The 25+ Books Gen. Mattis Recommends Reading

James Norman Mattis is the current United States Secretary of Defense, but is probably best known for serving as a U.S. Marine Corps general.

Mattis is one of the most admired leaders serving America today and credits books as one of the best tools available to becoming a great leader. His personal library is said to house over 6,000 books!

I’ve found that reading a ton of books is a common trait among many successful individuals, including Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, James Altucher and Elon Musk.

 Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

In an email from November 20th, 2003, Mattis wrote:

The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.

He continued by saying:

Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.

This is an impressive list of books and I hope to someone day read all of them. As a civilian who has never served in the military, I’m oblivious to how the military functions, what actually happens in war, and how wars impact countries and the world as a whole–which is something I believe more people should learn about.

As Mattis wrote in his email above, reading books is the easier path to knowledge instead of learning from other people’s experiences, i.e. the hard way. And although books won’t give you all the answers, “it lights what is often a dark path ahead.”

So read often and as much as possible!

If there’s a book on this list that you think is a must-read, let me know in the comments below. Thank you everyone! -Alex W.


For just a few dollars, books give you an enormous amount of valuable information that can help change your life. It’s practically high-robbery. So take advantage of this and read as much as you can.

Also, if you want to check out my list of recommended books, you can find that here.


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This article was based on two articles that can be found here and here.

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