What a man reads in a hospital depends on two things: the man himself and the supply of books
To put a man to bed does not change him fundamentally. His education, tastes and habits remain unaltered when he lays aside his uniform and dons pajamas and a bathrobe. His reading will be influenced by all his personal endowments and qualities.
The character and degree of his illness will also have much to do with what he reads. If his is a surgical case he will have time and strength to read more than he ever read before, and he will ask for the kinds of books he has always preferred.He will want to keep up with his studies and will do some serious work while he is in confinement.
If he is quarantined for mumps or measles, as so many of our "heroes" have been, he will need first of all to be diverted. Detective stories and the cowboy and wild west tales are what he craves.
The state of a man's mind - whether he is worried about his family or merely homesick - will influence his choice of books. He may have to be coaxed before he will take the trouble to read.
The supply of books must also be adequate to meet the needs of foreign-born soldiers who know only their mother tongue. Then there are those American-born men whose education is so rudimentary that they must have very simple English, very clear print and plenty of pictures in order to read at all.
There must be technical books for the soldier students: good stirring fiction for the depressed, homesick, and anxious, for the the suffering, scrapbooks, things easy to hold, and pictures.
Given a supply of books adequate to meet these varied demands and the soldiers in the hospitals will read more books in a given time than their more fortunate fellows who have more freedom by less leisure.
"What Men Read in Hospitals" by Miriam E. Carey, Supervisor, State Board of Control (Field Representative, Hospital Service). Found in the September 1918 issue of the Bulletin of the American Library Association, this is an abstract of a paper printed in full in the Library Journal.
Photo by Rowan McOnegal, via the Wellcome Collection