7 Must Read Books for Warriors
If you are going through hell, keep going. Winston Churchhill
The Veteran Samurai thinks not of victory or defeat but merely fights insanely to the death…. Hagakure
The Warrior code.
It is a concept that time and again has permeated my thoughts and sent me plunging into the depths of a seemingly never-ending introspection. I come from what one could, without cynicism, refer to as a “Warrior Family” and despite my chosen lifestyle as something of a scoundrel and a ruffian, the ideology of purity and cleansing found in immediate white-hot action in the form of combat is worth a discussion. It has brought me brief moments of soul silence over the years and it warrants a focused gaze.
I present to you now 7 books that I have read, each several times over, and right or wrong I have found them motivating and delicious in their abandonment of ideals someplace far away from the only one that matters: Action.
I invite you to take the ride and read about a path that our society has tried so hard to make us all forget….The way of the Warrior.
7.Marcus Luttrell: Lone Survivor : The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10
“we train for war and fight to win.”
— Marcus Luttrell
Four US Navy SEALS departed one clear night in early July 2005 for the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border for a reconnaissance mission. Their task was to document the activity of an al Qaeda leader rumored to be very close to Bin Laden with a small army in a Taliban stronghold. Five days later, only one of those Navy SEALS made it out alive.
The name of the mission was “Operation Red Wings” and the mission was to kill or capture the Taliban leader of the “Mountain Tigers” insurgent group Ahmad Shah, west of Asadabad. The mission failed. All but one member died. The book is Marcus Luttrell’s account of the ambush and the subsequently outrageous fire fight.
Based on Lone Survivor and it’s tale of the hell they were caught in, it was 4 Navy SEALS versus 150-200 Taliban militia armed with AK47s and RPGs. (According to Luttrell anyway)
The other three members of Luttrell’s team all die but not peacefull y. Everyone is given the hard goodbye. At one point, after a team member, Danny Ditz, had been killed and another, Matt Axelson, mortally wounded the Team Leader Michael Murphy made a decision…
And he groped in his pocket for his mobile phone, the one we had dared not use because it would betray our position. And then Lieutenant Murphy walked out into the open ground. He walked until he was more or less in the center, gunfire all around him, and he sat on a small rock and began punching in the numbers to HQ.
I could hear him talking. “My men are taking heavy fire … we’re getting picked apart. My guys are dying out here … we need help.”
And right then Mikey took a bullet straight in the back. I saw the blood spurt from his chest. He slumped forward, dropping his phone and his rifle. But then he braced himself, grabbed them both, sat upright again, and once more put the phone to his ear.
I heard him speak again. “Roger that, sir. Thank you.” Then he stood up and staggered out to our bad position, the one guarding our left, and Mikey just started fighting again, firing at the enemy.
He was hitting them too, having made that one last desperate call to base, the one that might yet save us if they could send help in time, before we were overwhelmed.
Gaijinass’s two cents
Tactically a wise decision? Nope. In fact the book is full of both strategic and tactical holes that make very little sense. Basically, the entire book is pretty full of odd choices and some really untactical desicions.
The other thing it is full of is BALLS . It is a guilty pleasure, low motivation pick me up, particularly the bits about BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training) which Luttrell details and explains well.
READ more about Navy SEAL Hell Week
6.The Iron Circle: The True Life Story of Dominiquie Vandenberg
Leaving home at 16 to train at a Japanese fighting school. When an injury sidelined his career, he found another outlet for his impulses in the French Foreign Legion, which brutalized him during training, then sent him to various African hellholes, after which he returned to Thailand to resume beating other men in the ring.
Well, the above sums it up quite well. Describing himself as an adolescent with a “lethal gift” of aggressive rage, Vandenberg recounts how he grew dissatisfied with regulated martial arts competitions in his native Belgium and sought out increasingly violent forms of combat. With 45 bare knuckle matches to his name, Vandenberg knows what he is talking about.
I am the best. There is no other like me. I have won glory. I have earned honor. I am remorseless. These things are mine and I will defend them to the death, for I am a warrior and this is my way. If you wish to travel with me on this path then read on. I will tell you honestly and plainly how it is that I came to be what it is I am. This then, is the start.
Gaijinass’s two cents
Another guilty pleasure because Hemingway, this is not.
This book abounds with two things: Action and inconsistency so if you want the former and don’t mind the latter get a copy. It’s clear that Vandenberg has trained and fought in Thailand and has been around the block a few times. That having been said, fighting nobodies out in the middle of nowhere does not make you the best. Lumpini stadium in Bangkok is where that title might be found.
However, this is a motivating book and a breath of fresh air for people who are tired of the new age peace and love message being abused in conventional martial arts.
Written by Martin Caidin from Saburo Sakai’s own memoirs and journalist Fred Saito’s extensive interviews with the World War II fighter pilot, Samurai! vividly documents the chivalry and valor of the combat aviator who time after time fought American fighter pilots and, with 64 kills, would survive the war as Japan’s greatest living ace. Here are the harrowing experiences of one of Japan’s greatest aces: from fighter pilot school — where the harsh training expelled over half of his class — to the thrilling early Japanese victories; from his incredible six hundred mile fight for life from Guadalcanal to his base in Rabaul, to the poignant story of the now-handicapped veteran’s return to the air during the final desperate months of World War II.
His body was punished, badly torn up by enemy fire and he had lost one of his eyes yet, he managed to get back to friendly territory and later flew more combat missions, crippled and with only one good eye.
Come on. Warrior.
‘A fighter pilot must be aggressive and tenacious. Always.’
He lost no time in showing us his ideas of how we were to become indoctrinated with constant aggressiveness! The instructor at random selected two students from the group and ordered them to wrestle. The victor of this clash was then allowed to leave the wrestling mat.
His opponent was not so lucky. He remained on the mat, prepared to take on another pilot trainee.
So long as he continued to lose, he remained on that met, tiring with every bout, slammed about heavily and often sustaining injuries. If necessary, he was forced to wrestle every one of the other sixty-nine students in his class. If, at the end of sixty-nine consecutive wrestling bouts he was still able to resume standing, he was considered fit, but only for one more day. The following day he again took on the first wrestling opponent and continued until he either emerged a victor or was expelled from the school.
Gaijinass’s two cents
I grew up watching movies and going to museums all over the world that had to do with world war 2. This book is fascinating because one is given the opportunity to see things from the perspective of the Japanese.
I also find Sakai’s admiration for the Allied pilots he flew against, well, admirable. A clear respect for a very skilled and formidable opponent is present. Also, his take on the use of “Kamikaze” attacks is interesting and unique. This book deals with the reality that for warriors, the politics don’t matter.
Good article and interview With Saburo Sakai.
4.The One That Got Away: My SAS Mission Behind Enemy Lines (Memories of War)
A member of “Bravo two Zero” fame and the brutally failed SAS mission led by Andy McNabb. Only one, Chris Ryan, escaped capture—by walking nearly 180 miles through the desert for a week.
If 180 miles E&E through the desert, alone, doesn’t impress you, perhaps nothing will.
Ryan discussing his friends and his plans for Mt. Everest early in the book…
The plan was that I should meet the other two at the North Col; we would then climb to the summit together, jump off and paraglide down to basecamp. Everything was geared to breaking records: if I could reach the summit without oxygen, it would be a personal record for me; if the others came up via the Northeast Ridge, they too would establish a first- as would we all by parachuting from the top. I was quite well qualified for the role, having done plenty of parachute jumps, and because I had spent 18 months in the Alps on a German Mountain army guide course, during which time I had become proficient at climbing in snow and ice.
Gaijinass’s two cents
Although Ryan lacks the writing flare that his SAS compatriot McNabb wields so well, I like this book much more than Bravo Two Zero: The Harrowing True Story of a Special Forces Patrol Behind the Lines in Iraq. I like Ryan’s dry, straight forward approach and I think the fact that he DIDN’T get captured is far more impressive than McNabb who did and essentially wrote about his torture. No matter what, this book is a slap in the face when you think that getting up and jogging 5 miles tomorrow morning is too much trouble.
3.Rogue Warrior of the SAS: The Blair Mayne Legend
He was the most decorated British soldier of the Second World War, receiving four DSOs, the Croix de Guerre, and the Legion d’honneur, and he pioneered tactics used today by the SAS and other special operations units worldwide. Rogue Warrior of the SAS tells the remarkable life story of “Colonel Paddy,” whose exceptional physical strength and uniquely swift reflexes made him a fearsome opponent. But his unorthodox rules of war and his resentment of authority would deny him the ultimate accolade of the Victoria Cross.
Mayne was wild and according to his brother “a man made for War”. He frightened those around him especially when he had been drinking.
Fully 6ft 4ins, he could not be controlled when he was going full tilt, except on one occasion when one of his Irish comrades held a pistol on him and simply said, “I’ll shoot you, Blair, I swear to god.” throughout the evening. Mayne just continued drinking yet managed not to lose his temper.
…Only then did Calvert intervene and in challenging Mayne, was almost killed.
…As for drunkenness, that again did not fully get to the heart of the events of the Calvert episode. Blair was indeed drinking but his speed of reaction and his ability to get off the floor, lift Calvert above his head and fling him across the room were not the reactions of a drunken man. Calvert was a tough veteran and, like Blair, a boxing champion. He was not someone an inebriated individual could handle with such swift physical precision.
Gaijinass’s two cents
This book is so insanely English I started observing proper tea time hours. Mayne was an absolute monster of a man, extraordinarily gifted at soldiering and a dark, brooding and compartmentalized individual. It is a great read about what it took to start one of the most formidable units the world has ever known. A must read for the Military history or Spec Ops aficionado. It’s basically just a good book about a bunch of insanely tough, hard-drinking killers who made life hell for the Nazis wherever they went.
2.Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War
Journalist Mark Bowden delivers a strikingly detailed account of the 1993 nightmare operation in Mogadishu that left 18 American soldiers dead and many more wounded. This early foreign-policy disaster for the Clinton administration led to the resignation of Secretary of Defense Les Aspin and a total troop withdrawal from Somalia. Bowden does not spend much time considering the context; instead he provides a moment-by-moment chronicle of what happened in the air and on the ground.
Their high-tech MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters had been shot down and a number of other miscues left them trapped through the night. Bowden describes Mogadishu as a place of Mad Max-like anarchy–implying strongly that there was never any peace for the supposed peacekeepers to keep.
The Entire book is a testament to the training and the ability of the Army Rangers, Delta and the SEALs in a 15 hour all out battle against literally thousands of armed enemy on foreign turf.
“Don’t shoot,” Spalding shouted at him. “She’s got a kid!”
At that moment the woman turned. Holding a baby on one arm, she raised a pistol with her free hand. Spalding shot her where she stood. He shot four more rounds into her before she fell. He hoped he hadn’t hit the baby. They were moving fast, and he didn’t get to see whether he had. He thought he probably had hit the baby. She had been carrying the infant on her arm, right in front. Why would a mother do something like that with a kid on her arm? What was she thinking?
Gaijinass’s two cents
Absolutely nothing negative or snarky to say here. This book is incredibly well written and very well researched. All the parts are in the correct position. In fact it is so well written it is often assigned as required reading for military personnel in elite units.
It is full of motivation and a sense of professionalism and reality.
Good History channel Documentary about this.
1.Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai
Hagakure (“In the Shadow of Leaves”‘) is a manual for the samurai classes consisting of a series of short anecdotes and reflections that give both insight and instruction–in the philosophy and code of behavior that foster the true spirit of Bushido–the Way of the Warrior. It is not a book of philosophy as most would understand the word: it is a collection of thoughts and sayings recorded over a period of seven years, and as such covers a wide variety of subjects, often in no particular sequence.
The book was widely distributed before and during Word War 2, yet was completely taken out of circulation after the war. It was then considered dissident literature and uncondusive to the rank and file pacifism that was being nurtured amongst the new generation of Japanese.
The primary point made in this book is as applicable now as it was then: We are all going to die; how you will live and then die can be your choice.
This is also a wonderful look at the difference between how the Japanese see suicide and death, and how different the western idea of it is.
HIGHLY motivating. Not only to push yourself in some sort of physical or militaristic endeavour but Hagakure drills home the point that warriorism is not a profession but a LIFESTYLE that must be practiced and maintained day in and day out.
I have discovered that the way of the Samurai is death. In a fifty-fifty life or death crisis, simply settle it by deciding on death. There is nothing complicated about it. Just brace yourself and proceed.
The way of the Samurai is a mania for death. Sometimes ten men cannot topple a man with such conviction.
Gaijinass’s two cents
This book is a guide on how to keep yourself hard, day in and day out.
It is also a great look into the old warrior sole of the Samurai (particularly one who was denied the permission to kill himself= survivors guilt) and even into a glimpse of Japanese culture today. For example Suicide; In Japan it is called hara-kiri and it isn’t viewed the same way it is in the West, as an expression of defeat. But rather it’s the ultimate expression of freedom and self-control in order to preserve ones honor.
Powerful reading and appropriate for anyone that is concerned with the life of Warriors and considerations such as death.
Not enough Warrior Reading? No problem, we’ve got your back. Try 5 more MUST READ Books for WARRIORS.
If you like this then, you should check more from the “Japan ain’t so f#$%ed up” series:
|Keeping Bathroom money||Paying the Bribe in Japan||Dudes on the Corner||Hosts in Japan||Build a Killer Robot or….?|
A good book to read is “Hidden Soldier” by Paidraig O’Keefe. It’s a biography about an Irishman who leaves Ireland and joins the French Foreign Legion.
*added to list*
Thanks dude. Happy holidays
Write more like this and the Corn soup one. Both are well worth the reading time.
When you coming to arKANSAS boy? I got a remington might interest you.
Awesome list. I have several of these, and now will track down a few more. Luttrell, Vandenberg, Mayne, Ryan… could you imagine taking on that crowd. Mashed Potatoes. You would appear from then on as mashed potatoes.
I think Mayne actually scares me the most. He just seems by all accounts sent here by the cranky old testament god with a special permission slip to bring jail rape like agony to all Nazis knowing full well he had a get out of hell free card the whole time.
Although Vandenberg would be no picnic in an enchanting field of tulips either.
The Hagakure is my personal favorite book ever. It was the first thing I grabbed when I lost my last house. I keep it with me everytime I go to college. It always makes a boring class good. I read it more than normal men read/look at the nearest playboy. I have my favorite quote in it book marked with a transparent urine colored thin strip of a sticky note. I chose urine colored to honor the quote.
“If you cut a face lengthwise, urinate on it, and trample on it with straw sandals, it is said that the skin will come off. This was heard by the priest Gyojaku when he was in Kyoto. It is information to be treasured.”
Yes, yes it truly is.
Great reviews of a great list…. can i re-blog this? TIA.
Yeah go Ahead, just link back.
i find Go rin no sho better as a book for a warrior than Hagakure
Why is this? Please do elaborate?