HAWAII, June 5, 2012 — Are you waiting until the last minute to pick up a gift for Father’s Day? Instead of another year of ties he’ll never wear or power tools to languish in the garage, here’s top ten nonfiction book that make great gifts for your political (or politically minded) dads.
1. The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors (2004) by James D. Hornfischer
One of the greatest asymmetric victories of the 20th century and little known battles of World War II was the Battle off Samar in the Philippine Sea on October 25, 1944. Hornfischer tells the story of a small task force of U.S. Navy light carriers and destroyer escorts inadvertently ambushed by the most powerful battleships and heavy cruisers of the Imperial Japanese Navy.
Through a combination of courageous maneuvers, special tactics and just plain luck, the “Tin Can Sailors” of Navy unit Taffy 3 repulsed the Japanese attack and saved the lives of American forces in the Philippines at the cost of their own. Hornfischer’s exciting narrative and expert analysis is one of the best military history books you’ll ever read and presents leadership insights which Washington dads will certainly appreciate.
2. Charge! History’s Greatest Military Speeches (2007) by Rep. Steve Israel
As a political scientist, I’ve always been both inspired and challenged to further study by Dr. Henry Kissinger’s warning that the key to effective leadership is “an understanding of historical cycles and courage.” Jesus taught that out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks, so one of the greatest windows into the leaders of the past is speeches they gave to supporters. Congressman Steve Israel’s book is an outstanding collection of some of the most impressive speeches ever known to human history to present and an inspiring book that makes a perfect addition to any policymaker’s library.
3. War And Peace In The Nuclear Age (1989) by John Newhouse
The Cold War has been over for two decades but the lessons of that era and the behind the scenes politics driving both sides should never be forgotten. Newhouse gives readers an exciting, detailed look at the rise of the atom and its impact on global policy in War And Peace In The Nuclear Age. You don’t have to be a thermonuclear physicist to appreciate this book either; it’s written in an easy to understand, compelling narrative that reminds you just how close we came to Armageddon.
As my own father was a colonel in the Air Force during the Cold War who served in both Strategic Air Command and Tactical Air Command, I strongly recommend this book for Washingtonians with dads of prior military service. Newhouse’s book is a treasure trove of quotes from insiders, detailed explanations of policy paradigms and a look at what really happened. This book is somewhat harder to find, but definitely worth giving to dad.
4. Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President (2011) by Ron Suskind
From the author of The One Percent Doctrine comes a shocking revelation of what happened behind the scenes from the financial crisis of 2008 to the election and presidency of Barack Obama. Suskind’s Confidence Men is not for the faint hearted; I found myself gritting my teeth all throughout my read.
I made it a point to grab Confidence Men the minute it was available and Suskind does not disappoint. The things said behind the scenes, the real reason why we have the policies we have today and how a candidate of change rose to power make Suskind’s book a nonfiction thriller. Give this book to dad at your own risk, though – it may shatter his view of the world.
5. Libya’s Qaddafi: The Politics of Contradiction (1997) by Dr. Mansour O. El-Kikhia
Americans have found a new interest in the affairs of post-Qaddafi Libya but few have more than a shallow, pop media soundbyte influenced understanding of what it was like under Muammar Qaddafi. I first read this book when I was a freshman at the University of Texas at San Antonio in 1998 and studying the politics of the Middle East under the book’s author, Dr. El-Kikhia who himself escaped from Libya by flying a plane under the radar floor to avoid being shot down.
El-Kikhia’s book is still very much relevant today as it gives perspective to Qaddafi’s time in power and the West’s policies toward Libya.
6. Joe Rochefort’s War: The Odyssey of the Codebreaker Who Outwitted Yamamoto at Midway (2011) by Elliot Carlson
The month of June is more than just dad’s month – it also marks the anniversary of the historic Battle of Midway. As I mentioned in an earlier article, this month is a great time to study naval history and your political papas can find an incredible read in the biography of Joe Rochefort, the cryptologist who provided the actionable intelligence that lead to America’s victory at Midway.
Carlson, who is also a winner of the 2011 Navy League’s Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Prize In Naval History presents an outstanding story of one of our Navy’s most unique historical personalities. I definitely suggest two copies of this book – one for your dad, and one for you.
7. Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior (2011) by Gen. Hugh Shelton, Ret.
Generally speaking I usually don’t read Washington autobiographies for the sheer fact that most of them are either boringly dry or so over-the-top narcissistic that they should be classified as fiction but one of the most humbling and inspiring life stories I’ve ever been privileged to read is that of former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Hugh Shelton.
From his childhood beginnings to his Army special forces training, from his service in Vietnam to Desert Storm and the days following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Shelton’s life is the story of a true American hero and brings the reader first person into a rare look of what it is like to command and serve in times of peace and war.
Shelton, who miraculously recovered from a paralyzing fall, presents a story that is truly heartfelt and emotionally gripping to read. Also available in audio book format and narrated by Shelton himself, Without Hesitation is full of no-apologies reflections on military life and military policy. I especially enjoyed Shelton’s stories of standing his ground against career politicians in multiple administrations and his sharp yet respectful advisory style – such to the point that I’ve been through his book not less than ten times!
8. The Revolution: A Manifesto (2009) by Rep. Ron Paul
One of the most unique personalities of our time is the three-time presidential candidate and congressman from Texas, Ron Paul. To some he is a pariah who just won’t go away, to others he is a revolutionary philosopher and an economic prophet. Whatever you believe about Ron Paul, it’s worth entering into the mind and story of this year’s most talked about candidate by reading his magnum opus, The Revolution.
Written just after the 2008 elections, Paul’s book is written in the author’s characteristic style of a mild-mannered, friendly and conversational narrative in which he explains how he came to develop his beliefs and what he hopes for America. I enjoyed this book so much I brought it with me to CPAC to get Paul’s autograph. Paul’s book is refreshing, sincere and a book that might teach dad something he didn’t know before.
9. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (1998) by John C. Maxwell
Obviously your dad had to be a good leader to get you this far, but if he hasn’t yet seen it, Maxwell’s wildly popular 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership will either give him new tactics or explain in detail just why he was so good all these years.
Perfect for CEOs, military officers, politicians, prospective candidates and even retirees, Maxwell’s book is a combination of social psychology, management theory and political analysis. I was first given this book when I graduated from college in 2001 and to this day I still read it for its highly effective and very useful guide to service and leadership alike. (If your dad already has this book or you want to accompany it with a follow-up, try Maxwell’s Winning With People.)
10. It’s Your Time (2010) by Joel Osteen
As we get older, one often reflects on the hopes and dreams that never seemed to work out. But no matter how young or old you are, I have always believed that nothing is impossible and as long as it is called today, good things can come to you. Mega-church pastor Joel Osteen’s It’s Your Time is a book that challenges the reader to see that now is their time for breakthrough and glory. You don’t have to be a Christian or even a person of faith to read Osteen’s book which is written in an easy to understand, casual yet comforting way that is almost a literary hug. (I admit, this book never fails to bring tears to my eyes.)
If your dad needs inspiration, a boost of self-esteem or something to find peace with his past, Osteen’s book is definitely something to put in his hands this Father’s Day. One should never allow life experiences to cripple one’s future; one should never turn “they love me not” into “I love me not.” Osteen’s special touch for opening the human heart is something young dads and old dads alike can get a big blessing from reading.
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