When Books Went To War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II (Paperback)

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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.

“A thoroughly engaging, enlightening, and often uplifting account . . . I was enthralled and moved.”—Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried

A cultural history that does much to explain modern America. —USA Today

About the Author


MOLLY GUPTILL MANNING is a staff attorney at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and sits on the board of editors of the Federal Bar Council Quarterly. She earned a B.A. and M.A. in American history from the University at Albany and a J.D. at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Molly lives in Manhattan with her husband.

Praise For…


"WhenBooks 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." — Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried  "Intriguing . . . A fresh perspective on the trials of war and the power of books." -- Kirkus Reviews "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." -- Library Journal "Delightful...Engrossing...Manning's entertaining account will have readers nostalgic for that seemingly distant era when books were high priority." -- Publishers Weekly “[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.”  -- USA Today.com   "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." -- Entertainment Weekly  —

Product Details
ISBN: 9780544570405
ISBN-10: 0544570405
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publication Date: October 27th, 2015
Pages: 304
Language: English