PME Resources

Forces Command Reading List 2020-21

By Chris Field September 19, 2019

The importance of reading

As military professionals, we read and educate ourselves to enhance our knowledge, enable problem recognition and problem solving, and fulfil our obligations to the people we lead. As General (Retd.) Jim Mattis, US Marine Corps notes, reading and educating ourselves means: 

…we face nothing new under the sun. We have been fighting on this planet for 5000 years and we should take advantage [of our predecessors’] experience. Winging it and filling body bags as we sort out what works reminds us of the moral dictates and the cost of incompetence in our profession.[1]

Enabling education and competence, reading lists are useful means for leaders to shape the professional development of their people, while imparting some of their own knowledge, character and ethos through the choice of books. 

Many reading lists are broken down into subjects, allowing the reader to easily find a number of titles within the same category. Take, for example, The Australian Army Reading List 2019, which lists 114 books grouped into 17 different categories,[2]or the US Army Chief of Staff’s Professional Reading List, which contains 110 books under six different headings.[3]

These reading lists have a useful place in introducing and engaging our people in a range of ideas. People can dip into a list and pick out books that either interest them or, preferably, that challenge them to consider ideas or concepts that they otherwise would not have entertained. Through enabling access to ideas, reading lists develop the intellectual capability, and the intellectual edge, of our people.

One disadvantage of expansive reading lists is that can overwhelm a novice or, on occasion, an experienced reader. With so many titles to choose from, where should a person commence their professional reading?

A different approach: The Forces Command Reading List 2020-21

In December 2019, Forces Command will issue our reading list for 2020-21. Our list will encourage maximum participation in professional reading and education from across Forces Command, based on the following ideas:

  • Forces Command Reading List 2020-21 will contain fourteen books.
  • Each Training Centre, Formation and Headquarters Forces Command will select one book. How each book is selected, and the topic of each book, is at the discretion of each Commander and Commandant and from whomever they seek advice.
  • The Cove will coordinate a professional military education program in 2020-21 for us to examine each of these fourteen books. The only requirement for this professional military education program is that each Training Centre, Formation and Headquarters Forces Command lead the activity supporting their book and that the activity can be participated and shared via The Cove.

With only fourteen books on the Forces Command Reading List 2020-21, our list is neither overwhelming nor it is unachievable for our people to complete in 24-months (i.e. read one book every 52-days or 7.4 weeks). 

Like the Forces Command 100 Day Assessment, we will all own the Forces Command Reading List 2020-21. This list is our collective, collegiate and collaborative approach to reading and education in one 24-month period. 

The Forces Command Reading List 2020-21 aims to enhance our shared understanding and mutual trust throughout our organisation. The list is a record of how our Training Centres, Formations and Headquarters Forces Command thought, approached our profession and perceived the world in 2020-21. 

The Forces Command Reading List 2020-21 allows you to shape how we think critically, openly communicate, collaborate and creatively enable our people to learn, innovate and reach their personal and professional potential.

Next steps

Headquarters Forces Command will release a Task Order giving details to each Training Centre, Formation and Headquarters Forces Command about how to submit their nominations for Forces Command Reading List 2020-21

Nominations are required at the Professional Military Education Cell, Headquarters Forces Command, NLT COB Friday 29 November 2019 so that the list can be promulgated before units take leave at the end of the year. 

This will also allow for people to slip a title or two onto their Christmas wish-lists if they so desire!

We look forward to developing and implementing the Forces Command Reading List 2020-21 with all members of the Forces Command community. 




[1]CNBC,The extraordinary reading habits of Defense Secretary James Mattis, 15 Sep 2018 <> [Accessed 19 September 2019]

[2]The seventeen Australian Army Reading List 2019 categories are: Philosophers of War; Military Theory; Strategic; Joint; Operational; Tactical; Command, Leadership and the Profession of Arms; Ethics; Logistics; Australian Military History; Regional Context; An Australian Experience; Future War; Military Memoir; Personal Development; Fiction; Foundational Documents.

[3]The six US Army Chief of Staff’s Professional Reading List categories are: Strategic Environment; Regional Studies; History and Military History; Leadership; Army Profession; Fiction.



Chris Field

Chris Field serves in the Australian Army and is the Commander Forces Command. He previously served as Vice Director of Operations, United States Central Command.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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