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"Socks and books"

Posted by David Mehegan  March 27, 2007 11:00 AM

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An American in France, 1917

Paul Fussell's 1989 World War II memoir, "Wartime," was dedicated to his parents, "who sent socks and books." It seems that real books are still craved by men in harm's way. Richard Davies, a spokesman for Abebooks.com, the Canadian online bookseller, writes to say that American servicemen and women (and civilians) in Iraq are not ordering cheap thrillers to read in their free time, but serious books of all kinds. Here are samples of books ordered from Abebooks and sent to secure American bases in Iraq:

"The Physics of Blown Sand and Desert Dunes," by Ralph Bagnold.

"Lawrence and the Arabs" (biography of T.E. Lawrence), by Robert Graves.

"Organic Chemistry," by Paula Y. Bruice.

"Just and Unjust Wars," by Michael Walzer.

"The Art of War," by Sun Tzu.

"Writing Poetry," by Barbara Drake.

"Old West Antiques and Collectables," by John Kolpec

"Let's Play Saxophone," by Herb Couf.

"The Catcher in the Rye," by J. D. Salinger.

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," by J.K. Rowling.

"The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year," by Armin A. Brott.

"The Way of Zen," by Alan W. Watts.

"Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus," by John Gray.

Davies writes, "There were no [John] Grishams or [Stephen] Kings, or even a Dan Brown. Soldiers described how paperbacks are readily available on bases. Unlike soldiers stationed in the U.S. or Germany, Iraq-based soldiers cannot go off base in their leisure hours, so for some reading is a key activity. I know of one soldier who claims Cervantes saved his life because he was safely reading 'Don Quixote,' rather than exercising with his colleagues, or going to the base store, when the base was hit by a mortar attack."

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