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Thursday, 19 April 2007

'Reading in Iraq', a publication of U.S. online book retailer AbeBooks, is an interesting idea. With interviews with returned soldiers, it provides an idea of the leisure activities of troops on the ground in the troubled nation.

David Abrams, a Master Sergeant in public affairs with the 3rd Infantry Division, found reading time hard to isolate, saying he would be "lucky if I only worked a 13-hour day, seven days a week".

"After talking about his deployment on literary websites, Readerville and Emerging Writers Network, he was flooded with boxes of books sent by booklovers in the US. Books also came via the Any Soldier website (which sends care packages to soldiers)."

Ultimately, he was only able to read about 14 books. He was posted to Iraq in 2005.

Brian McNerney, a Lieutenant Colonel and public affairs officer in the US army, created a library during his tour in 2005 and 2006, with books donated by World War II veterans from the 65th Infantry Division. He has since left the military.

"These veterans mailed me approximately 15,000 books, which made up the library in Balad as well as provided a donation basis for me to use in taking books to Iraqis. My original intent was to serve Iraqi communities in and around the base at Balad, as much as to provide a source of reading material to the American soldiers and civilians serving on the base."

Nathaniel Fick, a former captain in the US Marines, wrote One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer after leaving the army.

AbeBooks also provides a set of lists of books purchased by customers "including US soldiers but also UK military personnel and Western civilian contractors - living on military bases and secure civilian installations around Iraq".

Kudos to AbeBooks for giving its customers a chance to get a glimpse of what life is like for soldiers in Iraq.

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