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ILSS Reading Lists

Introduction to the Reading Lists

The Institute for Leadership and Strategic Studies is dedicated to the development of future leaders at all levels of responsibility, from the direct contact or tactical leader to the strategic levels. An important and perhaps critical component of this development effort involves the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and attributes through a variety of means. Much of this acquisition, particularly at the junior leader levels, is done through experiential learning in actual leadership positions in the Corps, student organizations, or other venues such as capstone exercises structured for both content acquisition as well as leadership experience. Preparation for more advanced leadership duties at operational or strategic levels requires establishing an undergraduate foundation, building on experience, and setting the stage for transition to increased responsibilities and adaptation to broader leadership challenges. 

The role of reading in this effort is significant, perhaps increasingly so. The current college population, Generation Z, was born into a digital world and has been immersed in technology from its earliest years.  This immersion has impacted their lives in many ways, including how they interact with one another, how they learn, and how universities adapt to their needs. Collaborative peer learning—perhaps in association with a professor or mentor—along with experiential project-based learning is replacing the lecture as the most desirable approach to pedagogy. Yet the role of the subject-matter expert who has the depth of knowledge to provide context and content remains essential. 

Reading books, regardless of their format, is the fastest way to convey this knowledge. A well-researched and written book can provide far more information than even a series of lectures or videos, and, in many cases, provides a handy reference upon completion. A book, properly read, also hones skills such as critical thinking and the ability to concentrate at the level required for deep understanding. Books can even serve as a starting point for peer learning through blog sites and reading circles or as necessary reference materials, regardless of the pedagogy employed. Finally, books that have received positive reviews by peer subject-matter experts are more likely to be accurate than materials gleaned from a hasty web search. Peer review in this case serves as an aid to information literacy.

With a view to providing our students and other interested scholars a comprehensive body of works worthy of their time, the Institute for Leadership and Strategic Studies has compiled a series of lists of books organized by major category and topic. These lists are a distillation of recommended readings from the various Services, the Unified Combatant Commands, professional military education institutions specializing in leadership and security studies, and the Department of Defense regional centers. Each list has an “owner” responsible for an annual update, and readers are encouraged to provide feedback to improve the cyclic capture of the best works in a particular category. 

Current list categories include leadership, core values, critical skills, future conflict scenarios, cyber warfare, and intelligence. For students with a particular regional interest, each combatant command area of responsibility has a dedicated list for that region. There is also a list dedicated to the study of military history, a valuable vicarious approach to understanding tactics, operational art, and strategy as well as learning about the art of leadership and its nuances at successive levels of responsibility. It is our sincere desire that this effort contribute to the reader’s professional development and consequently to the future of our national security.

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