En Garde! How to Defend Yourself With a Book


“Hungry man, reach for the book: it is a weapon.” – Bertolt Brecht

1. Popular parlance is filled with catchy phrases about the ways in which books can be harnessed for purposes of defense and/or offence. Chances are good that if you have spent time around librarians, book lovers, libertines, or radicals, you will have heard some variation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s famous comment that “books are weapons” or (more fully) “books are weapons in the war of ideas” (the latter statement even appeared on a propaganda poster). On a slightly similar note you may be familiar with the oft repeated saying “the pen is mightier than the sword” – which may not specifically mention books but which still suggests that the written word (which is often printed in a book) is a mighty, and dangerous, tool. These phrases transform libraries into armories, bookshelves into weapon racks, and every reader…

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