Books, Mind — June 24, 2012 12:48 am

Interview with John Callaghan


Department of Defense analyst John Callaghan reveals the five books that had great impact in his life.

Photo courtesy of John Callaghan

John Callaghan of North Bethesda, Md., does not characterize himself as an avid reader, although he reads between 30 and 40 books per year. The analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense does, however, say that reading has enhanced his individual growth and general knowledge. Besides his expertise in military capabilities, international relations and security studies, Callaghan considers golf, cooking and reading to be among his favorite pastimes. Callaghan, also an adjunct professor at the American Military University, earned his doctorate in international relations in 2010 at the University of Cincinnati and says he mostly reads non-fiction. Although he doesn’t really have a favorite author, he easily identified five books that he says changed his life. Here are his comments from a Verge exclusive interview.


The Army and Vietnam (1986) – Andrew F. Krepinevich
“I was assigned this book for a military history course in college and it changed me because it challenged popular conceptions of why we lost the war in Vietnam. Krepinevich suggested the American military had not been flexible enough to adjust to the new type of war we were fighting. The book instilled in me the belief that we do ourselves, our organization and our country a service by questioning conventional wisdom in the hopes of finding real truth.”



Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997) – Jared Diamond
“I believe this is the finest book I’ve ever read. Diamond demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of so many subjects; it is the exemplar of integrative learning—tying together disparate nuggets of knowledge in a way that produces an integrated, coherent understanding. We should all aspire to Diamond’s example.”




The Remnants of War (2004) – John Mueller
“I had left the military and was doing charity work in Africa when I read Mueller’s work. I was intrigued by his assertion that, just as transatlantic slavery had, great power wars are also fading into history. I decided to examine his analogy, and my dissertation topic was born.”



Greater Expectations (1995) – William Damon
“Damon’s book captured my teaching philosophy. He asserts that we can and must ask more of our students. As educators, we should not sell young adults short and treat them as if they can’t handle challenging questions and workloads. If you care about your students, you should hold them to a high standard; they will know you care and they will deliver.”



The Gospel of Luke, Christian Bible
“Of all the religious texts I’ve read, this gospel makes the most sense and is the most personal to me. The Old Testament is full of ‘fire-and-brimstone’ rules from a distant, powerful God, but Luke’s overarching point is that God loves us all; even the least of our fellow humans—the sick, the old, the poor, whoever—is important to the creator. What a hopeful message!”  



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