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About the Author

Molly Guptill Manning is the author of The Myth of Ephraim Tutt and has written several articles for the Columbia journal of Law and the Arts and other publications. She is an attorney for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York City.
Image credit: Molly Guptill Manning [Photo by Martin Bentsen]

Works by Molly Guptill Manning


Common Knowledge



The importance of books in World War II in Book talk (April 2016)


6 stars: ENjoyed parts of it

Amazon description: NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. While the Nazis were burning hundreds of millions of books across Europe, America printed and shipped 140 million books to its troops. The "heartwarming" story of 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 (New York Times).

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.


As an avid bibliophile I should not be surprised that men who had often hours of time to kill in horrible conditions would turn to books to take their minds off their troubles. This was an okay read, not as engaging as I would have liked but the history was mostly new to me of the various pocket sized editions. I used to run into some of these (and still have!!) often mystery books, in used bookstores.

I found it inspiring that Roosevelt (and the librarians who promoted this project) noted that books are at the very core of what was being fought for in WWII - the freedom to exist, including the freedom to read what you wanted to, against the backdrop of millions of books being burned in Germany. "Books have always housed the world's most powerful thoughts and ideas. It was not until WWII that those repositories of knowledge were refashioned into indomintable weapons of warfare. On one side, Mein Kampf spread Nazi ideaology and propaganda; hatred, and devastation. On the other, books spread ideas in the face of their very destruction, stimulated thought about the terms of a lasting peace, and built understanding. As Hitler waged total war, America fought back not just with men and bullets but with books. It is estimated that 100 million books perished over the course of the war... Through the efforts of the Council on Books in Wartime, over 123 million Armed /Services /editions were printed, ... plus 18 million additional books donated to American troops. More books were given to the American Armed Services than Hitler destroyed.
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PokPok | 62 other reviews | May 27, 2024 |
I was pretty excited to read When Books Went to War, because I love mass-market paperbacks. Getting books in the hands of as many people as possible is dope. The Armed Service Editions played a massive role in genre fiction history. Unfortunately, this book was a little light on meat and potatoes, and a little heavy on gushing testimonials about the program. Still, the story itself is a valuable one. Whatever caveats I might have about its lack of weightiness, When Books Went to War is still a digestible and engaging read.… (more)
Amateria66 | 62 other reviews | May 24, 2024 |
interesting read. Strange to say, it never occurred to me the impact the war would have had on something like the development of paperbacks or the democratization of higher education.
cspiwak | 62 other reviews | Mar 6, 2024 |
I was afraid this book would be dull, but I was quickly drawn into the story. I loved the idea that a group of librarians found a way to stand up against the censorship of the Nazi book burnings and that the publishers took it one step further to provide soldiers with books that were easy to carry with them into some pretty rough places. It was heartwarming to read the letters from grateful GIs and to learn that for some the books they were exposed to through the ASE program led to further education after the war. I knew nothing about this effort to provide books to the troops in WWII before reading this book, and I am pleased to learn that so many people worked hard to counteract the call to censorship and to provide books that enhanced the quality of life in difficult times. I'm appalled by the growing call to ban books from our schools and libraries in our present day. How can we ever be a discerning public if our children cannot read widely from diverse ideas and decide for themselves their value?

Speaking of librarians . . .before the war, 88% of librarians were men, after the war began, 88% were women. Charles P. Taft, a Cincinnatian, who worked for a government program that included the ASE program, said it would never work unless a layman--and he meant a MAN--headed it.
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NMBookClub | 62 other reviews | Feb 18, 2024 |



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