The ASE selection committee chose novels by writers like Dickens, Mark Twain, and Virginia Woolf who had earned a place within the literary canon-or who might reasonably be expected to do so, over time.

One remarkable characteristic of the ASE's is that so many of them are in any reckoning serious literature. This was not an accident. The Council on Books in Wartime made sure that the ASE's boasted a good sampling of serious modern fiction, from Thomas Mann to John Steinbeck.

Armed Forces personnel did not have to limit serious reading to fiction. Curious servicemen could read Joseph C. Grew's essays on the Japanese and Margaret Mead's anthropological studies.

Shakespeare was considered a little too serious for ASE's, but playwrights like Eugene O'Neill and George Bernard Shaw made the cut.