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.
“When Books Went to War is a thoroughly engaging, enlightening, and often uplifting account of America’s counterattack against Nazi Germany’s wholesale burning of books. During World War II, the U.S. government, along with librarians and publishers, dispatched millions of books to American GIs, sailors, and flyers, using the written word itself as a powerful reply to tyranny, thought control, absolutism, and perverse ideology. I was enthralled and moved.”
“Intriguing . . . A fresh perspective on the trials of war and the power of books.”
“Well written, carefully researched, and drawing upon primary sources and news articles, this book brings to life a little-known part of World War II culture. VERDICT: Highly readable and extremely appealing, this book is perfect for any bibliophile or historians interested in the stories from the home front.”
“Delightful…Engrossing…Manning’s entertaining account will have readers nostalgic for that seemingly distant era when books were high priority.”
“[A] crisply written and compelling new history of America’s effort to comfort and inspire its soldiers with good books . . . Manning’s When Books Went to War is both a tribute to the civilizing influence of books and a careful account of what it took – a lot – to ensure that U.S. fighting men had the right stuff to read. . . Manning’s portrait of this seemingly prosaic slice of the war effort is more than colorful; it’s also a cultural history that does much to explain modern America.”
“Whether or not you’re a book lover, you’ll be moved by the impeccably researched tale. Manning not only illuminates a dusty slice of WWII history that most of us know nothing about but also reminds us, in the digital era of movies and TV, just how powerfully literature once figured in people’s lives. Grade: A.”