Every year, the Commandant releases his annual recommended reading list on New Year’s Day. The list is not all-inclusive; the goal is to provide a starting point or expand existing knowledge and skills. The reading list provides a tool for individual professional growth, taking into account that responsibility for professional development rests simultaneously on each individual, his or her unit, and our service.
The Commandant is always accepting recommendations for his personal reading, and to be added to the next year’s reading list. He wants to hear from you!
Fill out the Recommendation Template
, and email to
if you would like to recommend a book be added to
Coast Guard Reading List
You can download the Commandant's Reading List for FREE here!
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
- Coast Guard Reading List