The most recommended military strategy books

Who picked these books? Meet our 17 experts.

17 authors created a book list connected to military strategy, and here are their favorite military strategy books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of military strategy book?


Book cover of The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire: From the First Century CE to the Third

George S. Yip Author Of China's Next Strategic Advantage: From Imitation to Innovation

From my list on business and military strategy and execution.

Why am I passionate about this?

My career in business strategy as a manager, consultant, and academic developed via my lifelong passion for military strategy and tactics, reading countless books on the Battle of Marathon through to the Third (!) World War. When I was introduced to business strategy in an MBA program, it was love at first lecture. I progressed to a doctorate in “Business Policy” at Harvard Business School as the second doctoral student of the then unknown Michael Porter. My main contribution has been the concept of global strategy for multinational companies. My focus is now on how Chinese companies are moving from imitation to innovation and reinventing management control.

George's book list on business and military strategy and execution

George S. Yip Why did George love this book?

Of the many books explaining the success of the Roman Empire, this is by far the best in that it shows how Rome continually adapted its strategy in building and sustaining its empire. Rome's strategy was not ceaseless fighting but comprehensive strategies that unified force, diplomacy, and an immense infrastructure. Initially relying on client states to buffer attacks, Rome moved to permanent frontier defense. Finally, as barbarians began to penetrate the empire, Rome fielded large armies in a strategy of defense-in-depth. This book's lesson for business strategy is that companies need to constantly adapt their strategies as their circumstances change. The book also has powerful implications for modern geopolitical strategy—be flexible in both means and ends.

By Edward N. Luttwak,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the height of its power, the Roman Empire encompassed the entire Mediterranean basin, extending much beyond it from Britain to Mesopotamia, from the Rhine to the Black Sea. Rome prospered for centuries while successfully resisting attack, fending off everything from overnight robbery raids to full-scale invasion attempts by entire nations on the move. How were troops able to defend the Empire's vast territories from constant attacks? And how did they do so at such moderate cost that their treasury could pay for an immensity of highways, aqueducts, amphitheaters, city baths, and magnificent temples? In The Grand Strategy of the…

Book cover of Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters

Simon Court Author Of Founder's Legacy: 50 Game-Changing Leadership Lessons for Building a Great Business

From my list on books for founders trying to be in the 10% of businesses that succeed.

Why am I passionate about this?

For the last 25 years, I have been a coach to business founders, leaders, and leadership teams. My work has taken me to every continent from my base in London. A lot of my work is done behind closed doors, but I have been instrumental in building two unicorns in the last decade. I’m a founder myself and have always been fascinated by what it takes to succeed as a founder. I have a powerful conviction that learning to lead is the heart of it. The books I love are either based on real-world research or deeply practical and based on hands-on experience. Practice trumps theory every time in my world!

Simon's book list on books for founders trying to be in the 10% of businesses that succeed

Simon Court Why did Simon love this book?

This book makes strategy practical for founders, and strategy is so often done badly and contributes to business failure.

The essence of it is to recognize and solve the “decisive challenge.” For example, Elon Musk identified and solved the decisive challenge facing SpaceX when he made Falcon 9 the world’s first orbital class reusable rocket.

Back down to earth, strategy has to face the business challenges honestly and provide a coherent approach to tackling them. This book genuinely helps us to do just that.

By Richard Rumelt,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Good Strategy Bad Strategy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Richard Rumelt's Good Strategy/Bad Strategy was published in 2011, it immediately struck a chord, calling out as bad strategy the mish-mash of pop culture, motivational slogans and business buzz speak so often and misleadingly masquerading as the real thing.

Since then, his original and pragmatic ideas have won fans around the world and continue to help readers to recognise and avoid the elements of bad strategy and adopt good, action-oriented strategies that honestly acknowledge the challenges being faced and offer straightforward approaches to overcoming them. Strategy should not be equated with ambition, leadership, vision or planning; rather, it is…

Book cover of Hitler's Soldiers: The German Army in the Third Reich

Peter H. Wilson Author Of Iron and Blood: A Military History of the German-Speaking Peoples since 1500

From my list on German military history saying something different.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been drawn to the history of the German lands ever since I opened a historical atlas as a child and wondered why the middle of Europe was a colorful patchwork compared to the solid blocks depicting other countries. I then wondered how the people living under this multitude of authorities could manage their affairs, resolve differences, and defend themselves against each other and outsiders. Digging deeper into these questions has unearthed fascinating stories, not all of them pleasant, but which also shed light on the complexities of our shared existence. 

Peter's book list on German military history saying something different

Peter H. Wilson Why did Peter love this book?

More than one in four Germans served during the Second World War, but only one in ten of these volunteered.

In the eight decades since that conflict, the history of this staggering mobilization has been rewritten several times but remains controversial, particularly as more recent research is revealing the scale and complexity of the German military’s involvement in the genocidal policies of the Nazi regime.

Ben Shepherd offers a balanced and finely nuanced account of the German armed forces, their organization, culture, and conduct of total war, noting the importance of context, whilst indicating that the postwar distinction between ‘good German soldiers’ and ‘bad Nazis’ is a myth. 

By Ben H. Shepherd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hitler's Soldiers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A penetrating study of the German army's military campaigns, relations with the Nazi regime, and complicity in Nazi crimes across occupied Europe

For decades after 1945, it was generally believed that the German army, professional and morally decent, had largely stood apart from the SS, Gestapo, and other corps of the Nazi machine. Ben Shepherd draws on a wealth of primary sources and recent scholarship to convey a much darker, more complex picture. For the first time, the German army is examined throughout the Second World War, across all combat theaters and occupied regions, and from multiple perspectives: its battle…

Book cover of U.S. Naval Power in the 21st Century: A New Strategy for Facing the Chinese and Russian Threat

James Borton Author Of Dispatches from the South China Sea: Navigating to Common Ground

From my list on dive deeply into the South China Sea territorial disputes.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a writer and waterman, I have traversed the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, setting crab pots and communing with fellow watermen who share a deep love for the estuary. I honor their livelihoods by responsibly harvesting blue crabs and oysters. My field notes have taken me beyond the Chesapeake, onto Hilton Head shrimping boats, onto the oyster beds in Bull's Bay in South Carolina, and into the contested South China Sea aboard Vietnamese fishing trawlers.

James' book list on dive deeply into the South China Sea territorial disputes

James Borton Why did James love this book?

I like this book because the author’s writing is cogent and clear. It has helped inform my own views about maritime strategy. More importantly, I admire the way the author blends military, economic, and technical insights in addressing the challenges America faces in the South China Sea.

The author, Droste Sadler, successfully tells me that the U.S. is most ill-prepared for the competition we are facing from China. He effectively sounds the alarm that we are at an inflection point, and we need to become more competitive now before it is too late.

By Brent Droste Sadler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked U.S. Naval Power in the 21st Century as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This nation's Cold War and Global War on Terror defense structures need an update. U.S. Naval Power in the 21st Century provides such a framework for the changed world we live in, offering a detailed roadmap that shows how the United States can field a war-winning fleet that can also compete aggressively in peacetime against dangerous competitors unlike any the nation has faced before.

Brent Sadler presents a compelling new strategy and organizing approach that he calls naval statecraft, which acknowledges the centrality and importance of the maritime domain. While similar in scale and scope to Cold War containment strategies…

Book cover of History and Strategy

László Borhi Author Of Hungary in the Cold War, 1945-1956: Between the United States and the Soviet Union

From my list on the search for truth in history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I come from a small country, Hungary, the past of which was consciously falsified in the political system under which I grew up. Some chapters of it, like the cold war period, Soviet rule, the revolution of 1956 couldn't even be discussed. I was lucky because communism collapsed and archives were gradually opened just as I started my career as a historian. Books on international history are usually written from the perspective of the powerful states, I was interested in looking at this story from the perspective of the small guy. Writing this book was both a professional challenge and a personal matter for me. I'm currently a professor at Indiana University-Bloomington.

László's book list on the search for truth in history

László Borhi Why did László love this book?

For readers who are interested in learning how to think about international relations, strategy, security, and history.

The collection of essays discusses US foreign policy, nuclear politics, and the Cold War. My favorite is Trachtenberg’s critical reassessment of the origins of the First World War, a destructive conflict no one wanted to happen but still walked into.

I always assign this book to my students.

By Marc Trachtenberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked History and Strategy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This work is a powerful demonstration of how historical analysis can be brought to bear on the study of strategic issues, and, conversely, how strategic thinking can help drive historical research. Based largely on newly released American archives, History and Strategy focuses on the twenty years following World War II. By bridging the sizable gap between the intellectual world of historians and that of strategists and political scientists, the essays here present a fresh and unified view of how to explore international politics in the nuclear era. The book begins with an overview of strategic thought in America from 1952…

Book cover of Decoding Clausewitz: A New Approach to on War

James Kelly Morningstar Author Of Patton's Way: A Radical Theory of War

From my list on military history for people who think.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a passion for this theme because I served as an armor officer in the U.S. Army for more than twenty years. I saw the effect of both thinking and non-thinking commanders first-hand in places like the inter-German border during the Cold War, Iraq in combat during the first Gulf War, and Bosnia in ‘operations other than war.’ My experience drove me to continue my military studies resulting in four degrees, including my PhD and my current occupation as a professor of military history. My search for understanding war and military decision-making reflects a desire to better instruct the future leaders among my college students and readers.

James' book list on military history for people who think

James Kelly Morningstar Why did James love this book?

This too often overlooked classic—written by my PhD advisor—not only explains why Clausewitz wrote his masterpiece but what he was trying to say. In doing so, Sumida breaks conventional understandings of both the great German military philosopher and the very subject of military history. Clausewitz and Sumida combine to eschew history limited to explaining outcomes by linearly tracing them back to their origins and instead advocate for narratives that reveal what the participants saw as their options in the moment and then contextualizes their choices and actions. It is this path that leads to knowledge gained through synthetic experience. Decoding Clausewitz is the single most influential work in my approach to military history.

By Jon Tetsuro Sumida,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Decoding Clausewitz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For nearly two centuries, On War, by Carl Phillip Gottfried von Clausewitz (1780-1831), has been the bible for statesmen and military professionals, strategists, theorists, and historians concerned about armed conflict. The source of the famous aphorism that "war is an extension of politics by other means," it has been widely read and debated. But, as Jon Sumida shows in this daring new look at Clausewitz's magnum opus, its full meaning has eluded most readers-until now.

Approaching Clausewitz's classic as if it were an encoded text, Sumida deciphers this cryptic masterwork and offers a more productive way of looking at the…

Book cover of The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War

David P. Barash Author Of Threats: Intimidation and Its Discontents

From my list on preventing nuclear war.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have worn two hats for many decades: evolutionary biology and antinuclear activism. The former appeals to my scientific self and the latter, to my political and emotional passions (although I pride myself in applying science and reason to my antinuclear work as well). The danger of nuclear war has NOT disappeared — or even notably diminished — with the end of the Cold War, and yet, public awareness of this situation has plummeted. Fortunately, there are many technically accurate and yet accessible book-based treatments of this topic, which I am happy to recommend ... my own not least!

David's book list on preventing nuclear war

David P. Barash Why did David love this book?

Kaplan does a marvelous job describing, as the subtitle indicates, “the secret history of nuclear war.” It is in a sense a sequel to Kaplan’s earlier The Wizards of Armageddon, which examined theorists of nuclear annihilation. In The Bomb, Kaplan takes us on a deep dive into the bowels of actual doomsday planning; an unforgettable and darkly educational trip!

By Fred Kaplan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Bomb as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of the classic The Wizards of Armageddon and Pulitzer Prize finalist comes the definitive history of American policy on nuclear war-and Presidents' actions in nuclear crises-from Truman to Trump.

Fred Kaplan, hailed by The New York Times as "a rare combination of defense intellectual and pugnacious reporter," takes us into the White House Situation Room, the Joint Chiefs of Staff's "Tank" in the Pentagon, and the vast chambers of Strategic Command to bring us the untold stories-based on exclusive interviews and previously classified documents-of how America's presidents and generals have thought about, threatened, broached, and just barely…

Book cover of Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army

Laurence W. Marvin Author Of The Occitan War: A Military and Political History of the Albigensian Crusade, 1209–1218

From my list on premodern western warfare.

Why am I passionate about this?

From my earliest memories I’ve always been interested in military history, and as a young man I served in the U.S. Navy on a nuclear submarine. As an ardent bibliophile, my home and office overflows with books. As a professor, for the past 25 years I’ve been fortunate enough to teach a broad survey on western military history, which gives me the opportunity to experiment with many books for my own and the students’ enjoyment. The books on this list are perennial favorites of the traditional-age undergraduates (18-22) I teach, but will appeal to any reader interested in premodern military history. 

Laurence's book list on premodern western warfare

Laurence W. Marvin Why did Laurence love this book?

There’s an old saying that states, “Amateurs discuss battles; Professionals discuss logistics.” 

Engel’s book proves the point, arguing that the Macedonian king’s real genius was not tricky moves on the battlefield, but by making sure his men had enough food and water to sustain themselves for twelve years.  One of the great things about this book is that Engels covers things that work for any premodern era: how much a human or animal can carry; how much food and water they consume on a daily basis, and what it requires to keep tens of thousands of humans on the march adequately supplied. 

You’ll never think the same way about premodern warfare again after reading it.

By Donald W. Engels,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The most important work on Alexander the Great to appear in a long time. Neither scholarship nor semi-fictional biography will ever be the same again...Engels at last uses all the archaeological work done in Asia in the past generation and makes it accessible...Careful analyses of terrain, climate, and supply requirements are throughout combined in a masterly fashion to help account for Alexander's strategic decision in the light of the options open to him...The chief merit of this splendid book is perhaps the way in which it brings an ancient army to life, as it really was and moved: the hours…

Book cover of The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist's Guide to Success in Business and Life

Felix Munoz-Garcia Author Of Game Theory: An Introduction with Step-by-Step Examples

From my list on learning Game Theory.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Professor of Economics at Washington State University. My research focuses on applying Game Theory and Industrial Organization models to polluting industries and other regulated markets. I analyze how firms strategically respond to environmental regulation, including their output and pricing decisions, their investments in clean technologies, and merger decisions, both under complete and incomplete information contexts.

Felix's book list on learning Game Theory

Felix Munoz-Garcia Why did Felix love this book?

This book is a beautiful, non-mathematical introduction to Game Theory for everyone, even high school students interested in strategy, its basic modeling, and how to solve games.

It has applications to everyday life, including examples from real business and political science, making it accessible to all sorts of readers. Its verbal description of some solution concepts and mathematical results is, however, too lengthy at times, especially for non-English speakers and students with a good math background, potentially leading to unnecessary confusion.

By Avinash Dixit, Barry J. Nalebuff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Art of Strategy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Game theory means rigorous strategic thinking. It's the art of anticipating your opponent's next moves, knowing full well that your rival is trying to do the same thing to you. Though parts of game theory involve simple common sense, much is counterintuitive, and it can only be mastered by developing a new way of seeing the world. Using a diverse array of rich case studies-from pop culture, TV, movies, sports, politics, and history-the authors show how nearly every business and personal interaction has a game-theory component to it. Mastering game theory will make you more successful in business and life,…

Book cover of On Strategy

James Espey Author Of 365 Quotes to Accelerate your Career and Find Balance in Life

From my list on dynamic personal and business tips to build long-term successful brands.

Why am I passionate about this?

Well, all my life, I have been passionately involved in Marketing. I was an intrapreneur in the organisation, challenging the system and trying to build brands for the future. I always took an extremely long-term view, and when I was fired for launching Chivas Regal 18, which is now No. 1 in the world in its category, I became an entrepreneur. I backed start-ups, including my own company. The most successful brand I was ever involved with was called Mimecast, which is an anti-virus company, that sold not too long ago for $5.6 billion.

James' book list on dynamic personal and business tips to build long-term successful brands

James Espey Why did James love this book?

My last recommendation is one I read recently, published by Chris Woolston. I worked with Chris Woolston for many years in two different companies, and he did a great job; then he formed his own company called “Forward Thinking.”

He is a great strategist. His book encapsulates the essence of his approach to strategy in life and at work. The Bible, says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” but I personally add that you need a good strategic plan to achieve your vision.

People often struggle with the concept of strategy–it can sound worthy and intellectual–but in essence, it is a simple concept.  You need to be clear about what you want to achieve and have a clear plan to achieve it, a plan that draws on your unique strengths to achieve what is important to you and your company, often in a testing environment with all sorts…

By Chris Woolston,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On Strategy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.