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The Treat of Books for Troops

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On Halloween, I saved the tricks for my kids and sent out treats of one hundred paperback and hardcover books to three different APO and FPO addresses, here and abroad. Who needs -- and deserves -- the comfort, escape, and pleasure of books more than our United States troops? Operation Paperback, founded in 1999, understands the solace and joys offered by the reading of a book. It facilitates the exchange of books between people just like me, looking for a good home for the overflow of books on our shelves, and the troops stationed all over the world, looking for something good to read.

Through Operation Paperback, books have been sent to just about every location where U.S. troops are found, from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan. Just imagine where those books have taken their readers, everywhere from home again to planet Mars! Even more importantly, a connection is made when books are exchanged: we at home understand just how hard it must be to be a soldier, to be stationed away from home and friends and family, and we offer what comfort we can, through the books we've loved.

Every month, Operation Paperback posts a list of requests that they've received, everything from travel books to classics to mysteries to biographies (go easy on the romances!) and volunteers sign up for what they can provide. I tend towards mysteries, having amassed a huge collection over my forty-plus years of loving the genre. Other volunteers might be ready to thin their collections of westerns while others might canvass their friends at work or in the neighborhood for secondhand volumes of Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, or Dickens. Volunteers sign up for what they can, pack up the books they've got, and march on down to their local post office to send off their boxes.

I was surprised to discover just how inexpensive it is to send books all over the world via media mail. And what a great feeling I got in return for simply culling my shelves and paying out a few dollars in postage: I had the joy and the thrill of watching my packages descend down the chute of the unknown, going off to provide the same reading pleasure, escape, joy and yes, wisdom, that I discovered when I first read the books. I am already gearing up for the November shipment, talking the project up with friends and hoping to start a Thanksgiving drive for books, a cornucopia of adventure and escape to send off to troops hungry for the written word.

Visit Operation Paperback's Facebook page for inspiration, and its website to sign up as a volunteer.