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SMA picks 'Ender's Game' as the first book for his book club

Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey has picked an Orson Scott Card classic as the first book on his reading list.

"Ender's Game" centers on Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, who thinks he is playing computer-simulated war games but instead is being trained for war against an alien enemy seeking to destroy all human life. The book was made into a major motion picture, released in 2013, starring Asa Butterfield as Wiggin, and included such actors as Harrison Ford, Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley.

The selection comes after Dailey, who said he has not seen the movie, sought suggestions from soldiers.

"I tried to find non-military books [because] wWhat I’m trying to do is broaden the horizons of the NCOs and get them to think outside the box," Dailey said. "We’re very good at what we do. Our noncommissioned officers are the most capable in the world. What we can’t do is fall victim to our own success."

Dailey wants to stimulate discussion and learning, and he wants to look to the civilian world for lessons and ideas.

"I think there's a tendency for us military people to focus on military people and not look at some of the lessons that can be learned from non-military people," Dailey said. "Let's get outside the box, and let's see if there's other lessons out there to be learned."

In December, hundreds of soldiers sent their reading recommendations to Army Times; the submissions were forwarded to Dailey and his staff.

The plan is to pick and read one book approximately every quarter. Dailey also wants to conduct professional development forums and discussions about the chosen book when he visits installations across the Army, almost like a book club.

Dailey will schedule book club discussions into his troop visits, allowing for a common conversation about leadership and the Army profession among the enlisted force, according to his staff.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley picked "Leaders Eat Last" for Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey's reading list.

Photo Credit: Penguin Random House

"Ender's Game," which has also appeared on Marine Corps reading lists, will be the SMA's book of choice for July through October.

"I'm not a fiction reader, but once I did read it, there's a whole lot of good leadership lessons there," Dailey said. "I think it's a good book, and I think people will probably read it because there are a lot of fiction readers out there."

Why start with a novel?

"We already ask soldiers to read and understand regulations and policies," he said. "This is an opportunity to start a new initiative that's fun, while also helping our squad leaders guide discussions on topics that relate to our profession. It shouldn't feel like another task. I don't want to force soldiers to do this. I want them to read with me."

The next book will be "Leaders Eat Last" by Simon Sinek. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley picked this one, and it will be the book of choice for November through February.

The book examines what it means to build environments where people naturally work together to accomplish remarkable things and zeroes in on the military practice where junior troops eat first before their leaders, according to the description on the Penguin Random House website.

The third book on the list will be "Start with Why," also by Sinek. This will be for March through June 2017.

"Any person or organization can explain what they do; some can explain  how they are different or better; but very few can clearly articulate why," according to the summary of the  book on Penguin Random House's site. "Why is not about money or profit — those are results. Why is the thing that inspires us and inspires those around us."

In his book, Sinek explores real-life stories and gleans lessons from leaders such a Martin Luther King Jr. and the Wright Brothers to provide a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led and people can be inspired.

"Start with Why" is the third book in Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey's book club.

Photo Credit: Penguin Random House

Dailey said the books are not mandatory reading.

"I want soldiers to do this because they want to, not because they have to or are told to," he said.

Soldiers who choose to participate can look to the Center for the Army Profession and Ethic, which is creating discussion guides for leaders to use if they want to include the book club in their leader development plan, according to Dailey's staff.

The guide for "Ender's Game" is expected to be available on the Army's website in mid-June.

A special page on will go live in July; soldiers will be able to go there for discussion guides, links to library resources, Dailey's book reviews, online discussion sessions and future book suggestion submissions.

As for getting your hands on the reading materials, no soldier should be required to buy any book on Dailey's list, according to his staff. However, "Ender's Game" is available for less than $10, and many on-post libraries already have the first three books on the list. Dailey's staff is working to get more books to libraries that serve larger populations or at installations where Dailey plans to schedule group discussions.

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