Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Importance of Books

When Books Went to War by Molly Guptill Manning


When America entered World War II in 1941, we faced an enemy that had banned and burned over 100 million books and caused fearful citizens to hide or destroy many more. Outraged librarians launched a campaign to send free books to American troops and gathered 20 million hardcover donations. In 1943, the War Department and the publishing industry stepped in with an extraordinary program: 120 million small, lightweight paperbacks, for troops to carry in their pockets and their rucksacks, in every theater of war.

Comprising 1,200 different titles of every imaginable type, these paperbacks were beloved by the troops and are still fondly remembered today. Soldiers read them while waiting to land at Normandy; in hellish trenches in the midst of battles in the Pacific; in field hospitals; and on long bombing flights. They wrote to the authors, many of whom responded to every letter. They helped rescue The Great Gatsby from obscurity. They made Betty Smith, author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, into a national icon. When Books Went to War is an inspiring story for history buffs and book lovers alike.

Rate & Take


A little departure from my usual reading but so well worth it. I know as a reader the value of books to sooth, educate, excite, escape, enchant, and fall in love with. What I didn't know is what a big part of World War II they played to alleviate stress and boredom and to educate men, who in other circumstances would have never thought to turn to books. The sheer force of librarians, people on the home front, the government and military supporters, who in the end saw hundreds of thousands of books delivered to soldiers in the remotest of areas, is nothing short of miraculous to me. While Hitler was busy encouraging book burnings these A.S.E.'s (Armed Services Editions) were infiltrating a literature starved Europe and helped to keep some of the brain washing at bay. The printing of the ASE's themselves were another interesting part of this book as paper rationing and book size were two obstacles that printers had never faced before.
I can't say it loud enough...this book is a must read for anyone who loves books!! We may never again see another large scale acknowledgement and appreciation of books such as this era ignited.

Readers Note: When I started this book (I read it digitally) it seemed like it took forever to make progress even though I was reading a lot. Yes, I have become one of those people who watch the proverbial pot boil....also known as the percentage remaining in the book...a bad habit I fear I will never break. What I did not know was that the last 50% of the book listed all the books that were printed during the war years for the soldiers, both by title and author. A great resource to have. I have purchased one book from the list so far and hope to get a second soon.   

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