West Points’ Recommended Reading List

The United States Military Academy at West Point is one of the premier academic, military institutions in the world today. The following is the West Point history department’ list of top 10 classic military novels.

On War by Carl Von Clausewitz.

 Some Principles of Maritime Strategy by Julian Stafford Corbett


This brilliant exposition established Corbett as a classical maritime strategist whose concepts of sea power are found in current U.S. maritime strategy.

History of the Art of War Within the Framework of Political History by Hans Delbruck


“Two thirds of a century after it first appeared, this last volume of Delbruck’s fundamental work on military history has been translated into English. The work remains essential for the history of European warfare. . . . The translation reads well, although it occasionally reflects too closely the complicated grammar of the original German. Extensive notes and an index. . . . College, university, and large public libraries.”-Choice

 Command of the Air by General Giulio Douhet


In the pantheon of air power spokesmen, Giulio Douhet holds center stage. His writings, more often cited than perhaps actually read, appear as excerpts and aphorisms in the writings of numerous other air power spokesmen, advocates-and critics. Though a highly controversial figure, the very controversy that surrounds him offers to us a testimonial of the value and depth of his work, and the need for airmen today to become familiar with his thought.
The progressive development of air power to the point where, today, it is more correct to refer to aerospace power has not outdated the notions of Douhet in the slightest In fact, in many ways, the kinds of technological capabilities that we enjoy as a global air power provider attest to the breadth of his vision. Douhet, together with Hugh “Boom” Trenchard of Great Britain and William “Billy” Mitchell of the United States, is justly recognized as one of the three great spokesmen of the early air power era. This reprint is offered in the spirit of continuing the dialogue that Douhet himself so perceptively began with the first edition of this book, published in 1921. Readers may well find much that they disagree with in this book, but also much that is of enduring value. The vital necessity of Douhet’s central vision-that command of the air is all important in modern warfare-has been proven throughout the history of wars in this century, from the fighting over the Somme to the air war over Kuwait and Iraq.

Roots of Strategy, Book 2 by Ardant  Du Picq

Ardant du Picq’s Battle Studies, Clausewitz’s Principles of War, and Jomini’s Art of War.

Ardant du Picq’s Battle Studies, Clausewitz’s Principles of War, and Jomini’s Art of War all included in a single book.

The Art of War (1838) by Baron Antoine-Henri De Jomini


Antoine-Henri Jomini was the most celebrated writer on the Napoleonic art of war. Jomini was present at most of the most important battles of the Napoleonic Wars. His writing, therefore, is the most authoritative on the subject. “The art of war, as generally considered, consists of five purely military branches,-viz.: Strategy, Grand Tactics, Logistics, Engineering, and Tactics. A sixth and essential branch, hitherto unrecognized, might be termed Diplomacy in its relation to War. Although this branch is more naturally and intimately connected with the profession of a statesman than with that of a soldier, it cannot be denied that, if it be useless to a subordinate general, it is indispensable to every general commanding an army.” -Antoine-Henri Jomini

The Art of War (1521) by Niccolo Machiavelli


Written after 1513’s “The Prince,” Niccolo Machiavelli’s war treatise, “The Art of War,” is a dazzling array of war tactics and strategies based on the military strength of the Romans. Machiavelli wrote “The Art of War” as a dialogue between a group of young men in the Florentine republic. The main narrator, Lord Fabrizio Colonna, is the voice of knowledge and wisdom. The others ask questions about military tactics, and Fabrizio gives them advice on an army’s training, deployment, and organization. Much like how the military communicates within itself, Machiavelli’s “The Art of War” is a clear, precise, and structured text. It doesn’t have the same wit and cynicism of Machiavelli’s other works, but by choosing this style, the author was purposefully mimicking his subject. He also calls upon the classical tradition of a dialogue to share his wisdom. While yielding to classic Roman strategies may seem outdated, Machiavelli was an expert on the subject. He spent fourteen years as the secretary to the Chancery of Florence, allowing him to oversee the daytoday activities, weaponry, and logistics of the army. After “The Art of War” was released in 1521, world leaders and military tacticians slowly adopted his war philosophies as their own; the Roman strategies outlined in Machiavelli’s treatise had already proved reliable for over onethousand years, and they would continue to be applicable for many more years to come.

The Influence of Sea Power Upon History 1660-1783 by Alfred Thayer Mahan


The definite object proposed in this work is an examination of the general history of Europe and America with particular reference to the effect of sea power upon the course of that history. Historians generally have been unfamiliar with the conditions of the sea, having as to it neither special interest nor special knowledge; and the profound determining influence of maritime strength upon great issues has consequently been overlooked. This is even more true of particular occasions than of the general tendency of sea power. It is easy to say in a general way, that the use and control of the sea is and has been a great factor in the history of the world; it is more troublesome to seek out and show its exact bearing at a particular juncture. Yet, unless this be done, the acknowledgment of general importance remains vague and unsubstantial; not resting, as it should, upon a collection of special instances in which the precise effect has been made clear, by an analysis of the conditions at the given moments.

A curious exemplification of this tendency to slight the bearing of maritime power upon events may be [iv]drawn from two writers of that English nation which more than any other has owed its greatness to the sea. “Twice,” says Arnold in his History of Rome, “Has there been witnessed the struggle of the highest individual genius against the resources and institutions of a great nation, and in both cases the nation was victorious. For seventeen years Hannibal strove against Rome, for sixteen years Napoleon strove against England; the efforts of the first ended in Zama, those of the second in Waterloo.” Sir Edward Creasy, quoting this, adds: “One point, however, of the similitude between the two wars has scarcely been adequately dwelt on; that is, the remarkable parallel between the Roman general who finally defeated the great Carthaginian, and the English general who gave the last deadly overthrow to the French emperor.

 The Art of War by Sun Tzu. 


The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise dating from the 5th century BC. Attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu the text is composed of 13 chapters, each of which is devoted to one aspect of the art of war. It is commonly thought of as a definitive work on military strategy and tactics. It was placed at the head of China’s Seven Military Classics upon the collection’s creation in 1080 by Emperor Shenzong of Song, and has long been the most influential strategy text in East Asia. It has had an influence on Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy and beyond.

The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides


“The greatest historian that ever lived.” Such was Macaulay’s assessment of Thucydides (c. 460-400 BC) and his history of the Peloponnesian War, the momentous struggle between Athens and Sparta that lasted for twenty-seven years from 431 to 404 BC, involved virtually the whole of the Greek world, and ended in the fall of Athens. A participant in the war himself, Thucydides brings to his history an awesome intellect, brilliant narrative, and penetrating analysis of the nature of power, as it affects both states and individuals. Of the prose writers of the ancient world, Thucydides has had more lasting influence on western thought than all but Plato and Aristotle. This new edition combines a masterly new translation by Martin Hammond with comprehensive supporting material, including summaries of individual Books; textual notes; a comprehensive analytical index; an appendix on weights, measures and distances, money, and calendars; ten maps; an up-to-date bibliography; and an illuminating introduction by P.J. Rhodes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

RE|Factor Tactical