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Reading List for a Serviceman

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A friend asked me to put together a reading list for her brother who is serving in Iraq, and I thought it would be a good idea to share. She tells me he’s interested in history and military subjects, so that’s obviously the focus.

I’ll start with The Face of Battle by John Keegan, the exceptional military historian and instructor at Sandhurst, which looks at three key battles: Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme from the individual’s point of view. Also recommended for a more strategic look is The First World War but in truth, it’s hard to go wrong with any of Keegan’s works.

John Waugh looks at a remarkable group of West Pointers in The Class of 1846 : From West Point to Appomattox: Stonewall Jackson, George McClellan, and Their Brothers. Twenty-two out of fifty-nine members of this class became generals in the Civil War.

Antony Beevor’s two books, Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege, 1942-1943 and The Fall of Berlin 1945 are complementary looks at the great turning point on the Eastern Front in World War II and the last weeks of the Nazi Regime as the Red Army inexorably ground towards Berlin.

Lastly for this group, I’d recommend James Dunnigan’s The Perfect Soldier: Special Operations, Commandos, and the Future of US Warfare which looks at the history of elite troops and their impact on war.

On a less martial note, it’s hard to go wrong with David McCullough, but I’d especially highlight his recent biography John Adams, an excellent reassessment of the second President of the United States, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and patriot from Massachusetts.

A less known Adams is William, but not because he lacks interest. (I have no idea if he and John are related, although I imagine it’s possible.) This was the first Englishman in Japan, fictionalized by James Clavell in Shogun, but a real person who lived one of the great adventures in history: Samurai William: The Englishman Who Opened the East by Giles Milton.

To take a more literary approach, there is the Aubrey-Maturin series of Patrick O’Brian. The great friendship between the Captain and the Doctor spans 21 books and some fifteen years (some we relive more than once) as they fight Napoleon, the War of 1812, Pashas, Beys, Maharajahs, Sultans, Latin American revolutionaries, natives, cannibals, and even worse. O’Brian writes of this lost world of the Royal Navy as if he had lived there himself. The first book is Master and Commander.

I recently finished Stephen King’s Bag of Bones which I enjoyed very much and include for variety. Classic King, with a compelling love story, incredible descriptions of the most ordinary things, and ghosts. Lots of ghosts.

Harry Turtledove has been called the “Master of Alternate History” and he does have a way of taking the tiniest event and changing the course of history with it. One such was changing the Union soldiers who found General Lee’s orders wrapped around three cigars prior to the Battle of Antietam to Confederate soldiers. Lee, not McClellan, wins the battle and the South wins the Civil War. It begins with How Few Remain but continues through seven more novels with two more planned. This world is too like our own for comfort.

Lastly, we can’t forget the greatest war story of all, The Iliad.

Written by martinipundit

March 31, 2005 at 12:44 pm

Posted in General, Iraq

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