Steven Pressfield$8.99 $8.27
If you have not read this book, stop looking at this list and order it immediately! You might think you know the story of Thermopylae, of Sparta, of the 300, but if you have not read Gates of Fire you have just scratched the surface. Pressfield’s epic novel of sacrifice belongs alongside the greatest written works on man and war. Spend some uninterrupted time with this masterpiece and transport yourself back in time, into the greatest warrior culture the world has ever known, as the 300 make their stand at the “hot gates.” “This is my shield. I bear it before me into battle, but it is not mine alone. It protects my brother on my left. It protects my city. I will never let my brother out of its shadow nor my city out of its shelter. I will die with my shield before me facing the enemy.” There are lessons in that passage. Pressfield frames the story with a quote from Herodotus in The Histories, a quote that has resonated with me since I first read it over two decades ago: “Although extraordinary valor was displayed by the entire corps of Spartans and Thespians, yet bravest of all was declared the Spartan Dienekes. It is said that on the eve of battle, he was told by a native of Trachis that the Persian archers were so numerous that, when they fired their volleys, the mass of arrows blocked out the sun. Dienekes, however, quite undaunted by this prospect, remarked with a laugh, ‘Good. Then we’ll have our battle in the shade.’”
James Dickey$17.00 $15.64
Don’t be scared off by the movie, which is fascinating in its own right, the screenplay also having been penned by the author. Deliverance is the work of one of the greatest poets and novelists of the 20th century, James Dickey, a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II and then the U.S. Air Force during Korea. This is one of those novels I am going to re-read one day. If you follow me on social media or have read past reading lists, you will understand my aversion to re-reading something today through the filters of the intervening years. I’m afraid books I read in my earlier years will have lost their magic. I read Deliverance before seeing the movie. Its themes of violent confrontation through the clash of primal instincts and a softness bread of modern society certainly resonated with me. I read it one summer in high school and have not cracked the cover in over 30 years, yet if you read closely you might find shades of its influence in Savage Son.
Scott Turow$18.99 $17.47
If you are a fan of John Grisham, as I am, and have not read Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow, you are in for a treat! One of the best thrillers I have ever read, period! Notice I didn’t just categorize it as a legal thriller which it most certainly is. It is also a novel that transcends the genre. I read it back in high school when I was probably supposed to be studying algebra or chemistry. What I didn’t know then, but certainly appreciate now, is that all that reading, to include Presumed Innocent, was training me in the art of storytelling. If you have not seen the movie adaptation starring Harrison Ford, READ THE BOOK FIRST! The movie is wonderful but should be seen after spending time in the pages of a novel that will draw you in as only the best can do. The book is so good, it almost made me want to become a lawyer…almost…
J.R.R. Tolkien 4-Book Boxed Set: The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings: The Hobbit, the Fellowship of the Ring, the Two Towers, the Return of the King
J. R. R. Tolkien$35.96 $33.08
If the size and scope of The Lord of the Rings is intimidating or even if fantasy is not your usual genre, I highly recommend reading The Hobbit. I admit to not having read The Lord of the Rings which is strange because I loved The Hobbit. And, if you are a writer or aspiring author it is a MUST READ. Students of Joseph Campbell are sure to recognize the reluctant hero, the mentor, the journey, the tests and crucible, the transformation, and the return. It’s been said that The Hobbit appeals to the child in all of us. That may very well be true. I thoroughly enjoyed my journey into Middle-earth and my guess is that you will too.
Farley Mowat$17.99 $16.55
I’m fairly certain that I saw the 1983 movie adaptation first and then read the book. Growing up, I loved books and films that used the wilderness as a character and explored themes of survival, pitting man against himself and nature. Back when I read the book when I was about ten-years old I had no idea there had been so much controversy surrounding the 1963 novel. I’d already read some of Farley Mowat’s books geared toward children, so it was natural for me to transition from those right into Never Cry Wolf. Back then you just read the book and enjoyed it. There was not an Internet to tell you there was a political motivation behind the well-crafted story that may be more of an “inspired by” tale than a first-person account. It might be harder to enjoy it today because of those outside influences, but if you can put those criticisms aside, it still might be possible to enjoy it as an amazing story.
Thomas E Ricks$18.00
The Gamble by Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas E. Ricks was one of the books on the professional reading list I was asked to put together for the SEAL Teams before I left active duty. It should be read after reading Fiasco. Fiasco offers insight into the U.S. war effort in Iraq from the invasion up to mid-2006. The Gamble picks up from 2006 and takes the reader though 2008. Both are required reading for anyone looking to better understand the occupation of Iraq and for those who will make future decisions that will send young American men and women to their deaths. This is also one of the books I recommended to Chris Pratt as he prepares to become James Reece in The Terminal List.