Soldiers as Readers? Indeed.

You might not think of our men and women in uniform as “readers,” but you would be wrong. The army, navy, marines, air force, and coast guard all consider reading (and reading widely) as critical for career advancement. Courtesy of, a site dedicated to furthering reading and lifelong learning—especially for those who aspire to a career in the armed forces—you can peruse the list of each branch’s recommended reading.

I think you’ll be surprised at the range of topics. The list of over 350 books includes the usual suspects, such as Sun Tzu’s classic, The Art of War, as well as some curiously titled works such as The Accidental Admiral(Zelhan) and Make Your Bed (McRaven). 

Biographies of military leaders pepper the list from George Washington to William Tecumseh Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, the admirals of World War II (Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King), aviators like Rickenbacker, Doolittle, and Lindbergh, and army brass George C. Marshall. The lists also delve into world history, from ancient times to the revolutionary war through the civil war, world wars one and two, Vietnam, Korea, the gulf wars, and the next world war.

Authors Robert Citino, James Hornfischer, John Keegan, and James G. Stavridis appear four times on lists, more than any others. Rick Atkinson, Robert D. Kaplan, James B. Stockdale, and Ian W. Toll appear three times. 

Four works of nonfiction (A World in Disarray, by Richard. Haas, Strategy: A History, by Lawrence Freedman, The Landmark Thucydides, by R. Strassler, and Team of Teams by Stanley McChrystal) share the distinction of appearing on the army, navy, and marine lists. One of the novels on the lists, Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War by P. W. Singer and August Cole is the only fictional work that can claim that same honor. 

Reviews claim Ghost Fleet is the 21st century heir to Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising and similar books on the next, or third, world war. The book, published in 2015, is perhaps prescient in exploring the rising hostilities between China and the United States that escalate into the next global war. Touted as a page turner, both thrilling and terrifying and told by people who know what they are talking about, I have to add it to my to-be-read list. 

A few of my favorite books also make an appearance on the list. They include, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, We Were Soldiers Once and Young by Harold G. Moore, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.

See if your favorites are on the lists or find a book you’d like to explore. View the individual lists at or on Goodreads’ DODReads group where you join the group and compare the consolidated military reading lists.

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