Admiral James Stavridis, a former leader of the US Southern Command and once the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, has shared some of his favorite books in an interview with Marcia Desanctis from The Millions.
Stavridis, who is now the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, is a voracious reader with broad literary tastes. For a person who was once one of the most important figures in the world’s most powerful military, books serve as a crucial way to make sense of a complicated world.
“Reading is integral to my life … And I think, in the end, we solve global problems not by launching missiles, it’s by launching ideas,” Stavridis told The Millions.
Here are some of Stavridis’ favorite books, along with his favorite naval movie.
“My Life In France” by Julia Child and Alex Prud’Homme
“My Life In France” is a memoir documenting Child’s move to France with her new husband, Paul. The book follows the culinary icon’s growing career as a chef and author, and captures all of her successes and failures.
The book left Stavridis in tears.
“This is an incredibly quirky, wonderful book about discovering yourself and discovering your life,” Stavridis said. “The voice in the book is so authentic and so beautiful, so wonderfully rendered.”
“The Circle” by Dave Eggers
“The Circle” is a disconcerting look at the future of online privacy. Imagining a world in which transparency is valued more than privacy, Eggers evokes a world that may not be too far off in the future.
“In the largest sense, by one of our most creative contemporary writers, David Eggers, it is a story about what we hold to ourselves, what is privacy, and what transparency can provide but take away from each of us,” Stavridis told The Millions. “It’s a profoundly important novel that helps us deal with this collision between privacy and transparency.”
“Gulag: A History” by Anne Applebaum
“Gulag: A History” documents the rise of the Soviet prison camp system from the Russian Revolution through its collapse during glasnost towards the end of the Cold War. Applebaum’s research documents both the details of individual camp life and the greater significance of the gulag system for the USSR and its leaders.
“It’s a brilliant book,” Stavridis said. He also featured the book on the reading list at the end of his autobiography, “The Accidental Admiral.”
“Generation of Winter” by Vassily Aksyonov
“Generation of Winter” is a novel that follows the saga of the fictional Gradov family from 1925 to 1945. With a vast range of characters and settings, the novel shifts from Moscow to the frontlines of WWII battles in Poland and Ukraine, capturing the difficulties of Russian life during that twenty-year time period.
“It’s a beautiful novel,” Stavridis said. “It’s also, I think, a portrait of a really interesting period in Russian society that transitioned from the World War II generation and how they were effectively betrayed.”
“The Caine Mutiny” starring Humphrey Bogart
Without further explanation, Stavridis said “The Caine Mutiny” was his favorite movie about the Navy “by a country mile.”
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