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Professional Reading Program

A public neighborhood within called the "Fireline Leadership Reading Room" was established as a forum for students of fire to discuss books their local unit is reading and/or wants to share with other members of the fire service. Join today!

We have also developed a task, purpose, and end state for the reading program to make its intent clear.

The Professional Reading Program is tasked with providing a program and delivery system of literature designed to foster leadership development at all levels of the fire service. It is here as an additional tool to help develop current and future leaders using reading to expand the breadth and depth of their leadership skills. The end state of the PRP is a sustainable and adaptable program that is engaged by leaders of all levels to support a continued growth in leadership through reading.

The WFDLP is issuing the 2017 reading challenge! The books chosen as the primary focus for this year are: Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin; Team of Teams by retired Army General Stanley McChrystal; The Art of Authenticity by Karissa Thacker; and Resilience by Eric Greitens.

The intent of the challenge is to promote the reading and discussion of the books throughout the year. Discussions are encouraged on the WFLDP Facebook page, the 2017 Wildland Fire National Leadership Campaign - Leading Authentically and anywhere you can find two people willing to chat about books and leadership.

This year we're also recommending a handful of other titles in addition to the focus books. The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons might be familiar to many leaders, as it's a follow-up book to a viral video that many have seen in leadership training. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek will also be familiar to many, as there are a few videos of his talks that are frequently used in leadership classes. Both of these titles will get a discussion guide later in the year.

In addition, we're recommending that folks pick one of Stephen Pyne's Fire Survey books (currently California, Florida, the Southwest, and the Northern Rockies are available), and read it with a mind toward thinking about how different fire and fire cultures can be in different parts of the country.

For anyone wanting to dive deeper into fire policy and history, we highly recommend reading Between Two Fires by Stephen Pyne. It explains quite well many of the reasons we got where we are today.

How to use the reading program
There's no right or wrong way to read, or to use this program. It's a tool that we've made available for anyone to use as they see fit. Most professional organizations maintain some sort of reading program, and reading followed by reflection is a valuable tool for leadership development.

You don't need to read all the books on the list, although that's great if you do. For most of the titles we've put together a basic "why should I read this" document with some simple questions meant to spark discussion. Feel free to use these discussion questions or come up with your own. You don’t have to agree with the authors, or even like what they have to say. The important part is to read, think about it, and talk about it!

Many local libraries offer digital access to digital books and audio books to their members. There are also many options for purchasing the books in hard copy or digital format.

Happy reading!

The 2017 Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program Professional Reading List

Extreme Ownership book coverExtreme Ownership by Jocko Willinks and Leif Babin
A great book on leadership with lots of applications in the fire environment, at the personal and organizational level. A must read for fire leaders. If you read only one book on leadership this year, this should be it.


Team of Teams book coverTeam of Teams by retired Army General Stanley McChrystal
A book on leadership that focuses on changing from top-down traditional leadership to dynamic leadership that's more effective in the modern information era. Focused on organizational leadership with many applications for fire leaders at any level.


The Art of Authenticity by Karissa ThackerThe Art of Authenticity book cover
When it's focused heavily on the corporate business environment, it also has many ideas and concepts that translate well into the fire world. Authentic leadership matters regardless of who are or where you work. Also ties in with the 2017 Campaign!


Resilience book coverResilience by Eric Greitens
Leadership starts with leading of self, and this book is a great tool for self-improvement as a leader and a person. Leadership starts with you, and as the author says, you need to get to get yourself right before you lead others.

The Invisible Gorilla book cover

The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons might be familiar to many leaders, as it's a follow-up book to a viral video that many have seen in leadership training.

Leaders Eat Last book coverLeaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
A book that examines what it means to be a good leader, and why we instinctively follow some leaders and not others. Many of the ideas will be familiar to wildland firefighters.


Between Two Fires book cover
\Between Two Fires by Stephen Pyne
A very thorough history of the American fire scene from the early days until recent events. Closely examines the events, policies and agencies that shaped American fire management. A lot to absorb, but well worth it for those looking to really think about how and why fire is managed the way it is in America.

Florida: A Fire Survey by Stephen Pyne
California: A Fire Survey by Stephen Pyne
The Northern Rockies: A Fire Survey by Stephen Pyne
The Southwest: A Fire Survey by Stephen Pyne

A combined series of essays and short stories about the people, places and organizations that shape each fire region. A great way to learn more about the cultures and natural process of places you may not have experienced.

If you have questions regarding the Professional Reading Program, send an e-mail to

Articles and official documents that are on the Web, such as accident investigations, are linked here. Many can be downloaded and printed. Many of the books are available in libraries. Most books listed are currently available on the Web through various sources such as Amazon at or Barnes & Noble at or Books Price at

All branches of the United States military have professional reading programs and a key part of those programs is the recommendation that every leader read at least two books a year. Many corporations have required readings for their supervisors and managers. For several hundred dollars, a fire organization can put together a good library from the titles on this list and implement a reading program on their home unit. How many of our young firefighters know what happened at South Canyon? How many have read anything that discusses the principles of sound leadership? How many have read stories from other disciplines or endeavors that describe leaders in action?

This is not busy work; this is not drudgery. These readings will provoke reflection, discussion, and debate. The selected titles have been chosen for their intrinsic excitement as well as their content. Many of the books will be hard to put down. Let this be your roadmap to an enjoyable and rewarding reading program.

The NWCG Leadership Subcommittee is the sponsor for this resource.