Books have always gone to war, serving as comfort and distraction. And oftentimes, the most unexpected books have struck a chord in wartime.
For instance, who would've guessed that A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith's 1943 semi-autobiographical novel, would become one of the most popular books among servicemen in World War II, who received it as part of a massive book distribution program?
The Syrian resistance fighters whom reporter Delphine Minoui profiles in her new book, The Book Collectors, surprisingly, favored self-help literature. Their counterpart to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is Stephen Covey's best-selling pop-psych Bible, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. "This book means so much to us," one young fighter tells Minoui. "It's our compass, in a way ..."
Minoui understands that Covey's book affirms the power of the individual, something these young men, raised under the repressive regime of Bashar al Assad, are fighting for. These men are from a suburb of Damascus called Daraya, which was the site of peaceful protests during the Arab Spring uprising of 2011.