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We do book reviews and recommendations every now and then, but it’s been a while. Some of these recommendations are on the more edifying end of the spectrum while others swing to pure entertainment. But enough ado, here are some recent reads I have enjoyed that other ITS readers may as well:
The Heart and the Fist
by Lt Cmdr Eric Greitens, USN
Greitens has led a remarkable life thus far, being only in his mid to late 30s at the time of penning his book. The Heart and the Fist follows his travels in his younger days to various spots around the world as a humanitarian, volunteering in places such as Bosnia, going to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar for his philosophy PhD where he was a champion boxer, joining the Navy to become a SEAL, then using his combat pay to start The Mission Continues*, a non-profit dedicated to having disabled post 9/11 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans serve their local communities after coming home.
While there are many great SEAL books out there, I’ll say straight up that if what you’re looking for is page after page of fast roping and door kicking action, skip this one. The overarching theme and subtitle of the book is having the strength of a the warrior and the compassion of a humanitarian and that we can cope with difficult times by serving those around us.
Some have criticized the book for being too idealistic, but I believe we need more of that these days and Greitens sure has the resume and life experience to back up his talk. If you end up liking The Heart and the Fist and want to pass it onto younger folk, there’s an edition for young adults, though ‘young adult’ is a misnomer as I found the grown-up version of the book to be very accessible, and may be suitable to high school or even junior high aged children depending on their reading ability.
“As warriors, as humanitarians, they’ve taught me that without courage, compassion falters, and that without compassion, courage has no direction.” - Eric Greitens
*Disclosure: a few friends of mine have had The Mission Continues fellowships, serving at various non-profits while being supported by TMC.
by Laura Hillenbrand
This is the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympian runner turned B-24 crewman. His plane went down over the Pacific where he was lost at sea for over a month, then was captured and held by the Japanese for the remainder of WWII.
The majority of this book takes places in his days lost at sea and in captivity through the end of the war. There are no Steve McQueen nor Shawshank escape style moments. The narrative of Unbroken is carried mostly by Zamperini’s inner resilience and how he kept it together despite circumstances that would have broken down many other men.
Mr Zamperini is currently 96 years old, still with us, and many of his talks are available on YouTube in varying lengths if you want to get a taste of Unbroken.
The Rough Riders
by President Theodore Roosevelt
A personal account of our 26th President’s exploits in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, in which TR lead a group of volunteers ranging from cowboys, miners, Indians and college kids looking for adventure.
The Rough Riders is paced surprisingly fast, like a (100-year old) military thriller and despite TR’s superior intellect and being a politician, he is direct and to the point. The image of Theodore Roosevelt on horseback is embedded along with George Washington crossing the Delaware River as one of very few in the American psyche of our Presidents leading us from the front into battle.
Beyond your reading of the Rough Riders book itself, if you slept through 11th grade U.S. History, you may also wish to brush up on the Monroe Doctrine (the Wikipedia entry should suffice) and its effects on past and present foreign policy, and how the Monroe Doctrine and Spanish-American war has since influenced our role in future (i.e. current) conflicts abroad.
The link above is to the Amazon store and the book is free, but is also available here at the Gutenberg Project if you aren’t a fan of the Amazon ecosystem.
by Michael Kupari and Larry Correia
Dead Six was published when Kupari was deployed to Afghanistan with his U.S. Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit. Below is a photo of Kupari on patrol as Dead Six was hot off the press and shipping to your local book store. I love Vince Flynn and Tom Clancy (RIP, gentlemen), but it’s pretty cool reading military thrillers by guys with combat deployments.
Dead Six started off as a series of posts on a gun forum as a diversion of Mike’s when he was employed overseas as a security contractor. He wrote a chapter every few days on the forum, and meanwhile, his friend, Larry Correia, a member of the same forum, got on board and wove in a second protagonist.
The story evolved over time to near novel length and Larry pitched the story to his publisher, with whom he enjoyed success as a New York Times Bestselling author for his extremely entertaining Monster Hunter series, which I heartily recommend along with his Grimnoir Chronicles.
Dead Six is told in the first person of two characters, and where it’s unique is that multiple first person perspectives in a story tend to have the same voice. Initially, Dead Six had minimal collaboration between its two authors, neither of which having met each other in meatspace until the manuscript was just about submitted (due mostly to happenstance of where Kupari’s USAF duty station ended up being).
As a result, each of the first person segments from Dead Six’s two protagonists have their own very distinctive voices, which I found interesting as far as literary stuff is concerned. But this is ITS Tactical, not Fresh Air on NPR. You won’t find any onomatopoeia, metaphor, allegory, racial reconciliation, pretentious uses of ‘as it were’, or any of that stuff your English teacher wanted you to look for. Dead Six is straight up action and is all the better for it.
Kupari and Correia are both avid shooters and know their hardware very well; as wild as the story arc gets, it won’t be the gun handling technicalities like Glock 7s passing through metal detectors or the spraying of Teflon on bullets in order to penetrate armor that will break your suspension of disbelief.
Disclosure: Mike Kupari is a personal friend. Skunky, a minor character in Dead Six’s intro and a supporting character in the sequel which just released, Swords of Exodus, is based on me. Our IRL friendship notwithstanding, Dead Six was one of my favorite military/espionage thrillers in recent years.
Books of Samuel and Kings
The Old Testament
Largely a biography of King David: underdog, war hero, king, crappy coworker, and key character in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic mythology.
Even if you don’t consider yourself religious, King David’s existence is widely accepted historically. If you are at all interested in current events or foreign policy, even if you have your reservations with religious texts due to the occurrence supernatural events, reading back on ancient literature gives added context to the battles in today’s headlines.
On the other hand, if you grew up in church with weekly Sunday school sessions, you probably don’t remember the good stuff like David’s collection of foreskin bounties (ultralight scalping). Details were omitted from the tales you heard in church to make them family-friendly and the Old Testament is certainly worth the revisit in your more mature years.
If religion and/or history bore you and you just want an entertaining version you can read over the course of four minutes, Badass of the Week has a most excellent entry on King David. They also have one on Teddy Roosevelt here.
Days are getting shorter and whether you find yourself inside by the fireplace or outside by the campfire, we hope you’re able to spend some time accompanied by a good book (and a nice IPA). If you can recommend any books you think other ITS readers may enjoy, we’d love to hear about them in the comments section.
As a final note: our hearts are heavy with the recent passing of Tom Clancy. A commenter on Reddit best summed up his influence “There’s an entire generation of young adults (especially young males) where his books were among the first pieces of long-form adult fiction they read for fun.”
If none of the books above appeal to you, we suggest you dust off your copy of The Hunt for the Red October, though some things in there don’t react well to bullets.
Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Jeff lives in Los Angeles and serves as our resident Eastern Sierra correspondent. He likes things that say 9mm and f/2.8. He also sucks at rock climbing. Be sure to check out his website at skunkabilly.com.
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Into the Mouth of the Cat by Malcolm McConnell. Best Vietnam POW story of all time and required reading in my house growing up.
I will second MikePetrucci on Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost At Sea. One of the most incredible stories of survival I have ever read. Also, I was one of those young Adults who read Tom Clancy for my first long-form fiction work for fun.
May I add Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton?
It detailes the experience of some of the first Army Special Forces to go into Afganistan and is a telling story of the war they fought.
Thanks for this thought-provoking list Jeff. Nice twist for the ITS web site and I appreciate your doing this. I'm a prisoner of SoCal myself, and have been reading a lot over the years.
Here's my two-bits worth. I do like adventures and always have, but for some reason as of late I've been drawn to common-sense economics and heritage-oriented stuff.
Let's start with the American Manifesto, posted right here on this web site. Inspiring, and hope-inducing.
50 of President Ronald Reagan's Most Important Speeches from 1957 to 1994, by himself. The content here is self-explanatory.
Applied Economics, by Thomas Sowell. This is part of the common-sense economics content. Well-written and easy to grasp.
Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, by Michael Lewis. Lewis is a terrific writer, with lots of levity built in. This is his take on the 2008 credit bubble.
Knowledge and Power: The Information Theory of Capitalism, by George Gilder. Pretty heavy, but the theme is entrepreneurs (kinda like the ITS folks) are so many and so busy, that on the whole, the momentum is too big for even government intervention can't screw it up.
The Conscience of a Conservative, by Barry Goldwater. Philosophy of principled governance.
The Road to Serfdom, by F. A. Hayek. The anti-Keynesian theory of economics. Reading this will point out loudly, some of parallels to the insanity of current US economic policy.
Atlas Shrugged and, The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. Living with reason, and objectively.
Rowing Against the Current, by Barry Strauss. Story about an individual who took up my avocation, rowing/sculling, at age 40. Forward by Harry Parker (d. 2013), Head Coach, Harvard Heavyweight Crew.
The Incredible Voyage by Tristan Jones
A sailor decides to sail his boat in the Dead Sea, around Africa, cross the Atlantic and sail in Lake Titicaca and then down the Amazon.
i like the autobiography 100 days in the ghan by Tom A. Wiggins. its about a regular joe turned GI joe. its a very good read.
@GradyPfahl I Second Horse Soldiers!
@MikePetrucci I can't believe I left out Freedom of the Hills. It's probably sitting in another first draft .doc somewhere on my compy.
@MikePetrucci Travels with Charley was pretty great. “I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found.”