Truth be told, it took me a few years of active-duty service before I fully realized what the “Chief of Staff Reading List” entailed. Like many, I heard the term thrown around, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized it was a relatively short list of books recommended each year by the CSAF.
Not only that, but this year’s list has a parallel listing of movies as well. The books provide relevant discussion and commentary on various facets of the profession of arms and are a good starting point if you’re at the library looking for an interesting book to read. They cover history, politics, military theory, and other relevant issues that are pertinent to every Airman.
I decided this year to read all of the CSAF’s reading list books as a personal New Year’s resolution. I had read a few from years past but had never read through an entire list. I just finished the 13th and final book a few weeks ago.
Overall, I’m glad I made myself take the time to read them. This year’s list was certainly an interesting one. It spanned from a journalist’s account of the ongoing war on terror, “The Forever War,” to a political book covering the Chinese communist party, “The Party,” to a historical account of former President James Polk, “A Country of Vast Designs.” Some books caught my interest more than others, but they all had very relevant learning points to ascertain from reading for any Airman.
If I had to recommend a single book from this year’s list, it would be Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken,” which has been on the New York Times best seller list for 105 weeks straight and for good reason. This book is an incredible story of Louis Zamperini, a former U.S. Olympic runner, Army Air Corps bombardier and POW in World War II.
Hillenbrand tells an amazing story as she walks the reader through Louis Zamperini’s early life up to his budding career as an Olympian. Several years after running in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, the 1940 Olympics were cancelled and Louis Zamperini became Lt. Zamperini as the U.S. entered World War II. During a flight over the Pacific Ocean, Zamperini’s B-24 bomber crashed due to systems malfunctions. The book takes you through his incredible story of survival in the ocean, as he narrowly survived Japanese aircraft strafe attacks, shark attacks and death from exposure. After 47 days adrift in a raft on the open water, Zamperini and his surviving crew members were captured by Japanese forces. He began an unspeakably horrific period of his life as he endured years of brutal treatment at the hands of his captors that almost killed him.
The story does not merely recount Zamperini’s trials, but speaks to his resiliency and recovery from years of torture that left incomprehensible physical and emotional scars. He found a new life in his Christian faith and ultimately travels back to Japan to meet and forgive many of his former captors.
This story is indeed an amazing one that provides great perspective on the concepts of service, suffering, fortitude and forgiveness. It highlights ever more why Zamperini and his contemporaries are reverently known as “The Greatest Generation.”
There is no shortage of amazing stories from World War II, as brave men and women served, fought, and died to combat tyranny, genocide and unchecked imperial aggression. This is certainly one of those inspirational tales.
The good news is that you do not have to look far to find the chief of staff reading list books such as “Unbroken.” The Luke Air Force Base Library has a table of CSAF reading list books, and the entire list can be found online at http://www.af.mil/information/csafreading/index.asp if you want to read more about them or download them to a Kindle, computer or other electronic reader. Go to http://af.lib.overdrive.com to register at the library for an account.
I highly recommend perusing the titles from the past few years to learn more about the historical, political and other contemporary issues that impact our culture and military.