Changes to CMC reading list mean new options in professional development

22 Jan 2013 | Lance Cpl. Jackeline Perez Rivera

Some of the books on the Commandant’s Reading List are fictional accounts, some summon true tales and histories of battles past, and others read as textbooks, teaching of leadership, doctrine of war and the culture and philosophy of the war fighter. They differ in theme, difficulty and length, but all the books in the list hold important lessons for every Marine.

The Commandant’s reading list is a staple in the Marine Corps since 1988 and its format and some of its content changed Jan. 2.

Books on the list were listed by rank in years past. Now, in addition to ranks, books are listed by categories such as leadership, aviation, counterinsurgency, and regional and culture studies, along with a section called the Commandant’s Choice, an all-hands category. Maj. Marc R. Daigler, the executive officer of Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installation East - Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, said the change allows Marines to learn about issues and concerns relevant to the Marine Corps’ current operational environment.

“The reading program is important because it allows Marines to grow and develop their knowledge regarding matters of warfare and culture,” said Daigler. “We owe it to ourselves, to the Marines we lead and to our nation to be knowledgeable about the world in which we have to operate. We also owe it to ourselves to learn as much as possible about those who came before us in history - we can learn from their successes and mistakes.”

Books on the list offer more than doctrine, they can also be entertaining as well as insightful.

“‘Starship Troopers’ by Robert A. Heinlein is an excellent and entertaining story, which also makes some very salient points about service to one's country and one's society,” said Daigler, adding “Starship Troopers” is his favorite book on the reading list. “It is also a good story of the protagonist's professional development from a recruit, to a junior soldier, to an NCO, and eventually to an officer. The book's author served in the Navy for a few years, and one can tell he knows how the military works.”

While ‘Starship Troopers’ is not on the current list it has been featured on past lists.

Books like Starship Troopers don’t look at the past when they offer Marines tales of combat, but instead to the future, where characters must battle arachnid creatures on faraway planets while wearing powered armor.

One book on the list, recommended for privates through corporals, offers guidance to the answer of an age-old Marine Corps question, “What would Chesty Puller do?” The biography of Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, “Marine! Life of Chesty Puller,” shows Marines aspects of Puller’s life, important decisions he made and how his service left a permanent positive mark in the Corp’s past, present and future.

“I gained something from each and every book I read from the list,” said Daigler. “By reading and learning about the experiences of others, it helps me to gain knowledge I may not be able to get through my own personal experience. Reading the books enhance a Marine's knowledge and understanding of our profession and of our world. By expanding our knowledge, we put more tools in our mental toolbox with which to handle the situations we may face in the future. We also come to a better understanding of ourselves and our role in world events.”

The books on the list have much to offer Marines whether they look into the past or the future, or give explanations into the language and tempo of today’s Marine Corps.

For more information about the new Commandant’s Reading List visit