Every ship, squadron and submarine library will receive a collection of "essential reading" materials by mid-November. Here, a sailor browses the library aboard the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower. (Navy)
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A former Soviet leader has his hands on a ballistic-missile sub and an arsenal of nukes. The world's superpowers are under siege and the planet is facing destruction. One thing stands in this madman's way — a U.S. Navy warship.
So goes the plot of the novel "The Seventh Angel," one of the new suggestions appearing on the Chief of Naval Operations Professional Reading Program list.
Created in 2006 under then-CNO Adm. Mike Mullen, the program provides a list of recommended fiction and nonfiction for sailors and officers. The Navy announced its new selections Oct. 12.
The reading isn't required, and CNO Adm. Jon Greenert, in a video message to the fleet, stressed it wasn't intended as a burden.
"Now look shipmates, I'm not trying to make historians out of all of us. And I don't want you to get a history degree out of this," he said. "I want you to be interested in your Navy and see how your predecessors, sailors just like you, made your Navy great."
Cmdr. Daniel Dolan, the program's deputy director, said officials went "out of our way" to pick some books that are just fun, engaging reads. "The Seventh Angel," for example, which Dolan described as "Tom Clancy-esque."
There are 17 other books appearing for the first time on the list, and 42 overall. That number is down from last year's 60, which was deemed too many books, said John Jackson, a retired captain and director of the program, based at the Naval War College.
Other interesting new books this year:
• "In the Shadow of Greatness," a collection of essays from the Naval Academy class of 2002, the first since Vietnam to graduate while at war.
• "Wired for War" by P.W. Singer, an in-depth look at robotic warfare.
• "The Morality of War" by Brian Orend, one of the most challenging reads on the list, examines when it is morally right to go to war.
• "SEAL of Honor" by Gary Williams, gives the account of Lt. Michael Murphy, the first American awarded the Medal of Honor during the war in Afghanistan. He was killed while leading a SEAL team during an ambush in 2005.
Titles are chosen each year by an advisory group representing the Naval Academy, Naval War College, Naval Postgraduate School, Senior Enlisted Academy and Naval History and Heritage Command. Greenert asks flag officers for recommendations each year to inform the group, Jackson said, but the program will take suggestions from anyone.
A master chief, for example, tipped them off to "Navigating the Seven Seas," which details a father and son's real-life experiences as black leaders in the Navy. Melvin Williams Sr. served from the 1950s into the '70s and retired as a command master chief. Melvin Williams Jr. served from 1978 to 2010 and retired as a vice admiral.
New this year, the Navy is no longer recommending books based on rank. Past lists would single out titles as appropriate for "junior enlisted," "senior leaders" or "command leaders," for example.
"Some people interpreted that to say, ‘I'm not smart enough to read this book,'" Jackson said. "We got some feedback that was kind of counterproductive to what we were trying to do."
The Navy will ship 1,150 collections of the top 18 titles considered "essential reading," and two bonus books: "The Seventh Angel" and "Super Freakonomics" (not part of the list, but in the inventory). Every ship, squadron and submarine library — and most shore station and overseas station libraries — will receive a set. They should arrive by mid-November, Jackson said.
A waiting list for others, such as recruiting districts, will be created so more book purchases can be made as budgets allow.
Adapting to reader habits, the Navy also is offering more e-book and audiobook versions. These will be available through Navy Knowledge Online, but will require a program download that won't work on Navy computers, Jackson said; you'll need a personal computer.
While nonreaders face no consequence, Jackson encourages leaders to praise those who do participate in their next evaluations.
The list is broken down into two categories: Essential Reading, or 18 books deemed the best of the lot, and 24 others dubbed Recommended Reading. There are three subcategories for each based on the CNO's tenets.
A "#" next to the book means it's new to the list, a "$" means it is available as an eLibrary e-book, and a "+" means it is available as an eLibrary audio book):
War fighting First
• 1812: The Navy's War (George C. Daughan) #$+
• Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It (Richard Clarke)#
• The Gamble (Thomas Ricks) #$+
• SEAL of Honor (Gary Williams) #$
• Shield and Sword (Edward Marolda)
• Wake of the Wahoo (Forest J. Sterling) #
• Crisis of Islam (Bernard Lewis) $+
• Execute Against Japan (Joel Holwitt) #
• Monsoon (Robert Kaplan) #$
• Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal (James Hornfischer) #$+
• Red Star Over the Pacific (Toshi Yoshihara and James Holmes) #$
• The Man From Pakistan (Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins) #$+
• A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy (Thomas Cutler) +
• Navigating the Seven Seas (Melvin Williams Jr. and Sr.) #$
• In the Shadow of Greatness (J. Welle, J. Ennis and Katherine Kranz) #$
• The Morality of War (Brian Orend) #
• Time Management From the Inside Out (Julie Morgenstern)
• Wired for War (P.W. Singer) #$+
War fighting First
• Art of the Long View (Peter Schwartz)
• Shackleton's Way (Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell) $
• Six Frigates (Ian Toll) +
• Starship Troopers (Robert Heinlein) $+
• The Second World War, Volume 1: The Gathering Storm (Winston Churchill) $
• The Seventh Angel (Jeff Edwards) #
• To the Shores of Tripoli (A.B.C. Whipple)
• Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief (James McPherson) #$+
• Aircraft Carriers at War (James Holloway III) $
• On the Origins of War: And the Preservation of Peace (Donald Kagan)
• One Hundred Years of Sea Power (George Baer)
• The Elephant and the Dragon (Robyn Meredith) +
• The Great Wall at Sea (Bernard Cole)
• The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors (James Hornfischer) $+
• The Sand Pebbles (Richard McKenna) $
• With the Old Breed (E.B. Sledge) #$
• 1776 (David McCullough) +
• Integrity (Stephen Carter) #
• Leadership, the Warrior's Art (Christopher Kolenda)
• Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time (Dava Sobel) $+
• Master and Commander (Patrick O'Brian) +
• The Innovator's Dilemma (Clayton Christensen) +
• The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell) $+
• Two Souls Indivisible (James Hirsch) $