Commandant’s Reading List – A Complete List

The Commandant’s Reading List is a list of books that Marines are recommended and often required to read. They are meant to help Marines develop their personal and professional character. The comprised list is what was published by the Commandant of the Marines Corps. If any changes have been made through a MARADMIN or ALMAR and it is not reflected here, please leave a comment and I will make the necessary corrections.

Leave comments for any books you would recommend to other Marines. Also see the CNO Reading List.

It is about attaining a “30 Year Old Body and 5000 Year Old Mind”as General Amos put it in his 2012 white letter:


In 1989, General Al Gray promulgated the first Commandant’ s Reading List and challenged Marines of every rank to re-dedicate themselves to the study of their profession. Our twenty-ninth Commandant clearly understood that the development and broadening of the mind is a critical aspect of the true warrior ‘s preparation for battle. General Gray viewed reading as a means of preparing for the future, and combat in particular. He ensured that his Marines knew he considered mental preparation as important as physical conditioning or even MOS training.

The introduction of that first list was a milestone in the history of our Corps. It represented an important and useful manifestation of the professional study that has always characterized us as Marines. The idea of Marines diligently pursuing the profession of arms by reading on their own has resonated inside and outside the Corps. Comparing themselves to the most professional military organizations throughout history, Marines take great pride in being part of a thinking and learning organization. The emphasis on thoughtful reading has stood us in good stead over the last 11 years. The adaptation and flexibility shown by Marines faced with a variety of different situations and challenges was anchored in many years of mental preparation for combat.

Over recent years I have become increasingly concerned that Marines are not reading enough anymore. Many are not reading at all. This has happened for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the last 11 years of continuous combat in Iraq and Afghanistan have been characterized by a high operational tempo that made extraordinary demands on time. Under the pressure of competing requirements, reading was one of the first things to go. For all practical purposes it has been gone for years. Our senior leaders have not emphasized the importance of reading.

Faced with a period of fiscal austerity and an uncertain world, it’s more important now than ever before to dedicate time to read and to think. As we prepare ourselves for whatever is to come, the study of military history offers the inexpensive chance to learn from the hard-won experience of others, find a template for solving existing challenges, and avoid making the same mistakes twice. As it was once wisely put, reading provides a “better way to do business.. it doesn’t always provide all the answers.. but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.” Any book thoughtfully read sharpens the mind and improves on an individual’s professional potential.

Whatever has caused our emphasis on reading to atrophy, we as Marines and as leaders, need to restore its preeminence at every level. The Marine Corps will return to its roots as an organization that studies and applies the lessons of history. The attached Commandant’ s Professional Reading List represents an updated version of those books most pertinent to the development of professional skills at each level. I have personally reviewed it, and made both deletions and additions. It forms the core of an expanded professional military education program that I expect to be overseen by Commanding Officers and unit leaders at every level. Every Marine will read at least three books from the list each year. All books listed at each level of rank are required, while the books listed under categories are recommended readings to expand understanding in specific areas. The list represents only a starting point, and will ideally whet the appetite for further reading and study.
Commanders and senior enlisted will reinvigorate the critical emphasis on reading in their units and develop a unit reading program. Books will be selected for reading and discussion, with time set aside in the schedule to that end. The idea that true professionals study their profession all the time – not just in PME schools – will continue to be a strongly emphasized theme in all of our professional schools..officer and enlisted.

This letter represents only the first installment in this effort. On 1 January, a follow-on ALMAR will be published that provides further detail. I have also directed that specific guidance be promulgated that ensures that item G-1 (Professional Military Education) in the fitness report is being used to accurately describe a Marine’ s dedication to the pursuit of life-long learning.

Let me end by saying that I am well aware that much has been asked of our leadership in recent years – some may see this as yet another requirement. I ask that this white letter not be taken in that light. Reading is a critical continuing action. We need to find the time for it just as we find time weekly for individual and unit physical conditioning. What I am calling for is nothing less than a renewal of a critical aspect of our commitment to the profession of arms.

– James F. Amos
“Marines … the study of our profession is what we do – it tells all … who we are!”


All of the links in this list are affiliate links. The “free audiobook” links are valid for those who have not tried Audible.com and would like to signup for a FREE trial. Currently, Amazon is offering two free audiobooks with a free trial membership.

Commandant’s Choice

A Message to Garcia” by E. Hubbard
“Leading Marines (MCWP 6-11)” by the United States Marine Corps.
The Warrior Ethos” by S. Pressfield
“Warfighting (MCDP 1)” by the United States Marine Corps

Entry Level Enlisted: Recruit/Poolee

Battle Cry” by L. Uris
Corps Values” by Z. Miller
Making the Corps” by T. Ricks (free audiobook)
The Red Badge of Courage” by S. Crane (free audiobook)

Entry Level Officer: Candidate/Midshipman

Battle Cry” by L. Uris
Corps Values” by Z. Miller
I’m Staying With My Boys” J. Proser and J. Cutter
Making the Corps” by T. Ricks (free audiobook)
My Men Are My Heroes” by N. Helms
The Killer Angels” by M. Shaara (free audiobook)

Primary Level Enlisted: Pvt.-Cpl.

Ender’s Game” by O. Card (free audiobook)
Gates of Fire” by S. Pressfield (free audiobook)
Marine! The Life of Chesty Puller” by B. Davis
My Men Are My Heroes” by N. Helms
Rifleman Dodd” by C.S. Forester
The Last Stand of Fox Company” by B. Drury and T. Clavin (free audiobook)
The Marines of Montford Point: America’s First Black Marines” by M. McLaurin

Primary Level Officer: WO, 2nd Lt., 1st Lt.

All Quiet on the Western Front” by E. Remarque (free audiobook)
Battle Leadership” by A. Von Schell
Gates of Fire” by S. Pressfield (free audiobook)
Marine! The Life of Chesty Puller” by B. Davis
Matterhorn: a Novel of the Vietnam War” by K. Marlantes (free audiobook)
The Defense of Duffer’s Drift” by E. Swinton
The Forgotten Soldier” by G. Sajer
The Last Stand of Fox Company” by B. Drury and T. Clavin (free audiobook)
The Marines of Montford Point: America’s First Black Marines” by M. McLaurin
“U.S. Constitution”
With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa” by E. Sledge (free audiobook)

Career Level Enlisted: Sgt., SSgt.

First to Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps” by V. Krulak
Islands of the Damned” by R. Burgin and B. Marvel (free audiobook)
Outliers” by M. Gladwell (free audiobook)
Quartered Safe Out Here” by G. Fraserl (free audiobook)
Soldiers of God” by R. Kaplan
Storm of Steel” by E. Junger (free audiobook)
The Defense of Duffer’s Drift” by E. Swinton
The Forgotten Soldier” by G. Sajer
The Killer Angels” by M. Shaara (free audiobook)
“U.S. Constitution”
With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa” by E. Sledge (free audiobook)

Career Level Officer: CWO-2, CWO-3, Capt.

Attacks” by E. Rommel
Black Hearts” by J. Frederick (free audiobook)
First to Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps” by V. Krulak
“Infantry in Battle (FMFRP 12-2)” by the United States Marine Corps
Into the Tiger’s Jaw” by F. Petersen
Islands of the Damned” by R. Burgin and B. Marvel (free audiobook)
On Killing” by D. Grossman (free audiobook)
Outliers” by M. Gladwell (free audiobook)
Quartered Safe Out Here” by G. Fraser (free audiobook)
Sources of Power” by G. Klein
The Virtues of War” by S. Pressfield (free audiobook)
“U.S. Constitution”
War Made New” by M. Boot

Intermediate Level Enlisted: GySgt., MSgt., 1st Sgt.

All Quiet on the Western Front” by E. Remarque (free audiobook)
American Spartan” by J. Warren (free audiobook)
Fields of Fire” by J. Webb (free audiobook)
Flags of Our Fathers” by J. Bradley (free audiobook)
Helmet For My Pillow” by R. Leckie
On Killing” by D. Grossman (free audiobook)
The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us and What We Can Do About It” by J. Ramo (free audiobook)
The Changing Face of War” by M. Van Creveld
This Kind of War” by T. Fehrenbach (free audiobook)
“U.S. Constitution”
We Were Soldiers Once…And Young” by H. Moore and J. Galloway

Intermediate Level Officer: CWO-4, CWO-5, Maj., Lt.Col.

Battle Cry of Freedom” by J. McPherson (free audiobook)
Blink” by M. Gladwell (free audiobook)
Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War” by R. Coram (free audiobook)
Brute: The Life of Victor Krulak” by R. Coram (free audiobook)
Carnage and Culture” by V. Hanson
Command Culture” by J. Muth
Defeat into Victory” by W. Slim
Forgotten Warriors” by T. Hammes
Hot, Flat, and Crowded” by T. Freidman (free audiobook)
Just and Unjust Wars” by M. Walzer (free audiobook)
Military Innovation in the Interwar Period” by W. Murray and A. Millett
Ripples of Battle” by V. Hanson
The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us and What We Can Do About It” by J. Ramo (free audiobook)
The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle” by J. Gray
This Kind of War” by T. Fehrenbach (free audiobook)

Senior Level Enlisted: MGySgt., SgtMaj.

Achilles in Vietnam” by J. Shay
Assignment Pentagon: How to Excel in a Bureaucracy” by P. Smith and D. Gerstein
Command Culture” by J. Muth
Forgotten Warriors” by T. Hammes
Hot, Flat, and Crowded” by T. Freidman (free audiobook)
Just and Unjust Wars” by M. Walzer (free audiobook)
No Bended Knee” by M. Twining
The Face of Battle” by J. Keegan (free audiobook)
The Mask of Command” by J. Keegan

Senior Level Officer: Col.-Gen.

Another Bloody Century” by C. Gray
Assignment Pentagon: How to Excel in a Bureaucracy” by P. Smith and D. Gerstein
Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Lies that Led to Vietnam” by H. McMaster
Diplomacy” by H. Kissinger
How Wars End” by G. Rose (free audiobook)
Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past” by J. Gaddis
Little Book of Economics: How the Economy Works in the Real World” by G. Ip
Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle” by S. Biddle
Modern Strategy” by C. Gray
Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen and Leadership in Wartime” by E. Cohen
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by D. Goodwin (free audiobook)
The Federalist Papers” by A. Hamilton
The Guns of August” by B. Tuchman (free audiobook)
The Landmark of Thucydides” by R. Strassler
The Revenge of Geography” by R. Kaplan (free audiobook)

Aviation

100 Years of Marine Corps Aviation: An Illustrated History” by R. Kaufman
Hammer From Above: Marine Air Combat Over Iraq” by J. Stout
Marine Air: The History of the Flying Leathernecks in Words and Photos” by R. Dorr
On Yankee Station: The Naval Air War over Vietnam” by J. Nichols and B. Tillman
“The Art of Airpower, Sun Tzu Revisited” by S. Kainikara
The Naval Air War in Korea” by R. Hallion
U.S. Marine Corps Aviation Since 1912” by P. Mersky

Logistics

Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army” by D. Engels
Clockspeed” by C. Fine
Feeding Mars: Logistics in Western Warfare from the Middle Ages to the Present” by J. Lynn
Keep from All Thoughtful Men: How U.S. Economists Won WWII” by J. Lacey
Pacific Express: The Critical Role of Military Logistics In WWII” by W. McGee
Recurring Logistic Problems as I Have Observed Them” by C. Magruder
Supplying War” by M. van Creveld

Counterinsurgency

Counterinsurgency Warfare” by D. Galula
Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife” by J. Nagl and P. Schoomaker (free audiobook)
Street Without Joy” by B. Fall (free audiobook)
The Accidental Guerilla” by D. Kilcullen (free audiobook)
The Village” by B. West
War Comes to Long An” by J. Race

Roots of Maneuver Warfare

Airpower and Maneuver Warfare” by M. van Creveld
Assault from the Sea: Essays on the History of Amphibious Warfare” by M. Bartlett
Maneuver Warfare” by G. Galvin and R. Hooker
Maneuver Warfare Handbook” by W. Lind
The U.S. Marines and Amphibious War: Its Theory and Practice in the Pacific” by J. Isley and P. Crowl

Wounded Warrior

Ascent” by B. McGhie
Courage After Fire: Coping Strategies for Troops Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and Their families” by K. Armstrong, S. Best, and P. Domenici
Down Range: To Iraq and Back” by B. Cantrell and C. Dean
Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming” by J. Shay
Once a Warrior Always a Warrior: Navigating the Transition from Combat to Home” by C. Hoge (free audiobook)
Once a Warrior: Wired for Life” by B. Cantrell and C. Dean
Overcoming Post-Deployment Syndrome: A Six Step Mission to Health” by D. Cifu and C. Blake
Shadow of the Sword” by J. Workman
Soft Spots: A Marine’s Memoir of Combat and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” by C. Van Winkle
Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by L. Hillenbrand (free audiobook)
War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation’s Veterans from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” by E. Tick
Warrior Mindset” by M. Asken, L. Christensen, D. Grossman
What It Is Like to Go to War” by K. Marlantes (free audiobook)

Strategic Thinking

Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life” by R. Paul and L. Elder
General System Theory” by L. Von Bartalanffy
Harnessing Complexity” by R. Axelrod and M. Cohen
Rethinking the Principles of War” by A. McIvor
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” by N. Taleb (free audiobook)
The Copernican Revolution” by T. Kuhn
Thinking Fast and Slow” by D. Kahneman (free audiobook)
Thinking in Time: The uses of Histry for Decision Makers” by R. Neustadt and E. May

Regional and Cultural Studies

Angry Wind: Through Muslim Black Africa by Truck, Bus, Boat, and Camel” by J. Tayler
Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus” by R. Kaplan
Monsoon” by R. Kaplan
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea” by B. Demick (free audiobook)
The Great Arab Conquests” by H. Kennedy
Understanding Arabs: A Contemporary Guide to Arab Society” by M. Nydell
What Went Wrong? The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in he Middle East” by B. Lewis (free audiobook)

Leadership

Developing the Leaders Around You” by J. Maxwell (free audiobook)
Heoric Leadership” by C. Lowney (free audiobook)
Leadership and the New Science” by M. Wheatly
Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times” by D. Phillips (free audiobook)
Once a Marine” by N. Popaditch and M. Steere (free audiobook)
Start With Why” by S. Sinek (free audiobook)
The Power of Communication” by H. Garcia
The Starfish and the Spider” by O. Brafman and R. Beckstrom (free audiobook)

7 COMMENTS
  • Ian Gallon
    Reply

    It is not on the list, it may have been on a previous one, however there is a book. “One Bullet Away: The Making of A Marine Corps Officer” by Marine Recon Captain N. Fick. That I found was an outstanding read.

    1. 2dReconGuy
      Reply

      Capt Fick will never have a book on the commandants reading list. There is a lot of politics behind that. As part of a small group of individuals that know why, I must say that even though it is tragic that he will not see the list, he has a strong grasping of what and how things should be done.

    2. Jeff
      Reply

      One Bullet Away was a self-fulfilling script that’s facts were questionable at best.

  • Ronin Van Mir
    Reply

    For the most part, an excellent list. For those of you heading to the Middle East, I highly recommend reading “Rivers of Fire” by Arnon Sofer (1999). It is an excellent analysis of the source of much of the bloodiest wars in that area over the past 500 years. We look today at religion and oil as the nucleus of conflict, but neglect to understand how control of the water resources in this dry region, the land-bridge connecting three continents, has dictated history.

  • Colin Heaton
    Reply

    I was wondering why our book “Noble Warrior: The Story of Maj. Gen James E. Livingston, USMC (Ret) Medal of Honor” was not on the list, as it was placed there in 2011. Also, Marines may find “Four War Boer” a good book in insurgency and political warfare, as well as leadership. We have other books also that are interviews with former aviation commanders, mostly German, describing combat leadership in very tenuous political environment. Another book people founf helpful with regard to leadership was our book “The Star of Africa”

  • Steve Dietrich
    Reply

    Left of Bang and One Village At A Time both belong on the list

  • Jim Adams
    Reply

    I am looking for a book that one of my friends liked more than I apparently, I can not remember the name or author. I had thought it was on the list many years ago. It is a story, fictional, of two Officers careers through WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. One was a soldiers Soldier (yes it was Army Officers) and the other was more of a politician/privileged approach to promotion. If anyone can recall this book and author I would very much appreciate it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*