Book List for High School World History Students

Book List: This book list was created when I taught at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington Virginia. It is heavily weighted toward World History rather than American History although it includes some of the latter.  I have read all of the books on the list, however a few of the reviews were taken from Amazon or other sources in the interest of getting the books on the list in time for the start of the semester.  I have noted these.

The order is: Author’s 1st Name, Author’s Last Name, Book Title, Review and appreciation. (Do not think just because I wrote more about some books that I like them better. I like them all. In all, there are about 185 books listed—one, or more has your name on it. There must be one that you will like.), Genre; Reading Difficulty Code*. The ending number, the Reading Difficulty Code, is used to estimate the reading difficulty of each book and is explained below at the end. The titles in bold are my strongest recommendations to read. Please remember that the genesis of this list was a high school World History course, so it is very light in American history.

Mortimer Adler, How To Read A Book A great book on reading, but more on the why rather than the how to read. Adler was one of the founders of the Great Books program that is still followed at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md. English 3

Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence The history of man by an expert observer. This one is long, not an easy read, but worth every page. It is not the first world history book you should read because it assumes a great deal of knowledge. However, as the second or third book read, it would be difficult to improve on it. History 3

John Berendt, The City of Fallen Angels Venice today, as observed by a great storyteller who lived there recently. If you get the chance, go to Venice! You will only regret it if you miss a chance to go. Memoir 1

Max Boot, War Made New: Technology, Warfare and the Course of History An interesting history of war from 1500 to today. Not as good as some of his other books, but well worth reading. Simply stated, technology changes things and sometimes it changes them in surprising ways. Learn from the past and be prepared. War, history 2

Dale Carnegie   How To Make Friends and Influence People   A life-changing, life-enhancing, book for many, many people. The first of many books on how to get along better with those around you, and it is still one of the best people to people advice books available. I re-read it regularly. People, relationships 1

Virginus Dabney  Virginia, The New Dominion The history of Virginia. A wonderful well-written book that covers the centuries. I liked this book so much I have read it several times. This is the way all history books should be written. History Virginia 2

Will & Ariel Durant  The Story of Civilization, 11 Volumes These books are an intellectual achievement of the first order. They treat history as the story of man, rather than one war after the other and in doing this they reveal a history that is both better and still improving as we live. Eleven volumes are a lot to ask, but one book a summer is a do-able deed that will repay itself time and again. Each volume counts as two books. If you take the time, you will be repaid with true wisdom, acquired in the least expensive way. That is, learn by reading about others making mistakes rather than by making all of them yourself. World History 3

Mark Heisler The Lives of Riley A biography of Coach Pat Riley of the Lakers and the Heat. Riley calls it coaching. I call it leadership, and really effective leadership practiced, on purpose, at a very high level. This is a very well written analysis of the Riley leadership system. Leadership is both a craft and an art. Anyone can learn a craft. Moreover, even the most gifted leaders will be incomplete if they too do not learn their craft first. Biography 1

John Keegan A History of Warfare, The same as Keegan’s other book listed below, but with more wars. Also a great book by the best living military historian. War 2

Mary McCarthy Venice Observed Venice by an observant, fascinating and very literate woman. Go to Venice. You will love it and you will see living history. A great look at the art and city of Venice. Memoir 2

David McCullough Brave Companions Several fascinating stories about truly remarkable people told by a master storyteller. History 1

Lynn Montross War Through the Ages The best one volume history of warfare in English. Easy to read. I really like this book, and I re-read it often. Out of print, hard to find, but worth it. Try various libraries. If you want to get an “A” in my course, you should read this book. No, you can’t borrow my copy. War 1

CP Snow Public Affairs Several essays by the late, great, C. P. Snow including Two Cultures. One of the most significant and ground-breaking essays of the 20th Century. I recommend it highly. Essays 1

William Strunk, Jr., E.B. White The Elements of Style This little book is essential to really learning all of the important rules of grammar and how to write real sentences. It is effective. Every one should have a copy. I re-read mine every year. It is that useful; it is that important. English 1

Sun Tzu The Art of War The original book on strategy. Like John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, and General Douglas MacArthur Sun Tzu also believed that the best way to win a war was to do it without a battle. Strangely such victories will not get you a reputation as a great captain. There must be blood for that. Strategy 3

Carl Von Clausewitz On War The classic book on military strategy in the grand style. It was also used very effectively by Col. Summers in his book, On Strategy, to dissect the Vietnam War. Both books are still studied at the National War College in Washington, D. C.. Strategy 3

Jared Diamond Guns, Germs and Steel The history of geography’s effect on the lives of humans. An engrossing, original book that will expand your understanding of the “why” of history. It is an analysis of the history of man using a multi-disciplinary approach creating a unique look at world history from a completely different perspective. History Geography 3

Anthony Everitt Cicero This man fought Julius Caesar, and continued to fight him even though he knew he could not win. Cicero was not a physically brave man, but he had a rare character that required him to be brave in defense of his beliefs, and so he was. It is a story of courage and commitment to the ideal of rule by the people rather than rule by a despot, however well intentioned, however efficient that despot may be. It is a story of true character, of courage and unfortunately, of bullheadedness. Biography 2

Martin Ewans Afghanistan, a Short History of it People and Politics Afghanistan sits athwart the legendary caravan routes between Europe and Asia. It has always been in the way. Only Alexander the Great truly conquered it. And, even he had to leave 10,000 of his best troops behind to garrison it and marry the fabled Roxanne daughter of a local chieftain. Alexander the Great knew his business as a conqueror, while it took him three years and more casualties than it had cost him to conqueror Persia, Afghanistan never revolted against Alexander while he lived. However, they have revolted again and again against every other conqueror and always successfully to this point. The Romans left bones there. The British left bones there. The Russians fought and lost there, and now the Americans continue to fight in those sun blasted or ice crusted mountains we call Afghanistan. This book tells the story of the place, a place of much importance to Americans today. History 1

Adrian Goldsworthy In the Name of Rome The story of the men that created the Roman Empire. From Scipio Africanus who combined apparent mysticism with an iron determination to Julius Caesar the aggressive, charismatic, aristocrat we meet them all. All of Rome’s greatest generals are examined and their victories explained in detail. Great book. Great story. History Rome1

Edith Hamilton The Roman Way Great story, wonderful writing. Also, very short! History 1

Edith Hamilton The Greek Way Great story, wonderful writing. Also, very short! History 1

Victor Davis Hanson Wars of the Ancient Greeks (Smithsonian History of Warfare) “Hanson, for those who somehow have missed him until now, is a professor of Classics at California State and also is a part time farmer, both of which have contributed to his writing as a military historian. As a classicist, Hanson is well versed in the sources in their original Greek, and as a farmer he understands how agriculture affected the experience of the Greeks at war. For it was the farmers of the early Greek polis who developed modern western warfare. Unlike other cultures, the Greek farmers couldn’t afford to support professional armies or hire mercenaries, and they couldn’t spend a great deal of time away from their farms campaigning. The Greek way of war was to gather up the militia, which comprised all the able bodied men of property who could afford the armor and equipment of a hoplite, march out to a convenient flat field to meet the men of the polis they were warring with, and in a matter of hours, get it over with in quick, brutal, decisive battle. Expounded at greater length in Hanson’s groundbreaking “The Western Way of War,”

Greek battle is covered well here, from its earliest heroic developments in the Bronze Age, through the classic Greek era of the democratic polis, the Persian and the Peloponnesian Wars, and finishing with Alexander. . . Important battles, including Marathon, Plataea, Delium and Gaugamela, are covered in depth.Anyone interested in the ancient Greeks owes it to themselves to read this and, if possible, “The Western Way of War.” It is utterly impossible to properly understand Hellenic culture without understanding how and why they fought. I recall with some hilarity the introduction to a book of poems by a well-known feminist writer who proclaimed that America must choose to be either Sparta or Athens, her obvious thesis being “Sparta – Warlike! Bad! Athens – Peaceful and Artistic! Good!” It’s not that simple. Sparta admittedly was fascist, but pretty much stayed at home oppressing the helots, while Athens became a predatory imperialist democracy, bringing tragedy on itself and the Greeks in the process. Sparta’s women had a great deal of freedom while Athens locked theirs away in women’s quarters of the home. It’s also significant to remember, as Hanson points out, that the great artists, writers, and philosophers were also warriors at need. It may be hard to imagine Socrates or Aeschylus in the bronze panoply of a hoplite, but it happened. and generally these men believed that their war records were their greatest contribution.  Ancient Greece 1

Victor Davis Hanson Carnage and Culture Landmark battles in the rise of Western power. This book explores the battle of Salamis, Cortes conquest of Mexico and the Tet ’68 Offensive. It is long but well worth the read. Hanson brings a fresh look at history and perceptive analysis of the landmark battles that shaped western history. Almost by himself Hanson has resurrected interest in ancient Greece. He was one of the first to tell the truth and expose the lies about the magnificent feat of arms that was the American and South Vietnamese victory called Tet’68. Very readable. War History Ancient Greece 1

Victor Davis Hanson A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War An original view of Greek history by an engaging writer. Also very readable. While very conservative politically himself, Mr. Hanson does not let that interfere with telling what actually happened when he writes history. He loves the subject too much to shortchange it by putting ideology before the historian’s obligation for truth. You will like this man’s history books whether or not you agree with his politics. War History Ancient Greece 1

David Potter Emperors of Rome It is a shame that so few academic histories are as well written as this book. Although it is difficult to encompass all of Imperial Rome in one volume, particularly in one with the many excellent illustrations, nonetheless Potter succeeds as well as any author ever has. Only at the already confusing end of the empire does the book falter. However, with the beginning and middle of the empire, and delightfully with the fascinating, but relatively unknown, Aetius at the end of the empire, Potter pulls it off magnificently. It is simply, a great read about remarkable people doing remarkable things for hundreds of years. While the book looks like a coffee table decoration, it reads like a novel. You get to know the characters that made, maintained and lost the greatest empire ever. You understand their motivations and their challenges: personal, institutional, and religious. After reading the book, you will surprise yourself when you encounter a situation in your own life and find you remember these circumstances, the solutions tried and found wanting by Rome, and most important what worked. It is in these explanations that Potter excels. It was not that Rome did not know how to continue as a great empire, her leaders chose not to continue the empire and the people of Rome let them. Potter explores this in detail, with marked lessons for our own time, leaders and people. Rome/statecraft small wars and great leaders 1

Stephen Tanner Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the War against the Taliban “While this book does not equal the breadth and fluidity achieved by Ahmed Rashid in “Descent Into Chaos,” it nevertheless manages to fully convey the difficulties army commanders from Alexander the Great to Gen. Petreaus have faced and will apparently continue to face in the country of Afghanistan. A sobering tale of seemingly eternal tribal warfare and trying to maintain the peace after a seemingly easy invasion. This book pretty much covers the whole military history of Afghanistan up to about 2007 and is well worth the read. Could do with more maps to help explain battles etc., but overall highly recommended.” (Amazon review) History 1

Peter Ackroyd The Life of Thomas More One of history’s original figures. A great and honorable man, a politician, a judge, a diplomat, an author still read, an honest lawyer and, a saint. Unusual don’t you think? Particularly the honest lawyer part. As a Saint of the Church and a great man of the world as well, Thomas More defined what it means to have character, and to live with integrity in an imperfect world. Biography 2

Hilaire Belloc How the Reformation Happened Hilaire Belloc is known as a “Catholic” historian, but that makes him neither inaccurate nor hard to read. This is possibly his most famous book and it answers from a Roman Catholic perspective how and why Catholic Christianity suffered the shipwreck called the Protestant Reformation. History of the Reformation 2

Mario Biagioli Galileo Courtier “In the court of the Medicis and the Vatican, Galileo fashioned both his career and his science to the demands of patronage and its complex systems of wealth, power, and prestige. In this fascinating cultural and social history of science, Biagioli argues that Galileo’s courtly role was integral to his science—the questions he chose to examine, his methods, even his conclusions.” (Amazon review) History the Church & science 2

Robert Bolt A Man For All Seasons This is the best play ever written about the struggle to maintain personal integrity and live in the real world. St. Thomas More was a true giant; Robert Bolt’s play is too. In addition, the language is simply beautiful. A play. You can do this one either by reading the play, or watching the excellant movie. I recommend the movie, since plays are intended to be watched, to be backed by stagecraft, and the interpretation of the actors. Of course, I read it as well. St Thomas More 1

C. K. Chesterton St. Thomas Aquinas St. Thomas Aquinas almost single-handedly recaptured Aristotle from the pagans, and made him a secular philosopher of note. C. K. Chesterton writes lucid prose with a philosopher’s touch. A converted Catholic, he has the convert’s zeal without arrogance. A wonderful read about one of history’s original thinkers and my, and the Roman Catholic Church’s, favorite philosopher. Biography 1

C. K. Chesterton St. Francis of Assisi This was one of the first if not the first book that Chesterton wrote after he converted to Roman Catholicism. It is well written and brilliant, and a good read for any age. He writes so well he makes the transcendent as understandable as the mundane and there was a lot of both in St. Francis of Assisi. Biography 1

Winston S. Churchill Marlborough: His Life and Times, Books One, & Two. (2) This was Winston Churchill’s famous forebear, John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough. John Churchill was the general that never lost a battle, nor failed to take a city that he had besieged, but nonetheless owed his position more to his wife’s friendship with Queen Anne than to his own excellent generalship. A romantic tale romantically told. At a thousand pages each these two volumes are a lot to ask, but John Churchill was an extraordinary man, probably even more extraordinary than his now much more famous descendant Winston L. S. Churchill. (The “S” in Winston S. Churchill’s name, by the way, stands for Spencer. He was directly related to the late Princess Diana Spencer Windsor.)(See also the review for The Battle for Europe below.) Biography leadership and politics 3

Judith Herrin The Formation of Christendom This very learned work examines the period between the 4th and 9th centuries in order to determine what made Europe’s history so different from that of the rest of the world. Challenging, but gracefully written. The late, lamented Father Louis at Bishop O’Connell HS recommended it highly, and I agree. History Europe 2

Christopher Hibbert The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall “ At its height Renaissance Florence was a center of enormous wealth, power and influence. A republican city-state funded by trade and banking, its often bloody political scene was dominated by rich mercantile families, the most famous of which were the Medici. This enthralling book charts the family’s huge influence on the political, economic and cultural history of Florence. Beginning in the early 1430s with the rise of the dynasty under the near-legendary Cosimo de Medici, it moves through their golden era as patrons of some of the most remarkable artists and architects of the Renaissance, to the era of the Medici Popes and Grand Dukes, Florence’s slide into decay and bankruptcy, and the end, in 1737, of the Medici line. Christopher Hibbert, an Oxford graduate, has written more than fifty books, including Wellington: A Personal History, London: The Biography of a City, Redcoats and Rebels, and The Destruction of Lord Raglan.” (Amazon review) Florence history 3

John Keegan The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme Battle studied and taught by the best living historian of the art. This is the book that made his reputation as a military historian. He also writes very readable prose. One of my favorites. War 2

Nicola Machiavelli The Prince Politics told by an expert. A Karl Rove wannabe in the age of the Borgias. Short and deceptively easy to read. There is a lot in this slender volume. Do not make the mistake of thinking this is a small book just because it contains relatively few pages. Essay 3

William Manchester Winston S. Churchill, 2 Volumes, (2) The greatest Prime Minister of England, ever. The best read on the subject. Churchill was one of the great statesmen, politicians, historians and adventurers of all time. I like him, you will too. Biography 1

James J. O’Donnell Augustine: A New Biography St. Augustine updated. I like Aquinas better, but both were brilliant servants of the Church. Biography 3

James Reston, Jr., Dogs of God From the author of Warriors of God. This covers the events of 1492, when Spain was throwing off the yoke of the Vatican and consolidating its control over its own land. A good writer tackles a difficult subject. History, Spain 3

James Reston, Jr., Warriors of God. The story of Saladin and Richard the Lionhearted. In fact, contrary to modern belief, Saladin was the chivalrous knight and Richard was the barbarian. Very well written and accurate. Reston does his research then he writes with verve and feeling. You will like this book if you have an once of romance in your soul. History, knightly chivalry, the Crusades. 2

Kirkpatrick Sale Christopher Columbus and the Conquest of Paradise The Fifteenth century is brought to life as the author tells the story of Columbus and his discovery of the new World. Columbus has been alternately venerated as a great discover and maligned as the despoiler of paradise. This book explores the man and the effects of his discovery dispassionately. History Spain, the New World. 3

Earl Charles Spencer Spencer Battle for Europe: How the Duke of Marlborough Masterminded the Defeat of the French at Blenheim. Having read Winston Churchill’s much longer life of Marlborough, it seemed to me that Mr. Spencer relied heavily on Churchill’s prior work. However, this may be unfair since both Spencer and Churchill meticulously mined and primarily relied on the private material at Blenheim Castle, and as long as both of them are honest and through, it would be more surprising if their tales differed, rather than the reverse. If you have been a very active general, and John Churchill was very active. If you have repeatedly fought the best generals and best armies of your time, and, John Churchill fought them all except his friend and fellow genius Prince Eugene of Savoy; and nonetheless, your biographer can still say that you never fought a battle that you did not win, nor besieged a town that you did not take, then you are indeed a Great Captain and leader of men. Churchill was this and much more. As the title indicates this is a retelling of the story of a great, complex and important battle. Blenheim was not just murder by the thousands. Like the Greatest Generation, Churchill, accomplished something, both military and political, and even more important long lasting with his victories–particularly with this victory. Unlike Alexander the Great whose empire immediately disintegrated upon his death, the political results achieved by Churchill’s military prowess survived his critics and, even, his incompetent, if not quite treasonous successors. In effect Churchill served England for generations, and ultimately provided the man, who would quite literally save England from her greatest, most powerful enemy–Hitler. To soundly defeat the greatest army of the age, led by competent, respected generals is always remarkable. However, since the purpose of war is political change, not victory per se, probably the greatest military victory ever, Hannibal’s victory over the Rome at Cannae is instructive regarding Churchill’s career. Cannae, although it is the classic battle of annihilation, had almost no effect other than to kill a lot of people. After the tragic loss, Rome reacted like it always had: it prayed to its gods, created a new army, and appointed a new general who decisively defeated their impertinent opponent. No one did that to Churchill, and in an age where men married for money or property, he married for love, and they remained in love as long as they lived. Romance and war in one true story—how can you be so lucky? Biography, Battle study 1

Irving Stone The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo “The Agony and the Ecstasy (1961) is a biographical novel of Michelangelo Buonarroti written by American author Irving Stone. Stone lived in Italy for years visiting many of the locations in Rome and Florence, worked in marble quarries, and apprenticed himself to a marble sculptor. A primary source for the novel is Michelangelo’s correspondence, all 495 letters of which Stone had translated from Italian by Charles Speroni, published in 1962 as I, Michelangelo, Sculptor. The Italian government lauded Stone with several honorary awards for his cultural achievements highlighting Italian history. Stone wrote a number of biographical novels but this one and Lust for Life about Vincent van Gogh are his most well known, in large part because both had major Hollywood film adaptations. Part of the novel was adapted to film in The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) starring Charlton Heston as Michelangelo and Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II celebrating the 500th anniversary of Michelangelo’s David, New American Library releases a special edition of Irving Stone’s classic biographical novel-in which both the artist and the man are brought to life in full. A masterpiece in its own right, this novel offers a compelling portrait of Michelangelo’s dangerous, impassioned loves, and the God-driven fury from which he wrested some of the greatest art the world has ever known.” Wikipedia Fictional biography 2

H.W. Brands The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin Benjamin Franklin wrote books, played seriously with lightening and charmed beautiful women well into his 80’s. This is a very readable book about a very interesting man. The quote of his that I like the best is: “The existence of wine proves that God loves us and wants us to have fun.” Franklin was perhaps the first, true citizen of the world. Biography 1

David Cecil, Lord Melbourne This was the late President John F. Kennedy’s favorite book. While it can be hard to find, it is an excellent read about an interesting, urbane, man and an interesting time to have lived. Melborne’s wife, Caroline Lamb, was a trip. It was she that said of her lover Lord Byron that: “He was mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” He gave a copy of the book to Jacqueline Bouvier before he asked her to marry him, in order that she might better understand what she was getting into and who he thought he was. Biography 1

Tim Pat Coogan Michael Collins: The Man Who Made Ireland, This book is about the man that literally created modern Ireland in a negotiation with Winston L. S. Churchill, after he had defeated the British Army as head of the IRA. It is a study of character and integrity as much as it is a story of the Irish people and their war for independence from England. Unfortunately Collin’s character cost him his life. He was murdered, ambushed, by ultras that did not approve of the price of peace. Good book. Fascinating, courageous man. Biography 3

Duff Cooper Talleyrand This venal man was important to both Napoleon and the Bourbon Kings. He is the type of man that could and would serve a Hitler as well as he would serve a Churchill. I do not understand him, but it is his kind that allows evil to exist in this world. Meet him, and learn to recognize danger. He may have been exactly what Hannah Arendt was talking about when she said that “evil is banal.” Biography 2

Bernard Cornwell The Sharpe Novels (24) The exploits of a superb British Infantry Officer in the Napoleonic wars. A rollicking good read, and highly accurate as well both of the times and of light infantry tactics and warfare generally. Spend a few days with some of the best light infantry soldiers ever. Of course, they were not airborne, so they can’t be the best, but they were very good, and the truth is the reason they were was that they had learned the importance of rapid accurate shooting from the Americans during our Revolutionary War. Great stuff. Historic Fiction 1

Kathleen Dalton Theodore Roosevelt, A Strenuous Life The life of a man that lived life to the fullest, and created much of modern America. While Franklin gets all of the press today, this is the greatest Roosevelt. Ms Dalton has many new insights to the man.This is the only biography of Theodore Roosevelt that I have read that was written by a woman and I have read over ten. How a man’s man like TR avoided this all of these years is a mystery. While the book itself is certainly well written much more important is that it has some very interesting insights into the character of an intriguing man. No one that is honest, and Ms. Dalton certainly appears such, could make Theodore Roosevelt’s life story boring, egocentric, certainly, prissy, occasionally, but boring, never. This is an interesting, well written book with many valid observations.Ms. Dalton succeeds in conveying a view of TR that other historians have missed, or glossed over, or never saw. I can’t tell if this is because of better scholarship, use of new or previously undiscovered sources, or simply because as a woman she was more sensitive to these issues than the other biographers that I have read. In any event it makes no difference since her insights do much to explain TR’s life. In the past biographers focused on what happened, and so much happened to TR in such a short time that they often missed explaining the why part of TR’s story. Ms. Dalton does this very well.Frankly I resisted buying this book because I had already read so many others about TR that I wondered how Ms. Dalton could have enough new to say to justify the time of reading another long biography of TR. She justified my investment in time very well. So, much so that when a new books comes out by Kathleen Dalton I will buy that too. Biography 1

Thomas Fleming The Illusion of Victory Like many of the recent crop of books about WW I this is more of an argument than a book of history. In that sense the book is well argued, but in the back of my mind as I read it, I wondered where the argument stopped and the facts began. As it is, it is a well-written, very interesting story of many of the military and political things that went wrong, and why they went wrong, before, during and after World War I. It is a wonder how Mr. Fleming could tolerate spending so much time with someone, Woodrow Wilson, that he obviously detested. The acceptance of the still troubling idea of a nation state for almost every little group that demands it can be traced directly to Wilson. Few ideas have caused as much misery as the principle of a right of self-determination for all peoples. Leaders as disparate as Ho Chi Minh and Eamon de Valera both heeded this call. One of the author’s points is that it is important to understand how bad things can get when there is little or no objective information available for a democracy at war. How are the decision makers, the voters, to know what is the right thing to do if they are being force-fed a constant torrent of lies. Propaganda, particularly the British propaganda, during World War I took on a life of its own that still influences even supposedly objective histories of the war today. According to the author, there are many victories that little deserve that name and many defeats that are still unknown. Read it; see if you agree. WWI, War, & anti-stupid 2

Amanda Foreman Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire The story of a truly interesting woman in a time when there were a lot of interesting women and when they were very important to the progress of civilization. Georgiana would have been an important woman in any age. A Holllywood movie was based on her life, The Duchess (2008), played by Keira Knightley. Biography 2

C. S. Forester Horatio Hornblower Series (11) This series will tell you a lot about Napoleon, Lord Nelson and others at this time. It was my favorite series for a number of years and he is still one of my favorite authors. Very accessible. I have read all eleven books several times. They are that good. Historic fiction, a novel 1

C. S. Forester The General A great storyteller looks at WW I and is appalled. A short book but a truly significant one. While it may be hard to understand, it is possible to be a professional, knowledgeable, conscientious, hard working and self-disciplined soldier, but nonetheless be an utter disaster as a general. Sadly, there were many of these incompetents in WW I, on both sides. I liked this book because it tells a true story through fiction. You will learn more about what went wrong in WW I from this slender volume than you will from many weighty tomes of history. Anti-war, or anti stupid. 1

Benjamin Franklin The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Many say that this is the best autobiography ever written. It is the story of the first real American in the sense that we use it today. At first, he was a reluctant American believing that loyalty to the British Crown was the wisest choice. The process by which he changed his mind is remarkable. Biography 2

Antonia Fraser Marie Antoinette: The Journey The life and death of Marie Antoinette. Great writing by a truly great historian about a truly misunderstood woman. Marie Antoinette was not the porcelain doll that many believe. She was in an impossible position—but at the end, when it really mattered, she went to her death with exquisite courage that should have shamed her murderers. History 3

Paul Fussell The Great War and Modern Memory, The Classic essay on the importance of WWI to our modern society. Important. It is a truly brilliant essay. You will find yourself saying: “Why didn’t I think of that?” on almost every other page. Memoir 2

Robert Graves Good-Bye to All That: An autobiography by one of the great writers of the 20th Century. He also lived a truly adventurous life. Auto-biography 2

Winston Groom A Storm In Flanders The story of part of WWI by the same man that wrote Forrest Gump. He was a historian first, and he still is. It is just that he writes like a novelist. This book is a wonderful read. History 1

Ernest Hemingway Farewell To Arms A great writer looks at WW I from the vantage point of a participant in that unbelievably bloody struggle. This is truth presented as fiction. Novel 1

Ronald Hoffman Princes of Ireland, Planters of Maryland: A Carroll Saga, 1500-1782, The story of Maryland well told. Maryland was Catholic; Virginia was high church Episcopal. The great families shared the Chesapeake Bay Basin. Then, the Chesapeake Bay was a highway, not an obstacle because everyone that mattered had a boat, and no one had a car. History 2

John Keegan The First World War A very readable book about a very important war by today’s most popular and most astute historian of warfare. A little British bias is a small price to pay for this level of analysis. This is a great wide-angle view of the war. History 1

Dumas Malone Jefferson, the President The best biography of the enigma of Thomas Jefferson. It comes in four volumes because Jefferson actually did a lot during his long life. Each volume counts as one book. Strangely, Jefferson, even including his ownership of slaves, is a hero of freedom and even stranger, he earned the title. Biography 3

Andrew Mango Ataturk Mustapha Kemal Attaturk, the founder of modern Turkey, a true democratic, secular, Islamic republic. It is the only one left. It is very important, particularly in today’s world to understand the profound differences in the Moslem world. Turkey will be important in your future. Biography Turkey 2

David McCullough Mornings on Horseback The early days of Theodore Roosevelt. Great read, great man. TR was fun to be around, and therefore reading about him is also a lot of fun. I really like Theodore Roosevelt; he never just existed—he lived. Biography 1

Patrick O’Brien The Aubrey-Maturin Novels. (21) A serious literary achievement, as well as a good look at the history of the Napoleonic wars. All 20 books in the series really amount to one continuous narrative story. Start with the first one and you will be glad. Historic Fiction 2

Erwin von Rommel Infantry Attack The story of Rommel’s World War I experience as an infantry commander on several fronts. He was brave; he was bold: he had initiative; and most of all he was one of the ultimate leaders of men in combat. Recently re-issued in both paperback and hardback by Barnes & Noble. The man knew warfare; after you read this book you will too. Auto-biography 2

Siegfried Sassoon Memoirs of an Infantry Officer A great poet, and young infantry lieutenant, both a war hero and a war protestor looks at a hard war—World War I. I really liked this book, but it would probably be better not to read it until you already have some knowledge of World War I. You will appreciate it that much more then. Memoir 2

Michael Shaara The Killer Angels: A Novel of the Civil War A book about battle and a man, Joshua Chamberlain, who was a real hero as well as useful in both war and peace. A great true war story, better told in fiction. Chamberlain and his men lived and delivered the spirit of the bayonet at Gettysburg. Doing it saved Little Round Top, the Union Army and the United States of America. Along the way it also won Chamberlain the Medal of Honor, and the right to accept Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. This is real, and probably the best book on battle that I have ever read. Historic fiction 1

A. J. P. Taylor Bismarck The man that first united the modern nation state of Germany. While he had no further territorial ambitions for Germany, the new Kaiser did and fired the old man. After a disastrous war, his former subordinate, and ultimate if short lived, successor Ludendorf fired the Kaiser and packed him off to exile in Belgium. Biography 1

Barbara Tuchman The Guns of August How WW I started told by one of the best historians ever. Some call this war “accidental,” find out why they are wrong. An important book that the late President John F. Kennedy read right before the Cuban Missile crises, and a good thing he did. You will understand why when you study the 1960’s. History 2

Janet Wallach Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia She was an Arabist, an adventurer and a good friend of both T.E. Lawrence and Winston L. S. Churchill. A female mover and shaker in a man’s world, she, Churchill and Lawrence basically created modern Iraq after World War I.  Although you could fairly blame the war, Iraq War II, on them, it would not be fair. “W” did that one all by himself. Biography 2

Dean Acheson Present At Creation The Cold War world before it became cold, as told by one of its smartest practitioners. Dean Acheson was the Secretary of State under President Harry Truman and formulated the successful Cold War policy that became known as “containment.” This policy, pursued by eight presidents, was the principal reason for the Viet Nam War and the reason the Berlin Wall went up, and then finally came down. Memoir 1

Stephen Ambrose Band Of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne From Normandy To Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest The Second World War through the eyes of an incomparable group of paras. If there was fighting, the 101st Airborne Division was there first and it was the last to leave. It was the first entire division awarded a Presidential Unit Citation; ultimately it earned two such honors in WW II. This is the Army’s equivalent of giving every man in the division a Distinguished Service Cross, the Army’s second highest award for valor—second only to the Medal of Honor—twice. This is a great book with great writing about a great group of regular guys that were also real heroes. Lieutenant, by the end of the war Major, Dick Winters was a man among men when that was a very dangerous thing to be. Airborne! History War Airborne 1

Jon Lee Anderson Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life Another of life’s truly original figures. A mystic, a doctor, a revolutionary leader, a philosopher of asymmetrical warfare with a one and two record (Cuba-win, Africa and Ecuador-loss) and a murderer. Strange. His continuing great personal popularity, almost throughout the world, is stranger still. His story is as significant as it is simply fascinating. Biography 2

David Arnold Gandhi A man of peace that set his country free from the greatest empire the world has ever known without a war. Interesting book. Even more interesting man. He raised non-violence to an art form and inspired the later work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in America. Biography, ethics, non-violence 2

Michael Asher Lawrence Lawrence of Arabia has fired the imagination of several generations of students. Lawrence always lived his life on his terms, and the world responded with awe. This biography is short, accessible and accurate. I recommend it. Biography 1

Paul Aussaresses The Battle for the Casbah This is the book on the use of torture for counter-terrorism. The French used torture extensively in Algeria and it got them information, and then a much bigger revolt that no amount of troops could contain. This dark reality was known but never admitted to until General Aussaresses published this honest, searing book. Torture is always squalid and almost always counterproductive. It can produce information, but only at a price too high to pay. Everyone forgets that while you can kill those you torture—what do you do for those that have done the torture for you? What do you do for them? How do you return what you have taken from them—their humanity? Who do they practice on, the Christians? How can they ever go home and answer this question? “What did you do in the war Daddy?” “Me? Why son I tortured people for the United States of America.” No one should ever say that. Torture, asymmetric warfare 1

Jerry Berry My Gift for You I guess I should say up front that I served in 3/506th Airborne Infantry and that Jerry Berry is my friend. Having said that, it means that I also know the truth of many of the stories related in the book, and they all happened. He also talks a bit about me in the book. If you are interested in the way people actually fought the Viet Nam War, if you are interested in the history of the greatest American combat division, the 101st Airborne Division, or if accurate descriptions of courage under fire are what you want to know about then, read this book. It will tell you this, and much more, in lucid, factually accurate prose. There are no axes ground in this book except that the valor of those that fought the war has often been overlooked in a search for more ammunition for more arguments about the war. The battle of Tet ’68 was one of the largest infantry battle ever fought by the U. S. military. There were both more troops engaged, over 1.5 million; vs. about 1.1 million in the Battle of the Bulge, another famous 101st Airborne battle, and Tet ‘68 lasted longer. We, the Unites States armed forces, particularly the Marines and the Army won both of those battles after taking some hard hits in the beginning. (I know there were no Marines at the Bulge, but there were a lot in Vietnam including my brother.) How many American know that we won the battle of Tet ’68? How many Americans know that there were more Marine causalities in Vietnam than in all of World War II? There is a real argument to make that the Vietnam War is America’s most talked about, but least understood war. While the book emphasizes the involvement of my unit,the 3/506th, in truth the stories told are very close to that of every infantryman in every war. The story shown at the end of the movie Full Metal Jacket is substantially the same as the story of the death of Private Andrew Daniel on February 2, 1968. Daniel was airborne, Full Metal Jacket dealt with the Marines. Both show war the way it really happens. This is the infantry at work, street fighting and it does not get any bloodier than that. Daniel, like Berry, was my friend. Vietnam 1

Alan Bullock Hitler, a Study in Tyranny, Hitler is evil, and evil is inexplicable. However, this book comes as close as you can to telling the story of a completely evil man that caused even more evil. Bullock is a masterful English biographer who is in full command of his subject. Biography Evil 1

Pat Conroy The Great Santini Growing up hard is always hard, but it may teach you how to write great fiction is one message in this book that several students have recommended as a book they really liked. I liked it too. Memoir 2

Allan Drury Advise and Consent A fictional account of a nomination battle in the United States Senate. Anyone that thinks Government is dull should read this account written by a lifetime newsman that knew where the bodies were buried, and why. It is fiction only because that is the only way the author could tell the truth about politics as it is practiced in Washington, D. C. Politics Fiction 1

Bernard Fall A Street Without Joy A classic on Vietnam, in this case the French experience in South East Asia. This is a marvelous book that tells the truth about what happened to the French in Indochina after WW II. I read it before I went to Vietnam, and again after I returned. I learned from it both times. What more can you say about a book. War Vietnam 2

Anne Frank The Diary of Anne Frank The story of the holocaust as told by one of the victims. A short, powerful and very important book that everyone should read. It is the saddest story that I have ever read–worse, it is true. Compelling and frightening at the same time. Never Again! It must not happen again. Auto-biography 1

Paul Fussell Thank God for the Atom Bomb This is an alternate view of the use of the atomic bomb in WW II. Its effects still produce heat, only in this case it is academic heat. Fussell, like millions of other WWII infantrymen, having just defeated the Italians and the Nazis were on ships on their way to invade Japan to end World War II. Therefore, he has a very personal view of the atomic bomb. I personally believe that dropping the atomic bombs saved millions of lives, particularly millions of Japanese lives that would have been lost in an invasion of Japan. There are others that have a differing view. Read and make up your own mind. Ethics in war 1

David Halberstam The Best and the Brightest Why Vietnam? Here is one view of the story. While this is not a view that I agree with, it is well argued, makes several good points and is accepted as correct by many otherwise intelligent people. War Vietnam 1

Mia Hamm Go For The Gold The first autobiography of Mia Hamm. She writes well about what it means to have character and integrity and still compete at the highest level. Auto-biography 1

Ernest Hemingway For Whom the Bell Tolls One of our greatest writers looks closely at the Spanish Civil War. One of my all time favorite books, and authors. This is war made real. Novel 1

Ernest Hemingway The Sun Also Rises The same great writer looks at the lingering effects of WW I. These linger, even today. Great, intelligent book but read something about World War I first. Novel 2

John Hersey Hiroshima The atomic bomb from the view of the recipient. Horrific, yes—necessary? You decide. . . However, before you decide you may also want to read Thank God For The Atom Bomb by Paul Fussell. Fussell and several million other American soldiers were on their way to the Pacific after having fought all through the European Campaign to finish the war against Japan when the bomb made that trip unnecessary. An invasion would have created far more casualties for both sides. About a quarter of a million Americans were already dead and the Joint Chief’s estimate was one million more American casualties to subdue Japan through invasion. What is your ethical judgment and why. Ethics in war 1

Alistair Horne A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 The history of the French-Algerian War. An important book, particularly today. It was out of print and selling on e-bay for more than $250.00 a copy before the publisher reissued it recently as a paperback. It is that important; Horne is that good as a historian. Read it and learn how many mistakes “W” et. al., made during Iraq II. Asymmetrical warfare. 2

Sebastian Junger War Sebastian Junger of Perfect Storm fame tackles our current adventure in Afghanistan. For 15 months Junger and a cameraman were embedded with a single platoon in eastern Afghanistan. They lived with them, patrolled with them, hid from bullets with them and tried to understand both them and the idea of war. Junger can write and this writing about war, firefights and the military, has the ring of truth. He and a photographer that accompanied him also created a movie, Restrepo, that is available on Amazon. Together they are two looks at the same thing. Afghanistan War 1

Robert F. Kennedy Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis The story of the closest we ever came to nuclear war as told by one of the most important participants. And, we came very close; but for John F. Kennedy, there very probably would have been a nuclear exchange. Another way of saying that is; the end of the world as we know it. You would probably not be here—literally. That is why we say politics is important. It can in truth, kill you, kill everyone you love—and everybody else on this planet. Either you are involved in politics, or you are not a member of America’s ruling class. America 1

Robin Bruce Lockhart Reilly, Ace of Spies The real man, the real British spy, whose exploits inspired the James Bond books by Ian Fleming. The stories are incredible, even more incredible is that most of them are true. While it does not end well for Reilly, he was a man among men, really dangerous men, for a long time. Biography, Spies 1

William Manchester American Caesar The remarkable stories of Douglas MacArthur. He earned five stars and lived at least four great stories – three wars and the creation of modern, democratic, Japan. A wonderful, important book about a great and flawed man. This biography puts MacArthur, warts and all in proper perspective. A vain, difficult, fascinating man, and a genius at battle. Of all the American commanders in WW I, WW II and Korea, Douglas MacArthur was by far the most effective at the least cost of American life. He knew how to fight hard, and he knew how to win without fighting at all which is Sun Tzu’s definition of a truly great commander of men. One of the best, most enlightening, biographies that I have ever read. Biography 1

Caroline Moorhead Gelhorn The life of an extraordinary woman, Martha Gelhorn. Writer, war correspondent and wife of Ernest Hemingway among others. A romantic, independent woman of marvelous, diverse interests, you will find her life as multi-faceted as it is engrossing. This is adventure on a grand scale. She proved that a woman if she was determined, could live her life her way, even in a man’s world, even with a man’s man as her husband, or lover. I would love to have met her. Biography 2

Stephen B. Oates Let the Trumpet Sound: Life of Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s biography. An important man who is still looking for his biographer. In the meantime this is an excellent effort. Biography 2

Thomas E. Ricks Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq A look at Iraq War II. An indictment of the utter, probably criminal, incompetence of the George W. Bush administration’s war in Iraq. The Bush II administration’s lack of candor, competence and compassion for our own soldiers was on a scale that is almost incomprehensible, but unfortunately is true. This was the first time we ever attacked a country that had not attacked us first. This was the first time we went to war because of a mistake. There were no WMDs. “Opps.” This was the first time we attacked the wrong country. This was the first time we lost almost 20 times as many men after the President had declared “Mission Accomplished” as we had during the “war.” If you have come to believe that I think that the George W. Bush administration was an utter disaster for America—you are entirely correct. War & Anti-stupid 1

Arthur M Schlesinger, Jr. Robert Kennedy and His Times The best biography of Robert F. Kennedy. Perhaps the best political biography in English. Robert F. Kennedy was a man of strong character, with the capacity to change. He could also be difficult, but ultimately it was his compassion and ability to understand the plight of others that defined him as a man–that and an almost reflexive personal courage. Biography Politics

Neil Sheehan A Bright Shining Lie, John Paul Vann and America in Viet Nam Another book about Vietnam that I do not agree with. Why? Because the book makes many points that I do agree are accurate reflections of either the war or its effects. However, it also represents a historically acceptable view at this time of the Vietnam War and most important it is well written. Just because I do not agree with something does not mean that it is wrong. Although it is a very good indication of that as far as I am concerned. Nonetheless, it is a good, well written, well argued, and important book–even though its central conclusions are entirely wrong. See what you think. The reason for the numerous Vietnam books on this list is not just because I served there. It was an asymmetrical war, war today is more likely to be asymmetrical . It is a war about which there is still a lot of controversy. It is also a war that people use to “prove” various ideas to be truisms. Sometimes they are correct, sometimes they are not. You need to be knowledgeable to make an informed decision. Vietnam 2

William L. Shirer The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich The how and the why of Hitler. Shirer told the whole, horrific story early, and since then, no one has told it better. Long, but highly readable, Hitler was many things besides evil—but never boring. “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” This quote may, or more likely may not, be a quote from Edmund Burke—but it is nonetheless true, and it happened in Germany in the 1930’s. Read this absorbing book and find out how. Germany 2

E. B. Sledge With the Old Breed: at Peleliu and Okinawa WW II in the Pacific with the Marines on the ground. One of the greatest “I was there” war books ever. If you ever think you have had a bad day, read any chapter in this book and see if you do not change your mind. Speaking both Biblically and accurately: “War is Hell.” War 1

Theodore C. Sorensen Kennedy A biography of John F. Kennedy by the man that wrote his speeches. It is as beautifully written as the speeches, and the man was on the inside of a lot that happened during a difficult, yet exciting time for our country. It is the Kennedy biography I like the best. Honest writing. Biography 1

John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath A great American writer looks at the Great Depression. Not my favorite Steinbeck book, but a good one. My personal favorites are Tortilla Flat, Travels with Charley, or Cannery Row. Probably Steinbeck’s most relevant book to our materialistic age is The Winter of Our Discontent. I really liked it when I was in high school. Introduce yourself to the Joad family, or any of these books. America 2

Patrick Symmes Chasing Che It is a travel book more in the spirit of Steinbeck’s Travels With Charlie than it is with In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin. It is a ramble, through southern South America, along the journey made by Che before he was “Che” and through the mind of Symmes. All three are interesting places to go. I guess my one surprise was the amount of trouble that he had with his BMW motorcycle. The insights into the historical person Che became later are there, sort of sprinkled through the book as is a good look at the youth. He is not an adulator and he neither hides nor dwells on the dark side of being a committed revolutionary. Of course, Che was not yet committed at least when he started this journey. A warrior doctor along with the idea of a warrior priest has always seemed to be an oxymoron to me. The creation of exactly that which you have trained, at great cost, to fight must require conviction of a special kind. That Che was committed there can be no doubt – but why to this life course remains elusive for me. He was sensitive man, and a murderer, a doctor and a soldier, a revolutionary and a mystic. Like Thomas Jefferson’s utterly inexplicable slave holdings, these realities are also the reasons he still fascinates me. I like the book. I think I would like the author and I recommend it as an interesting look at a difficult man and a romantic journey that I and perhaps you would have liked to have joined, and may still enjoy in spirit. Biography 1

Evan Thomas Robert Kennedy, His Life Evan Thomas tried to write history, but we are left with long journalism. Like any newspaper it is well written, the sentences short, the topic sentences placed first and all of the commas properly in place. The history is there. The drama is there. The “good Bobby” and the “bad Bobby” are there, but judgment and insight are missing. Also, Thomas uses Robert Kennedy as a vehicle to tell the story of the late 60s. Without any evidence I simply will not believe that the man John F. Kennedy called a “monk” and for much of his life did not like socializing with because he was a moralizer, also cheated on his wife and assisted his brother in doing the same to his wife. There is no explanation, and most important no evidence of any such transgressions by Robert Kennedy. In the absence of any evidence these stories become rumors, and while there may be a place for them in a magazine like People, they have no place in a serious biography. Yes, Robert Kennedy could engage in incredibly boorish, childish, behavior. But, he was also able to go into the streets, the mean dangerous streets, after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was murdered and quiet those streets with a quote from memory written by a long dead Greek poet. The trip to the ghetto took courage. The recognition of the need for the trip and the speech took compassion. And, the quote he used illustrated enlightenment under great pressure. Robert Kennedy was a man well worth spending time with. Contrast Thomas’s view with Schlesinger’s biography mentioned above and make up your own mind. Biography 1

Barbara Tuchman Stilwell and the American Experience in China Biography of a great, underappreciated American general that lost several battles in the beginning of WWII, figured out why, and then began to beat the Japanese in the jungle at their own game. However, almost as soon as he began to win, he was fired. Find out why being really good at your job was not enough this time. Biography 2

George Weigel Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II, John Paul II. There will be better biographies of this man and pope, but this was a great man in our time. Biography Church 3

Theodore H. White The Making of the President, 1960 The story of how to run a successful presidential campaign. An original. A classic. If you are at all interested in politics, then you must read this book. This is the best book on politics as it is actually practiced in this country ever written. It is the real thing. It is also well written and a romantically told story of America. It will also show you how much America has changed. American Politics 1

Elie Wiesel Night The classic story of the Holocaust told by a victim that lived, remembered and has stood witness ever since. It was difficult for me to read more for the content than for the writing, which is first rate, Evil 3

Juan Williams Thurgood Marshall American Revolutionary The story of the man that created and then enforced the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream. You needed both King to provide the voice and Marshall to provide the legal muscle to create the civil rights revolution of the 60’s. Biography 1

Bob Woodward Bush at War (3) Any of the three books by this author about the current war in Iraq is a good choice. Personally, I prefer the first, and the last books in the series. Journalism as history 1

Desmond Young Rommel, the Desert Fox A biography of German General Erwin von Rommel written by a man Rommel personally captured during World War II in North Africa. The world’s greatest tank commander started in WWI as an infantry officer. Well written. Absorbing. Important. Recognized as an honorable man and superb warrior even by his enemies it was inevitable that Rommel was implicated in the plot against Hitler; he was forced to take poison in order to save his family from Hitler’s wrath. You should read Rommel’s own book about his gripping experiences in WW I as well. Rommel won Germany’s highest award for valor in both wars. This book is great history, but most of all it is simply a great read about an extraordinary man. Biography 1

Chris Mathews Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero This book brilliantly fulfills its author’s promise to tell us what the late John Fitzgerald Kennedy was like–as a child, as a man and as a husband. Chris Matthews’ book is not intended to be a full-scale biography; rather it is devoted to exploring the human being named Jack Kennedy. It very capably succeeds in its mission. As such, this book is not strictly about what John Kennedy did. It is about who he was.

However, the book could have benefited from considerably more rigorous editing, particularly in the later portions of the book. Another reviewer has already noted that Mr. Matthews incorrectly states that Robert Kennedy’s middle name was “Fitzgerald” instead of “Francis.” In addition, Matthews states, as JFK himself did, that the phrase “Victory has a hundred fathers; defeat is an orphan.” was a quote although no one has ever been able to find the original statement. He has “fighters” rather than B-29 bombers dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He misses that General Creighton Abrams was in charge of the troops that put James Meredith into Ole Miss, and that the purpose of Operation Mongoose was not to “topple” Fidel Castro, rather it was to kill him.

These errors are disquieting, but the writing is so fluid and the conclusions are so perceptive as the author illuminates the man that was Kennedy that the book approaches closer to that elusive man than any other author has. Since Kennedy has had many biographers that have grappled with his numerous contradictions: loving, adulterous, family man, religious-sinner, and most of all what was it that made his often self-centered company so attractive to so many. Matthews answers more of these fascinating questions than any other biographer has so far.

Eric Frank Russell   Wasp   This book is a classic in the sense that it is timeless because the story it tells repeats itself constantly, but we never seem to learn. If you want to know how to disrupt a society, then this book is a text book. If you want to know how not to respond to such an attack, which is in many ways remarkably similar to that that took place in New York City on 9/11/01, then this is your book.

The idea of such warfare is to provoke a disproportionate reaction, wildly disproportionate if at all possible.  It is also a very fun read. Great book. Very perceptive.  This book is short, but nonetheless explains the theory and practice of insurgent warfare perfectly. It is a crime that it is out of print. If George W. Bush had read it, Osama Bin Laden would have had a much shorter life and thousands of American soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen would still be alive. It makes the complex simple and understandable is the way only fiction can. War 1

John Harrison  Steel Rain, the Tet Offensive  This is the continuing story of the 101st Airborne Division’s “Band of Brothers” in Vietnam, including the Tet Offensive of 1968. My new book, Steel Rain, the Tet Offensive is available on Amazon both as a paperback and on Kindle. While in Vietnam we met “rock apes”, tigers, elephants, snakes, peacocks and many other animals, great and small, in the wild, often with deadly results for the animals. However, other than snakes, the Army mentioned none of them in training. We trained mostly for combat patrols in the jungle, but fought mostly in pitched battles in cities, towns and villages. This is the story of the bloodiest, most misunderstood, year of the Vietnam War.

During the Vietnam War I enlisted in the Army as a private. Later I was commissioned as an Infantry Lieutenant upon completion of Officer Candidate School at 20 years old. I was assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 506th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. Initially I was the Executive Officer, later I assumed additional duty of Rifle Platoon Leader. While in Vietnam I served as a Rifle Platoon Leader, Executive Officer and Rifle Company Commander, including combat operations incidental to the Tet ‘68 Offensive.

If you are interested in the true story of what happened in Vietnam, please give my book a look.

See:   Vietnam War, Memoir 1


❊     1 – Easiest to read, no preparation needed except a good chair,

2 – Either more difficult to read, or some preparation would be useful,

3 – Difficult to read and very difficult to fully appreciate without some preparation.


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