What I’m Reading Monday #5

Currently Reading: Of Bone and Thunder by Chris Evans, one of my books for review;  Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood, chosen for reading on my phone when I’m out and about and have to wait on something; Villette by Charlotte Bronte, my pick for The Classics Club’s month of the Romantics, and The Hobbit and Philosophy.

Bone

Bliss

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Hobbit Philosophy

Finished: Justice in a Dead Land by Emma J.R. Hawk.  This was also for review, and I will be posting the review a few days before it’s published (Oct. 13th).  Until then, all I’ll say is that I’m really excited about it!

Justice

Total pages read for the week: 208

Total number of books for the year: 43.  My reading is picking back up again, mostly because I found myself with 4 books to read and review by mid-October.  I’ve decided to put aside Villette until I finish the review books.  Some time this week, I’ll be adding a section of books that I’ll be reviewing in the future to my Reviews page, along with the date I’m planning on posting the review.  Once it’s reviewed, I’ll move it to the section of reviewed books and link it to the review, as I’ve done in the past.

Banned Books Week! – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

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*Above artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

It is amazing to me how difficult it has been for me to find books that have been banned for reasons other than language and/or sexual content.  American culture seems to be obsessed with four letter words and the bedroom, or at least obsessed with seeing the use of either as a sign of immorality and wanting any use of the former or any discussion of the latter to go away so that we can all pretend they don’t exist.  It’s no wonder there are many out there who are deliberately rude and crude.  They’re trying to shake things up and get people to take the sticks out of their rear ends, lighten up, and stop taking life so seriously.

Brave

Then there’s Aldous Huxley, and his book Brave New World.  To be honest, I knew about Brave New World, but I’ve never read it, and I had no idea what it was about.  From the title, I had guessed that it was similar to Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  The only thing they have in common is that they are both critiquing society.  That’s right, Huxley isn’t trying to get anyone to lighten up.  He wants us to really take a look at how we live and see that all of our drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. is the problem.  So why would anyone want to ban this book?  In addition to being considered obscene, people thought it vilified the family, and encouraged drug use, which is the exact opposite of what he was doing.  It was also thought to be depressing, negative, and fatalistic, as well as promoting conformity of all things.  There was such an uproar in some cases that teachers were fired.  In 2000, it was pulled from a library in Alabama because it supposedly showed contempt for religion and marriage.  All of this makes me want to scream “You’re missing the point!”

For those of you who have read Brave New World, what are your thoughts?  Is it a moral tale or a story designed to corrupt society?

Thursday’s Quotables #3 – Banned Books Week!

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*Above artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

Since it’s Banned Books Week, I decided to use one of the resource books I found at the library for this today’s Quotables.  It has a section of quotes, and I found several that are either thought provoking or just simply awesome.

The first quote falls into the latter category:

“Whenever I notice that my name isn’t on the list of banned and challenged authors, I feel faintly like I’m letting the side down.  Although I suspect all I’d have to do to get on the list is to write a book about naked, bisexual, hard-swearing wizards who drink a lot while disparaging the Second Amendment, and I’d be home and dry.” – Neil Gaiman

The second and third quotes are more thought provoking:

“Where there is official censorship it is a sign that speech is serious.  When there is none, it is pretty certain that the official spokesmen have all the loudspeakers.” – Paul Goodman

“A democratic society depends upon an informed and educated citizenry” – Thomas Jefferson

These made me think about the media and the plethora of useless and often ridiculous information that gets spouted on every form of communication available.  Though the first quote specifically mentions “official spokesmen”, I think it still holds true when you include all the news networks.  Perhaps the lack of truly important news is only because they’re going with what sells, but it makes me wonder if there isn’t a second reason.  I’m reminded of the Roman phrase “bread and circuses”.  The Romans had the gladiators; we have celebrities.

Which leads me to the fourth quote I found:

“Books and ideas are the most effective weapons against intolerance and ignorance” – Lyndon Baines Johnson, commenting as he signed a bill providing an increase in Federal aid for libraries on Feb. 11th, 1964

I HAD to include this quote because LBJ was an alumni of my university on top of being a supporter of libraries and education (click on the picture for more info).

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Banned Books Week! – I am the Cheese by Robert Cormier

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*Above artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

To celebrate Banned Books Week, I spent some time in the library looking for books on the subject.  I found 2 promising ones, 100 Banned Books: Censorship Histories of World Literature and Banned Books: 2007 Resource Guide (unfortunately, that was the most recent year available).  As I discover more of the books that have been banned from these and other resources, I will post about them.  I will also be creating a page dedicated to banned books, with resources and links for learning more and finding the banned books that will soothe the rebel in all of us!

Since much of the media discusses the most banned books or the most well known books that have been banned, I’ve decided to concentrate on books that have been banned within the last 30 years, and were unknown to me.  I won’t be discussing books banned for sexual content or language, as most of the banning for those reasons involves schools and what children should be reading.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m against censorship and the banning of books for any reason; however, I think it’s important for parents to be involved in their children’s education, and I’m not going to judge or criticize their parenting.

Cheese

That being said, the first book I’ll be discussing, I am the Cheese by Robert Cormier, involves being banned from schools over some language in the book.  However, it was also banned for another reason: it was considered to be subversive and anti-government.  After a couple complaints, the Superintendent of schools, Leonard Hall, who felt it was wrong to question the government, banned the book, created an extreme review policy for choosing books, and then went on to ban 64 others from the schools in Bay County, Florida.  The banning led to a lawsuit (Farrell v. Hall) in 1987, which was eventually settled out of court, but only because Hall chose not to run for re-election.

What do you think, Reader?  Which is more un-American: the book for presenting the idea of questioning government, or wanting to keep that idea from young adults?

What I’m Reading Monday #4

Currently Reading: Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood, chosen for reading on my phone when I’m out and about and have to wait on something, Villette by Charlotte Bronte, my pick for The Classics Club’s month of the Romantics, and The Hobbit and Philosophy.

Bliss

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Hobbit Philosophy

Total pages read for the week: 138

Total number of books for the year: 42.  As predicted, my reading has slowed down.  With just a little more than a week left of September, I doubt I’m going to finish Villette by the end of the month.  I might surprise myself though, so I’m not giving up.

Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness starts out in a library!  The main character drinks copious amounts of tea, does yoga, is a historian, and seems to have agency!  There are not only witches but vampires, too!  Oh, this book seemed so perfect for me for the first 13 chapters…and then it began a slow decline towards horribleness.  It wasn’t until chapter 29 that it quickly went back to being the good book I was reading when I started it.  What made approximately half of the book so close to unbearable that I almost quit reading?

First off, the wine and food descriptions get to the point of being snobbish and over the top ridiculous.  One of the wines the main characters drink “smelled like lemon floor polish and smoke and tasted like chalk and butterscotch.”  I don’t know about you, but there’s no way I would consider tasting something that smells like floor polish, and if I somehow lost my mind and craved the taste of a cleaning product, I don’t see myself as enjoying the taste of chalk, even when combined with butterscotch.  Another poor choice of words is the line “…she said in a husky voice of sand and treacle”.  There comes a point when you’re trying so hard to be original in your descriptions that you should stick to the tried and true.  However, she goes in the opposite direction of original description by repeatedly using the words “ice and snow(flakes)” when referring to being looked at by a vampire.  After the third or fourth time she mentions this feeling, I wanted to scream “I GET IT ALREADY!”

Secondly, she makes a thinly veiled reference to Anne Rice’s Lestat character that feels too much like an “oh look at me, aren’t I smart and knowledgeable about popular vampire fiction.”  On top of that, most of the plot seems like a ripoff of Twilight, to include Diana becoming a character with no agency that is seemingly helpless, naive, and oblivious.  I get the impression that the author loved Twilight so much that she rewrote it with her as the main character, living out her ultimate fantasy.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that…as long as you do it well.  There are no original stories; that goes double for vampire fiction, and triple for vampire romances.  Which brings me to my third problem with this book…

At one time in my life, I would’ve found the vampire, Matthew, being the alpha of his “pack” irresistibly sexy.  Now, I find it’s an excuse to act like a controlling and domineering creep.  He treats Diana as if she’s not capable of making decisions, and comes across as a parental figure, with Diana being “Daddy’s little princess”. What’s worse is Matthew’s description, and actions, are explicitly related to wolf behavior.  Please, for the love of the written word, SHOW, don’t TELL!  The author also led me to believe she thinks her audience is just as stupid as Diana by frequently pointing out the obvious.

Last, but not least, the grammatically borked line “Was it humans?”  At first, I felt judgmental, but then I read the line to my boyfriend to gauge his reaction.  I concluded that I would be humiliated if these words left my mouth in normal conversation, and it’s completely unbelievable that an academic like Diana would talk like a 3rd grader.

I have other problems with this book, but they include spoilers.  Despite half the book being despicable, the other half, especially the ending, makes me want to read the next book.  So, on the off chance that you might wish to do the same, I won’t write about those parts that give away specific plot details.  All said and done I think it’s a book worth reading if you’re very forgiving of its faults, but not worth buying.  Borrow it from someone who already made the mistake of paying for it, or check it out from the library.

Thursday’s Quotables #2

Today’s quotes come from the 2 other books about books and reading I found at the library: Adventures in Reading by May Lamberton Becker and The Delights of Reading by Otto L. Bettmann; the latter being a book of quotes compiled for The Center of the Book in the Library of Congress.  Though it is full of quotes, there were only 2 that stood out from all the rest.  The first one brought a smile to my face; the second made me think for a good long while:

“Build yourself a book-nest to forget the world without” – Abraham Cowley

“Where books are burned, human beings will in the end be burned too” – Heinrich Heine

My first thoughts were of the Nazis.  I then turned my thoughts to the author of the quote, who was a German Romantic.  The Romantics often saw themselves as being prophetic, and though I’m sure this quote was inspired from the world and times in which he lived (especially considering how much of his work was banned in Germany, and having lived out the last years of his life in Paris), I couldn’t help but imagine what his reaction would’ve been if he had been living during the beginning of his country’s darkest years, and see him writing this very quote in response.  Also interesting to note, is that the Nazis hated Heine, and so his books were more than likely banned and burned yet again.  I don’t know about you, but that, and the fact that a Neo-Nazi is sitting on the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, inspires me to read everything Heine ever wrote.

On to lighter subjects….

I loved Adventures in Reading for many reasons, but mostly for the following quote that I can most relate to:

“One day when it was raining heavily…I turned into a great public library to read…and it was not until…the last page that I lifted my eyes…and found that in the meantime the chairs near by had been taken by a dozen or more readers who had come in – and gone out again.”

This is the opening of her chapter on Romance, Adventure, and Fantasy books, and though she was writing specifically about a play, I know that feeling very well of getting so lost in a book that reality disappears until “The End”.  Even more so, I’ve had this experience during rainy days in the library.  I’m fairly certain “rainy day spent in the library” is my favorite day; the second being “rainy day spent in the bookstore’s cafe”.

In a later chapter, she goes on to speak about leaving good books out for children to discover and read on their own.  What I liked about it the most was her equating good books with cookie jars:

“You do not force cookies on healthy children, but you leave them where they can be reached in an emergency.”

Then, her chapter on travel books opens with:

“There are two reasons for reading travel books: because you expect to travel, and because you don’t.”

I believe my love of travel books stems from my love of The Hobbit, and I place it right below my love of Adventure and Fantasy books.  Perhaps that’s why I love the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon so much; It contains a bit of everything: travel, adventure, fantasy, romance, and history.

Hmmmm…..It’s supposed to rain again today, so maybe I’ll grab a good travel book, go to the bookstore’s cafe and get myself a cookie 🙂