The Books I Read in 2017

If you’re reading this, you already know how important continual learning is for personal and professional development. There is no growth without quality input – period. I get my input from specifically tailored email subscriptions, my Twitter feed, podcasts, websites, and books.

While I can’t keep pace with the likes of Nate Finney or Joe Byerly at From the Green Notebook…who, by the way, has a Reading of the Month newsletter you should be following…I was able to knock out a few good ones this year. Many I listened to on Audible, which you should check out.


These are the books I read in 2017 and would recommend:

The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize
and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues

Humble – Hungry – Smart. That’s what you’re looking for in a team player and a framework you can use to assess what impact your people are bringing to the team. This leadership fable by Patrick Lencioni should be on every leader’s bookshelf.

Leap First: Creating Work That Matters

Seth Godin delivers genius in his daily blog posts and many books. Here, he shares his best insight on creativity, sharing your ideas, and discarding the irrelevant as you pursue maximum impact.

This Kind of War: The Classic Korean War History

The detailed, definitive account of what war in Korea was (and may be) like. Every service member needs to read this, regardless of branch or MOS. This is a great primer to get a unit mentally ready for potential conflict on the Pen.

Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less

Ever sit in a meeting and say to yourself, “For god’s sake, get to the point!” Just about every meeting, right? This book gives you a thorough course in communicating your points in a clear, concise way that grips your audience. Military leaders need to read this book.


I only discovered Neal Stephenson this year and I sure am glad I did. I don’t read much science fiction but Stephenson’s work is so much more than just a futuristic tale. Seveneves challenges the way we should shape our collective future and inspires moral, mortal, and ethical discourse. It’s a gripping tale of the end of the world…and after. You won’t want to put it down!

The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor

Only a few times since 2001 have US troops been under legitimate threat of being defeated and overrun. COP Keating was one of those times. The Outpost is a vivid account of the 2009 fight, where Soldiers fought for their lives against a vicious attack from insurgent forces many times their size. It’s an emotional read, but worth it.

A More Beautiful Question:
The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas

This book by Warren Berger cites research and explains how the structure of a question can lead to powerful results. For leaders, it’s a reminder to be deliberate when communicating to your team and to think and ask before you speak.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Genghis Khan changed the course of history. Yes he was tactically ruthless, but he was also strategically skillful in ways that history often overlooks. For a complementary commentary with more gore, check out Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History “Wrath of the Khans.”

East of Chosin: Entrapment and Breakout in Korea, 1950

East of Chosin is a gripping account of the frozen retreat of the Army’s 31st Regimental Combat Team Task Force in the face of overwhelming Chinese assaults in Korea, 1950. Through the RCT-31’s experience, East of Chosin exposes the limits of human endurance in ground combat. The audiobook is a good listen.

Closing With the Enemy:
How GIs Fought the War in Europe, 1944-1945

Closing with the Enemy uses doctrinal language and historical battle data to reveal the birth of combined arms maneuver on the European battlefields of WWII. Doubler shows how our modern notion of air-ground integration, combined synchronized attacks, and urban tactics all originated in 1944-45. Closing with the Enemy is a great addition to any unit reading list.

Turn the Ship Around!:
A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders

What happens when you start asking your followers for their input instead of telling them what to do? Well, David Marquet was thrust into a situation for which he was not prepared and instead of faking his way through it, pretending he knew everything, he started asking his team what they thought he should do. In the process, he discovered a leadership philosophy that challenges the way we military leaders traditionally do business. Fantastic book!

Leadership in the Crucible:
The Korean War Battles of Twin Tunnels and Chipyong-ni

This is the story of the 23rd Infantry Regiment’s dramatic defense at the crossroads town of Chipyong-Ni in February of 1951. Granted, I’m a little biased, but this is a great book that lays out the details of a struggle that resulted in the first tactical victory over Chinese forces in the Korean War.

Want to check out a few dozen other great books? Check out this expansive reading list.

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  • Great list. Top 3 for me this year were Tribe, Sapiens, and Misbehaving. Highly recommend all three.