Craig Lawrence author, military historian and lecturer in strategy

MICK HERRON: 'SLOW HORSES'


I read this over the Christmas holidays and I really enjoyed it. The start is a little slow but it soon picks up pace and I found that I really couldn't put it down. It's very different to Dan Brown's book. Whereas Brown's story is set in the world of the uber-rich, Herron writes about a bunch of has-been spies struggling with personal demons as well as their professional lives. His characters have lots of flaws - particularly his central character (Jackson Lamb) - and plenty of depth. Surprising things happen to the characters - which makes it interesting - and the plot is original and believable.

Verdict​: A great read and I'm really pleased that I've discovered Herron's work. I've already bought the next book in the series and can't wait to start reading it, hopefully this weekend!

TIM MARSHALL: 'PRISONERS OF GEOGRAPHY'


I received this book as a gift over Christmas from one of my children and I think it's brilliant. It's written in an accessible style which makes it easy to understand and a pleasure to read. As someone who lectures on grand strategy and chairs seminars on international relations, I'm really pleased I've 'found' it as it offers an interesting and authoritative perspective on some of key geo-political issues which make the contemporary strategic environment so complex.

Verdict​: A really interesting read. It provides an accessible explanation of why nations behave as they do!

Strategy book - Getting Strategy Right (Enough) - edited by Craig Lawrence

STRATEGIC THEORY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY: THE LITTLE BOOK ON BIG STRATEGY


This brilliant book by Harry R Yarger contains numerous key insights into strategy making. Published by the US Army War College, it's a 'must read' for anyone involved in the tricky business of developing and implementing strategy. Not surprisingly, we drew on it in writing 'Getting Strategy Right (Enough)'! 

WHAT I'M CURRENTLY READING: MY VIEW OF SOME OF THE OTHER BOOKS OUT THERE!


NOTE COMMENTS ON STRATEGY BOOKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE (LINKS TO FREE DOWNLOADS INCLUDED WHERE AVAILABLE)


There's an old adage that the more you read, the better you write. I think that's true. My New Year's resolution for 2018 is therefore to try and read as much as possible because, over the last few years, I've found myself distracted by other things. With that in mind, I thought I'd give my view of the books I've recently read (click on the image to see the book on Amazon​)..​

US NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY 2017


The US's 2017 National Security Strategy is another example of a strategy au milieu. Like the UK's strategy - above - it sets out how the US intends to promote its prosperity, security and stability. It does this using four 'pillars': Pillar I, protect the American people, the homeland and the American way of life; Pillar II, promote American prosperity; Pillar III, preserve peace through strength; and Pillar IV, advance American influence. For those pushed for time, I recommend a quick read of the President's introduction as it's a good example of a strategic narrative, giving people a reason to care and a reason to act.

DAN BROWN: 'ORIGIN'


I've just finished this book and, whilst I enjoyed it, I was also disappointed by it in some ways. The story rips along at a fair old pace - and I found myself keen to keep reading - but the characters are wafer thin. As a result, I found it difficult to relate to them. The central character (Robert Langdon) is the same one as in Brown's other best-sellers. This might explain why there's very little detail about him as Brown might have made the assumption that his readers will be familiar with Langdon. I have to admit that I recognise the problem. My main character in 'Reasonable Doubt' (Harry Parker) is the same as in 'The Legacy' and as I wrote 'Reasonable Doubt' I found that I was just assuming people would know about him and that I therefore didn't need to give any of his backstory. However, feedback from my proofreading team suggested that this was a mistake and that I needed to tell people a little bit more about Harry to avoid him appearing one dimensional, particularly to people who hadn't read 'The Legacy' - yes, there are some!

Verdict: A good read which rips along but I would like to have known a little bit more about the characters - they're a bit one dimensional (click on the image to the left if you want to access the book on Amazon and find out what other readers think!).

LESSONS ENCOUNTERED: LEARNING FROM THE LONG WAR


This seminal book by Richard D Hooker and Joseph J Collins was commissioned by the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to try and identify the lessons from the US' interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is crammed full of insights into strategy making and strategic leadership.​ Again, we drew heavily on the 'Lessons Encountered' in writing 'Getting Strategy Right (Enough)'.

Chilcot Report

ROBERT LYMAN: 'SLIM: MASTER OF WAR'


I've just finished reading this as part of my research for a book on leadership that my agent has asked me to do. I started with Slim's own account of the Burma Campaign in Defeat into Victory but then wanted something that provided an informed commentary on Slim's remarkable story. I wasn't disappointed as Lyman gets it just right in this brilliant book. Well researched and written in a taut and lucid style, it kept me enthralled from the first to the last page. 

Verdict​: A fascinating read that explains the Burma Campaign, and Slim's personality, in an accessible way but without compromising on the historical detail. Very strongly recommended! 

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Lessons Encountered - Learning from the Long War

Getting Strategy Right (Enough), a guide to the development of strategy


The Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS) teaches post-graduate level courses in international relations, strategy making and strategic leadership. 'Getting Strategy Right (Enough)' has been written to support the College's flagship 11 month course in strategic leadership and the development and implementation of strategy. It incorporates many of the key lessons identified in reports, such as that published by Sir John Chilcot into the UK's intervention in Iraq, and books, such as Hooker and Collins' seminal examination of US interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, published over the last few years.​​

the report of the iraq inquiry - the 'chilcot report'


Although the final report runs to some 2.6 million words in 13 volumes, the executive summary - pictured left - is a much shorter read. It is so full of insights and recommendations about strategy making and strategic leadership that it is a 'must read' for anyone who is serious about strategy.​ Perhaps not surprisingly, we drew heavily on the 'Chilcot Report' in writing 'Getting Strategy Right (Enough)'.

UK NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY AND STRATEGIC DEFENCE AND SECURITY REVIEW 2015


The UK's 2015 National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence Review (NSS & SDSR) is a great example of a strategy au milieu as it sets out how the UK will seek to enhance its prosperity, security and stability. It gets a number of mentions in 'Getting Strategy Right (Enough)' and provides something of a template for other NSS.

books about strategy and strategy making

UK National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015

REVIEWS



reviews of books that I'm reading (or have just read!)