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Best Books Ever Written About War That Every Man Should Read

Every military service member needs his daily dose of knowledge and skill enhancement, inspiration and motivation.

And reading some books about war nourishes his minds and clears his thoughts – superseding angst, depression, and misery with compassion, renewal, and faith in everything he does for himself and his obligations.

1. My Early Life by Winston Churchill

Considered to Churchill’s best book, this is a profound memoir which depicts colonial wars seen through the eyes of a glory-seeking shameless adventurer commonly found in such conflicts. The author does rejoice in his own contribution he gave to the campaigns, through which he gained his fame, but he also displays sympathy for all the victims he encountered through the Kitchener’s Khartoum march, the northwest India frontier, and the Boer War. A good example of this is a remarkably enlightened Dervish man wounded in the battle of Omdurman, in 1989, who is otherwise of plain social caste.

2. The Persian Expedition by Xenophon

Cyrus the Younger hires 10,000 Greeks as mercenaries, in 400 BC, to help steel the throne of Persia. The attempt is successful, but Cyrus gets killed in a battle which leaves this entire mercenary force stranded, with thousands of miles and several hostile countries between them and their home. Xenophon, the newly-elected leader of the Greek troops, rises up and leads them in an attempt to fight their way to their home. This journey is filled with incredible tactical thoughts and stories of bravery and leadership. Being a student of Socrates, Xenophon’s philosophical approach lets the reader experience these teachings in action.

3. Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield

A book from the fiction genre may seem like it doesn’t belong here, but people with a profound taste for literature and actual soldiers all praised this work for its poignancy and accuracy. This book is often considered as the best depiction of the famous Battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartans fought the entire Persian Army, and died.

4. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

This book is written in an aphoristic way and in a general tone, so one might often fight it hard to apply it and easy to misapply. However, it is undoubtedly a quintessential text about strategy and warfare. You are surely going to come out of it richer for at least some incredibly simple but highly profound lines, like “knowing yourself as well as you know the enemy”. Sun Tzu was also very descriptive when talking about leadership, which is why this is a must-read for any military soldier.

5. The Campaigns of Alexander by Arrian

This edition rewards the reader with two documents: the first is a collection of Epictetus philosophical lectures, while the second is his own historical documentation of all the wars Alexander the Great fought. Through the second part, we see Alexander as a clear example of how toxic the burden of ambition can be. While he did manage to conquer almost all of the known world, it also led him to his death, most likely by the hands of his own subjects. There was no real purpose behind Alexander’s ploys, no tangible plans for the creation of an empire. It all just turned out to be a series of fights and victories, until he was done. And, as Epictetus observes in the end, he still gets buried just like any other man. However, that’s where one of the most important lessons given here lies. Other great lessons thought by this work touches the importance of leading from the front, speed, boldness, and the element of surprise.

6. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford

Were the Mongols actually just plain brutes and vicious animals we all think they were to this day? Or, was it all just their strategy. Indented as a means to intimidate enemies and wining fights before they start? Genghis Khan was undoubtedly one of the most cunning warriors ever, so the second outcome is much more likely. Together with the Mongolian army, he turned warfare into science. Proof of this is the fact that when Mongols would conquer a new country they would first gather up their scholars and scientists and use them for their own benefit. They also moved with great speed through the country, and were masters of maneuvers and surprise. They aimed all their strategic efforts towards launching surprise attacks and building one of the greatest empires in history, which was actually considered a place of peace, freedom, and prosperity.

7. The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi

Miyamoto Musashi was a samurai warrior, but he was neither a soldier nor a general, technically. However, his profession did lead to a lifetime of war. Musashi dueled with all of the best warriors who lived in his time and often fought more than one at the same time. He especially teaches the difference between the perceiving eye and the seeing eye. He also emphasizes the importance of knowing your enemy better than your own commanders and actually using the knowledge to control them. The lessons offered by this book transcend the art of sword fighting. It is highly recommended to everyone!

8. Napoleon: A Life by Paul Johnson

Napoleon is definitely requiring further study on my part, as I am no expert. However, this introductory biography and books about that period in time have provided so much knowledge on the subject, primarily on the War and its Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World (more about it below). Even Emerson wrote an enlightening essay about Napoleon. Tom Reiss’ The Black Count also surprised me, which is a story about a general serving under Napoleon, who was a former slave and just so happened to be the actual father of Alexandre Dumas, the famous novelist.

9. Nella Last’s War by Nella Last, 1981

This diary’s author is a middle-aged housewife (above), and she wrote her entire account of the things she experienced from 1939 to 1945, thus pioneering social survey Mass Observation. She was by domestic captivity for she was unhappily married. The honesty with which she writes about her reaction to the bombing, privation, dreary monotony, and fear can and do speak for all of the millions of people who were denied of any heroic role in the war. The passages containing her response to the atomic bombs dropped in 1945 are striking, to say the least. Sufficed to say she did not view it as a victory for the allies, but she regarded its significance for the entire mankind.

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