August 2020

August Reading List

This is the tenth installment from my monthly reading list series.  If you are just discovering these lists for the first time and want to explore past selections, scroll through the blog section to see each month.  For those new to the Team, each month I highlight six books; some are from the professional reading list I was asked to put together for the Naval Special Warfare Center before I retired from the SEAL Teams and others are books I have enjoyed at various stages of my life not directly associated with my time in the military. Interested in the “how” and “why” behind the books that influenced me?  This blog is for you!  You might find one that resonates.  Happy reading!

August reading list:

  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett
  • Supreme Command by Eliot A. Cohen
  • In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien
  • The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva

There is nothing I like more than discussing books and reading.  I look forward to sharing my thoughts!


To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

Harper Lee’s 1960 masterpiece of American literature should occupy an honored position on all of our bookshelves.  I first read it in 8th grade and was enamored with it from the start.  I remember thinking that I couldn’t believe I had not read it earlier (in 6th or 7th grade). It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1961 and was adapted into an Academy Award winning film starring Gregory Peck in 1962. Remembering my reactions to both the book and movie leaves me emotional even today.  Told through the eyes of Scout, one of the enduring passages from the novel holds lessons for us all: “Atticus was right.  One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.”  People have been trying to ban To Kill A Mockingbird since it was published, most recently in Virginia in 2016, in Mississippi in 2017, and in Minnesota in 2018. Will today’s cancel culture try again?  I suspect so.  When President George W. Bush awarded Harper Lee with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 5, 2007 he said, “One reason To Kill a Mockingbird succeeded is the wise and kind heart of the author, which comes through on every page. To Kill a Mockingbird has influenced the character of our country for the better. It’s been a gift to the entire world. As a model of good writing and humane sensibility, this book will be read and studied forever.”

Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett 

Eye of the Needle is one of those books I often reference that I saw my parents reading in the late 70s.  Enthralled with the title and cover, it sat on one of the shelves in our cabin for years before I was old enough to take it down and read it. I knew it was about a German spy in World War II working his way across England with a secret that could change the course of history.  Eye of the Needle has sold more than 10-million copies. Ken Follett has written over forty novels selling over 160-million copies.  For aspiring authors, Ken Follett’s website is full of advice and wisdom from one of the most successful novelists of our time.

Supreme Command by Eliot A. Cohen

For those who believe that the job of the politician is to give military leadership guidance and then get out of their way, READ THIS BOOK.  If you are a politician who believes that your job is simply to authorize the military to go to war, READ THIS BOOK.  If you are a citizen who thinks military leaders are infallible, more often than not hamstrung by politicians who “will not let them win,” READ THIS BOOK.   As Georges Clemenceau famously said, “War is too important to be left to the generals.”  This was one of the books on the professional reading list I put together for the SEAL Teams before leaving active duty.  This book pairs well with Dereliction of Duty by H.R. McMaster which was a selection on February’s reading list and a book titled The Generals by Tom Ricks which is on an upcoming list.  One of the lines that stuck with me from this study on the soldier and the statesman is one from David Ben-Gurion who wrote, “The most dangerous enemy to Israel’s security is the intellectual inertia of those who are responsible for security.”  That is NOT only true of Israel. I have A LOT to say about this topic…stay tuned for my soon to be launched podcast where I’m sure I’ll hit this subject often.

In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien

I read The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien shortly after it was published in 1990 and revisited it during my own wartime experience.  I read In the Lake of the Woods on my first deployment which was pre-Sept 11th.  A hauntingly well-written novel that uses the author’s Vietnam experience to enhance the plot, Tim O’Brien once again crafts a story that reads like poetry.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson 

This novella by the great Robert Louis Stevenson, that I read my freshman year of high school, was first published in 1886.  I remember thinking that I knew the story because “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” had become such a part of the cultural lexicon.  If you think you know the story, pick this up and either re-visit it, or read it for the first time, free from the distractions of the digital world. This story made quite an impression on me back when I was fourteen.  If you read my novels closely, you’ll find echoes of Stevenson’s themes throughout.

The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva 

Daniel Silva ranks up there with the best espionage thriller writers to ever pick up the pen.  I was an early adopter, reading his first three novels, The Unlikely Spy, The Mark of the Assassin, and The Marching Season, upon publication in the pre-Sept 11th days and the pre-Gabriel Allon days.  All three are fantastic but it would be The Kill Artist published in 2000 that would introduce readers to one of the most compelling characters in contemporary popular fiction, art restorer and Israeli intelligence operative Gabriel Allon.  All twenty-three of Daniel Silva’s novels have been New York Times bestsellers to include his latest, The Order, which hit shelves last month.  If you have yet to pick up a Daniel Silva novel, start at the beginning and enjoy!

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