command is similarly flawed. In this book the author presents new evidence from contemporary sources that overturns many old assumptions and introduces a host of new ideas. In a series of thematic chapters, following the rough chronology of a sea fight from initial contact to damage repair, the author offers a dramatic interpretation of fighting at sea in the eighteenth century, and explains in greater depth than ever before how and why sea battles (including Trafalgar) were won and lost in the great Age of Sail. He explains in detail how two ships or fleets identified each other to be enemies; how and why they maneuvered for battle; how a commander communicated his ideas, and how and why his subordinates acted in the way that they did. (Amazon)

N.A.M. Rodger, The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy (W.W. Norton, 1986)

“Meticulously researched, Rodger’s portrait draws the reader into this fascinatingly complex world with vivid, entertaining characters and full details of life below the decks. The Wooden World provides the most complete history of a navy at any age, and is sure to be an indispensable volume for all fans of Patrick O’Brian, English history, and naval history.”

Sam Willis, The Struggle for Sea Power: A Naval History of the American Revolution (W.W.Norton, 2016)

“The American Revolution involved a naval war of immense scope and variety, including no fewer than twenty-two navies fighting on five oceans―to say nothing of rivers and lakes. In no other war were so many large-scale fleet battles fought, one of which was the most strategically significant naval battle in all of British, French, and American history. Simultaneous naval campaigns were fought in the English Channel, the North and Mid-Atlantic, the Mediterranean, off South Africa, in the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, the Pacific, the North Sea and, of course, off the eastern seaboard of America. Not until the Second World War would any nation actively fight in so many different theaters.

In The Struggle for Sea Power, Sam Willis traces every key military event in the path to American independence from a naval perspective, and he also brings this important viewpoint to bear on economic, political, and social developments that were fundamental to the success of the Revolution. In doing so Willis offers valuable new insights into American, British, French, Spanish, Dutch, and Russian history.

This unique account of the American Revolution gives us a new understanding of the influence of sea power upon history, of the American path to independence, and of the rise and fall of the British Empire.” (Amazon)

Sarah Kinkel received her PhD from Yale University in 2012.  From 2012-2015, she was the managing editor of Eighteenth-Century Studies.  She has since taught as an Assistant Professor at Ohio University.

Christopher Nelson is a U.S. Naval Officer stationed at the U.S. Pacific Fleet Headquarters. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and the Maritime Advanced Warfighting School. He is a regular contributor to CIMSEC. The questions and views here are his own.

Featured Image: (Pixabay)

The Leader’s Bookshelf by Admiral James Stavridis & R. Manning Ancell

By Christopher Nelson

The Leader’s Bookshelf  by Admiral James Stavridis and R. Manning Ancell. U.S. Naval Institute Press. 288pp. $29.95.

The Leader’s Bookshelf by ADM James S. Stavridis and R. Manning Ancell/US Naval Institute Press

“Reading has the power not only to demolish time and span the ages, but also the capacity to make one feel more human — human meaning at one with humanity — and possibly less savage.”

– JAMES SALTER

“After owning books, almost the next best thing is talking about them.”

– CHARLES NODIER

Some years ago I met Admiral Jim Stavridis. The conversation, while short, turned to books. If I recall, it was in Stuttgart, Germany, sometime around 2010 or 2011. Because he was the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the U.S. European Commander (EUCOM), he had to divide his time between two locations: his NATO headquarters located near Mons, Belgium and his EUCOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. At the time, I worked in the intelligence directorate at EUCOM when we heard he was coming by to meet the staff. 

It was a gray, overcast afternoon when he arrived. He promptly made his way down a long line of officers and enlisted, each of them posed to shake his hand and say a few words. I had only a few seconds to make a connectionto say something interesting or ask him a question. But this I knew: I loved books; he loved books; and while standing there, I thought of something he wrote that might prove that I, like him, believed that books are essential to our profession, if not our lives.

Months prior, he had written one of his regular blog posts. In it, he said that his wife noticed that his love of books and his growing library had evolved into a “gentle madness.” That phrasea “gentle madness”refers to a wonderful book by author Nicholas Basbanes. Basbanes’ bookA Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books  is a long, discursive work: one part discussion of historic book culture in America and Britain, the other full of profiles of quirky and dedicated book lovers and collectors. 

When the admiral finally reached me, I mentioned the blog post and the book. His eyes lit up and he said something about few people knowing the reference. He then told me he owned 4,000 books. Surprised, I said something about wanting a library that large. He then simply said, “You’ll get there.” The conviction in his voice floored me. I believed him. And he was right. I’m getting there (the featured image of this post is a picture of my library; today I have around 2,000 titles, give or take).

Fast forward a few years and, no surprise, the admiral’s library has grown. Stavridis, in the introduction to the entertaining The Leader’s Bookshelf, says that he has in his “house today… more than four thousand books.” His wife, Laura, “has spent far too much of her life packing and unpacking them in postings all around the world.”

Adm. James Stavridis, center, browses through the Naval War College’s bookstore, October 2012. (U.S. Naval War College)

Stavridis and his co-author, R. Manning Ancell, have written a book that is somewhat similar to Richard Puryear’s fine booknow unfortunately out of printAmerican Admiralship: The Moral Imperatives of Command. Puryear interviewed 150 four star admirals on a variety of topics. One of those topics was the importance of reading. And like Puryear, Stavridis and Ancell take a similar path. In The Leader’s Bookshelf, they interviewed 200 four-star generals and flag officers, and from those discussions, they determined the 50 books that “stood out most…with top military readers.”

Using no particular scientific method, they rank ordered the books in descending order by the number of mentions. Thus, the first book on the list, Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels (1974), was mentioned most often. While the last on the list, How: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything by Dov Seidman, was mentioned least frequently.

For each title, there is a short essay by a senior officer as to why they choose the book, followed by a quote from the book, a biography of the author, then a summary of the book by either Stavridis or Ancell, concluding with a few sentences about why the book is important for leaders today.  

For folks that regularly follow the reading lists that are published by the Chief of Naval Operations or the other services, there are, unfortunately, few surprises. The regularly cited titles appear: Anton Myer’s Once an Eagle, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Clausewitz’s On War, John Keegan’s The Face of Battle, E.B. Potter’s Nimitz, and the always popular Steven Pressfield with his Gates of Fire. They all made the cut.

While there is nothing wrong with the oldies but goodies, it was refreshing to see some unusualor rather, some outliersfind a place in the top 50. Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court makes a showing as does Norman Mclean’s A River Runs Through It. In fact, General Stan McChrystal is the senior officer that recommended Twain’s satirical novel about a man from the 19th century, Hank Morgan, traveling back in time to King Arthur’s court.

The Leader’s Bookshelf, I confess, would be ho-hum if not for the additional essays that Stavridis and Ancell add to the book. It is these essays on publishing, reading lists, and building a personal library, that raise this book from mediocrity to must have. And here, Robert Ancell pulls his weight, adding a nice cherry on top with an interview with General Mattis. 

Mattis beats Stavridis in the book department. With some 7,000 titles on his shelves, he probably is the best read military leaderretired or activeout there. In the interview, Mattis mentions books that apply to each level of war. Of note, he recommends Lucas Phillips’ book The Greatest Raid of All. A book about a British raid that shattered the Nazi’s dry docks at Saint-Nazaire, France during World War II, preventing the Germans from using the docks for large battleships for the duration of the war. The raid resulted in no less than five Victoria Crosses. I had never heard of the book nor the raid. It is these little-known reading recommendations that make books like this exciting. You simply do not know what you might find.

Ironically, the only criticismor rather, observationI have about the book is that senior officers still do not carve out enough time to read. And this in a book in which one of the early essays is about “Making Time for Reading.”  

In one essay, a senior officer admits that while working in the Joint Staff that he only read one book in a year. One book! While another, in her recommendation, wrote only two sentences to praise the workand even then those two sentences were footnoted. Sigh.  

Nonetheless, The Leader’s Bookshelf will appeal to all types: The newbie looking for a good book to read and the bibliomaniac who may have read all 49 on the list and owns each first edition, but unaware, or didn’t realize there was just one more interesting title out there.  

But alas, there always is.

Lieutenant Commander Christopher Nelson, USN, is an intelligence officer stationed at the U.S. Pacific Fleet Headquarters in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The views here are his own.

Featured Image: A picture of the author’s personal library. Courtesy of Christopher Nelson.