By Rachel Barth, MOAA Creative Director

While some people like to spend their summer vacation relaxing with the lastest bestseller, others use the time as an opportunity to catch up on the classics and must-reads they haven't gotten to yet. 

If you fall in the latter camp, you're in luck. We've compiled the essential reading list of military books, both past and present. It's worth noting that although every book here isn't explicitly about the military, each is associated with it in some way. 

To compile this list of 54 works of fiction and nonfiction, we looked for books that have influenced policymakers and thought leaders, have stood the test of time and still ring true to their contemporary audience, speak to the breadth of the military experience, teach us something, and finally, are a great read.

We've divided books into a few categories: books about conflicts, from the Battle of Thermopylae to Operation Enduring Freedom; books from MOAA's contemporary and vintage reading lists, which are updated quarterly by reviewer Col. William Bushnell, USMC (Ret); books from the reading list of Gen. James Mattis, USMC (Ret), as reported by Task and Purpose; books that were made into films; and finally, books about lessons learned that reflect on the state of the military today.

So head to your local library or bookstore, sit back, and read on. And please don't forget the sunscreen.  

Mattis' Picks

Long Walk to Freedom (1994), by Nelson Mandela; Before the First Shots Are Fired (2014), by Tony Zinni and Tony Koltz; Duty (2014), by Robert M. Gates; Dereliction of Duty (1997), by H.R. McMaster; Alexander Hamilton (2004), by Ron Chernow;

MOAA Bookshelf

Books That Changed the World (2016), by Andrew Taylor; History's Greatest Battles (2012), by Nigel Cawthorne; America's War For The Greater Middle East (2016), by Andrew J. Bacevich; Medieval Warfare (1976), by Terence Wise; Genghis Khan (2015), by Frank McLynn;

Lessons Learned and the Military Today

The White Donkey: Terminal Lance (2016), by Maximilian Uriarte; The Greatest Generation (1998), by Tom Brokaw; The Leader's Bookshelf (2017), by James Stavridis and R. Manning Ancell; Shoot Like a Girl (2017), by Mary Jennings Hegar; The Art of War, by Sun Tzu; Ghost Wars (2004), by Steve Coll; Men Against Fire (1947), by S.L.A. Marshall; Fight Like A Girl (2018), by Kate Germano with Kelly Kennedy; Boyd (2004), by Robert Coram; The General (1936), by C.S. Forester; Fobbit (2012), by David Abrams; The Operator (2017), by Robert O'Neill; On Killing (1995), by Dave Grossman; Supreme Command (2002), by Eliot A. Cohen;

On the Big Screen

Generation Kill (2004), by Evan Wright; Unbroken (2010), by Laura Hillenbrand; Black Hawk Down (1999), by Mark Bowden; From Here to Eternity (1951), by James Jones; Starship Troopers (1959), by Robert A. Heinlein; Master and Commander (1969), by Patrick O'Brian; The Guns of Navarone (1957), by Alistair MacLean; All Quiet on the Western Front (1929), by Erich Maria Remarque; Catch 22 (1961), by Joseph Heller;

Conflicts from Ancient Greece to Afghanistan

Gates of Fire (1998), by Steven Pressfield; The Face of Battle (1976), by John Keegan; 1776 (2005), by David McCullough; Grant (2017), by Ron Chernow; Team of Rivals (2005), by Doris Kearns Goodwin; Battle Cry of Freedom (1988), by James M. McPherson; The Civil War: A Narrative (1958), by Shelby Foote; The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960), by William L. Shirer; Band of Brothers (1992), by Stephen E. Ambrose; Five Days in London: May 1940 (1999), by John Lukacs; This Kind of War (1963), by T.R. Fehrenbach; The Best and The Brightest (1972), by David Halberstam; We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young (1992), by Hal Moore and Joseph L. Galloway; A Rumor of War (1977), by Philip Caputo; Dispatches (1977), by Michael Herr; The Things They Carried (1990), by Tim O'Brien; The Outpost (2012), by Jake Tapper; 8 Seconds of Courage (2017), by Flo Groberg and Tom Sileo; The Gift of Valor (2005), by Michael M. Phillipps; The Long Road Home (2007), by Martha Raddatz; One Bullet Away (2005), by Nathaniel Fick.