Fiction Belongs on
Military Reading Lists
since my developmental switch “flipped” a few years ago and the pursuit of
knowledge became a critical aspect of my professional identity as a U.S. Army
officer, I’ve devoured the books on the various reading lists I’ve come across.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize I was doing myself a disservice. My reading was
akin to an unbalanced diet too rich in protein. I was consuming a lot of
nonfiction, while fiction was absent from my plate – a very valuable source of
believe that my unbalanced approach to self-development is reflective of a
larger institutional bias toward non-fiction, which typically includes
biographies, military history or leadership books. With the exception of the
Marine Corps, you will find only two books in the fiction column on the
remaining Service Chiefs’ reading lists: and The
absence of this genre could be the result of an organizational barrier that
views fiction as entertainment. If folks are taking the time to read, a common
sentiment is that it should be spent on the standard nonfiction canon that
exists on almost every reading list.
a decade of service, I had only read two fiction books for development: and . Things changed late last year, when Colonel (ret) , a mentor,
recommended that I start reading fiction for professional growth. He wrote,
“You’ll find as you go forward that the problems you confront and the things
you are asked to do require an education and understanding that is more broad
not the only one who has adopted this outlook on fiction’s importance in
professional development. As General Martin Dempsey, former Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, writes in his forward to , a science-fiction anthology published by
(ret) Jim Stavridis, another senior leader worth emulating, that reading fiction helped him throughout
his career to better understand the human condition. In fact, his literary
intake is 80% fiction and 20% nonfiction. His June 2015 in Foreign Policy argues that we can learn
more about Putin’s mindset from Russian fiction more so than intel reports or
other non-fiction sources. It was his presentation at the Naval War College
that introduced me to and , two of the best books I’ve read this year.
up a piece of classic literature, historical fiction, or science fiction is an
exciting way to introduce ourselves to new and abstract concepts. My friend even that reading fiction can help us better
understand decision-making from multiple perspectives in chaotic situations.
Reading George R.R. Martin’s may
help on geopolitics in
Europe or the Middle East. Robert Heinlein’s might shape our thoughts on national service. James
teach us about small-unit leadership. And John Hershey’s gives us insight into the
problems of soldiers taking on governance in post-
fiction helps us better retain what we learn. A good story causes our brains to
produce imagery and emotion that aide in the “stickiness” of the lessons. In
their book, the Heath
Brothers, argue that stories are like flight simulators for the brain. When we
read stories, are minds simulate the events that unfold on the pages of the
book. We empathize with the characters; we feel anger, sadness, and
joy-emotions, which attach themselves to the lessons we glean, helping us to
recall them later. I can still vividly remember one of the key battles in
Steven Pressfield’s , and
the speech Leonidas gave to his Spartans when the dust settled. It was an
emotional scene and the lessons I pulled from it remain with me a decade later.
His words shaped how I make the transition from husband and father to Soldier
and back again during deployments and homecomings.
if our officially published professional military reading lists continue to
exclude fiction, I encourage leaders to expand their professional libraries to
encompass not just books on Pericles, George Patton, or Hal Moore, but also
Achilles ( ), Robert
Jordan ( ),
and Ivy Xiao ( ).
the end, war is a human problem and there is no better reflection of the human
condition than the stories we tell.
is a list of fiction that should be considered for professional reading:
KÜTÜPHANESİNDE BULUNAN VE ABD ASKERLERİNİN OKUMA LİSTESİNDE BULUNAN
KİTAPLARIN KISA BİR LİSTESİ VAR. KİTAPLAR İNGİLİZCEDİR.
LİSTEDEKİ KİTAPLARI GÖRMEK İÇİN MAVİ RENKTE OLAN
YAZIYA BİR KEZ TIKLAYINIZ. İLGİLİ SAYFA GÖRÜNTÜLENECEKTİR.