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From the Library

November 26, 2019

After I posted about Gavin DeBecker’s The Gift of Fear, several readers responded with comments recommending Left of Bang. It was, no shit, the next one on the list for me to suggest anyway. The authors helped stand up the USMC “Combat Hunter” Program, and leveraged that experience to write this book.

In the training industry, a lot of bandwidth and ink is spent discussing the importance of “awareness” for avoiding trouble. The problem is, all too often, the people discussing this importance lack the ability intelligibly define “awareness,” let alone provide a method for actually practicing awareness, beyond “always keep your head on a swivel.” In my book The Reluctant Partisan, Volume 2, I spent a significant amount of time discussing this, including many of the concepts discussed in Left of Bang.
Like my book, but in far more depth, since it’s a single subject book, the authors spend a lot of time breaking down what awareness actually is, by providing the biometric and atmospheric indicators that constitute awareness, and then spend time discussing how to leverage and decipher those, both the universal ones and the cultural ones (an example is looking someone in the eye when speaking to them. In our culture, that’s a sign of respect and honesty. In other cultures, the exact opposite. One thing that takes guys deploying to the Middle East the first time a bit of getting used to…and other regions as well, to be sure…is the proximity in which it is “normal” to stand to other people, especially other males, during conversation. On the other hand, there are many physical cues that are universal human responses to stimuli, cross-culturally).

The one complaint I’ve ever heard about this book was from a dude who grew up in a really rough environment. He pointed out that he didn’t really learn anything he didn’t already know, from the book. I had the same experience. There wasn’t anything in the book I hadn’t learned, intuitively through experience.

The value of the book though, even in that context, was that it allowed me to better articulate what I was observing. This benefited me as a teacher, because I could better explain to students, exactly what indicators I was looking for, and why. As a dude who carries a gun in a society where the police and courts are still—at least arguably—functional, being able to articulate what I saw that convinced me I needed to punch some dude in the dick, or to shoot him, and WHY it convinced me that I needed to do so, may be the difference between ending up in prison, and going home to my family.

Most middle-class Americans are going to get a great deal of benefit out of this book. Some of it will be shit you know intuitively, although I’d be surprised if a dude who grew up WASP, went straight to college, and then into a professional field, didn’t learn SOMETHING from this book, that he wasn’t previously aware of. More importantly, even for those with considerable experience in shitholes, it will help provide a framework for explaining and understanding what you’re recognizing “in your gut.”

I highly recommend this book.

I have a pretty extensive library at home. Combined with stuff that is still in storage, waiting for the library building to be built on the farm, my wife and I have somewhere between 7500 and 8000 books. One of the things I’ve taken to doing is handing books to the guys in our training group to read.

One of them read these two a couple months ago, and has been nagging me ever since to post them in these From the Library segments. They’re that important, and that good.

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  1. Lathechuck permalink

    Speaking of libraries, what’s your plan for keeping your books dry and rot-free? I can run a mechanical dehumifier in my basement during the humid summer months, as long as the power stays up, but that might not be a sustainable solution. I can get a gallon of water per day from a small room with the door closed, so I don’t think that a cloth bag of desiccant is going to do much good. Since you’re building a library, I suggest that you consider bookcases with tight-fitting glass doors, which might make chemical moisture control feasible. I recently read that Sir Kenneth Clark used some of the wealth from his TV programs to accumulate a massive library of old books, which ended up rotting in his damp English castle! (However, google has been unable to verify this tale.)

    • MoreSigmasThanYou permalink

      Based on my own experience, which involves stupid mistakes, he should be able to construct something on well drained soil, use an air gap, and be fine. Also, you can test your library with a super reliable and accurate Hygrometer that doesn’t rely on batteries and costs four bucks.

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