People often ask me for book recommendations, so I asked the Spotter Up team to give me a list of their top 5 books they read or re-read in 2016. Our list includes both fiction and non-fiction books and why you should read them. We will come out with a few more reading lists in part 2 and 3 from our other contributors.

Fields of Fires-This book was first published in 1978 by James Webb (a Marine Corps Officer). It follows three Marines through the jungles of Vietnam on the An Hoa Basin in ’69. It a top read if you’re interested in the Vietnam war. it is one of the finest representations of what the men of that day and age had to experience during the intense, non-stop combat they faced. On top of the enemy, they overcame racism, a shit command (at points) and the austere conditions of the unforgiving terrain and weather.

Matterhorn-Another from the Vietnam Era, following a Marine Lt. through the jungles. “Matterhorn” is an epic read about the tribulations faced by Bravo Company after they are dropped in to the jungle and have to essentially fight their way out during the war. It took the author Karl Marlantes, a highly decorated Vietnam vet, over thirty years to write.

Black Hearts-Follows a group of guys from the 101st Airborne Division, 502nd Infantry Regiment through their deployment during 2005 in the “Triangle of Death,” just south of Baghdad. They take numerous casualties and experience combat on almost a daily basis. It gives a look inside of how the failure of command and daily conditions that most cannot imagine will test the will of some of the hardest men. The book takes a turn for the worse when four guys from 1st platoon perform a disturbing act to a family in retaliation for what they have experienced.

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War-Not to be too cliché here but again, another great book (while dry), to read if you’re looking to learn about the warrior mentality. Its broken down into 13 chapters discussing every aspect of battle.

Mein Kampf (Currently reading)-Obvious disdain with this book from multiple groups, however, in my opinion a great read for anyone who wants to learn about the history of the world. It gives you some idea about the life and mind of Adolf Hitler, from his own account. While the English translated version may be confusing at some points, it gives insight on his twisted thought process from an early age. It shows how his mind was working when he manipulated millions of people into committing one of the most heinous acts of genocide in the world’s history.



TRUMP-The Art of The Deal (The 101 on how Trump has lived his life and conducted biz around the planet)

American Warrior-Gary Oneal. Met him at Shot Show this year, Gary is of the Ogala Sioux and is one of the most badass warriors I have ever met.  Chief Warrant, Ranger, SF

Masters of Chaos-Linda Robinson. History of the US Army Special Forces including some quiet missions in northern Iraq. Trained several of the guys mentioned in this book in combatives at Fort Bragg and Mid South many years ago.
Murphy’s Laws Of Combat-Marion Sturkey (Not really a front to back read but shit tons of great advice from warriors greater than me.

Mechanized Infantry (Bradley) FM-7-7J-Keeps my tactics fresh and helps stimulate thought for my POI mobility and armor training programs.



On Killing by Dave Grossman-This book explores the psychology behind taking a life and the effect it has on the soldier, law enforcement, and others.

On Combat by Dave Grossman-It elaborates slightly on the first book “On Killing” and what happens to the human body under the stresses of deadly a battle.

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging Hardcover” by Sebastian Junger. Explains the human need to be around others that are like-minded or bonded by a traumatic event. He uses the example of the Unit at COP Restrepo (Good movie as well).

The Way of Men” by Jack Donovan Talks about what it is to be a man. Simple and to the point. To elaborate religious ways of thinking just straight forward man stuff, women could certainly benefit from reading it to understand more about men.

The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker This book explains the reason for the “Gut” feeling that we get in certain situations. Acting upon it may save your life.



The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes & Posner-Possibly one of the most heavily researched, and  most successful leadership books of all time, The Leadership Challenge studies Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership that transcend scope, application, and industry into a timeless message that equip some of the world’s most competent leaders.

The Gift Of Fear by Gavin De Becker-A study into intuition, its value in situational awareness, and how it may very well save your life. Gavin De Becker illuminates the predictability of violent behavior and discernment between credible and non credible threats.

The Scandal Of The Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll-A scathing interpretation of contemporary American Evangelicalism, Mark Noll accuses Christians of abandoning the rich heritage of thought and mind as was indicative of our scholarly predecessors.

Daniel’s Running Formula by Jack Daniels, PhD-Programs and strategies from 1500m to marathon, Jack Daniel’s time proven principles that enhance an athlete’s performance have been adopted by world-class coaches and athletes all over.

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan-Arguably one of the most significant works of religious English Literature The Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory of a Christian’s journey.



History of the Peloponnesian War-Thucydides-This is a book I revisit and dip into often. The writer Thucydides, an Athenian, wrote about the three decades long war that left Athens in shambles and Sparta the stronger for it. The Greek world was turned around by the Peloponnesian War. Athens, once the strongest city-state prior to her war with Sparta, was weakened and Sparta emerged victorious. In his book, Thucydides attempted to present an objective point of view. He wrote: “Of the events of war I have not ventured to speak from any chance information, nor according to any notion of my own; I have described nothing but what I either saw myself or learned from others, of whom I made the most careful and particular inquiry.” Thucydides was an Athenian general who desired accuracy in recounting the story and would not pepper the material with myth and romance as some historians are sometimes wont to do. In fact we get the word hyperbole from ancient Greek. How interesting that we also get the word ‘laconic’ from that region as well.

It is to our gain that Thucydides was a good observer and kept to the facts. We’re able to understand how after the Greco-Persian wars Athens grew in power. As that war ended, and Athens became an empire, it became a threat to the Peloponnesian states, including Sparta. Sparta would turn on its former ally and through their long wars the Greek world would be changed forever. Athens would lose, and though Sparta was the victor, her power and influence would eventually wane. The Greeks certainly understood story-telling and myth-making. Stories are told differently throughout various cultures. In this book, we get just the facts maam. Anyone who can devote the time to read a good book will find this book to be a magnetic read.

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom-by T.E. Lawrence. Lawrence had a lyrical writing style. One of my favorite authors. Thomas Edward Lawrence could write. And he could write very well. Anyone interested in a reading about his war experiences should pick up this one. Lawrence accomplished much in is short life. He had a command of the English language, and then some, for he could read speak French, German, Latin, Greek, Arabic, Turkish and Syriac as well. Some have called him a fraud, but most of those claims against him, over time has been disproved.  He was a very perceptive thinker, an excellent observer, and well knew his own failures. His sensitivity and deep introspection were treated as oddities in the early twentieth century. He was a short man, and so was he capable of the feats mentioned in the book? Blowing up train tracks, out-riding the Arabs and rushing to greet war. I have read over 20 books on Lawrence,and many of his papers, I do not personally believe him to be a Charlatan. He certainly understands his own broken nature and the motivations of other men. In the end he attempted to retreat to Cloud Hills for privacy. Read the Seven Pillars but don’t stop their. Take a look at as well.

The Persian Expedtion-Xenophon-Okay, who knows this trivia? In the Anabasis, Xenophon must travel with his men to safety after being trapped behind enemy lines. What is that place now called? Yup, you got it right, Iraq. How about this one: Who knew the 1979 American cult film ‘Warriors’ directed by Walter Hill was based on this 400 BC event? Yup. In this book, a young Athenian noble named Xenophon gives an eyewitness account of the attempt by the Ten Thousand, (a Greek mercenary army), to help Prince Cyrus overthrow his brother in order to steal the throne. But things do not go well. Cyrus is killed and now the Greeks are without a patron or an employer. They are also without leadership for their Greek general and the rest of the higher leadership has been killed. The mercenaries have been betrayed. What are the options? Xenophon encourages the ten thousand to flee through hundreds of miles of hard terrain. Every part of the story is interesting, such as when Xenophon must use diplomacy or warfare to obtain supplies for his men, even as their way is barred and their enemies are barreling down upon them. Xenophon uses strategy to traverse indirect routes, or travels directly through territories if he must. He has a serious plan, something all good leaders should have, and this will allow the men to survive. A good book on the matters of betrayal, success, leadership, controlling your forces, making ad hoc decisions, and doing nothing frivolous

Thalatta! Thallata! The Sea! The Sea! I just got back into reading James Joyce’s Ulysses and recently saw the movie trailer for the old Warrior’s movie by Walter Hill.

Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought. By David Hackett Fischer. In his book, Fischer discusses over one hundred different logical fallacies and goes into great detail and uses well-researched and pointed references. One of my favorite books.

He makes logical fallacies very easy to understand. I too believe, those who are willing to apply logic over bias, will actually improve their historical thinking.  Fischer’s book is good for those interested in history. Fischer respectfully points out the mistakes of the most prominent and respected historians, for example those who believe history has epochs or stages, and corrects the writers in an amusing way.

The Great Gatsby-F Scott Fitzgerald Top 10 fictional story for me. Rise and fall of a man. Beautifully written.



Bible (God/People) – If you haven’t read any of it before check out Matthew, Psalms, Proverbs. Wise dudes-wise words.
Killing Christians (Tom Doyle) – Book and 838 Facebook page on current personal stories of wild interactions between christians/islamic state/AlQaida throughout the Middle East.
The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World – Rupert Smith – Older Generals’ view on future warfare, just started reading it.
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Chris Bishop) – Work reading, about half-way though it, difficult to keep up with the math but good models for predictive programming.
Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach (Peter Norvig) – Talks about search algorithms, reducing problems to search problems, logic/planning, and language processing.


Meditations- Marcus Aurelius Meditations, by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 121–180), incorporates the stoic precepts he used to cope with his life as a warrior and administrator of an empire. Ascending to the imperial throne in A.D. 161, Aurelius found his reign beset by natural disasters and war. In the wake of these challenges, he set down a series of private reflections, outlining a philosophy of commitment to virtue above pleasure and tranquility above happiness.

Night by Elie Weisel-Night is Elie Wiesel’s masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps.

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose-The definitive book on Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the Louisiana Purchase, the most momentous expedition in American history and one of the great adventure stories of all time. In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson selected his personal secretary, Captain Meriwether Lewis, to lead a voyage up the Missouri River to the Rockies, over the mountains, down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean, and back.

The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Elio Garcia, and Linda Antonsson-A comprehensive history of the Seven Kingdoms, providing vividly constructed accounts of the epic battles, bitter rivalries, and daring rebellions that lead to the events of A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Bachelor Pad Economics: The Financial Advice Bible for Men by Aaron Clarey-Bachelor Pad Economics addresses every major (and minor) economic and financial issue the average man will face in his entire life. From dating, to what to major in, to purchasing a home, to starting a business, to children and “wife training,” Bachelor Pad Economics is the wisdom you wish the father-you-never-had gave you.



Relentless Strike by Naylor  This is the definitive unit history of Joint Special Operations Command and especially its role in the war on terror.  It is a must read book for those who have a specific interest in special operations forces,   the military historian and those interested in how America wields its most effective force against terrorism.  The book alternates between bird eye overviews and man on the ground perspectives.  Many of the stories and tales have never been shared before and the book is extensively footnoted.

Sua Sponte by Couch-The seminal book on the Ranger Regiment’s current selection process.  It also shares the story of the evolution of the Ranger Battalions from WWII to today’s direct action experts and the only US unit that routinely trains to seize an enemy airfield.    It shares many untold stories of the regiments role in the War on Terror both in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as hints about other areas and capabilities.

Killing the Rising Sun by O’Reilly-A timely and informative retelling of the United States’ war against Japan.  It primarily tells the story from a top down perspective with several fascinating personal stories interspersed throughout the book.  While it does much justice to explaining and justifying the use of the atomic bomb the book pays short shifts the Army role in the Pacific instead focusing on Marine operations that made up a quarter of the ground war.  A good book to refresh one’s memory on general events of the Pacific war especially those often ignored like Japanese atrocities but not as scholarly as is necessary to understand what it took to defeat Japan.

Predators by Cooper & King-An outstanding introductory study of the criminal mind, profiling and the concept of victimology.  While a disconcerting and at times scary read this book gives the reader a critical insight into the criminal mind.  Its insights to reduce one’s probability of falling victim to predators and recognize them is critical knowledge for every law-abiding citizen and should be in anyone’s reference library who has an interest in personal security or fighting crime.

Book of Concealed Carry by Ayoob-A must have book for every individual that carries a concealed firearm or trains others to do so.  While potentially repetitive to the professional trainer Ayoob addresses a plethora of subjects that are often not addressed in many firearms courses like. Subjects like how to draw from a variety of less used holsters, legal issues the concealed carry practitioner should be aware of before he uses a gun and why one should use the same ammunition police use are all very helpful tips for both the user and the trainer.  While one may not agree with all of Ayoob’s tips one will learn something they didn’t know from reading this book.




By Michael Kurcina

Mike credits his early military training as the one thing that kept him disciplined through the many years. He currently provides his expertise as an adviser for an agency within the DoD. Michael Kurcina subscribes to the Spotter Up way of life. “I will either find a way or I will make one”.

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