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What the military is reading

Perhaps some people won’t find it surprising but were you aware that each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces has its own official “reading list” for its members? That’s right, the Air Force, the Army, the Marines and the Navy all have lists of suggested reading broken down by rank.

Containing just under 200 books among the four lists, what’s perhaps most interesting is the book that shows up the most. Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam by H.R. McMaster appears on the Air Force, Army and Marines lists. It — not The Art of War (Army, Marines) or On War (Air Force, Army) — is the only book to appear on three lists. Each puts the book on the list for officers of the rank of colonel to general.

Along with The Art of War and On War, the following books show up on two lists and a couple could just as easily be found on the reading list for an MBA program:

The military isn’t alone in having reading lists. In July, a foreign affairs professional reading list the State Department helped create was announced. That same month, the CIA updated its suggested reading list of “intelligence literature.”And while it may not be a formal reading list, in August the FBI accepted a bid of just under $20,000 to buy 26 different books, ranging from one copy of Microsoft Office Project Step by Step to 385 copies of The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements.


One sure window into a person’s soul is his reading list.

Book Notes,” Mary B.W. Tabor, N.Y. Times (June 14, 1995)

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2 comments to What the military is reading

  • The military isn’t alone in having reading lists. In July, a foreign affairs professional reading list the State Department helped create was announced. That same month, the CIA updated its suggested reading list of “intelligence literature.

  • Tim

    Both of which are noted in the last paragraph of the post.