While I designed my Military in Fiction podcast to be a quick snapshot of certain topics, there are bound to be those among you that demand a more in-depth look. Below I’ve listed some resources you might be interested in perusing, including books on military history, cultures, and strategies as well as some of the case studies I mention in the podcasts.
MILITARY HISTORY AND CULTURE
1453: The Holy War For Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West, by Roger Crowley. Roger Crowley is a brilliant military historian with a great ability to weave historical stories in a way that doesn’t make you want to curl in a ball and die. In this book, he takes you to a pivotal moment in Christian/Islam conflict, and how the last bastion of Christianity in the Middle East fell.
Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World, by Roger Crowley. Somewhat of a sequel to the above book, Crowley regales us here with a tale of the major counter-stroke delivered by Christian Europe against Islamic Ottoman expansion. It contains a wealth of information about some very famous naval battles, as well as naval tactics of the 1500s, cultural norms of both societies, and more. A great companion read to 1453, especially if you are interested in the history of the conflict between these two world parts/religions.
The Mantle of the Prophet, by Roy Mottahedeh. The socio-political history of Iran is one of the most interesting and complex histories of any modern power. Harvard Professor Roy Mottahedeh takes you through the intricacies of the transformation from Shah to Ayatollah. Iranian decision-making calculus is so radically different from so many Western powers that it is really enriching to dip into.
A History of Warfare, by John Keegan. Although I listened to this one instead of reading it, this is one of my favorite comprehensive references of war. John Keegan is an incredibly interesting case, as a physical disability prevented him from actively participating in any military service in his home country of Britain, but he remains one of the most knowledgeable war-history experts of the modern age. This book takes you from pre-horse warfare all the way to modern technology. I will warn you, though: the beginning of the book is mostly a slightly obsessive bashing of one famous Clausewitz line, “war is politics by other means.” Skip it and get to the history.
The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu never fought a war in his life. He watched a lot of battles, instead, and now we use hold him up as a sort of bizarre guru of warfare, even in 21st century combat. There’s a good reason.
Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. Yeah, I know there was a movie. Read a book instead if you want some insight on what it’s like to be a highly-trained small team in the desert.
A Concise History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Ian J. Bickerton. I add this because it really is concise. It’s not the most graceful prose in the world – it reads a bit more like a textbook – but there are so many folks out there who only know what the media tells them about the ancient conflict between these two powers.
*More coming soon! I can only type so fast. *
CASE STUDIES IN MILITARY WRITING
The Lost Fleet series, by Jack Campbell. An outstanding read with a similar feel to Battlestar Gallactica, Jack Campbell writes one of the most convincing military sci-fi books I have ever read. As an ex US Navy guy himself, you can tell where his influences come from, and they pay dividends in the way his book reads.
Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein. Mentioned in my Training podcast, the book is radically different from the movie, most noticeably in the way it doesn’t suck.
Schlock Mercenary, by Howard Tayler. Because, come on. Giant pile of poop with a gun. And because even though Howard has no military experience, he gets the vibe.