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What We’re Reading at ITS: A Glance at Our Nightstands

By The ITS Crew

ITS HQ Reading List

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” – Mark Twain

The average reader of ITS may think we only read surplus U.S. Army Field Manuals or how-to’s on firearm maintenance and knot tying. However, the crew that makes up ITS is varied in both backgrounds and interests, which is evident when you ask one of us what we’re currently reading. Whether you’re reading for education or relaxation, there’s a lot of great books out there and we wanted to take a moment to share what each of us has on our nightstand.

Bryan Black – Editor-In-Chief

My reading list is much longer than I’d like it to be, but I typically have a few books I’m in the middle of that I switch to depending on my mood and how well a book is holding my attention in a given chapter. Lately, I’ve really been trying to make time at night to read for at least an hour. I’ve stayed so busy that its taken me budgeting time in to read. A few years back, I’d read in my downtime, which has been less and less these days. Here’s what I’ve had my nose in lately:

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

FrankensteinI actually just finished Frankenstein and loved it. It’s not only a classic, but a vast departure from the electrically charged, neck bolted monster you’re familiar with from the screen. While electricity is what originally inspires animation for scientist Victor Frankenstein, his technique is eventually rooted more in chemistry than electricity when bringing life back to dead tissue.

When Frankenstein’s monster is eventually brought to life, it’s his grotesque features that drive Victor away and in turn, push the monster to give in to his animalistic killer instincts. I’d highly recommend picking up a copy and reading it for yourself, it’s certainly given me a new perspective on the creature known as “Frankenstein.”

299 Days: The Preparation by Glen Tate

299 DaysI was first introduced to Glen Tate by my friend Jack Spirko of The Survival Podcast and I’ve really liked what I’ve read so far in his 299 Days series. It’s an interesting look into a partial collapse of the United States from a plausible perspective. What drew me into the series, now in its 7th book of 10, was the detail in which Tate describes the fallout from the collapse as gradual and not some earth-shattering immediate impact.

Something that I’d like to mention is to keep in mind that this is a ten-part series and not just a single book, If you’re ok with that up front, then dig in. I also attribute the fact that I’m not further along to some of Tate’s writing style. There’s nothing wrong with it, It’s just been hard for me to follow at times.

That being said, I’m still anxious to read more and already have other books in the series ready to start after this one. I’m really enjoying it so far and definitely recommend it. There’s also a Kickstarter Campaign going right now to produce a 299 Days movie, check it out here.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

After being less than impressed with the departure taken by the first two of three Hobbit movies, I decided to go back and read the Hobbit from the beginning again.

I know that a lot is different in the movies from the original novel by Tolkien, but It’s been years since I’ve read it and can’t quite recall everything that’s changed.

Mainly, I’m reading it to reconnect with the tale I loved as a kid and while just a few chapters in so far, It’s everything I remember it to be.


Calvin and Hobbes: The Days are Just Packed by Bill Watterson

Calvin and HobbesI’ve been re-reading the entire anthology of Calvin & Hobbes books starting from the very first collection of comic strips Watterson released in 1987, which I still have. I was missing a few books from collecting them in my youth and after completing the collection recently, I decided to start from the beginning.

There’s a bit of overlap occasionally, considering many books are simply collections of other stand-alone books, but I still love Calvin & Hobbes after all these years. It’s been fun to go back and read them again; they’re always good for a chuckle before bed.

Kelly Black – Chief Operating Officer

Yes, Your Teen is Crazy!: Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind by Michael J. Bradley, Ed.D.

Yes Your Teen is CrazyThis is a book about the physical and emotional roller coaster ride of being a parent of a teenager. It has been one of the most educational and enjoyable books I’ve picked up since college. It’s a fun read thanks to the conversational and humorous perspective of Michael J. Bradley and it’s full of real stories and scenarios (not just a bunch of medical mumbo jumbo,) that helped me relate and feel like I could connect with other parents I’ve never even met. It’s also given me what feels like a bird’s eye view of what goes wrong in some parent-child relationships that causes severe separation.

Thinking about the memories I have of my teen years reminds me of fun and crazy, tumultuous and insecure times. I vividly recall the mixed emotional feeling that I’d reached a time in my life where I deserved freedom and respect, but still wanted to be taken care of on so many levels. Having my son enter his teens a few years ago helped to bring these thoughts back to the forefront of my mind. Dealing with those emotions as a teen is vastly different from looking at the same emotions and expectations from the perspective of a parent. Many times after my son entered this phase of development I felt that I was losing my mind, losing control of our relationship and made me fearful of losing him all together.

As a parent, I second guess myself regularly. This book has given me much needed perspective (and reminders) of what it’s like to be a teenager, plus what’s happening to a teen’s brain on a physiological level. It’s helped me to understand and be ok with the crazy arguments that come up out of the blue and the irrational demands a teenager can try to make. It’s also taught me not to take things personal and given me the inner confidence to continuously question what’s right, wrong, rational, applicable to the situation and demand more time to make a decision when I need to.

If you’re the parent of a teen, or have a child that will be entering this phase of development soon, I highly recommend adding this book to your library.

Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson

Heaven is HereBack in 2008 I stumbled across a mommy blog by Stephanie Nielson. She lived in a world that I admired; faithful to God and country, stay at home mom, adoring wife and mother, passionate blogger, an impeccable Anthropologie-style dresser who kept her creatively influenced home filled with family-centric projects and deliciously home cooked meals. In August of that year Stephanie and her husband Christian were involved in a plane crash that killed the co-pilot, broke Christian’s back and burned over 20% of his body and left Stephanie with burns over 80% of her body. The tragedy left this young couple with four young children in the care of family members and the uncertainty that they would be able to resume life as they had known it.

Stephanie was in a medically induced coma for several months before her mental and painful physical recovery began. Heaven is Here, published in 2012, captures her miraculous journey of survival and finding the will to continue living and recovering after everything in her life (her ability to be a wife and mother as she knew it) was shattered. It’s about finding new perspective on what’s truly meaningful in life, focusing on those things that truly matter and reveling in what brings inner contentment despite worldly and physical limitations.

Since 2008 I’ve learned so much from Stephanie even though I’ve never met her. She’s taught me about strength, faith, motherhood, being an adoring spouse and never giving up on what you believe in. This book is inspirational and her blog, which she continues to update daily, is the first and sometimes only website I visit each morning to help start my day. She shares her daily life that sometimes includes the struggle to force her body to function as normally as possible, so she can continue with her daily routine as wife and mom. Also to visiting the range with her husband to practice shooting her AR-15. The Nielson’s are proof that life is what we make of it, as they’ve made it through some of the worst imaginable and are making life work for them every day.

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a 13-Year Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida

The Reason I JumpThis book is an eye-opening glimpse into the world of a severely Autistic boy. Modern technology helped Naoki to utilize an alphabet grid to communicate his thoughts, building words and sentences to share with the world what an Autistic person may be thinking and feeling, but just can’t communicate the right messages to family members, care givers and teachers.

My exposure to Autism has been limited, however this book has given me a better understanding of questions similar to ones I’ve had and heard others ask. Questions (answered in the book) such as: “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?” “Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks?” “Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?” and “What’s the reason you jump?” Naoki’s answer to this question was, “When I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky.”

Naoki’s gentle personality invites anyone and everyone to try and understand the differences of his perceptions, feelings and frustrations as a child with Autism, regardless if we have or know a child also effected. It’s a heartwarming conversation that has left me educated and better prepared for the future, living with all types of humanity.

Neither Wolf nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder by Kent Nerburn

Neither Wolf nor DogKent Nerburn was contacted on behalf of an Indian Elder named Dan to share a different perspective of the seemingly forgotten Native American roots in our modern world. This book is the story of the two men traveling together through Indian country as they struggle to understand and identify with each other and share real experiences. Dan shares not only history of how his people and other Indian tribes were displaced from their home lands, but how populations were decimated, forced to live in designated communities and how that translates to how some Native Americans live today.

Reading this book has given me a totally different perspective of land ownership, the sanctity of all land and the history of America and her native people. Nothing I’ve ever been taught in any history class offered as much personal insight as this book did. But, Neither Wolf Nor Dog isn’t just a history lesson; it’s a lesson for all humanity.

Rob Henderson – Community Support

The Runaway Jury by John Grisham

The Runaway JuryI’ve always been fascinated with law and as a child desperately wanted to be a lawyer. This was partially fueled by the writings of John Grisham and before graduating High School, I had read every book he had written. Recently, I’ve been working my way back through his works and I’m currently reading my favorite “The Runaway Jury”.

“The Runaway Jury’s” story focuses on a multi-million dollar big tobacco trial in the deep south. While the tobacco companies are pouring mountains of cash into the trial, they’re unaware of a lone wolf in the jury. I love the storyline because it blends a great deal of real law practices with an exciting dramatic plot line underneath.

Reading Grisham’s books is also an escape for me. I tend to read mostly non-fiction but it’s nice to kick back once in awhile and enjoy a book that’s informative but fun at the same time. Grisham has several non-law themed books available and they’re great reads as well.

Mike Petrucci – Community Manager

While I try to stick with just one book at a time before moving onto the next one, I’m actually reading two and a half books at the moment. Even though I often have better reading comprehension when sticking to a single book, I’ve found that certain moods are better suited for different subjects.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle MaintenanceI’ve really been taking a long time to get through this book and it’s not because of the style or the format but simply that I’m trying to truly digest what I’m reading. The author can get so philosophical at times that it takes a bit of reflection to fully take in what’s being read.

Throughout the book, Pirsig raises thoughtful and interesting points as he attempts to define the concept of quality. When you start to truly investigate it, defining “quality” may make your brain hurt a little.

It’s also worth mentioning that despite the title, the author makes it clear that the book isn’t very factual on the subject of zen or even motorcycles. Don’t let that sway you from reading it though.

As someone who used to ride a motorcycle a lot, I for one really enjoy and relate to what Pirsig shares about life on two wheels. The feeling of freedom on a motorcycle is incredible and the view is unique; one that I wish many people in “cages” could experience sometime in their life.

“Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. you climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. This leaf has jagged edges. This rock looks loose. From this place the snow is less visible, even though closer. These are the things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. here’s where things grow.”

Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men by Stephen Mansfield

Mansfields Book of Manly Men“If a man does not have an ideal and try to live up to it, then he becomes a mean, base and sordid creature, no matter how successful.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Manliness today appears to be a trend or a fad, but what’s most often seen in ads and websites are not representative of true manhood. My dad bought me this book as a gift and advised I read it slowly and thoughtfully and I also recommend doing just that.

It’s time to reclaim our lost honor as men and focus on the virtues, the habits, the duties and actions of manliness. True manhood doesn’t have a consistent physical appearance; it’s much deeper than beards and testosterone. Manhood is attainable by every man if they know what to look for and the author provides examples of great men all throughout history.

Mansfield explains that this book isn’t one that reduces the role or importance of women, it’s just simply not a book for girls. He even explicitly mentions that the book is mainly about how a man is measured by who he is for the women in his life. Overall, it’s a guide to illustrate what moral standards men should strive for.

The New American Road Trip Mixtape by Brendan Leonard

The New American Road Trip MixtapeEarlier I mentioned that I was reading two and a half books and this qualifies as that “half book.” I only have an Amazon Kindle sample but so far, I’m enjoying it.

My desire of wanderlust is the same as many others out there as I feel that visiting new locations and meeting new people will broaden your view of humanity. Leonard is on the hunt for the true American Dream and road trips are a fantastic way to accomplish this.

“The driver’s seat of a car might be the last sanctuary for many of us to actually think, or, if we have a passenger, to actually talk.”

For every road trip I’ve been on, this has proven to be thoroughly true and I look forward to reading the rest of the book someday.

What books are you currently reading?

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