By Doug Patteson
Here are five books that have impacted my life and to which I regularly return. Some of them are books you have likely read, while others are books you have put off. None should surprise you; they are classics for a reason.
- The Old Man and the Boy, by Robert Ruark. Ruark was a celebrated writer and columnist from North Carolina. This book is a collection of his columns from Field and Stream capturing his life growing up hunting and fishing. The profound impact his grandfather had on his becoming a man resonates with many of us as we think about how to live honorably, showing respect for the outdoors and others.
- The Sun also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway. The years between WWI and WWII have always fascinated me. The intersections of increasing technology development, the arts and hedonism and the rise of fascism are rich material for exploring the human condition. His exploration of the themes of masculinity and resiliency in recovery from the trauma of war remain important today as we wrap up 20-plus years of the global war on terrorism.
- Green Hills of Africa, by Hemingway. This exploration of Hemingway’s month-long safari in pursuit of kudu across Africa is generally known to be one of the best big game hunting stories out there. It has inspired countless others, myself included, to pursue the elusive grey ghost.
- The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. I can already hear the groans for the “not the Art of War again crowd”. Look, just because you’ve seen it on a million lists doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be on this one. Who are you to argue with Mao, McArthur or Giap? Go conquer a nation or at least win a war and then we’ll talk. In the interim, some of the wisdom in this book may help you do just that.
- Catch-22, by Joseph Heller. An absurdist comedy that anyone who has served in a bureaucratic institution can connect with, Heller also changed our lexicon by introducing the phrase Catch-22 to the western world. Circular reasoning and paradox are its hallmarks and you will find yourself re-reading his phrasing. I would love to see a stage adaptation updated and set in Iraq but that is unlikely to ever happen.
*Editor’s Note: Doug Patteson is a former CIA agent and a genuinely good dude, and that’s all we can really tell you about this notable American because most of his life-saving work is classified.