The book General John Kelly re-reads every time he gets promoted

General John Kelly, Donald Trump’s new chief of staff, recognizes the value of good books to keep him sharp. Beginning at age 25, Kelly re-reads one particular book every time he gets promoted.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Kelly picked up C.S. Forester's 1936 novel "The General" after accepting the role of chief of staff, just as he did after accepting the role of DHS chief six months prior — and just as he did every time he was promoted during and after his military career, since he was 25 (he is now 67).

Forester, best known for his historical fiction about the British military, wrote "The General" to criticize a military culture that led to thousands of what he saw as unnecessary deaths in WWI. He believed that this culture was marked by a reckless close-mindedness and stubborn pride. They were not bad men; they were men who shunned critical thinking for a blind sense of patriotism. "It might have been more advantageous for England if the British Army had not been quite so full of men of high rank who were so ready for responsibility, so unflinchingly devoted to their duty, so unmoved in the face of difficulty, of such unfaltering courage," Forester wrote.

You have to admire a man like Kelly who wants to think critically and keep learning even into his 60s. (Unfortunately there are not a lot of copies for sale at Amazon.) 

Martin Luther biography by Eric Metaxas to be released later this year

I pre-ordered “Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World” by Eric Metaxas (Viking Press) today. I consider Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer one of the most compelling, unforgettable books I have ever read, so I’m looking forward to this Martin Luther biography. 

Unfortunately this book won’t be released until October 3, 2017. That’s less than a month before the 500th anniversary of the day Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church (October 31, 1517). But, Germany is taking all of 2017 to celebrate the Reformation. When I visited Wittenberg during January 2015, the town was being refurbished in advance of 2017. So the celebration of the Reformation has already started and I'm a little bummed I can't have my copy of "Martin Luther" until October. 

Celebrating a milestone

My Best Books for Men Facebook page recently passed 300 Facebook likes… not a huge number but the growth has been steady. I genuinely appreciate everyone who has “liked” this page. To show my appreciation I will give away one hardcover copy of “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, via a giveaway contest by Amazon. (Sorry, the contest is open only to US residents.) The contest ends at 11:59 PM on February 9, 2017. Go here for the link

February 10 update - the giveaway for "The Power of Habit" has ended. Amazon tells me 199 people participated. One winner was identified and there are no unclaimed prizes. Thanks to everyone who participated. 

I'd like to give away another book when Best Books for Men hits 400 likes. 

Four books I'm going to read in 2017

Below are four books I want to read in 2017. One is a new book and other three are classic books I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.
1. “The Confessions” by St. Augustine. This book is often called the first autobiography in Western civilization, but it seems more like a personal journal. St. Augustine traces his life from infancy to his famous conversion at age 33. It goes without saying that “Confessions” is foundational to western thought and Christianity. I just started studying this book with a group at my church. Why have I not read this book before? I vaguely recall having to read a couple of chapters of this book when I was in college; I feel like I’m long overdue to read the entire book. My group is reading the translation by Maria Boulding
2. “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the creator of Nike” by Phil Knight. The co-founder of Nike, Knight traces the growth of Nike from its beginnings in 1964 (the company was initially called “Blue Ribbon Sports”) to the multi-billion dollar enterprise Nike is today. A very candid, vulnerable, and endearing book. 
3. “Orthodoxy” by G. K. Chesterton. Something of a “spiritual autobiography,” this indispensable Chesterton book explains how Chesterton came to embrace orthodox Christianity. I want to read a lot of Chesterton’s books, and “Orthodoxy” will be the first.
4. “Moby-Dick” by Herman Melville. This book, one of the great American novels, is another book I should have read by now but haven't. The plot of Moby-Dick – the epic struggle between a man and the whale he becomes obsessed with – is well known. The opening sentence - “Call me Ishmael” - is haunting.