AoM Book Club November 2013: Gates of Fire

by Jeremy Anderberg on October 26, 2013 · 23 comments

in Book Club, Travel & Leisure


In the month of November, the AoM Book Club will be digging into Gates of Fire, a historical novelization of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield. To say this book is manly is a vast understatement. It is used as reading material at West Point, Marine Corps Basic School, Virginia Military Institute, and more.

In case you aren’t familiar, the Battle of Thermopylae, in real life, pitted a few thousand Greek men against at least 100,000 Persians. Leading the Greek charge was the Spartan King Leonidas. In Gates of Fire, we see the battle through the eyes of a warrior named Xeones. We learn about Spartan life, training, discipline, battle strategy, courage…and much, much more. Reading it will fill you with manly thumos. Brett has been working his way through all of Pressfield’s historical battle novels, and we’ll even see a post on the main site this month from what he’s been learning.


We’re going to try something different this month and only have two discussions on the book instead of one every week. The first discussion will go up on Monday, Nov. 11, and will cover the first four “books” (around 200 pages). The second discussion will go up on Monday, Nov. 25.

How to Join the Book Club

We make announcements about the book club here on the main site, while housing the book’s discussion over on the AoM Community in a private group called “The Official Art of Manliness Book Club.” In addition to online discussion in the group forums, the club offers other great features including video chats and Q&As with some literary experts on the subjects of our discussions.

To join the AoM Book Club you pay a one-time $1 membership fee (the aim of this nominal fee is to simply keep out trolls and hopefully increase your commitment). If you’ve already joined the book club group and paid, you don’t have to do so again. You’ll have access to all our discussions, notes, video chats, and expert Q&As from here on out.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chris Pelletier October 26, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Read this a year ago and it was both riveting and eye opening. I’ve made it a hobby to study warfare, both ancient and modern, so I had some appreciation for the experiences the author would take the protagonist through but to see them described as well as it was in this book was outstanding and clarifying. I’ve used excerpts from this book in my high school history courses before because of how well it deals with this brutal material.

2 michael leyh October 27, 2013 at 8:40 am

I read this book several years ago and it’s high time to read it a second time. This is one of those rare books that will stay in my bookshelf as a virile reference for as long as I live.

3 Andrew H. King October 27, 2013 at 1:45 pm

This is a fantastic book!

4 Shaun October 27, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Unlike the other commenters, I haven’t heard of this book before and my knowledge of the battle of Thermophypia was limited to a vague memory from a History of Western civilization course back in college and the movie the 300. Although generally I don’t like to get my history from historical novels it sounds like this is well researched and I’m looking forward to getting into it.

@ Chris ” I’ve used excerpts from this book in my high school history ” I bet your class is great. Keep it up. You might want to look at Washington’s Crossing if you cover American History. Great account of the times and the battle of New York, American retreat and then the Deleware crossing.

5 Alex October 27, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Fantastic Book

6 Chris Pelletier October 27, 2013 at 7:03 pm

@Shaun – Thanks for the compliment. Not sure I deserve it. I’m only in my second year but I try to bring things into my classes you might not normally expect. Helps to keep the students attention and reduces fis of “but I already read that.”

I’ll look into that book. I’m always looking into great books to use in class. Thanks for the recommendation.

7 Doug Johnson October 28, 2013 at 7:11 am

Great book. His book The Warrior Ethos, which goes well with this book, is a great read as well.

8 Alan West October 28, 2013 at 10:18 am

I read Gates of Fire right after it was published in paperback and have lent my copy out more times than I can count. It will be good to read this one again.

9 Paul October 28, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Just started reading it, I’m about 50 pages deep but this book is awesome so far.

10 Stephen October 29, 2013 at 9:53 am

Read this book ages ago, and it was a great read. I keep meaning to read it again, but the book stack is high.

11 Deacon October 29, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I read this book about once every two years. I just finished the 4th reading about 2 months ago. Pressfield did so much reseach for this literary work. Yet it is written as a novel. The storyline and character development make it nearly impossible to put down, even on the 4th time reading it. To learn more of the Spartan way of discipline, dedication to country, constitantly training, Aphobos(the opposite of fear) and love for family is a great refresher course for all men. READ THIS BOOK!

12 Jesse October 29, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Looking forward to this book! New member to the book club. Pressfield was just talking about it on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast about a week ago. Nice timing.

13 Shane-san October 30, 2013 at 7:56 pm

This is probably my favorite book. I have read and annotated it more than once. Grad school and other commitments kept me from contributing to the great Gatsby and the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. I do not want to miss this one!

14 Joe K October 30, 2013 at 8:49 pm

This is a phenomenal book, I often recommend it to strangers I meet! Another one I read by Pressfield is Tides of War; do yourselves a favor, boys, pick this one up. Pressfield does his homework as well as he did it in ‘Gates.’

I also read his, War of Art, a quick read but powerful.

15 An Idle Dad October 31, 2013 at 9:07 pm

I’m still finishing off For Whom the Bell Tolls! I just finish each ten chapters then refer to the appropriate questions.

Love the book club, just need more reading time!

16 Kevin October 31, 2013 at 10:32 pm

My son turned me on to this book a few years ago. I read it on the plane to Acapulco. When I landed, I felt ready to take on the entire Mexican army. I would have lost, but I would still have taken them on. Purely a man’s book.

17 Rich November 2, 2013 at 10:17 am

If you enjoy Stephen Pressfield, I would also recommend his book regarding Alexander the Great, “The Virtues of War”. In some ways, I enjoyed this more than “Gates of Fire” (I know, I just upset some fans with that comment). Please give it a read before you judge me too harshly on that one. Both are great and “Gates of Fire” is an exceptional work and I am glad to have read it and actually have the opportunity to sit in on a small group discussion with Mr. Pressfield in regards to it during my undergraduate studies. Smart man, great books, and lessons to be learned for any man wanting to live life the right way.

18 Nathan November 3, 2013 at 5:31 pm

eBook vs Real Book, thoughts?

19 william November 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm

im looking forward to beginning the reading of this book, i love classical history, so this is a no brainer for me.
i live in mexico, dont doubt yourself, you may actually win taking on the mexican military haha.

20 Jason Keough November 13, 2013 at 10:50 pm

One of my favorite books and I’ve read everything Pressfield has published. Try “Virtues of War”. It’s another Pressfield gem about Alexander The Great told in first person.

21 Frank November 29, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Interesting! Will try to read it. On another subject, and maybe this has been asked before but, does anybody know the name of the painting used for this series? The worker reading? Thanks!

22 Brad January 1, 2014 at 10:35 pm

I received this book from a mentor before attending Ranger school. One of the best books I have read which captures the warrior’s ethos. I pull out my paperback copy and read this once a year. Excellent book no matter what path you walk in life.

23 Mark Bickham January 8, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Read this book twice…it is that good. A terrific tome about leadership, courage, and devotion to one’s self to a bigger ideal and willingness to sacrifice yourself for your fellow man. Not to mention the defense of western civilization. Many lessons to be learned for today’s men. It is being used as a textbook at several military academy’s such as West Point and VMI.
I also recommend the other novels by Pressfield.

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