It’s difficult to believe this is our last post for 2022, but with Christmas a week out, the team at The Central Blue is getting ready to head off over the break. But, not entirely check-out. This week, Wing Commander Marija Jovanovich and TCB editor Squadron Leader Jenna Higgins share their recommended reads for the summer break to bring some intellectual colour to the grey matter.
Whether in-print, on-tablet or as an audiobook, these are interesting reads you can knock over, learn from, and even enjoy.
It is not an exhaustive list of foundational strategic literature or leadership texts. It’s not even a list of new releases. But they’ve picked these books as ones you should be able to easily pick up and put down as time allows amid all the other things happening during your much-deserved downtime.
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World – David Epstein (2019)
In the book, Epstein argues that range – defined as more diverse experience across multiple fields – is more relevant in today's society than specialization because the wicked problems of the modern world require bridging experience and knowledge from multiple fields to foster solutions.
Why should you read it? I read this book in two different ways – it is both about individuals and about teams. I venture the second is more important to us. Individuals with ‘range’ take a lifetime to make, but as leaders we can build teams with ‘range’ now. I encourage you to read this book at least in part as a leadership text.
Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics – Tim Marshall (2016)
All leaders are constrained by geography. Their choices are limited by mountains, rivers, seas and concrete. Yes, to follow world events you need to understand people, ideas and movements ‐ but if you don't know geography, you'll never have the full picture
Why did Jenna enjoy it? As someone who has always been fascinated by the lines on a map, this book gave me more insight into why conflict has the potential to develop and evolve. Perception and old world borders will continue influence decisions– the nine dash line is but just ONE example.
Sandworm: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin's Most Dangerous Hackers – Andy Greenberg (2020)
In 2014, the world witnessed the start of a mysterious series of cyberattacks. Targeting American utility companies, NATO, and electric grids in Eastern Europe, the strikes grew ever more brazen. They culminated in the summer of 2017, when the malware known as NotPetya was unleashed, penetrating, disrupting, and paralyzing some of the world's largest businesses. It was the largest, most destructive cyberattack the world had ever seen. The hackers behind these attacks are quickly gaining a reputation as the most dangerous team of cyberwarriors in history: a group known as Sandworm. Working in the service of Russia's military intelligence agency, they represent a persistent, highly skilled force, one whose talents are matched by their willingness to launch broad, unrestrained attacks on the most critical infrastructure of their adversaries.
A chilling, globe‐spanning detective story, Sandworm considers the danger this force poses to our national security and stability. As the Kremlin's role in foreign government manipulation comes into greater focus, Sandworm exposes the realities not just of Russia's global digital offensive, but of an era where warfare ceases to be waged on the battlefield. It reveals how the lines between digital and physical conflict, between wartime and peacetime, have begun to blur—with world‐shaking implications.
Why it's topical: As our coalition and NATO partners witness first‐hand the devastating physical destruction imposed by Russia within Ukraine, it’s important to reflect on two things. Firstly, this war has been going on for decades. The history between the two countries is complex and fascinating. Secondly, any cyber‐attack on Ukraine has natural global repercussions. Ukraine is both a cyberwarfare testing ground, and demonstration of cyber resilience. For those of you who have read Dune (or watched the movie) – you’ll quickly recognise the Sandworm reference.
Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity – Kim Scott (2017)
Scott earned her stripes as a highly successful manager at Google and then decamped to Apple, where she developed a class on optimal management. She has earned growing fame in recent years with her vital new approach to effective management, the “radical candor” method.
Radical candor is the sweet spot between managers who are obnoxiously aggressive on one side and ruinously empathetic on the other. It’s about providing guidance, which involves a mix of praise as well as criticism—delivered to produce better results and help employees achieve.
Why Maz thinks you should read this book: Radical candour is a cornerstone of my command philosophy. This book is where I learned the concept; I practise a modified version, adapted to our environment. She is keen to hear what you think about the theory! (Twitter: @maz_jovanovich)
Shackleton's Boat Journey – Frank A. Worsley (1940)
This is an account of the Shackleton boat journey. On August 1, 1914, on the eve of World War I, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his hand‐picked crew embarked in HMS Endurance from London's West India Dock, for an expedition to the Antarctic. It was to turn into one of the most breathtaking survival stories of all time. It is an extraordinary story of courage and even good‐ humor among men who must have felt certain, secretly, that they were going to die. Worsley's account, first published in 1940, captures that bulldog spirit exactly: uncomplaining, tough, competent, modest and deeply loyal. It's gripping, and strangely moving.
Why it's worth a read: In addition to being a cracking story, this may as well be a leadership textbook. Amongst many gems, there is a line in it that has stuck with me, and which resonates through my approach to command and leadership – Shackleton “had a mental finger on each man’s pulse”; that’s why he could both drive his people to achieve what they did and look after them like he did.
Destined For War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap? – Graham Allison (2019)
China and the United States are heading toward a war neither wants. The reason is Thucydides’s Trap: when a rising power threatens to displace a ruling one, violence is the likeliest result. Over the past five hundred years, these conditions have occurred sixteen times; war broke out in twelve.
At the time of publication, an unstoppable China approached an immovable America, and both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump promised to make their countries “great again,” the seventeenth case was looking grim—it still is. A trade conflict, cyberattack, Korean crisis, or accident at sea could easily spark a major war. In Destined for War, eminent Harvard scholar Graham Allison masterfully blends history and current events to explain the timeless machinery of Thucydides’s Trap—and to explore the painful steps that might prevent disaster today.
The why: 10/10 for relevance to the world today and our place within it.
Have you got a read lined up for this summer that you'd like to review? Be sure to let us know by dropping us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. From all the team at The Central Blue, we'd like to wish you a safe, enjoyable, & refreshing Christmas break.