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.
This is an ideal book for World War II historians as well as librarians, or anyone who wants to read about something positive that happened during those difficult years.
I’d never heard of the Armed Services Editions, but how they came to be and what they did for the soldiers overseas was fascinating. It made me, as a librarian, consider what more could be done during current times to create something similar. I was also inspired by the fact that veterans credited the ASEs with their success in college after returning from the war. Simply by having these books available (and in need of distraction), men who had never read a book through became voracious readers.
The book itself was repetitive in parts, but was generally well-written and intriguing. A few days after finishing this book, I watched a movie set during WWII, and I kept watching to see if ASEs would make an appearance. I think this epic and worthwhile task needs more attention, and Manning’s book is a start.
– Review by Marleah