June 2020

June Reading List

This is the eighth installment of my monthly reading list.  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?  You might find one that resonates.  Happy reading!

For additional details on the books, why I think they are important, and the impact they had on my development as a combat leader and writer, keep reading. This blog is for you.

June reading list:

  • Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
  • Without Remorse by Tom Clancy
  • Fiasco by Thomas E. Ricks
  • The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
  • The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
  • Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne

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


Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

A book that could only have been written by a man who lived it, Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes is a deeply personal work of historical fiction told through the Vietnam experience of a young Marine officer named Waino Mellas.  The novel is the result of a thirty-year writing journey for the author, himself once a young Marine infantry officer in Vietnam and the recipient of the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for Valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten Air Medals.  Spend some uninterrupted time with this one, a story of the transformative power of war and of compassion found in leading men through the jungles of Southeast Asia.

Without Remorse by Tom Clancy

I still remember how excited I was for the publication of Without Remorse by Tom Clancy back in the summer of 1993.  I had my sights set on the SEAL Teams and had been a fan of Tom Clancy since The Hunt for Red October was first published by the Naval Institute Press.  I read it in 1985, a year after it hit shelves.  When a former Navy SEAL named John Clark appeared in 1988’s The Cardinal of the Kremlin I wanted to know all about him.  His ever-increasing presence in Clear and Present Danger and The Sum of All Fears were my favorite parts of those novels but always left me wanting more.  I still smile remembering the feeling I had when I found out that Without Remorse would be a John Clark origin story and I’ll forever be grateful to Tom Clancy for creating one of the most iconic characters in the genre.

Fiasco by Thomas E. Ricks

Fiasco by Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas E. Ricks was one of the books on the professional reading list I was asked to put together for the SEAL Teams before I left active duty. It should be read before reading his follow-on book The GambleFiasco offers insight into the U.S. war effort in Iraq from the invasion up to mid-2006.  The Gamble picks up from 2006 and takes the reader though 2008.  Both are required reading for anyone looking to better understand the occupation of Iraq and for those who will make future decisions that will send young American men and women to their deaths.

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

The 1991 film introduced me to the novel by Thomas Harris which I read soon after seeing the movie that would go on to win five Oscars for best picture, director, actor, actress, and best adapted screenplay.  If you have only seen the movie, I recommend you pick up the book.  Thomas Harris is one of the greatest talents in all of literature.  He draws you in and doesn’t let go.  As soon as I read The Silence of the Lambs, I immediately read Black Sunday and Red Dragon.  I have a sneaking suspicion that you will too.

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

This is another novel I read after seeing the 1983 film adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s epic 1979 novel about the post-World War II space program, test pilots and the Mercury Seven.  I read it in the summer of 1986. The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster had occurred that past January and had an enormous impact on me.  I’d seen the film The Right Stuff many times by that point, fascinated with Chuck Yeager and those early astronauts who had strapped themselves to rockets in the race against the Soviet Union for space supremacy. My grandfather had been a fighter pilot in the Second World War so I felt a connection to that lineage and read everything I could find on air combat and test pilots.  I read The Right Stuff the same summer I read Yeager by the man himself, General Chuck Yeager. I feel extremely fortunate to have found these books in my junior-high years, a time when impressionable kids are looking for heroes.  I certainly found them.

Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne

I read Empire of the Summer Moon when I was teaching the SEAL Junior Officer Training course in 2013 near the end of my time in uniform and when I was putting together my professional reading list for the Naval Special Warfare Center.  This book immediately made the list.  I’d read Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt and Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown in high school because I was extremely interested in those who had inhabited the continent before the arrival of Europeans, how they lived, survived, hunted and fought.  I was familiar with the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, kidnapped by Comanches in 1836 and assimilated into the tribe.  She would marry a Comanche War Chief.  Their son would become the last War Chief of the Comanches.  Empire of the Summer Moon is the true story of battles, torture, culture, adaptation, leadership, westward expansion and a people whose martial prowess is forever cemented in history.

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