Saturdays @ the South: Mood Reading

I don’t know what to read next…

This is a pretty common statement we hear at the library and it always presents a delightful challenge to the library staff. Delightful because it gives us the opportunity to open up a conversation about books; challenge because the reasons why a patron might be stumped on what to read next are as astronomically varied as our wonderful patrons. Sometimes it’s because they’re waiting on the next book by their favorite author and are looking to read something similar; sometimes it’s because they’ve tired of a genre and they’re looking for something completely new; sometimes it’s because they need to recommend a book that will appeal to everyone in their book discussion group. I could go on, but I think you get the idea…

How do you pick when you have choices like this?
How do you pick when you have so many options?

These conversations can be lengthy or brief but when done well, the patron will walk away with a smile and a new book to enjoy. These can be some of our most rewarding conversations as very often, the person working at the desk will also come away from it with a smile and book recommendation or two. Many times these conversations will hone in on what you’re in the “mood” to read. Are you in the mood for something fast-paced? A light, relaxing read? Something you can really sink your teeth into on these increasingly chilly autumn nights? These types of mood indicators can often help us pick out a book for you that maybe you hadn’t considered, but are still likely to enjoy.

But, what if you’re at home browsing the catalog for something to put on hold? Or the library is closed (we don’t like to, but it does happen occasionally)? Or maybe you just can’t quite articulate what you’re looking for enough to have a conversation with someone at the desk yet. Well, we at the library love helping people, and sometimes that means helping people help themselves. So this week, instead of recommending specific books I’d like to introduce you to a great (free!) tool the library offers, which can put together some book recommendations. You can access this tool anywhere you have an Internet connection, and it can help you along during those times you’re stuck on what to read next.

Go to the library’s homepage, go to the “eLibrary” menu and select “Articles/Databases.”Screenshot 2015-10-07 11.48.23

This will take you to our databases page. At the top there will be a dropdown menu where you select: “Readers/Literature Resources” and click “Go.”

Screenshot 2015-10-07 11.48.36


There are all sorts of cool tools on this page you’ll end up on, but the one pertinent one for this post is NoveList Plus.

Screenshot 2015-10-07 11.48.50 (2)

The NoveList Plus page is pretty fascinating all on its own because you can find authors or titles similar to ones you just read, browse through articles about books, and more. But if you’re looking for a book to fit your mood, you’ll want to click “Browse By” then “Appeal.”

Screenshot 2015-10-07 11.49.14

Once you’ve navigated your way to what NoveList calls the “Appeal Mixer” you can really have some fun!

Screenshot 2015-10-07 11.50.46

For example, I was still a bit caught up on comfort reads from last week and found that many of the books I talked about have well-developed characters, a richly plotted storyline and a leisurely pace. So I plugged that combination of characteristics into the three drop-down menu options, clicked “Find Titles” and it even picked one of my comfort reads!

Screenshot 2015-10-07 11.51.00

George Eliot’s Middlemarch is right there, along with at least a dozen other books that have similar characteristics (clicking the blue arrows will get you to more selections). There are dozens of combinations you can pick, including books with bold illustrations, books with a creepy tone (just in time for All Hallows Read), books in which authors exhibit an accessible writing style and so much more. You can even pick only one or two options and see what pops up. Maybe you have a child that can’t decide what to read? You can click on the tab for the appropriate age group and create an appeal mix for something he or she is in the mood for. If you scroll down from the mixer, there are some suggestions for mood to get you started like “Leisurely paced and Atmospheric” or “Menacing and Suspenseful” and maybe this is all you need to find a new book that will suit your mood.


So if you’re just not sure what to read next, try exploring this tool and discover something you might not otherwise have picked. Of course, you’re always welcome to come to the library where we will love to talk books with you and do our best to recommend something that will appeal to you, whatever your mood!


Breaking News!


We interrupt this blog for some pretty significant news: yesterday,Belarusian journalist and writer Svetlana Alexievich was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize for literature.  Ms. Alexievich is the fourteenth woman to receive the award since it was first handed out in 1901.

The Nobel Prizes, as you might have heard, were established by Alfred Nobel, Swiss entrepreneur, chemist, and the inventor of dynamite.  When Alfred’s brother died in 1888, the papers mistakenly published Alfred’s obituary, calling him “the merchant of death” and remarking “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday”.  Not surprisingly, Alfred was a little troubled to learn that the world might remember him so negatively, and realized his opportunity to change his story.  Upon his actual death in 1895, he established a trust (comprising about 94% of his total estate) that would bestow awards in five categories: physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace.

The list of Nobel Prize-winners in literature show that Svetlana Alexievich is in quite illustrious company–you can see the full list, with the awarding committee’s commentaries here.  However, she is also fairly unique among the other authors mentioned, largely because she is one of only a handful of non-fiction authors to receive the award.  What she has done in her work, however, is truly remarkable.  Rather than trying to explain events or understand people , Alexievich instead allows her subjects to speak for themselves–subjects who have often endured some of the most horrific moments in recent history.

“I’ve been searching for a genre that would be most adequate to my vision of the world to convey how my ear hears and my eyes see life,” she wrote on her website. “I tried this and that and finally I chose a genre where human voices speak for themselves.”

 ‘I never want to write another word about the war," Alexievitch wrote after spending 10 years speaking to veterans of the Soviet-Afghan War
‘I never want to write another word about the war,” Alexievitch wrote after spending 10 years speaking to veterans of the Soviet-Afghan War

Her books have taken years to research and write, primarily because she spend so much time talking with people and collecting the minute details of their lives and the intricacies of their memories to weave into her narratives, from female soldiers in the Soviet Union during the Second World War to young men involved in the Soviet Afghan War of the 1970’s and 1980’s.  These memories create a story that very often ran against the official Soviet history, which made Alexievich a target, particularly after her book Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices From a Forgotten War, was published in 1992.  As one of her American editors explained to the New York Times, “She was vilified all over the place for this book, and she didn’t back down for a second.”

For her book Voices From ChernobylAlexievich interviewed over 500 people over a period of ten years, from local residents to members of the clean-up crew, to employees of the nuclear plant. Because of the amount of time spent near the plant itself, Alexievich developed a lifelong immune deficiency due to the still-high levels of radiation in the air and soil.  Her work, however, was praised world-wide; a member of the Swiss Academy told The Guardian, “She’s conducted thousands and thousands of interviews with children, with women and with men, and in this way she’s offering us a history of human beings about whom we didn’t know that much … and at the same time she’s offering us a history of emotions, a history of the soul.”

So today, we would like to add our congratulations to the many that Svetlana Alexievich so richly deserves, and give you the chance to check out her harrowing, unforgettable, and vitally necessary work today:

41WlADO6uKL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War: The title of this book came from the zinc coffins in which the bodies of Soviet soldiers were shipped home.  According to one reviewer: “With very few and very partial exceptions, the evidence is of veterans of the war who are deeply scarred, irredeemably cynical, full of tension and of hatreds that can’t be assuaged. These people, officers, enlisted men, medical personnel, civilian employees (mainly women), even political instructors, all speak of a struggle which changed them utterly, and always for the worst…All that the Afgantsi [veterans of this specific war] have is their comradeship with each other; many of them find it almost intolerable to speak to anyone other than their own kind.”

2311540Voices From Chernobyl: Alexievitch’s mother was killed and her sister was blinded as a result of the meltdown of the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl in April, 1986.  She begins this seminal piece of writing on the place and its people:

I want to bear witness . . .

It happened ten years ago, and it happens to me again every day.

We lived in the town of Pripyat. In that town.

I’m not a writer. I won’t be able to describe it. My mind is not enough to understand it. And neither is my university degree. There you are: a normal person. A little person. You’re just like everyone else — you go to work, you return from work. You get an average salary. Once a year you go on vacation. You’re a normal person! And then one day you’re turned into a Chernobyl person, an animal that everyone’s interested in, and that no one knows anything about…

…That’s how it was in the beginning. We didn’t just lose a town, we lost our whole lives.

An All-Hallows Read If/Then Post


As we mentioned on Monday, the books here at the Library are quietly assembling for All-Hallows Read, a celebration of all things literary, eerie, chilling, and delightful.  Our staff is getting involved, too, selecting some of their favorite spooky reads for your All Hallows Read list.  From the classics to new releases and back again, here are some of our favorite tales…but be sure to stop by any of our displays and pick out a few seasonal tales that tickle your fancy!

If you are looking for a good place to start reading the kind of scary stories that All Hallows Read celebrates, Then be sure to check out:

3606195Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Bone Gap is the story of a boy named Finn who has a particularly difficult time recognizing faces, his brother Sean, and Sean’s girlfriend Roza, a beautiful and peculiar girl who disappears just as mysteriously as she appeared. Finn is the only one who sees her leave, and while the rest of the town of Bone Gap believes she left town in the same way the boys’ mother did years prior, Finn knows that she was kidnapped – but he can’t find a way to describe the kidnapper, nor does anyone in town believe him anyway. Told from alternating points of view, parts of the book read as a strange fairy tale, others as magic realism with just a smidgen of romance. Not scary in the horror sense, Bone Gap is a story of perception that leaves you questioning reality.

2269065The House With A Clock In Its Walls by John Bellairs

When Neil Gaiman makes a recommendation, we here all listen.  But the truth of the matter is that Bellairs is a sensational author for teens and former teens alike.  This particular book features Lewis, who has always wanted to live in an old house full of hidden passageways and secret corridors and when he is taken in by his Uncle Jonathan after the death of his parents, it seems that the world has finally given Lewis his dream come true.  But then Jonathan finds out that his uncle is a wizard…and that the house that they call home was built by a wizard.  A wizard who plotted the end of the world by hiding a clock in the house’s creaky walls.  A clock that has suddenly begun ticking louder and louder….This is a wonderfully fun, delightfully creepy gothic adventure, and is an ideal place to start reading all of Bellairs stellar novels!

2663371The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Jackson’s classic tale is considered one of the best ghost stories of the 20th century, mostly because it doesn’t show much of anything at all, but relies on the reader’s own fears to make it chilling.  Eager to investigate the paranormal activity in the house, Dr. John Montague and Luke Sanderson, heir to the mysterious Hill House, invite a group of people who all have associations with the paranormal.  Only two show up: the flamboyant Theodora, and the shy, bitter Eleanor, around whom this story revolves.  What happens during their stay is never quite clear…but because neither the characters nor the readers are entirely sure who–or what–is causing all the inexplicable happenings at Hill House, the entire book is an unsettling, nightmarish tale that is guaranteed to stay with you long after the final pages have fluttered past.

2644628Dracula by Bram Stoker:

This book established the horror genre, and it stands the test of time.  The quintessential vampire novel (about which we’ve already waxed rhapsodical), Stoker’s masterpiece is told through the letters, diaries, and transcripts of the four main protagonists, giving us up-close insight into their private terrors and secret fears, but also keeps readers from understanding the full scope of Dracula’s horror too soon.  The result is a rich, and a genuinely unsettling story that deserves all the attention it’s got over the years.

2251443‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

I think we’ve already had several discussions about this book, but we should have lots more.  Because this is definitely one of the good Mr. King’s most undersung masterpieces.  It was also inspired by both Dracula and The Haunting of Hill House, so there are added pleasures to be found for those who dare to read these books together.  Ostensibly, ‘Salem’s Lot is the story of a small Maine town that is visited by a vampire.  But it is so much more than that…it’s a love story to New England; its people, its practices, and, especially, its weather.  This book is a perfect fall read all around…but you might want to keep the lights on while you finish it….


Happy Reading, and Happy All Hallows Read!

Something wicked this way comes…..



It was a dark and stormy weekend.  I was sitting at the circulation desk listening to the books whisper secret tales of goblins, ghosts, and other things that slinky around in the shadows…

Oh…did you not know that books can whisper?  If you’re friendly to them, and sit very quietly, sometimes you can catch them telling each other stories on the shelves…

But that it beside the point.  As I was sitting and listening, I heard new voice…a low, croaking voice that sent chills running up and down my spine.

“It’s October, you know.”  The voice growled.  “You know what that means…”

“Do I?” I asked, slowly turning, dreading to see what was behind me.

“Of course,” whispered another voice–this one high and shrill, like an icy wind.  “It’s time for All Hallows Read.”

And behind me, I saw whole shelves of books creeping across the library, slinking down the stairs, and fluttering up onto our display tables…books of ghouls and vampires, of voices from beyond and inexplicable events; books full of dreams and nightmares to give giggles and shivers.

The books had decided it was time for the All Hallows Read.  And they are waiting for you…


So what is All Hallow’s Read, you ask?  Well, I can give no better an explanation than the Grand and Glorious Neil Gaiman, who created this most literary of all celebrations with this blog post.  You can also see a marvelous video explanation below:

(and check out #AllHallowsRead for even more information, details, and recommendations!)

Essentially, however, it involves handing out scary books for Halloween.  But the books here have decided that the Peabody Library will be participating in All Hallows Read from now until Halloween, so you can come in any time this month and check out our displays of creepy, crazy, vivid, and visceral stories to keep you up late into the witching hours (because the books are just too excited to keep this to a single day, apparently).  We also, as Mr. Gaiman said, are more than happy to provide recommendations, as well.

So, Happy All Hallow’s Read, beloved patrons!  The books are terribly eager to make your acquaintance….

The Romance Garden!

e92eb432815dc5ca41c6e80280b8df30After a long hiatus (mostly due to the fact that September was nearly gone before I realized it was here), we once again bring you the Romance Garden, where some of the Library’s genre devotees provide your mind with a little dirt, and plenty of love, in which to grow….

Bridget: The Captive Prince, by C.S. Pacat

3622688I’ll be honest with you, when I hear that a self-published e-serial has been released in paperback form, I usually find somewhere to hide.  Pacat’s sensational books, however, has not only made me a little embarrassed to admit my former prejudices, but is the exception to almost every rule out there.

Part fantasy, part mystery, part love story, the first novel in the Captive Prince trilogy sees Prince Damen of Akielos betrayed, kidnapped, and sold as a slave to his mortal enemy, the vicious and heartless Prince Laurent of Vere.  Though desperate and determined to escape, Damen quickly begins to realize that the court of Vere is a dangerous place, not only for foreigners, but for its Prince, as well.  But can Damen keep Laurent safe without betraying his own identity?

Pacat is the Queen of Subtlety, so the relationship between Damen and Laurent is a slow-simmering, tenuous thing that grows only by baby steps…but when they come, those moments are so delicious and revelatory and meaningful that they are simply unforgettable. Laurent himself has swiftly become one of my favorite heroes in romance–he’s tricky and nasty and petty, but scratching the surface shows plenty of hidden depths that are impossible not to love, even just a little.  Having already devoured the second book in this trilogy, I can only tell you that things get better from here, but we’ll all have to wait for Book Three together!



51UT8PkYRAL._SX307_BO1,204,203,200_Pleasure for Pleasure by Eloisa James

The fourth and final book in James’ Essex Sisters series is sweet, witty, and peppered with plenty of Shakespeare. Eloisa James is a Shakespeare professor as well as a writer, so it’s no surprise that in addition to the main characters’ love of poetry and literature, the title of the book is a reference to Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure.

Josie Essex is smart, funny, outspoken and beautiful, but after the ton’s resident bully dubs her the “Scottish Sausage,” not only does her debut season get off to a more than rocky start, but she becomes entirely uncomfortable in her own skin. Determined to repair her battered reputation and recover her self-esteem, she seeks out the help of a family friend.

The Earl of Mayne is a reformed rake and, in Josie’s mind, the perfect person to help her learn what to do to make men take notice of her. Early on, the interactions between Mayne and Josie are an appealing mixture of comic and caring, with Mayne viewing himself as an admiring protector and Josie seeing him as something of a big brother figure. Soon the two discover that there is much more to their relationship, but not before Mayne tries to attach himself to a French prima donna who is all wrong for him and Josie casts herself into a situation of potentially scandalous proportions.

A fun romance that will make you laugh out loud, Pleasure for Pleasure is guaranteed to make you want to read more Eloisa James.



3643283The Photograph by Beverly Lewis
Eva Esch’s family has suffered a lot of loss.  Both of their parents recently died and now their youngest sister has run away from their Amish community in Eden Valley, Pennsylvania.  Jed Stutzman, a buggy maker from Ohio, is working through is own grief after losing his finance in an accident.  When Jed takes a train to Eden Valley to learn some new buggy making techniques, he stumbles across a copy of Little Women that is full of margin notes and a forbidden photograph of a young Amish woman.  Jed is captivated by both the wisdom of the writer who left her thoughts in that novel and by the looks of the woman in the photo.  When he meets Eva on his trip, he thinks he has found this intriguing stranger.  More importantly, he finds himself connecting with a woman for the first time since he lost his finance.  Eva is similarly smitten, but is also somewhat distracted by her missing sister, another young man who wants to be more than just friends and her older brother’s declaration that he and his wife and children will be taking over the family homestead and there isn’t room for everyone else anymore.
After being disappointed by the last Lewis novel I tried, The Photograph has restored my faith in one of my favorite writers of bonnet fiction.  Her trademark well written story with likable characters is present without the heavy-handed proselytizing that can creep into Amish romances.  The plot may rely a bit too much on coincidences, but it is still a highly enjoyable tale that weaves in nice tidbits about Amish culture. 


Saturdays @ the South: Comfort Reads


Today is the last day of Banned Books Week, which we’ve been celebrating here on the blog daily, in various ways and from various perspectives because it is a broad topic to consider. You would think that since the South kicked off the Banned Books Week-bonanza last week that I would have something to say in summary or to end the discussion. However, I’d prefer not to have a finale for Banned Books Week, because, despite the well-deserved celebration discussions shouldn’t end just because the advertised week is over. They should be ongoing and I highly encourage that. So I’m going to leave banned books open-ended and start fresh with a new post….

Autumn is when the leaves begin to turn, the evenings become chilly while the days remain warm, foods turn into a pumpkin-fest and thoughts begin to turn to things of comfort as we steel ourselves for the upcoming winter. To me, the fall is a season for comfort: the foods that warm me as I take out my soup pot (temporarily retired during the steamy summer days), the sweaters and boots that keep me cozy, the blankets pulled from the cedar chest and the books that seem to encompass all of these things.


I don’t mean books that depict fall in a certain way, mention autumn in the title or feature the season prominently. The books I’m talking about are what’s affectionately referred to as “comfort reads.” Most regular readers have books that fall into this category, and they’re more than just favorite books. Comfort reads can take many forms, but generally they refer to those books that give you a type of emotional support. The ones that you can pick up and feel like you’re being welcomed to a familiar place by people you feel know you well. It’s the book equivalent of a friend you haven’t seen in years, but somehow, no matter the time that’s passed, you pick up just where you left off and start chatting away. It can make you feel better when you’re stressed or sympathize with you when you’re depressed. A comfort read doesn’t have to be great literature, it just needs to elicit that feeling coming home.

Our awesome librarian at the West Branch talked a bit this week about her favorite books to re-read and I’d bet that at least a couple of those book fall into her “comfort reads” category. As a matter of fact, two of the books she listed happen to be at the very top of a Goodreads list of comfort reads. Authors have comfort reads as well. Perennial librarian favorite Neil Gaiman gave an interview to Reading Rainbow recently (which, despite not being on air anymore is still going strong to promote child literacy and encouraging early readers, much to my inner child’s delight) where he talked about his comfort reads:

We avid readers have “comfort books” the same way other people have “comfort foods”, do you have any “comfort books” that you turn to when you’re sick, or stressed, or depressed?

I do, actually, and they’re an odd little bunch. I can’t really say why I turn to these books. Bleak House by Charles Dickens is definitely one of them. When I was in my twenties Glory Road by Heinlein was my go-to book. I have no idea why, it was just a place I liked to go when I was sad. R.A. Lafferty writes places I like to go to. Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light is another wonderful place to go.

Like Gaiman and our West Branch librarian, you may go to your comfort reads time an again. Others might be books you’ve read once or twice, but you take comfort knowing that they’re there to welcome you back whenever you need them.

I have a bit of an eccentric list comfort reads list myself. Here are a few books that I go to whenever I need them, for whatever reason:

3554442Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I’ve lost count as to how many times I’ve read this book (and for that matter, watched the BBC adaptation). P&P is what I read whenever I’ve got a book hangover and don’t know what to read next.  I get swept away in the wit, romance and Regency country dancing and all feels right with the world again. Somehow, this book always guides me back to my reading list.

3237118Hamlet by William Shakespeare

There’s a good chance that you’ll stop reading here thinking I’ve lost my mind. I’m willing to run that risk. When I’m feeling sad or depressed, I’ve turned to Hamlet because my problems seem to pale by comparison. Sometimes you feel the need to commiserate and books can do that for you. This one makes me feel like I’m commiserating with a cousin and Shakespeare’s poetry makes it sound as though Hamlet is commiserating right back.

1504665Middlemarch by George Eliot

I’ve only red this book once, but every time I picked it up to get further into the story, I got this warm feeling washing over me like I was visiting a small country town where everyone knew everyone else and the people there welcomed me into their little community with open arms (It’s kind of like the atmosphere at the South Branch, actually). The stories are compelling, the prose is beautiful and this is one where I know ithat if I ever want to go back to Middlemarch, it will be there for me, with the same folks and the same town waiting to welcome me back again.

1912752Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

Lest you only think I read classics for comfort (though I admit I do find the most comfort in classics) this book is one I go back to whenever I feel the need to escape. Not the kind of escape that a beach read offers. This is a curl-up-under-the-covers and take-me-away kind of book. It’s dense and rich with themes that envelop me like a warm blanket. I always feel immensely satisfied after reading this book, even though the ending somewhat ambiguous.

2260048Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

You thought you could get away from a mention of this one, didn’t you? It keeps popping back up because this book had a profound effect on me. I was utterly pulled into the world Clarke created as completely as any book I’ve ever read. This is one of the books I know I will turn to for comfort when the real world just seems a bit much and I’ll journey with Jonathan and Arabella Strange, Gilbert Norrell and John Segundus as though they were members of my own circle of friends.

Clearly my list of comfort reads (and there are many more) aren’t for everyone, but I do believe that everyone who enjoys reading has their own list of books that they turn to for comfort, in their own way. Till next week, dear readers, pull out the blanket, make a cup of cocoa or tea and cozy up to a read that gives you comfort.

Five Book Friday: The Banned Books Week Edition


Banned Book Week is drawing to a reluctant close, but since it’s our day to highlight books on the library shelves, and we are little literary rebels, I thought we could use this time to hear a few more authors talk about the importance of books; of allowing readers to think for themselves, to read what they want and need to read, wherever they want to read it.  The books listed below are on our shelves and in the NOBLE system, ready and waiting for you to come and visit them, and maybe even be changed by them.


3132260Wes Moore, author of The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates (challenged by parents to the Springfield Massachusetts School Committee for its discussion of drug use and alcohol):

“Even if these students don’t read or talk about my story in school, I’m sure many of them would recognize the streets I grew up on…For many of my readers, hearing a story about someone like them – someone who struggled growing up in a family like theirs, on streets like theirs – resonates more powerfully for them than reading about people and places they couldn’t envision. For that very reason, I think it all the more important to bring The Other Wes Moore into schools and offer students a healthy space to discuss this. To talk about even the dark realities of my story and their own lives in the presence of their peers and caring teachers can be a powerful way to help them think of how they might make choices when caught in difficult times…We all have an obligation to share such stories and to consider the importance of teaching personal responsibility to our children.” 

3110716Jeanette Walls, author of The Glass Castle (removed from the curriculum in the Dallas County School District after parents voiced concern that their children would be uncomfortable with sex and drug use depicted ):

“My book has ugly elements to it, but it’s about hope and resilience, and I don’t know why that wouldn’t be an important message.  Sometimes you have to walk through the muck to get to the message…A lot of teachers told me someone reported an abusive relative after reading it in my book. How valuable is that?…And we can begin to give kids the tools they need to deal with it, if only to say, ‘You are not alone.’”

2435322Robert Lipsyte, author of Raiders Night (challenged for scenes of drug use and discussion of sexual assault by numerous school systems and high school sports teams):

“…a bright suburban mid-western superintendent told me how much he had enjoyed the book and how, as a former football coach, he thought it was dead on…I explained that…[my] mission it is to tell useful, truthful stories to youngsters who are willing to absorb them into their process of becoming. I told him that the jocks with whom I had discussed the book – some in his own high school – thought it was like a documentary of their lives. What they really wanted to talk about was their profound distrust for adults, particularly coaches and school administrators. He nodded ruefully. They have reason, he said.  For a moment, I wanted to clap him on the back, It’s okay, big fella, censoring information for boys and girls is a tricky, nuanced game, don’t beat yourself up. But…you censor information for kids and they’re used to it as adults so you can make wars, poison the air and burn up our future with lies.” 

2191400Pat Conroy, author of Prince of Tides and Beach Music (challenged by parents in Charleston, West Virginia, and brought to the author’s attention by a student desperate for the chance to read the books):

“The world of literature has everything in it, and it refuses to leave anything out. I have read like a man on fire my whole life because the genius of English teachers touched me with the dazzling beauty of language. Because of them I rode with Don Quixote and danced with Anna Karenina at a ball in St. Petersburg…I’ve been in ten thousand cities and have introduced myself to a hundred thousand strangers in my exuberant reading career, all because I listened to my fabulous English teachers and soaked up every single thing those magnificent men and women had to give. I cherish and praise them and thank them for finding me when I was a boy and presenting me with the precious gift of the English language.

The school board of Charleston, West Virginia, has sullied that gift and shamed themselves and their community….But here is my favorite thing: Because you banned my books, every kid in that county will read them, every single one of them. Because book banners are invariably idiots, they don’t know how the world works — but writers and English teachers do. I salute the English teachers of Charleston, West Virginia, and send my affection to their students.”

2049456Oscar Wilde, author of The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest, et. al. (Dorian Gray was heavily edited and later banned for immorality.  The rest of Wilde’s work was suppressed following his imprisonment for gross indecency):

The artist is the creator of beautiful things….Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.

Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope….

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." ~Frederick Douglass