One of the reasons I love this book is because the heroes of the story are badass bookish people. The other reason is that it explores an often overlooked aspect of World War II. With the many other atrocities committed by the Nazis, it’s easy to forget that they were waging another, quieter war on knowledge with the systematic pillaging of libraries and bookstores. Many people assume that the stolen books were burned, but they weren’t– at least not all of them. Most of the books were hoarded in a private collection, meant to be accessible only by the Nazis. It way to control knowledge. The tactic serves as a chilling reminder of the power and importance of books.
After the war, many books were circulated into public library systems, rather than being returned to their owners. In present day, a team of librarians have dedicated their time to searching libraries all over Europe, identifying the stolen books and returning them to descendants of their original owners. This is especially meaningful, because many of the targeted libraries and bookstores were owned by Jewish families; for some, these books may be the last remaining possessions of family members lost in the Holocaust.
In this book, Anders Rydell documents his journey after he is entrusted by the librarians to return a book to its proper owner. It’s a moving and fascinating work of nonfiction, which combines history with humanitarianism. This is the perfect read for bibliophiles, lovers of history, or anyone interested in a story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
–Cedar, Paulina Springs Books, Sisters, OR