Books and reading in the trenches: reading practices on the front line

Studies of reading practices in the trenches have shown that the long-held image of the general staff imposing propaganda and censorship from on high has proved rather simplistic, as research has uncovered a paradoxical and heartening enthusiasm for a wide range of reading material. Life in the trenches often included long stretches of inactivity, during which soldiers read newspapers and caught up with events behind the front line, as well as novels about the hardships of military life and works of light entertainment. Front-line libraries developed rapidly, particularly when the United States joined the war: never before had the military counted so many readers among its ranks.