The 2023 War on the Rocks Holiday Reading List


Every year we kick off the holiday season with a roundup of books recommended by the War on the Rocks and Texas National Security Review team. Enrich your friends’ libraries, get a family book club going, or treat yourself to something new. We hope you enjoy!

Kerry Anderson 

Unwavering: The Wives Who Fought to Ensure No Man Is Left Behind, Taylor Baldwin Kiland and Judy Silverstein Gray. A deeply researched, personal, and fascinating look into the stories of wives of POWs and MIAs during the Vietnam War who tirelessly advocated to bring home their husbands — and the long-term impact they had on the U.S. military and society. One author is a former Navy officer and the other a retired Coast Guard officer, both with experience writing on military topics, while Taylor has personal connections with some of the families highlighted in the book.

Our Women on the Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World, Zahra Hankir, ed. This anthology offers vividly written, personal accounts by a diverse group of women with experience reporting from Arab countries. These insightful essays offer unique perspectives on war and violence, as well as sharing the authors’ personal aspirations, experiences, and relationships with family, colleagues, and sources.

Emma Ashford

Underground Empire: How America Weaponized the World Economy, Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman. Think geopolitics – the real kind – in the study of international relations is passé? Think again. Many of the advantages that the United States has in economic statecraft and intelligence are in fact the result of geography; the location of key internet nodes, servers, pipelines, and internet hardware have disproportionately benefitting the United States in recent years, allowing it to exercise significant coercion over other actors in the global economy. That’s the theme of Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman’s Underground Empire: How America Weaponized the World Economy, a book that’s halfway between nonfiction and techno-thriller. Well worth a read, even – perhaps especially – if you don’t usually read work on political economy. 

The Pursuit of Dominance, Christopher Fettweiss. If you’ve ever pondered the grand strategic choices of Ghengis Khan, then I have a book for you. No, seriously. Christopher Fettweiss’s The Pursuit of Dominance is a comparative study of the grand strategies of dominant powers through history, from the Mongols to the Ottomans and Imperial Spain to the British Empire. Each of these countries was massively dominant in their heyday, overpowering neighbors and adversaries alike. Some were successful in maintaining their dominance, while others failed to do so in catastrophic ways. Each thus offers an intriguing point of comparison for those who think that America’s role as the unipolar power and indispensable nation makes it a unique historical case. Plus, when else are you going to get to read about Mongol grand strategy?

Tim Ball

Chip War, Chris Miller. Miller provides an excellent overview of the history of microchips and how they’ve developed into an indispensable part of our everyday lives. As the United States continues to eye China as its primary competitor on the international stage, this book is a helpful explainer on the role of semiconductors in America’s national defense industry, and why Taiwan has emerged as key terrain.

By All Means Available: Memoirs of a Life in Intelligence, Special Operations, and Strategy, Michael Vickers. During a career that spanned five decades, Vickers served as an Army Special Forces noncommissioned officer and officer, a CIA officer, and eventually as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict. This memoir provides an insider’s perspective on consequential events across the globe, including Vicker’s role as the program officer for the CIA’s operation to arm and finance the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the mid-1980s.



David Barno

Valiant Women: The Extraordinary American Servicewomen Who Helped Win World War II, Lena Andrews. Women continue to be under-represented and often undervalued across the U.S. military today; this compelling account by Lena Andrews may help explain why. Valiant Women highlights the monumental but yet still largely overlooked contributions of hundreds of thousands of American servicewomen to the Allied victory in World War II. Serving in every branch of the U.S. military and in every combat theater, these remarkable unsung heroes performed demanding wartime roles from pilots and truck drivers to codebreakers and gunnery instructors – providing countless worthy examples for today’s women in uniform. Andrews stirringly brings their stories to life – and helps us belatedly celebrate their unheralded sacrifices.

Power Up: Leadership, Character and Conflict Beyond the Superhero Multiverse, Steven Leonard, Jonathan Klug, Kelsey Cipolla, and Jon Niccum, eds. The creative editors of this unconventional work dissect the stories of dozens of our comic book and movie superheroes for leadership lessons that can us help solve some of our real world problems. In 35 essays that take us from “Captain America” to “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl,” the authors share insights that can help us better lead high performing teams, re-invent ourselves and more effectively grasp strategy and technology, all while keeping us entertained. A fun and eclectic read.


Mike Benitez

Why Air Forces Fail: The Anatomy of Defeat, Robin Higham and Stephen Harris. This book analyzes 13 different failures of various air forces spanning World War I to the Falkland Islands. The historical insights are well-researched, even for obscure failures that most airpower disciples have never heard of, and the lessons are applicable now more than ever.

Military Strategy: A Very Short Introduction, Antulio Echevarria II. This book can be read in an hour or two, but don’t let its diminutive size fool you. The simple way it explains and compares various military strategies makes it a very helpful addition to the toolbox.

Nora Bensahel

Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman. After I returned from an epic Arctic cruise this summer, a friend lent me this gem of a book to help keep the spirit of my vacation alive. Gaiman turns the sometimes impenetrable prose of these ancient myths into simple and concise stories that beautifully transport you to the land of the gods, trolls, and giants. Don’t rely on the Marvel Cinematic Universe to tell you all about Thor and his adventures; stretch your imagination by reading the original stories for yourself! You may already know how Thor got his hammer, but you’ll also learn why Odin is called the father of the gods, why Loki is such a trickster, where poetry comes from, and how to tell when the end times are upon us.

The Armor of the Light, Ken Follett. Obsessive followers of WOTR reading lists may recall that, in 2018, I mentioned that The Pillars of the Earth was one of my favorite books, and that I recommended the third book in what became known as the Kingsbridge series.  Then, in 2020, I recommended the fourth book in the series (which is actually a prequel). I am pleased to report that this latest installment is just as good as the ones that came before it. It jumps ahead to the late 1700s, when the livelihoods of the good people of Kingsbridge are threatened by new weaving technologies, as well as the revolution and Napoleonic Wars that rage in France. This is a perfect tale to enjoy with a mug of hot chocolate on those cold holiday nights.

Claude Berube 

Mao’s Army Goes to Sea: The Island Campaigns and the Founding of China’s Navy, Toshi Yoshihara. This book discusses the founding of the Chinese Navy in 1949 and the manpower, institutional, and resource challenges faced by the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership. It also informs the reader on an operational level of the off-shore campaigns waged by the People’s Liberation Army to seize islands. Yoshihara’s mastery of the material and ability to analyze them make this a must-read.

The Gunpowder Age: China, Military Innovation, and the Rise of the West in World History, Tonio Andrade. Although this work has been out for several years, it’s worth an initial or secondary read. Andrade’s scope and explanation dispel many myths about the evolution of weapons and defenses in both the East and West. Andrade captures the reader’s attention from the first chapter and doesn’t let go until the last. The scope of this book is monumental and the discerning reader should have a pen or pencil handy to underline and take notes on the relevance of innovation and technological evolution to contemporary militaries.

Brad Carson

The Coming Wave, Mustafa Suleyman. Generative AI, synthetic biology, and their regulation (or not) are the most pressing issues of the day, and Suleyman, the founder of DeepMind, gives both a survey of these fields and helpful recommendations for their governance.

Number Go Up, Zeke Faux. When it comes to the history of FTX, SBF, and crypto more broadly, this book delivers in a less-ballyhooed but more interesting way than Michael Lewis’ similar book about the same characters.

Nick Danforth 

The Oyster Wars of Chesapeake Bay, John Wennersten. With chapters like “Hell on the Half-Shell,” this book gives the impression that the entire history of the United States could be more dramatically told through the harvesting and marketing of the oyster. A perfect gift for anyone interested in seafood, social banditry, or the Mid-Atlantic region.

How to Hide an Empire, Daniel Immerwahr. Whether you agree with the thesis, disagree with the thesis, or have been putting off finishing your own more convoluted take on it for months now, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more engaging or wide-ranging example of what popular history should be.

Ryan Evans

Planning for Protraction: A Historically Informed Approach to Great-power War and Sino-US Competition,Iskander Rehman. In his new (and first) book, Iskander Rehman adds some much needed historical sensibility to an important debate, demonstrating his eloquent erudition across different periods, subject matters, and specialties.

Collisions: The Origins of the War in Ukraine and the New Global InstabilityMichael Kimmage. I haven’t read it yet, but this is the book on the Russo-Ukrainian war that I am most looking forward to. I am confident Michael Kimmage will deliver an essential, original, and elegant analysis when this book is out in March of next year.

Ryan Fishel 

Clashes: Air Combat over North Vietnam 1965-1972, Marshall L. Michel III. This is not another “there I was story.” Clashes is an operational level look at the clash of groupthink in aerial tactics, procurement, institutional inertia, and the reality of combat. It is very well researched and data driven. It should be required reading for all fighter pilots and air war planners.

The Secret Horsepower Race: Western Front Fighter Engine Development, Calum E. Douglas. This book tells the amazing story of one of the biggest leaps forward in aircraft technology in the 1930s and 1940s. This is not only a detailed look at aircraft engine development, it is a showcase of how competition is vital for gaining and maintaining a technological edge in military aviation.

Richard Fontaine

The Ibis Trilogy, Amitav Ghosh. Three novels — Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke, and Flood of Fire — are set in the years before the First Opium War. The stories connect events in Calcutta, Mauritius, Canton, Hong Kong, and across the Indian Ocean. They are also a linguistic excavation of mixing cultures and people. Good stuff.

Hanoi’s War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam, Lien-Hang T. Nguyen. This is a revelatory history of the Vietnam War from Hanoi’s perspective using North Vietnamese archival sources. If you thought Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap were calling the shots, be prepared to be surprised.

Ulrike Franke 

Babel, R.F. Kuang. The book starts out as a fantastical story set in the magical Oxford of the British empire. It then develops into a brilliant discussion of colonialization, staging a revolution, and more. A book that will enchant you and make you think at the same time.

Embers, Sándor Márai. I’ve rarely read such an intense book. It is a one-sided discussion of two friends, coming together again after 41 years apart. I recommend reading it without even reading the blurb to avoid spoilers.

Francis Gavin

Global Crisis: War, Climate Change & Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century, Geoffrey Parker. This book was published over a decade ago. In stunning detail, the renowned historian of early modern Europe explores the interconnected global disasters of war, revolution, plague, and famine that wreaked havoc on the 17th-century world, leading to a significant decrease in the human population. Parker convincingly argues that these disparate catastrophes were related to climate change — a global cooling — and the erratic and counterproductive responses by governments around the world that made the situation worse.  

Children of a Modest Star: Planetary Thinking for an Age of Crises, Jonathan Blake and Nils Gilman. Blake and Gilman confront the similar crises of our own time — led by global warming but compounded by other potentially catastrophic and interconnected planetary challenges — and explain why our contemporary institutional and governing practices are woefully ill-suited to the moment. They lay out a bold but plausible conceptual and political agenda to reform and reinvent governance to avoid planetary ruin.  

T.X. Hammes

Mastering the Art of Command, Trent Hone. This is a brilliant history of how Adm. Nimitz took the Pacific Fleet from a shattered force that lacked confidence to a confident, flexible organization that learned on the fly. In the midst of the biggest naval campaigns in history, Nimitz had to reorganize not just the combat forces but also support, training, and intelligence organization. It describes his deft handling of personnel assignments as well as dealing with two truly difficult figures — Adm. King and Gen. MacArthur.

The Ottomans: Khans, Caesars, and Caliphs, Marc David Baer. Baer provides deep insights into the enormous, but largely overlooked in the West, impact the Ottomans had on world history. It covers from the 13th century until the early 20th century and filled a critical gap in my knowledge of this remarkable lineage.

Bruce Hoffman 

A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914–1922, David Fromkin. What accounts for the seemingly endless waves of violence, instability, wars, and conflicts that have plagued the Middle East and especially Israel and Palestine for decades? This book explains how the victorious Western Allies (i.e., Britain and France) carved the region up into spheres of influence and created new boundaries and countries from the Ottoman Empire’s former provinces.

The Plot Against America, Philip Roth. Like last year’s selection, The Oppermans, this novel tells the story of a democracy turned authoritarian: in this case after a charismatic, populist, all-American hero turned fascist is elected president. Although the HBO series derived from it has a far less uplifting and optimistic ending, the book is still worth reading for its depiction of how easily a country can be totally transformed — and antisemitism so readily accepted and legitimized.

Frank Hoffman 

Planning for Protraction: A Historically Informed Approach to Great-Power War and Sino–US Competition, Iskander Rehman. Rehman is no stranger to these pages and he has recently penned a short book that is extremely relevant to today’s security context. In Planning for Protraction, he offers a historically framed understanding of great-power war, its often extended character, its core drivers and characteristics, and an overview of the factors that have often determined a competitor’s strategic effectiveness over the long term. The author, now at John’s Hopkins University, evidences a broad grasp of history drawing back to the classics. Rehman persuasively concludes that victory in such protracted contests depends upon a combination of three core attributes: a state’s military effectiveness and adaptability, its socioeconomic power and resiliency, and its agile alliance management and grand strategy. For those looking for a sophisticated analysis and general policy proposals to mitigate today’s most serious contemporary challenge, the ongoing Sino–U.S. competition, this is it.

In The Arms of the Future: Technology and Close Combat in the Twenty-First Century, Dr. Jack Watling. Watling, of the London-based Royal United Services Institute, has authored a concise but rich examination of future warfare trends. He offers some trenchant observations on the future operating environment in the opening section, and then uses that context to evaluate and design tactical formations to be more effective given changes in the character of conflict. This bottom-up-driven force design is very granular but well-presented and meticulously researched. The proposals are also supported by numerous personal observations from experiments, exercises, and field research in Ukraine, where Watling has distinguished himself with numerous short reports. His comments on urban warfare and armor debates are detailed and surely provocative, standing between the proposed reforms of the late David Johnson and the evolutionary arguments of Dr. Stephen Biddle. This book will appeal to civilian policy leaders questioning land warfare requirements and military combat developers struggling to understand what to keep and what to mold.

Burak Kadercan 

How States Think: The Rationality of Foreign Policy, John Mearsheimer and Sebastian Rosato. “States as rational, unitary actors” is one of the most debated themes in international relations theory. In How States Think, the founding father of so-called offensive realism, John Mearsheimer, and his former student, Sebastian Rosato, tackle the question head-on, making a case for the salience of the “rationality assumption” in terms of foreign policy choices. Their arguments may or may not fully convince spectators, but they most certainly deserve their place in the overall discussions about decision-making processes in foreign policy.

Before the West: The Rise and Fall of Eastern World Orders, Ayse Zarakol. Modern international relations theory was born as a Western discipline, produced and consumed mostly in the Western world. The specific Eurocentric origins of the discipline, for decades, has ossified an understanding in which many international relations scholars argued that in order to understand “the international,” we have to study the Western experiences, almost ad nauseum. Building on her previous work, Ayse Zarakol offers a powerful corrective to the aforementioned tendency: To understand “the truly international,” students and spectators of world politics should expand their analytical and empirical attention to non-Western cases, which were hardly “footnotes” in terms of the emergence of the present-day global political order.

Dara Massicot

Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov. This book toggles seamlessly from Pontius Pilate’s ancient Jerusalem to Stalin’s Moscow. I return to it to understand the darkness in Moscow that emerges periodically.

Memory Makers, Dr. Jade McGlynn. This book discusses how memory and history are manipulated in Russia. Some experiences, like World War II, are a wound that Russian authorities will not allow to heal, and so the manipulated memories fester.

David Maxwell

George Kennan For Our Time, Lee Congdon. George Kennan remains relevant. We should continue to study his life and his lessons, and appreciate his literary skills as he is an exemplar for all national security practitioners.  He was not always right but he was a passionate patriot who sought to do what is right for America by helping us to understand our adversaries, most importantly the Soviet Union. We need his critical thinking for today’s national security challenges.

The Sister: North Korea’s Kim Yo Jong, The Most Dangerous Woman in the World, Sung-Yoon Lee. Is the title hyperbole? No, it is not if you understand that what happens on the Korean peninsula will have global effects. As we try to read the tea leaves about regime succession it is imperative that we understand the influence of Kim Yo Jong on the regime. She wields more power than anyone in the north save for her brother. And she is dangerous.

Bryan McGrath 

Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties, Paul Johnson. I had heard of this much talked-about book for decades, but only recently took the time to read it. My goodness, such sweep and depth! The origins of Leninism, Fascism, Nazi-ism; the rise of the United States and the fall of the British Empire; it is all here in what can only be described as beautiful writing.

Confronting Saddam Hussein: George W. Bush and the Invasion of Iraq, Melvyn P. Leffler. Hard to read this book and cling to the notion that “Bush lied.” Easy to read this book and cling to the notion that the team bungled the implementation, badly.

Erin O’Brien

The Age of the Strongman, Gideon Rachman. This book, released in 2022, feels like an important reflection on our current political moment. Rachman reviews, in easily digestible chapters, the roster of “strongman” leaders that have come to dominate global politics – learning about them in a collective is extremely helpful in understanding the links between their ideologies. 

1984, George Orwell. After reading Rachmann’s book, I decided to re-read Orwell’s dystopian 1984. I certainly found it had more resonance now than when I first read it in middle school. I recommend a re-read for those who may have forgotten it. I found myself underlining quite a lot. It felt very relevant in our current moment. 

A Very Easy Death, Simone de Beauvoir. This short – but impeccably written – account of de Beauvoir’s mother’s death is a quick but heart-wrenching one. I found it a very important reflection on family and love – could make good reading around the holidays.

Stacie Pettyjohn

Feeding Victory, Jobie Turner. This book highlights an underappreciated aspect of warfare logistics that has risen to the headlines because of the war in Ukraine. The five case studies span from the French and Indian War to Vietnam, and trace the evolution of transportation technologies across domains. Turner’s well-written narrative demonstrates that the combatant that had secure supply lines and could transition between modes of transportation while under attack tended to prevail. As Chris Dougherty highlighted in his CNAS report, Buying Time: Logistics for a New American Way of War, this is an area where the Pentagon needs to make considerable improvements. It could learn from Turner’s historical analysis about how to support distributed operations across the vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean.

Elvis’s Army: Cold War GIs and the Atomic Battlefield, Brian McAllister Linn. This book is less about Elvis Presley and more about the brief period in which the U.S. Army embraced nuclear warfighting. Due to the Army’s lackluster performance in the Korean War and Eisenhower’s New Look strategy, the service’s prestige and resources declined precipitously in the 1950s. In a misguided attempt to be relevant, Chief of Staff Gen. Maxwell Taylor undertook a wholesale reform and made nuclear weapons central to how the Army organized, trained, and planned to fight. Yet the Pentomic Division was a disaster because operational concepts were based on a faulty understanding of nuclear weapons’ effects and many of the tactical nuclear weapons were not reliable or practical. The Army’s nuclear transformation exacerbated recruitment and readiness challenges, leaving the service smaller and less capable than before. A service’s desire for relevance and a central warfighting role against the priority threat has echoes in the discussions today about the Army’s role in the Indo-Pacific. It also highlights the risks of overly focusing on emerging technologies as the key determinant of combat capability.

Mike Pietrucha

Starships’ Mage, Glynn Stewart. A unique blend of science fiction and fantasy where starships exist, but need magic, and thus mages, to go faster than light.

Fire With Fire, Dr. Charles Gannon.  Straight, hard sci-fi with a brilliantly conceived future galaxy, full of twists and very, very difficult to put down.  For when you catch some winter respiratory disease that puts you in bed for a couple of days.

Christopher Preble

Dying by the Sword: The Militarization of US Foreign Policy, Monica Duffy Toft and Sidita Kushi. With a nearly $1 trillion Pentagon budget, it is easy to see how and why U.S. foreign policy is overmilitarized: Spending drives policy. But the reverse is also true. And our fragile and fractured political system could not sustain such enormous spending if many Americans didn’t actually believe that a massive and active military advances U.S. interests. Toft and Kushi document how we got here and close with a warning of what could happen if we don’t change course.

Underground Empire: How America Weaponized the World Economy, Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman. You might think that all that Pentagon spending creates a military that is the most important tool in the U.S. policy arsenal. Reading Farrell and Newman’s book might change your mind. Alas, the fast-paced narrative might also convince you that that thing which is actually the foundation of US power — a $23 trillion economy — isn’t effectively wielded by anyone, and that attempts to weaponize it could backfire in countless ways.

Iskander Rehman

JFK: Coming of an Age in the American Century, 1917–1959, Fredrik Logevall. One of the finest biographical studies I have ever come across. An epic, eminently readable, and often surprisingly moving examination not only of JFK’s early years, but also of multiple generations of Kennedy strivers and hustlers. The late Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie once quipped that historians all too often fell into two broad categories: They were “either truffle hunters, their noses buried in the details, or parachutists, hanging high in the air and looking for general patterns in the countryside far below them.” In this riveting first tome, Logevall somehow manages to fuse both approaches, and to masterly effect.  His granular deep-dive into the Kennedy clan thus serves as a narrative prism through which the reader is catapulted into the dramatic events and roiling passions surrounding the United States’ meteoric rise over the turbulent first half of the 20th century. In short, this is not just the story of a preternaturally talented young Irish-American coming of age, it’s also the tale of an adolescent superpower coming to terms with its raw strength and newfound preponderance in the international system. Like many, I await the forthcoming sequel with bated breath.

Understanding Greek Warfare, Matthew A. Sears. A perfect introduction to Ancient Greek warfare and strategy. Comprehensive, elegantly framed, and clearly written — in an ideal world this book would be assigned reading in any Introduction to Strategic Studies course.

Emma Salisbury

Command: How the Allies Learned to Win the Second World War, Al Murray. Although best known in the United Kingdom for his comedy, Murray shows with this book that he is also a talented historian. Structured around the careers of 10 British and American commanders across multiple theaters — from the famous to the less well-known — Command explores the characters and challenges that each man faced in the crucible of war. Murray achieves this without falling victim to the “great man” theory of history, unusually for books focusing on military leaders, resulting in an engaging and novel approach to a period that still has a lot to teach us.

The Vory: Russia’s Super Mafia, Mark Galeotti. It is impossible to understand modern Russia without appreciating the impact of organized crime, and there is no better place to start than here. Galeotti’s expertise shines through his ever-excellent writing in this history of the Russian version of the mafia, the vory v zakone. Piercing through the commonly overblown legends of vory rituals and blood oaths, Galeotti explores how the blurred lines between crime, law enforcement, and politics that weave throughout their story help us to understand the kleptocracy ruling Russia today.

Jeremy Shapiro 

The Wizard of the Kremlin, Guiliano da Empoli. This novel from an Italian writer, originally written in French, tells the story of the rise and corruption of the Vladimir Putin regime. The protagonist, Vadim Baranov, is a thinly veiled fictionalization of Vladislav Surkov, a leading “political technocrat” in the Kremlin through much of Putin’s reign. It is fiction (I think), but it rings eerily true.

Digital Empires: The Global Battle to Regulate Technology, Anu Bradford. The next cold war seems likely to be fought in drab seminar rooms in Switzerland between warring bureaucrats seeking to use regulation to seize national advantages in the technologies and industries of the future. Bradford explains how the United States, China, and the European Union are each advancing a competing vision for the digital economy, while attempting to use regulatory methods to expand their sphere of influence in the digital world.

John Spencer

Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine, Serhii Plokhy. A detailed history of Ukraine, from Ancient to modern times, to include the development of Russia. The book should  be required reading for all decision-makers, academics, or analysts studying the current Russia–Ukraine War.

Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices, Moses Hassan Yousef. A unique first-hand account of the development of the Hamas terrorist organization. The author is the son of one of the cofounders of Hamas who turned Israeli informant. He gives a unique view into Hamas as an organization in Gaza, a gang in Israeli prisons, and a military branch controlled by political groups outside Gaza and Israel.

Kori Schake

The Cutting-Off Way: Indigenous Warfare in Eastern North America, 1500–1800, Wayne E. Lee. The absence of studies of the wars against Native populations is a huge chasm in American strategic thought. Yet, the U.S. military fought 943 military actions against Native American tribes between 1768 and 1889, and those wars provided the genesis of much of American military culture. Wayne Lee understands the Native American side of the equation better than any of us and provides an essential window into why they fought the way they did, making clear their strategies and how those married their circumstances.

The Lincoln Highway, Amor Towles. Hard to imagine Towles improving on the exquisite A Gentlemen in Moscow, but he does with this beautiful novel of Americana, a fresh and exciting contender for the Great American Novel. This hero is unassuming and worthy, his villains vivid and unique, the action propelling and unpredictable.

Daybreak, Matt Gallagher. We are living through such a renaissance of veteran’s writing, and Matt Gallagher is one of the very best. Daybreak is set in the Russia–Ukraine war, exploring the motivations and fates of Americans who go to fight with Ukraine. It’s an unsparing but empathetic character study — but it’s so much more than that. Reading it brought to mind the masterful work of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Aaron Stein

Radar Man, Edward Lovick Jr. This is a wonderful — if slightly disjointed — account of the development of stealth from an engineering perspective. It walks someone like me — a laymen — through the development of the technologies to reduce an aircraft’s radar cross section. 

The Big Show: The Classical Account of World War II Aerial Combat, Pierre Clostermann. This book is a classic. It is a wonderful walk through history. And a fun read about World War II aerial combat over Europe, from early Scud hunts to dogfights with the Luftwaffe.  

Becca Wasser

The Allure of Battle: A History of How Wars Have been Won and Lost, Cathal J. Nolan. This book cuts through the fawning greatness of military genius and the romanticism of decisive battle to highlight the grim realities of long wars and their grinding attritional nature.

DS Maeve Kerrigan Series, Jane Casey. When I’m not reading about war, I like to read about murder. Jane Casey’s DS Maeve Kerrigan Series is the perfect mix: compelling characters, slowly unfolding and complex mysteries, strong writing, and British charm.



Image: Painting by Catherine M. Wood, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons