Like my buddy Storm Williams likes to say, “getting a box of books is like a care package for the brain”. If your MWR library is looking a bit dated here are eight free options, and three paid options to request free books for your military command.
Free Books for Military Commands
- Operation Paperback: Operation Paperback is the largest non-profit organization that provides books to our serving troops and veterans; they have been in business since 1999 and have shipped over 3 million books to date. While Operations Paperback does attempt to supply books on the Services Reading List, they rely almost solely on book donations for their distribution. This makes it very hard to “special request” specific books. However, as stated on the Operation Paperback’s website they will make an attempt to fulfill an order of books from your services reading list. Operation PaperBack currently ships between 100,000 and 200,000 books per year, and they have a very active Facebook Page. The form for requesting Operation PaperBack books can be found here.
- Books for Soldiers support deployed Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and Sailors with books, DVDs, and video games. Rather than sending books to the military directly, Books for Soldiers has a large network of volunteers who ship books directly to overseas troops. Books for Soldiers is run by Storm Bear Williams and the form for requesting books can be found here.
- Books for Troops provides books directly to deployed Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Sailors, ships books to overseas USOs and also supports the United Through Reading program. Books for Troops operate slightly differently from OPB or BFS as you will select the individual books you want from an online library. BFT will then ship the books directly to your deployed location. Books for Troops is run by Patricia Murphy, owner of the Signature Group.
- Books-A-Million Books to Troops Program: Books-A-Million has partnered with Reach out and Read to provide books to veterans, children, and overseas service members. For individuals or commands serving overseas requests can be submitted directly to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Naval War College: As of this writing the Navy War College no longer has a contract to supply the Navy commands with their Services reading list. But if/when this changes the War College can be contacted via phone or e-mail here.
- Marine Corps Association: This has one of the best programs to get free books into the hands of servicemembers; unfortunately it only supports the Marine Corps. The Association is funded for a Unit Library program which will provide Marine Corps units with select books from the USMC reading list at no cost to the individual or the command.
- Service Electronic Libraries: The Army, Navy, and Air Force, all have MWR electronic libraries where servicemembers can download books onto their phone, tablet, computer, or overdrive app. Of note, the Navy’s Library also supports the Coast Guard and USMC. There is also an Electronic DOD Library which can be accessed through Military One Source. This Military One Source Library also contains access to BookFlix, Children’s books, BrainHQ, Magazines, and other reference materials.
- Mags2Military and MagazinesForTroops: OK, while technically not books magazines are pretty close. Mags2Military provides free magazines for those with a .mil email address. As of the last check, they are offering 23 magazines to include Popular Science, Field and Stream, Entrepreneur, and National Review. While MagazinesForTroops provides boxes of 40+ gently used magazines to deployed service members.
a box of books is like a care package for the brainStorm Bear Williams
Paid Options for Ordering books for your command
- Amazon: While Amazon holds the largest inventory of books around they do not hold access to all the books on all the services reading lists. The remainder of the books are either out of print or fulfilled by other vendors. If you do choose to purchase from Amazon please consider purchasing through my Reading List page, I have conveniently included links for all the books and will receive a small affiliate commission to help run this website.
- US Naval Institute: The USNI has a number of Navy specific reading lists to include a Junior Officer reading list, Commanders reading list, and a professional Navy reading list. They also publish a monthly professional Naval magazine Proceedings.
- And as a final option, DODReads: If none of the above options meet your needs, the Army, Navy, Air Force, USMC, and Coast Guard reading list can be purchased directly from DODReads. Our primary customer is the Department of Defense and we make it very easy for your supply officer to purchase a reading list of choice. We accept purchase cards and for large orders accept payments through Contracting / SAM. DODReads is veteran owned and operated with a percent of our profits going back to serve military readers.
Did we miss any? Are any of these companies now out of business? Are you aware of any other ways that military service members can request free books? If so please drop us a comment and let us know. Additionally, if you work with an organization that provides books to the military and would like to partner with DODReads please reach out.