Some stuff I've just finished reading...
Mark Antony's Heroes, by Stephen Dando-Collins. This is the fourth in his series of unit histories of famous Roman legions. They're written in a style more familiar to readers of Stephen Ambrose than of Thucydides, and provide an engaging and accessible grasp of how the Roman army worked and how it fought.
One Soldier's War, by Arkady Babchenko. This book makes All Quiet On The Western Front look like the feel-good family hit of the summer. Sent to Chechnya as a conscript, barely taught how to fire a rifle, subject to the brutal hazing of Russian military life, and left squatting in frozen rubble for weeks with an empty tummy and the bloody runs, the book Arkady wrote about his experiences is hardly a good recruiting aid for the Russian army. It's beautifully written; poetry, even. But it's the kind of poetry that makes you wonder if the book shouldn't have come with a length of garden hose to run from your tailpipe to the driver's window when you were done reading it.
Down Range: Navy SEALs in the War on Terrorism, by Dick Couch. Taking place on the same planet, and yet somehow light-years away from Babchenko's book, unofficial NAVSPECWAR PR man and ex-SEAL Dick Couch has already written two books on the training of Navy SEALs. Now that we know how they get their bachelor's degrees in mayhem (srsly. The average SEAL is in training for three years before their first deployment), he takes us to see them doing their post-grad work in killing people and breaking their stuff. As a Vietnam-era SEAL vet and an Annapolis grad, Couch has plenty of access in this world and has intimate personal knowledge of the topic. Of course, for the same reason, don't expect a hard-hitting exposé, either. Unit commanders speaking to journalists, even combat vet journalists, give glowing reviews that sound like NASCAR drivers after a race: "Well, I'd just like to thank all the guys in Alpha Platoon and the fabulous support crew on the boats and back in the intel shop that made this all possible, everybody was just great!" They're not going to add "Except for that one egotistical turkey who didn't have his head in the game and dropped a lug nut on the last pit stop that nearly cost us the race." Still and all, a worthwhile read.