If You Haven’t Read Hundreds of Books

Last week I have read Call Sign Chaos, by Jim Mattis (and Bing West). The book is the memoir of a general who served for decades in the USA Marines, participating with leading roles in the two Gulf wars and in the Afghanistan campaign.

In the book he offers his perspective on these decades of war and also highlights several political errors he thinks have been committed on both sides of the political spectrum. As most books, this one contains some perspectives I agree with and others I don’t agree with. Regardless, it’s a book that should be read and a masterpiece.

Here I want to comment on a specific concept that is expressed from the point of view of a military commander but that extends to any field, really.

Reading is an honor and a gift from a warrior or historian who—a decade or a thousand decades ago—set aside time to write. He distilled a lifetime of campaigning in order to have a “conversation” with you. […] it would be idiotic and unethical to not take advantage of such accumulated experiences. If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren’t broad enough to sustain you. Any commander who claims he is “too busy to read” is going to fill body bags with his troops as he learns the hard way.

Call me a bookworm, but on this Mattis and I agree 100%.

I wish many people integrated this Weltanschauung in their lives. The world would be a better place.