Iraqi AAFES book shelves devoid of non-fiction


Another AAFES book shelf, this one at Joint Base Balad, severely lacking in non-fiction books. (Chris Maddaloni/Military Times)

Drowning in fiction, soldiers deployed to Iraq have to rely on the Internet or family and friends to send them non-fiction books because AAFES books shelves at Iraq Post Exchanges have few non-fiction options.

Photographer Chris Maddaloni and I have taken an informal survey of the five AAFES BX/PX we’ve visited during our embed in Iraq. Look at the picture to the right because it features the one non-fiction book we’ve found so far.

That’s right, the Oprah biography written by Kittey Kelly is the one and only non-fiction book we could find. Not a biography on any former soldiers, a history on World War II or one of the many books written on Iraq or Afghanistan. No, the one non-fiction book soldiers can buy at their local PX is one on the talk show queen.

Is this what soldiers want?

Full disclosure, we haven’t contacted any AAFES officials to ask why they don’t stock any non-fiction books, but the typical answer is “that’s what soldiers want.” So we ask you: Are these romance novels and sultry fictions what you want to read on a deployment.

Sitting in my fair share of PAX terminals it seems most soldiers are reading a non-fiction paperback.


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  1. James Crabtree on

    During my tour I found the same thing… lots of thrillers, some mysteries and science fiction. When my wife and I ran a donated book distro site for mobilized Soldiers in 2001/2002 the most popular books were true crime, classic literature, history, Bantam War Books and humor. These are the books usually AWOL at overseas PXs. Of course, it makes it easy to keep the paperback rack stocked when all you get in is stuff no one wants to read….

  2. A great book for soldiers is “Combat Leader to Corporate Leader: 20 Lessons to Advance Your Civilian Career,” that describes how to use 20 universal military skill sets in business. This book also teaches Active Duty soldiers more uses for the military skill sets to become better leaders.

  3. A similar selection is available at the Kandahar, Afghanistan, PX. There are a lot of magazines, though (including those with less-than-family-friendly covers).

    It’s strange to me because the Military Clothing & Sales in Fort Hood stocks loads of non-fiction. I just finished reading “Flyboys” by James Bradley, and am currently reading “Too Big to Fail” by Andrew Ross Sorkin. But I didn’t buy them here — both books were donated.

    Yet even if I found a book I’d like to read at the PX, I’d probably find it cheaper on I treat the PX like a convenience store — I only buy things there when I have an immediate need.

  4. I found the same thing on my last deployment to Mosul. When I ask the AAFES official about it they told me that it was what the soldiers wanted. It surprised me to hear that all of these combat soldiers were only interested in steamy paperback romance novels. Odd.

  5. I am really surprised there are not a wide variety of non-fiction books. I am interested to know why there is such a lack of non-fiction. I generally prefer to read non-fiction over fiction and many of my peers agree.

  6. Pingback: Outside The Wire – UPDATE: Non-fiction coming to a Iraqi and Afghan PX/BX near you

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