Image courtesy of Activity Mom. Image courtesy of Activity Mom.

By Major Dan Sukman

“In 50 years you’re gonna start doin’ some thinkin’ on your own and you’re going to come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life: one, don’t do that, and two, you dropped 150 grand on a f#*kin’ education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library!”

-Will Hunting

In my earlier years, I built up a respectable library. As a young single officer I had disposable income that I could waste away at Barnes and Noble or Borders Books before they went out of business. Yada Yada Yada, I now find myself married with two young children who quite literally eat up what used to be disposable income in our family. Further, the sheer weight of my library was becoming a burden with each successive change of station.

Luckily, public libraries still exist (a fact which I can personally vouch for) and the market for used books is quite active. Moreover, as the owner of a Kindle, just about every classic piece of writing is available as a free eBook; and eBooks don’t count in the total weight of household goods when PCS season arrives.  Having operated under this “sequestration model” for a number of years now, Matty “Ice” Cavanaugh challenged me to develop a strategist bookshelf for $10 or less. The only caveat is that all books must be physical books (no free ebooks).  Finally, shipping costs are not taken into consideration (and prices may have shifted somewhat from when I first calculated them). 

So here we go:

The Study of War and Politics

On War by Clausewitz, to learn about the Science of Warfare: Used on Amazon $1.30 here.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu, to learn about the Art of Warfare:  Used on Amazon for 80 cents here.

The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, to learn about the continuities of warfare and politics: Used on Amazon for 42 cents here.

The Prince by Niccoli Machiavelli, to learn about the motivations of political leaders: Used on Amazon for 1 cent here.

Soft Power by Joseph Nye, to learn about other forms of power: Used on Amazon for 49 cents here.

Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam by H.R. McMaster, to learn about the interactions between political and military leadership and their respective failures.  Used on Amazon for 49 cents here.

What is War Like?

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Marie Remarque, to learn that once you serve in war, you can never gain back your youth.  Used on Amazon for 1 cent here.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, to learn that war can bring out all the raw passion in man. Used on Amazon for $1.95 here.

The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer, to learn that war, and those who fight it are human

Used on Amazon for $1.99 here.

Night by Elie Wiesel, to learn how cruel humans can be during war. Used on Amazon for 1 cent here.

Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein, to learn that in the far distant future, human actions on the battlefield still matter. Used on amazon for 1 cent here.

Modern Warfare

Wired for War by P.W. Singer, to learn about how technology is changing war as we know it. Used on Amazon for $1.90 here.

Fiasco by Tom Ricks, to learn how fucked up we are, and how those at the top of the decision cycle don’t always know what they are doing. Used on Amazon for 1 cent here.

Imperial Life in The Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, to learn that not everyone or in a position of authority belongs there.  Used on Amazon for 1 cent here.

34 Days: Israel, Hezbollah, and the War in Lebanon by Amos Hare, to learn about limits of advance and to properly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Used on Amazon for 1 cent here.

Strategic Thinking

Moneyball by Michael Lewis, to learn that there is probably something you believe to be right that the rest of the world believes to be wrong. Used on Amazon for 1 cent here.

Thinking in Time (the Uses of History for Decision Makers) by Richard E. Neustadt, to learn that not every analogy is on target. Used on Amazon for 1 cent here.

A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard, to learn how to be a self-starter. Used on Amazon for 1 cent here.

Total amount spent on the strategist’s sequestration bookshelf: $9.44.  This leaves a whopping 66 cents remaining to spend on a good Dan Brown novel or Jack Reacher paperback for some pleasure reading the next time you’re at the airport traveling on TDY.

So no excuses and head over to WarBooks for more great reading tips!


Print pagePDF pageEmail page