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

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

by Molly Guptill Manning


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“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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544570405
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 10/27/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 153,278
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.82(d)

About the Author

MOLLY GUPTILL MANNING is the author of The Myth of Ephraim Tutt. She is an attorney for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

1 A Phoenix Will Rise 1

2 $85 Worth of Clothes, but No Pajamas 17

3 A Landslide of Books 31

4 New Weapons in the War of Ideas 59

5 Grab a Book, Joe, and Keep Goin' 75

6 Guts, Valor, and Extreme Bravery 92

7 Like Rain in the Desert 113

8 Censorship and FDR's F - th T - m 133

9 Germany's Surrender and the Godforsaken Islands 151

10 Peace at Last 170

11 Damned Average Raisers 181

Afterword 193

Acknowledgments 195


A Banned Authors 198

B Armed Services Editions 202

Notes 233

Index 261

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When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is excellent! The author captures your attention from the very first page and holds it the whole way through. The book tells the story of theWW2 soldiers and how these books got them through the war. It is such an interesting read. Would make a great Christmas gift for anyone!
T_Powell More than 1 year ago
I loved this book.  It is filled with interesting details about World War II and the incredible book campaigns by librarians and publishers.  It is an amazing story about the power of books and how they helped the millions of men in the Army and Navy get through the war.  I wish my relatives who fought were still alive so I could ask them about the books they read while they served.  But, the book does an excellent job of discussing many soldiers' reactions.  Some letters from GIs are hilarious, and others will make your eyes fill with tears. I think just about anyone can read and appreciate this book.  It is one of the best that I've read recently.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
SandytheSailor More than 1 year ago
Personally, I am an avid reader and love history. This book kept me very interested till the end. I was never aware that so many books were shipped over seas to army, navy, etc. fighting during WWII. I did know that the Germans burned many books of great literature. It impressed me, that all the reading service men did, made readers out of them. Now I know how the rise of the paperback came about.
Mcfan97 More than 1 year ago
LOVED IT!! Great look back at a time in history that must not be forgotten. Never knew of this great book series that were given to keep up the spirits of our armed forces. Definitely recommend for history buffs, as well as those who love an uplifting story.
NewsieQ More than 1 year ago
I’ve heard and read that the Army’s motto should be “Hurry Up and Wait.” When Books Went to War shows us how all that down time was filled by military men (and military women kinda sorta) during World War II – with reading. The book tells the story of a unique collaboration among librarians, for-profit book and magazine publishers and the military services to provide reading material for those who were fighting on the front lines or toiling in the back office. Molly Guptill Manning makes the point that reading was not just a time-killer. For many military men, it was their first venture into reading books that weren’t required– pleasure reading, if you will. Based on the letters she quotes, opening the world of books to the uninitiated could be (and was) a life-changer for them. I’ve read about what a boost the GI Bill was for veterans from working-class families who might never have thought about attending college. Without the experience of reading the Armed Services Editions (ASEs) – fiction, non-fiction and textbooks -- many of them might not have had the preparation and confidence they needed to be successful in college. I love libraries and librarians, so I also relished learning about the American Library Association’s part in providing books for the military BEFORE the ASEs were available later in the war. All in all, When Books Went to War is a wonderful read, a “war story” that reminds us what the war was really about – freedom to read; freedom to think, playing out against the mass book burnings that occurred throughout Germany and the occupied countries during the war.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Information present clearly. I laughed, I cried, I said "wow, I did not know that!" Will be using it in our book group.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Before reading this book I never knew of these programs for our troops serving overseas//I enjoyed this very much and learned a great deal//A definitely recommend read! Thank you to all who braved the many hurtles and interferences to make the lives of our troops a little more bareable in unbareable conditions by something as simple as a book!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow. I'm quite intrigued....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fantastic book about books! ~*~LEB~*~
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read.
WordsIntheGenes More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. The fact that the government went all out to give our troops things to keep their minds occupied and off of the horrors around them should be more well-known. I would like to find and read some of the titles and wonder if my grandfathers had read them as well when they were stationed overseas.
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