CURRENT EVENTS: BOOKS READ IN 2022

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Happy New Year! 

I’ve been keeping track of the books I’ve read ever since my local library started giving raffle entries for each list of fifty read books per year. One of these years, I hope to enter twice. But it’s more important to me to enjoy and absorb the material than it is to read fast, so often I’ll pick up books off and on in order to absorb the contents. Other times I may start a book and decide not to finish it. I’ll never live long enough to read every book I want to read, so why waste time on books I don’t enjoy? I’d rather use my limited lifespan to read the books I get the most from, whether it’s knowledge, pleasure, or emotional release. That’s also why–though it seems counterintuitive–I reread my favorites.

I hope that by sharing the books I’ve enjoyed–and a few I didn’t–you might find your next great read! I consume books in multiple genres and formats, so I’ll indicate which ones as well as link to where you can find them:  Amazon, Audible, local sources, or free/low cost downloads from other places. Since my appetite for books exceeds my ability to buy all the ones I’d like, many on my list are library holds, while others were purchased from local authors or indie presses; I try to spend my dollars where they’ll have the most impact to support content creators. Enjoy!

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2022 BOOKS READ

1 Dead Beat (Dresden Files #7) by Jim Butcher (ebook via Overdrive)

2 Proven Guilty (Dresden Files #8) by Jim Butcher (ebook via Overdrive)

3 White Knight (Dresden Files #9) by Jim Butcher (ebook via Overdrive)

4 Small Favor (Dresden Files #10) by Jim Butcher (ebook via Overdrive)

5 Turn Coat (Dresden Files #11) by Jim Butcher (ebook via Overdrive)

6 Changes (Dresden Files #12) by Jim Butcher (ebook via Overdrive)

7 Ghost Story (Dresden Files #13) by Jim Butcher (ebook via Overdrive)

8 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (audiobook via Audible)

9 Side Jobs (Dresden Files #12.5) by Jim Butcher (ebook via Overdrive

10 Cold Days (Dresden Files #14) by Jim Butcher (ebook via Overdrive)

11 Skin Game (Dresden Files #15) by Jim Butcher (ebook via Overdrive)

12 Before the Next Ice Age (poetry collection) by Lisa J. Cihlar

13 Peace Talks (Dresden Files #16) by Jim Butcher (ebook via Overdrive)

14 Battle Ground (Dresden Files #17) by Jim Butcher (ebook via Overdrive)

15 The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams (Audible audiobook)

16 Life, the Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams (audiobook via Overdrive)

17 Dark Guitar (poetry collection) by R. Nikolas Macioci (Trade paperback)

18 Semidomesticated (poetry collection) by Jonie McIntire

19 The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (ebook via manybooks.net) by Samuel Taylor Coleridge 

20 Arroyo Chamisa: poems rescued from a blog by Alex Gildzen (paperback)

21 Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams (Audible audiobook)

22 The Long Dark Tea – Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams (audiobook via Overdrive)

23 The Poets’ Corner: The One-and-Only Poetry Book for the Whole Family by John Lithgow (audiobook via Overdrive)

24 Last Chance to See: the original BBC Radio series –Douglas Adams and Mark Cawardine (Audible audiobook)

25 Feck Perfuction: Dangerous Ideas on the Business of Life by James Victore (audiobook via Overdrive

26 47 Poems by Victor Clevenger (paperback poetry collection)

27 5 Days to a Clutter-Free House: Quick Easy Ways to Clear Up Your Space by Sandra Felton & Marsha Sims (audiobook via Overdrive

28 Double Star by Robert Heinlein (audiobook via Overdrive)

29 Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff by Dana K. White (ebook via Overdrive)

30 In the Dead of Night: James Bryant’s Dark Haiku Vol. 1 by James Bryant (ebook via Kindle app)

31 Organizing for the Rest of Us: 100 Realistic Strategies to Keep Any House Under Control be Dana K. White (ebook via Overdrive)

32 Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow (ebook)

33 The Third of Five by Dan Provost (poetry)

34 Moon Called: Mercy Thompson series book #1 by Patricia Briggs (ebook via Overdrive)

35 Blood Bound: Mercy Thompson series book #2 by Patricia Briggs (ebook via Overdrive)

36 Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (audiobook via Overdrive)

37 Iron Kissed: Mercy Thompson series book #3 by Patricia Briggs (ebook via Overdrive)

38 Bone Crossed: Mercy Thompson series book #4 by Patricia Briggs (ebook via Overdrive)

39 Outer Order, Inner Calm: Declutter and Organize to Make More Room for Happiness by Gretchen Rubin (audiobook via Overdrive)

40 The Wisdom of Wonder Woman by Signe Bergstrom (ebook via Hoopla)

41 Gawayne and the Green Knight: A Fairy Tale by Charlton Miner Lewis (ebook via manybooks.net)

42 The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (audiobook via Overdrive)

43 How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind: Dealing With Your House’s Dirty Little Secrets by Dana K. White (ebook via Overdrive

44 Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan (ebook via Overdrive)

45 Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor vol. 1–Weapons of Past Destruction (pdf via Humble Bundle)

46  Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor vol. 2–Doctormania (pdf via Humble Bundle)

47 The Poetry Deal by Diane di Prima (paperback)

48 what they don’t tell you about going over a cliff by Ashley Varela (Alien Buddha Press)

49 Fucking Apostrophes by Simon Griffin (small hardback)

50 Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor vol. 3–Official Secrets (pdf via Humble Bundle)

51 Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor vol. 4– Sin Eaters (pdf via Humble Bundle)

52 The Heroine’s Journey by Gail Carringer (audiobook via Overdrive)

53 Life from the Perspective of Math by Halle Preneta (chapbook bought at Loganberry Books’ Author Alley)

54 Doctor Who: City of Death (from a story by David Fisher) by Douglas Adams and James Goss (ebook via Overdrive

55 Storm Front (Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher (audiobook via Overdrive)

56 I am a Dalek (Doctor Who) by Gareth Roberts (ebook via Overdrive

57 Fool Moon (Dresden Files #2) by Jim Butcher (audiobook via Overdrive)

58 Grave Peril (Dresden Files #3) by Jim Butcher (audiobook via Overdrive)

59 Kant in 90 Minutes by Paul Strathern (audiobook via Overdrive)

60 Summer Knight (Dresden Files #4) by Jim Butcher (ebook via Overdrive)

61 How to Die by Seneca (audiobook via Overdrive)

62 Death Masks (Dresden Files #5) by Jim Butcher (ebook via Overdrive)

63 Blood Rites (Dresden Files #6) by Jim Butcher (ebook via Overdrive)

64 The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff (audiobook via Overdrive)

65 Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation –adapted by Ari Folman, Illustrations by David Polonsky (Kindle ebook via Overdrive)

*Dead Beat (Dresden Files #7) by Jim Butcher (audiobook via Overdrive)—I read this twice this year, so even though it’s a different format (audiobook) I’m not counting the second reading.

*Proven Guilty (Dresden Files #8) by Jim Butcher (audiobook via Overdrive)–I read this twice this year, so I don’t count the second (audiobook) reading.

66 Discrimination and Disparities by Thomas Sowell (audiobook via Overdrive)

67 Dogging Catastrophe by John Burroughs (poetry chapbook)

*White Knight (Dresden Files #9) by Jim Butcher (ebook via Overdrive)–this was my second reading of this book (in the same format) this year, so I didn’t count it twice.

68 Apology by Xenophon (ebook via manybooks.net)

69 Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Ghoul Goblin (graphic novel via Hoopla)

70 Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Omnibus Volume One (graphic novel via Hoopla)

71 Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Omnibus Volume Two (graphic novel via Hoopla)

72 Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Down Town (graphic novel via Hoopla)

73 Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Dog Men (graphic novel via Hoopla)

74 Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Fool Moon Volume One (graphic novel via Hoopla)

75 Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Fool Moon Volume Two (graphic novel via Hoopla)

76 Time Out of Joint by Philip K Dick (ebook via Hoopla)

77 A Maze of Death by Philip K Dick (ebook via Hoopla)

78 Hogfather by Terry Pratchett (ebook via Hoopla)

79 Poetry of the Gods by H.P. Lovecraft (ebook via Hoopla)

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CURRENTLY READING

I’ve been consuming poetry books. Due to mental fog this past year, I’ve had some trouble focusing on poems, so I’m reading these treasures more slowly than normal in order to get their full value. I absolutely adore poetry. Now that the fog seems to be clearing, I’m catching up. It was worth the wait.

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Next Friday, I’ll also post a companion piece on my Patreon, listing some reads from the past year I didn’t list here because they were not read from start to finish. If you’re interested, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my work for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

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CURRENT EVENTS: New Year’s Resolutions Past and Present

Gather round, kids! That’s right. It’s time for the annual accountability post on my writing blog. Sounds fun, right? I know you’ve been on pins and needles, anticipating this ALL YEAR, so without further ado I give you…

MY 2022 RESOLUTIONS:

This year I attempted to pace myself by breaking large goals into smaller parts with specific deadlines. Ever since I did Nanowrimo in 2007, I’ve been in love with the magic of deadlines, so I thought this would be a more helpful strategy than general goals for the year. Witness the results. 

  1. CLEAN OUT MY CRAFT ROOM/WORKSPACE BY JANUARY 31st 

FAILED (by deadline/partial by year’s end)

–I thought that I could adjust deadlines as needed, but given my mental state as well as the Herculean task of cleaning this space, what actually happened is I just postponed it indefinitely. Addressing the craft room also flew in the face of my decluttering strategy, which deals with high visibility areas first. Since I can easily avoid this room–it’s adjacent to the garage downstairs, I just avoided working on it. 

However, at the end of August, disaster struck when our septic backed up downstairs. This resulted in a hotel stay, a huge bill, an insurance claim, and the stripping down and rebuild of almost the entire downstairs. Though my craft room managed to escape damage, we threw large amounts of things in a dumpster, leaving my garage mostly empty. Since I spent so much time throwing things away, decluttering, etc. I was more motivated to work on the room. I’ve finally managed to begin this month, and though it’s just one section so far, I want to continue to work on this throughout 2023.

  1. WORK ON MY MANUSCRIPT IN TWO MONTH INTERVALS

FAILED.

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–I tried. I really tried.

I SWEAR.

But every time I started to make headway, something would come up. I know others have things worse than me–I am comparatively very lucky, but after awhile I just lost the thread. I became depressed. Honestly, several times this year I went through periods of depression where I didn’t read or write at all for a month or more. I’ve always found reading to be my refuge, and I went through periods where I couldn’t stand to pick up a book; that’s never happened before in my entire life. Luckily I had some previously completed work that I used for my monthly online obligations.

So my self-imposed deadline went out the window.

  1. CLEAN OUT MY GARAGE BY APRIL 1st 

FAILED (by deadline/partial by year’s end)

Believe it or not, this is a huge improvement.

–Although I did not clean my garage by April, the septic backed up into the garage in August which resulted in throwing almost all of its contents into a dumpster. So, the thin silver lining of a poo-filled cloud is that my garage has much less stuff in it than before.

Though the garage floor has been disinfected and washed, there is still a lot that needs to be done: decluttering the shelves and some other areas, setting up an organizational system for storage, and general cleanup.

  1. ORGANIZE BEDROOM JULY 1st 

FAILED (by deadline/SUCCESS by year’s end).

–Despite missing my deadline, I *DID* manage to accomplish this goal! I had a problem corner where things piled up, so I decluttered and replaced the pile with a set of drawers for clothes and blankets. My bookshelves were overflowing with projects, DVDs, and (unbelievably) books. I cleared these out and organized them: the bookshelf top displays knickknacks and notebooks, one shelf is for current projects and books being read, and the last two are for reference materials.

  1. SUBMIT HERA UNCHAINED TO PUBLISHER BY DECEMBER 31st. 

FAILED (See Resolution #2).

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–Again. Life. Complications. Depression. Deadline out the window.

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YEAR ROUND

*PROMOTE PINHOLES: TRAVELING THROUGH THE CURTAIN OF THE NIGHT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE

SUCCESS (Partial).

–There weren’t a lot of opportunities for promotion, though I did take advantage of the ones available to me.

The reason I say it’s only a partial success is that I had plans to do online promotion via videos and interviews. I wanted to learn how to create 3d and virtual media for consumption via Oculus. Some opportunities fell through, but I decided not to create videos on my own because I simply couldn’t bring myself to make them.

*KEEP UP MY MONTHLY POSTING SCHEDULES FOR MY WRITING BLOG AND MY PATREON

SUCCESS.

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–I posted once a month to this blog as well as a separate post (usually complementary) to my Patreon. One of the few complete successes I accomplished this year!

I did not mention Kaleidoscope’s publication earlier, because it was not one of my specific New Year’s Resolutions. I am obviously really proud of this book though–my best poetry collection so far!–so I would be remiss not to mention its publication. It was one of the few bright spots in my year.

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2022 REFLECTIONS:

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Obviously, I’ve done better. 

In past years, I’ve done much better, with a steady decline since the pandemic started. Are we still considered to be in the pandemic? I’m not sure, though certainly people’s attitudes toward public appearances and health have shifted dramatically. This is the first year in awhile that I’ve failed at more resolutions than I’ve succeeded. If this was my report card for highschool, I would need to repeat the year.

Still, the resolutions themselves did what they were supposed to do: they kept my goals in mind, even when I kept getting derailed by life changes. 

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2023 NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS:

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Honestly, I don’t feel mentally in a place to make new resolutions, as I’m still off balance from this year’s disasters. I’m not complaining. As I’ve already acknowledged, others have had things much worse than myself and my family, but it’s important to be truthful about my state of mind. I was not at my best this year, but the important thing is to keep trying. Since my 2022 deadlines weren’t helpful, I think this time I’ll keep my resolutions simple. 

  1. BE OPEN TO NEW OPPORTUNITIES (even if they are outside my comfort zone).

–I admit that certain things scare me: public speaking (though I’ve made a lot of progress in this area), unscripted appearances, and (especially) anything that requires me to perform memorized material. I promise that, as long as it is within my ability, I will say yes to opportunities to promote my work or literary events in general.

  1.  KEEP MAKING PROGRESS WITH MY WRITING.

–I will keep up with my two online monthly obligations–this blog and my Patreon, as well as personal projects like my Hera novel. Although changing circumstances forced me to take a break from Hera, I have not abandoned the project–merely postponed it. It may take longer, perhaps much longer, but I will eventually finish this novel. It’s been in my head for years, so I will continue to work on it. I anticipate writing smaller increments over a longer period of time, or I might even decide to write it in serial form. I’m not sure yet, other than I will continue to write the book until it’s completion (though it might take several years). 

  1. TAKE CARE OF MYSELF MENTALLY. 

–My usual go-to response when things get hairy is to try to look on the bright side, but as more things go wrong this gets harder. So I will try to look for the cloud’s silver lining, while also acknowledging that sometimes things just suck. And that’s okay. And it’s okay if I need to take a break for my mental health. Acknowledging that I feel bad allows me to deal with it so I can get past it. I will continue to work on this in 2023.

I will continue to work towards my goals while knowing my limitations. I tend to volunteer for things, as well as add on to projects, and in the past year I haven’t been able to keep up. As much as I enjoy helping out, I need to recognize I can’t do everything.

And if I need to see a counselor, I will do so again. I have done so in the past, and I’ve always found it helpful. If you are struggling emotionally, I highly recommend this.

These three things seem (*fingers crossed*) within my grasp. Although I’ve had trouble succeeding at my 2022 resolutions, I’ve been relatively successful at accomplishing these newly stated goals throughout the year., So I feel confident I can meet them in 2023.  

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to buy myself an adamantium umbrella for when the sky starts falling…

Thank you for visiting my blog, and I hope you’ll return in January! I’ll start 2023 with a post about the books I’ve read in 2022, so maybe you’ll find your next great read. I hope your holidays are happy. Have a great new year. Stay safe, stay well, and read often. See you next year!

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POEM: “sunflowers and soup”

sunflowers and soup”

rain does not touch these blooms
dried brightly, yet somehow sad
deprived of sun within hallowed walls
beneath thin glass that sunless 
shines only with the flash of a bulb

their Warhol-esque protest
a mockery of his work to bring
a bit of beauty into this broken world.
Gauguin would have been appalled

a century and more the oil-
based hues have blossomed,
brightly drooped within 
their mustard-colored vase
dark orbs studying what lies

below the sturdy wooden frame,
unblinking green lashes 
fringe each full round iris.
they embody both light and dark,
caught sunlight subdued by brush

an artist’s call: to make the world
more appealing or tell the truth
of existence despite its tragedy,
to capture its pleasure and pain
all within a simple wood frame

what do those dark orbs see
of humanity’s darker corners?
two young girls wasting soup 
in a world starved for understanding


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*inspired by “Just Stop Oil activists throw soup at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers | Just Stop Oil | The Guardian


*If you’d like to read about my progress and plans for this year, as well as craft tips, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my work for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

POEM: “Fight Club Redux”

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Fight Club Redux”
--aka “it’s your own damn fault if it’s spoiled; the movie’s been out for ages”

in the darkness, the grass glitters 
with crystallized condensation
when i walk outside to let 
my dog make her mark, as though 
the stars vaguely luminescent 
in their spheres had fallen to earth 
frozen, their heat lost to predawn chill

later i watch Fight Club for the 
n-th time, catch myself thinking 
how very very nice it would be 
to have a friend like Tyler to hang 
around with on shitty nights in 
a shitty house, or sharing drinks in
a shitty bar, but without the assault
--gut punched by metaphor alone

imagine a friend, even imaginary,
that’s always there through thick, through thin-
ning nights and thinning hair,
trading jokes and insults and 
guttural laughter no matter 
how many times they’ve heard each 
clever wordplay,  each dumb pun

someone who listens--does not simply wait
for your part of each conversation 
to end, someone like Bob to hug you
with his big-ass bitch tits, or Tyler
with his right hook to greet you. 
3D Virtual Reality’s 
got nothing on the brain. We can make 
ourselves believe, we make ourselves 
believe anything - - - -

even that the stars glistening 
in the darkened blades of grass 
are beautiful despite my canine’s warmly 
flowing contribution melting 
them before their time, readying 
them for a sun they will never 
see just beyond that horizon.



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*I recently rewatched Fight Club, and though it’s not exactly a Halloween-themed movie, I thought it was close enough for today’s post. Happy Halloween! 

If you’d like to read about my progress and plans for this year, as well as craft tips, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my work for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

BANNED & CHALLENGED BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS including a brief mention of “Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation”

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In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to post a banned book recommendation each day. I have only used only books I’ve read from the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the decade (2010-2019), with the partial exception of the book I am currently reading.

BANNED & CHALLENGED BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Since today is the last day of Banned Books Week, I thought I’d wrap up with brief comments on the other books I’ve read from the above list, as well as talk about my current read.

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

–an engrossing young adult novel, partially autobiographical, of an American Indian boy growing up on a reservation. He’s transferred to another school where he is the only Indian student and must struggle to fit into two worlds. Although I read this several years ago, I remember deeply empathizing with the main character, and it gave me a completely different perspective on the struggles of American Indians.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

–a beautifully written and tragic story of an abused and neglected little girl. As an African American child, she is constantly referred to as ugly and longs for blue eyes (which she equates with whiteness) so she will be loved. As a blue-eyed blonde caucasion woman, this book made me feel terrible, which I think was part of the point. If you want to feel good, this isn’t a happy read, but if you want to see how racist views on appearance leave emotional scars, this book is amazing.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

–I read this book years ago for school, so honestly I don’t have much memory of the plot other than the part where they explain the title: “To kill a mockingbird is a sin” because all they do is make the world a little better. Honestly, as I write this I realize I should probably reread the book anyway, because it’s a really good novel.

A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

–I went through a phase where I read a lot of dystopias, and I found this one really interesting. The idea of good girls being promiscuous (the opposite of how I was raised), the idea of monogamous love being selfish, and this perfectly regimented society looked upon by outsiders is fascinating. Fair warning though, the ending is weird.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

–I love this book, and it made me cry.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

–see above.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

–Another classic that made the list. Often because it uses racist terms like “the n-word,” although in the beginning of the book Twain explains that he wrote the novel using the dialogue of the time and place. In other words, be mad at reality, not him. There are other problematic things with the book worth mentioning, namely that the runaway slave Jim comes off overly simple at times, but I took that as a reflection of his being uneducated because of his slave status; Huck is also uneducated as well as superstitious. The long and short of it is, if you haven’t read this, you need to. Not only is it an amazing read, it’s an ingrained part of American culture. 

The Holy Bible

–It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Christian Bible makes the list: people argue over different editions, and it contains sex, incest, murder, basically every sin you could possibly imagine. Religion is often a source of controversy. And while I have read large portions of the Bible in pieces, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have not read it in its entirety.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

–I actually read this book fairly recently and was both fascinated and horrified by the exploits of its characters. I will say this though: the book has a much better ending than the film, and it did make me think.

And finally, I am currently reading the challenged book, Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation” by Anne Frank, by Ari Folman (Adapter), David Polonsky (Illustrator)

I’d like to mention this book was not banned in Texas (as has been widely misreported). It was challenged, temporarily removed from shelves, but ultimately returned and available for checkout. The original edition of Diary of a Young Girl, a classroom staple for years, was not disputed: However, the challenged edition of Anne Frank’s diary is not the one most school children read growing up, but rather a graphic adaptation based on her complete diary. Social media has claimed that this was banned, which is false.

The one most of us are familiar with had been edited to remove material considered too personal. In Texas, the graphic adaptation was challenged, most likely because of references to homosexuality and female genitalia, but ultimately not banned. 

A challenge means that someone has an objection to a library book’s availability, usually either because of age appropriateness or some other reason. The challenge is the process by which books are determined to be kept on shelves or removed from circulation (which would be considered a ban). The challenge was issued the previous school year, the book (along with others) was removed temporarily from library shelves, read and voted upon, and ultimately returned to circulation. However, shortly before the next school year began, a new school board was elected; they instituted new criteria for books which resulted in many books being temporarily removed from shelves so that the process could be redone under the new guidelines. Basically, politics. 

Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation is authorized by the Anne Frank Foundation in Basel, includes direct quotes from the definitive edition, and has won awards. I’m only about a third of the way through the book, which I digitally checked out via my local library, but it seems close to what I remember of the original book, with the illustrations taking some artistic license below direct quotes from the original text. So when Anne complains about her fights with her mother, the illustrations show her arguing and supposes what was said; I’m not sure how much artistic license was used since it’s been so long since I read the original diary. The illustrations are amazing though; seeing the layout of the hidden living quarters was especially helpful, and the artwork complements the text to produce a uniquely moving story. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my week of posts in honor of Banned Books Week.  If you’d like to read more of my work, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my writing for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

*sources:  Anne Frank adaptation, 40 more books pulled from Texas school district – The Washington Post, Anne Frank graphic novel to be reinstated in Texas school district following controversy – The Jewish Chronicle (thejc.com)

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “The Giver” by Lois Lowry

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In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to post a banned book recommendation each day. I will use only books I’ve read from the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the decade (2010-2019). .

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “The Giver” by Lois Lowry

The Giver is Lois Lowry’s young adult masterpiece that focuses on the life of Jonas, a teen growing up in a perfect society without sadness, where childhood milestones (such as being given a bike) are strictly regimented and looked forward to, and where everyone is given a perfect job for their temperament when they come of age. The reason the society functions this way is because its inhabitants are spared unpleasant memories: rather the collective memories of mankind are passed on to a single person who carries the burden as well as the blessings and perspective of those experiences.

Beware: I will try to be as general as possible, but there are spoilers ahead.

Objections to the text include “unsuited to age group,” “violence,” “sexually explicit,” “religious viewpoint,” and “suicide,” as well as infanticide and euthanasia. The novel was temporarily banned in California; challenged in Montana (resulting in a parental permission requirement); challenged in Massachusetts, Ohio, and Florida; and in 2001, a Colorado father challenged the book because he believed “those types of books sow the seeds of school shootings by encouraging suicide and disregard for human life.”

Although most of these objections have some merit, I would argue they show a lack of ability to view the book’s overall value. For example, while The Giver would not be a good read for very young children, even the problematic themes of infanticide and euthanasia are not presented graphically. Rather they are revealed as inherent problems in the society itself. Rather than “encouraging suicide and disregard for human life,” the reader–through the eyes of Jonas–sees the inherent value of those lives that other citizens of his society can’t, deprived as they are of the perspective and emotional experience of memory.

Ultimately, the book has an ambiguous ending. We don’t really know what happens at the end, save that Jonas risks his life to save someone he cares about. Far from endorsing suicide, it highlights the lengths someone will go to protect the people they love.

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Today I’ve also posted on my Patreon.  If you’d like to read about my progress and plans for this year, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my work for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

**sources: Lois Lowry, “The Giver” – The Banned Books Project (cmu.edu)Why ‘the Giver’ Is One of the Most Banned Books (businessinsider.com), The Giver banned: Why do so many parents try to remove Lois Lowry’s book from schools? (slate.com)

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “1984” by George Orwell

In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to post a banned book recommendation each day. I will use only books I’ve read from the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the decade (2010-2019). .

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “1984” by George Orwell

1984 (or Nineteen Eighty-Four, depending on which edition you read) by George Orwell has been banned in different countries many times in the decades since its first publication in 1949. The Soviet Union banned the book for forty years, because of its warnings of totalitarianism; yet it’s also been challenged in the United States as being pro-communist (Jacksonville, Florida, 1981). One student had his Kindle edition of the book–along with his notes–removed from his device by Amazon: an ironic situation given the theme of censorship and information suppression throughout the book.

Besides its political warnings, the book does contain some sexuality, along with violence and other plot elements that usually offend people and get a book challenged and/or banned. Orwell, a democratic socialist, claimed he wrote the book as a warning of the potential excesses of socialism. 

The book follows the life of Winston Smith, a resident of Oceania who works at the Ministry of Truth–the government department in charge of censoring the news, as well as editing fiction, creating government approved music, revising history, and paring down the English language (Newspeak) so that citizens are incapable of “thought crimes.” Other government departments include the Ministry of Plenty (in charge of rationing) and the Ministry of Love (in charge of political prisoners and torture). 

The face of the Party is Big Brother, a strong mustachioed man of indeterminate age, a surrogate for the fractured family bonds that the totalitarian government destroys. Parents fear their children will report them for unorthodox behavior. Women and men have sex purely for procreation, with no joy allowed; it’s merely “duty to the Party” to produce a new generation. And everywhere there is surveillance. Danger behind every stray thought that is not party approved.

Winston rebels quietly at first by keeping a journal in a corner of his tiny flat where the cameras cannot see what he is doing. Later, his rebellions expand: he has a secret love affair, he rents another flat, he buys an object of beauty from the past, and he holds a hatred of Big Brother deep within his heart. Eventually he and his lover confide in a coworker  O’Brien, in the hopes of joining a resistance to overthrow Big Brother–with tragic results.

1984 is not a happy book. It’s a profoundly disturbing read. The sexuality that it contains, however, is more political than anything else. An encounter with a prostitute shows the depths to which the Party has poisoned natural human sexuality. When Winston begins his love affair, the simple act of her removing her clothes and throwing them off becomes a political statement in itself. Their act of having sex for the sheer joy of it IS rebellion. And it’s beautiful. This is a terrible, heart-breaking, and disturbing story, and it also has one of the most tragically beautiful love stories ever written, the type of romance to make Romeo and Juliet weep with envy. 

The violence of the book is also vital to the plot. Fear of the Party, obedience to the Party, is not enough. The Party, in the form of Big Brother, demands nothing less than absolute love and devotion. So those unfortunates guilty of “thought crime” are ultimately sent to the Ministry of Love to be tortured until they are brain-washed into total love and devotion to Big Brother. 

So yes, the book has violence and sex and politically charged themes. Many of the terms from the novel have saturated our culture: Big Brother is watching, thought-crime, and double-think–to name a few. And it will make you think. It will make you question authority and possibly your own assumptions. It’s an amazing read. One you aren’t likely to forget. 

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Next Friday, I’ll also post on my Patreon.  If you’d like to read about my progress and plans for this year, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my work for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

**sources: Why ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’ Aren’t Banned in China – The Atlantic, Belarus has banned the sale of 1984. ‹ Literary Hub (lithub.com), Banned Book Highlight: Literature lifts the veil in Orwell’s “1984” | The Collegian (kstatecollegian.com), Was George Orwell’s ‘1984’ Banned in the United States and the USSR for Conflicting Reasons? – Truth or Fiction?, CENSORED: The Story of Five Banned Books – Dorrance Publishing Company, | PCWorld

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card

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In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to post a banned book recommendation each day. I will use only books I’ve read from the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the decade (2010-2019). .

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card

Like The Hunger Games and other selections from the banned books list, Ender’s Game focuses on the price paid by children as the cost of war. In a future where mankind spreads to the stars, an alien race attacks the Earth. After a desperate move unexpectedly succeeds against the enemy, mankind is determined not to be caught unawares again. To this end, child geniuses are trained in military tactics using war games as preparation for when the aliens eventually return. Ender Wiggins is one such child genius, and the future of humanity may rest in his hands.

Since the book has been out since 1985, and there was even a movie starring Harrison Ford (2013), I’m tempted to spoil the book to make my points. But I won’t, because if you haven’t read the book yet and are unfamiliar with the story, you really, REALLY should. Objections to the scifi classic include claims that it’s “pornagraphic” by a parent in Aiken, South Carolina; it’s been awhile since I read the book, but I don’t remember there being any sex at all. It’s possible the parent was confused by other material the teacher shared with the class. There was discussion over whether to arrest the teacher, but the most recent article I found said no charges were pressed. It’s still a worrying development though, one that seems to run against the right to free speech.

Other objections to the text of Ender’s Game include “offensive language,” “unsuited to age group,” and “violence.” Older versions of the book do include racial slurs, particularly in a scene where one of Ender’s friends is called “slanty-eyed,” and Ender responds with an even worse word for the antagonist. The author defended the scene by saying Ender’s seemingly racist response was actually meant to call attention to the antagonist’s racism; he was being ironic. But later editions of the book have a sanitized version of this scene. 

As far as the age appropriateness of Ender’s Game, it’s generally considered aimed at fourteen year olds and older. The violence in the book is real, though not as graphic as The Hunger Games. There are instances of bullying, with some gruesome consequences, but the overall violence is tamer than this–in the form of the games the students of Battle School play to learn their craft. 

The more disturbing aspects of the book have to do with the overarching ethical questions: Is it moral to use children to fight a war? Is a pre-emptive strike ever justified? What is the value of a life? These questions, while somewhat troubling, are worthy of a book in themselve. They are questions we should ask ourselves as part of our journey to be moral beings.

Ender’s Game is a science fiction classic for good reason. 

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Next Friday, I’ll also post on my Patreon.  If you’d like to read about my progress and plans for this year, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my work for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

**sources:

Parent files police complaint after teacher reads Ender’s Game to pupils | Science fiction books | The Guardian,

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card — Banned Library,

South Carolina Teacher Suspended For Reading ‘Ender’s Game’ To Middle School Students [Updated] (forbes.com),

bannedandchallengedbooksteen.pdf (ppld.org)

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins 

Photo by David Cruz asenjo on Pexels.com

In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to post a banned book recommendation each day. I will use only books I’ve read from the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the decade (2010-2019).

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard of The Hunger Games. However, if you haven’t, let me enlighten you about this thrilling series. In the future dystopian country of Panem, the land is divided into thirteen districts ruled over by the Capitol, with each district being chiefly responsible for a certain national resource. Once a year, there is a lottery where district children between the ages of twelve and eighteen are “reaped” to participate in the Hunger Games: a national contest of survival where there can only be one winner. Every other tribute child dies, while the district of the winner gets extra rations–with the winner and their family being cared for (in comparative luxury) for the rest of their lives. The contest was created as punishment and reminder to the districts to never rise against the Capitol again. The story mainly follows Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take the place of her little sister as the female tribute (when the younger Everdeen’s name is pulled via lottery). 

I’ve adored Greek mythology ever since I was a child, and the plot of the young tributes being sacrificed to the Capitol reminded me strongly of the young Athenian tributes being sacrificed to the Minotaur in Crete. I became even more curious about the books after learning they were on the Banned Books list. Some of the reasons listed include Anti-ethic, anti-family, insensitivity, offensive language, occult/satanic references, and in 2014 “inserted religious views” was added to that list –coincidently the same year that anti-government protesters in Thailand used the book’s symbolism to show sympathy with people oppressed by their own governments; seven people (possibly more) were arrested because of the incident.

As far as the objections to the book: some are valid, though I’d argue that they are necessary to the plot. The charge of being anti-ethic makes no sense to me: the book focuses on ethics in particular. Perhaps its the anti-authoritarian themes that are objectionable to those in charge, especially to school age children they wish to be obedient. Anti-family likewise makes no sense; Katniss’s family (as well as some others) is somewhat broken, but they are still family who care for each other. Katniss sacrifices herself to save her sister. How much more pro-family could she possibly be?

The charges of insensitivity and offensive language I’m honestly not sure of. I haven’t read the book in awhile, but I remember the language being fairly tame. Again, I believe it’s probably a case of objection to the book’s themes of rebellion and some situations that would frighten younger readers; however, the book was written for young adult audiences. And I have absolutely no idea where the charge of “occult/Satanic references” came from. There’s really no discussion about religion. Politics and survival are the prevailing issues throughout the book.

The author herself has said she wrote the books to expand upon the “the just-war debate” and explore the question of the mortality of war. She wanted to spark political and ethical discussions. Since the book focuses on children paying the price of war–particularly on the almost gladiatorial combat of the tributes, I would say she’s met her goal. 

In fact, I would argue that this book ranks along with other political scifi classics like Orwell’s 1984–coincidentally another banned book from the same list.  For a thought-provoking dystopian novel aimed at young adults, check out The Hunger Games.

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Next Friday, I’ll also post on my Patreon.  If you’d like to read about my progress and plans for this year, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my work for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

*sources: Hunger Games (Meaghan Merritt) | CMLIT 130: Banned Books (psu.edu), Suzanne Collins, “The Hunger Games” – The Banned Books Project (cmu.edu), Banned: The Hunger Games – The City Voice, Suzanne Collins Talks About ‘The Hunger Games,’ the Books and the Movies – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “The Walking Dead” (comic book series)

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In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to post a banned book recommendation each day. I will use only books I’ve read from the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the decade (2010-2019).

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: The Walking Dead (comic book series)

The Walking Dead  is a series of  graphic novels illustrating the world after the fall of civilization due to a zombie apocalypse. The series follows Rick Grimes, a sheriff’s deputy, husband, and father as he attempts to navigate a world without the infrastructure we’ve all come to rely on: a world where there is no law enforcement, people kill to survive, to get resources, to defend themselves, and–oh yeah, the dead walk and feed upon the living. What does it mean to be a good person in a world ruled by the dead?

I first came upon the series through digital ebooks via Humble Bundle, then continued reading the following books via Hoopla Digital and finally finished the series by way of physical graphic novels. I’ve grown to love not only the characters, but the complex plots and ethical dilemmas faced by Rick and the other survivors throughout the years. Hell, I’ve even read The Walking Dead and Philosophy: Zombie Apocalypse Now, which explores the ethical themes of the comic series–of which there are many.

The series itself contains violent murders and suicides, as well as polygamy, homosexuality, graphic sexuality, rape, pre-emptive strikes, and other complex or disturbing issues. So when I spotted the series listed in the top 100 most banned and challenged books, I was not surprised. Actually, I was surprised that it was so low on the list, just barely squeaking in at #97. 

I found quite a few articles on this banning, but they all basically pointed to the 2019 case of a lone school district in Idaho which removed the series from the high school library’s shelves. The book was challenged due to “graphic imagery.” However, it was still available at other public libraries in the same system, so it was still available via interlibrary loan to students who could potentially pick up their copies at–you guessed it! the school’s library. From the different articles I read, they were working on a compromise position.

Which leads me to the question: Are banned books as much of a problem as we are led to believe?

I’m not advocating banning books. As a writer and author, freedom of expression is very dear to me. However, after hours of searching, I could only find this single instance repeated over and over again. I adore the series, but honestly? If there ever was a series you’d expect people to get their hackles raised over, it would be this one. It’s an amazing story that contains a lot of horrific scenes and tragic scenarios, where people are forced to face where conventional morality meets the practicality of survival. The fact that the main objections were only “graphic imagery” and that the material was “”less than desirable in a scholastic environment” is frankly astonishing.

So is the issue of book bans really as bad as Banned Books Week seems to imply? The series seemingly was only removed from one school’s (or school district’s?) shelves, and the books were still available through other public libraries or by simply buying the series. In fact, before the interlibrary loan issue became apparent, the school’s copies of the books were donated to another library.

However, I was surprised to discover a headline depicting a Walking Dead shirt banned in UK because of the “racist history” of its slogan. The shirt depicts Negan, one of the serie’s biggest villains, holding his trademark weapon–a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire named Lucille, along with the phrase “”eeny meenie miny moe.” If you are unfamiliar with the series, Negan uses this phrase to choose who to beat to death with Lucille. 

Yet, the objection is not based on the implied murder but the history of the phrase being followed by “catch a n— by the toe.” As an American, I was unfamiliar with this phrase; I’d always heard it followed by “catch a tiger by the toe”–which is how it is used in the comics. The article goes on to explain the person was also offended because the bat “relates directly to the practice of assaulting black people in America.“ Considering the whole picture–the phrase is used as a playful way to murder someone with a bat, the racism charge seems nonsensical to me. In fact, in the series, the plot develops to show prejudices are actually detrimental to survival; survivors are people who are able to band together for the common good. 

The complaint resulted in the shirt being discontinued by UK retailer Primark. I did check Amazon though, and there are multiple variations of the shirt there, so again–does this really constitute a ban? 

So, to sum up, while The Walking Dead series contains a lot of graphic violence, terrible situations, and morally questionable decisions, it’s actually an incredible psychological drama with complex characters and ultimately a message of hope in the face of losing everything. It’s one of my favorite series. While I don’t think it’s appropriate material for small children (who don’t have enough life experience to understand the difficult and frightening issues of the books), for high school age and above I do think it’s an amazing read. 

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Next Friday, I’ll also post on my Patreon.  If you’d like to read about my progress and plans for this year, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my work for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

*sources: 11 Challenged and Banned Comics | Banned Books Week, Idaho High School Bans The Walking Dead Comic Series (cbr.com), This ‘Walking Dead’ shirt was banned from stores for racism | Mashable