67 Books To Add To Your Bookshelf
One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is a request for book recommendations. I’ve always been an avid listener to audiobooks, and over the past few years have rekindled a flame for reading. To provide a 1 stop shop for my go-to books, I’ve finally accumulated them into a reading list.
Although many of the books herein are recommendations I provide to my SOF prep clients, I’ve also included a myriad of books that can benefit everyone looking to improve their life and increase their knowledge and wisdom. There’s a lot of crossover between the two. A book that may improve your mindset to pass selection will also improve your mindset for navigating other difficulties in life - and I believe working towards and accomplishing difficult things is what makes life worth living.
Before getting into the list, I want to offer a few pieces of advice:
Take action - when you’re reading books that resonate with you, make sure you’re taking action. Reading about things is just the first step. The difficult part is the practical application. But remember, difficult things make us grow.
Don’t procrastinate - Reading can be a form of self improvement, but it can also easily disguise itself as a procrastination habit. The act of reading a book feels productive. It feels like we’re doing something positive with our time. But be careful not to trick yourself into always reading instead of getting important things done. It’s far better than watching Netflix or scrolling, but it can still distract us from what truly matters.
Become a master - I would much rather read 15 books over and over again and master them than to read 500 books once just to check the block and move onto the next. If you can teach someone the messages in a book, you’ve mastered said book.
Time investment - If you’ve taken valuable information from a book and put it into action to improve your life, that book was a valuable time investment. If you read it and never think about it again, that book was a way to procrastinate, distract, or lie to yourself about how you’re spending your time.
Don’t be afraid to quit - if you’ve started a book and find that it’s not serving you, don’t be afraid to stop reading it, even if it’s a book that everyone recommends. All books are not right for everyone. Time is our most valuable asset - reading just for the sake of reading is a waste of it.
Discover your learning style - some people retain knowledge better when actually reading. Some learn better from listening. Listening to books is, in my opinion, a hack, because you can do it while exercising, commuting, doing chores, etc. But if you find yourself retaining very little, it may not be the best consumption method for you. I personally retain more when I read than when I listen, but have gotten better with listening over time.
Listening hack - Try listening to books on 1.5x speed. This isn’t just so you can learn more in less time and keep checking off books, but many people (including myself) retain the info better when sped up. I find it helps me to be more attentive and avoid drifting thoughts. Depending on the speed of the narrator, I sometimes listen at 2x speed. This isn’t for everyone, but is worth a shot if you struggle retaining audiobooks (I use this for podcasts as well).
Learn to Speed Read - Just like speed listening, speed reading is another massive hack. Many people believe that reading slowly will allow you to comprehend better, but there’s a paradoxical relationship between the speed at which you read and reading comprehension. Put differently, you actually pay more attention when reading fast because your mind wanders significantly less. I used to be a very slow reader, but finally took the time to watch some YouTube videos on speed reading. I now am able to not only finish books faster, but also comprehend and remember the information better.
Save space and $ (and trees?) - Kindle is a great way to have access to hundreds of books without needing a new piece of furniture to store them. Kindle books are also cheaper than the books themselves. I’ll be the first to admit that I prefer buying the actual book, and I don’t own a kindle, but it’s a great option nonetheless.
Bonus tip: Improve your sleep - Reading before bed is a great alternative to watching TV, looking at social media, and being exposed to other sources of blue light prior to bedtime. The average person struggles mightily with sleep quality, and what they do in the pre-bed hours plays a significant role. I picked up the habit of reading before bed a few years ago, and it has drastically enhanced sleep quality.
Find your time - I consider myself moderately well-read, but I certainly got a late start. I didn’t begin reading consistently till my late 20s, and I’m 34 now. In recent years, I’ve had to spend a bit of time identifying the best time of day to read for me and my lifestyle. I don’t feel compelled to read throughout the day, but have been able to establish a habit of reading first thing in the morning and again later at night before bed time. I recently began starting each day with at least 20 minutes of reading. At night, the duration I read depends on how tired I am. Sometimes I can barely finish a page, other times I read for 30-45 minutes before bed. Building a reading habit is easiest when you make it fit into your lifestyle. Find the time(s) of day you’re most drawn to reading, and make a habit out of it.
Now, as for my list - I’m going to break the books down into the following categories: Top 5 Must Reads, SFAS specific, Training For SOF, Endurance Training, General Training, Nutrition, Mindset, Leadership, Decision Making, War Accounts, Biographies, and General Personal Development (business, wealth, productivity, etc.). Each category will include about a handful of recommendations along with a brief summary of the book.
Just keep in mind that although I only include a limited number of books in each category, that doesn’t mean there aren’t more that can be beneficial to you. But also, remember that more books doesn’t always mean better outcomes. Finding the best books and mastering the skills and lessons therein should be the goal.
As a final caveat, you’ll notice this list lacks fiction books. I haven’t read fiction since high school, so you won’t see any on here. But this absolutely does not mean I don’t think fiction has value, but I’m very selective with my time, and reading fiction isn’t a way I personally choose to spend it. Whether or not you do is totally up to you.
Ruck Up or Shut Up by Dr. David Walton - This book is the most up to date, comprehensive depiction of SFAS. You’ll learn about how it’s structured, considerations for physical preparedness, an intro to land navigation, knot tying, foot care, and many other valuable insights. Dr. Walton is truly an SFAS expert, and has spent more time studying it and observing it than anyone else in the world. The book is also full of funny and thought-provoking stories from Dr. Walton's career as an officer in Special Forces.
Chosen Soldier by Dick Couch - This was the book I read prior to attending SFAS. It’s a bit outdated, but still provides valuable information on the many intricacies of selection. It follows a specific class through SFAS in the early 2000s as the GWOT was ramping up. Although “Ruck Up Or Shut Up” is as comprehensive as it gets, it’s still beneficial to see selection from a slightly different lens - and that’s what you’ll get with Chosen Soldier.
Get Selected By Joseph J Martin - Another book I read prior to attending SFAS, this book breaks down the many aspects of not just SFAS, but Special Forces in general. Although also outdated, many aspects of SF/SFAS highlighted in this book still apply today. Although I would read some parts of it with a grain of salt (specifically the physical preparation section), it’s still a book that can provide value.
Top 5 Must-Reads For Anyone Looking To Improve Their Lives
12 Rules For Life By Jordan Peterson - Love him or hate him (there’s usually no in between), Jordan Peterson is one of the most influential people on the planet. This book sparked his rise to fame, and it’s a goldmine. Expect to learn 12 rules that when applied, can propel you through a life of health, happiness, success and fulfillment. Peterson is highly intelligent, and although this book depicts it well, it’s still very digestible to the average reader. It’s chock full of wisdom and even a good deal of humor, and I find myself constantly going back and brushing up on many parts of this book.
No More Mr. Nice Guy By Robert Glover - Just be a nice guy, right? Many people think that they need to go through life being a “nice guy” (or gal). But as Dr. Glover beautifully portrays, living your life as such often leads to an unfulfilling, anxiety and depression ridden life. There are many “nice guy” traits I was previously unaware of, as is the case with many people who read this book. You’ll learn about all of the “nice guy” traits, how to identify them, the negative consequences of living with these traits, and most importantly, how to fix them and improve your life. This is a must read for all men, and also a highly underrated read for women.
How To Win Friends And Influence People By Dale Carnegie - Relationships are more important to our health than many of us are aware. In fact, some research suggests that poor relationships (social isolation) are as deleterious to physical health as a pack per day smoking habit. Many of the world's happiest and longest living individuals have a few key commonalities, and the most glaring of which is that they value strong relationships. If you want to learn how to become more interesting, make people like you (by being yourself), and gain insight into the human psyche, this book is a no brainer. Carnegie uses many influential people from history to provide examples for his teachings, which makes the book very enjoyable to read. Originally written in 1937, the updated version (linked) is even more relevant to the modern world.
Relentless By Tim Grover - Tim Gorver is a Motivational speaker and former trainer of some of the greatest athletes in history. His client list includes but isn’t limited to: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Charles Barkley. But his physical training prowess isn’t what makes Grover special. His ability to instill a killer instinct mindset into his clients is what set him apart from the others in his field. This book includes “The Relentless 13”, which are the 13 traits shared by some of the greatest competitors (“Cleaners”, as he calls them) in history. Although the book presents as a sports mindset book at first glance, cleaners exist in all walks of life - and you can learn how to become one with this book.
Atomic Habits By James Clear - We are truly a result of our habits. How many times have you tried to build a new habit or break a bad habit and failed miserably? All of us have. The fact is, successful people in any walk of life, whether it’s fitness, sport, business, entertainment, art, etc. ALL have one thing in common - they are the way they are because of their habits. Bad habits can be hard to break. Good habits can be hard to develop. Most people go about habit building or breaking habits all wrong. In this award winning book, James Clear shows you how to gain control of your life through habit mastery.
Training for SOF
Training For the The Uphill Athlete By Killian Jornet, Scott Johnston, Steve House - Killian Jornet is one of the world’s most gifted ultra endurance athletes. His ability to run up and down mountains is unmatched. Whether you’re training for The Long Walk, an ultramarathon, a tough hike up a 14K-er in Colorado, or just looking to increase your endurance training knowledge, don’t miss this book.
Human Performance for Tactical Athletes By o2x Human Performance - The only book of its kind (that I’m aware of), this book breaks down many of the lesser considered intricacies of being a high level tactical athlete. The fitness demands of a tactical athlete are not easily attainable, and the unique nature of the job makes training, eating, and recovering very complicated. But this book provides simple, practical guidance on how to manage these stressors and become a more capable tactical professional.
Science of Running By Steve Magness - Whether you’re new to running, or experienced and interested in learning more about running, this book delivers. Magness gained notoriety somewhat recently for his role in sparking the investigation into the Nike Oregon drug scandal, but has also made a name for himself as a world class running coach for some of the world’s highest performing runners. This book provides the blueprint necessary to take your running to the next level.
Daniels Running Formula By Jack Daniels (the running coach, not the whiskey) - Jack Daniels is one of the most accomplished running coaches of all time. He’s been a coach to many world record setting elite runners, but his writing is digestible even down to the novice level. Learn about some of the traits that good runners possess, as well as strategies you can implement to improve your running.
Endure By Alex Hutchinson (hybrid w/ a mindset book) - This book looks like a running book at first glance, and there are many running references and stories throughout, but it’s also heavily geared towards building an elite mindset that can withstand hardship and persevere. The physical aspect of high performance is one thing, but the truly great performers have the mindset to boot. This book highlights the connection between mental fortitude, confidence, and physiology.
General Fitness Books
Becoming a Supple Leopard By Dr. Kelly Starrett - the average person struggles mightily with mobility. Dr. Starret is a pioneer in the mobility space, and this book dives deep into the science and practical application of becoming more mobile and physically resilient.
The Hybrid Athlete (E-book) by Alex Viada - As far as I’m aware, this is the only book of its kind. Alex Viada is the creator of the term “Hybrid Athlete”, and has some pretty impressive athletic and coaching accolades himself. This E-book breaks down everything you need to know to improve at conflicting goals (strength and endurance). I’ve probably referenced this book more than any other book on this list.
Supertraining by Yuri Verkhoshansky and Mel Siff - The late Verkhoshansky was a pioneer in the sport S&C world, and this book depicts why. Although admittedly a difficult read if you’re not already knowledgeable about strength & conditioning, it’s full of golden nuggets nonetheless. This was the first real training book I ever dove into.
The Purposeful Primitive by Marty Gallagher - Marty Gallagher is another old school training legend who flies under the radar because he isn’t overly active online. But if you’re looking to change your body, gain strength, lose fat, build muscle, this book is loaded with actionable strategies to do so.
Practical Programming for Strength Training By Mark Rippetoe - Although he’s become a controversial name in S&C, I think “Rip” is a true pioneer in the space. This book is programming 101, which makes it a rare find. Rip is highly opinionated, no-nonsense, and believes that mastering the basics is something many people overlook, which I largely agree with. This book will teach you the difference between exercising and training, and why you need to look at your training on a continuum rather than a session by session basis. The book also includes several sample programs for intermediate lifters. (Starting Strength, Rip’s other popular book isn’t bad - if you’re brand new to lifting, it’s a worthwhile read).
Outlive By Peter Attia - The most eye opening book I read in 2023, outlive will make you think twice about the choices you make in life. Attia is one of the most accomplished health experts in his field, and his writing ability is high level as well. In this book he breaks down what he calls the “4 Horsemen” of chronic disease, which include heart disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disease (Alzheimer's/dementia), and type 2 diabetes. Part 1 of the book illustrates the many negative implications of the average American's lifestyle, as well as details on why modern medicine has failed us (on which he does not hold back). In part 2, provides a blueprint on how to regain control of your health and avoid the 4 horsemen.
Why We Sleep By Matthew Walker - Matthew Walker is the most renowned sleep expert in the world. The sad reality is that sleep is treated as an afterthought by the average person, and it’s slowly ruining our health and well-being. Sometimes we need to see and hear it over and over again before we make changes. This book will, without question, at least make you put some more thought into your sleep tendencies.
Sleep Smarter By Shawn Stevenson - Another excellent read on sleep. Shawn provides a whopping 21 actionable strategies you can implement to improve your sleep, and thus your health and vitality.
Flexible Dieting by Alan Aragon - Aragon is widely considered the GOAT of science based nutrition, and this book delivers proof. One of very few nutrition books I’ve ever read that is virtually void of dogma, flexible dieting will provide you with practical strategies to improve your health and body composition while also not living like a monk. The beginning of the book is a bit hard to read, but I encourage you to stick with it - you won’t be disappointed.
Metabolism Made Simple by Sam Miller - A newer book that I read in the end of 2023, Sam Miller beautifully breaks down the basics of human metabolism, as well as the many myths surrounding it. Expect to learn why the typical approach to dieting doesn't work, and what you can do instead to finally take control of your health, performance and body composition.
Eat It! By Jordan Syatt and Mike Vacanti - This book is perfect for the novice who struggles with weight control. It’s very easy to read even for those with limited nutrition knowledge, and provides proven tactics to finally get your diet under control. This book also has a bit of comedic relief, and is my number 1 recommendation to those who want to get fit and healthy but don’t have the desire to dig into the science.
The Mountain is You by Brianna West - Many people go about life expecting an easy climb to the top of the mountain, but it doesn’t work that way. The first step to getting to the top is challenging, and you’ll be met with many more challenges along the way. Many people quit when they run into these challenges, thinking they’re a failure or that they don’t have what it takes. This book will help you identify yours, and provide the tactical strategies for continuing the proverbial climb. Learn why progress is impossible unless you’re truly ready to change, the various ways self-sabotage presents itself, how to use your emotions to negotiate life, why sometimes we need to let go, and why your life traumas are slowing your progress. A must read for all high achievers.
Can’t Hurt Me And Never Finished By David Goggins - Love him or hate him, David Goggins is a once in a generation individual who has changed millions of lives for the better. I believe that although you shouldn’t try to emulate his physical training regimen, you can absolutely learn how to get past the many obstacles life throws at you. Both of these books are full of highly inspiring stories and lessons for those struggling in any area of life.
The Obstacle Is The Way By Ryan Holiday - Learn how to use obstacles as stepping stones through a mix of stoic philosophy and real life examples from many influential people in history, to include Abe Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, and many more. This book is thought provoking and encouraging, and packed with quotes to live by when trudging through difficult times.
The War Of Art and Turning Pro by Stephen Pressfield - All of us, at one point or another, are struggling with what Pressfield calls “The Resistance”, which stands in the way of us getting done what we know we need to do. The war of art illustrates “the resistance” on an amateur level, and why some amateurs stay amateurs forever. Turning Pro is a full summary of one of the chapters in the War of Art, where Pressfield provides insight on how to win your battle with the resistance, put your amateur ways in the rear view mirror, and make it as a professional. Pressfield’s writing style is highly unique, and these books aren’t for everyone. But if you want to be great at something, anything - they’re must-reads.
Do Hard Things By Steve Magness - Magness gathered copious amounts of research and anecdotes to put together this excellent depiction of why we have it all wrong when it comes to developing mental toughness, grit, and perseverance. Expect to learn why confidence requires evidence (not just words of encouragement and false bravado), why high school athletes shouldn’t train like Navy SEALs in practice, how great performers respond to stress rather than react to it, and much more.
The Comfort Crisis By Michael Easter - The world as we know it is more comfortable than ever, yet here we are, more anxious, depressed, and purposeless than ever. To formulate this book, Easter endured some grueling self experiments, to include willingly spending 33 days in the Alaskan backcountry, surviving with minimal equipment and no contact with the outside world. Easter is brilliant in his ability to break down science and make it understandable to the layperson. If you’re not convinced that the inherent comfort of modern life is problematic to our physical and mental health, this book will undoubtedly change your mind.
The ONE Thing By Gary Keller and Jay Papasan - High performers in business and elsewhere often struggle with task saturation. So many things need to get done, so little time and bandwidth to do them. In this book, you’ll learn proven strategies to de-clutter your life so you can narrow down your focus to just ONE thing at a time. Expect to learn about why the most seemingly disciplined people aren’t really any more disciplined than you are, why multitasking isn’t getting you anywhere, how much time we waste in meetings and on email, and how to remove stress from your day to day in an effort to improve your focus. If you’re feeling overwhelmed in your job or business right now, this is a must read.
Your Next 5 Moves By Patrick Bet-David - Chess, not checkers. Most people go through their professional life just looking at their next move. Bet-David believes that to truly level up, you need to be like a chess player, thinking several moves ahead. Learn how to gain clarity on who you are and what you want, find and leverage your unique talent, expect and embrace difficulties, and why you should consider building a team around you instead of trying to do everything solo. A great read for anyone looking to scale their business and continue to grow.
The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson - I have to admit, I’m currently reading this book and have yet to finish it. Typically I wouldn’t recommend a book I’m still reading, but this one is so full of gold mines that I feel confident putting it on here even before finishing it. This book is unique in that it provides principles for creating lifelong happiness AND wealth, which Naval believes can be mutually exclusive. Learn why the advice of “just work harder” is insufficient, how judgment and wisdom correlate, the main reason people suffer in life, why it’s important to be yourself, and why you should stick to your core values. This book will help you bridge the gap between living in the present and continuously chasing big goals.
Essentialism By Greg Meckeown - this is one of my most recent reads. I listened to this book several years ago and as I went back through the hard copy book in recent weeks, I’ve rediscovered why this book is so highly regarded. It also served as a great reminder of the value of listening to a book AND reading it. As a business owner, there are endless different ways I can choose to spend my time and dedicate my focus. There are countless opportunities to say “yes” or “no” Essentialism is a comprehensive guide to identifying the main drivers of success in your life and eliminating all the rest. If you find yourself spread thin and the quality of your work isn’t where you know it could be, Essentialism is a must read.
Millionaire Next Door - By Thomas Stanley and William Danko - Many people are under the illusion that you have to make copious amounts of money to become a millionaire. That if you have a more modest-paying job, your chances of being a millionaire are slim to none. This is actually false. In this book, you’ll learn about many of the world’s unsuspecting millionaires. Expect to learn why it’s crucial to live below your means, how to budget and plan, how to allot your use of money, time and energy, why the guys driving Ferrari’s aren’t always as well off as you’d think, why finding your niche and becoming an expert is the key to financial success, and much more. If you’re interested in building wealth, but not just by making more money, this book is a goldmine.
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill - In order to grow and achieve more, it starts by changing your mindset. Most people who fall short of their goals haven’t developed the right mindset. They give up when they hit roadblocks. They don’t believe they deserve success. They procrastinate. They live in fear. In Think and Grow Rich, learn about developing the right mindset to bust through obstacles, why you need to cultivate faith using visualization, and why anything you can imagine, you can achieve. Some of this admittedly sounds woo-woo, but I believe there’s a lot of wisdom in this book. If you don’t think you deserve to be wealthy and successful, this book just may change your mind.
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki - This book played a big role in my decision to leave the army and pursue entrepreneurship. A lot of people are just members in what Kiyosaki calls the “rat race”. They choose jobs to please others, rather than to chase their passion. They stay in these jobs because they’re stable, and leaving would be risky. Likewise, many people go off to college to be part of the crowd. It’s the “thing to do”. If you’re in a job you hate, deciding whether or not to go to college (or send your kids), or find yourself highly risk averse, this book will change your perspective.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman - Our thoughts play an integral role in how we view life. Making decisions with confidence is something the average person struggles mightily with. Whether it’s a big, difficult, potentially costly decision, or a super simple one like what restaurant to go to for dinner, this book will help you navigate life’s many decisions with confidence and think with clarity using the “2 systems” of your brain. I believe that very few things show someone’s lack of confidence like struggling to make decisions. This book is a great read for a SOF candidate who wants to improve their decision making capabilities.
Better Decisions Faster by Paul Epstein - Epstein uses a super simple, easily understandable methodology for decision making using a traffic light analogy. Obviously, some decisions are easy and don’t take a lot of contemplation. The “hell yes” decisions. These are green. The less easy ones that may cause you to slow down and assess are yellow. The red decisions are the more complicated decisions when if you don’t stop and take time to assess, could prove to be catastrophic (like running a red light). Epstein uses a Head + Heart = hands equation to illustrate how to go about making important decisions in your life. Another must read for struggling decision makers.
Leadership Tactics and Strategy By Jocko Willink - Jocko isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but this book provides a wealth of different leadership skills on both the tactical and strategic level. Many people think you’re either born with the ability to lead, or not. This book provides strong evidence suggesting the opposite - that you can cultivate the ability to lead. Character, relationships, decision making and communication are the most important aspects of leadership, as well as success in SOF. Those with glaring shortcomings will struggle. If you struggle with any of these aspects of leadership, this book will provide you the framework to improve.
The Mission, The Men and Me by Pete Blaber - Blaber is a former Delta Force Officer who recounts many personal anecdotes from his impressive career to provide insight on what great leadership looks like with this book. Whether you’re interested in improving your leadership skills, or learning more about the mystique of “The Long Walk” or “The Unit” in general, this book provides it and more.
Staring Down The Wolf By Mark Divine - Former navy seal Mark Divine provides valuable lessons on leading men - But not just any men - a team of self motivated, driven, type-a individuals. The book is full of leadership insights in both the military and civilian realm.
The Power Of Words by Winston Churchill - One of the most quoted men in history, Churchill believed that word choice was of utmost importance. It’s evident that much of his (and his country’s) successes and the impact he had on the world was derived from his masterful speeches and writings. Mastering your ability to communicate will improve your chances of success in any domain. This is certainly the case in SOF - the team with the best brief often gets the best mission. It’s also the case in marketing, job interviews, podcasting, or anything else that emphasizes communication. Learn how to improve your ability to communicate from one of the most prolific speakers in history.
The Perfect Day Formula and The Perfect Week Formula by Graig Ballentyne - These were the first two productivity books I read when I began the early stages of TTM. I can confidently say that these books have been instrumental in my success in starting my business. Graig Ballentyne provides very simple, actionable tips to implement into your life that result in having perfect days that ultimately turn into perfect weeks. The main things I took away from these books include: the value of getting up early (this is when my 4AM wake up habit really took shape), why you should get up and get to work, you can accomplish more in 4 hours of deep, focused work than most people accomplish in 2-3 8 hour work days, finding your “magic time” - the time your brain works best and you willpower is highest (which is first thing in the morning for me and most other people, even if they haven’t realized it yet). Just imagine what you can accomplish this year if you were to string together 52 perfect weeks. I refer back to these books constantly.
Deep Work by Cal Newport - Cal Newport begins this book with a plethora of examples of the work habits from some of the most highly successful individuals in history. He delineates the difference between deep work and busy work, and provides many actionable strategies you can implement to improve the quality of your most important work. Don’t expect to learn how to get more done, expect to learn how to get more quality work done in less time.
Getting Things Done by David Allen - Allen has rewritten the original copy of this book to account for the many modern distractions that hold us back from getting things done. Expect to learn how to get more important things done in both your professional and personal life, all while feeling less stressed about it.
On Combat By Dave Grossman - Learn about how the human body reacts to extreme stress, such as going to combat with the intent of killing other humans. Managing stress in extreme environments is crucial for success in Special Operations. Every day is high pressure, and not everyone can handle it. Whether you think you’ll go into combat in the next 5-10 years or not, this book provides excellent, research backed insight on how to deal with high stress, pressure-laden environments.
The Ranger Handbook (A really fun one) - This is kinda a joke, but kinda not. It’s nowhere near a fun read, but if you become familiar with the Ranger Handbook, you’ll set yourself up for a better understanding when it’s time to put small unit tactics into practical application. This is a must read (maybe not word for word), for 18X-rays or non-combat arms guys looking to go to SF or Ranger School. At minimum, I suggest having it handy during training for quick reference.
Black Hawk Down By Mark Bowden - A classic story of the infamous Battle of Mogadishu. Many of you have likely seen the movie, but although it sounds cliche and gringey, the book is significantly better and more comprehensive. I won’t waste too much time summarizing it since it’s so popular, but this is an excellent read for down time at Camp Mackall.
Bravo Two Zero By Andy Mcnabb - A harrowing account of British SAS operators whose scud missile mission in Iraq took a turn for the worst. If you think SAS guys are tough already, this will give you a whole new meaning of toughness. Andy Mcnabb tells his story of a real life SERE scenario, where he evaded enemy capture for days in the desert before being captured and tortured in Baghdad.
Psychology For The fighting Man By National Research Council - “Humans are more important than hardware” is a cliche saying in the military SOF realm. If you’ve heard it before and rolled your eyes, this book is sure to make you think deeply about what it truly means. Learn about the psychological aspect of war through the lens of American soldiers in WW2.
SOG: The Secret Wars Of America’s Commandos In Vietnam - In my opinion, the Studies and Observations Group (SOG) soldiers in Vietnam are some of the most impressive individuals of all time. They truly set the standard of what it means to be a special operator today. Some of the real life stories you’ll read about in this book will make you think twice about complaining or quitting next time things get hard.
Green Beret Books
Masters Of Chaos by Linda Robinson - this aptly Titled book details many of the unsung Green Beret missions in the post-vietnam era. Although slightly outdated at this point, I first read it just prior to going to basic training and for me, it was the final confirmation that I’d made the right decision to try out for Special Forces. The book highlights everything from the more recent, well-known Green Beret missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the lesser known missions in Panama, Somalia and the Balkans. If you’re on the fence about becoming a GB, if this book doesn’t make it a “hell yes”, you may want to choose a different path.
Objective Secure by Nick Lavery - I talk about not falling into victimhood quite often. Nick Lavery personifies it. Nick is a Green Beret (former 3rd Grouper, and still serving the National Guard as a Warrant Officer) who lost his right leg above the knee fighting in the Global War On Terror. Instead of feeling sorry for himself and giving up, he exemplified personal agency and not only returned to duty, but returned all the way back to being a contributing member of an ODA. Nick is one of the most motivating individuals I’ve come across, and with this book he provides the blueprint he used to beat the odds and smash his demons. A great book not just for future/current SOF, but anyone who’s struggling in life.
Legend (Roy Benavitez’s Story) by Eric Blehm - Another aptly named book, this is the story of Green Beret MSG Roy Benevitez. MSG Benavitez’s actions in neutral, but forbidden Cambodia during the Vietnam war made him widely accepted as one of, if not the most legendary GBs of all time. This book tells his story of selfless service and defying all odds. After reading this book, you’ll have a new appreciation for true toughness. Next time things get hard, think W.W.R.D. (what would Roy do) - I can assure you, he’d keep going.
The Only thing Worth Dying For by Eric Blehm - In my opinion, this is the best Green Beret book in existence. This book follows ODA 574 into Afghanistan just weeks after 9/11 and perfectly illustrates the Special Forces’ bread and butter: Unconventional Warfare. Although the GWOT is over, if this book doesn’t make you want to chase your goal of becoming a GB with more vigor, you’re pursuing the wrong career.
Other SOF Books
Inside Delta Force By Eric Haney - Delta Force (aka CAG, The Unit) is a mystical unit, and for good reason. Much of what you’ll read about The Unit lacks credibility, but Haney was an operator himself, and decided to open up about it. Whether you think this act is deserving of becoming PNG’d or not, this book provides a look into the selection process, operator training course, and the mission sets of America’s most elite unit (sorry ST6). I read this book on repeat when I first began preparing for The Long Walk.
Special Operations Mental Toughness by Lawrence Colebrooke - It’s no secret that to succeed in SOF, you need to be more mentally tough than the majority of the population. But what does that mean? Is it tangible? Are we just born with it, or can we cultivate it? How can we develop more grit, resilience, fortitude? This book provides the answers. But just remember, reading about it won’t get you there, you still have to put it into practice.
100 Ways to improve your writing By Gary Provost - If you’re a writer of any kind, this book is a gold mine to keep next to your computer. Whether you’re in a stretch of good writing, struggling with writer's block, this book provides simple, practical strategies to improve your writing - 100 of them, to be exact.
On Writing by Earnest Hemingway - Learn about the habits and strategies employed by one of the greatest writers and most interesting men of all time. When I hit a dry stretch of writing, it can be a good reminder to know that even the most accomplished, well respected writers in history would also hit dry stretches. It’s normal. If you’re someone who enjoys writing or needs to write for school or your profession, this book is full of excellent tools.
Biographies, life, miscellaneous
The Quiet Professional By Alan Hoe - The biography of Major Richard “Dick” Meadows, whos best known for his contribution in standing up the original Delta Force in 1977. Dick Meadows is the ultimate example of what a SOF soldier should be; humble, driven, and of course, professional. Seeking accolades is against the SOF ethos - those who try out for SOF just for title don’t tend to make it. This book epitomizes the outstanding qualities of a Special Forces professional.
Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson - (Recommended By My Wife - I have only listened to clips) The biography of Elon musk, written by a man who followed him around virtually 24/7 for over 2 years. Isaccson is well known for his biographies on several highly influential people to include Steve Jobs, Leonardo Da vinci, Albert Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin. If you’re still unsure as to whether Elon is a once and a generation individual, this book will, without question, convince you. The man is brilliant, but also ruthless. You do not want to be Elon Musk, and he’s the first person to tell you that. I plan to listen to this when my wife is done, but some of the clips she’s played for me haven’t disappointed.
Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl - If you’re struggling to find your purpose in life, this book delivers. A life of purpose is what makes life worth living. It’s what makes us get out of bed in the morning excited to start the day. If you’ve had times where you felt you lacked purpose and struggled to find the meaning of life, or if you’re going through a rough patch right now, this book will help guide you. Frankl is a holocaust survivor, psychologist and neuroscientist who wrote this entire book in a 9 day period following his time at Auschwitz in Nazi occupied Poland. This was an award winning book when it first came out, and has stood the test of time.
Off The Clock By Laura Vanderkam - Another recent read, this book has changed my perspective on time. Time is one of our most precious resources, and many people waste a ton of it. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 365 days in a year, yet most people perceive themselves to never have enough of it. Others, those who have figured out how to be “off the clock”, perceive themselves to have an abundance of time. This book will, if nothing else, change the way you think about time. If you’re always stressing about what you “should be doing” or you never think you have enough time (I can relate), I can’t recommend this book enough.
Wrapping It Up
This concludes my list. As previously mentioned, this is not a comprehensive list, and there are countless other great reads out there that didn’t make the cut.
But let’s not stop here! I have a favor to ask you: please feel free to add your recommendations to the comments section below, or let me know which books on my list you’ve read and what you thought of them.
I’m always looking for new ways to expand my knowledge, and I know many of you are too. I sincerely hope that you can use one or many of the books above to benefit your life, relationships, profession, or reaching your future goals. Thank you for reading!