January 2021

January 2021 Reading List

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.

This month’s selections include a book on the overreach of the federal government, a work of historical fiction that will transport you behind a sniper rifle in Stalingrad 1942, a story of modern war from the streets of Mogadishu, a classic espionage thriller, a history of the Algerian War, and the book that came to define the modern techno-thriller.

Interested in the “how” and “why” behind the books that influenced me?  Check out the reading list and then go back and explore past selections. You might find one that resonates.

January Reading List:

  • The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
  • Six Days of the Condor by James Grady
  • A Savage War of Peace by Alistair Horne
  • War of the Rats by David L. Robbins
  • Three Felonies a Day by Harvey A. Silverglate
  • Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden

There is nothing I like more than discussing books and reading. Enjoy!


The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy

I read The Hunt for Red October in middle school and distinctly remember thinking, this was something special. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I was reading a work that would come to define the modern techno-thriller.  Initially published by the Naval Institute Press, the novel introduced readers to a young Jack Ryan and a new author, a former insurance agent named Tom Clancy.  When you sit down to read it, transport yourself back to 1984, a time when Reagan was in the White House and the Cold War was in full swing.

Six Days of the Condor by James Grady

There are few novels that so come to memorialize a time in history as to become a part of it.  In short, they become iconic. Six Days of the Condor stands with those top tier espionage thrillers that define a generation.  The novel was published in 1974 into an America reeling from Vietnam and Watergate.  It resonated.  A 1975 Sydney Pollack film starring Robert Redford followed.  Though the film altered the title slightly to Three Days of the Condor, the book and movie remain inexorably connected in the public consciousness.  The success of the book and film, along with the star power of the leading man and director, coupled with the tumultuous times in which both entered the public consciousness cement Six Days of the Condor as a consummate achievement in publishing.  The novel is ultimately a story of transformation and stands on its own at the pinnacle of the genre.  I was fortunate enough to meet James Grady at the 2019 Thrillerfest in New York.  I was starstruck to meet such a legend and was shocked and humbled to learn that not only did he know who I was but that he was a fan of The Terminal List!  I will forever treasure the kind words in his inscription to me on the title page of his novel.

A Savage War of Peace by Alistair Horne

A Savage War of Peace by the brilliant Alistair Horne is one of the books on the professional reading list I was asked to put together for the Naval Special Warfare Center before I retired from the SEAL Teams. Alistair Horne started work on his history of the Algerian War in 1973, just over a decade after the end of hostilities that would see a “peace” as savage as the war that preceded it.  First published in 1977 it would be published again in 1996 and then find new life with a 2006 edition during a time when the United States found itself mired in the conflict in Iraq making many of the same mistakes as France had in Algeria a half century earlier. This book is required reading for students of warfare and the military leaders and politicians responsible for the strategic decisions that commit young men and women to war.

War of the Rats by David L. Robbins

If you are a sniper, you know the names: Vasily Zaitsev, Heinz Thorvald (Erwin König), Tania Chernova.  War of the Rats recounts the Battle of Stalingrad through the medium of historical fiction.  One of the most pivotal battles of World War Two, it was also one of the bloodiest.  It is estimated that the close to six-month battle resulted in over a million combatant deaths with the non-combatant deaths pushing the death toll to 2 million.  The German soldiers called it Rattenkrieg: War of the Rats. Against the backdrop of the Nazi war machine facing off against the Red Army in one of the deadliest battles in the annals of combat, two master snipers hunt amongst the ruins. . .

Three Felonies a Day by Harvey A. Silverglate

Three Felonies a Day by Harvey A. Silverglate is my most gifted book after Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer.  Its premise is one that should frighten all Americans regardless of party affiliation; the average person wakes up, makes breakfast, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner and goes to bed.  Unbeknownst to them, throughout the course of that day, they have committed at least three felonies.  A growing number of laws, statutes, and regulations have created an environment that allows the federal government to target anyone of their choosing.  Laws are intentionally written in broad and vague language so they can be interpreted broadly by those in power.  Most laws require a law degree to decipher which is a departure from the original common law traditions upon which our country’s legal system was founded. The book was published in 2009. Its premise and lessons are even more relevant today.  It is not a stretch to make the comparison to the “legal system” in place under Joseph Stalin’s reign of terror where his secret police chief, Lavrentiy Beria, famously stated, “Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.”  Most dissidents sent to the gulag were not in prison for their dissenting political views.  Rather, they were tried and found guilty of breaking a host of other “laws.”  Think this doesn’t happen in the United States?  If so, you owe it to yourself to read this book.

Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden

“It was midafternoon, October 3, 1993.  Eversmann’s Chalk Four was part of a force of U.S. Army Rangers and Delta Force operators who were about to drop in uninvited on a gathering of Habr Gidr clan leaders in the heart of Mogadishu, Somalia.”

I read Mark Bowden’s story of modern war in my first SEAL platoon and put it on my professional reading list for the Teams.  My copy is marked up with highlighting and notes. As a new guy in special operations in the late 90s, I was the recipient of knowledge from the SEALs who were there as they passed along their lessons and incorporated them into our training.

I am honored to know some of the men who fought on October 3rd and 4th 1993 in the streets of Mogadishu.  It is my sincere hope that more of them will one day tell their stories.  The next generation needs heroes.

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