When Books Went To War – by Molly Guptill Manning (2014)

When Books Went To War

Did you know that during World War II, Europe lost approximately 100,000,000 printed books? It began with Hitler’s followers conducting book-burning events, targeting books by Jewish authors and books that held views different from their own. Then lists were made for the general public, advising them that they might not want to be caught during a home inspection with such books. The lists grew longer. Fear built up, and people began burning any of their own books that were deemed objectionable. As the Nazis bombed country after country, entire libraries were obliterated.

Adolph Hitler was an evil man, but he was not stupid. He realized the power of written words to motivate people, to educate and inform them, to influence the masses, and to lift discouraged spirits. Taking away books was just one of the ways he used to control and intimidate the conquered.

Then the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor, and was pulled into the war. As ordinary Americans were drafted and sent for training to become soldiers, librarians across the country came up with a brilliant idea. They wanted to supply all the troops with books to keep their morale up, and to give them a diversion from the horrors of war. Publishers, librarians, Congress and ordinary citizens all worked together to supply soldiers with books, and later to help bring books to Europe.

I absolutely loved this book! It’s rare now to find people that impassioned about books and reading (which is sad).  The letters that the soldiers wrote home, describing the relief that the books brought, were heart-warming. For many, it was a life-line that helped them keep their sanity. Men who had never had an interest in reading were totally hooked on reading by the end of the war. Of all the non-fiction books I have read this past year, this was among my favorite.



The Season Of Thankfulness, Day 6


2015-01-04 bookshelf b

It’s something we take for granted – the ability to read. We use the gift of literacy to get a high school diploma then hopefully a college degree. We use it to communicate with co-workers every day  by e-mail. When we’re in need of a different car, we read safety reviews to help us in our decision. As our kids grow, we read up on how to raise them well. If our laptop starts malfunctioning, chances are we google the problem, and find solutions to get it working again. When the doctor gives us a diagnosis we don’t like, we research the condition online to get the full scope of the situation, and possible cures. And when we’re tired from a long day, some of us curl up with a good book and travel to the land of fiction.

Reading isn’t always a solitary experience. Some of my best memories from elementary school are when the teacher would read a book, a chapter each day (sometimes two if we begged enough). As a young adult, I and several friends read through books aloud in our apartment, taking turns reading. And in Bible study groups, we read from the Bible together.

Whatever your experience is with reading – whether you love it or struggle with it – it still is a gift to be grateful for.


Great Reading Month

Summer Reading
Photo credit: http://www.christianstudentsoncampus.com/

July was a really, really good reading month for me. I just couldn’t seem to stop reading, and whipped through nine books, doing book reviews on seven of them. Books from my local library, downloadable audio-books that I listened to on my phone, even one book that was fetched from the Melcat state-wide lending program. Yes, it was a very good month!

The only thing wrong with a great reading month like July is when it ends. Tuesday morning I turned over the kitchen calendar page to August. Suddenly we’re starting to focus on the kids going back to school, and doing those projects we’ve been meaning to do this summer. In a few weeks, the easy-going lifestyle of summer will switch to a more rigid routine. Routine’s not a bad thing, and keeps us from inertia. But as I like to say, there’s always time to squeeze in a good book.

March Is National Reading Month!

Book Knowledge Tree NS
Photo credit:

While volunteering in our local school library yesterday morning, I found out that March is National Reading Month, although I can’t honestly tell you who declared it so. Was it the American Library Association, the Head Start program, the Department Of Education, the president of the United States? But does it even matter who started it?

It’s still cold and dreary outside, so what could be better than curling up with a book, or listening to an audio-book while you’re driving, or laughing over a book with a small child? Look around your house for a book to read – or re-read one of your old favorites. If you can’t find one, log on your library’s website, and check out their e-book selection. If you want to outright buy yourself a book, there’s always Amazon’s Kindle store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook selections, or an actual walk-in bookstore. Whatever way you choose to do it, enjoy reading this month!


Personalized Book Suggestions

photo credit: Huffington Post

Believe it or not, I often have a terrible time finding a book to read. Sounds crazy, right? There’s so much to choose from now, and maybe that’s part of the problem. We live in a time when tens of thousands of books are available – at multiple public libraries, at the download section of the library’s website, school/college libraries, amazon’s kindle store, audible.com, and regular bookstores. In this glut of books, I have noticed two things:
1, there are a lot of books using the same tired story-line, and 2, a lot of books are just plain trash with authors competing for the raunchiest details.

I often start three or four books before finding one that I actually like. I’ve looked at book recommendations online, but there’s so many of them that it’s overwhelming. Also, what one person calls a must-read book might be a total bore for someone else. So a week ago I signed up for Personalized Picks at my local library. After completing a detailed survey, they e-mailed a suggestion list of ten books. It looks promising, and I grabbed a few books from the library.

So if you’re having the same problem I am, consider getting a personalized list from your local librarian!

The Death Of Bookstores

jmp 001 bookstore

photo credit:  http://www.twincities.com/2017/02/15/stillwater-bookstore-sold-to-local-merchant-closing-in-july/

It seems like every time I read a news story about bookstores, it’s about them closing. Doesn’t matter if they’re selling used books or new books – they are going out of business. The picture above shows the owner of St. Croix Antiquarian Books in the used bookstore he started in 2001. The doors will close at the end of July of this year, since he is retiring and none of his kids want to take over the business. Little Willow Books in Massachusetts is already closed. Barnes and Noble have been steadily closing bookstores in their chain for over 15 years. Today I read that Family Christian Bookstores, which has over 240 stores in dozens of states will be closing all of their stores.

In the days before the internet, I would go into a bookstore and browse a bit to see what was new. Occasionally I would buy a book, but at an average cost of $25 a pop for a new hardcover, the price was just too high for our family budget. But times have changed. I go online to look for ideas of what to read next. When I find a book worthy of owning and re-reading, I look on Amazon for a used copy. Most of the time, however, I simply go to my local library and borrow the books instead of buying them.

I feel a great sadness for the many used bookstores out there, as they are generally one-of-a-kind, family endeavors. They each have a unique smell and feel, and reflect the person that owns them. At my favorite used bookstore (about an hour away), I love to walk across the old squeaky wooden floorboards, run my fingers over the dusty wooden shelves, pick up old paperbacks that are yellow along the edges, and sit on the plain benches sprinkled about the store. I feel amazement at all the book series that I never heard of – science fiction, cowboy tales, and more. Time stands still as I wander the overstuffed aisles. It’s not just a store, it’s an experience.  When I go there, I always buy a couple books because I want this place to survive and keep their doors open. New bookstores are nice, but used bookstores are infinitely better.

The Readers Of Broken Wheel Recommend – by Katarina Bivald (2016)


I absolutely loved this novel of Sara, a young Swedish woman whose life is wrapped up in books. Books are more real to her than real life. She orders a book from an elderly woman- Amy – in the tiny town of Broken Wheel, Iowa. The two women, who both live to read, become pen-pals, exchanging both letters and books. Amy urges Sara to come for a long visit, so when the store Sara works in closes, leaving her unemployed, she figures it’s an opportune time to visit America.

Things don’t turn out quite as she expects. For one thing, the town that sounds so adorable in Amy’s letters turns out to be a shabby, nearly-abandoned community. And another thing – Amy has just died. So Sara is in a town where she knows not a soul, and has no idea what to do next. The townsfolk convince her to stay in Amy’s house for a while instead of immediately returning to Sweden.

The rest of the story tells how she tries to share her love of books and reading with those around her. Sara gets to know the eclectic residents of the town, and finds friendship, love, and a sense of home for the first time in her life.

Note: There is some sexual content – although not very detailed – and references to categories of books that some readers may find objectionable.