The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education
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The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  2,127 ratings  ·  278 reviews
A West Point grad, Rhodes Scholar, and Army Ranger recounts his unique education and struggles with the hard lessons that only war can teach.

One haunting afternoon on Losano Ridge in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Captain Craig Mullaney and his infantry platoon were caught in a deadly firefight with Al Qaeda fighters, when a message came over the radio: one of his soldiers had b...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published February 19th 2009 by Penguin Press HC, The (first published 2009)
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I live in California, and like most of the population in my town, I am as far to the left politically as it is possible to get. I have always had a negative view of the military in general and in particular, of the kind of person who would volunteer for it. It has seemed to me to be the sort of thing men (and to a lesser extent women) do who want to have power over others, and who need to feel superior to others. Needless to say, news from Abu Ghraib did nothing to change my perception of this....more
Nov 25, 2012 Caris rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
Before reading this, one should take account of who Craig Mullaney is: a high-ranking advisor in Barack Obama’s national security staff. While this recommends him as a military professional, it doesn’t bode well for his memoir. Far from being a tell-all about Army training and serving in a war zone, this sterile, boring shit is an inoffensive political autobiography that should only be read by the author’s grandmother or future employers. It is, in essence, a 400 page resume.

The book’s strengths...more
The title of Mullaney’s autobiographical account refers to a passage from Rudyard Kipling’s “If.”

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

Craig Mullaney has written a thoroughly compelling account of his passage through West Point, graduate work at Oxford, and platoon leader in Afghanistan, a turbulent, but growth-filled period of his life. Frequently, I found myse...more
A better title for Captain Mullaney's "The Unforgiving Minute" would be Professor Mullaney the Intellectual goes to War.

I am a reader who usually enjoys war narratives, and 'experiencing' things and places through books. However, I thought the book was heavy on boring detail, and the interesting parts could have been done in short story format. The pages and pages of details about such minor things as meals, weather, clothes, cooking, boring recounted conversations, haircuts, whatever, all shoul...more
I just finished The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier’s Education by Craig M. Mullaney this evening as I rode the stationary bike. In an attempt to understand Jack’s world, I have been drawn to books about military life. Typically this means reading books about military wives, but for some reason this book felt appropriate. It follows Mullaney as he enter West Point, studies at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, and ends up in Afghanistan post-9/11. You see him grow as a member of the Army and read about t...more
A West Point graduate (2nd in his class), Army Ranger, Rhodes scholar, world traveler, veteran of Afghanistan, and history professor at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Mr. Mullaney has plenty of interesting material for this autobiography.

I never knew what it took to be a West Point graduate and Army Ranger, and was really impressed by the discipline and hard work required. This glimpse into the life of a soldier really opened my eyes and gave me a new respect for the men and women who do these...more
Eloquent, engaging, enchanting, emotional. So much for my "e"literation of this powerful and compelling personal memoir. It takes its title from Chapter 29, page 279; a title which attracted me to place it on hold at my library several months ago. So after several months of patiently waiting it arrives and I am initially disappointed. I am going to have to wade through a personal narrative starting at Plebe Summer West Point. Been there, done that. However, once starting I quickly realize that t...more
Craig Mullaney grew up in South County, RI, graduated from Bishop Hendricken High School, attended West Point and Ranger School, studied at Oxford with a Rhodes Scholarship, and served in Afghanistan after 9/11. This memoir of his experiences in West Point and beyond is an evolving self-portrait of an intellectual young man who is strong of heart, mind and body, and who earns our respect as we watch him struggle to succeed at becoming a soldier, a scholar, and a man.

The Unforgiving Minute has r...more
I normally do not read anything in the military genre mostly because it's just too hard to read. I saw Craig Mullaney on The Daily Show and the interview was compelling enough that I checked the book out from the library.

This is an exceptional book. Mullaney writes about his time at West Point, going to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and leading a platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan, all before he turned 25. The book follows through with his life after war - ge...more
The Unforgiving Minute is about the training of Captain Craig Mullaney, U.S. Army. Craig starts out at West Point as part of training to be an infantry officer. He does the usual path of West Point and Ranger school, but also takes a detour, to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. And then to find out if the training was right, be leads men in battle in Afghanistan as part of the American effort in Operations Enduring Freedom.

Two underlying questions: First, was the best leadership education that the Uni...more
I liked getting the perspective of a West Point cadet, an Oxford scholar, and Afghanistan-stationed soldier. Craig Mullaney is not your average soldier (at least, not the idea of an "average" soldier I have in my head). After all, how many soldiers can say they spent time as a Rhodes scholar? Mullaney's intelligence comes through this book, especially in his choice of chapter epigraphs from the likes of Shakespeare and Dante. He ruminates about the notions of courage and bravery and what it take...more
I read this book over the long holiday weekend. I found it strangely compelling and much better than I expected. A relatively simple memoir of a soldier who happens to be about my age (late 20s, early 30ish,) the books covers his journey and eventual deployment as an infantry lieutenant in Afghanistan after 9/11.

Mullaney is an interesting author however, he came from a squarely blue collar New England family that I found easily to relate to. His family didn't have a history of military service a...more
A true story written of the experiences of a Army Ranger, West Point Graduate, and Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. There is not as much war as one might expect but rather life's experiences. I loved, laughed, and cried as I read this book. Thinking objectively I suppose this book will be more meaningful to those who have lived this life or one similar, to have had these experiences. If it can be read will an open heart it will help those who have never served in the military understand the service per...more
Well written autobiography, chronicling the life of an Officer's life in the Army and personal growth associated with leading men into battle.

The book made me continue to re-evaluate preconceived notions I have about the military. Oral histories and autobiographies, this one especially, provide a depth of understanding of the individual experience that is lost in a lot of the more polemical books I have read about war in general.

Yes, war is wasteful, often engaged in lightly by those in power an...more
A clearly written, emotionally and culturally revealing memoir of one self-disciplined person's young adult experiences as he pursues a military career. Not only does Mullaney attend West Point, he also pursues Ranger training, becomes a Rhodes Scholar (studying at Oxford before and after 9/11), and then serves in Afghanistan. Mullaney, a Catholic Rhode Islander, includes his emotionally complex father-son relationship as well as his interfaith challenges winning over his future wife (a medical...more
This beautifully written biography was a learning experience for me. The author detailed his life experiences as the child from a working-class family, a West Point cadet and graduate, an Army Ranger school graduate, a Rhodes scholar who earned two masters degrees at Oxford, an Afghanistan veteran of firefights and other challenges, and finally as a teacher of history at the U.S. Naval Academy. It is humbling to realize how dedicated our professional soliders must be and how complete is their ed...more
Destined to be a classic - this is a powerful, eloquent, and enlightening book. Knowing a fair amount about the rigors of some of his training, I am humbled by Captain Mullaney's ferocious drive and toughness, although his recounting of events includes his failings and mistakes as well as his successes and is sometimes hilarious at his own expense. From the perspective of middle age, I'm also humbled at the degree of wisdom he has somehow reached in his 20s. I hope to see more books from him, as...more
This memoir follows the life of an accomplished intellectual who happened to follow the path of war. Craig's writing style may not be particularly exciting, and his actions are not extraordinarily perfect, but the essence of his story is that it is believable. You can understand his shortcoming and struggles. No, The Unforgiving Minute isn't much of an action-packed novel of battle and suspense, as some readers may expect from a soldier's story. On the contrary, it addresses many aspects of ever...more
Russ Smith
This is the story of one man's personal journey primarily devoted to his interesting and unusual education, culminating in fighting for our country in Afghanistan. While I realize it is only one man, his insights are illuminating and no doubt speak for many. I agree with what was said on the back cover that every American should read this book. There is a price paid for our safety and ease of living. Why some people are willing to step up to protect others who are weaker or less willing than the...more
The book articulates well why even an unusually sensitive and self-reflective individual like the author would want to go to West Point. It also sheds light on the logic behind the many ostensibly pointless practices of the place. In fact, the book probably has more to offer non-military types than others. The author recounts his thoughts and experiences effectively. His discussion of the evolving relationship with his father is thought-provoking and moving.
The combat in Afghanistan makes up...more
Zachary Nelson
A story about Craig Mullaney and his journey through some extraordinary years of his life. The book begins at West Points, then to Oxford, and finally into his deployment to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan and its aftermath. I enjoyed reading about his perspective and lessons learned on academics, life, the military, family, friends, and his hardships. Being a Midshipmen, when he related all the lessons learned from West Point to his tour overseas and service after he graduated, I th...more
Sang Vo
I finish the memoir yesterday with that being my second time reading through it. The other time being about two years ago. It was better the second time because I understood where Mullaney was coming from in his days in the military.
The memoir begins at day 1 at West Point's reception and ends when visiting his brother prior leaving to Iraq. Between those times, a good 5-6 years, Mullaney shows the readers his days as student as well as a soldier. From his days at West Point, Oxford, Ranger Sc...more
When I saw the title of this book, I knew I wanted to read it. It is a line from my favorite poem entitled, "If" - written by the English poet, Rudyard Kipling.

Craig Mullaney offers an insightful, informative account of his years as a Westpoint Cadet, Rhodes Scholar, Infantry/Airborne Ranger and Soldier who served in Afghanistan.

His writing is engaging and has a talent as a story teller. His recounting of the events seems convincing and not at all contrived. I appreciate his humanity and though...more
Jeff Yoak
The Unforgiving Minute is an autobiography tracing the life of a modern soldier before during and after the current war in the middle east. It is broken into three major parts: student, solider and veteran. It's starts off as a fascinating read and slows down with each section. Fortunately, length drops off at about the same rate.

It was fascinating to get a look inside the walls of West Point. Military training itself is always interesting to me. That was really the high point. Description of th...more
Being an Afghanistan vet, it was great to read a book that I could relate to more often than not. Granted the author was an officer, it was good to see it from another point of view.

I do feel, however, that some parts of his book are dragged out more than what they should have been. For example, his time at Oxford, while quite the accomplishment, was not the most intriguing nor completely relevant to his 'unforgiving minute'.

I took to heart when he described his transition from Afghanistan to...more
Jul 23, 2012 Ka rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: memoirs
This book is by an Army vet, about hs training at West Point, his time (officially in the Army) as a Rhodes Scholar in Oxford, and his subsequent deployment to Afghanistan. The author, while clearly very intelligent and a hardworking student, just seems to suspend his critical thinking when it comes to all the Army's bullshit, accepting the tough-guy training and macho, xenophobic, 'America is #1' philosophy without question. Although he can see that the mission in Afghanistan is poorly executed...more
Eric Polleys
Craig M. Mullaney’s The Unforgiving Minute is a recent masterpiece that surpasses Jarhead by a large amount. I have read both books now and Jarhead fell short with its description of minor details and way of grabbing the reader. Previously to reading this book, I did not feel this way about Jarhead. It was Mullaney’s writing skills that made me realize this is what a nonfiction combat book should be like. Starting off with the intensity of the leaders at west Point where he was trained brings t...more
Just a few of my favorite quotes interlaced in his book:

"We all have but one death to spend." - John Alexander Hottell III

"One must learn to endure what one cannot avoid."

"Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet." - Afghan Proverb

"Your heart I take in mine. Whatever is in your heart shall be in mine, whatever is in mine shall be yours. Our hearts shall be one, our minds shall be one. May God make us one." - Panigrahana Vow

Perhaps because I'm dating a Captain in the US Army who also happened t...more
Jul 27, 2012 Sloane rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Sloane by: UK
As my first required reading book for college, I am pleased to say that The Unforgiving Minute does not disappoint.

The trying, complicated, heartfelt tale of a young boy becoming a man through the struggles of military academy, studies abroad, and war, Mullaney writes with the ease of a seasoned author with the enthusiasm of a fresh-faced writer.

Mullaney writes from the heart, withholding nothing. He shares both his personal struggles to fit his faith with his duties along with his journies acro...more
May 07, 2009 Kev rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: jeff, jay, aaron, clayton, mary-jane, catherine, jesse, mason
Recommended to Kev by: Jon Stewart Guest Appearance
This book is truly great. Craig is a scholar and soldier of rare heart, courage, intelligence and tenacious proficiency. He writes pretty well too.

The main thing about Craig I appreciated and learned from him is his brutal honesty to a level of self-awareness and vulnerability that is quite frankly shocking. You can't help but like this guy and be moved by his commitment to duty and honor. He's a regular guy too.

He loves the Kipling poem, "If," -- as do I -- from which the title is derived. He d...more
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