he military has been a driving force for centuries, and the world is changing at a breakneck pace. The ability to understand and engage in this fast-paced environment is paramount to success. Military science has evolved over hundreds of years and continues to evolve as new technologies and tactics are developed. This article will explain why it’s important to learn about military science and how you can do so with these top books on the subject!
Best Books on Military Science: THE LIST
1.The Art of War | By Sun Tzu
Regarded as the world’s oldest military treatise, this compact volume has instructed officers and tacticians for more than 2,000 years. From its origins in China, The Art of War traveled the world to inform the strategies of Napoleon and World War II generals. More recently, it has taken on a new life as a guide to competing successfully in business, law, and sports.
All of The Art of War‘s concepts retain their value to modern readers, from the prudence of circumventing a strong opponent and taking advantage of a weak one to the wisdom of preparedness and flexibility. Other topics include strategy, tactics, maneuvering, communications, the treatment of soldiers, and the worth of well-trained officers. History enthusiasts, business thought leaders, and anyone intrigued by competition and rivalry will appreciate this elegant edition of the classic work.
2. One War | By Carl von Clausewitz
Unabridged value reproduction of the most critical and thought-provoking first four books of “On War” by Carl von Clausewitz, translated by J.J. Graham, and including footnotes. These books give the theory and goals of war that can be applied to conquering meeting rooms and empires.
This volume of On War includes topics of the Nature, Theory, and Strategy of War and Combat.
These of Clausewitz’s four books in one volume allow the reader to review and contemplate Clausewitz’s teachings as it applies to their life.
No student of influence should be without this historic philosophy book on leadership. This Value Classic Reprint provides a slim volume with full text at an affordable price.
3. On Killing | By Dave Grossman
The good news is that most soldiers are loath to kill. But armies have developed sophisticated ways of overcoming this instinctive aversion. And contemporary civilian society, particularly the media, replicates the army’s conditioning techniques, and, according to Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s thesis, is responsible for our rising rate of murder among the young.
Upon its initial publication, On Killing was hailed as a landmark study of the techniques the military uses to overcome the powerful reluctance to kill, of how killing affects soldiers, and of the societal implications of escalating violence. Now, Grossman has updated this classic work to include information on 21st-century military conflicts, recent trends in crime, suicide bombings, school shootings, and more. The result is a work certain to be relevant and important for decades to come.
4. The Face of Battle | By John Keegan
In this major and wholly original contribution to military history, John Keegan reverses the usual convention of writing about war in terms of generals and nations in conflict, which tends to leave the common soldier as a cipher. Instead, he focuses on what a set battle is like for the man in the thick of it—his fears, his wounds and their treatment, the mechanics of being taken prisoner, the nature of leadership at the most junior level, the role of compulsion in getting men to stand their ground, the intrusions of cruelty and compassion, the din and blood.
Set battles, with their unities of time and place, maybe a thing of the past, but this anatomy of what they were like for the men who fought them is an unforgettable mirror held up to human nature.
5. The 33 Strategies of War | By Robert Greene
Strategies of war—and the subtle social game of everyday life—by the bestselling author of The 48 Laws of Power
Robert Greene’s groundbreaking guides, The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, and Mastery espouse profound, timeless lessons from the events of history to help readers vanquish an enemy, ensnare an unsuspecting victim, or become the greatest in your field. In The 33 Strategies of War, Greene has crafted an important addition to this ruthless and unique series.
Spanning world civilizations, synthesizing dozens of political, philosophical, and religious texts and thousands of years of violent conflict, The 33 Strategies of War is a comprehensive guide to the subtle social game of everyday life informed by the most ingenious and effective military principles in war. Structured in Greene’s trademark style, The 33 Strategies of War is the I-Ching of conflict, the contemporary companion to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.
Abundantly illustrated with examples from history, including the folly and genius of everyone from Napoleon to Margaret Thatcher, Shaka the Zulu to Lord Nelson, Hannibal to Ulysses S. Grant, as well as movie moguls, Samurai swordsmen, and diplomats, each of the thirty-three chapters outlines a strategy that will help you win life’s wars. Learn the offensive strategies that require you to maintain the initiative and negotiate from a position of strength, or the defensive strategies designed to help you respond to dangerous situations and avoid unwinnable wars. The great warriors of battlefields and drawing rooms alike demonstrate prudence, agility, balance, and calm, and a keen understanding that the rational, resourceful, and intuitive always defeat the panicked, the uncreative, and the stupid. An indispensable book, The 33 Strategies of War provides all the psychological ammunition you need to overcome patterns of failure and forever gain the upper hand.
6. Intelligence in War | By John Keegan
In fiction, the spy is a glamorous figure whose secrets make or break the peace, but, historically, has intelligence really been a vital step to military victories? In this breakthrough study, the preeminent war historian John Keegan goes to the heart of a series of important conflicts to develop a powerful argument about military intelligence.
In his characteristically wry and perceptive prose, Keegan offers us nothing short of a new history of the war through the prism of intelligence. He brings to life the split-second decisions that went into waging war before the benefit of aerial surveillance and electronic communications. The English admiral Horatio Nelson was hot on the heels of Napoleon’s fleet in the Mediterranean and never knew it, while Stonewall Jackson was able to compensate for the Confederacy’s disadvantage in firearms and manpower with detailed maps of the Appalachians.
In the past century, espionage and decryption have changed the face of battle: the Japanese surprise attack at the Battle of the Midway was thwarted by an early warning. Timely information, however, is only the beginning of the surprising and disturbing aspects of decisions that are made in war, where brute force is often more critical.
Intelligence in War is a thought-provoking work that ranks among John Keegan’s finest achievements.
7. Achtun-Panzer! | By Heinz Guderian
This is one of the most significant military books of the 20th century. By an outstanding soldier of independent mind, it pushed forward the evolution of land warfare and was directly responsible for German armored supremacy in the early years of the Second World War.
Published in 1937, the result of 15 years of careful study since his days on the German General Staff in the First World War, Achtung Panzer! argues how vital the proper use of tanks and supporting armored vehicles would be in the conduct of a future war. When that war came, just two years later, he proved it, leading his Panzers with distinction in the Polish, French and Russian campaigns. Panzer warfare had come of age, exactly as he had forecast. This first English translation of Heinz Guderian’s classic book – used as a textbook by Panzer officers in the war – has an introduction and extensive background notes by the modern English historian Paul Harris.
8. Most Secret War | By Reginald Victor
9. Blind Man’s Bluff | By Sherry Sontag
No espionage missions have been kept more secret than those involving American submarines. Now, Blind Man’s Bluff shows for the first time how the navy sent submarines wired with self-destruct charges into the heart of Soviet seas to tap crucial underwater telephone cables. It unveils how the navy’s own negligence might have been responsible for the loss of the USS Scorpion, a submarine that disappeared, all hands lost, 30 years ago. It tells the complete story of the audacious attempt to steal a Soviet submarine with the help of eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes and how it was doomed from the start. And it reveals how the Navy used the comforting notion of deep-sea rescue vehicles to hide operations that were more James Bond than Jacques Cousteau.
Blind Man’s Bluff contains an unforgettable array of characters, including the cowboy sub commander who brazenly outraced torpedoes and couldn’t resist sneaking up to within feet of unaware enemy subs. It takes us inside clandestine Washington meetings where top submarine captains briefed presidents and where the espionage war was planned one sub and one dangerous encounter at a time. Stretching from the years immediately after World War II to the operations of the Clinton administration, it is an epic story of daring and deception. A magnificent achievement in investigative reporting, it feels like a spy thriller but with one important difference: Everything in it is true.
10. Army of None | By Paul Scharre
Paul Scharre, a Pentagon defense expert and former U.S. Army Ranger, explores what it would mean to give machines authority over the ultimate decision of life or death. Scharre’s far-ranging investigation examines the emergence of autonomous weapons, the movement to ban them, and the legal and ethical issues surrounding their use. He spotlights artificial intelligence in military technology, spanning decades of innovation from German noise-seeking Wren torpedoes in World War II – antecedents of today’s homing missiles – to autonomous cyber weapons, submarine-hunting robot ships, and robot tank armies.
Through interviews with defense experts, ethicists, psychologists, and activists, Scharre surveys what challenges might face “centaur warfighters” on future battlefields, which will combine human and machine cognition. We’ve made tremendous technological progress in the past few decades, but we have also glimpsed the terrifying mishaps that can result from complex automated systems – such as when advanced F-22 fighter jets experienced a computer meltdown the first time they flew over the International Date Line.
11. Supplying War | By Martin va Creveld
Drawing on a very wide range of unpublished and previously unexploited sources, Martin van Creveld examines the “nuts and bolts” of war. He considers the formidable problems of movement and supply, transportation and administration, often mentioned (but rarely explored) by the vast majority of books on military history. By concentrating on logistics rather than on the more traditional tactics and strategy, van Creveld is also able to offer an original reinterpretation of military history.
12. On Combat | By Dave Grossman
On Combat looks at what happens to the human body under the stresses of deadly battle and the impact on the nervous system, heart, breathing, visual and auditory perception, memory – then discusses new research findings as to what measure warriors can take to prevent such debilitations, so they can stay in the fight, survive, and win. A brief but insightful look at history shows the evolution of combat, the development of the physical and psychological leverage that enables humans to kill other humans, followed by an objective examination of domestic violence in America. The authors reveal the nature of the warrior, brave men, and women who train their minds and bodies to go to that place from which others flee.
After examining the incredible impact of a few true warriors in battle, On Combat presents new and exciting research as to how to train the mind to become inoculated to stress, fear, and even pain. Expanding on Lt. Col. Grossman’s popular “bulletproof mind” presentation, the audiobook explores what really happens to the warrior after the battle, and shows how emotions, such as relief and self-blame, are natural and healthy ways to feel about having survived combat. A fresh and highly informative look at post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) details how to prevent it, how to survive it should it happen, how to come out of it stronger, and how to help others who are experiencing it.
On Combat is easy to understand and powerful in scope. It is a true classic that will be listened to by new and veteran warriors for years to come.
13. Grunt | By Mary Roach
Bestselling author Mary Roach explores the science of keeping human beings intact, awake, sane, uninfected, and uninfested in the bizarre and extreme circumstances of war.
Grunt tackles the science behind some of a soldier’s most challenging adversaries – panic, exhaustion, heat, noise – and introduces us to the scientists who seek to conquer them. Mary Roach dodges hostile fire with the U.S. Marine Corps Paintball Team as part of a study on hearing loss and survivability in combat. She visits the fashion design studio of U.S. Army Natick Labs and learns why a zipper is a problem for a sniper. She visits a repurposed movie studio where amputee actors help prepare Marine Corps medics for the shock and gore of combat wounds. At Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, in east Africa, we learn how diarrhea can be a threat to national security. Roach samples caffeinated meat, sniffs an archival sample of a World War II stink bomb, and stays up all night with the crew tending the missiles on the nuclear submarine USS Tennessee. She answers questions not found in any other book on the military: Why is DARPA interested in ducks? How is a wedding gown like a bomb suit? Why are shrimp more dangerous to sailors than sharks? Take a tour of duty with Roach, and you’ll never see our nation’s defenders in the same way again.
14. The Perfect Weapon | By David Sanger
Soon to be an HBO documentary from award-winning director John Maggio
“An important – and deeply sobering – new book about cyberwarfare.” (Nicholas Kristof, New York Times)
The Perfect Weapon is the startling inside story of how the rise of cyberweapons transformed geopolitics like nothing since the invention of the atomic bomb. Cheap to acquire, easy to deny, and usable for a variety of malicious purposes, cyber is now the weapon of choice for democracies, dictators, and terrorists. Two presidents – Bush and Obama – drew first blood with Operation Olympic Games, which used malicious code to blow up Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, and yet America proved remarkably unprepared when its own weapons were stolen from its arsenal and, during President Trump’s first year, turned back on the United States and its allies. And if Obama would begin his presidency by helping to launch the new era of cyberwar, he would end it struggling unsuccessfully to defend against Russia’s broad attack on the 2016 US election.
Moving from the White House Situation Room to the dens of Chinese government hackers to the boardrooms of Silicon Valley, New York Times national security correspondent David Sanger reveals a world coming face-to-face with the perils of technological revolution, where everyone is a target.
15. The Nuclear Express | By Thomas Reed
This is a political history of nuclear weapons from the discovery of fission in 1938 to the nuclear train wreck that seems to loom in our future. It is an account of where those weapons came from, how the technology surprisingly and covertly spread, who is likely to acquire those weapons next, and most importantly why.
The authors’ examination of post-Cold War national and geopolitical issues regarding nuclear proliferation and the effects of Chinese sponsorship of the Pakistani program is eye-opening. The reckless “nuclear weapons programs for sale” exporting of technology by Pakistan is truly chilling as is the on-again off-again North Korean nuclear weapons program.
16. On Grand Strategy | By John Gaddis
A master class in strategic thinking, distilled from the legendary program the author has co-taught at Yale for decades.
For over 20 years, a select group of Yale undergraduates has been admitted into the year-long “Grand Strategy” seminar team-taught by John Lewis Gaddis and Paul Kennedy. Its purpose: to provide a grounding in strategic decision-making in the face of crisis to prepare future American leaders for important work. Now, John Lewis Gaddis has transposed the experience of that course into a wonderfully succinct, lucid and inspirational book, a view from the commanding heights of statesmanship across the landscape of world history from the ancient Greeks to Lincoln, and beyond. A thrilling experience for history lovers and a necessary one for anyone serious about the art of leadership, On Grand Strategy is the very definition of a master class.
17. The Generals | By Thomas Ricks
History has been kinder to the American generals of World War II—Marshall, Eisenhower, Patton, and Bradley—than to the generals of the wars that followed. Is this merely nostalgia? Here, Thomas E. Ricks answers the question definitively: No, it is not, in no small part because of a widening gulf between performance and accountability.
During World War II, scores of American generals were relieved of command simply for not being good enough.
In The Generals, we meet great leaders and suspect ones, generals who rose to the occasion and those who failed themselves and their soldiers. Marshall and Eisenhower cast long shadows over this story, but no single figure is more inspiring than Marine General O. P. Smith, whose fighting retreat from the Chinese onslaught into Korea in 1950 snatched a kind of victory from the jaws of annihilation. But Smith’s courage and genius in the face of one of the grimmest scenarios the marines have ever faced only cast the shortcomings of the people who put him there in sharper relief.
If Korea showed the first signs of a culture that neither punished mediocrity nor particularly rewarded daring, the Vietnam War saw American military leadership bottom out. In the wake of Vietnam, a battle for the soul of the US Army was waged with impressive success. It became a transformed institution, reinvigorated from the bottom up. But if the body was highly toned, its head still suffered from familiar problems, resulting in tactically savvy but strategically obtuse leadership that would win battles but end wars badly.
Ricks has made a close study of America’s military leaders for three decades, and in his hands, this story resounds with larger meaning: the transmission of values, strategic thinking, the difference between an organization that learns and one that fails. Military history of the highest quality, The Generals is also essential reading for anyone with an interest in the difference between good leaders and bad ones.
18. The Art of War | By Niccolo Machiavelli
Florentine statesman, writer, and political theorist, Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) considered The Art of War his most important work. Five centuries later, after serving as a guide to Frederick the Great, Napoleon, and countless other military leaders, it remains an authoritative treatise on the fundamentals of warfare.
Best known as the political theorist who wrote The Prince, Machiavelli used this book to advocate strategies for Italy’s increased military prowess and political strength. Machiavelli was the first to propose a global context for the functional unity of war and politics, with the former serving as an instrument of the latter. Written in the form of dialogues, this 1520 work represents a humanistic treatment rather than a textbook approach. It clearly states and discusses the fundamentals of military organization and strategy: handling recruitment and weapons, motivating troops, demoralizing enemies, and achieving tactical and strategic advantages. Essential to the education of students of military history, strategy, and theory, The Art of War continues to inspire readers.
19. The Accidental Guerrilla | By David Kilcullen
David Kilcullen is one of the world’s most influential experts on counterinsurgency and modern warfare. A senior counterinsurgency advisor to General David Petraeus in Iraq, his vision of war dramatically influenced America’s decision to rethink its military strategy in Iraq and implement “the surge”. Now, in The Accidental Guerrilla, Kilcullen provides a remarkably fresh perspective on the War on Terror. Kilcullen takes us “on the ground” to uncover the face of modern warfare, illuminating both the big global war (the “War on Terrorism”) and its relation to the associated “small wars” across the globe: Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Chechnya, Pakistan, and North Africa.
Kilcullen sees today’s conflicts as a complex pairing of contrasting trends: local social networks and worldwide movements; traditional and postmodern culture; local insurgencies seeking autonomy and a broader pan-Islamic campaign. He warns that America’s actions in the war on terrorism have tended to conflate these trends, blurring the distinction between local and global struggles and thus enormously complicating our challenges. Indeed, the US had done a poor job of applying different tactics to these very different situations, continually misidentifying insurgents with limited aims and legitimate grievances (whom he calls “accidental guerrillas”) as part of a coordinated worldwide terror network. We must learn how to disentangle these strands, develop strategies that deal with global threats, avoid local conflicts where possible, and win them where necessary.
Colored with gripping battlefield experiences that range from the jungles and highlands of Southeast Asia to the mountains of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to the dusty towns of the Middle East, The Accidental Guerrilla will, quite simply, change the way we think about war. This much-anticipated book will be a must-listen for everyone concerned about the war on terror.
Final Thoughts on the Best Books on Military Science
The military is a highly respected and often studied profession. It’s also one of the most popular careers for young people to pursue. In this blog, we explore some of the best books on military science that help you become a better soldier. Take a look at our list below to find what you need to know about this fascinating subject.
Do you see a book that you think should be on the list? Let us know your feedback here.
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