Tag Archives: Books

Censorship, Banned Books and the Freedom to Read Anything You Darn Well Please

I read a recent article in The Washington Post that told the story of a mother who is currently trying to get the book, Beloved, banned from the school system in Fairfax County, VA. As she explains it, “It’s not about the author or the awards…it’s about the content.” My first response would be to say, “Isn’t it always?” The second and more important point I’d make needs to be said more often: Individuals have every right to speak freely about the things they disagree with. As such, individuals have every right to abstain from those things they disagree with. What they don’t have the right to do is to abstain in such a way that it affects the rights of others around them.

The Sun Also Rises

I’ve had this copy for a good fifteen years.

This is upsetting on many levels. As a reader, I want to have the ability to read anything I deem of worth. As a writer, I want to have the ability to write anything I consider worthy of putting out there. Also, as someone who very much wants to have children someday (my wife claims I have “baby fever,” which couldn’t be more accurate), I want my children to have the freedom to read whatever they think they’d enjoy, in and out of the classroom.

I have a vivid memory of reading Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises for the first time. I was fifteen, wildly immature (as that goes), and one who prided himself in acting the contrarian (as that certainly goes). I think my junior high teacher at the time called it “risqué” and then proceeded to tell me that I probably shouldn’t read it. Likely story. I had no idea what the teacher meant by “risqué” but it sure as hell sounded a lot like “risky.” Pair that with “probably shouldn’t read it” and you have catnip for curious, immature fifteen-year-olds.

So I did read it. I picked up the book at the library and couldn’t put it down. It was so very enthralling, even if I was too immature to fully understand all of the nuances of the characters, their motivations, and “Lost Generation” foibles.  That didn’t matter, really. I read a book that I enjoyed. I read a book that I was intrigued by. I read a book that I related to in certain ways. I read a book that made me question things about morality and values and the choices we make and the subsequent repercussions we deal with. In the end, I read a book that was presented as something that may be dangerous or outside of the realm of my comprehension or maturity level.

And I benefited from it. Later, I went on to read most of Hemingway’s books, from A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and The Sea to most of his short stories and even a biography of the author (Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences). To this day, The Sun Also Rises is one of my favorite books—a conclusion I probably couldn’t have made if I had lived in an environment that discouraged and censored me along the way.

We need a world that is free from this discouragement and censorship. We need a world that inspires us to lose ourselves in the magic of storytelling. We need a world that gives us the opportunity to glean to our hearts’ content. We need a world that encourages us to engage and to think critically about all books. And yes, that includes Fifty Shades of Grey.


  1. T. Rees Shapiro, “Fairfax county parent wants ‘Beloved’ banned from school system,” The Washington Post, February 7, 2013.
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Books, Movies, Cereal for Dinner

Sometimes I’d rather spend money on books and movies than eat. It’s true. And I suspect that this desire would be much more pronounced if I were, let’s say, a hermit. Oh man. I would be starving, yet my home would be made of books. Literally. But only those big, throwaway hardcover John Grisham novels. Yes, I’d eat cereal for dinner three times a week, but I’d have so much money to spend on books and DVDs and all of the finest relevant accoutrements: cozy reading chairs, library ladders, decadent decanters, entertainment centers, special/limited/for-one-time-only blu-ray/dvd movie packages.

Thank goodness for Jessica. While we may eat cereal for dinner every once in a while, it’s not on par with hermit-hood. And I am especially thankful that she loves movies and books too. We can immerse ourselves and still find a good meal, here and there.

But we will have our Beauty and the Beast library, so help me Santa Claus.

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The Crack Addict at the Crack Manufacturing Plant

As you may know, Jessica works at a small, independent bookshop. And, as you may also know, she’s a book nerd; a book junkie, lover, addict. It’s to this latter point I find the most relevance, the most poignancy.

So it’s no fluke or happenstance that Jessica, over the last few months, had slowly but surely set aside a gargantuan collection of new hardcover and paperback fiction, non-fiction, YA fiction, children’s fiction and other books. All of which were stacked in piles under the counter. I envision she was chomping at the bit, dancing like a giddy kangaroo simply knowing she’d one day take them all home.

She did. She did take them home.

It was Wednesday night. She opened the trunk of her blue roller skate and inside I see that there are three huge boxes filled to the brim. We pull them out and take them into the bedroom.

For the next hour or so, Jessica and I poured through the books, salivating, smiles on our faces. It was wonderful.

But it doesn’t change the fact that Jessica is a crack addict working at a crack manufacturing plant.

Such the Crack Addict. Oh How I Love Your Addiction.

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Favorite Books Read in 2010

It’s nearing the end of the year, and so I thought I’d compile a list of Favorite Books Read in 2010. This isn’t to say the book had to be published in 2010, but there will be that too.  Here goes.

My Favorite Books Read in the Year 2010 (in no particular order):

The Complete Essex County by Jeff Lemire

Most Anticipate Reading for 2011:

Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell

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More Books Around Leads to More Education

With our library pushing 1,200 books, our children are going to be wunderkinds! Full article at the Daily Telegraph. There is, however, an inherent caveat to this. That being, more education doesn’t necessarily translate to smarter individuals. But our kids will be!

(via Reading Copy)

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Latitude 33 Bookshop in Laguna Beach, CA

As some of you may know, Jessica works at Latitude 33 Bookshop. It’s located in Laguna Beach, CA and it’s a wonderfully quaint, unique bookstore. If you live in the Orange County area, make a trip to Laguna Beach this weekend to visit with Jessica (she’s the lanky goofball with freckles and dark hair) and pick up a book. Plus, you’ll be supporting Independent Booksellers!

Latitude 33 Bookshop - Laguna Beach, CA

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Books as Colorful Decor

To say that I adore books is a gross understatement. Not only do I love reading them, I also like the way they look.

They can be categorized into sizes or colors or genres, publication date or alphabetically by author’s last name. They can be piled into misshapen stacks, or your very own Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Capote version of Jenga. And if you’re enough of a bibliophile, they can make such things as wallpaper, paint and general decor relatively moot.

With our 1,000+ library of books, and the thought that this number will continue to grow, I like the idea of having a gargantuan library. You know, the one with the globe on the antique wood desk and the horizontally sliding ladder. Perhaps, in the corner, a genuine bear rug. Or not. Oh yes, these are the dreams, these are the wishes. In fact, it would be quite similar to the library as seen in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast:

I’d also like to construct some ceiling bookshelves for all of the, let us say, lighter (in weight, not literary depth) books. I certainly wouldn’t want War and Peace to fall on my head whilst asleep.

Here are some cool bookshelves, found at Dornob.

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=bookshelves&iid=50966″ src=”0048/4ba3dc03-a930-491e-bf45-8269dbe8d01c.jpg?adImageId=12815627&imageId=50966″ width=”500″ height=”750″ /]

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