Do you have a gift you receive every year? Some item which if not received taints the occasion just a bit? For me, that gift is a book, or even better, books. Each Christmas my momma gifts me with a selection from my ‘2b or not 2b read’ list (past gift selections can be found here and here). My mom was a little under the weather over the holidays and so her 2018 gift was delayed, but no less appreciated when I finally opened my box of books this weekend. Thanks Mom.
Have you been celebrating Banned Books Week? I’ve never understood how censorship could be viewed as a positive thing. If we prohibit the ideas which offend how can we ever have a discourse which leads to common ground?
Are you curious what the most-banned books are? Since 1990, these books have consistently made it into the top 25 according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom:
- Daddy’s Roommate – Michael Willhoite (published 1991)
- And Tango Makes Three – Peter Parnell & Justin Richardson (published 2005)
- The Chocolate War – Robert Cormier (published 1974)
- Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – Alvin Schwartz (published 1981-1991)
- His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman (published 1995-2000)
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou (published 1969)
- Heather Has Two Mommies – Leslea Newman (published 1989)
- Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck (published 1937)
- Captain Underpants – Dav Pilkney (published 1997-2015)
- Alice – Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (published 1985-2012)
- Sex – Madonna (published 1992)
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain (published 1884)
- Earth’s Children – Jean M. Auel (published 1980-2011)
- King & King – Linda De Haas & Stern Njiland (published 2002)
- The Witches – Ronald Dahl (published 1983)
- Gossip Girl – Cecily von Ziegesar (published 2002-2011)
- Forever… – Judy Blume (published 1975)
- The New Joy of Gay Sex – Charles Silverstein, Edmund White & Felice Picano (published 1993)
- The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger (published 1951)
- Final Exit – Derek Humphrey (published 1991)
- Arming America – Michael A. Bellesiles (published 2000)
- The Goats – Brock Cole (published 1987)
- Annie on My Mind – nancy garden (published 1982)
- What My Mother Doesn’t Know – Sonya Sones (published 2001)
- Halloween ABC – Eve Merriam (published 1987)
Some of the reasons for banning these books include racial stereotypes, violence, nudity, assisted suicide, drugs, religious or political viewpoints, sexism, misogyny, and disobedience – all topics as relevant now as when these books were first published. I am proud of the banned books I’ve read and will continue to seek out anything deemed offensive simply so I can judge for myself. Just saying…
I will occasionally review books when the subject speaks to me in some way (past reviews here and here). Typically, these books are heavy on pictures and light on words since I am ‘old school’, refusing to own a Kindle or iPad and not a fan of reading books on my laptop. This stance severely limits my review opportunities so when I was given the chance to weigh in on Tony Brown’s “Elvis, Strait to Jesus: An Iconic Producer’s Journey with Legends of Rock n Roll, Country and Gospel Music” I immediately said yes.
I had three very personal reasons for wanting to review Mr. Brown’s book; 1) I love all types of music, especially rock and roll and anything Elvis; 2) I’ve been involved in the Nashville music scene for many years; and 3) Tony Brown played a rather sizable role in my life in the 90’s. Truth be told, I was also hoping to see a face or two I knew within the book’s pages.
In ‘Elvis, Strait to Jesus’ Tony talks about his musical upbringing and features 40 people who have impacted his life. He describes his life journey as serendipitous, and the way he has laid out his story shows how one thing led to another but everything, always, revolved around his love for music. I really enjoyed learning about Brown’s playing days as a youth in his family’s The Brown Family Singers, and then as a young man tickling the ivories with J.D. Sumner and his Stamps Quartet, Elvis’s TCB Band, Emmylou Harris’s Hot Band, and Rodney Crowell’s The Cherry Bombs. Tony eventually moved on from playing to producing, and enjoyed tremendous success in the 80’s and 90’s with artists like George Strait, Reba McEntyre, and Jimmy Buffet, all of whom take a seat in the book’s ‘chair’ to reminisce about their relationship with Tony.
As they say in the South, Tony’s momma ‘done raised him right’. Here is a man who has seen it all and then some but any salacious tales he knows don’t appear in this book. Instead, what comes through in the stunning black and white photos and the words of his friends is his genuine love for each of them and the music they made, along with wonder at the path his life has taken. Tony Brown’s journey is a testament to honing your skills, doing what you love, and always always always following the twists and turns of your own life soundtrack.
I know I’ve been complaining about not having enough time to get it all done so it might surprise you to learn I have gone and joined a book club, because why not? Even if I get nothing else done – and a LOT is not getting done at the moment – joining a book group which meets once every few months isn’t the time commitment it might seem, especially since I read a few chapters of a book every night anyway.
Our club is interested in exploring utopian/dystopian perspectives and chose The Power by Naomi Alderman as our first read. Set five thousand years in the future, The Power explores an alternative reality in which women become the dominant sex as the result of a latent genetic trait which suddenly becomes active. Most of the book is presented as a manuscript which follows 7 character story arcs over the 10-year period from when the ‘power’ first emerged until the revolution occurred, ending in a matriarchal society. The rest of the story involves an exchange of letters between the manuscript’s male writer (Neil Adam Armon) and his female colleague (Naomi) in which they discuss the manuscript and their latent feelings for each other (because no matter who is in charge the love – and hate – shared between the sexes is timeless.
Ms. Alderman’s novel centers around the question of power: who has it, how do you get it, what does it do to you when you’ve got it? And when you wield the power, how long will it be before the power wields you? She also writes that two of the illustrations in the book are the key to the entire story. I haven’t researched those but hope to have done so in time for our discussion in two weeks.
How about you? Have you read The Power? What did you think? Whose story line did you like the most? And the least? I’d love to know your thoughts…
Most of the 1600 additional minutes were spent reading Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s. The Sirens of Titan, Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, Melanie Benjamin’s The Girls in the Picture, and John Connolly’s He. This is probably the 20th time I’ve read Sirens: I routinely read most of Vonnegut’s catalog on an annual basis. My only complaint with Little Fires Everywhere, which I thoroughly enjoyed, was that I wasn’t enjoying the story under an umbrella at the beach.
That leaves Girls and He, both of which deal with success, friendship, and love in the early days of Hollywood. The Girls in the Picture weaves the story of a lifelong friendship between ‘America’s Sweetheart’ Mary Pickford and screenwriter and film producer Frances Marion, both of whom were fascinating women way ahead of their time. He slowly builds up to the moment when an arbitrary pairing on a movie set leads to the legendary comedic pairing and deep private friendship between Stan Laurel and Oliver ‘Babe’ Hardy.
I would never have guessed that two books with such similar subject matter could impact me so differently. I was bored to tears by Girls and did not bother to even finish the book, while I stayed up way too long each night reading He. The one thing I did enjoy about both books was how each author included Hollywood stars in bit roles throughout their stories Unfortunately, because of this and a few paragraphs in He I may never be able to watch Curly and Mo in a Three Stooges short again. An odd side note – both books have Charlie Chaplin playing an integral role to the plot in each.
Maybe I disliked Girls because it felt like a variation on a story I’ve read hundreds of times before. And maybe I liked He because it was written in a voice that felt uniquely fresh and nuanced, and because so few books revolve around professional respect and platonic love between two individuals, and men at that. Or it could have been that Mary and Frances, who were so interesting in real life, came across as oddly one-dimensional while Stan and Babe were rendered in such detail I felt as if I had known each personally. I the meantime, I’m going to try and catch some old Laurel & Hardy films to see if the magic I felt while reading He comes through on the silver screen.
How about you? Have you ready either of these books? If so, what did you think of them? What are you reading now? I’d love to know…
When I was little I spent a large part of every summer reading. My sister and I would ride our bikes to the nearest library and load up our baskets with enough books for a week of reading. We’d bike home, fight over the porch lounge chair or the hammock, and read our afternoons away. My children, who each had a library card within weeks of being born, also participated in summer reading programs until they reached high school and their assigned summer reading assignments took over.
I continue to be a huge library user and supporter and generally utilize the online search and hold services to assemble a week or two worth of reading material. Imagine my surprise when I stopped by to pick up my book holds and realized that the summer reading club had started, featuring a club for children AND adults!
The program runs from May 14th through August 3rd and the goal is read 600 minutes. Not to brag, but I read 600 minutes in the first week, and am currently up to 4000 minutes and counting. There are also incentives for posting on social media (check), reading to someone (check) and making a recipe from a cookbook (check, check and check). I’ve already earned a mug and a $10 gift card and hope to have enough minutes to ‘win’ a book donation in my name when the program ends. Here’s what I’ve read so far…
Feel Free – Zadie Smith | Sing Unburied Sing – Jesamyn Ward | God Bless You Mr. Kervorkian – Kurt Vonnegut | Miller’s Valley – Anna Quindlen | The Wife Between Us – Greer Hendricks | While Mortals Sleep – Kurt Vonnegut | Eternal Life: A Novel – Dora Horn | Green: A Novel – Sam Graham-Felsen | Lullaby Road: A Novel – James Anderson | The Nothing – Hanif Kureshi | The Queen’s Embroiderer: A True Story of Paris, Lovers, Swindlers, and the First Stock Market Crisis – Joan E. DeJoan | King Zero – Nathaniel Rich | Surprise Me: A Novel – Sophie Kinsella | The Interestings – Med Wolitzer | The Monk of Mokha – Dave Eggers
Being a voracious reader with almost no topic boundaries I am an indiscriminate reader of books from any country in the world. It started many years ago with Russian and Spanish authors, before I branched out to include middle Europe, African and Asian writers, and in the last ten years Middle Eastern autobiographies and fiction.
Amazingly, I am drawn to the same sorts of ‘foreign’ as ‘American’ stories regardless of the author’s nationality: anything about the quest for freedom, education, family, and/or love keeps me engaged and invested in the plot. Turns out, these universal themes have persisted and prevailed over thousands of years, in fable, fiction and fact.
Along with comedy and music I believe books to be our greatest unifiers. We really aren’t that different although the details of our individual experiences can be staggeringly unique. On this, 2018 World Book Day (#worldbookday), do yourself a favor and pick up a book about someone in China, Ecuador, Iraq, Botswana, or one of the other 191 countries that make up humanity – you may be surprised at how much you have in common with someone on the other side of the world!
How serendipitous that I scored ALL of these books from my local library yesterday, which coincidentally was also the first day of National Library Week!
I grew up in a house full of books and was reading before I entered first grade. At age 7 I was given free rein to roam the reading rooms of Philadelphia’s Parkway Central Library while my dad explored the microfiche reels for his aviation research. By 9 my sister and I were riding our bikes to the Ridley Park library to get our weekly reading stash, which we would devour during lazy summer afternoons after our chores were finished.
There were numerous trips to D.C. and the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum archives, where I helped my mom and dad research pre-WWII insignia (and once opened a drawer to find a logbook from Charles Lindbergh). I worked as a help-desk clerk at the Baltimore County Public Library during my first year of college. I even spent one year organizing bake sales, weekly Friday dances, and monthly Parent Night Out events to restock our local elementary school’s shelves with $12,000 of new books. If all of that weren’t enough, my momma was a librarian for close to 30 years. So when I say my love for libraries runs deep I am truly speaking from the heart.
Think about it. Anyone, of any age, color, sex, sexuality, income level, education level, or any other descriptor you care to identify with can access one of 119,487 US libraries and learn a new language, brush up on computer skills, watch a movie, take part in community activities, surf the web, vote, or even check out a book. For free. It’s really quite amazing!
Does your town have a library? How often do you visit ? If you haven’t been in awhile (or ever) take five minutes to check out what your library has to offer. Get a card. Prowl around. Discover all the great things just waiting for you to explore. I guarantee – you will not be disappointed.
I can come up with clothing designs. I can draft patterns. I can sew at the couture level. I can embroider. I can bead. I can even applique. What I can’t do, or can’t do yet, is quilt. For someone as experienced in the sewing arts as I am in you would think quilting would be an easy thing to master, and yet something has held me back from trying. For that reason, when I was asked to review Southern Quilts: Celebrating Traditions, History, and Designs by Mary W. Kerr I jumped at the opportunity to explore ‘all things quilting’… Continue reading “A patchwork quilt of life…”
For the past few days I’ve been doing a deep dive into Palm Beach and Boca Raton architecture as a by-product of reviewing “Addison Mizner: The Architect Whose Genius Defined Palm Beach” by . I was drawn to the subject having spent a number of years living in Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, and lower Miami Beach, where I was surrounded by the beautiful Mediterranean and Spanish Colonial-influenced homes you can only find in South Florida… Continue reading “It’s a very very very fine house…”