Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#6: When Books Went to War (Molly Guptill Manning)

on April 29, 2016

I decided it was time to read a little non-fiction in this year’s reading adventure. The book’s cover immediately grabbed my attention. A World War II soldier sits in a dirt bunker among heavy vegetation with a moss-covered helmet designed to hide him from the enemy. What is that in his hand? It’s not a rifle or a grenade; the soldier is clearly engrossed in a tiny paperback book.

When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II is a fascinating exploration of the U.S. response to Nazi Germany’s book burnings. Beginning with book donations collected by American librarians, the impact of reading on soldier morale was quickly identified. The only problem was the size and weight of the books. In an unexpected turn of events, the Federal Government stepped in and produced thousands of American Service Editions (ASEs), tiny paperback editions that easily fit in a soldier’s pocket.

ASEs appeared throughout the war’s various theaters….in hospitals, bases, and the front line. Soldiers applauded the representative authors for providing insightful stories that connected them to the home they had left behind. The reader will be surprised by the vast library created by the ASEs and the genres represented in the pocket editions. You will chuckle as you read about the politics that hampered the project throughout its existence. You will be amazed as you visualize men and women escaping into the words of a novel as they face mortal danger.

When Books Went to War is not a typical read for me. Still, it was an enjoyable book that was both entertaining and informative.

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