JACK CARR BOOK CLUB
November 2020 Reading List
This is the thirteenth installment from my monthly reading list series. Be sure to check out the new stand-alone book specific Instagram page @JackCarrBookClub for those interested in a book club type experience in a place they 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 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!
November Reading List:
- Fatherland by Robert Harris
- Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy
- Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife by John A. Nagl
- The Accidental Superpower by Peter Zeihan
- The Book of Honor by Ted Gup
- Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden
BLADES, BOOKS, AND BULLETS!
Fatherland by Robert Harris
Nazi Germany. 1964. Hitler’s seventy-fifth birthday. Fatherland by Robert Harris mixes fact and fiction to create an alternate history in which the Nazis are victorious in World War II. It follows a German police detective investigating the death of a high-ranking Nazi official. It has been twenty-five years since I read Fatherland but even all these years later it stands out as a unique and compelling thriller that will keep you thinking well into the night.
Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy
I first read The Hunt for Red October when the Cold War was in full swing; Reagan was in the White House and the Red Menace threatened the free world. I was in junior high. Red Storm Rising was Tom Clancy’s second novel. I read it early on in high school and, save for the Bible and the Odyssey and Iliad, it was the longest book I’d read up to that point in my life. I have a soft spot for Without Remorse because it is the John Clark origin story but if forced to pick, I would have to say that Red Storm Rising may be Tom Clancy’s magnum opus. It is one of those novels that stirs such wonderful memories for me I hesitate to revisit it for fear the years will have diluted its magic, though one day I’m sure I will crack its binding once again. I distinctly remember my mother, a librarian who instilled a love for reading in me at a very early age, telling me that I should think about collecting signed first editions of Tom Clancy novels when I was in the middle of Red Storm Rising. Good call mom! Being his second novel in the wake of the success of The Hunt for Red October, all eyes were on his sophomore effort, something that I kept in the forefront of my mind as I embarked on True Believer. If you are familiar with Tom Clancy but have not read Red Storm Rising, pick it up today!
Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife by John A. Nagl
This is one of the books that was on the professional reading list I was asked to put together for the Naval Special Warfare Center before my retirement from the SEAL Teams. Its title comes from Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence: “To make war upon rebellion is messy and slow, like learning to eat soup with a knife.” Brilliant title! First published in 2002, I would read it in or around 2006. My second Iraq deployment was an awakening of sorts. I’d operated in Iraq in 2004 and was back a year later in 2005 and into the first half of 2006. We were hitting targets, doing the job, but it was also clearly evident that things had not improved from 2004. In fact, the situation had gotten worse. I was curious as to why. . . a dangerous question to ask oneself in the midst of a war. . . My copy of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife is replete with highlighting and underlining. This is MANDATORY reading for any student of warfare and for the senior leaders whose orders and directives impact those operating at the tip of the spear. John Nagl was part of an insurgency within in military during my formative years as a tactical battlefield leader. Along with leading counterinsurgency thinkers and leaders like David Kilcullen, H.R. McMaster, and Thomas X. Hammes, John Nagl spoke truth to power. Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife studies the lessons of Malaya and Vietnam through the lens of the insurgency in Iraq. A must read for the student of war.
The Accidental Superpower by Peter Zeihan
If you have followed me for a while, you will recognize this selection. I read The Accidental Superpower on the plane to Mozambique in 2016 just after my retirement from active duty. I had not yet submitted my first novel to a publisher but was already on my way to Africa to research my second novel, True Believer. The Accidental Superpower formed the basis for the geopolitical backdrop to the visceral tactical action in True Believer. The Accidental Superpower is a fascinating study on the significance of geography on world order. If you have not read this book – READ IT! I have connected with Peter Zeihan though social media channels and I look forward to sitting down with him over drinks soon.
The Book of Honor by Ted Gup
The Book of Honor is a book I recommend to all Americans. It was written well before the events of September 11th 2001, yet the stories of those who stepped up to serve the nation on the darker side of U.S. intelligence should be honored by us all. If you have read my novels you will remember the chapters that pay homage to the those who have given the last full measure of devotion to the nation, their sacrifice acknowledged with a star carved into the white marble of a wall in the CIA headquarters building in Langley, Virginia. Encased in one-inch thick glass and built into the memorial wall is a book with the names of those CIA operatives who have given their lives in service to the nation. It is called The Book of Honor. Engraved above the stars are these words: “IN HONOR OF THOSE MEMBERS OF THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE SERVICE OF THE COUNTRY.” It remains one of the most impactful books on my journey.
I stood in front of that wall shortly after the invasion of Iraq and would find myself attached to a CIA covert action unit in Baghdad in 2006. I now know more than a few names in the Book of Honor. On the south wall, across from the stars of the fallen are the words from John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Perhaps one day the stories attached to the names I know that are only represented by a star, a year of death and an asterisk, will be told. At some point the classifications attached to their deaths will be removed and their stories will inspire another generation to step up in service of this great nation.
Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden
Pablo Escobar. You know the name. Colombian drug cartel kingpin. The Medellín Cartel. You may have read magazine or newspaper articles or watched documentaries or mini-series programs about him. I’d read Bowden’s seminal work, Black Hawk Down, upon publication and given it to friends in the SEAL Teams. My original copy of Black Hawk Down is dog-eared and highlighted. My first SEAL Team was fortunate enough to have one of the SEALs on the ground that day in the training cell. Today, I am honored to know a few of the men involved in that mission. Killing Pablo was Mark Bowden’s follow-up to Black Hawk Down. I believe it is the first time I learned of the term sicarios. I learned about the Search Bloc. I learned about Sentra Spike and Los Pepes. It was from this book, or my research surrounding this book, that I learned of Gray Fox. Today it is known by another name. If you are a student of clandestine operations, you may have noticed my nod to Killing Pablo in True Believer.