A nation that makes a great
distinction between its warriors and its scholars is
to have it's fighting done by fools and its thinking done by cowards.
... And thus, I read books on occasion. This list is kind of a working document for my use. It's got books I've read with a review and books I plan to read with a reason why. Also, when I say book or reading, I mean books, movies, whatever. The list isn't particularly long because I don't feel obligated to put every single book on there, but also because I don't read nearly as much as I would like. I put notes by a lot of them, especially the ones I read critically. Just a warning, I may give away the ending.
If you were wondering, my favorite author is Robert Heinlein. He has a sort of of militaristic and socialist (ie, fascist) ideology in his writing, but being that I live that sort of lifestyle, it's kind of flattering, so I don't mind. He also makes a habit of showing how people rebel against the world, which I also find a little encouraging. I just ignore the fact that the 'system' always gets them in the end.
Here are the categories:
Farenheit 451-Les Miserables-Inferno-1984-20,000 Leagues Under The Sea-Animal Farm-Brave New World-The Illiad-Doctor Faustus
Momo-Daggerspell series-Keepers of Edanvant-The Great and Secret Show-Dragon's Eyes-Wheel of Time Series-A Stranger in a Strange Land-A Wrinkle in Time-The More Than Complete Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-Starship Troopers-Ender's Game- The Metamorphosis-Bedazzled
Steal This Computer Book-Chaos Theory-A Brief History of Time-Quantum Reality-The Fourth Dimension-Flatland
A History of God-The Demon-Haunted World-Classics of Free Thought-In God We Trust: But Which One?-Nontracts from the Freedom From Religion Foundation-Devil's Advocate-The Prophecy
AThe Satanic Bible-The Book of Mormon-Tao Te Ching-Te of Piglet-Bhagavad Gita-The Holy Bible-Asimov's Guide to the Bible-Dead Sea Scrolls-Contradictions of the Bible-The Qu'ran-Why I Am Not a Muslim
Military / Business / Leadership
About Face-Dereliction of Duty-Love 'em and Lead 'em-The Fifth Discipline-The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People-Business at the Speed of Thought by Bill Gates
Full Metal Jacket- Apocolypse Now- Hamburger Hill-Stripes- Dr. Strangelove- A Bridge Too Far-Nuremburg-The Lieutenants-If You Survive-Killer Angels- Johnny Got His Gun- Band of Brothers
Officer Professional Development
Military Leadership-DISCOM- The FSB- Mech and Light infantry and tank ops- Combatives- General Quartermaster Ops- Survival Training- Quartermaster
The Matrix-It's a Wonderful Life-Dogma-Swingers-Kids-American Beauty-Fight Club-Mall Rats-Dead Poets Society-Very Bad Things-Your Friends and Neighbors-Henry V-Gladiator-Jesus Christ Superstar-The Exorcist-A Clockwork Orange-The Fifth Element-Grosse Pointe Blank-Pi: Faith in Chaos-Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory-What Dreams May Come-Amistad-Caddyshack-Man on the Moon-End of Days-Stigmata-Wag the Dog-Seven-Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance-Battle Focused Training-Training the Team
I read these purely to ejimakate myself. I figure if they're considered classics, they must have some merit. Almost invariably I have found that to be true.
This was the first book I read just because I wanted to and not because I had to.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Inferno by Dante
This was in old english, so it was a good exercise just to work through it to understand what is being said in something other than modern colloquial english. It was good reading, but even more valuable as just a reading exercise.
1984 by George Orwell
I tried to read this one during Christmas vacation in my first year at West Point. With all the talk of gray walls and regimented lifesyles, it was just too depressing to finish. I read it during the next year.
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea
I was supposed to read this one for 6th grade english class. I think I got through a lot of it, because I remember how unpleasant the whole thing was. The main reason it is here is because the ordeal scarred me and really made me hate to read.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Power corrupts. I read several of these types of books (communist-type takeover) in a row. This was drove home the point better than the others. It serves as a reminder not to let it happen to me.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
This tainted the word 'Utopia.' It highlights the fact of life that if everyone is happy, no one is happy. People enjoy a little conflict and strife in life.
The Illiad by Homer
I picked this one up and waded about 100 pages into it before the genealogies and rehashes of the story bored me into submission. I'll have to come back to it another time.
Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
This is just an interesting classic. It was a good story of justice. Everyone got their bargain in the end.
I don't read a lot of plain fiction because it doesn't matter. I'm a little too practical to spend my time flipping through 500 page books learning about absolutely nothing. I do however get the urge and pick one up once in a while. And there are sometimes lessons to be learned as well as just plain relaxation.
Another of my first voluntary books. This is a story I enjoyed very much. It is told from the perspective of a little orphan girl, Momo, who lives in an abandoned stadium outside a small 19th-century era european village (although the actual time-period is a little fuzzy). The village is small and has blacksmiths and cobblers and whatnot. All the people in the village know Momo and visit often. They take time from their day just to visit. One day, all the people stop coming. She ventures out to see where all her friends went and discovers that they have become too busy. They hustle and bustle about apologizing about how busy they are. The scene has also changed from quaint village to fast-food restaurants and cars zooming too and fro. She also notices that there are men in suits smoking cigars eyeing her suspiciously. She eventually finds out that they are evil beings stealing everyone's free time. It sounds little weird, but it's really a good story. It's a reminder that no matter how busy I am, I can always take time out to do something more important.
Daggerspell series by Katherine Kerr
I had read other books by this time, but this was the first major series I read. I actually enjoyed it and read many of the books, although I didn't finish
Keepers of Edanvant
This book was kind of interesting because I read it at the same time I got Metallica's Ride the Lightning tape. I listened to it a lot while reading this book. Later, I found that every time I hear a song from that tape, I think of a scene from that book. Almost all of them have very direct corrolations to major portions of the story. I thought about writing the author and asking if she had the same feeling, but I thought it was a little too much effort to find her address.
The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker
I thought I'd try out this author. I knew he had contributed to some good quality horror and gothic works, and I felt like being shocked a little bit. It worked. I enjoyed it, but really, this is a dirty book, don't let your kids read it.
Dragon's Eyes by Stephen King
This book I read when I was a kid. It's also in the category of 'starter books' with Momo and Farenheit 451.
Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan
This series was really outstanding, as anyone will tell you, but it also fell prey to my problem with fiction. I just felt that I should read some other 800 page book (see About Face). One interesting thing is that I was leapfrogging books with this and the Daggerspell series. There was a main character named Perrin in each. One was a slightly flaky character, but still a friend. The other was a backstabbing pervert-type that was a major enemy. It was really confusing as I bounced back and forth between books.
A Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
I read this book purely because Heinlein wrote it, and also because I was a little drawn by the fact that it was an 'unedited' version put out by his wife. In the forward, she wrote about how the publishers cut out a large portion to make the book more marketable. Since I liked him so much, I was interested to see one of his uncut works. I wasn't a bit disappointed. As you can see from my philosophy pages, I'm a freethinker. This story is about a human child raised by a far advanced martian civilization who returns to earth, has to learn a whole new culture and language, and then starts a new religion with himself at the head. If you have any interest in Moral Relativism, this is a good thought problem.
A Wrinkle in Time
I enjoyed this book as a youngster, but I was interested to see the Tesseract reappear in some of my more advanced readings about the 4th Dimension.
The More Than Complete Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
This book is a compilation of 5 books, but acutally the 2, maybe 2.5 books in the series are good. The rest of it gets kind of goofy. The reason I like it so much is because, especially in the first 2 books, the reader gets a very interesting perspective on Life, The Universe, and Everything (reference coincidental).
Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
The first thing about this is that it's not even a little similar to the movie, except for the bugs. The method of fighting isn't the same, and all that love crap is not even considered. It's all Spartan battle philosophy against an alien race.
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
This book is about a boy who demonstrates the maxim: If you fight, win. And don't just win, win so they'll NEVER bother you again. The part that makes it a book is the fact that he has a conscience. There are actually a lot of levels to this book, it's just outstanding.
The movie was a mediocre comedy, but it turned out interesting in the end. The moral was that you can't sell your soul because it's not yours to sell. It belongs to God. Very interesting. It also ended with the Devil (Elizabeth Hurley) and God (Gabriel Casseus) having a laugh about stealing souls. (I don't know if it was Gabriel Casseus, and he was listed as an Angel. I guess a black man can't be God... I didn't really understand that one.
I'm going to try to put the major portions I picked up from each of these books as well. Understand though that the book was written because it couldn't be explained in a few sentences, so don't expect a whole lot.
Steal This Computer Book by Wallace Wang
I picked up this book from a friend of mine to learn a little bit about hacking. That's what I learned. Most of the book is great reading for anyone just getting started on the internet, basic security and dangers involved. The virus part actually has some reasonably useful information, but still it's pretty basic.
This was one of the first science books I read. It introduces topics like the Butterfly Effect and Mendelbrot and Julian Sets. The author also relates some interesting anecdotes about his early studies with chaos theory using analog (output based on input, not equations) computers. One thing he points out is that all these new high-speed computers don't leave any time for thoughtful reflection. He says he used to come up with some outstanding stuff as he twirled a pencil at 3am waiting for a particular weather scenerio to play itself out on his old slow computer.
A Brief History of Time by Steven Hawking
This is just basic reading. It will introduce anyone to all the ins-and-outs of Classical Physics, with of course, a short stop on every physicist's favorite topic: The Black Hole. One note is this, Hawking introduces the book by promising to use only one equation: E=mc^2. If you have a kid startin or enrolled in Physics, give them this book. Then, when they decide they want to be a physicist, give them Quantum Reality and show them that everything they learned is wrong. Note that I read Quantum Reality first, so History was a little boring.
This book has some pretty in-depth stuff. Nothing in the book is of any consequence to the average human being. It's interesting though, if you'd like to be the smartest kid on your block, learn about bosons, mesons, GUT, and the other biggest and smallest things in the universe.
The Fourth Dimension by Rudy Rucker
If you think you're smart, read this book. It's got some great thought-provoking topics like remember something in 3-D, and draw a Tesseract. While I was reading this book, I heard about Schrodinger's Cat. The idea is this: Put a cat in a box for an hour, then open the box and see if it is still alive. Note that there is a mechanism in the box that will kill the cat and has a 50/50 chance of activating in the one-hour period. So, at any point in that hour (and you can't look in the box) is the cat alive or dead? Wrong. Modern Quantum Physics says the cat is half alive and half dead. I thought this was a bunch of crap, so I had to read Quantum Reality to learn why it was that way.
This is a short romp into open-minded thinking. If you've got a kid starting geometry, this is a book for him/her. Also, if you're a little scared of reading the Fourth Dimension, just read this and you'll have your mind opened pretty well.
I've put a few separate books here, but a lot of my philosophy reading is from contemporary articles and short writings from classical authors. Not really books, just excerpts.
A History of God by Karen Armstrong
I've gotten through most of this. The parts I've read have really good information on how people viewed religion as a concept around the time of Abraham and how these people then assimilated the new idea of monotheism (exclusivist theism).
The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan
I skimmed through this more than read it, but it did have some good info. It mainly confirmed a lot of my views about how people deceive themselves into mythology and confusion.
Classics of Free Thought
This is a compilation of many freethought works and worth checking out for the assortment.
In God We Trust: But Which One? by Judith Hayes
Another book I skimmed through. She makes some interesting points, but the book is so biased that it sacrifices a little in truth and fairness. For example, the list of murders of god is pretty striking, but two-thirds of those are only orders from god that aren't the kind of direct plague/earthquake intervention she makes them out to be.
Nontracts from the Freedom From Relgion Foundation
These cover several topics explaining the freethinker and atheist perspective to various groups and about various issues. They are both informative and useful without being too one-sided.
Devil's Advocate (movie)
This movie shows the devil (Al Pacino) as a supporter of the tactile pleasures of life and a lawyer (ugh, Keanu Reeves) who makes all the wrong decisions, morally, until the end, but not even then... Besides this enlightenment, Pacino's monologues are truly interesting from a philosophical perspective. It's probably my favorite film.
The Prophecy (movie)
This was my first introduction to the idea that angels are jealous of humans and fight against one another. It also shows a very personal perspective on angels and what they might be like. Adding to this the significantly creepy casting of Christopher Walken as the significantly creepy messenger of death, Gabriel, and the film is worth seeing for the storyline. (note: the sequel is interseting, too, but a major step backwards in quality)
The Satanic Bible by Anton Szandor LeVey
My first suggestion is that you forget whatever prejudices or preconceived-notions of "Satanism" or any related devilish things you have and pick up this book to read. It starts out with an by LeVey. He states very clearly that his 'religion' is not focused on worship, but on the human condition. The rituals of Satanism are not for some higher being, to include Satan. They are merely to give the people of Satanism something to hold onto. The rest of it is not some historical account / mythology of the religion as other 'bibles' are, it's basically a philosophical dissertation, a treatise of how to live life. That treatise basically states that people should indulge in the desires that they have. LaVey's supporting arguments are not the least absurd either. The arguments are not 'sophisticated,' but that is more of a compliment on the readability of his writing. I wouldn't say Satanism has any more merit than any other religion, but I am surprised to say it certainly has no less merit either.
The Book of Mormon
Muslims claim that the beauty and poetry of the Qu'ran is proof of its divine origin. If Mormons made this claim about the book of Mormon, no one would have hung John Smith, they would have just laughed the whole bunch out of town. It's basically a modern (1800s) person writing in "Thou/Thee/Begat" etc style of the KJV Bible. Mostof the stories are taken from the Bible, and the others are a little hard to accept. In any case, Mormons are nice people.
The Tao Te Ching
As with most Eastern philosophy, there weren't any specific arguments to be excerpted from the book. However, the reading is an experience.
The Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff
I enjoyed the Zen excerpts in this book, and the dialogue with Piglet and friends was entertaining. However, the interjections by the author were almost invariably caustic political commentary of the most leftist kind. I almost didn't finish the book because I got tired of reading about the failures and conspiracies of big government. I recommend Zen writings, but not this book.
This is Hindu scripture. It took about an hour to read because it really only says two things: Do something and do it without desire. Pick up the book and read any 5 or 10 pages and you should have the general idea. There are also some interesting cosmological interpretations and Platonic explanations of the proper ordering of the soul towards the end.
The Holy Bible
I express my feelings about the Bible sufficiently elsewhere.
Dead Sea Scrolls
Why weren't these part of the Bible?
Contradictions of the Bible by William Henry Burr
This is a list of contradictions originally compiled in 1890. It's still accurate today.
I'll address this elsewhere as necessary.
Why I'm Not a Muslim by Ibn Warraq
Military / Business / Leadership
These books are mostly history or historical fiction. I read them because I'm interested in getting some good insight into how I should conduct myself as a soldier and an officer, and also because some of them are required reading for West Point.
About Face by Col. (Ret) David Hackworth
800 pages. I just barely waded through this one. Fortunately I started it during the summer when I had a lot of reading time. It may be long, but for your trouble you get post-WWII, Korea, and Vietnam era prospectives from a hard-charging, lead-with-your-fists kind of soldier who fights the influx of the ticket-puching, political, bureaucratic Army. I could expound on his qualities, but suffice it to say if he's half the stud he seems to be in the book, he's the ideal warrior and student of combat. Towards the end of the book, however, he begins attacking others instead of focusing on his own situation and experiences and the book degrades quickly from there. Overall worth it, just read with scrutiny.
Dereliction of Duty by H. R. McMaster
I went to an ethics conference with a bunch of colonels and generals, and they kept saying, "Have you read Dereliction of Duty?" After I wracked up 5 or 10 stars worth of recommendation, I figured I should read it. It's a nice compliment to About Face. Hackworth whines about how the military leadership never did anything about the problem, and McMaster explains why. (to be continued)
Love 'em and Lead 'em
Don't laugh. This is written by a West Pointer, and surprisingly explains a style of leadership totally opposed to the hazing and demeaning practices of his Old Corps. It generally explains that one should care about subordinates, and explain things to them, and generally take a considered interest in their development. One note here is that he wrote another book about bad leadership practices. He has an example of each on perforated pages that you can tear out and mail to your boss. It's a funny idea, but it was a big letdown compared to the first one.
The Fifth Discipline
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Business at the Speed of Thought by Bill Gates
I'm hoping to get some useful info on how to utilize email and other technology to make operations more efficient.
Military History / Fiction
Mandatory for all soldiers: Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, Hamburger Hill, Stripes, Dr. Strangelove, A Bridge Too Far, Nuremburg, Johnny Got His Gun
Full Metal Jacket [M]
Mandatory viewing for all soldiers. This is a good example of the military before the media happened. The well-known part of the movie is the recruit training portion where the drill sergeant yells at and belittles the recruits. It was a true, stark look at military life, but now it's an example of what not to do. True Story: a trainee came to me explaining a situation where a drill sergeant was yelling in her face. (After getting sufficient support to know the story was true,) that drill sergeant's career is all but over. FMJ is mandatory viewing for all soldiers.
This is a just a made-for-TV miniseries, but it does have something to say: following orders isn't an excuse for atrocities.
The Lieutenants by WEB Griffin
The touching story of how young lieutenants work their way into and around the good-old-boy system of Post-WWII army by being toadies and errand boys for the aristocratic and spoiled senior officers. Maybe it's true, but if so, I consider it an embarrassing time for the military.
If You Survive
A true story of a soldier who fought through some of the harshest battles of WWII. It's good reading if you can get around the authors slightly too frequent bragging about achievements and whining about not enough recognition.
Killer Angels by Jim Shaara
This is a Pulitzer prize-winning novel about Gettysburg. It shows the battle from each of the different commanders' perspectives on both sides at different points in the battle. The main focus is how the generals moved around and what they thought about Lee.
Johnny Got His Gun
If someone really wants to join the military, this is quite a potent tool to discourage them. There's a nice introduction in the version I read that talks about how the book was banned several times in and around the World Wars. Otherwise, It's not one of those books to be read line by line for future commentary, it's more of an experience to be had.
Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose
I've read several books about life for soldiers in war, but most are from SF/Infantry perspective. Band of Brothers tells the story of an airborne unit. The soldiers go to the front for major offensives and then spend the down time in the rear. It's very different from the trench warfare and long road march stories of infantry stories. The story is also interesting because Ambrose tracks the unit from training before DDay, through DDay, Market Garden, The Bulge, and the final offensives into Germany. I have always admired Ambrose, and Band of Brothers boosted my opinion of him.
Officer Professional Development
FM 22-100, Military Leadership
Primary reading for junior leaders. The old FM 22-100 has the Principles of Leadership, 11 little reminders of all the things a leader should be. The new 22-100 combines Leadership with counseling and team building. Overall, it is a better manual, but the Principles of Leadership are still a big loss.
AR 623-105 and 623-205
OER and NCOER regulations, respectively. They are a must for any leader.
FM 63-2 DISCOM, FM 63-20 The FSB
Quartermaster Ops. That's my area, and especially 63-20 would be good for anyone going to a support platoon leader position (admittedly the platoon to command in the combat arms unit).
FM 7-8, 7-7, 7-7j, 7-15 Mech and Light infantry and tank ops.
7-8 is basic knowledge for all army commanders, the others are also fundamental for any maneuver commander.
FM 21-150 Combatives
For when your tank breaks down.
FM 10-x series, General Quartermaster Ops
FM 21-75 Survival Training
This is even sold through civilian channels. Survival in the wilderness is useful to everyone.
TTP for Quartermaster
I could go on forever with these manuals...