I read a few books on vacation. A mix of political, military, historical and fiction - some were sent to me by the publisher or author to read and some I purchased.
I've been reading W.E.B. Griffin books for decades. The first time, a Sergeant gave me his copy of The Lieutenants when I was at Airborne School. Now, I purchased "The Hostage" for beach reading. Charlie Castillo returns as the former Delta Force Major who now works for the Dept. of Homeland Security. This time around, Charlie is up to his eyeballs in the Oil for Food Scandal as he tracks down terrorists and government officials that are killing anyone who they believe will identify the key participants in the scandal. In the usual Griffin style, the heroes tend to be grossly rich and politically protected by the PowersThatBe (the President and CENTCOM commander to name two), but Griffin's heroes don't always return triumphant or survive. Like the rest of Griffin's series, you don't need to read the previous book to follow along. I liked the first book in this series - By Order of the President - more than the Hostage, but still greatly enjoyed it. If you like the (mostly) formulaic Griffin books, you won't be disappointed by The Hostage.
War Footing - Ten Steps America Must to Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World was sent to me by the Naval Institute Press (always puts out interesting books). The Military Blog book that I'm working on kept getting in the way of my ability to read many books so I had this one in queue for quite awhile. Frank J. Gavney is joined by some of the best thinkers on foreign policy and defense to describe how the War on Terror should be fought. War Footing includes pieces from Victor Davis Hanson, Major General Paul Vallely, Lieutenant General Tom McInerney and 30 more top analysts. Chapters range from ways to protect the homeland to problems with China, Russia, and Latin America and how to wield diplomacy to handle them. You'll be interested to know that there's even a section about how to really support the troops. I found the chapter on wielding economic and financial weapons the most interesting. War Footing cuts quickly to the chase, the analysts are brief and to the point, and easy to understand. Gavney did a very good service by putting all of this information together between two covers. These are ten steps that we need to follow through on...
Back in 2004, I posted an article about GQ requesting photos from service men and women about Iraq. This Is Our War is a compilation of those photos published by GQ It has a Forward by General (ret.) Wesley Clark that effectively outlines why the photos are important. There's also five sections called Soldiers' Stories appearing between the chapters - one is on SFC Paul Smith who was awarded the MOH post-humously, another is about Abu Ghraib. GQ sent me this book to review. Many of the photos are amazing.
Many of you have asked if I read Cobra II written by Michael Gordon, a NYTimes reporter, and General (ret.) Bernard Trainor. I purchased it to read on the beach and on the trip home. Cobra II starts out weak - I almost didn't read the whole book because the first 100 pages is about how the administration coerced the military (and CENTCOM in particular) to invade Iraq with an inadequate number of troops. The language is very biased in the early chapters and this turned me off. It was obvious that the authors didn't think very highly of General Franks. A friend of mine involved with planning the invasion told me that the battle pieces were worth dealing with the obvious hit piece on Secretary Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks. He was correct. The recreation of the invasion is intricately written - and covers things done correctly and incorrectly - and alone might be worth the price of the book. The book claims to be "unimpeachably sourced" but many of the sources remain anonymous. I still don't know if it was worth the 25 bucks I paid for it.
A copy of the Military Advantage was sent to me. The Military Advantage is guide to benefits for serving military people and veterans written by Military.com's Founder, Christopher Michel. While the book is very well done, and easy to search and read, the most interesting aspect of this book is that many of the benefits are measured by the branch of service - is flight pay more in the Air Force, Navy or Army? Certainly, this guide should be read by every service member and vet. However, I think the most important person to own this book is a high school guidance counselor or career counselor. It answers many questions about why the substantial benefits make the Military worth considering as a career.
Last, but not least, more beach book material. Dan Brown known for the Davinci Code (I liked Angels & Demons much more) also wrote Deception Point which is about an amazing scientific discovery in the Arctic Circle - a meteorite containing fossil proof of insectoid aliens verifies some claims that Earth's miracle of life was actually seeded from space. NASA contacts several experts who become embroiled in political intrigue, romance, and military action. I enjoyed Deception Point for the usual reasons one likes Brown's work - the research that is woven into the story, the characters figuring out riddles to survive, etc. Like the Hostage, this was a great vacation/escape book.