When Books Went to War – 120 Million Books, Needy Soldiers and Sailors, All Remind Us Why Books Can Matter


When Books Went to WarWhenever a soldier needed an escape, the antidote to anxiety, relief from boredom, a bit of laughter, inspiration, or hope, he cracked open book and drank int eh words that would transform him elsewhere.
Every soldier and sailor abided by a strict policy of swapping and exchanging books, no matter how worn.
The government supplied more than 120 million free books to ensure that America’s fighting men were equipped with spirit and resolve to carry them through their battles.
Molly Guptill Manning, When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II

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This was a remarkable first few pages.  Molly Guptill Manning’s When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped us Win World War II opens with the moving story of a Marine who wrote a letter to Betty Smith after reading, re-reading, crying through, and cherishing her book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  He had fought; he had malaria, and was holed up in a hospital; and he read, and re-read this book that pulled him through.

I read about When Books Went to War in the New York Times (not entirely favorable) review.  And last night, I went through one of my reading binges of sample pages (including the first few pages of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas).  In the old days, I used to spend an afternoon or two at a book store — in the old, old days, sitting on the floor at the book store — with stacks of books, just going through them to see which ones I should buy (I always bought more than I should have).  Today, it is a Kindle-app-sample-pages reading binge era.  But the results are always the same.  I find some books not worth the effort, and books that I wish I could read.  So many books, so little time.

If you read the sample pages of When Books Went to War, you will (re)-discover this — a book can do what a blog post or a web article cannot do.  You lose yourself in the book.  You become completely immersed.  A book owns you for a while, then works its magic — it comforts you, or challenges you, or moves you, or informs you, or, in some cases, changes you.

My reading binge of sample pages was a nice reminder that reading a book is a wonderful privilege.

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