Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character

2020 Recommended Reading
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BY ADM JAMES STAVRIDIS, USN (RET)

If character matters, this is a must read for those who would live a full life. Admiral Stavridis and I served alongside each other from the halls of NATO to the hills of Afghanistan, and he is a thinker and writer I greatly admire. In this new volume, he takes us to sea with some of the most complicated Admirals in history and shows us the challenges of character with which we all wrestle.

–James N. Mattis, General, USMC (Ret); former Secretary of Defense

In his acclaimed book Sea Power, Admiral James Stavridis reckoned with the history and geopolitics of the world’s great bodies of water. Now in Sailing True North, he offers a much more intimate, human accounting: the lessons of leadership and character contained in the lives and careers of history’s most significant naval commanders. Admiral Stavridis brings a lifetime of reflection to bear on the subjects of his study–on naval history, on the vocation of the admiral with its special tests and challenges, and on the sweep of global geopolitics. Above all, this is a book that will help you navigate your own life’s voyage: the voyage of leadership of course, but more important, the voyage of character. Sadly, evil men can be effective leaders sailing toward bad ends; ultimately, leadership without character is like a ship underway without a rudder. Sailing True North helps us find the right course to chart.

Simply as epic lives, the tales of these ten admirals offer up a collection of the greatest imaginable sea stories. Moreover, spanning 2,500 years from ancient Greece to the twenty-first century, Sailing True North is a book that offers a history of the world through the prism of our greatest naval leaders. None of the admirals in this volume were perfect, and some were deeply flawed. But from Themistocles, Drake, and Nelson to Nimitz, Rickover, and Hopper, important themes emerge, not least that there is an art to knowing when to listen to your shipmates and when to turn a blind eye; that serving your reputation is a poor substitute for serving your character; and that taking time to read and reflect is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

By putting us on personal terms with historic leaders in the maritime sphere he knows so well, Admiral Stavridis has in Sailing True North offered a compass that can help us navigate the story of our own lives, wherever that voyage takes us. More at the Admiral’s website, AdmiralStav.com.

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