May 2021

May 2021 Reading List

The May 2021 reading list features selections from a poet of Ancient Greece, an Army Special Forces Officer, “the master of the high action thriller,” a man Esquire magazine highlighted as “The Strategist” in a special edition titled “The Best and the Brightest,” a true story of perseverance and resiliency from World War II that spent three years on the New York Times Bestsellers List, and the debut novel by the person who cracked the door for me into the world of New York publishing. Be sure to check out my stand-alone book specific Instagram page @JackCarrBookClub for those interested in a book club type experience in a place you can explore all my reading list selections in one location. If you are just discovering these lists for the first time and want to check out past selections, they are all posted to the blog section of my website.  For those new to the Team, each month I highlight six books, some 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 that 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!

May 2021 Reading List:

  • The Odyssey by Homer
  • The League of Night and Fog by David Morrell
  • The Pentagon’s New Map by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Lions of Lucerne by Brad Thor
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  • SOG by John L. Plaster


The Odyssey by Homer

I first read The Odyssey in high school.  My original copy is almost certainly in a box somewhere in storage.  I can picture the exact edition and look forward to finding it at some point so I can go through and see what passages I highlighted all those years ago.  My high school freshman English class was an ode to the classics.  In addition to Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, we read the Bible, Beowulf, The Aeneid, and The Epic of Gilgamesh.  I feel extremely fortunate to have been exposed to these earliest of narratives right around the time my mom introduced me to Joseph Campbell through a series of interviews he did with Bill Moyers on PBS called Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth.  That study in my formative years continues to influence my life and writing today.  The Odyssey follows the events of Homer’s preceding work, The Iliad, and chronicles the journey of Odysseus as he makes his way home from the Trojan War.  If it has been a while since you read The Odyssey, the Sirens, Lotus-Eaters, Clashing Rocks and Hadēs might take on greater significance today.

The League of Night and Fog by David Morrell

If you have been following along with my reading list selections you are no doubt familiar with David Morrell, author of First Blood.  Past reading lists have highlighted The Brotherhood of the Rose and The Fraternity of the Stone, books that had a profound impact on me at a time in my life when I cemented my resolve to serve my country as a SEAL and knew that the chapter following military service would focus on writing.

The Brotherhood of the Rose and The Fraternity of the Stone are stand-alone thrillers that become an epic trilogy when read with the The League of Night and Fog.

As with many of David’s novels I was not only captivated by the writing, story and characters, I also learned valuable lessons.  In The League of Night and Fog, I read about the Night of the Long Knives, Kristallnacht and the Final Solution.  All of David’s historical tie-ins would inspire me to do my own research and perhaps even incorporate historical references into my own novels.

The quote David Morrell uses to set the tone for The League of Night and Fog was the first time I had heard of the Nuremberg Trials.  I was fourteen.  It compelled a personal study that continues today.  Less than a decade after reading that quote, I would make my way to the courthouse in Nuremberg, Germany, remembering all I had read and learned throughout the preceding years.  The quote is one that has stayed with me from that first read.  I can still recite it from memory.  “New evils require new remedies. . . new sanctions to defend and vindicate the eternal principles of right and wrong.” – The Times (London) on the Nuremberg Trials.

If you have yet to experience the brilliance of David Morrell, The Brotherhood of the Rose, The Fraternity of the Stone, and The League of Night and Fog are calling. . .


The Pentagon’s New Map by Thomas P.M. Barnett

“A combination of Tom Friedman on globalization and Karl von Clausewitz on war” is the way Washington Post columnist David Ignatius describes geopolitical strategist, national security analyst and foreign policy advisor Thomas P.M. Barnett.   The Pentagon’s New Map was published in 2004.  I didn’t discover it until 2008 during a time I was studying the tactical lessons from my time in Iraq and Afghanistan and connecting those tactical level lessons and adaptations to the operational and strategic ideologies of post-9/11 warfare.  When asked to describe how his strategic vision differed from legacy Pentagon views, he replied, “Pentagon strategists typically view war within the context of war.  I view war within the context of everything else.”  Disruptive and thought provoking, The Pentagon’s New Map is a book I plan to re-read through the lens of these intervening years.

The Lions of Lucerne by Brad Thor

The only reason you are reading this blog today is because Brad Thor cracked a door for me.

I read Brad Thor’s debut novel, The Lions of Lucerne, on my way to Ramadi, Iraq in 2005. It had been published by someone named Emily Bestler at Simon and Schuster in 2002 but it had taken me a couple years to get to it as those were some busy years preparing for, and going to war.  The location of the paperback I read in 2005 is unknown.  It is possibly still in Iraq, or perhaps it made it back in a SEALs deployment bag or a Marine’s ruck. I passed it to a friend when we landed in Ramadi. He, in turn, passed it to another SEAL.  When it came time for the Task Unit to head home, I stayed a while longer working with the CIA as part of a program that would inspire my second novel, True Believer, so I was not able to track down that original copy.

Fast forward to today; Brad Thor is a dear and trusted friend, Emily Bestler is now my publisher and editor, and I have a signed first edition of The Lions of Lucerne inbound.

Brad, thank you for making all of this possible.

Brad’s latest novel, Black Ice, hits shelves July 20, 2021.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Required reading for all Americans!  Unbroken tells the incredible true story of Louis Zamperini.  He was a distance runner in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.  He didn’t medal in Berlin but had his sights set on the 1940 Olympic Games.  They were scheduled for Tokyo, Japan.  In 1941, as the world became embroiled in war, Louis Zamperini joined the Army Air Corps.  He was in training when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  On May 27, 1943 his B-24 Liberator, named Super Man, crashed into the Pacific killing eight of the eleven men onboard.  Louis Zamperini, Russell Allen Phillips and Francis McNamara survived the crash.  Now adrift at sea in a life raft, they fought thirst, hunger, storms, sharks and strafing runs by Japanese planes. On their 33rd day on the water, McNamara passed away.  Zamperini and Phillips drifted 2000 miles to an atoll off the Marshall Islands where they were taken prisoner by the Japanese.  If you have not read Unbroken, it is time.  It will certainly help put most problems in perspective.  I highly encourage you to get it for kids in the middle and high school years.  My hope is they will gain an appreciation for the freedoms and opportunities we have in this country because of men who suited up and boarded planes like Louis Zamperini’s Super Man.

SOG by John L. Plaster

SOG by John L. Plaster was published in 1997 when I was going through BUD/S.  I read it as a “new guy” at my first SEAL Team.  I had read everything I could find on special operations growing up, particularly special operations in Vietnam and I was fortunate to get to know and train with two Special Forces Project Delta soldiers as I was preparing myself for SEAL Training.  SOG is filled with the weapons, tactics, history and exploits of the innocuously named Studies and Observations Group, one of the war’s most secretive and highly decorated units.  Vietnam was a watershed time in special operations history and the men of SOG were in the thick of it.  They fought, learned and adapted, passing those lessons on to the next generation of operators.  We stand on the shoulders of giants.

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