Hanging with the Banned by Janene Hill, Young Adult Librarian

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Psst… don’t tell – I read banned books.
You probably have too and may not even know it.
Harry Potter anyone? How about To Kill a Mockingbird, The Giver, or The Kite Runner. Alice Walker, Philip Pullman, Judy Blume, Chris Crutcher, Kurt Vonegut, R.L. Stine, Caroline Cooney… all have books on the list of 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books for the past decade.
This year, as I search for my annual “challenged title” to read for Banned Books Week (September 24-October 1), I have examined the most commonly challenged titles as compile through the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom. To my surprise and delight, I found I have already read half the books on the list.
In 2010, the most commonly challenged titles included: And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie; Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; Crank by Ellen Hopkins; The Hunger Games (series) by Suzanne Collins; Lush by Natasha Friend; What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones; Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich; Revolutionary Voices edited by Amy Sonnie; Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer.
This week marks the 29th year the American Library Association (ALA) in cooperation with the American Booksellers Association and several national organizations sponsor Banned Books Week. The freedom to choose, the power of literature, and the importance of the First Amendment is the essential message of Banned Books Week, an annual celebration by libraries, librarians, and book lovers across the country.
According the Banned Books Week website: “The week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings (and challenges) of books across the United States.”
In 2010, 348 challenges were reported. In the majority of these cases, the books were not banned at their institutions due to the work of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain the books. The ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom does note that for each reported challenge, four or five more remain unreported.
A challenge is defined as “a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.”
Challenges fall into a number of categories as defined by the ALA. The top seven of these over the past decade have included:
- sexually explicit material
- offensive language
- unsuited to age group
- violence
- homosexuality
- anti-family
- religious viewpoints
The majority of these challenges were in school classrooms and libraries (67%) while another 24% took place in public libraries.
Advocacy for Banned Books Week extends from the American Library Association’s support and push for Intellectual Freedom for all Americans. Expression and access is the basic premise to the American Library Association’s statement on Intellectual Freedom. A portion of the ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Manual states: “Intellectual freedom implies a circle, and that circle is broken if either freedom of expression or access to ideas is stifled.”
Libraries often adopt and use the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights to help guide them in serving their customers and ensure they serve everyone in their communities equally and fairly. The document reinforces a library user’s right to choose for themselves.
Banned Books Week is also a chance to recognize a reader’s right to defend or oppose what they read, listen to, or view. It is about recognizing the differences among tastes and opinions.
A more lighthearted approach to knowing your rights as a reader was provided by Daniel Pennac in his 1994 book Better than Life. He provided a policy called The Reader’s Bill of Rights, a list of ten items established to recognize the differences among readers and their habits.
He said readers have: 1) The right to not read. 2) The right to skip pages. 3) The right to not finish. 4) The right to reread. 5) The right to read anything. 6) The right to escapism. 7) The right to read anywhere. 8) The right to browse. 9) The right to read out loud. 10) The right to not defend your tastes.
If you are interested in learning more about banned and challenged books, the ALA provides a wealth of information through the “Issues and Advocacy” part of their website (www.ala.org). The library also has several materials that speak about the issues, including Banned Books by Robert P. Doyle and Protecting the Right to Read by Ann K. Symons and Charles Harmon.

Best Books of 2010

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I just put together a display highlighting the Best Books of 2010. I loved compiling books and seeing what books are being talked about, but I have a confession to make. There are some awards lists that automatically rule out a book for my reading. My story is typical: busy life, busy brain. I just want something fun to read. I was happy to find that there are also “Best Books Lists” for people like me!

The first place to go is Manhattan Public Library’s own Bookletters page. At the bottom you’ll find awards lists for your favorite genre fiction from the Nebula Award for you Science Fiction fans to the RITA awards for the romance lovers.

In my search I stumbled upon a fun little list from NPR. Susan Jane Gilman compiled the list Sex, Drugs And ‘Life’ – The Year’s Best Guilty Reads. You may be embarrassed to be caught reading these, but you’ll enjoy them anyway. This is also where I stumbled across Love, Lust, and Faking It by Jenny McCarthy, which I think deserves some sort of humorous cover award.
Another fun list is the Customer Favorites from Amazon. This reflects what people are actually buying, so the list is more reflective of reader’s tastes than of literary merit.
Whether you read to challenge yourself, improve yourself, or entertain yourself, we have something for you.

Muffins and mayhem: recipes for a happy (if disorderly) life

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Suzanne Beecher has been sending me emails nearly everyday for the last 4-5 years that I always look forward to and make time to read. She feels like a beloved friend or co-worker but I have never met her. I hear about her family, and travels but she also shares her trials and emotions that I can usually relate to in some way. DearReader.com is the way I have connected with Suzanne. I enjoy a few paragraphs of a new book each week in the particular genre I am most interested in and also anticipate a few paragraphs from Suzanne, the owner of this website.

Muffins and Mayhem: recipes for a happy (if disorderly) life is the first book written by this fun, and expressive online bookclub lady. I enjoyed every page of her musings and revealing stories. She has been a restaurant owner, started her own business magazine, ran a non-profit program to feed the homeless and now writes a daily column that over 350,000 readers subscribe to at DearReader.com. Suzanne includes some of her favorite recipes, including the chocolate chip cookies recipe that she has prepared to get her foot in the door at publishing companies all over the country.

Summertime Reading

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Recently a friend of mine rejected my book recommendation. When she pulled it from her stack of books at the pool, she decided that she absolutely could not read this book until fall. Ok, I’ve learned my lesson. Books have their seasons as well as their readers. If you’re looking for something light and fun to read by the pool, in the plane, or under a tree, try these summer reads.

American Thighs: the Sweet Potato Queens’ guide to preserving your assets by Jill Conner Browne is a hilarious life maintenance program to help women navigate society’s obsession with nips, tucks, carbs, and clothes.

Savannah Breeze by Mary Kay Andrews is the fun story of Southern belle BeBe Loudermilk. After being romanced a swindled by a conman, she starts over with all she has left, a run-down motor hotel in a quirky beach town.

In The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith takes us to contemporary Botswana. Precious Ramotswe decides to go against tradition and start her own detective agency, staffed only by women. Publisher Weekly calls it a “little gem of a book”.

Don’t forget that you can raise the fun quotient in your summer reading by joining in the Adult Summer Reading Program. That’s right: prizes for adults for reading!

What to read next?

> What to read next? We at MPL try to make this age-old question easier to answer for you with our good reads site. There are several genre lists and award lists, but my favorite part is the Library Staff Picks. These are lists made up by your local librarians with loving care for your reading pleasure. The truth is that we love to read as much as you do and this is where we share our favorites.

The Uncommon Reader

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The Uncommon Reader happens to be the Queen herself, Elizabeth II. The Queen has never cared much for reading, and didn’t even know that the local bookvan visited her palace grounds. But one day her Corgis take off on a run and lead the Queen straight to the bookvan’s doors. She collects her dogs, but she feels obligated to visit with the librarian and the sole patron in the bookvan. Appearances dictate that she should borrow a book, just to be polite.

“The Queen hesitated, because to tell the truth she wasn’t sure. She’d never taken much interest in reading. She read, of course, as one did, but liking books was something she left to other people. It was a hobby and it was in the nature of her job that she didn’t have hobbies. Jogging, growing roses, chess or rock climbing, cake decoration, model aeroplanes. No. Hobbies involved preferences and preferences had to be avoided; preferences excluded people. One had no preferences. Her job was to take an interest, not to be interested herself. And besides, reading wasn’t doing. She was a doer. So she gazed round the book-lined van and played for time. ‘Is one allowed to borrow a book? One doesn’t have a ticket?”

Once her eyes are opened to books, she attacks reading with the same determination she has shown in her queenly obligations. Soon her prime minister and even the Duke notice that Her Majesty’s nose is always in a book, even while performing the obligatory parade-waving, ship-christening and building-dedicating. Bennett makes some droll observations about politics and history through the Queen’s character. For those of us who always have our noses in a book, this is a fun read, with an unexpected ending.

Book List Fun

>I love book lists, partially because I can feel superior about how many books I’ve read and partially because it reminds me of what I want to read someday. I found this list on one of my favorite blogs, Jane Austen’s World, and had to pass it on. It’s a unique list, including classics and some newer fiction. I thought about using the same idea with a list of top 100 novels from the Modern Library, but I wouldn’t be able to say I’ve read as many of them and thus would not feel as superior.

I tried to track the list back through the blogs and see who originally made it. It seems to be from the Big Read, although I can’t find it anywhere on their site. But everyone loves to point out the quote “The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed.”

So here’s the deal. If you blog, change the list to suit your reading and post it. If not, you may want to e-mail it to all your friends. If you want to do neither, then glance through and feel superior at how many more books you’ve read than I have. I also welcome comments about things I didn’t italicize but really need to read. I agree with the writer of Jane Austen’s World in that I didn’t strike through anything. I might want to read it someday. I also didn’t mark things that I’ve read part of: the Bible, Shakespeare’s complete works. I had to mention it so you don’t think I’m a complete loser who hasn’t read any Shakespeare. But I’m not mentioning how many of these books I started and didn’t finish.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you love. (I couldn’t figure out how to underline, so I made them blue.)
4) Strike out the books you have no intention of ever reading, or were forced to read at school and hated.
5) Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve read 6 and force books upon them ;-)

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 The Harry Potter Series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo