Book Review: To Risk it All: nine Conflicts and the Crucible of Decision by Admiral James Stavridis (2022)

Synopsis: Retired U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis reviews nine specific naval conflicts in our nation's history and the nine heroes that went above and beyond while facing insurmountable odds.

Review: This was in the new books section of my local library a few days ago and, mostly because it sounded somewhat unique (especially since it was written by a retired admiral), I decided to give it a try. I finished it last night and think it was a great choice.

While the book doesn't give every single detail about the heroes he writes about, it does a great job of giving a solid and detailed summary of who those people were, what they did and why they deserve recognition. Some of the people he writes about, like John Paul Jones, were people who were familiar to me. Others, like Doris "Dorrie" Miller, were complete strangers but, even if I had heard of the person before, I still learned something new.

I especially liked reading Miller's story because Stavridis didn't sugar coat things when talking about the racism the black cook faced while serving prior and during World War II. I'm not going to lie; I got a little angry when reading that one. This was a man who risked his own life to save the lives of many others following the attack on Pearl Harbor, while on a burning and sinking ship and many of his compatriots had chosen to evacuate only to never receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, first because of his skin color and, later, because someone questioned if he had shot down any enemy planes.

One thing that impressed me when reading this book was how Stavridis paints his subjects as heroes but, at the same time, leaves in their human qualities too, including characteristics that maybe aren't as hero-like. This makes it a lot easier to relate to the people he writes about and has a much bigger impact when he talks about how he first heard about them and how they influenced his life while serving in the U. S. Navy. In many cases, it also made me want to learn more, and giving me an idea about what book I want to read next isn't a bad thing.

Final Opinion: This is a great book that provides a good mix of military history and entertaining life stories about people who performed great feats under pressure. I recommend taking the time to read it.

My Grade: A


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