The men who lived in these mountains had learned to fight from the Indians and had honed their craft of wilderness warfare — defending, tracking, ambushing, killing — and used it against them, until they had secured the place for themselves. They had a shoot-first, ask-questions-later mentality. They wrestled and fought for fun. Now they turned their sights on each other, and they excelled at the bloodletting.”

9. Adam Makos, A Higher Call (Berkley Calibre).

This is such a good story that I checked it out to make sure it is true — and it is. Adam Makos tells the story of what happened in the skies over Nazi-dominated Europe five days before Christmas in 1943. An American B-17 bomber was almost blown out of the sky, its young pilots barely able to keep it flying and half of its crew dead or dying. It was the crew’s first flying mission over Europe, and it looked to be their final mission in life. Then, into their view comes a German Messerschmitt fighter, flown by a certified ace. Two second lieutenants faced each other that fateful day. Second Lieutenant Charlie Brown was captain of the B-17 and Second Lieutenant Franz Stigler was the pilot of the Messerschmitt. The story that unfolded that day over Europe is one of the most moving and unlikely of any day in that global cataclysm.

Makos tells the stories of the two pilots, giving readers an understanding of how those two pilots ended up sharing the same frozen airspace on that memorable day. Readers wills sense the terror of airborne conflict and gain insights into the unique morality of modern warfare in the skies and the shared moral code of pilots. More than anything else, readers will be captivated by the account of what took place in then sky on that harrowing day, and then what took place when the two pilots were reunited on the ground long after the war. Makos is editor of the military magazine Valor. A Higher Call is a story of valor. You won’t regret reading it.


From his perch on the bomber’s wing, Franz saw the two pilots staring at him. He saw shock and fear in their eyes. They knew they were hopeless. With his left hand, Frank pointed down to the ground, motioning for the pilots to land in Germany. He knew it was preferable to be a P.O.W. than to have one’s life snuffed out in a flak burst. But the American pilots shook their heads. Franz cursed in frustration. He knew he could be shot for letting the bomber go. That alone was treason. But Franz also knew that leaving the bomber now would be no different than shooting it down.”

10. Robert M. Utley, Geronimo (Yale University Press).

Authoritative books on famous individuals are often, oddly enough, hard to find. Until now, there was no truly authoritative biography of the most famous Native American Indian of American history and our national imagination — Geronimo. Robert M. Utley was for many years the chief historian of the National Park Service. Geronimo is a life project, and Utley reveals the true Geronimo, a fierce warrior whose personal reputation has often eclipsed his real identity. As Utley explains, Geronimo was not even a chief. He was, on the other hand, a fierce warrior with the ability to command others to follow him. He did not even come to the attention of Americans until he was 53 years of age. But when he did, he did in a big way. He never commanded more than about thirty warriors, but he threw an entire territory into havoc and terror. As Utley notes, Geronimo “accumulated a record of brutality that matched that of any of his comrades.”