In honor of Banned Books Week, Time looks at how the focus of book challenges has changed over the past several years.
In honor of Banned Books Week, Time looks at how the focus of book challenges has changed over the past several years.
I love audiobooks; they enable me to read while plodding along on the treadmill or doing chores around the house. I’ve always thought that listening to a book instead of reading it is not cheating as long as I listen to the unabridged version.
And now I feel validated:
This question — whether or not listening to an audiobook is “cheating” — is one University of Virginia psychologist Daniel Willingham gets fairly often, especially ever since he published a book, in 2015, on the science of reading. (That one was about teaching children to read; he’s got another book out next spring about adults and reading.) He is very tired of this question, and so, recently, he wrote a blog post addressing it. (His opening line: “I’ve been asked this question a lot and I hate it.”) If, he argues, you take the question from the perspective of cognitive psychology — that is, the mental processes involved — there is no real difference between listening to a book and reading it. So, according to that understanding of the question: No, audiobooks are not cheating.
Book critic Jennifer Senior writes:
Now, as a person who writes reviews for a living, I am curious to know: How do professional authors handle unsparing criticism, written in just a few days or weeks, of something they’ve toiled over for years?
She put this question to her friend, Curtis Sittenfeld, “author of “Prep,” “American Wife” and most recently, “Eligible,” a modern retelling of “Pride and Prejudice.” Read here how Sittenfeld feels about reviews of her books.
I’m always interested in ways in which literature crosses over into everyday life. Here’s one example:
In 2002, the Supreme Court barred the execution of the intellectually disabled. But it gave states a lot of leeway to decide just who was, in the language of the day, “mentally retarded.”
Texas took a creative approach, adopting what one judge there later called “the Lennie standard.” That sounds like a reference to an august precedent, but it is not. The Lennie in question is Lennie Small, the dim, hulking farmhand in John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”
The article ends with remarks by Thomas Steinbeck, son of author John Steinbeck.
If you don’t yet know Maria Popova’s astounding brainpickings, you’re in for a treat. Here she discusses “the significance of books and the role of reading in human life [that] comes from Neil Gaiman in a beautiful piece titled ‘Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming.’”
© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown
October is International School Library Month, organized by the International Association of School Librarianship. This group is dedicated to establishing and developing school librarianship in every country in the world. The organization pursues the following objectives:
In the United States, the American Association of School Librarians, a division of the American Library Association, provides information about the importance of school libraries and the function of school librarians. Informational pages for parents include What School Librarians Do, How to Get Involved, and What Parents Should Know. For school administrators, the site discusses Best Apps for Teaching and Learning, Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, and certified educational workshops for school librarians of both elementary and secondary schools.
(Artwork above courtesy of the American Library Association)
Banned Book Week is an annual event celebrating the right to read usually held during the last week of September. It’s sponsored by the following organizations:
It is also endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.
A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict the availability of specified materials. A banning is the removal of materials:
Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.
Read more about who challenges books and why at the ALA FAQ page about banned and challenged books.
Check the American Library Association’s Frequently Challenged Books list for 2014. Some of the titles might surprise you.
You can also see statistics in the form of infographics on the number of challenges by reasons, challenges by initiator, and challenges by institution.
Mary Ann Gwinn, book editor for The Seattle Times, receives LOTS of books. As a way to spread the wealth around, her spouse built her a Little Free Library for her birthday.
The Little Free Library movement was started in Wisconsin by Todd Bol and Rick Brooks in 2009. Its mission is two-fold:
Its goal is “To build 2,510 Little Free Libraries—as many as Andrew Carnegie.”
This goal was reached in August of 2012, a year and a half before our original target date. By January of 2015, the total number of registered Little Free Libraries in the world was conservatively estimated to be nearly 25,000, with thousands more being built.
The philosophy behind little free libraries is “Take a book. Return a book.” In other words, for every book you take, you should put one book back. The aim of the process is to promote not only general literacy, but also neighborhood community. These libraries are run on the honor system by community members, for each other.
In addition to allowing Gwinn to share her books, the Little Free Library provides “an added benefit: … a fantastic opportunity for people-watching.” Read her descriptions of these patrons of her LFL:
I like her observation that “The key to having a Little Free Library is to release control.” Since patrons put in one book for every book they take out, “You can control the outbox, but you can’t control the inbox.”
Gwinn is certainly experiencing the community intent of the Little Free Library philosophy: “That is the gift of the Little Free Library; you get to know your neighbors, in all sorts of ways.”
New York Times technology writer Nick Bilton describes how books became a bond and a form of communication between himself and his mother:
As I grew up, my mother held my hand as we wandered through the fictional worlds of Harper Lee, Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll. Birthdays and Christmases were always met with rectangular-shaped gifts.
As he got older, he and his mother spend hours discussing plots and characters.
But in 2011, Bilton and his mother got into an argument over books. When he was moving from New York to California, he decided to leave behind most of his books in favor of a Kindle and later an iPad. His mother was appalled:
She spoke passionately about being able to smell the pages of a print book as you read, to feel the edges of a hardcover in your hands. And that the notes left inside by the previous reader (often my mother) could pause time.
After his mother died in March, Bilton and his two sisters learned that she had left her collection of more than 3,000 books to her oldest daughter. Knowing the bond that books had created between Bilton and their mother, his sister offered to share their mother’s library with him, and he “gratefully accepted.”
As a technology writer, Bilton had spent much time discussing the merits of print vs. digital books. But his mother’s death and his receipt of some of her books made him realize that one is not superior to the other: “They each have their place in this modern world.” He caps this realization with a description of how his mother, knowing she would not live long enough to meet Bilton’s unborn son, inscribed her copy of her favorite book, Alice in Wonderland, to him. That book, along with some of her others, sits in her grandson’s nursery, the basis of his own growing book collection.
Novelist Lily Tuck calls fiction a creative act, “an act of the author’s imagination and likewise, ideally, it should be read with imagination.”
Here’s how she hopes people will read her work:
In my own writing, I have been accused of (or is it praised for?) being a minimalist, which I suppose means that I don’t write a whole lot. This is true. For the most part, I avoid adjectives and I definitely avoid adverbs, which also means that I tend not to describe much. I rarely describe what my characters look like or what they wear or how they do their hair. My hope is that this will either not be important or if it is important it will somehow surface within the text. But better yet, by avoiding descriptions and explanations, I allow the reader the freedom to picture for themselves what my characters, their clothes and haircuts look like and thus participate in the text. In other words, I hope my readers will read my work with imagination.
Reading in this way—active reading—allows readers to participate with authors in the creation of the meaning of the text.
And isn’t it just this creation of meaning that allows us to derive such pleasure and knowledge from reading fiction?
Jessica Lahey offers advice, from experts and from her own experience, for getting teens back into the habit of reading for pleasure. One tactic that she found successful was “ to ‘seed”’ my older son’s room with a wide range of books for him to find on his own time and on his own terms.”
Here are some other approaches to try:
She suggests providing sports books for children interested in sports or nature books for kids who like animals.
The article concludes with a link to the Dartmouth Bookstore’s “Adult Picks for Teens” recommendations. And that page in turn contains a link to the School Library Journal’s “Best Adult Books 4 Teens.”
This is a double-pronged love story: of two people who met at a bookstore and got married, and of the couple’s love for books and nature.
Jeff Lee and Ann Martin both worked at The Tattered Cover, a bookstore in Denver, where they fell in love. They met in 1986 and married in 1991. On a trip to the London Book Fair they spent some time at “St. Deiniol’s, a castlelike residential library in the Welsh countryside founded in 1889 by a former prime minister, William Ewart Gladstone. He was a lifelong book lover who centered his collection on Victorian history and theology.” (St. Deiniol’s has since changed its name to Gladstone Library.) Enchanted by the place, Lee and Martin envisioned a similar project in Colorado.
The result is the Rocky Mountain Land Library, still under development in South Park, CO:
The project is striking in its ambition: a sprawling research institution situated on a ranch at 10,000 feet above sea level, outfitted with 32,000 volumes, many of them about the Rocky Mountain region, plus artists’ studios, dormitories and a dining hall — a place for academics, birders, hikers and others to study and savor the West.
Lee and Martin found an abandoned ranch, Buffalo Peaks, about a two-hour drive outside of Denver. The City of Aurora leased them the ranch at “a deep discount.” The couple has already amassed a “collection of 32,000 books, centering the collection on Western land, history, industry, writers and peoples.”
The project has received a grant from the South Park National Heritage Area, but so far Lee and Martin have raised only about $120,000 additional of the estimated $5 million renovation cost. They continue to work toward the realization of their dream: “a rural, live-in library where visitors will be able to connect with two increasingly endangered elements — the printed word and untamed nature.”
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, recently finished another book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. While working on the new book, this devoted reader adopted some new habits to allow her to get more reading done. She offers these 10 steps that worked for her and that might work for others as well.
More on #10 (Rubin’s monthly book club):
I have a monthly “book group,” where I recommend one great book about habits or happiness, and one great work of children’s literature, and one eccentric pick (a book that I love but may not appeal to everyone).
The article ends with a link where, if you’re so inclined, you can sign up for this group.
This is Part 1 of Jenn Northington’s discussion on BookRiot of applying the principles of Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to her overwhelming book collection:
So while I’m not an actual hoarder who will die buried under stacks of mildewed paperbacks, I do have a space and attention-span problem. Which is why I’m spending this weekend picking up every book I own, and sorting them by the KonMarie Method: “Does this spark joy?”
Far more interesting, though, is After the Pull: The Lifechanging Magic of Downsizing Your Book Collection, Part 2, in which Northington describes the process by which she reduced her book collection by roughly half:
And at the end of the day, after I washed off all the dust and had tidied the giveaway stacks and gotten over the sheer shock of reducing my book collection by more than half, I felt good. Now I can actually see what I have, and don’t have to take half of the books off a shelf to see what else is hiding behind them. Now I can see the ones I had promised to read, or been dying to read, or had been sent a personalized recommendation for. And as hard as it is to give up some of them, it is equally fun to imagine who might discover them next. When you know you’re sending them to a good home, it’s easier to wave goodbye.
This city [Portland, Oregon] has a deeply dyed liberal impulse beating in its veins around social and environmental causes, and a literary culture that has flourished like the blackberry thickets that mark misty Northwest woods. It is also one of the most bike-friendly, if not bike-crazed, urban spaces in the nation, as measured by commuters and bike lanes. All three of those forces are combined in Street Books, a nonprofit book service delivered by pedal-power for “people living outside,” as Ms. Moulton, the founder, describes the mission.
Here’s an article about a subject I couldn’t even have imagined: William James stoned.
These words were set to paper in 1882 by William James, one of the most celebrated proponents of the new science of psychology, and a newly minted assistant professor of philosophy at Harvard. James was in many ways the paragon of an eminent Victorian—his writing tends to summon images of the author ensconced beside a roaring fire in some cozy wood-paneled study in Cambridge. And yet here James comes off as utterly, absurdly stoned.
. . .
James acknowledged to his readers that these ravings were the product of a mental state that, like alcohol intoxication, “seems silly to lookers-on.” But he came away from the experience with a remarkably positive take on nitrous oxide. James had argued that drunkenness produced a kind of “subjective rapture” occasioned by its ability to make “the centre and periphery of things seem to come together.” Nitrous oxide, he believed, produced a similar effect, “only a thousandfold enhanced.” On the gas, his mind was “seized … by logical forceps” and jolted into a new order of consciousness which, he thought, made the logic of Hegelian dialectics perfectly obvious to him.
This year’s Washington State Book Awards include a best-selling nonfiction book about the University of Washington crew team that won a gold medal in the 1936 Olympics; one writer’s investigation into his ancestors in Eastern Europe and the fate of their descendants; a novel based on the life of a seventh-century English saint; and poetry by a Seattle author.
Brian Turner packed his poetry and went to war with a Joint Base Lewis-McChord Stryker brigade. Now, he’s returned with an acclaimed memoir.
With “My Life as a Foreign Country,” Turner has earned both accolades and, it seems, a measure of peace. The former infantryman has also fleshed out what he previously hinted at in poems dug from the hard ground in Iraq.
“The landscape is war,” the Fresno, California, native said in an interview, not for the first time, “but the actual subject is love and loss.”
Open Library is an open, editable library catalog with an attractive facade and a lofty mission. The mission? To build an online catalog with a web page for every book ever published. The best part? You can help. From the homepage, click Sign Up, then create a free Open Library account in two simple steps. From there, add new books, write descriptions, manage lists, and generally enjoy contributing to one of the most exciting library projects on the web. Of course, you don’t need an account to browse the site, with its 20 million records (and counting). Simply click Authors, Subjects, Recently, or Lists to search the site by category, or type a keyword into the general search function.
From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout 1994–2014. https://www.scout.wisc.edu
Dennis Lehane, a master of the contemporary crime novel, has seen many of his books brought to the screen: “Mystic River,” “Shutter Island,” “Gone Baby Gone,” the upcoming “Live By Night.” But none have had such adventurous a transformation as “The Drop” (now in theaters), which began life as an opening chapter of a novel, then became a short story, then a screenplay … and now, finally, a novel.
Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald describes the strange story of how a group of characters continued to haunt writer Dennis Lehane until, in a reversal of the usual order of things, the film became a novel.
From The Los Angeles Times, a look at cardiologist Douglas Lyle, who divides time between seeing patients in his cardiology clinic, writing crime novels, and answering “other crime writers’ questions about how to end their characters’ lives in weird — but scientifically plausible — ways.”
In her Dublin Murder Squad series, Irish writer Tana French reveals how secrets haunt the “the tumultuous inner lives of her characters, both cops and culprits.” Her latest novel, The Secret Place, is the fifth in the series.
“Big secrets transform everything and everyone around them—often in unpredictable, uncontrollable ways—and I’ve always been fascinated by books that explore that ripple effect,” French says. Here she recommends five novels that fit that description.
This post is from April 2014, but I just found it.
Sharan Newman, a medieval historian and author of both nonfiction and fiction, describes efforts to place women in their proper place in literary history and in the literary canon:
Today we might say that female authors have a secure place in literary history. But one thing I know as an historian is that the pendulum always swings. We need to leave a legacy not only as skilled writers but as accurate observers of aspects of life that are too often ignored. Looking back at my own long and somewhat checkered career, I realize that the desire to return women to their rightful place in history was what impelled both my fiction and non-fiction. Oddly, perhaps, I’ve found that a more honest portrayal can be created through fiction. This is due to the lack of solid information on the lives of ordinary women and men throughout time.
And this piece is from February 2013, but I just found it.
Seb Emina, coauthor with Malcolm Eggs, (yes, really) of The Breakfast Bible, discusses breakfast in literature:
breakfast is the ideal barometer of normalcy, the meal that tells us who a person really is. An example: in the fifth chapter of Moby Dick (simply called “Breakfast”), Melville offers a morning scene at a bar-room in a whaling town, as a way of painting us a picture of Queequeg, a Pacific islander who “eschewed coffee and hot rolls” – savagery! – and “applied his undivided attention to beefsteaks, done rare”. And in The Hobbit, Tolkein reveals much about the implicitly decadent nature of Hobbithood when he has Bilbo Baggins consume a second breakfast – an occurrence that has somehow become one of the most recounted parts of the entire book.
This article is worth reading just for the description of Hunter S. Thompson’s preferred meal.
“Consumers may choose to read a tragic fictional story because they assume that knowing it was fictional would make them less sad than reading a less dramatic but true story,” said study authors Jane E.J. Ebert from Massachusetts based Brandeis University and Tom Meyvis from New York University.
This result makes perfect sense, though, to anyone who has ever been fully transported into the world of a well written novel.
”Our results suggest that while emphasising realism may increase sales, it does not necessarily increase satisfaction,” the authors concluded in a paper appearing in the Journal of Consumer Research.
You know the scenario: You’re chatting with someone you’ve just met, and you naturally ask what the other person likes to read. And he or she replies, “I don’t read.”
Fortunately, it doesn’t happen too often. But when it does happen, here are some animated GIFs that illustrate your possible reactions to someone who doesn’t engage in an activity that you consider second only to breathing.
“Every inch of that place, every grain of sand, wanted desperately to kill us.”
That’s a line from a compelling new novel about the Iraq War, written by former Marine Michael Pitre.
Pitre was a history and creative writing major at Louisiana State when he joined the Marines after Sept. 11. He became an officer and served two tours in Iraq’s Anbar province working in logistics and communications.
NPR interviews the author of the new novel Fives and Twenty-Fives, which follows an American road repair crew and bomb disposal team in Iraq.
For more than two centuries, the Darby Free Library has remained both a vital part of its community as well as a historical landmark. Built in 1743 by Quakers, it remains the oldest public library in the nation. But a financial crisis has left it in danger of shutting down by the end of the year.
The former English teacher in me cannot refrain from commenting: You don’t “graduate college”; you “graduate FROM college.”
When I was in college, I didn’t have time to read much of anything that wasn’t required for one of my classes. But Radhika Sanghani, author of the novel Virgin, did: “I have a few books I’d recommend. All of them helped me through the student-to-adult transition when I left college a few years ago, and I still re-read them for pleasure, comfort and some good old-fashioned perspective.”
Why does she recommend these books?
Because, college is a bubble. Whichever one you choose to study at, chances are your entire life becomes based around the same people, lecture halls and bars. For me, reading was the best way to get out of that bubble and remember there was a wider world out there that I was just about to enter and should probably know a little bit about.
So check out her list, which she describes as “a mixture of good classics, contemporary reads, and a little bit of self-help for a time when you really need it.”
This week’s New York Times‘s Sunday Book Review includes an interview with one of my favorite thriller authors, Harlan Coben.
This report describes nine groups of Americans that reflect different patterns of public library engagement. Respondents were sorted into groups based on a cluster analysis of factors such as: the importance of public libraries in their lives; how they use libraries; and how they view the role of libraries in communities. . . .
The typology examines four broad levels of library engagement. These levels are further broken into a total of nine individual groups:
- Library Lovers
- Information Omnivores
- Solid Center
- Print Traditionalists
- Not for Me
- Young and Restless
- Rooted and Roadblocked
Non-engagement (have never personally used a public library):
- Distant Admirers
- Off the Grid
The descriptions of the various groups and their attitudes toward libraries are informative.
Lists like this always amuse me. Sometimes I agree with them, sometimes I don’t, and other times I haven’t read many of the books included.
But I’ve read most of these books and so pretty much agree with this list:
the Manhattan-based author Victoria Redel actually seems to enjoy answering questions about her work, which often takes the form of fiction addressing an intense — even boundary-violating — bond between a parent and child. But don’t ask her about her personal life.
Following the 2001 release of her novel Loverboy, about a mother so enmeshed with her young son that she decides to asphyxiate him in a car rather than let him go to school, Redel has found herself explaining to readers that her creation of unlikable, even destructive characters is neither a window — nor an invitation — into her psyche.
A good article for readers who always wonder how much a writer’s works reflect the author’s own mind and soul.
This week, HarperCollins announced that a long-awaited JRR Tolkien translation of Beowulf is to be published in May, along with his commentaries on the Old English epic and a story it inspired him to write, “Sellic Spell”. It is just the latest of a string of posthumous publications from the Oxford professor and The Hobbit author, who died in 1973. Edited by his son Christopher, now 89, it will doubtless be seen by some as an act of barrel-scraping. But Tolkien’s expertise on Beowulf and his own literary powers give us every reason to take it seriously.