The Art of Future Warfare Project Holiday Reading List


Recent research has found that when people spend money on experiences they tend to be happier with their purchases than when acquire a new “thing.” Books, particularly science fiction, occupy that special place at the intersection of the two. You can hold a book in your hand, offering the physical sensation of possessing something tangibly new. If the material is written well enough, you are rewarded with an experience that is uniquely a product of your own imagination working its way through the worlds built by the author or illustrator.

In this spirit, and inspired by the holiday reading list at Art of Future Warfare project media partner War On The Rocks, the following titles are must-reads and great last-minute gifts for the creative-minded sci-fi and military aficionados on your holiday shopping list.

If anything, these can be the books you resolve to read in the coming year:


War Stories: New Military Science Fiction, Edited by Jaym Gates and Andrew Liptak

This anthology of 23 new military science fiction short stories is made up of insightful tales that stay with you long after you’ve finished reading them. From exploring the essence of leadership during space combat to carrying out psychological operations for the all-digital generation, these hypothetical conflicts should keep policymakers up at night. Read the review at

Genesis Code: A Thriller of the Near Future, By Jamie Metzl

China’s rise is fodder for plenty of non-fiction books. It is even more fertile ground for novelists, and Jamie Metzl creates a near-future America where the country is struggling to come to grips the steady challenges from China. Most national-security experts overlook synthetic biology and bioengineering as future flash points. Metzl, an Atlantic Council senior fellow and former National Security Council and State Department official, makes it his focus through a tense character-driven story backed up by high-stakes and credible science.

Graphic novels

Black Powder Red Earth, By Jon Chang and Josh Taylor

Ever doubted that the private security industry is a business? Look no further than this five volume graphic novel series written by Jon Chang. Set in a near-future Middle East where the region’s wealthiest players hire former American commandos to carry out missions that leave even these highly-paid operators with doubts they cannot shake. The characters exist in a darkly-drawn world that paces the understated and often boring work of clandestine and covert contractors until moments of intense and usually lethal action.

The Activity, By Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads

The American special operations community has been on an unprecedented operational tempo during the past 13 years. None more so than the so-called Tier One units involved in the highest stakes, and often riskiest, military operations. The focus of this series is one such unit based in Northern Virginia. It’s a fictitious look at life walking a knife’s edge, but a well-informed one that pushes the boundaries of reality only when it needs to.

Writing books

War of Art & Turning Pro, By Steven Pressfield

Reading books about writing won’t make you a better writer. Writing more makes you a better writer. But the truth is they can help. Nobody articulates the hard truths of trying to make a life as a creative professional as well as Steven Pressfield, a successful screenwriter, novelist and military historian. As he himself would probably say, the writing only gets harder with success. As it should.

Naming the World, Edited by Bret Anthony Johnston

One of the hardest questions for writers to answer are where their ideas come from. This collection of anecdotes and reflections, as well as creative exercises, by established writers is worth keeping on the bookshelf for moments when you need to take a step back and rethink how to approach a difficult problem. Chances are, as this book from the director of creative writing at Harvard University reveals, you are not alone.


August Cole is the director of the Atlantic Council’s Art of Future Warfare project and a non-resident senior fellow at the Council. He is a writer, consultant and analyst. His first novel, GHOST FLEET, co-written with Peter W. Singer, will be published in 2015.


Photo credit: hermanturnip