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2014: Reflecting on Books


Last year, I wrote a post in which I highlighted the books I read in 2013; I really enjoyed reflecting on those titles and the insights gained from them, which is why I did it again this year. In addition to preparing me for the academic rigors of the Naval War College, professional reading has helped to broaden my perspectives and hone my judgment as a military leader. I learned ALOT this year from the books on this list, and hope that in writing this post you find a book or two that interests you. If you have any recommendations for me or comments on any of the titles, please add them to comments section below!


Top 5 of 2014

1.) Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek


Simon Sinek’s book made me reflect on the “why” behind my actions as a husband and father, my continued service to the nation, my writing endeavors, and all the other “side projects” I do.  Start with Why has forced me to put my goals into perspective and has helped to shape my outlook on my military career and professional future.  Before we look at how we lead, which is what many of us do, I think it’s more important to understand why we lead in the first place.

2.) Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer


This book brought the early years of the American Revolution to life for me and highlighted the Clausewitzean Trinity of passions, rationality, and chance in this conflict.  This book delves heavily into the leadership of George Washington, offering a lot of great lessons for military leaders at all levels.

3.) Clausewitz and the State: The Man, His Theories, and His Times


After reading On War, I wanted to learn more about the context in which Clausewitz wrote as well as his background.  After finishing this book, I saw Carl von Clausewitz as a relatable military professional who spent his entire life struggling to understand war after experiencing it as such an early age.  His “why” for writing On War will be evident to anyone who reads this book.  One of my favorite quotes of Dead Carl comes out of Clausewitz and the State: “Had I enjoyed the good fortune of continuing to instruct you I should not have tried to burden you with my art of war-but by developing my views would have hoped to awaken yours: you would rise above me and learn to judge me..”

4.) Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath


Even though change is constant in the military, I feel that we fumble the ball more often than we should.  This book provides some great insights for leaders when instituting organizational change from the tactical level all the way to up to DoD.  This book inspired a post I wrote on Mission Command: Finding the Path Towards Mission Command: An Exericse

5.) Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education by Will Richardson

and Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson



Personal Learning Networks coupled with Smarter than You Think has made me rethink how we educate leaders in the military profession.  This book inspired one of my earlier posts this year: The Power of Our Connections

Below are all the books from 2014:

War, Strategy, and Operational Art:

Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer

Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor

Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century by P.W. Singer

Clausewitz and the State: The Man, His Theories, and His Times

Grant: Memoirs and Selected Letters by Ulysses S. Grant

War, Strategy, and Military Effectiveness by Williamson Murray

Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age by Peter Paret

Strategy: A History by Lawrence Freedman

Clausewitz and Contemporary War by Antulio J. Echevarria III

Cyber Security and Cyberwar by P.W. Singer

In Pharaoh’s Army: Memories of the Lost War by Tobias Wolff


Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box by Arbinger Institute

The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Rights Things Done by Peter Drucker

Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi

Thinking in Time by Richard E. Neustadt

Adaptation and Innovation:

The Roots of Blitzkrieg: Hans Von Seekt and German Military Reform by James S. Corum

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom Kelley

The Chaos Imperative: How Chance and Disruption Increase Innovation, Effectiveness, and Success by Ori Brafman

Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights by Gary Klein

Religion and Philosophy:

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

The Misunderstood God: The Lies Religion Tells About God by Darin Hufford


Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better

Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education by Will Richardson


God Knows By Joseph Heller

Random Curiosity:

Plagues and Peoples by William H. McNeill

Currently Reading:

The Accidental Admiral: A Sailor Takes Command at Nato by James G. Stavridis

War, Peace, and International Relations: An Introduction to Strategic History by Colin S. Gray

Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias: The Warriors of Contemporary Combat by Richard Shultz and Andrea Dew

 Defeat into Victory: Battling Japan in Burma and India, 1942-1945 by Viscount William Slim


6 thoughts on “2014: Reflecting on Books”

  1. Joe, thanks for sharing. Impressive – especially given you have a day job. for the long term, would suggest more fiction (science fiction – not fantasy) and more works that “seemingly” have little to do with the military: biology (Michio Kaku – The Future of the Mind), ethnography, astronomy/physics (Steven Hawkings is great), farming, whatever. You’ll find as you go forward that the problems you confront and the things you are asked to do require an education and understanding that is more broad than deep, Thanks for sharing your thoughts from the Green Notebook. I learn something each time I log on. JKG

    • Sir, thanks for your feedback. On reading fiction, Adm (ret) Stavridis recently visited the War College and recommended a few books. I’ve added Ghost Fleet by P.W. Singer and The Circle by Dave Eggers to my reading list for next year. Additionally, I still have several of your recommendations on my wish list. I will widen my reading aperture next year.

  2. Sir, I participated in the Grant’s memoirs reading program last year and really appreciated the experience. After reviewing your reading list, I saw you had Switch by Chip and Dan Heath listed. I read this back in 2012, and enjoyed it so much that it became “mandatory reading” for my lieutenants. I felt that the common jargon helped us understand the problems that our troop and our Soldiers were having, and make positive changes. Several of my fellow commanders at the time followed suit.

    Based on that book, I would suggest adding Decisive by the Heath brothers to your reading list. If you enjoyed Switch, I think you’ll enjoy Decisive as much or more. As I read through it, I found myriad parallels to our staffs and the MDMP. I found myself often highlighting parts of the book, considering how we could implement similar strategies into our decision making processes.

    • Chris,

      Thanks again for taking time out of your schedule to share your insights during the Summer with Grant! It was definitely a rewarding experience for me personally.

      Great book recommendation! You are the second person who has highly recommended Decisive by the Heath Brothers, which means I’ve got to add it to my wish list. I’m also glad that you took the time to have your lieutenants read; I think reading and discussion are the best ways (outside of hands-on experience) that leaders can prepare to meet future challenges. Thanks for posting!


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