Top 10 Reading List for Personal and Tactical Knowledge Development


Recently, my "Tactical Fitness Report" podcast partner, Jeff Nichols (SEAL), and I were asked to create a top 10 reading list for people interested in joining the tactical professions, as well as to help veterans transition into civilian life.

As a tactical fitness writer and trainer, teaching others that fitness is deeper than running and doing push-ups for a fitness test is something I do for every generation.

When thinking of the term tactical fitness, you have to consider the different phases of your tactical profession and how they change every few years, especially as we age. A lack of knowledge about the following phases of tactical fitness can hurt your performance and career development:

  • Phase 1 is about getting into the military (or selection program). This phase requires acing a fitness test.
  • Phase 2 is training to endure your future training (basic, boot camp, spec ops selection, etc.)
  • Phase 3 is training to maintain or further develop your physical abilities. You also should continue to learn skills to do your job and how to mitigate stress.
  • Phase 4 is retirement or life as a veteran. Maintaining health and wellness and continuing to deal with some of the stresses caused by your previous profession can be an ongoing issue.

Here is a video podcast on the top 10 books we recommend on personal and tactical knowledge development:


Here is the list of books (we each put in our top five):

1. "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl

2. "On Killing" and "On Combat" by Dave Grossman (2 books)

3. "SEAL Team One" by Dick Couch

4. "Road to Character" by David Brooks

5. "Spec Ops -- Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare: Theory and Practice" by then-Cmdr. William McRaven as a Post-Graduate School thesis.

6. "Ego is the Enemy" by Ryan Holiday

7. "501 Must-Know Speeches" by Bounty Books

8. "12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos" by Jordan Peterson

9. "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle

10. "The U.S. Navy SEAL Survival Handbook" by Don Mann

For even more in-depth knowledge, you can read any book written by Navy SEAL Dick Couch if you want to learn details of life in many of the special ops units. His nonfiction work is incredibly informative:

You also may want to investigate the Boulder Crest Institute’s program "The Warrior PATHH -- Journal for Post-Traumatic Growth." You also can read my post, Training and Post Traumatic Growth, where there are more books listed.

Not only does this list have some recommended reading for a candidate who's looking to build a career in the military or special ops, but these books also have information you should know throughout that career and after you have transitioned out of the military. These powerful reads can help you understand the journey into the military and other tactical professions.

Keep reading and keep growing.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

Want to Learn More About Military Life?

Whether you're thinking of joining the military, looking for fitness and basic training tips, or keeping up with military life and benefits, has you covered. Subscribe to to have military news, updates and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Show Full Article