“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” -Harry S. Truman
Reading for pleasure feels like a dying hobby. Far too often I’ll read a good book only to hear “Oh, I don’t really read” when I want to discuss it with people at the office. It’s a shame, but I get it; books are cumbersome, easy to ruin, and are often the first thing to go when deciding what to get rid of before a big move. It’s doubly a shame because service members can greatly benefit from reading a bit in their spare time, whether it’s learning valuable information about a potential deployment or for any of the psychological benefits that come alongside reading books. When gearing up for a deployment or during the daily grind of the garrison, you should always make space for books.
Thankfully, it’s the 21st century and there are a lot of technological solutions that eliminate most of the excuses for not reading. The easiest way to circumvent every downside to carrying around books is to invest in an e-reader with a waterproof case. E-ink displays can be a high initial investment, but the amount of free and common-domain content is staggering; thousands of hours of reading that don’t cost a dime. Add in the general discount on digital versions of books and the ability to keep an entire library in the space of a tablet? There’s no way to go wrong with buying an e-reader.
Despite my usual ‘reading’ habits, my kindle has been gathering dust on the shelf in between long trips. The reason for that is audiobooks. Listening to podcasts and audiobooks has many of the same benefits that reading does while freeing your hands and eyes to focus on mundane tasks. A subscription to a service like Audible costs $15 a month and delivers a 15 to 30-hour book per month, making it easy to keep a good reading habit while also doing chores and general maintenance that doesn’t require much thinking.
Sometimes, whether because you work in a secure area or because you don’t like digital displays/audiobooks, the only way to get your reading in is through a good old-fashioned paperback. If you’re in the service, you’re an expert at packing. “I don’t have room” is no excuse for one book. Rotate between fiction, nonfiction, entertainment, and professional/personal development. Bring a ziplock bag to keep it as dry and clean as possible.
Reading (or listening) is an important skill that requires maintenance to keep your brain healthy and active. It keeps you sharp while also improving your knowledge and understanding of the world. Don’t know where to get started? There’s a reason that nearly every high-ranking commander has a recommended reading list. Start with the list from the mad dog himself – Secretary of Defense James Mattis has discussed his own reading list many times, one version of which you can find here (Taliban by Ahmed Rashid is on that list and probably a good place to start).
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.