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May Reading List Email

Hi, 

Welcome to the Monthly Reading List Newsletter! Each month I will share a few thoughts on 3-5 books I’m reading and why I think you should pick them up. So, if you enjoy this email, please forward it to friends and family and help us continue to grow! Also, make sure you sign-up for our new The Sunday Email where each week we will share a quote/passage from a book and a short insight. **We're giving away an autographed copy of Steven Pressfield's newest book next week to The Sunday Email Subscribers. Don't miss out!  

A special thanks to Adyton Public Benefit Corporation for, once again, sponsoring last month's bonus book giveaway. Congrats to Nathan H. who received a copy of Edison by Edmund Morrison. 

Let's dive into this month's email. 

Have you ever walked through the woods at night without a light? This experience can be daunting, particularly in thick brush, leaving you with briars in various body parts and, often, with wet boots. 

When we can barely see a few feet in front of our faces, our steps are slow and deliberate. Even if we pick up speed momentarily, tripping over a log or stepping into an unseen hole causes us to slow our pace again as we seek to regain our footing. If we were to retrace our steps in the light of day, our movements would be much more fluid and we may even find a well-worn path that we were unable to see in low illumination just a few feet from where we broke brush the night before. 

Life can be like this sometimes, which is why I am so passionate about reading. Reading provides me with just enough extra light to see a bit further into the proverbial forest and recognize beaten paths I may have otherwise missed. Reading also gives me the confidence to know I can make it to the other side with the realization I am not alone in the uncertainty of my journey.  

Thankfully, people have walked these woods for thousands of years and left behind accounts of their own journeys. Reading their stories and examining their ideas helps me sense the possibilities that exist beyond the darkness. Though I am still apt to trip and take wrong turns, I am reminded of John Lewis Gaddis’ words in On Grand Strategy: “Sensing possibilities, though, is better than having no sense at all of what to expect.”

I hope you find value in these emails. Writing them not only helps me review what I read but also provides me with a sense of community. I enjoy knowing that I’m passing recommendations on to others walking in the same forest. 

The Reading List
 
Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant. I originally purchased this book on Audible, but liked it so much I bought a physical copy. In Think Again, Grant argues that we need to question what we know, our assumptions, and opinions, and  adopt a mindset that is flexible and open to adapting as new information becomes available. I appreciated one of the passages he writes early in the book, 

Recognizing our shortcomings opens the door to doubt. As we question our current understanding, we become curious about what information we’re missing. That search leads us to new discoveries, which in turn maintain our humility by reinforcing how much we still have to learn. If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom. 

This is a great book for leaders who find themselves losing their humility as they gain more expertise and seniority in organizations. Conversely, it makes a great gift for someone who likes to go on multi-paragraph rants on social media about why they are right and others are wrong. 

Ghost on the Throne: The Death of Alexander the Great and the Bloody Fight for His Empire by James Romm. This is the second book of Romm’s I’ve read this year (I read Dying Everyday: Seneca at the Court of Nero a few months ago). Ghost on the Throne reads like a Game of Thrones account of the decades following the death of Alexander the Great. 

There’s a legend that in the last moments of Alexander’s life, someone asked him who would take over his empire when he died. Reportedly, he answered “The strongest.” Ghost on the Throne follows the subsequent battle for power that took place in modern-day Europe, Afghanistan, the Middle East, North Africa, and Iran as those closest to him sought power in a bid to be the strongest. 

This book has everything: alliances, rivalries, bribery, the constantly changing passions of crowds, backroom deals, poisonings, death by elephant, death by crocodile (yeah, I didn’t see that one coming either), a battle led by women on opposing sides, and a scribe who became a general and an unlikely major player in the story. 

Before picking up the book, I honestly had very little knowledge of Alexander the Great (outside of some historical fiction and a few anecdotes). Romm’s writing is phenomenal and accessible even if you aren’t history buff. The book doesn’t feel like a history book but more like a novel. After reading this account, I  want to read more about Alexander’s life knowing what happened between the men and women he left behind.  

The Hail Mary Project by Andy Weir. I enjoyed Weir’s debut novel The Martian and even watched the movie with Matt Damon (not as good as the book). This book has a similar feel. It’s about an astronaut who wakes up out of a coma on a space shuttle and finds out he’s on a one-way mission to help save earth. I don’t want to say anymore about the book and risk spoiling it for you. So, if you are looking for something to read that isn’t history, leadership, or self-help, check this one out. 

Freedom, Tribe, and War by Sebastian Junger. Freedom is the latest book by Sebastian Junger in which he recounts a 400 mile trip he made with a few buddies, walking railroad tracks from Washington D.C. up through Pennsylvania. Over the course of the book, he examines what it means to be free through stories about American Indians, labor strikes, and life on the frontier in the early days of American history. One of the truths about freedom that he uncovers is that “you’re always trading obedience to one thing for obedience to another.” If you are interested in learning more about the book, you can listen to my interview with Sebastian here

In preparation for my interview with Junger, I also reread Tribe, which examines our need to belong in groups. Junger argues that many of society’s troubles come from a feeling of isolation that many people today suffer from. Additionally, I read War for the first time. It follows an infantry company’s deployment during a period of heavy fighting in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. It’s an honest look at a combat unit’s deployment and the bonds that are formed through shared hardship by men of different backgrounds. For those who’ve been in similar situations, the book will stir up a lot of memories. 

If you haven’t read any of Sebastian’s books, I recommend you pick up at least one of them. His writing is crisp and, because he spent a large portion of his life as a war correspondent, he adds a unique perspective to his books. 

Stoic Wisdom: Ancient Lessons in Modern Resilience and Stoic Warriors: The Ancient Philosophy Behind the Military Mind by Dr. Nancy Sherman. I first heard about Professor Sherman from my interview on Stoicism with Donald Roberston. During the interview, he recommended Nancy’s latest book, Stoic Wisdom

Sherman’s books offer a look at Stoicism through a lens that isn’t colored through a commercial appeal to Stoicism like some of the more popular titles available today. She’s spent the last several decades of her career working with the military and interviewing those who’ve experienced PTSD, moral injury, and Post Traumatic Growth. Her books feature figures such as Admiral James Stockdale (8 years in captivity in Vietnam) and Army pilot Hugh Thompson (famous for intervening in the My Lai Massacre, preventing William Calley and his soldiers from murdering more innocent civilians). So, I feel like her take on Stoicism (what works and what doesn’t) is grounded in more realism than other titles.      

Stoic Wisdom is a short 220 page book that is easily readable and examines topics dealing with emotions to include fear, anger, and grief. She argues that community is the key to resilience and that to be a part of a community, we must monitor our mental models for distortions and bias produced by fear, anger, and desire. This is a great book for anyone looking to learn more about Stoicism. Stoic Warriors is much more academic and specifically focused on the military, but equally educating. If you aren’t familiar with the philosophy of Stoicism, I would start with Stoic Wisdom.      

Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy by Micah Zenko. Micah argues that a large number of leaders are incapable of identifying their organization’s blindspots. He says that it isn’t leader stupidity that causes it, but cognitive biases and institutional culture that prevent leaders from recognizing the glaring holes in their organizational swing. 

Red Team is a great resource for leaders to better understand this concept and methods to incorporate it into their organizations. Zenko outlines best practices for organizations who want to use red teaming. He includes examples from the military, Central Intelligence Agency, and the private sector. I interviewed Micah about the book for the podcast, so check out the episode if you are on the fence about the book. I finished the book in less than a week and found tremendous value in the concept and Zenko’s recommendations. 

Finally, if you haven't been on our website lately, check out the following new posts!

We also released some amazing episodes on our podcast!! One more thing: Thanks for opening my monthly reading list email, if you have any book recommendations or questions, please feel free to reply. I read every response and if I have the time, respond. 

This month's Reading List Email is sponsored by the Mag Mug Equipment Company started by Nick Lozar, a Marine Corps logistician, and devout coffee drinker. The Mag Mug came to be when then-Major Lozar was looking for a right-sized thermos to take to the field. After being disappointed with other options, he decided to create the perfect everyday carry mugs. 

The Mag Mug is perfectly sized to take your drink on the go in any situation, and is available at www.themagmug.com. Bulk pricing and custom options are available. Get some for your unit today!

**We will be giving away a few official FTGN travel mugs in June and have a few extra for sale. If you are interested in purchasing one, reply to this email and let me know. 
 

All the best,

Joe

**This email contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This helps with the cost of running the website each year. 
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