Every September, I tell myself that this year is going to be the year that I’ll finally sit down and write the perfect, awesome, emotional, and overly informational post on Banned Books Week. But every September, I lose track of the days, or something comes up, and before I know it the fourth Sunday comes right around the corner and I’m just sitting there, palm to face, muttering variations of “Not again ” and “I’m such an idiot.”
Spilled milk aside, I do want to at least TRY to talk about literary censorship within the United States. As fun as it is to
stick it to the book-haters revel in the mass enthusiasm that the book community is generating over this annual event, I think it’s important to understand WHY this event is happening. And I want to explain why I choose to participate.
But it’s already past midnight where I’m at, and while I’m not exactly Cinderella I need some semblance of a full night’s sleep if I’m to be expect to be a functioning human tomorrow morning. So I will leave aforementioned dream post to another day. Hopefully a day that happens to fall within this week.
In the meantime, I want to wish all of my fellow Stateside bookworms a very, very happy Banned Books Week!
P. S. – What are you guys reading for Banned Books Week? I’ll be reading Joseph Heller’s classic, Catch-22.
Welcome to the inaugural post of my new blog series, If You Liked! I was inspired to start this after reading the fabulous blog, Go Book Yourself, and thinking it would be fun to try my hand at book recs. I’m limiting this series to a once-a-month basis, so expect to see more of these on the last Friday of each month. Hope you enjoy!
If you liked Anya’s Ghost, why not try…
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley
Coraline, by Neil Gaiman
… for more stories featuring plucky girl leads, mystery, and a dash of the creepy.
Readers—What have you read lately that you would recommend?
“Oh, I want readers, my boy.” Mr. Baram sighed. “A world of readers I want, and yet, all I have is you. You want information, mere data, just like everyone else. That’s not reading. Wisdom? Inspiration? Phfft! Their time has passed, eh?” He waved his hand in the air. “You cannot nourish the soul with data!”
— Proxy, by Alex London
Here’s a less wordy edition of Snippets for this week, because 1) I figure this excerpt speaks for itself, 2) I don’t feel like elaborating on it, and 3) the more I try to talk about Proxy the more incoherent I become, until all I end up writing on the page are variations of OMG SO GUD U GUYS BAWLING BCUZ FEELINGS. So … next time. Until then, go nourish yourself with some reading!
I mentioned previously that I made it my unofficial summer goal to read more classics. But then That Slate Article went live, and for a moment I contemplated pushing the classics aside to read exclusively YA because I was seriously bothered by the article and really wanted to do something in the spirit of protest. But then I knew that if I did do that, I would regret the loss of an opportunity to play catch-up with the classics. So now I’m compromising by deciding to do BOTH. I haven’t decided if this is yet another one of my have my cake and eat it too moments, or a genuinely good idea. I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, here are the books* that I’m planning to read:
- Proxy, by Alex London
- Yaqui Delgado Wants To Kick Your Ass, by Meg Medina
- This Song Will Save Your Life, by Leila Sales
- The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer
- Beastly, by Alex Flinn
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
- The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
- Wonder, by R. J. Palacio
- Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
- The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
- The Bluest Eyes, by Toni Morrison
- Othello, by William Shakespeare
- The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury [not pictured above]
*I would like to thank my housemate and fellow bookworm, whose generosity in granting me free rein of her personal library made the majority of this reading list possible.
Readers — What are you planning to read this summer?
I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king, if thou wilt also perform thy part, that which thou owest me. Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other, and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember, that I am thy creature: I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Every where I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.
— The unnamed monster, from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
I’m rereading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in preparation for the upcoming adaptation by Pemberley Digital and PBS Digital Studios. (Cue the excited screaming!) This is my first time back in this book since college, and a part of me is kicking myself for having decided all those years ago to toss out my lecture notes because I’m really curious as to how my professor analyzed and interpreted this book. (I can’t remember a thing. Ugh, count on me to forget.) But I do remember—however vaguely—the famous speech that the monster delivers to Frankenstein, his creator, a portion of which I chose to post for this week’s edition of Snippets. I was intrigued by the monster’s claim upon Frankenstein, and how he repeatedly references Adam’s relationship to God. I was also struck by what he said towards the end: “Misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.” One of the major questions that the book brings up is nature vs. nurture. Are we who we are because of genetics, or an inherent, predetermined nature? Or does circumstance mold us into the people that we are? The monster believes it’s entirely nurture, but I think his “fiendishness” and “virtue” aren’t so much sides of his moral nature as it is behavioral reactions to how people treat him. If they’re good to him, he’ll return in kind. And likewise with those who mistreat him. His moral nature is actually very human—he gives what he gets.
I can’t believe it has been FOUR years since this happened. And until this past weekend, I haven’t gone back once. (ALL THOSE WASTED OPPORTUNITIES JENNIFER LOOK AT YOUR LIFE LOOK AT YOUR CHOICES.) But in all seriousness I am grateful that I was able to catch the sale this year. It was fun browsing the tables and observing trends amongst the different genres. In the fiction section for instance, there were quite a lot of copies of Memoirs of a Geisha, as well as Toni Morrison’s Paradise. In the mystery section, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was popular, along with The Girl Who Played With Fire. (Although interestingly enough, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest was nowhere to be seen.) I found a near-pristine hardcover copy of David McCullough’s John Adams in the history section, and was seriously this close to buying it—IT WAS GOING FOR $2 YOU GUYS—but decided to be reasonable and left it for somebody else to enjoy. I have a copy, my dad has a copy … I even have the HBO miniseries on DVD. We really don’t need another copy.
I was lucky this year. I had a good catch. Lots of the books that I found and purchased were ones I was specifically hunting for.
- The Call of the Wind and White Fang, by Jack London
- Walden, by Henry David Thoreau
- Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley (the 1818 text)
- Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
- Paradise, by Toni Morrison
- Othello, by William Shakespeare
- Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare
A lot of classics, as you can see. Which is perfect, because I’ve made it my unofficial goal this summer to read as many classics as possible. In talking to my reader friends over the years, I noticed that I actually haven’t read all that many classics. True, I’ve made old friends out of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, and John Steinbeck, but I’m practically strangers with the likes of Toni Morrison, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury … pretty much the canon of American Literature at large. Even within the scope of British Lit—which was the apple of my academic eye in college—almost anything past the moors in Wuthering Heights, or the cobbled streets of Sherlockian London is unfamiliar territory. I have never read anything by George Eliot, and have only just made headway with Dickens. And let’s not even begin to talk about my unfamiliarity with minority literature. It’s about time I started catching up, and I hope to do lots of that this summer.
Readers—What are your reading goals this summer? Bought any new books recently?
Mary Badham and Gregory Peck on the set of To Kill a Mockingbird. *
I had never deliberately learned to read, but somehow I had been wallowing illicitly in the daily papers. In the long hours of church—was it then I learned? I could not remember not being able to read hymns. Now that I was compelled to think about it, reading was something that just came to me, as learning to fasten the seat of my union suit without looking around, or achieving two bows from a snarl of shoelaces. I could not remember when the lines above Atticus’s moving finger separated into words, but I had stared at them all the evenings in my memory, listening to the news of the day, Bills to Be Enacted into Laws, the diaries of Lorenzo Dow—anything Atticus happened to be reading when I crawled into his lap every night. Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.
— Scout Finch, from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I’m re-reading To Kill A Mockingbird—again, ha—and loving every minute of it. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I just love Scout. She’s a girl after my own heart with her scrappy, tomboyish ways, her intelligence, and especially her love of reading. I’ve no doubt that it’s to do with what I’ve read and learned from Proust and the Squid, but I’m only just now realizing how reading is nothing short of a miracle. For most of us, reading is so second nature, so instinctive. And yet it’s crazy to think back to a time when we actually had to be taught how to do it, when written words—and even letters—were foreign concepts to us, just funny squiggles on a page that only grown-ups knew how to decipher. Reading is such a huge part of my life now, that I can’t imagine what my life would be like had I never learned how to read. So much of who I am as a person is thanks to the books that raised me. They taught me about life, how to deal with difficult situations, what is right versus what is wrong. They challenged me to think, and led me into worlds and lives I would have never had access to otherwise. And they almost always came into my life exactly when I needed them. They still do.
* I can’t seem to find the original source for the above image. The best compromise I can provide is this post from the blog Awesome People Reading.