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When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II (2014)

by Molly Guptill Manning

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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9506122,138 (3.94)1 / 146
History. Military. Nonfiction. HTML:

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.

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 Book talk: The importance of books in World War II11 unread / 11Diane-bpcb, April 2016

» See also 146 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
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 | 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. ( )
  NMBookClub | Feb 18, 2024 |
Really interesting book. It's hard to imagine soldiers being able to immerse themselves in a book while they're hip deep in nasty foxholes but this book brings it back to life. Some of the letters from the GIs to the authors are so sweet and moving. And it gets better--an appendix with a complete list of the ASE titles! Because everybody needs more books on their to-read list, right? ( )
  dhenn31 | Jan 24, 2024 |
As a prose stylist, Ms. Manning tends occasionally to lapse into sterile textbookese. Nonetheless, she offers a well-researched and concise history of a fascinating moment in the literary life of United States that tells, in fact, several stories about the power of emotions and ideas in our common intellectual life.
  Mark_Feltskog | Dec 23, 2023 |
Hitler’s “total war” included a war on books and the ideas they contained. The grim beginning of this war is described in the foreword to Steven Vincent Benét’s work “They Burned the Books”, recounting the thousands of books that were burned in a symbolic gesture in Berlin in 1933.

“On May 10, 1933, a tribe of barbarians retreated to the dark forests of the mind from which they had come, and made a bonfire of twenty-five thousand books in which men had set down their belief in themselves. These books included the great classics of the modern world, and later a ban was laid against the Word on which the conscience of Christendom rests - the Old Testament and the New. The burning and banning of these books, as symbolic as the Crucifixion itself, was a declaration of war, a war against mankind waged by that part of mankind that wishes to be less than itself.”


It was the beginning of the bibliocaust of WWII. By the end of this war, 100 million books had been destroyed, either intentionally in sanctioned book burnings, or as casualties of fire, bombings, etc.

America launched a counter-offensive in the war on ideas by creating the Victory Book Campaign and the Council on Books in Wartime. Together, these two groups collected and produced books for the servicemen overseas to read and take comfort in. It was described as the most successful morale-boosting activity of the war.

By the end of the war, they had produced and sent 123 million books overseas to both the European and Pacific theaters, thereby exceeding the number destroyed by war.
( )
  medwyn1066 | Nov 28, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
'“When Books Went to War” is at its most compelling when it lets the ASE program speak for itself, through dramatic anecdotes or quotes from servicemen. Otherwise, as a history of the program, it’s comprehensive but flat.'

'Manning’s book, flawed as it may be, fills a void.'
added by jodi | editThe Washington Post, Maureen Corrigan (pay site) (Jan 30, 2015)
 
"Manning's entertaining account will have readers nostalgic for that seemingly distant era when books were high priority."
added by jodi | editPublishers Weekly (Dec 15, 2014)
 
"A fresh perspective on the trials of war and the power of books."
added by jodi | editKirkus Reviews (Sep 14, 2014)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Molly Guptill Manningprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dunne, BernadetteNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sullivan, MichaelaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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People/Characters
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Important events
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Epigraph
Dedication
For my husband, Christopher Manning
First words
"Were you ever so upset emotionally that you had to tell someone about it, to sit down and write it out?" a Marine asked in a letter to the author Betty Smith.
Quotations
“Books are weapons in the war of ideas” - the slogan of the Council on Books in Wartime.
From books, soldiers extracted courage, hope, determination, a sense of selfhood, and other qualities to fill voids created by the war. (45)
As Americans taunted death and marched toward victory in Europe in 1945, they were carrying thousands of copies of titles that were forbidden in the lands they walked on. (151)
What weapons could be more fitting for the liberation of a continent than the very books that had been banned and burned there? (152)
As millions of veterans returned home, many would bring with them a love of reading that they did not have when the first went off to war. (180)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (3)

History. Military. Nonfiction. HTML:

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.

.

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Book description
Covers the Victory Book Campaign, 1942–1943, a civilian program for supplying reading material to the armed services men. Second section tells the story of The Council of Books in Wartime, which created the Armed Services Editions.
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