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Books That Every Junior Officer Should Read


“A properly schooled officer never arrives on a battlefield for the first time, even if he has never actually trod the ground, if that officer has read wisely to acquire the wisdom of those who have experienced war in times past.”

By: Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, USMC (ret)


Williamson Murray and Richard H. Sinnreich, eds., The Past as Prologue (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Roger Nye, The Challenge of Command: Reading for Military Excellence (Wayne, New Jersey: Avery Publishing Company, 1986)

 John E. Jessup, Jr. and Robert W. Coakley, A Guide to the Study and Use of Military History (Washington, DC: United States Army, Center of Military History, 1979)


S.L.A. Marshall, Men Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command in Future War (Gloucester, Massachusetts, 1978)

John Keegan, The Face of Battle (New York: The Viking Press, 1976)

Charles B. Mac Donald, Company Commander (New York: Bantam Books, 1947)

Paddy Griffith, Forward Into Battle: Fighting Tactics from Waterloo to the Near Future (Novato, California: Presidio Press, 1981)

T.R. Fehrenbach, This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness (New York, The MacMillan Company, 1963)

 Operational Art

 Michael D. Krause and R. Cody Phillips, eds., Historical Perspectives of the Operational Art (Washington, DC: United States Army, Center of Military History, 2005)

Richard W. Harrison’s The Russian Way of War: Operational Art, 1904-1940 (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2001)


Beatrice Heuser, The Evolution of Strategy: Thinking from Antiquity to the Present (Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2010)

Colin S. Gray, Fighting Talk: Forty Maxims on War Peace and Strategy (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Security International, 2007)

Williamson Murray, Richard Hart Sinnreich, and James Lacey, The Shaping of Grand Strategy: Policy, Diplomacy, and War (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011)

Decision Making

Martin Van Creveld, Command in War (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1985)

John Keegan, The Mask of Command (New York: Elisabeth Sifton Books, 1987)

Gary Klein, Sources of Power (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1998).

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011).

[Daniel Kahneman and Gary Klein, “Conditions for Intuitive Expertise: A Failure to Disagree,” American Psychologists, September 2009, 515-526. This journal article explains the similarities and Differences of the authors of the two books above.]

 Understanding the World

 Robert Jervis, System Effects: Complexity in Political and Social Life (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1997).


John I. Alger, The Quest for Victory (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1982)

Frans Osinga, Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd (The Netherlands: Eburon Academic Publishers, 2005).

Antulio J. Echevarria, II, Clausewitz and Contemporary War (Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2007)

 Future War

 Colin S. Gray, Another Bloody Century: Future Warfare. (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005).

Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper currently holds the Kim T. Adamson Chair of Insurgency and Terrorism at Marine Corps University. Lieutenant General Van Riper retired from the United States Marine Corps on 1 October 1997 after more than 41 years of commissioned and enlisted service. In the course of seven tours in the Fleet Marine Force, he saw duty in each of the three active divisions, commanding at every level from infantry platoon to division. He experienced combat during five of these tours.

12 thoughts on “Books That Every Junior Officer Should Read”

  1. Best list I’ve seen. Very intellectual material. Perhaps one or two less strategy books for the junior officer and one book on ethics or the moral dimension. But I cant think of the best example.

  2. Thank you. Did repost list.
       Unfortunately, almost nothing has been translated into Russian. Only trying to improve your English.
    Such a keen sense of disappointment I experienced only once, when translated Swinton. Got it how hard it is to understand and convey to the reader the syllable intelligent and superior man.

  3. I will add “The Patton Mind” a survey of Gen George S. Patton’s personal professional library and how he digested them. His notions of note taking while reading revolutionized my own program. Because of my extensive note taking within the books, indexing and cross-referencing, when I was required to write my tactics papers in CGSC, they were largely already written and resourced. All I had to do was pull down the books and start typing.

  4. Very solid list, and a good distillation of of what can easily expand to a list the size of GEN Mattis’ (with its many excellent selections.

    Perhaps as important as the list itself is the manner in which these books are engaged. I suggest that most of these books deliver the greatest benefit when they are subject to peer discussion and guided by a knowledgable mentor.

  5. I would add “Beyond Band of Brothers” as a Junior Officer’s (Dickinson Winters) perspective of leadership and war.

  6. Besides “Thinking Fast and Slow” where’s the diversity’ where’s the creativity? This is the same stuff they told us to read 30 years ago and while good, the modern battlefield and the asymmetric way we now fight is much different. The internet of things exists now. Drones. Smart phones. We need young leaders with entrepreneurial spirits and disruptive technology smarts. If you want more of the same you backing up and will get behind. Any you got only old white men writings no women or other minority’s so you are getting other perspectives other than your own.


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