Commandant’s Professional Reading List

 “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

– George R.R. Martin, author of A Song of Ice and Fire

Beginning in 1989, General Al Gray, 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps, put into effect the first Commandant’s Professional Reading List. He believed mental preparation as important as occupational knowledge or physical conditioning. The list serves to challenge Marines of every rank to develop professional and personal character, as well as preparing for the future in their profession, particularly in the area of combat.

General Jim Amos, 35th Commandant, revised the reading list and its structure in January of 2013. Now divided into five levels based on rank (enlisted and officer), in accordance with ALMAR 009-16, all active-duty and reserve Marines are required to read a minimum of three books per year based on their level.

ALMAR 009-16 Guidance

Commandant’s Choice books are required reading for all Marines. Each Marine shall read a minimum of three books from the Commandant’s Choice or Grade Level sections each year.

Completion of the CPRL reading requirement shall be noted in the individual Marine’s fitness report or taken into account when assigning Proficiency/Conduct (Pro/Con) marks per references a, b, and c. How a Marine demonstrates completion of the annual requirement is at the discretion of the Commander.

The books are adjusted accordingly and are selected for their pertinence to professional development and critical thinking. They range from Ender’s Game (by Orson Scott Card) to The Art of War (by Sun-Tzu). The Marine Corps has made every effort to ensure the books are easily accessible. And although some can only be obtained in print, most can be found in ebook or audiobook format. The Navy General Library Program (, which is free to Marines, provides the majority of them.

The Commandant’s Professional Reading List offers an excellent opportunity for Marines to not only study military history, but to learn from the experiences of those who have already faced many of the challenges individual Marines may face in the future. In the words of General Robert B. Neller, 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps, “I want Marines to read beyond the list, too, especially paying attention to current events, science and technology, and what our potential adversaries are up to around the world.”


Recruits-Poolees/OCS Candidates-Midshipmen
Book Title Author(s)
Battle Cry Leon Uris
Corps Values Zell Miller
I’m Staying With My Boys: The Heroic Life Of Sgt. John Basilone, USMC Jim Proser & Jerry Cutter
Joker One: A Marine Platoon’s Story Of Courage, Sacrifice, And Brotherhood Donovan Campbell
The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel Of The Civil War Michael Shaara
My Men Are Heroes: The Brad Kasal Story Nathaniel R. Helms
The Red Badge Of Courage Stephen Crane
Private-Corporal/WO-1st Lieutenant
Book Title Author(s)
All Quiet On The Western Front Erich Maria Remarque
The Art Of War Sun-Tzu
Battle Leadership Schell, Adolf von
Chesty Jon T. Hoffman
The Defence Of Duffer’s Drift E. D. Swinton
Ender’s Game Orson Scott Card
The Forgotten Soldier Guy Sajer
Gates Of Fire: An Epic Novel Of The Battle Of Thermopylae Steven Pressfield
The Last Stand Of Fox Company: A True Story Of U.S. Marines In Combat Bob Drury
The Marines Of Montford Point: America’s First Black Marines Melton Alonza McLaurin
My Men Are Heroes: The Brad Kasal Story Nathaniel R. Helms
Rifleman Dodd C. S. Forester
What It Is Like To Go To War Karl Marlantes
With The Old Breed At Peleliu And Okinawa E. B. Sledge
Sergeant-Staff Sergeant/CWO 2-Captain
Book Title Author(s)
All Quiet On The Western Front Erich Maria Remarque
Attacks Erwin Rommel
Black Hearts Jim Frederick
Curious: The Desire To Know And Why Your Future Depends On It Ian Leslie
The Forgotten Soldier Guy Sajer
Infantry In Battle (FMFRP 12-2) Infantry School,
Fort Benning, GA
Into The Tiger’s Jaw: America’s First Black Marine Aviator Frank E. Petersen
On Killing: The Psychological Cost Of Learning To Kill In War And Society Dave Grossman
Outliers: The Story Of Success Malcolm Gladwell
Quartered Safe Out Here George MacDonald Fraser
Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom For Living A Better Life Eric Greitens
Sources Of Power: How People Make Decisions Gary Klein
Storm Of Steel Ernst Junger
War Made New: Technology, Warfare, And The Course Of History, 1500 To Today Max Boot
We Were Soldiers Once And Young: Ia Drang – The Battle That Changed The War In Vietnam Harold G. Moore
Gunnery Sergeant-First Sergeant/CWO 4-Lieutenant Colonel
Book Title Author(s)
American Spartans: A Combat History From Iwo Jima To Iraq James Warren
Battle Cry Of Freedom: The Civil War Era James M. McPherson
Battle Leadership Adolf von Schell
Blink: The Power Of Thinking Without Thinking Malcolm Gladwell
Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler And Stalin Timothy Snyder
Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed The Art Of War Robert Coram
Brute: The Life Of Victor Krulak, U.S. Marine Robert Coram
Carnage And Culture: Landmark Battles In The Rise Of Western Power Victor Hanson
The Changing Face Of War: Combat From The Marne To Iraq Martin Van Creveld
Command Culture: Officer Education In The U.S. Army And The German Armed Forces, 1901-1940, & The Consequences For World War II Jörg Muth
Defeat Into Victory: Battling Japan In Burma And India 1942-1945 Field Marshall Viscount Slim
Flags Of Our Fathers James Bradley
Forgotten Warriors: The 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, The Corps Ethos, And The Korean War Thomas Hammes
Helmet For My Pillow: From Parris Island To The Pacific : A Young Marine’s Stirring Account Of Combat In World War II Robert Leckie
Just And Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument With Historical Illustrations Michael Walzer
Leading Change John P. Kotter
Military Innovation In The Interwar Period Williamson R. Murray (Editor) & Allan R. Millett (Editor)
Ripples Of Battle: How Wars Of The Past Still Determine How We Fight, How We Live, And How We Think Victor Davis Hanson
Team Of Teams : New Rules Of Engagement For A Complex World Stanley McChrystal, Chris Fussell, Tantum Collins & David Silverman
This Kind Of War: The Classic Korean War History T. R. Fehrenbach
The Utility Of Force: The Art Of War In The Modern World Rupert Smith
The Warriors: Reflections On Men In Battle J. Glenn Gray
We Were Soldiers Once And Young: Ia Drang : The Battle That Changed The War In Vietnam Harold G. Moore
Master Gunnery Sergeant-Sergeant Major/Colonel-General
Book Title Author(s)
Achilles In Vietnam: Combat Trauma And The Undoing Of Character Jonathan Shay
Another Bloody Century: Future Warfare Colin Gray
Assignment: Pentagon: How To Excel In A Bureaucracy Perry M. Smith & Daniel M. Gerstein
Dereliction Of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert Mcnamara, The Joint Chiefs Of Staff, And The Lies That Led To Vietnam H. R. McMaster
Diplomacy Henry Kissinger
The Face Of Battle John Keegan
The Federalist Papers Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay & Garry Wills (Introduction by, Editor)
The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide To The Peloponnesian War Robert B. Strassler (Editor)
The Little Book Of Economics: How The Economy Works In The Real World Greg Ip
No Bended Knee: The Battle For Guadalcanal: The Memoir Of Gen. Merril B. Twining USMC (RET.) Merril B. Twining
The Soldier And The State: The Theory And Politics Of Civil-Military Relations Samuel P. Huntington
Strategy: A History Lawrence Freedman
Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, And Leadership In Wartime Eliot A. Cohen
Team Of Rivals: The Political Genius Of Abraham Lincoln Doris Kearns Goodwin
Treasury’s War: The Unleashing Of A New Era Of Financial Warfare Juan Zarate
The War That Ended Peace: The Road To 1914 Margaret MacMillan

For the complete list with descriptions and book location availability, visit



About Jenifer Chrisman

Jenifer joined the MWR Marketing team in 2011 as graphic designer. In 2014, she went back to her roots when she joined the Fort Gordon FYI Magazine team as a writer, along with her designer duties. As of 2015, she has created a series of briefs about the history, culture and traditions of the military called Culture.Mil, as well as writing various other pieces, including her favorite … A Thin Line Of Many Colors.

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