A Navy SEAL’s Recommended Reading List: Books That Helped Make Me Who I Am

navy-seal-2015-reading-list

Recently I’ve had several people ask me if I had a recommended reading list. Although books and the power I believe they can hold have always been important to me, I’ve never really stopped to think about the ones that have had the greatest impact on me and in a sense, made me who I am.

So, for what it’s worth, here is a list of books that I remember reading and stand out in my mind as important to me in some way. I’m sure there are others I’ve forgotten and once I post this I’ll remember, so maybe I’ll do annual updates as I read and remember more.

These books are in no particular order, meaning this is not a “Top 10” list, with the exception of #1. Some say knowledge is power, but I think that’s wrong. I believe knowledge is potential power, which you need to act on to be realized. What does this mean to you and this list? I think these books contain all the information you need to change your life and become whoever it is you want to be, but you need to act on the lessons you learn. Enjoy.

The Bible

I’m a Christian, A.K.A. “Infidel” and proud of it. This is the instruction on how to live your life. If you haven’t actually read it, now is the time.

 

 

How to Read a Book

OK, this one is in order too, but only because it will dramatically help you read and understand every other book on this list. This isn’t a book to learn how to speed read. It’s a book that teaches you how to get more out of the books you read. You’re welcome.

We Die Alone: A WWII Epic Of Escape And Endurance

Fine, this one is on the top of a list for a reason too, but this will be the last one in any type of order. Maybe it’s because I’m 98% Norwegian, but this is the best told, most gripping (true) story ever told. If you were to ask me what my favorite book is, We Die Alone is the easy choice.

 

The Book of Five Rings

One of the best books I’ve ever read on winning and strategy. It was required reading for me to attain by black belt in karate and has helped me many times in the military.

 

Think and Grow Rich

I believe that how we think directly relates to the experiences in our lives. This book is a classic for a reason. If you have a desire for more money in your life, read this book.

 

A Message from Garcia

This is a great book for anyone who wants to get ahead in life.

 

 

The Modern Scholar: A Way With Words Part III: Grammar for Adults

This is actually an audiobook, but it’s still a book. This is a lecture on grammar that is surprisingly interesting. I didn’t care for parts one or two, so you’re not missing anything. If you can’t stand the way people talk these days, this is the (audio) book for you!

 

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

This book is for those in law enforcement, the military or anyone who wants to better understand the social psychology of killing.

 

 

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works—A True Story

This book probably has the most misleading title on this list. 10% Happier is written by a reporter (I think reporters write some of the best books) whose life is falling apart and he gets it together by meditating. I meditate twenty minutes once or twice a day and think this book takes the guru out of meditation and explains why it’s good for you in a fun story. By the way, meditating will help you shoot better!

 

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar—Your Brain’s Silent Killers

After reading this book, I have stopped eating gluten completely and avoid other grains like the plague. I’ve never been overweight, but in two weeks I lost twelve pounds (my love handles) and felt great. If you want to change your physical health in one step, read this book and stop eating grains! (OK, that’s two steps, but still pretty short.)

 

 

Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It

I’ve always considered myself to have a solid understanding of what it means to eat a healthy diet. Can’t go wrong with lots of fruits and vegetables…right? WRONG! This book took everything I thought I knew about how we should be eating and completely turned it around. The best part is my meals are like I’m living in a dream. Eat as much fat as you want. For the past two months I’ve been eating 70% – 80% fat every day and have felt better than I have in years. How can you not like a book that scientifically gives you license to eat bacon and eggs every morning? There is no nutritional need for carbohydrates in humans. This book explains why. If you’ve tried losing weight and can’t, read this book. If you have high cholesterol, diabetes or just hope to avoid these in the future, read this book!

 

War and Peace (Vintage Classics)

warpeaceTo be honest, this was one of the hardest books I’ve ever read, but it’s just one of those books I think is a must read. It reminds me of when I did multi-day adventure races. I wondered why I was doing it from start, but when it was over I realized what a great experience it was. This book is like that. Power through it and you’ll be glad you did.

 

 Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, A Young Man and Life’s Greatest Lesson

Most likely because this is another book written by a reporter, but this book about a dying old man teaches a great lesson about living life.

 

A Short History of Nearly Everything

One of the few books interesting enough to make me want to read it more than once. This book starts at the big bang and ends with you having a greater understanding of everything from the universe down to the atom. Surprise: Also a reporter…

 

Perception, Cognition, and Decision Training: The Quiet Eye in Act

This book is the by far the most expensive on the list, so find a used copy if you can, but get it if you take shooting seriously. This book is a training manual for how the eye works and has helped me teach and explain things like shooting moving targets and front sight focus with much better clarity.

 

 

 The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

If you own your own business or want to, this book will change your life (if you follow Tim’s directions). It’s a road map for finding freedom from work and is written in a fun and easy to read format.

 

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Simply put, an amazing true story. You’ll need to fight through the first chapter as I stopped reading the first time until everyone told me I had to finish it. After getting through that, it’s hard to put down. Guess that’s why it’s a movie now.

 

How to Shoot Like a Navy SEAL: Combat Marksmanship Fundamentals

Hey! How did this book get in here? Well, after over a year and tens of thousands of sales, it still has a five-star rating on Amazon…not bad. The book is more of a manual than a book. It’s a training manual with links to exclusive videos. Some say, “It’s too short!” but that was done by design as my objective was to give you all the information you need to learn how to shoot with nothing more…OK, you do get a little dose of my dry humor. If you’re looking for stories about being knee-deep in hand-grenade pins, (unfortunately) there are plenty of other books detailing our missions. If you want to learn how to shoot, I honestly believe this is the best book for that. My next book is being edited as we speak and is planned to be released in June 2015.

 

Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown

Speak of the devil! This is one of those books. I don’t like that it talks about the missions that Navy SEALs have executed, but for the rest of it, it’s a great story about an extraordinary man — Adam Brown. I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty “bad-ass” SEAL and have gone through some pretty painful events in my life. I’ve had many of the joints in my body rebuilt so I could continue to do my job. When the doctor came out of surgery from rebuilding my right ankle, he told my wife that I shouldn’t have been able to walk because skin was the only thing holding my ankle together. That’s just one example, there were many others. But even after all this, I truly felt like an amazing wimp after hearing what this American Hero went through.

 

WAR

Another amazing story about war and warriors written by…wait for it…a reporter (are you seeing a trend?).

 

 

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Malcolm Gladwell’s books are easy to read and hard to put down. This book talks about the phenomenon of when an idea changes the world and how a hobby becomes a world class skill.

 

 

The Last Lecture

Another great book by a dying man who teaches us how to live.

 

 

Parking Lot Rules & 75 Other Ideas for Raising Amazing Children

I’m a father and this book is my recommendation for other parents or those who plan on having kids. Practical advice without preaching to help raise safe, healthy, well adjusted kids.

 

The Flight of the Falcon

A real-life spy story. Well written and makes you think about the threats we face from within our borders.

 

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

A Navy SEAL recommending a children’s book? Yes. This is actually the only book I’ve given away as a gift to many of my close friends when they’ve reached important milestones in their lives. Of course if you have kids, you should read this to them at least once a month to teach them about the ups and downs of life. Hell, if it gets them or anyone you care about out of “The Waiting Place,” it’s well worth it.

 

 

Fermat’s Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem

This is an amazing story about the quest to solve a math problem. You’ll have to read it to see how solving a math problem can be interesting, but this is one of the many books on this list I couldn’t put down. Yes, math!

 

As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man’s Escape from a Siberian Labor Camp and His 3-Year Trek to Freedom

Another epic true story of survival. Sure, growing up in Wisconsin I had to walk to school, uphill — both ways — but this story has me beat. Plus unlike my story, it’s true.

 

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

As you can see, I like true stories of survival and this one’s a classic. From survival from impossible odds to amazing leadership lessons, this book has it all.

 

Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom

There are a few books with the same title, so make sure you get the right one, written by Slavomir Rawicz. Another great survival story and the last one on my list.

 

Tao of Jeet Kune Do

Martial arts have been a big part of my life from the time I was twelve years old and the original version of this book was one of my guiding instructional manuals. The theories on fighting that the last great master penned in this book translate amazingly well into any style of fighting and is a must read for those who consider martial arts an “Art.”

 

 

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

When my wife asked what I was writing about, I told her a recommended book list. She asked if they were all about shooting and I said no, just books that I remember liking a lot and ones that mean something to me. Well, my wife is a high school English teacher and reads like five books a day. She said I should put this book on the list because she said there is a lesson to be learned between the importance of doing motorcycle maintenance if you want to have fun riding, and the importance I teach in dry fire if you want to be a better shooter. So, I haven’t read this book, yet, but I will very soon. Who knows. Maybe my school teacher wife can teach us a lesson in shooting?

 

Chris Sajnog