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Coast Guard Reading List - Office of Leadership (CG-128)

The 2020 Coast Guard Professional Development Reading List

Blog Written by Coast Guard Commandant, Adm. Karl Schultz

As the Coast Guard continues to support national efforts combatting COVID-19, the social distancing required to preserve readiness presents a prime opportunity to grow personally and professionally. The 2020 Coast Guard Professional Development List is based on recommendations from the more junior members of the workforce and provides some great suggestions for continual learning and growth. This year’s list covers a wide array of topics that have direct links to today’s Coast Guard including mental and physical health, military leadership, financial wellness, Coast Guard history, and many more thought-providing subjects. Their recommendations also highlight the outstanding talent we have throughout our ranks and the tremendous value of everyone’s unique perspectives and interests.

Free electronic access to many of these books can be found through the Navy Overdrive program: To view this list and previous reading lists, visit:

I Don’t Want to Talk About It by Terrance Real

I Don’t Want to Talk About It by Terrance Real
“The author is a psychotherapist who offers the view that depression is underdiagnosed among men. He also offers solutions. Given that male suicide rates are three to four times higher than females, and the stigma generally of seeking help for mental health problems, I wish more men would read this.”
Recommended by: PA3 John Micelli Eighth District


The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
“This book talks a lot about perception and perspective.  Ryan Holiday talks about how opportunities can come out of sheer adversity, and how we as human beings tend to make bad habits when we face challenges.  I believe it gives us tools to accomplish and manage our problems and attitude.”
Recommended by: ET3 Nathan Heidenreich CGC Richard Dixon


Leadership in Turbulent Times

Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin
“The author takes a look at the true grit of four United States Presidents (Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson).  It is a powerful book that speaks to the adversity each president faced in their personal and professional lives, and how it equipped them to lead the country during trying times.”
Recommended by: LTJG Pamela Manns Sector Sault Saint Marie


Not Your Father’s Coast Guard- The Untold Story of US Coast Guard Special Forces

Not Your Father’s Coast Guard: The Untold Story of US Coast Guard Special Forces by Matthew Mitchell
Discusses an integral part of Coast Guard history and operations that is sometimes overlooked. Gives in depth knowledge and detail into the development of Coast Guard tactical law enforcement, defense operations, international relations and training as well as the relationships we built with other nations. This book will help expand Coast Guard knowledge and instill more pride in our service’s long blue line.
Recommended by: 1/c Jared Mihalcik USCGA


Outside the Wire

Outside the Wire by Jason Kander
“In this book, the author describes his journey from Midwestern suburban kid to soldier to politician and details what he’s learned along the way. It is a practical guide from anyone thinking about public service and everyone wishing to make a difference.”
Recommended by: LTJG Dan Rynard Sector Sault Saint Marie


One Bullet Away- The Making of a Marine Officer

One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer by Nathaniel Fick
“Wonderful study on being an emotionally intelligent junior officer, and a conscientious leader at the deck-plate level. The lessons throughout resonate across all branches of service, and extoll the basic tenets that provide a strong foundation for effective leadership.”
Recommended by: 1/c Leah Schweigert-Opas USCGA


The Things they Carried by Tim O’Brien

The Things they Carried by Tim O’Brien
“Classic book of short stories about the Vietnam War.  Puts our own struggles and obstacles into perspective.”
Recommended by: 1/c Owen Gibson USCGA


The Knowledge Illusion

The Knowledge Illusion by Philip Pernbach and Steven Sloman
“The authors challenge how much we actually know about things.  We take for granted how much we actually don’t know about how things work in a complex society and that the power of intelligence lies in a community.”
Recommended by: LTJG Alexis Wilde PACAREA Office of Cutter Forces


Women's Ways of Knowing - The Development of Self, Voice, and Mind

Women’s Ways of Knowing – The Development of Self, Voice, and Mind by Mary Field Belenky, Blythe McVicker Clinchy, Nancy Rule Goldberger, and Jill Mattuck Tarule
I think this books starts a conversation that can be tip-toed around even in today’s modern society. The women’s movement has progressed in tenfold over the past several decades, however there are still specific instances and situations that have proven more progress needs to be made. Many women today still feel silenced in their home, school, or workplace; this book begins to dissect feminist analysis, public policy and even some political struggles witnessed in society. It encourages a new way of thinking beneficial for both men and women.
Recommended by: ENS Kaley Underwood Sector Key West


Overcome- Crush Adversity with the Leadership Techniques of America’s Toughest Warriors

Overcome: Crush Adversity with the Leadership Techniques of America’s Toughest Warriors by Jason Redman
“It’s not often I pick up a book I don’t want to put down and read from cover to cover. This is one of those books. Overcome is the book we all need to read to become better leaders, followers, men and women. It is a book about developing your mindset and shares the key to overcoming any adversity or life ambush in life starts in your mind and how you think.  In the book, Redman teaches some life lessons he learned while being a NAVY SEAL and overcoming an ambush that left him significantly wounded while serving in Iraq.”
Recommended by: LTJG John Wayne Mullins (USCGR) MIFC LANT


Extreme Ownership- How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
“This is the best leadership book I’ve come across. It’s laid out in an engaging and usable manner—a highly readable #1NYT Best Seller. The lessons are easy to understand and to apply (each chapter is centered on a combat story), and they are equally relevant to all service members, recruit through admiral.”
Recommended by: LTJG Meredith Overstreet (USCGR) Sector Long Island Sound


Warnings Unheeded- Twin Tragedies at Fairchild Air Force Base

Warnings Unheeded: Twin Tragedies at Fairchild Air Force Base by Andy Brown & Massad Ayoob
“This book reveals why it is important for leaders not only to look after their people, but the consequences when commanders let personal relationships and prior perceptions get in the way of deficiencies in performance, and allow people to continue their negative habits until it is too late. Emphasizes why we have standards, and why they are enforced.”
Recommended by: LT Michael Gonzales Air Station Atlantic City


About Face- The Odyssey of an American

About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior by David Hackworth
“Discusses his experiences leading men in combat in Vietnam. Many of the lessons learned can be applied to all forms of leadership.”
Recommended by: MK2 Jeremy Spittler SFO Valdez


Difficult Conversations- How to Discuss what Matters Most

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most
by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen
“Written by Harvard Law School faculty, the book introduces strategies, tools, and frameworks needed to manage difficult conversations effectively. The authors provide examples on how to approach a difficult conversation from a neutral standpoint. It’s a marvelous guide for dealing with organizational conflict, misunderstandings and to improve organizational communication overall.”
Recommended by: LTJG Shirley Pilkey Civil Rights Directorate, Region 1, Zone 2


The Captain Class by Sam Walker “Walker reveals some of the common characteristics exhibited by the team captains of the most successful, world-class sports teams in history.  Although Walker discusses sports, the value of the lessons contained in this book apply to all team-leaders who are responsible for bringing various personalities together to achieve excellence.” Recommended by: BM2 Benjamin Lind Station New Haven

The Captain Class by Sam Walker
“Walker reveals some of the common characteristics exhibited by the team captains of the most successful, world-class sports teams in history.  Although Walker discusses sports, the value of the lessons contained in this book apply to all team-leaders who are responsible for bringing various personalities together to achieve excellence.”
Recommended by: BM2 Benjamin Lind Station New Haven


Radical Candor

Radical Candor by Kim Scott
“Written for bosses and those who manage bosses.  Taken from years of the author’s experience, and distilled clearly giving actionable lessons to the reader; it shows managers how to be successful while retaining their humanity, finding meaning in their job, and creating an environment where people both love their work and their colleagues.”


Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
“Ender’s Game is a science fiction story that contains lessons regarding wartime strategy, dealing with bullies or rivalries, friendship, and, most relevant to this recommendation, lessons on utilizing personnel differently depending on their own strengths and weaknesses.”
Recommended by: MST2 Joshua Stewart Sector Long Island Sound


Widen the Window- Training Your Brain and Body to Thrive During Stress and Recover From Trauma by Elizabeth Stanley

The Mission, The Men, and Me: Lessons from a Former Delta Force Commander by Pete Blaber
“Discussion surrounding prioritization of tasks, figuring out what is actually important, and what a leader’s responsibilities are when in difficult situations. The author discusses why flexibility and adaptability are vital when navigating issues, and how having a rigid approach to leadership can be detrimental to the big picture.”
Recommended by: LT Peter Hutchison Station Fort Lauderdale


Widen the Window- Training Your Brain and Body to Thrive During Stress and Recover From Trauma by Elizabeth Stanley

Widen the Window: Training Your Brain and Body to Thrive During Stress and Recover From Trauma by Elizabeth Stanley
“This book explains the connection between stress, trauma, and how our body and mind reacts to them.  It also presents ways we can improve our ability to perform under stress and develop routines that allow for recovery.  These techniques help “widen the window” where our thinking brain and survival brain can work effectively together during stressful and uncertain circumstances.  Although this book is helpful for Coasties under normal circumstances in dealing with the day-to-day stressors of life, work, operations, and deployments, the additional stressor of the COVID-19 pandemic makes this book even more applicable to the physical and mental health and well-being of our workforce and their families.”
Recommended by: LT George Shepherd Office of Maritime Security Response


The Last of the Tin Can Sailors by James D. Hornfischer

The Last of the Tin Can Sailors by James D. Hornfischer
Nonfiction telling of The Battle Off Samar during WWII.  While the combatants were Navy ships, the involved ships were similar in size to many Coast Guard Cutters.  A gripping description of Naval warfare and life aboard small ships.
Recommended by: 3/c Johnathan Kattnig USCGA

The Last of the Tin Can Sailors by James D. Hornfischer

How to Measure Anything – Finding the value of “intangibles” in business by Douglas W. Hubbard
“Leadership decision making is best served when information clearly reduces the uncertainty factor. The premise of this book is that anything that has a tangible outcome in the real world can be measured. The author uses examples to show how using “calibrated” ranges instead of hard numbers for metrics of things previously considered “intangible”, uncertainty can be reduced to a point where the information has great value to decision makers.”
Recommended by: Mr. David Bandel CG-671


The Last of the Tin Can Sailors by James D. Hornfischer

Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday
“This is a truly incredible piece of writing full of authentic wisdom.  The author covers many areas and provides historical details of people who exercised stillness in times of great turmoil, chaos, and despair.  Examples include Winston Churchill during World War II, president JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and more.  This book really made me think about the fundamentals of true stillness and how beneficial it is not just for professional development, but mental and physical health as well.  With all the COVID-19 turmoil and uncertainty, there is never a greater time than now to exercise stillness and composure to endure and overcome intense and difficult challenges.”
Recommended by: LT Rafael Shamilov Pacific Strike Team


Salt Fat Acid Heat- Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat

Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat
“A New York Times Bestseller, this cookbook is much more than just a collection of recipes. It is an engaging and funny course in learning the art of good cooking by focusing on four critical elements: Salt, fat, acid, and heat. Food52 called it “the first Joy of Cooking or How to Cook Everythingof the Google age.” The book has made cooking so much fun and helped me disconnect from a demanding staff assignment. If being able to roast a whole buttermilk chicken on my own doesn’t signify personal growth, I don’t know what does!”
Recommended by: LT Austin Fullmer Ninth District


The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason

The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason
“Dispenses financial advice through a collection of parables set 8,000 years ago in ancient Babylon. The book remains in print almost a century after the parables were originally published, and is regarded as a classic of personal financial advice; as well as professional development.”
Recommended by: Ms. Lynne Armstrong Base Cape Cod



Multi-Media Content

The Jocko Podcast

The Jocko Podcast
Jocko Willink is a retired Navy SEAL Officer, author, and co-founder of Echelon Front. He is a leadership instructor, speaker, and executive coach. His podcast hosts guests from all over to include military officers, Medal of Honor recipients, and authors. The focus of these podcasts is mainly on leadership, hardship, and professional development.
Recommended by: CS2 Nathan Rice CGC BISCAYNE BAY & 3/c Kurt Huebschman USCGA


The Moth

The Moth
“PRX broadcasts recorded sessions of live Moth shows with the intent of promoting the art of storytelling. During a Moth event, normal people are invited to read or tell stories that they submitted. Each show has a theme, such as love, discovery, hardship, etc., with each story often taking a surprising twist on the theme. I believe they are all true stories (almost all of them , anyway, and any fiction would be disclosed before the story began) and are great glimpses into human existence.”
Recommended by: SN Caroline Baity CGC EAGLE


Choose FI

Choose FI
“The Choose FI or Choose “Financial Independence”, is an excellent podcast that can help put all Coasties on better financial ground. 20-50 minute episodes are insightful and easy to understand. Run by two respectful guys that are entertaining to listen to. Website has access to lots of free tools to assist visitors. Re-introduced me to importance of budgeting. All around, just a great resource during uncertain times.”
Recommended by: LT David Bourbeau USCGA Company Officer


How to Get People to Follow You

How to Get People to Follow You
“Leadership discussion from Simon Sinek that breaks down what leadership is and the difference between leadership and authority, how to inspire others regardless of rank or position, how to lead with courage and ends on a unique perspective on millennials in the workplace and how to effectively empower and inspire the next generation on leaders within any organization.”
Recommended by: MST2 Thomas Harp Marine Safety Team Hawaii


The SPAR Life

The SPAR Life
Started by Coast Guard Academy Wrestling Coaches Kevin Bratland and Dylan Foley, “The SPAR Life” is an all-encompassing approach to life – physically, mentally, and emotionally.  The term SPAR life comes from the Coast Guard’s motto Semper Paratus,Always Ready.  This podcast focuses on shaping a culture, fostering teamwork and relationships, and grappling with life’s adversities.  Special guests of the show have included NCAA wrestling Hall of Fame coaches and athletes, junior officers in the Coast Guard fleet, and current cadets.”
Recommended by: LT Lucas Taylor Air Station Atlantic City


Forget the Pecking Order at Work

Forget the Pecking Order at Work
“Great TED Talk that makes its listeners rethink what it means to be “productive” in the workplace. “Organizations are often run according to “the superchicken model,” where the value is placed on star employees who outperform others. And yet, this isn’t what drives the most high-achieving teams. Business leader Margaret Heffernan observes that it is social cohesion — built at every coffee break, every time one team member asks another for help — that leads over time to great results. It’s a radical rethink of what drives us to do our best work, and what it means to be a leader.” This is an interesting perspective, especially in a military environment, and can offer Coast Guard leaders new perspective of how to lead and produce great results.
Recommended by: LT Patrick Frain Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance


The Global Leadership Summit

The Global Leadership Summit
“It is enlightening to hear leadership from outside of the military mindset. Just some of the faculty’s areas of expertise include: Maximizing teams, Unlocking strengths, Accelerating innovation, Courageous leadership, Influence for the good, Productivity, Staying relevant, Communicating for success, Strength for the journey, Predicting performance, and many more!  Get the quality leadership content from the Global Leadership Network anytime anywhere. Great lessons from professionals around the world for free on this podcast.”
Recommended by: LTJG Matthew Asire Sector Ohio Valley


The Model Health Show

The Model Health Show
“This podcast uses evidence based science and experts in their field to address personal health and growth. Shawn does his research before speaking on a topic and has provided insight that has improved so many lives as his podcast ranks among the top health podcasts.”
Recommended by: YN3 Heahter Everett Base National Capital Region


Work Life

Work Life
“Psychologist, business professor, and author Adam Grant questions the assumption that work has to be unpleasant. He explores companies, professionals, and businesses that employ innovative and sometimes daring practices aimed at making the workplace better. The topics feature a spectrum of work topics from the “problem with all-stars” to “burnout is everyone’s problem.” Undoubtedly, each episode features something you can relate to and is a must listen for anyone who considers themselves a professional in any field.”
Recommended by: LT James Martin CGC IBIS


Leading Through Change and Crisis

Leading Through Change and Crisis
Practical advice and insights from seasoned leaders from the McChrystal Group. Examines how to rapidly define the internal/external operating environment to develop a prioritized plan that aligns your people to your strategy.”
Recommended by: ENS James Eggers MSRT-West


Optimal Living Daily

Optimal Living Daily
This podcast is a daily reading from various blogs regarding personal development, minimalism, productivity, and more.  Episodes are 5-10 minutes.
Recommended by: LTJG Sarah Ritchie District Eight


Previous Coast Guard Reading List Selections

You can download the Coast Guard's Professional Reading List for FREE here!

Archived Recommendations

Commandant's Book Club

As a compliment to the Commandant’s 2017 Reading List, Admiral Zukunft asked members from across the fleet to review the selects and share insights on how they are applying what they’ve read to mission execution.  Click below to read the book reviews:

Commandant's Choice

Prior to 2015, the Office of Leadership maintained a Coast Guard Reading List, which was a standing list of reading recommendations related to leadership, Coast Guard history and culture, and contemporary issues. These archived recommendations can provide additional learning opportunities to expand your knowledge and skills. In addition to the standing list, the Commandant selected one book annually as the "Commandant's Choice" for professional reading from 2002 until 2015.


Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II
by Mitchell Zuckoff (ISBN: 0062133438)

Two harrowing crashes ... A vanished rescue plane ...A desperate fight for life in a frozen, hostile land ...The quest to solve a seventy-year-old mystery.

On November 5, 1942, a U.S. cargo plane on a routine flight slammed into the Greenland ice cap. Four days later, a B-17 on the search-and-rescue mission became lost in a blinding storm and also crashed. Miraculously, all nine men on the B-17 survived. The U.S. military launched a second daring rescue operation, but the Grumman Duck amphibious plane sent to find the men flew into a severe storm and vanished.

In this thrilling adventure, Mitchell Zuckoff offers a spellbinding account of these harrowing disasters and the fate of the survivors and their would-be saviors. Frozen in Time places us at the center of a group of valiant airmen fighting to stay alive through 148 days of a brutal Arctic winter by sheltering from subzero temperatures and vicious blizzards in the tail section of the broken B-17 until an expedition headed by famed Arctic explorer Bernt Balchen attempts to bring them to safety.

But that is only part of the story that unfolds in Frozen in Time. In present-day Greenland, Zuckoff joins the U.S. Coast Guard and North South Polar -- a company led by the indefatigable dreamer Lou Sapienza, who worked for years to solve the mystery of the Duck’s last flight -- on a dangerous expedition to recover the remains of the lost plane’s crew.

Drawing on intensive research and Zuckoff ’s firsthand account of the dramatic 2012 expedition, Frozen in Time is a breathtaking blend of mystery, adventure, heroism, and survival. It is also a poignant reminder of the sacrifices of our military personnel and their families -- and a tribute to the important, perilous, and often-overlooked work of the U.S. Coast Guard.


The Finest Hours
, by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman (ISBN: 1416567224)

On February 18, 1952, New England was battered by a brutal nor'easter and the freezing Atlantic became a zone of peril with 70-knot winds and 60-foot seas. Two old oil tankers, the Pendleton and the Fort Mercer, proved no match for the storm and both were torn in half just off Cape Cod.

The Finest Hours highlights the captivating, true story of the valiant attempt of four Coast Guardsmen aboard the rescue surfboat CG36500 to overcome insurmountable odds and save the 32 stranded Pendleton sailors huddling inside the ship's stern section which was still afloat. The CG36500's crew, led by then-Petty Officer First Class Bernard Webber, conducted what is arguably the most dramatic rescue ever undertaken by the Coast Guard.

All four Coast Guardsmen were awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal for their proficiency and heroic actions in extreme conditions. In 2012 the Coast Guard commissioned the cutter BERNARD C. WEBBER, the lead ship in the Sentinel Class cutter fleet, in honor of the heroic boat coxswain. (Note: A young adult version -- age 10-16 -- is also available as The Finest Hours: The True Story of a Heroic Sea Rescue).


Bearing Drift, by Peter Eident (ISBN: 1450765327)

35 years ago on October 20, 1978, the 125-ft training vessel USCGC CUYAHOGA collided with a 521-foot freighter while underway near the mouth of the Potomac River. Following the collision, CUYAHOGA sank, killing 11 Coast Guardsmen in one of the worst peacetime accidents in Coast Guard history. The author, who was standing watch on the bridge as CUYAHOGA was rammed and sank, explores a Coast Guardsman's intricate relationship with the sea and seeks meaning in the loss of his shipmates, an event he vividly recalls. Bearing Drift is about heroism and mistakes, and how the fatal mishap forever changed the author and the Coast Guard itself. Along with the USCGC BLACKTHORN collision 15 months later, the catastrophic sinking of the CUYAHOGA caused the Coast Guard to recommit itself to proficiency and reexamine the requirements for training, qualification standards and bridge manning requirements. A captivating tribute to the "long blue line" of shipmates who gave their last full measure of devotion in service of our country.


Fire on the Beach: Recovering the Lost Story of Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Lifesavers, by David Wright & David Zoby (ISBN: 0195154843)

Fire on the Beach recovers a lost gem of American history. It tells the story of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, formed in 1871 to assure the safe passage of American and international shipping and to save lives and salvage cargo. A century ago, the adventures of the now-forgotten “surfmen” who, in crews of seven, bore the brunt of this dangerous but vital duty filled the pages of popular reading material, from Harper’s to the Baltimore Sun and New York Herald. Station 17, located on the desolate beaches of Pea Island, North Carolina, housed one such unit, and Richard Etheridge -- the only black man to lead a lifesaving crew -- was its captain.



The Skipper & The Eagle, by Gordon McGowan (ISBN: 978-0-930248-09-3)

In 1996, then-Captain Robert J. Papp, Jr., took command of USCG Barque Eagle, the US Coast Guard’s sail-training vessel. Shortly after assuming command, he was to take the Eagle on a historic journey to Hamburg, on the 50th anniversary of the Eagle’s inaugural journey to the US from Germany. Capt. Papp was eager to learn as much as he could about those early chapters from the Eagle’s history, and he set out to find a copy of The Skipper and the Eagle, the memoir of the Eagle’s first commanding officer, but soon discovered that the book was out of print. Capt. Papp’s search inspired Howard Slotnick of the National Maritime Historical Society to set the wheels in motion for a new edition of the book, published by Sea History Press in 1998.


Rescue Warriors: The U.S. Coast Guard, America's Forgotten Heroes, by David Helvarg (ISBN: 978-0312363727)

Since its founding more than two hundred years ago, the United States Coast Guard has rescued over a million people. On any given day, “Coasties” respond to 125 distress calls and save over a dozen lives. Yet despite having more than 50,000 active-duty and reserve members on every ocean and on our nation’s coasts, great lakes, and rivers, most of us know very little about this often neglected but crucial branch of the military.

In Rescue Warriors, award-winning journalist David Helvarg brings us into the daily lives of Coasties, filled with a salty maritime mix of altruism and adrenaline, as well as dozens of death-defying rescues at sea and on hurricane-ravaged shores. Helvarg spent two years with the men and women of the Coast Guard, from the halls of their academy in New London, Connecticut, to the frigid, storm-tossed waters of Alaska’s Bering Sea, to the northern Persian Gulf, where they currently guard Iraqi oil terminals. The result is a masterpiece of adventure reporting -- the definitive book on America’s “forgotten heroes.”


Archived Recommendations - Coast Guard Reading List