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Office of Leadership (CG-12C)

Coast Guard Reading List


"Professional service is a fundamental expectation of all Coast Guard men and women. It requires a thorough understanding of contemporary issues facing our service, demonstration of effective leadership in our duties, and a strong appreciation of our heritage. The Coast Guard Reading List helps us maintain this desired attribute by providing a common learning experience built on relevant topics, some selected by our Service’s senior leaders, others recommended by our Shipmates."
~ ADM Bob Papp

About the List


The Coast Guard Reading List provides recommended books related to leadership, Coast Guard history and culture, and contemporary issues. The list is not all-inclusive; the goal is to provide a starting point or expand existing knowledge and skills. This list has been transformed into a living reading list that will be updated as soon as new additions are approved.

The reading list is not limited to non-fiction books. It can also include fictional books and book series that are crafted with a good portrayal of maritime service and heritage in the characters and settings. Additionally, we may consider other forms of media, and specifically movies, where the authenticity, decorum and plot lend themselves to further our common professional knowledge.

The reading list provides a tool for individual professional growth, taking into account that responsibility for professional development rests simultaneously on each individual, his or her unit, and our service.

Recommendation Process


Coast Guard Reading List is a "living" list allowing new additions to be added throughout the year rather than only once per year. New book nominations may be submitted by any CG flag (including reserve flags), any CG SES, MCPOCG, CGRF-MC, and the USCGAUX National Commodore. Recommendations from other Team Coast Guard members must be endorsed by one of the previously mentioned nominating authorities, via their chain of command. Nominations approved by the Commandant will be immediately added to the reading list.

Fill out the Recommendation Template, and email to Veronique.Freeman@uscg.mil if you would like to recommend a book be added to the list.

Coast Guard Reading List


Print the Reading List (.pdf, no images)

Books 24x7, one of the largest online book resources offering unobstructed access to the complete unabridged contents of thousands of the latest and best business and technology books. To access the site please visit CG Portal, click on "Training & Education" then "SkillPort" then "Books24x7").

Books not available on SkillPort can be purchased or talk to your unit's purchasing office for alternative vendors.

Commandant's Choice


Since 2002, the Commandant selects one book annually as the "Commandant's Choice" for professional reading.

The Finest Hours2014
The Finest Hours
, by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman
(ISBN: 1416567224)

On February 18, 1952, New England was battered by a brutal nor'easter and the freezing Atlantic became a zone of peril with 70-knot winds and 60-foot seas. Two old oil tankers, the Pendleton and the Fort Mercer, proved no match for the storm and both were torn in half just off Cape Cod.

The Finest Hours highlights the captivating, true story of the valiant attempt of four Coast Guardsmen aboard the rescue surfboat CG36500 to overcome insurmountable odds and save the 32 stranded Pendleton sailors huddling inside the ship's stern section which was still afloat. The CG36500's crew, led by then-Petty Officer First Class Bernard Webber, conducted what is arguably the most dramatic rescue ever undertaken by the Coast Guard.

All four Coast Guardsmen were awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal for their proficiency and heroic actions in extreme conditions. In 2012 the Coast Guard commissioned the cutter BERNARD C. WEBBER, the lead ship in the Sentinel Class cutter fleet, in honor of the heroic boat coxswain. (Note: A young adult version -- age 10-16 -- is also available as The Finest Hours: The True Story of a Heroic Sea Rescue).

Bearing Drift2013
Bearing Drift, by Peter Eident (ISBN: 1450765327)

35 years ago on October 20, 1978, the 125-ft training vessel USCGC CUYAHOGA collided with a 521-foot freighter while underway near the mouth of the Potomac River. Following the collision, CUYAHOGA sank, killing 11 Coast Guardsmen in one of the worst peacetime accidents in Coast Guard history. The author, who was standing watch on the bridge as CUYAHOGA was rammed and sank, explores a Coast Guardsman's intricate relationship with the sea and seeks meaning in the loss of his shipmates, an event he vividly recalls. Bearing Drift is about heroism and mistakes, and how the fatal mishap forever changed the author and the Coast Guard itself. Along with the USCGC BLACKTHORN collision 15 months later, the catastrophic sinking of the CUYAHOGA caused the Coast Guard to recommit itself to proficiency and reexamine the requirements for training, qualification standards and bridge manning requirements. A captivating tribute to the "long blue line" of shipmates who gave their last full measure of devotion in service of our country.

Fire on the Beach2012
Fire on the Beach: Recovering the Lost Story of Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Lifesavers, by David Wright & David Zoby
(ISBN: 0195154843)

Fire on the Beach recovers a lost gem of American history. It tells the story of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, formed in 1871 to assure the safe passage of American and international shipping and to save lives and salvage cargo. A century ago, the adventures of the now-forgotten “surfmen” who, in crews of seven, bore the brunt of this dangerous but vital duty filled the pages of popular reading material, from Harper’s to the Baltimore Sun and New York Herald. Station 17, located on the desolate beaches of Pea Island, North Carolina, housed one such unit, and Richard Etheridge -- the only black man to lead a lifesaving crew -- was its captain.

The Skipper & The Eagle2011
The Skipper & The Eagle, by Gordon McGowan (ISBN: 978-0-930248-09-3)

In 1996, then-Captain Robert J. Papp, Jr., took command of USCG Barque Eagle, the US Coast Guard’s sail-training vessel. Shortly after assuming command, he was to take the Eagle on a historic journey to Hamburg, on the 50th anniversary of the Eagle’s inaugural journey to the US from Germany. Capt. Papp was eager to learn as much as he could about those early chapters from the Eagle’s history, and he set out to find a copy of The Skipper and the Eagle, the memoir of the Eagle’s first commanding officer, but soon discovered that the book was out of print. Capt. Papp’s search inspired Howard Slotnick of the National Maritime Historical Society to set the wheels in motion for a new edition of the book, published by Sea History Press in 1998.

Rescue Warriors2010
Rescue Warriors: The U.S. Coast Guard, America's Forgotten Heroes, by David Helvarg (ISBN: 978-0312363727)

Since its founding more than two hundred years ago, the United States Coast Guard has rescued over a million people. On any given day, “Coasties” respond to 125 distress calls and save over a dozen lives. Yet despite having more than 50,000 active-duty and reserve members on every ocean and on our nation’s coasts, great lakes, and rivers, most of us know very little about this often neglected but crucial branch of the military.

In Rescue Warriors, award-winning journalist David Helvarg brings us into the daily lives of Coasties, filled with a salty maritime mix of altruism and adrenaline, as well as dozens of death-defying rescues at sea and on hurricane-ravaged shores. Helvarg spent two years with the men and women of the Coast Guard, from the halls of their academy in New London, Connecticut, to the frigid, storm-tossed waters of Alaska’s Bering Sea, to the northern Persian Gulf, where they currently guard Iraqi oil terminals. The result is a masterpiece of adventure reporting -- the definitive book on America’s “forgotten heroes.”


Archived Recommendations - Coast Guard Reading List
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Last Modified 10/29/2014