Bonnie Amos said she had “one of those aha moments” while discussing books for military families with her husband: Why not create a recommended reading list for military spouses, and make the books available at base libraries and exchanges?
An “aha moment” for this Marine wife has the potential to affect many others, because the husband she was talking to is Gen. James Amos, the current Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Gen. Amos, like the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, maintains a recommended reading list for his troops. His book choices, also like those of the other chiefs of staff, are mainstays on exchange and library shelves worldwide. Bonnie Amos’s idea was to create a similar list – with similar clout – for spouses. The result, the First Lady of the Marine Corps Recommended Reading List, is not intended to tell people what they should read, but to make military family books more available on Marine Corps installations.
“Part of my drive here in this position is to be able to do more for our families,” Mrs. Amos said. With this book list, rolled out this week, she said, “We feel like we’ve drawn some of the best of the best.”
Earlier this year, with input and research from other military members and spouses, Mrs. Amos began to compile a list of books by and for military spouses and families on a range of topics pertinent to military life. The titles include about 20 books for adults and children, both fiction and non-fiction.
“Because we’ve been at war for so long and … we are deployed so much,” Mrs. Amos said, “for many of our children and our young spouses, this is the only life they have known. There’s another side of the military life, and many of these books present that so well,” she said. “They are about recovery from deployments and readjustment back to what we like to think is a normal lifestyle for a couple.”
Choosing the books may have been the easy part, because so much material has been written about military life in recent years. Making the books available on Marine bases worldwide was the other objective. Mrs. Amos worked with representatives of the Marine Corps Exchange, Marine Corps libraries and the Marine Corps Association to accomplish that.
The plan, which uses existing funds from the participating agencies, calls for books to be shelved together and clearly marked for easy access in libraries and exchanges.
“They will be in libraries on the major USMC bases and stations throughout CONUS, Hawaii and Japan by the end of October,” said Cindy Shipley, library program manager for Marine Corps headquarters. “These titles will be an important part of building our library collections to meet our unique military library patrons’ needs.”
Online retailers like Amazon are usually the best source for books about military life. This is convenient, but Mrs. Amos said giving such books an on-base presence just makes sense, and utilizing military sources benefits the military community.
“It seemed like a natural place to be able to have these books where our families gather at some time in their tour,” she said.
Cheryl Lemmon, General Merchandise Manager for the Marine Corps Exchanges, said, “We want to be able to tell these spouses, ‘Go to the exchange. That is where you will find books specific to your world.'”
Including books by military spouse authors in her reading list was especially important, Mrs. Amos said.
“Who better to tell the Marine Corps story – the military lifestyle – than our military spouses?” she asked.
Books representing niche audiences like the military are often published by smaller companies or are self-published and unlikely to get the attention of book distributors serving the exchange program. Ironically, this makes it harder for military books to reach military readers who shop at military exchanges. So Mrs. Amos and her team got creative.
"This is where the Marine Corps Association has come in,” she said. “They will go in and purchase those books and supply them to the exchanges,” as well as making them available at MCA locations and online.
Lynn Khanna, director of retail for the Marine Corps Association and Foundation said the book list, with active links to order each one, is also on the organization’s web site, marineshop.net. Shipping to APO and FPO addresses is available.
This reading list aims to place and maintain more books for military spouses and families on the shelves on Marine Corps installations and in the hands of military families.
First Lady of the Marine Corps Recommended Reading List:
(Mrs. Amos said the list will be updated as needed to stay abreast of new books and the needs of families.)
Separated by Duty, United in Love by Shellie Vandevoorde
1001 Things to Love about Military Life by Tara Crooks, Star Henderson, Kathie Hightower and Holly Scherer
Help! I'm a Military Spouse -- I Get a Life Too, by Kathie Hightower and Holly Scherer
Confessions of a Military Wife by Mollie Gross
The Military Spouse's Employment Guide: Smart Job Choices for Mobile Lifestyles by Janet Farley
The Road Home: Again. Smoothing the Transition Back from Deployment by Elaine Dumler
Transformation: The Mindset You Need. The Body You Want. The Life You Deserve by Bill Phillips
Faith Deployed Again by Jocelyn Green
Courage After Fire: Coping Strategies for Troops Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and Their Families by Keith Armstrong, Suzanne Best and Pete Domenici
Wounded Warrior, Wounded Home by Marshele Waddell and Kelly Orr
The 17-Day Diet by Mike Moreno
Service Etiquette, 5th Edition by Cherlynn Conetsco and Anna Hart
A Families Guide to the Military for Dummies by Sheryl Garrett and Sue Hoppin
The Day After He Left for Iraq by Melissa Seligman
Eating For Life by Bill Phillips
Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson
Heroes at Home: Help and Hope for America’s Military Families by Ellie Kay
Don't Forget, God Bless our Troops by Jill Biden
A Salute to Our Heroes: The U.S. Marines by Brandon Barnett and Rebecca Wochner
Our Daddy is Invincible by Shannon Maxwell
Big Boss Brain by Shannon Maxwell
Moving Again Mom by Angela Sportelli-Rehak
Marine Corps Exchanges announced events at stateside exchanges this month to introduce the First Lady of the Marine Corps recommended reading list:
- Oct 20, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Mrs. Amos will be at the MCB Quantico’s MCX main store along with authors Holly Scherer (1001 Things to Love about Military Life and Help I'm a Military Spouse), and Shannon Maxwell (Big Brain Boss and Our Daddy Is Invincible).
- Oct 26, 10:00 a.m. to noon: Mrs. Amos will be at the MCRD San Diego MCX main store along with Mollie Gross (Confessions of a Military Wife) and Shellie Vandevoorde (Separated By Duty, United By Love).
- Oct 26, from 2 to 4 p.m., Mrs. Amos will be at MCAS Miramar MCX main store with Mollie Gross and Shellie Vandevoorde.