Dear Reader

Random musings on reading and books from a librarian in training.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mice and Men Under Fire

A Kansas City mother is pushing to have John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men removed from the school's required reading list. She objects to the book's use of the n word.

According to UPI, Dana Washington said: "The N-word is used more in this paragraph than most rap songs, and I think that's absolutely ridiculous .. I'm not asking for the book to be banned, but for it to be removed from the list of required reading in the USD 500 school list. ... I want them to find another book that doesn't use the word so violently and profusely."

The school's response: "It's not a pleasant part of our history," David Smith, a spokesman for the school district, told KMBC-TV. "But kids these days need opportunities to learn about it, understand it, not in a sanitized 21st-century way, because that's how we move forward in society."

Let me preface any discussion with this caveat: I’m in no way saying that the use of n-word is acceptable.
However, I don’t think the answer is removing Of Mice and Men from the reading list.

John Steinbeck’s classic focuses on two migrant workers during the Great Depression. One of them has limited capabilities that result in the book’s tragic ending.
Although it’s painful to read racist words it also reflects what was happening in our country at that time. Instead of pushing to have the book removed from the list, why not approach it as a chance to discuss racism in our country and the power/harm of racist words? If we ever hope to learn from history it’s not by ignoring it or shying away from the unpleasant bits.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What banned books do you want to read

Shelf Talk has an interesting post on banned books they'd like to read - . The post was inspired by a hilarious Onion article, Nation's Teens Disappointed by Banned Books,

"Desensitized to sex and violence from an early age, today's teens simply expect more out of their banned books than previous generations," said Naomi Gould, director of the D.C.-based National Education Consortium. "For the teens of yesteryear, access to novels like Tropic Of Cancer, Portnoy's Complaint, and Lady Chatterley's Lover was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime thrill. But for teens raised on Cinemax and Def Comedy Jam, it just doesn't cut it."

tee hee.

Like Shelf Talk, I haven't r
ead The Awakening in years. I wouldn't mind picking it up again.

I went through a list of 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000.
and banned novels/ challenged novels

My pick's include from this list include:
The Chocolate War - Robert Cormier's tale of the fall out from one teen's refusal to participate in the school's annual chocolate sale repeatedly shows up on challenged book lists. I kind of like to see what the fuss is about.

A Wrinkle in Time - I've been meaning to read this for years. I feel like it's a must read in the scifi/ fantasy cannon.

Bless Me Ultima

Catch 22 - I've been meaning to read this for years
Slaughterhouse Five - Is another classic I feel remiss in not having read.

Must Read Books

In response to Esquire's Greatest Books Ever Written, Jezebel polled readers on must read books by women. As Jezebel pointed out there was just one woman author on Esquire's list:

Jezebel's list is compiled mostly of female authors -

I've included the list below. Which books have you read? Which ones do you want to read? (I've bolded the ones I've read and the ones I'd like to read are in red. Sadly, I have not read a lot of these books.

  • The Lottery (and Other Stories), Shirley Jackson (I know I read The Lottery in high school)
  • To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
  • The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton
  • White Teeth, Zadie Smith
  • The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion
  • Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
  • The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
  • Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
  • The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison
  • Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
  • Like Life, Lorrie Moore
  • Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
  • The Delta of Venus, Anais Nin
  • A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
  • A Good Man Is Hard To Find (and Other Stories), Flannery O'Connor
  • The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx
  • You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down, Alice Walker
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  • Fear of Flying, Erica Jong
  • Earthly Paradise, Colette
  • Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt
  • Property, Valerie Martin
  • Middlemarch, George Eliot
  • Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid
  • The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir
  • Runaway, Alice Munro
  • The Heart is A Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
  • The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
  • Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
  • You Must Remember This, Joyce Carol Oates
  • Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
  • Bad Behavior, Mary Gaitskill
  • The Liars' Club, Mary Karr
  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
  • A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Betty Smith
  • And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
  • Bastard out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison
  • The Secret History, Donna Tartt
  • The Little Disturbances of Man, Grace Paley
  • The Portable Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker
  • The Group, Mary McCarthy
  • Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
  • The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
  • The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank *I've read this in school but would like to re-read it.
  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  • Against Interpretation, Susan Sontag
  • In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez
  • The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
  • Fun Home, Alison Bechdel
  • Three Junes, Julia Glass
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Sophie's Choice, William Styron
  • Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann
  • Love in a Cold Climate, Nancy Mitford
  • Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin
  • The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
  • The Face of War, Martha Gellhorn
  • My Antonia, Willa Cather
  • Love In The Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • The Harsh Voice, Rebecca West
  • Spending, Mary Gordon
  • The Lover, Marguerite Duras
  • The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
  • Tell Me a Riddle, Tillie Olsen
  • Nightwood, Djuna Barnes
  • Three Lives, Gertrude Stein
  • Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
  • I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith (I've seen the movie, I'd like to read the book)
  • Possession, A.S. Byatt

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Banned Books Week

This coming Saturday kicks off Banned Books Week. I was very disappointed to learn that there are no events planned in Massachusetts. Check out the Web site, you may find some events in your area. They are also doing things in Second Life.

According to the Web site, Banned Books started more than 25 years ago in response to a sudden increase of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 1,000 books have been challenged since then. The challenged books range from children's to reference to adult fiction. They include classic works such The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and popular works like the Harry Potter series.

While I understand some parents' concerns with books are serious, some border on the ridiculous. One parent wanted YA Lois Lowry's books removed because she'd objected to references to stuffing and snapping bras in the series. Really?

However, challenging books is not the answer. Just because one person finds a book objectionable does not give them the right to prevent others from reading it. It's important, I think, to remember that books are still under attack and we should continue to fight for the freedom to read.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dear CW: Take a note, look at HBO

Wow, that was fast. Only after two episodes, HBO is renewing True Blood. Based on Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels. Regular readers, may recall I have ambivalent feelings. In all fairness, rare is the tv/ movie adaption I like 100 percent.

I have some problems with the series ... it plays a little loose and fast with the novels, I sort of detest the Tara/ best friend subplot. However, I'm hanging in there. I think Anna Paquin is great as Sookie.

True Blood goes for second bite

Five Reasons: True Blood

* The post title refers to my bitterness about CW's habit of canceling my favorite shows. Oh, bookworm Rory and super sleuth Veronica, tv is not the same without you.

Any True Blood watchers out there. What do you think?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Geek Gear

When I saw Peeramid's bookrest pillow, I fell in love with it. Shaped like ... wait for it ... pyramid, it's designed for reading books when you're lying in bed, sitting on the couch or traveling. It has a bookmark attached to it.

I came soooo close to buying this tonight, but I currently can't justify sending $30 something on it. My inner, let's be a responsible adult is like, save those pennies and use a pillow for reading. That said, I just think this looks adorable and looks so handy. I hate trying to find a comfortable spot reading a book when I'm sitting on my couch.

Help save Bitch magazine

The woes that the publishing industry is facing are well. Magazines and newspapers are losing revenue, advertisements are down and layoffs continue. Hopefully we can all agree that a diversity of voices is beneficial for everyone.

I don't recall when I began reading Feministing, but I quickly began hooked. I don't agree with everything they post, but find it a refreshing/ provocative view on issues, news and culture. In a similar vein is a magazine called Bitch, which describes itself as commentary on the media-driven world from a feminist perspective.

The magazine is currently in financial trouble and needs to raise $40,000 to survive. I have to admit that I’ve never read Bitch – I read their blog, but for some reason haven’t been able to find it on the newsstand. However, I’m blogging about it because I think It’s so important that we support a diversity of voices.

Bitch magazine needs your help!

The "Save Bitch" campaign: 28 days and $24K to go

Help Us Keep Bitching

Bitch Editors Ask Readers for 40K: Feminist Mag's 'Fate Is In Your Hands'

Will Bitch Go Broke?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New Moon

I've caught Twilight fever. I recently packed New Moon the next book in the series to read on a recent long weekend trip. I could not put it down. It's one of those rare books where when it was too late to read, I'd find myself skimming several pages because I was just dying to know what happened next.

Now, I'm not saying Stephenie Meyer's books are perfect. There's something that bothers me about them, I can't quite put my finger on it. I think they do tend to be a tad overly melodramatic. However, there's something I really like about Bella's character. They tend to be very engrossing books.

I have Eclipse, but am taking a break. I don't want to finish the series too quickly. I do, however, have quite a large stack of vampire books that I'm hoping to tackle.

A Lion Named Christian

I'll admit I'm a sap. I've been known to tear up at Hallmark ads, cry every year when I hear Happy Christmas (War is Over) and definitely was, ahem, misty eyed when I watched A Lion Named Christian.

If you have not seen this video, it's definitely been making the rounds lately. The video is about two Londoners who bought a lion cub at Harrods. Eventually the lion - Christian - grew too big for them to care for. He was introduced back to the wilds of Africa. A year later, they decided they wanted to see their pet again despite warnings that he might not recognize them and that it was dangerous. In the video, we see Christian embracing the two men.

According to Short Stack, a book the two men wrote about their experiences is being republished, A Lion Named Christian.

I'll admit that the video is a tad cheesy, but very sweet. I find it interesting that after all this time there's a resurgence of interest in their story.

By the way, Short Stack will now be posting daily.

Monday, September 15, 2008

True Blood merch

I'm still on the fence about HBO's True Blood, but I don't know if that's because it seems like it's not completely true to the book. I know they probably need to add some elements that aren't in the book, but the Tara subplot is wearing thin on me.

I'm realizing I'm going to have to view separately from the book.
However, I am love with these bar glasses. The glasses are from Merlotte's, the bar Sookie works at.


True Blood,,20222109,00.html

Our Second Date With True Blood Leaves Us Confused But Wanting More

TV Review: TRUE BLOOD - SEASON ONE - 'The First Taste'

HBO's new vampire series "True Blood" doesn't suck

The Review: True Blood Needs to Sharpen Its Fangs

Give HBO Some Credit

HBO's 'True Blood': What did you think?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Election Reading Habits

Amazon has a neat feature up to examining political reading habits by state.

I would not say there's any big surprises here. In my home state - Massachusetts -- 58 percent are reading Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Obama. 42 percent are reading McCain's Faith of My Fathers.

In Palin's state, Alaska, 64 percent are reading Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska' Political Establishment Upside Down.

I thought it was interesting that in formerly staunch red state NH, 45 percent were reading Zinn's A People's History of the United States.

Regardless of your party, there's a lot of books out there on both candidates. I just downloaded Obama's biography. I'm interested in hearing it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Geek Gear returns

One a recent trip to New York, my friends and I went to a store called Fishes Eddy. Now, what with an unfortunate habit of routinely breaking glasses/ aversion to cooking, I tend not to buy a lot of things for the kitchen.

However, I fell in love with these glasses – based on fairy tales, there’s Little Boy Blue and Red Riding Hood. I bought a set of four glasses and a really cute t-shirt with the Red Riding Hood design on it.

I’ll just have to be extra careful drinking from these.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A New Superhero: The librarian

Look beneath the covers and you may be surprised at all libraries do. For instance, libraries are currently the front lines in skirmishes over civil liberties. As part of the Patriot Act, the FBI can look at citizens’ library records such as books checked, etc. They don’t need probable cause to get a court order from a secret court.

Mother Jones has a tale of several librarians who fought the FBI and won (this short article is definitely worth reading).

The FBI presented Connecticut librarian George Christian with a National Security letter and told him that he had to turn over records on library patrons. According to Mother Jones, NSL are “…are a little-known FBI tool originally used in foreign intelligence surveillance to obtain phone, financial, and electronic records without court approval. Rarely employed until 2001, they exploded in number after the Patriot Act drastically eased restrictions on their use, allowing nsls to be served by FBI agents on anyone—whether or not they were the subject of a criminal investigation. In 2000, 8,500 nsls were issued; by contrast, between 2003 and 2005 the FBI issued more than 143,000 nsls, only one of which led to a conviction in a terrorism case.”

Christian and his fellow librarians decided to fight the order with the help of the ACLU.

"People say very confidential things to our reference librarians," explains (librarian Peter) Chase. "They have medical issues, personal matters. What people are borrowing at a public library is nobody's business."

The courts ended up siding with the librarians that the NSL was unconstitutional and lifted a gag order that prevented Christian and his fellow librarians from discussing the case in public.
Threats to libraries can also come from unlikely places. Take Maine resident JoAn Karkos. She looks like an unthreatening older woman.

Karkos, however, has taken upon herself to determine whether a book was fit for public consumption. Karkos checked out two copies of It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health and then refused to return them.

According to Boing Boing, Karkos wrote the library saying: “I have been sufficiently horrified of the illustrations and sexually graphic, amoral, abnormal contents. I will not be returning the books.”
NPR reports that the library took this seriously: “The librarians were not amused. "This has never happened before," Rick Speer, director of the Lewiston Public Library, told the Sun Journal. "It is clearly theft.”

Karkos was eventually charged a $100 fine (that a minister paid off.)
These stories while seemingly different both have my blood boiling.

If you think a library book is offense, it’s simple: DON’T CHECK IT OUT! To think that you have the right to dictate what other people read is offensive and arrogant.

The thought that the government wants to pry into what books/magazines you read or movies you watch or even what Web sites you visit, is a chilling one. Say I check out The Anarchists Cookbook, read about explosives or say serial killers, that does not mean I’m a terrorist in the making or a female Ted Bundy. If we turn a blind eye to the erosion of civil liberties, we start down a dangerous path. People should be able to go to the library and read without fear of prying eyes and be able to check out whatever book they want.

So, kudos to librarians for fighting challenges on every front. I’ve waxed poetically about libraries before, but I want to stress what an important role librarians play. They’re an incredible asset and are increasingly vocal in the fight to protect our unfettered access to information.

America's Most Dangerous Librarians
Library Cards
Judge orders woman to return two library books or go to jail
Protest over 'Pornographic' Book Raises Interest

True Blood premieres! Sookie is on TV

I’ve been lax about blogging this past month; I’ve also been lax about reading. Hopefully, that’s about to change. Just in time to justify subscribing to HBO, True Blood premiered last night!!!

I thought the "documentaries" before hand were interesting. One thing I pondered this summer is how various authors interpret the vampire myth. Reaction to sunlight, Holy Water, crucifixes and vampires vary depending on the author. For instance, Charlaine Harris’ vampires can’t go out in the sunlight and cannot enter someone’s home unless explicitly invited.

Overall, I’m excited about True Blood, which is based on Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels. For the uninitiated, True Blood is the name of the synthetic blood that allows vampires to “come out of the coffin” and openly participate in society. Sookie is a barmaid in a small Louisiana town (she's also telepathic). She becomes enmeshed in the vampire world after meeting Bill.

I’m horribly picky when it comes to movie/ television adoptions. I thought this seemed pretty true to the spirit of the book.

Nit picks first. I did not like how they’ve changed Tara’s character and downplayed Arlene’s. In the first book, Arlene, a fellow waitress/ friend plays a more prominent role. I thought the way they handled Sookie’s telepathy was a little heavy handed. Most of her close friends do not know she can read their minds, they just think there’s something off with her. Although, I can see why HBO went in that direction. Her ability plays a crucial role in the story, but she can’t read her boss Sam’s mind as clearly as other humans (and this will be important later).

I also really can’t picture the actors who play Sam or Bill as these characters. I picture Sam as a little more stocky, with reddish/blonde curly hair. And Bill (pictured left/ played by

Stephen Moyer), for some reason I pictured him with ink black hair and alabaster skin.

After reading the description again I realized I substituted my own image for how the character is really described. I still would have liked to see Henry (Kyle Schmid) from Lifetimes Blood Ties as Bill. I thought he was great in that series, which was based on Tayna Huff’s novels. (BTW: Still not over Lifetime canceling this series. BOOOO)

Now, it probably sounds like I didn’t like the first episode. However, that’s not the case. It’s just that I’ve enjoyed the Sookie Stackhouse books so much, that I’m probably way too critical. I think it’s great that someone recognized the potential for these books to be turned into a gripping series. There’s excitement, mystery, romance and the supernatural. They’ve also had some pretty creative ads and seem to be really promoting this series.

HBO, please don’t disappoint me like some other networks cough ::Lifetime:: cough did.

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