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A top literary historian illuminates 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.
"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
- On Sale
- Dec 5, 2023
- Page Count
- 480 pages
- Basic Books