3x5 Leadership_2018 Reading List Part I

If you follow 3×5 Leadership, even just casually, you know that I emphasize reading as a critical means of self-development. So far, 2018 has been an extremely impactful time of learning through reading for me. If you want to learn my thoughts on reading for self-development, I encourage you to check out my “Leaders are Readers” series and my Junior Officer Reading & Self-Development List.

I humbly share my reading list, below, to start a “conversation” with readers. I want to get others to not only think about the value of reading, but to help offer recommendations of what books to consider.

My final semester of graduate school this past spring afforded me some wonderful reading opportunities. I have been able to complete 35 books in the first half of 2018. Trust me, I’m extremely shocked by that number, as I’ve never read at that kind of volume before. About half of these books were audiobooks; those titles are annotated with an asterisk (*) below. If you would like to learn how to better leverage audiobooks, you can read my thoughts on how I do so on my “Leaders are Readers” series post.

If you have not yet, I encourage you to explore the 3×5 Leadership Bookshelf. This is my comprehensive reading resource offering the 3×5 Leadership recommended reading list, reviews of select books, recommended reading lists, and other resources to aid in your self-development reading. Finally, you can check out the books I read in 2017 here and here.

Top 3 Books of 2018 So Far

7 habits

7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Power Lessons in Personal Change, by Stephen R. Covey

Amidst our culture currently obsessed with overnight success and “life hacks,” this book is the enduring guidepost to inform leaders of the value of character, discipline, organization, and care for others. This book does so much more than help you improve your leadership; it challenges you to become a better spouse, parent, neighbor, and human being. When you incorporate the principles of “Quadrant II leadership” + emphatic listening + commitment to “sharpening the saw,” you cannot go wrong (you’ll have to read the book to understand those three principles).

Culture Code

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, by Daniel Coyle

To be honest, I thought this book would be another simple, yet enjoyable “airport” leadership book. Nope. This book was outstanding. It offers a model of successful team building, broken into three simple messages leaders communicate through a myriad of behaviors and attitudes. Ultimately, through some post-reading reflection, I’ve come to boil Coyle’s model into communicating these messages: 1) you’re important and safe here, 2) I need you to be successful, and 3) what we are doing is important. I highly encourage you to make The Culture Code one of you next books.

Enders Game

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card*

Of all the recommended science fiction books for military leaders, I think this is the best for junior officers, as it tells an exciting tale of a young man growing from an individual, to a follower, to a leader, and ultimately to a leader developer. Ender showcases leader qualities necessary in today’s complex environment, often considered “soft” skills, such as humility and empathy, while still being decisive and effective.

“Making Sense of the World”: Political, Historical, and Economic Nonfiction Books

The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder, by Peter Zeihan

Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World, by Ian Bremmer*

The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century, by George Friedman*

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics, by Tim Marshall*

Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, by P.W. Singer*

@War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex, by Shane Harris*

The Future of Power, by Joseph S. Nye, Jr.*

A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order, by Richard N. Haass*

Leader Development

Herding Tigers: Master the Transition from Maker to Manager, by Todd Henry

Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell*

The Patton Mind, by Roger H. Nye

Executive Coaching with Backbone and Heart: A Systems Approach to Engaging Leaders with Their Challenges, by Mary Beth O’Neill

George Washington on Leadership, by Richard Brookhiser

The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action, by Donald A. Schön


A War of Gifts (Ender’s Saga #1.1), by Orson Scott Card*

Ender in Exile (Ender’s Saga #1.5), by Orson Scott Card*

Children of the Mind (Ender’s Saga #4), by Orson Scott Card*

Xenocide (Ender’s Saga #3), by Orson Scott Card*

First Meetings in Ender’s Universe (Ender’s Saga #0.5), by Orson Scott Card*

Speaker for the Dead (Ender’s Saga #2), by Orson Scott Card*


Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor, by Clinton Romesha*

Black Hearts: One Platoon’s Descent Into Madness in Iraq’s Triangle of Death, by Jim Frederick*

The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge, by David McCullough*

Grey Eminence: Fox Connor and the Art of Mentorship, by Edward Cox

Other Nonfiction

Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen, by Donald Miller

Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters, by Richard P. Rumelt

Entrepreneurial You: Monetize Your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams, and Thrive, by Dorie Clark

Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, by Michael Hyatt

Spiritual Growth

Be Mature (James): Growing Up in Christ, by Warren W. Wiersbe

Be Alive (John 1-12): Get to Know the Living Savior, by Warren W. Wiersbe

Be Transformed (John 13-21): Christ’s Triumph Means Your Transformation, by Warren W. Wiersbe

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  1. Great list of books. Now that you have conquered Ender, read SEVENEVES by Neal Stephenson. Great SF on human resilience, ingenuity and culture in the face of absolute adversity. Agree with any Malcolm Gladwell work. Would suggest John Kotter’s XLR8 on organizational effectiveness.

  2. I enjoyed Prisoners of Geography. It took me back to a freshman course in geography I had in college that I thought would be easy but was not, it as all “right back this and left back that”. Strange but my observations of geopolitics in adult life proved it all relevant. Marshall does good work in Prisoners.

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