Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

A landmark for Tom: For the first time in 3 years, the work bookshelf is empty

Last Friday at 5:15 pm, something happened to me for the first time in three years: I turned and saw I had no more books or documents I needed to read or review for the book I am writing, a history of American generalship since 1939. It was kind of stunning. For years, every time ...

humbert15/Flickr
humbert15/Flickr
humbert15/Flickr

Last Friday at 5:15 pm, something happened to me for the first time in three years: I turned and saw I had no more books or documents I needed to read or review for the book I am writing, a history of American generalship since 1939.

It was kind of stunning. For years, every time I finished a book or paper or oral history interview or article, I would have another one lined up in the small bookshelf I use as my "on deck circle" for work reading. On Friday, I finished looking over a new book on Iraq, and then saw there was nothing left. I actually am waiting on a few books I ordered, as well as some material from my researcher, but at the moment, nothing awaits -- no more biographies of obscure World War II generals, no more vacuous memoirs by Gen. Mark W. Clark, no more revisionist histories of the Vietnam War, no more bizarrely boring oral history interviews with properly forgotten generals -- "and then I was assigned to the 352nd Crossword Puzzle Company, down in Fort Hooha, it was a corps slice where I was XO to old Johnny Smith, well he was a character, one time we drank a whole six pack and went fishing..."

So I picked up Richard Rumelt's book on Good Strategy/Bad Strategy, which I've wanted to get to, but which was not on my list of military history readings.

Last Friday at 5:15 pm, something happened to me for the first time in three years: I turned and saw I had no more books or documents I needed to read or review for the book I am writing, a history of American generalship since 1939.

It was kind of stunning. For years, every time I finished a book or paper or oral history interview or article, I would have another one lined up in the small bookshelf I use as my "on deck circle" for work reading. On Friday, I finished looking over a new book on Iraq, and then saw there was nothing left. I actually am waiting on a few books I ordered, as well as some material from my researcher, but at the moment, nothing awaits — no more biographies of obscure World War II generals, no more vacuous memoirs by Gen. Mark W. Clark, no more revisionist histories of the Vietnam War, no more bizarrely boring oral history interviews with properly forgotten generals — "and then I was assigned to the 352nd Crossword Puzzle Company, down in Fort Hooha, it was a corps slice where I was XO to old Johnny Smith, well he was a character, one time we drank a whole six pack and went fishing…"

So I picked up Richard Rumelt’s book on Good Strategy/Bad Strategy, which I’ve wanted to get to, but which was not on my list of military history readings.

PS — Not to panic. On Saturday morning, a 400-page manuscript arrived from a friend needing a blurb. And then the mail brought a new book about the war in Iraq. Back 2 work 4 me.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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