One of my pals asked me for a list of ten good books for possible Summer reading.
This is what I came up with for him.
Here are some recommendations. Not really a “top ten” but ten good ones that I have liked especially well that you may find interesting.
David Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One (Gen. Petraeus’s counterinsurgency advisor provides an overview of where we are now, how we got here, and what to do next. Half memoir, half primer, this is the best book on the current military conflicts the USA is engaged in. Highest possible recommendation. I am going to see him speak tonight.)
Robert Coram, Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (2004) (John Boyd was an eccentric genius who had a major impact on US military thinking, this is his story, and a case study of integrity in the face of social and professional pressure. If you like this, the book to drill down on Boyd’s thinking and theories is Frans P. B. Osinga, Science, Strategy, and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd.)
Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March (Novel. Written in the 1930s, set in the era just before World War I, the story of a family whose destiny was woven with the Habsburg monarchy, a love story about the love a father for his son, a topic not usually dealt with in fiction, and a portrait of a time which I have some nostalgia for.)
Gregor von Rezzori, The Snows of Yesteryear (Memoir. A companion in a way to Radetzky March. The story of the author’s family in the period before, during and after World War I, and the destruction of their world and way of life when the Austro-Hungarian Empire was destroyed. Again, a picture of a vanished world.)
Dwight D. Eisenhower, At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends (1967) (The retired president and five star general tells his best anecdotes from a remarkable lifetime. Again, an inside view of America when it was a big, poor, rural country, and of the Army when it was small, underfunded and not ready for the demands of major war. A very different world. Eisenhower is a good companion and story teller.)
Dennis E. Showalter, Patton and Rommel: Men Of War In The Twentieth Century (A nicely done dual biography of two great warriors, in an era when “managers of violence” were replacing warriors, with many good personal and historical insights.)
Ulysses S Grant, Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S Grant (A plain-spoken man tells how he rose to the top, and beat everything that life and the Confederacy could throw at him, all told without a lot of excess verbiage. If you want to know more about Grant, the biography by Jean Edward Smith is my favorite, and shows him to have been a better president than he is given credit for, which I agree with.)
Theodore Roosevelt, The Rough Riders (I know you are a TR fan. I read this recently. If you have not, you should. Not a dull page in it. A remarkably blunt depiction of the war.)
Winston Churchill, My Early Life (Sometimes titled “A Roving Commission”, this is Churchill’s story of his early life, which was
full of adventure and danger. Generally considered his best book. If you cannot get enough early Churchill, I also recommend The River War: An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan. He was in the campaign, and his history of it is very vivid and oddly relevant given our current engagement with Muslim fanatics.)
David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride. (One of my all time favorites. Shows how the early revolutionaries in Boston got the Revolution going. A strong feeling of “you are there” comes across in the book. It is fair and even-handed to all participants in the opening hours and days of the conflict. Highly recommended. If you like it, almost as good is Washington’s Crossing, about the Battle of Trenton.)
I could go on, but I will add only one more thing. Alan Macfarlane wrote a two volume work on the origins of the Modern World, using major writers as his jumping off points for his discussion (Montesquieu, Smith, Tocqueville, Maitland, Fukuzowa and Malthus). I did not about Maitland or Fukuzowa before reading Macfarlane, but I was grateful to make their acquaintance. He has revised the two volume work, adding a section on Malthus, and made them available as six PDF file “e-books”, for free, here. So, you get something positively brilliant for the price of paper and toner. They should be
read in the order listed above.
I suggest printing out Montesquieu, and if you like it, they are all available.
This is enough to keep you busy at least until New Year’s Eve, I think.
Different people would get different lists.