The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
"One of the greatest ancient historians, Thucydides (c.460 B.C.–c.400 B.C.) chronicled nearly 30 years of war and tension between Athens and Sparta. His “History of the Peloponnesian War” set a standard for scope, concision and accuracy that makes it a defining text of the historical genre. Unlike his near-contemporary Herodotus (author of the other great ancient Greek history), Thucydides’ topic was his own time. He relied on the testimony of eyewitnesses and his own experiences as a general during the war. Though specific in detail, the questions he addressed were timeless: What makes nations go to war? How can politics elevate or poison a society? What is the measure of a great leader or a great democracy?"
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
"The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.” So begins The Art of War, a meditation on the rules of war that was first published in China. Historians don’t know the exact date of the book’s publication (though they believe it to be in the 4th or 5th century); in fact, they don’t even know who wrote it! Scholars have long believed that The Art of War’s author was a Chinese military leader named Sun Tzu, or Sunzi. Today, however, many people think that there was no Sun Tzu: Instead, they argue, the book is a compilation of generations of Chinese theories and teachings on military strategy. Whether or not Sun Tzu was a real person, it’s clear that “he” was very wise: The Art of War still resonates with readers today."
Attacks by Erwin Rommel
"Field Marshal Erwin Rommel exerted an almost hypnotic influence not only over his own troops but also over the Allied soldiers of the Eighth Army in the Second World War. Even when the legend surrounding his invincibility was overturned at El Alamein, the aura surrounding Rommel himself remained unsullied. As a leader of a small unit in the First World War, he proved himself an aggressive and versatile commander, with a reputation for using the battleground terrain to his own advantage, for gathering intelligence, and for seeking out and exploiting enemy weaknesses. Rommel graphically describes his own achievements, and those of his units, in the swift-moving battles on the Western Front, in the ensuing trench warfare, in the 1917 campaign in Romania, and in the pursuit across the Tagliamento and Piave rivers. This classic account seeks out the basis of his astonishing leadership skills, providing an indispensable guide to the art of war written by one of its greatest exponents."
War As I Knew It by George S. Patton Jr.
"Educated at West Point, George S. Patton (1885-1945) began his military career leading cavalry troops against Mexican forces and became the first officer assigned to the new U.S. Army Tank Corps during World War I. Promoted through the ranks over the next several decades, he reached the high point of his career during World War II, when he led the U.S. 7th Army in its invasion of Sicily and swept across northern France at the head of the 3rd Army in the summer of 1944. Late that same year, Patton’s forces played a key role in defeating the German counterattack in the Battle of the Bulge, after which he led them across the Rhine River and into Germany, capturing 10,000 miles of territory and liberating the country from the Nazi regime. Patton died in Germany in December 1945 of injuries sustained in an automobile accident."
This Kind of War by T.R. Fehrenbach
"This Kind of War is “perhaps the best book ever written on the Korean War” (John McCain, The Wall Street Journal), the most comprehensive single-volume history of the conflict that began in 1950 and is still affecting US foreign policy. Fifty years later, not only does this enlightening account give details of the tactics, infantrymen, and equipment, it also chronicles the story of military and political unpreparedness that led to a profligate loss of American lives in Korea."
Once An Eagle by Anton Myrer
"A study in character and values, courage, nobility, honesty, and selflessness, here is an unforgettable story about a man who embodies the best in our nation -- and in us all."
Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield
"In Gates of Fire, Steven Pressfield takes his readers deep into the psyche of the Spartans, whose fanatical courage and resolve was a key to the ultimate victory of Greece over the invading Persians. The novel centers on a young man named Xeones who has survived the bloody sack of his city and determines that Sparta will be his new home. A succession of stories that flit back and forth in time provide a close and detailed look at the harsh training that produced the most fearsome army of the age. By the time the novel reaches its climax, when the Persians are at hand and the 300 Spartans march off to the pass at Thermopylae, the reader has been drawn deeply into the ancient Spartan theory of training the mind and body for warfare. Then comes the most gripping, blood-spattered recreation imaginable of the famous battle."
The Afghan Campaign by Steven Pressfield
"The Afghan Campaign treats the hardest military challenge ever faced by Alexander the Great from the standpoint of the men who marched off to fight with him. The title, which chooses a modern name for a war in lands then called Bactria and Sogdiana, makes clear from the outset the parallels the author sees between a war fought in the fourth century B.C. and another fought some twenty-four centuries later. The novel is one of many admirable works showing a naïve young recruit marching off in hope of glory only to find his soul slowly destroyed by the horrors of combat: atrocities witnessed, endured and committed. In this case the novice soldier is a Macedonian who arrives as Alexander begins his efforts to subdue the still-rebellious northwestern provinces of the Persian Empire."
Future War by Robert M. Latiff
"The evolving, complex world of conflict and technology demands that we pay more attention to the issues that will confront us, before it is too late to control them. Decrying what he describes as a "broken" relationship between the military and the public it serves, Latiff issues a bold wake-up call to military planners and weapons technologists, decision makers, and the nation as a whole as we prepare for a very different future."
Wired for War by P.W. Singer
"While his analysis is unnerving, there's an irresistible gee-whiz quality to the innovations Singer uncovers. Wired for War travels from Iraq to see these robots in combat to the latter-day "skunk works" in America's suburbia, where tomorrow's technologies of war are quietly being designed. In Singer's hands, the future of war is as fascinating as it is frightening."
The Accidental Superpower by Peter Zeihan
"Within 30 years, Zeihan predicts, some nations (Greece, Libya, Yemen) will collapse, others (Brazil, India, Canada) will shrink, some (Britain, France, Sweden) will muddle through, and a few (Russia, Germany, Japan, Turkey) will become aggressive. Self-sufficient in food and energy, America will turn inward, reverting to the role it played before World War II: a global power without global interests. Historical prognostication has a dismal record, but readers will find it difficult to put down this fascinating addition to the “rise and fall of nations” genre."
Destined for War by Graham Allison
"Allison, the director of Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, resurrects the Samuel Huntington thesis of a coming clash of civilizations to explain that China thinks in longer time frames and with a greater sense of hierarchy than the United States. In order to avoid the Thucydides trap, he writes, American policy makers must reject the tendency to think that China is like us and that it will respond as we would to identical provocations. Numerous situations could spark military conflict between the United States and China despite efforts on both sides to maintain peace, from accidental collisions at sea to misunderstandings caused by cyberattacks to actions taken by third parties like North Korea or Taiwan."
Descent into Chaos by Ahmed Rashid
"Clearly, we need to have a debate about America’s strategic interests in the region. We want to keep Afghanistan and Pakistan from becoming havens for terrorist groups, and that may require limited military assistance. But as Rashid suggests, the next administration will have to make a major diplomatic effort as well. One of the most valuable contributions of “Descent Into Chaos” is its discussion of Kashmir, the region that has been in dispute between India and Pakistan since independence in 1947. It is the linchpin of the tense relations between Pakistan and India, and Pakistan, as Rashid explains, basically views its Afghan policy through the prism of India. It seems evident that the United States will have to become more involved in achieving a settlement in Kashmir, perhaps through a special envoy like Christopher Hill, who, with patience and persistence, has achieved breakthroughs in negotiations with North Korea."
Ghost Wars by Steve Coll
"Comprehensively and for the first time, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll tells the secret history of the CIA's role in Afghanistan, from its covert program against Soviet troops from 1979 to 1989, to the rise of the Taliban and the emergence of bin Laden, to the secret efforts by CIA officers and their agents to capture or kill bin Laden in Afghanistan after 1998. Based on extensive firsthand accounts, Ghost Wars is the inside story that goes well beyond anything previously published on U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. It chronicles the roles of midlevel CIA officers, their Afghan allies, and top spy masters such as Bill Casey, Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki al Faisal, and George Tenet. And it describes heated debates within the American government and the often poisonous, mistrustful relations between the CIA and foreign intelligence agencies."
Directorate S by Steve Coll
"While the generals commanding the Pakistani Army and directing the Inter-Services Intelligence made a show of cooperating, they were simultaneously working to undermine coalition military efforts. Imbued with the conviction that Afghanistan is vital to Pakistani national security, they had no intention of allowing the United States to determine its fate. So while accepting subsidies amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars — Washington even elevated Pakistan to the status of “major non-NATO ally” — the Pakistanis still actively supported the Taliban."
Fixing Failed States by Ashraf Ghani
"Failed States’ – the home of the world’s so-called Bottom Billion – are largely beyond the help of traditional aid and development. Leadership is corrupt, social institutions are virtually non-existent; aid money disappears before it can be used; ethnic conflict, absolute poverty, terrorism, and trafficking hold sway. International approaches to date - whether humanitarian, aid or military, have rarely proven successful. Ghani and Lockhart’s Framework rebuilds from the ground up, putting finances, democratic accountability, and know-how into the hands of those who are most motivated to make it work – ordinary citizens. Instead of relying on the aid bureaucracies that were designed for a bygone era, their Framework links countries to different networks of knowledge, information and financing in the global system. The grass-roots approach proves to be a catalyst for rebuilding national governments."
Fiasco by Thomas E. Ricks
Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post senior Pentagon correspondent Thomas E. Ricks's Fiasco is masterful and explosive reckoning with the planning and execution of the American military invasion and occupation of Iraq, based on the unprecedented candor of key participants. The American military is a tightly sealed community, and few outsiders have reason to know that a great many senior officers view the Iraq war with incredulity and dismay. But many officers have shared their anger with renowned military reporter Thomas E. Ricks, and in Fiasco, Ricks combines these astonishing on-the-record military accounts with his own extraordinary on-the-ground reportage to create a spellbinding account of an epic disaster.
Not a Good Day to Die by Sean Naylor
"Operation Anaconda was the largest battle fought by American conventional forces in Afghanistan. It took place in a remote valley at very high altitude where the thin air hampered helicopter operations and the lack of oxygen sometimes wore down the men. It took place largely out of the sight of TV cameras, partly due to security and partly due to the forbidding environment, which was pretty far from the hotels with room service from which most reporting on this war has been done. But Sean Naylor, a correspondent from the Army Times, was there as an embedded reporter and witnessed the battle. Now he has produced Not a Good Day to Die, a fascinating and disturbing account of one of the hardest fights American soldiers have faced in living memory. Naylor claims in the introduction to his book that the Army at first gave only grudging cooperation with his efforts to research the battle. Reading the book, one can easily understand why."
Disjointed Ways, Disunified Means by Lewis G. Irwin
"Specifically, inconsistencies and a lack of coherence in the U.S. Government’s strategic planning processes and products, as well as fundamental flaws in the U.S. Government’s structures and systems for coordinating and integrating the efforts of its various agencies, are largely responsible for this adverse and dangerous situation. This book explores these strategic and interagency shortfalls, while proposing potential reforms that would enable the United States to achieve the strategic coherence and genuine unity of effort that will be needed in an era of constrained resources and emerging new threats."
Bureaucracy by James Q. Wilson
"In what I think is the best part of the book (a roughly-two-hundred-page section ending on p. 378) Wilson distinguishes in detail among the behaviors of three different kinds of bureaucrats: operators, managers, and executives. He skillfully demonstrates how these different layers of employees in public bureaucracies have different mixes of incentives, goals, constraints, and opportunities and why their behavior varies among types as well as among individuals within each type."
Essence of Decision by Graham Allison
"The updated edition of Graham Allison’s 1972 work reconsiders the historical account of the Cuban Missile Crisis with new information from Soviet and American archives and post-Cold War events. Allison and Zelikow maintain the central premise that an awareness of how different analytical lenses shape assumptions, inquiries, and conclusions can improve our understanding of foreign policy crisis decision-making. The authors introduce three analytical models and assess each in corresponding chapters to demonstrate how American and Soviet leaders processed a course of action and how each vantage point can produce “a different image of the same fundamental reality."
American Icon by Bryce G. Hoffman
"At the end of 2008, Ford Motor Company was just months away from running out of cash. With the auto industry careening toward ruin, Congress offered all three Detroit automakers a bailout. General Motors and Chrysler grabbed the taxpayer lifeline, but Ford decided to save itself. Under the leadership of charismatic CEO Alan Mulally, Ford had already put together a bold plan to unify its divided global operations, transform its lackluster product lineup, and overcome a dysfunctional culture of infighting, backstabbing, and excuses. It was an extraordinary risk, but it was the only way the Ford family—America’s last great industrial dynasty—could hold on to their company. Mulally and his team pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in business history. As the rest of Detroit collapsed, Ford went from the brink of bankruptcy to being the most profitable automaker in the world."
Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer
The concluding section of Albion's Seed explores the ways that regional cultures have continued to dominate national politics from 1789 to 1988, and still control attitudes toward education, government, gender, and violence, on which differences between American regions are greater than between European nations.
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
"BLINK is about human rapid cognition, a thinking that is a lot faster than we can realize it, and a thinking that operates quite mysteriously in comparison to our commonly used careful, planned, and thoughtful decision making. And that's the major hypothesis in this book. Along with this variable, through his extensive research and analysis, Gladwell (2005) introduces several other variables that are interdependent with rapid cognition—such as emotions, attitude, judgments, snap decisions, role of time, frugality of information, and role of past experiences in perception."
Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
"Leviathan, Hobbes's most important work and one of the most influential philosophical texts produced during the seventeenth century, was written partly as a response to the fear Hobbes experienced during the political turmoil of the English Civil Wars. In the 1640s, it was clear to Hobbes that Parliament was going to turn against King Charles I, so he fled to France for eleven years, terrified that, as a Royalist, he would be persecuted for his support of the king. Hobbes composed Leviathan while in France, brilliantly articulating the philosophy of political and natural science that he had been developing since the 1630s. Hobbes's masterwork was finally published in 1651, two years after Parliament ordered the beheading of Charles I and took over administration of the English nation in the name of the Commonwealth."
Second Treatise on Government by John Locke
"The Second Treatise of Government, subtitled An Essay Concerning the True Original Extent and End of Civil Government, stands today as an extremely influential work that shaped political philosophy and provided a basis for later political doctrines, such as those set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution."
The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli
"The Prince is Machiavelli’s most famous philosophical book. It was begun in 1513 and probably completed by 1515…The Prince is composed of twenty-six chapters which are preceded by a Dedicatory Letter to Lorenzo de’ Medici (1492-1519), the grandson of Lorenzo the Magnificent (1449-92)…Whatever interpretation one holds to, the subject matter of the book seems to be arranged into roughly four parts: Chapters 1-11 treat principalities (with the possible exception of Chapter 5); Chapters 12-14 treat the art of war; Chapters 15-19 treat princes; and Chapters 20-26 treat what we may call the art of princes."
The Social Animal by David Brooks
"Viewing people's actions through the lens of the unconscious feelings and how they're influenced by the people closest to them has caused Brooks to see events like those unfolding in the Middle East in a new way. He notes that in situations like the one in Egypt, signals transferred from person to person affected the mood and emotions of the entire country. A key way to understand why individuals make the choices they do, Brooks says, is to "think of the models in their heads, to think of the way they see the world."
Tribe by Sebastian Junger
"There are ancient tribal human behaviors-loyalty, inter-reliance, cooperation-that flare up in communities during times of turmoil and suffering. These are the very same behaviors that typify good soldiering and foster a sense of belonging among troops, whether they’re fighting on the front lines or engaged in non-combat activities away from the action. Drawing from history, psychology, and anthropology, bestselling author Sebastian Junger shows us just how at odds the structure of modern society is with our tribal instincts, arguing that the difficulties many veterans face upon returning home from war do not stem entirely from the trauma they’ve suffered, but also from the individualist societies they must reintegrate into."
Congress: The Electoral Connection by David R. Mayhew
"David R. Mayhew argues that the principal motivation of legislators is reelection and that the pursuit of this goal affects the way they
behave and the way that they make public policy."
American Journey by Colin Powell
"Colin Powell talked about his book, "My American Journey," published by Random House, which chronicles his life, including his military service in Vietnam and the Gulf War and the rebuilding effort between the two conflicts. He also talked about the process of writing, including his cooperation with Joseph E. Persico, who collaborated with him on the book, and his tour around the U.S. to promote the book. He also commented on his political views and future plans."
Duty by Robert M. Gates
"Duty is an excellent memoir of a free-speaking and self-critical former Secretary of Defense. It lays bare the emotional and bureaucratic grit involved with spearheading a complex contingency operation in hostile parallel environments: at home and in the field."
The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough
Duty is an excellent memoir of a free-speaking and self-critical former Secretary of Defense. It lays bare the emotional and bureaucratic grit involved with spearheading a complex contingency operation in hostile parallel environments: at home and in the field. Duty is an important work and a great read.