May 2020

May Reading List

With the publication of THE TERMINAL LIST, I began getting questions about reading recommendations.  This month represents the seventh installment of my monthly reading list.  If you are just discovering these lists for the first time and want to explore past selections, they are posted on the blog section of my website. 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. I will forever be grateful for the time spent in their pages and to the lessons that stay part of my larger experience.  I can’t remember ever wanting to do anything other than serve my country in uniform and then write thrillers. 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.

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

May reading list:

  • War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk
  • The Hot Zone by Richard Preston
  • Ghost Wars by Steve Coll
  • Centrifuge by J.C. Pollock
  • A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury
  • A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean

War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk

I was introduced to Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War through the 1983 miniseries of the same name.  Five years later, War and Remembrance would air.  Both were seminal events in television history.  Those of us who grew up in the 80s remember the great miniseries events before the advent of cable.  War and Remembrance symbolizes the end of an era dominated by ABC, NBC, and CBS.  Not long after the miniseries, I read both of Herman Wouk’s masterpieces.  I already knew that one day I would serve my country in uniform and was drawn to books, movies, and television programs with military themes. Start with The Winds of War which follows the Henry Family from 1939 up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Then continue into War and Remembrance which takes you through the end of World War II.  Don’t be intimidated by their length.  Dive in and GET AFTER IT!

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston was first published in 1994. It was many people’s first introduction to the Ebola Zaire virus.  I wrote out a year of six books a month reading lists at the end of last summer, before COVID-19 was on the radar.  With the current crisis, and if memory serves after reading this story over twenty-five years ago, I might hold off on it until the coronavirus subsides.

Ghost Wars by Steve Coll

Ghost Wars by Steve Coll is another one of the books on the professional reading list I was asked to put together for the SEAL Teams before I left active duty.  Along with Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower, Ghost Wars provides extensive background on the events leading up to September 11th 2001.  The importance of knowing where we came from to clearly and logically address the failures of the past so future generations will not have to learn the same lessons in blood is as true at the strategic level as it is at the tactical level.  Ghost Wars is a must-read for any American who is seeking a better understanding of the path that led to 9/11.

Centrifuge by J.C. Pollock

I bought CENTRIFUGE by J.C. Pollock, or I should say my mom bought it for me, the same day we bought David Morrell’s novelization of RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II.  That summer, perhaps more than any other, lay the foundation for what was to come.  Though I have not read it in thirty-five years, I still have my original copy and distinctly remember former Army Special Forces officer and Vietnam veteran Mike Slater, his Lake Buccanneer aircraft, dogs, CIA, conspiracies, SOG, the KGB, and underwater knife fights.  It had everything a kid growing up in the 80s with sights set on special operations could hope for. I am hesitant to read it again for fear it will have lost some of its magic over the ensuing years. Then again, it might take me right back to the summer of 1985 when the road ahead was free and clear.  My guess would be that if you were to track down a copy and give it a read, even all these years later you would find J.C. Pollock’s influence distinctly imprinted on the pages of my novels. He was one of my early professors in the art of storytelling.

A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury

I believe I first read Ray Bradbury’s A SOUND OF THUNDER in an anthology of literature in junior high school. It is a short story that you can read in about 20 minutes.  I read it again recently and every sentence still resonates. Brilliant is not too strong a term for this work and its author. If you have not spent time with Ray Bradbury lately, I highly recommend you leave your phone behind and escape on a journey with the master.

A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean

I admit to seeing the film by Robert Redford in the theater before reading the novella by Norman Maclean, and in this particular case I believe the two experiences complement one another in a way unique to adaptations. I’d love to lure you in with the first and last sentences, but I don’t want to spoil the experience. Between those beautifully crafted bookends you just might get to know yourself a little better.  This is one to savor, to read on a porch with a cold beer in hand, or if that is not an option, then in a quiet space where you can be alone with your thoughts and with a story that reads like a poem.  Even though you know how it ends even without seeing the film – Maclean does more than foreshadow what is to come – it will not leave you dry eyed.   If it does, I don’t think we can be friends.

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