WAR LIBRARY BULLETIN
What Soldiers Read
. . By Bueton E. Stevenson.
Professor Trent says in his "History of American Literature" that "Huckleberry Finn" is our great national classic, and he will doubtless be pleased to know that it is one of the books most in demand in the camp libraries. Some of the camp libraries have found it very diificult to meet the demand for it, and for "Tom Sawyer."
The system of book requests which has been in¬ stalled at many of the camp libraries has rendered valuable service—aside from its immediate function of getting the books into the hands of those who want them—in giving accurate information as to the books really in demand. Many of them are, of course, for books of the lighter and more popular type—juveniles to all intents and purposes—^but, at the other ex¬ treme, was the request of a man for a book on motors. He was shown the best and most advanced book the librarian possessed.
"Why, I made the drawings for that book," he said, as he handed it back; " I want something better than that."
And the A. L. A. is trying to find "something bet¬ ter than that" for him.
The demand for technical books, the very latest and most advanced ones, is extremely heavy, and this is true also of the demand for the various details of military technique. Our young soldiers are ambi¬ tious ; they are anxious to become better soldiers; they want to win, in the first place a sergeant's stripes, and thus to qualify for admission to an Officers' Training Camp. They realize that the only way to do so is by studying, and they are studying.
Never before has military science included so many technical branches as it does today. War has become very largely a matter of machines, and expert knowl¬ edge of these machines is the first essential to effi¬ ciency, so that there is scarcely any variety of tech¬ nical book which does not apply directly or indirectly to the modern soldier's profession. This includes, of course, not only books on artillery and aviation, but signaling and the technique of drilling, and books on aeroplanes, gas engines, hydraulics, waterworks sys¬ tems, plumbing, electrical work in all its branches, as well as books on diet, foodstuffs, garbage disposal and roadmaking.
After this knowledge of technique, the young sol¬ dier's next concern is that of gaining some knowledge of the country to which he is soon to go, its customs, civic life and manners generally, so that books of French travel are extremely popular. He is also anxious to find out what the war is about. Many of these men came into the camp without any clear ideas on the subject whatever. Of course, at the head of the list come the books by President Wilson, as well as his various addresses to Congress and his speeches on other occasions, for no clearer presentation of Ameri¬ ca's aims and purposes can be found anywhere. In addition to and supplementing these, are many books dealing with the German philosophy that "might
makes right" and with the German army's methods of warfare, which are exceedingly valuable. All of these are read eagerly and cannot but do good in showing the men that they are fighting, not for some European country, not to advance any other nation's dreams of conquest, but for the preservation of the ideals and principles of their own Republic.
The demand for standard literature is also surpris¬ ingly large. The men now have time to read books they have always thought they would read, but some¬ how never got to. There is an impression in some quarters that our soldiers have no time to read. Noth¬ ing could be farther from the truth. Most of them have more real leisure than they ever had before. They are free practically every evening, and not only free, but without the distractions most of them had in civil life. There are no parties, no dances, no social engagements, and many of them find that the most pleasant way to spend an evening in camp is with a book. So, in one camp, one man has started to read Boswell's "Life of Johnson." Another is wrestling with Bergson's "Creative Evolution." Another has started Gibbon, and is working hard to finish it before he is sent to France. Still others are beginning courses of reading in various branches of English literature, under the direction and guidance of the librarian.
It is also surprising to find how many of the men read poetry, not only the old favorites, but the new poetry as well. Anthologies are especially in demand, as furnishing a pleasant and stimulating variety. Two consecutive demands at one of the camp libraries were for "Man and Superman" and "Heart Throbs." The camp librarian was a proud man to be able to fill both of these requests.
Men Now Have Time to Read. Free from Distractions They Take Up Serious Study Courses. This is the Reference Room in the A. L. A. Library at Camp Sherman.
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