The Book at War: How Reading Shaped Conflict and Conflict Shaped Reading (Hardcover)
A "magisterial" (Sunday Times) history of how books were used in war across the twentieth century—both as weapons and as agents for peace
We tend not to talk about books and war in the same breath—one ranks among humanity’s greatest inventions, the other among its most terrible. But as esteemed literary historian Andrew Pettegree demonstrates, the two are deeply intertwined. The Book at War explores the various roles that books have played in conflicts throughout the globe. Winston Churchill used a travel guide to plan the invasion of Norway, lonely families turned to libraries while their loved ones were fighting in the trenches, and during the Cold War both sides used books to spread their visions of how the world should be run. As solace or instruction manual, as critique or propaganda, books have shaped modern military history—for both good and ill.
With precise historical analysis and sparkling prose, The Book at War accounts for the power—and the ambivalence—of words at war.
About the Author
Andrew Pettegree is a professor of modern history at the University of St. Andrews. A leading expert on the history of book and media transformations, Pettegree is the award-winning author of several books on news and information culture, including The Library: A Fragile History (with Arthur der Weduwen). He lives in Scotland.
“This is a long, loping read, a campaign to reveal functions of reading that we often take for granted. The results are expansive, rather than reductive, and well worth the fight, as long as you're willing to learn a little about Prussian history along the way.”—Boston Globe
“Pettegree clearly possesses an exceptional breadth of knowledge, in addition to a skill for nuanced narrative and convincing arguments. His accounts are often fascinating.”—Washington Post
“The range of reference is vast…Pettegree is a vigorous guide.”
—Times Literary Supplement
“Pettegree traces the practical and symbolic roles played by books and literary culture in modern wars. It’s a vast subject and Pettegree takes us on a remorselessly interesting march through it.”
“Pettegree, despite the massive scope of his mission, keeps the stories and characters tight and concise. A book about books can sometimes get convoluted, but the author keeps this story moving at all times.”—Shelf Awareness
“A richly detailed cultural history.”
“The writing is brisk, the scholarship formidable. This is an eminently approachable study that opens a new way of making sense of World Wars I and II.”
“There are surprising details…on every page of Pettegree’s fascinating text.”
"In modern warfare, books provide poignant witness statements as well as admonitory propaganda. They are weapons of war, composed by soldiers, studied by civilians, but also thrown into the fire. In his own impressive book, Andrew Pettegree shows how words could be blood-curdling and texts blood-spattered. Read on in order to turn the pages of war and peace."
—Peter Fritzsche, author of Hitler’s First Hundred Days
“Rich, authoritative and highly readable, Andrew Pettegree's tour de force will appeal to anyone for whom, whatever the circumstances, books are an abiding, indispensable part of life.”
—David Kynaston, author of Till Time’s Last Sand
“Books create; wars destroy. Yet The Book at War shows how inextricably entwined the two have always been. Illuminating.”
—Judith Flanders, author of A Place For Everything