When Books Went to War

When Books Went to War

The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II

eBook - 2014
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While the Nazis were burning hundreds of millions of books across Europe, America printed and shipped 140 million books to its troops. The story of how the books were received, how they connected soldiers with authors, and how an army of librarians and publishers lifted spirits and built a new democratic audience of readers is as inspiring today as it was then.


“Heartwarming.” — New York Times

“Whether or not you’re a book lover, you’ll be moved.” — Entertainment Weekly

“A readable, accessible addition to World War II literature [and] a book that will be enjoyed by lovers of books about books.” — Boston Globe

“Four stars [out of four] . . . A cultural history that does much to explain modern America.” — 
USA Today

When America entered World War II in 1941, we faced an enemy that had banned and burned 100 million books. 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 rucksacks in every theater of war. These Armed Services Editions 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 helped rescue The Great Gatsby from obscurity and made Betty Smith, author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, into a national icon. When Books Went to War is the inspiring story of the Armed Services Editions, and a treasure for history buffs and book lovers alike.

“A thoroughly engaging, enlightening, and often uplifting account . . . I was enthralled and moved.” — Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried

Baker & Taylor
Chronicles the joint effort of the U.S. government, the publishing industry and the nation's librarians to boost troop morale during World War II by shipping 120 million books to the front lines for soldiers to read during what little downtime they had. 35,000 first printing.

Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
ISBN: 9780544535176
Branch Call Number: eBook
Characteristics: 1 online resource
text file
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc


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Oct 13, 2018

Reading played a needed role for American servicemen during WWII, and it plays a vital role today. There is just nothing that can replace holding a book, turning a page, or reaching "The End." The Armed Services Editions helped countless soldiers get through the war, and made lifelong readers out of many who otherwise would've kept to the comics and sports pages of their local newspaper.

VaughanPLDavidB Feb 13, 2017

I obtained an uncorrected proof of this book a couple of years ago, and I've just gotten around to reading it. What an eye-opener! I am a librarian and I was totally unaware that such a massive undertaking had taken place. We are all at least vaguely aware of the massive mobilization of men and materiel for the war. What most people I think are not aware of is the essential contribution of the provision of immense quantities of books to the morale of those in the armed services. Not only did the Armed Services Editions program improve morale, but it flew in the face of the Nazi's concerted efforts to restrict ideas, down to the outright burning of books. This program literally created an army of readers and played no small part in making America the economic juggernaut it became when all those men returned from overseas.

Dec 01, 2016

What a wonderfully surprising little book. It was full of interesting information that I had never heard about before. Well written and engrossing.

Sep 09, 2016

Service men get to read banned books in certain cities back home thanks to committee was so ironic.
It made sense for committee to distribute wide selection of paperback to the jittery & bored troops given hardcover too bulky.
Not surprised their British counterparts wanted to read them too given UK book publishers got bombed in battle of Britain.
Not surprised librarians helped returning GI in peacetime on GI bill benefits.
It had huge economic spinoff in paperback industry as servicemen wanted to read more.

Jul 06, 2016

This is an exhaustive report on how different groups teamed with the government to provide U.S. soldiers and sailors books to read during and after World War II. The cooperative efforts helped boost morale for the armed services at a time when trials were typical.

Jul 02, 2016

This book introduced me to a part of WWII history that I had only heard about in passing. As a book lover, Manning's story of the ASE books that were published for the soldiers reminded me that reading could indeed open up new vistas to the reader and fight the monotony of a soldier's life. I had never thought about the long hours that our soldier's endured waiting for action - these simple paperback books diverted them from anxiety and fear as they became involved in the stories. There were so many books published and many of the combatants had never been readers before their induction into the services. Manning emphasizes that the reading experience introduced them to all kinds of literature and nonfiction and that many of these soldiers became life-long readers because of this. I especially enjoyed her quoting the many letters received by the authors and publishers - this made the experiences of the soldiers more real. While reading the book, I thought how the armed services in today's world had a plethora of entertainment options that weren't available to the "greatest generation" and imagine that books do not have the same impact as they did in the 1940s.

Oct 22, 2015

LP, e-book, AD formats. The audio is excellent (IMO). 1933 the German gov't had one night celebration to burn more than a million books that were not 'good German' thinking. The ASEs Armed Service Editions were specifically made for US servicemen to carry on their person. This proved beneficial to reduce stress, calm the minds & help the moments of waiting . The unexpected benefit made readers of men of all walks of life, expanding their worlds. Military people today would likely find these reads boring due to the societal changes. I found this an excellent read, very educational.

Aug 25, 2015

This book was very interesting and at times poignant. I learned a lot about the cultural battle of WWII that the US waged from reading it. Who'd have thought librarians and publishers would have such an impact on service men and women's morale across the globe! Worth reading.

KCLS_Gerry Jan 08, 2015

This tells an amazing story about sending books to the soldiers and sailors during WW2.
They read in foxholes with bombs falling around them. They read on ships out at sea.
And many wrote letters to the authors expressing love for their stories.


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