Top Five Books

Robert Coram, Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War

Coram’s book offers a simple, stark choice to the innovators and iconoclasts in uniform: be someone (prestigious), or do something (great)—but you can’t have both.

Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

See below.

Dave Grossman, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society

After reading this book by Grossman, a retired US Army lieutenant colonel, I’ll never look at green pop-up targets the same way again.

Edgar Puryear, 19 Stars: A Study in Military Character and Leadership

This was my first brush with military biography. It is a fantastic side-by-side comparison in the lives, experiences, and operational approaches of four wartime commanders—MacArthur, Marshall, Eisenhower, and Patton.

Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels

This Pulitzer Prize-winning historical novel tells the story of the Battle of Gettysburg. It also introduced me to my hero from Maine’s Bowdoin College—Joshua Chamberlain.

The One That Shaped Me The Most

For a simple lawyer, with no background in science or math to speak of, who used to blow stuff up around the Sunni Triangle using pretty much only the “P (for plenty)” formula, it is ironic that the book that most influenced how I think about war and the Army is a book about scientific paradigms.  Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions spun me around (pardon the pun), and completely inspired how I look at the institution of the Army, how and why it does the things it does to itself—usually in an unproductive or inefficient way—and the rational and irrational forces driving its concept and strategy development, doctrine writing, and experimentation.


Maj. Dan Maurer is a Judge Advocate officer on active duty. He has served twice in Iraq: first as a combat engineer platoon leader with an infantry task force and later as a brigade’s senior legal advisor. He was the first judge advocate to serve as a strategist fellow on the Army Chief of Staff’s Strategic Studies Group. Maj. Maurer holds a JD from The Ohio State University, and an LLM from The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center & School. The opinion in this essay are the author’s alone and do not reflect or represent those of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps or the US Army. He can be reached at