Books Are Not Firewood

I read a news article recently that upset me to no end. And it got me thinking about where we’ve come in our society. It doesn’t make me proud. Nor should you be either.

We’ve recently been slammed with stories about books being removed from school libraries because they’re “offensive”. We are we doing this again? We are attempting to censor what kids should read?

Now, let me say this before I go any further. Or before you start calling me names that can’t be printed in this blog. I’m not referring to books about explicit sex and graphic homosexuality, which I don’t think should be in our school libraries. If kids want them all they have to do is go to a bookstore or the internet. There are plenty of those books available on line, unfortunately.

I’m referring to books that have been around for a long time. Books my generation has read and enjoyed. Books that were actually on our high school required reading lists, and I really don’t think most of us turned out all that bad. 

But today some of those books are deemed offensive, because they were written in a time that the subject matter was either a way of life or was (and still IS) a part of our history. The authors wrote about what they knew, and weren’t concerned about offending someone. On the contrary, many of those authors wanted to not only tell a good story, but to make people think. And in some cases, expose the hypocrisy of some of the people around them.

Now people are calling for banning certain books which have swear words in them. I’m sure their kids have never heard those words, I say sarcastically; certainly never in their own homes (also said sarcastically). Don’t worry, though; they’ll hear them somewhere!

Or because they deal with a time in our nation’s history that many people want to ignore. But ignoring it doesn’t mean it never happened. It just means we’re afraid of our children learning about it. And history tells us that we repeat mistakes if we don’t know those mistakes that have been tried before with disastrous results.

Whether you like them or not, books are an expression of free speech, which sadly, in some areas of our country, is no longer tolerated without violence. I may not agree with the content of a book, so I choose not to read it, but I support the author’s right to have written it, and the publisher’s right to publish.

But the real story that got me started deals with a book burning that recently happened In Tennessee. A pastor decided that certain “demonic”  books, such as by J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter series, and the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer, were evil. They promoted sorcery and witchcraft, and contained real spells that readers could use. Now one question I have here…how does he know this? Has he tried them? And if so, why? 

So he organized a huge book burning and encouraged his followers to get all the copies of these books, and others like them, that they could find, and meet at the book burning and show the world how bad these written words were, and how it was up to his followers to help him rid the world of such sins and demonic influences. 

And he proved what? That he could get his followers stirred up by hate speech and powerful rhetoric and cause them to do his bidding. And what did it accomplish? Publicity for him, though not the huge outpouring of support he expected.

Were the books that were burned taken out of circulation, or did bookstores order more copies so readers could see for themselves what all the hoopla was about? I say most likely the latter.

There will always be books written that someone will take offense at. That some group of people will say are evil and should be banned. My response to that? Don’t buy them and don’t read them. That’s your choice. It’s someone else’s choice if they want to read them or not. Telling your children they can’t read them when all their friends are…let me know how that works!

Personally, that genre doesn’t appeal to me and I haven’t read them. But I made that choice, not because of their supposed demonic content, but because I prefer different genres. 

I don’t worry that my children and grandchildren might read them. It’s their choice as to their choice of books. I can suggest something I enjoyed, but I can’t tell them what to read or not read. It’s their decision.

Just like it’s your decision on your choice of books in your library. I enjoy the older books from my younger days as much as books by current authors. And I’m sure some people will criticize my taste in certain books as well. Too bad.

I don’t need to be protected from ideas that others think I shouldn’t hear about or read about. I can make my own decisions. And when someone tells us how we shouldn’t ever read this or that because it promotes something bad, what does human nature cause us to do?

We want to investigate for ourselves. To determine what we choose to read and discover why it’s supposed to be so bad. After all, most of the books that are being banned or people are attempting to have banned, so far are all works of fiction.

What I fear more is when those book banners start burning and demanding we ban books of history, nonfiction books talking about the past, describing the lives of those who lived before us, and the contributions they made to society.

Books are written to tell a story; to be enjoyed. In many cases, to be studied in schools and classrooms. To enable learning and expand our minds. It is not the job of one of two people to tell others what they can and cannot read. We are free in this country, at least for now, to make our own decisions about what we read. As I said, if you don’t like a book, don’t read it. But don’t tell me I cannot.

Books are not firewood. And the ideas in them cannot be destroyed by destroying the books.

Confessions of a [Book] Hoarder

I think my love for reading has been going on from the day I held my first grade primer in my hand and learned to read “See Spot run.” I was hooked. I remember coming home that day and showing my mother what I could do. I was so proud of myself! And I haven’t stopped reading since. 

I think this quote from “Sleepless in Central Park” by Sarah Morgan nicely sums it up: “A book can give you most things a relationship can. It can make you laugh, it can make you cry, it can transport you to different worlds and teach you things. You can even take it out to dinner. And if it bores you, you can move on.” Well, it can’t pay for dinner, it can’t drive you around, and it can’t help you around the house, but other than that, the main character does have a point.

And yes, when I used to travel for work, I always took a book to dinner with me! 

I’ve read so many books over the years I can’t even begin to count them, and sometimes I can’t even remember if I’ve read a certain book or not until I start reading the first part of it. That’s because I’d read it so long ago.

And I had this thing about keeping them all after I’d read them. They were like old friends I didn’t want to part with.  Even though they were almost all paperbacks (my reading habit would’ve cost me a fortune in hardbacks!) I still hated to part with any of them, and loaning them to someone else? No. I didn’t want them messed up or lost. Yeah, I was that kind of person. Because other people didn’t take care of them like I did.

But the day finally came when try as I might, I just couldn’t fit another book into the bookshelves. I knew I had to do something. Which was getting boxes and emptying my shelves of so many of my old friends. It was tough. I kept a lot of my favorite authors’ books, and most of my hardcovers, and still ended up with 18 full boxes of books that I donated to Goodwill.

That was hard. But I still continued my reading addiction and eventually I was getting to the same point. And which of my favorites would I end up giving away next?

That’s when I finally decided I had to do something. And quick.

You may or may not know I’m sort of a techie. I love technology. iPhone, laptop, iPad…. But for years I couldn’t bring myself to get the one device my husband kept telling me to try. A Kindle. It made so much sense, but I just didn’t think I’d like it. 

I like turning the pages, seeing how much more is left in the book, and yes sometimes looking at the last few pages to see the ending when I just can’t stand it any longer. And I always read while I’m soaking in my jacuzzi every morning. And in the summer after work I’m always in my pool float with a book in my hand. I couldn’t imagine what would happen with all that water around me. I didn’t want to think about destroying an expensive piece of electronics.

If only there were waterproof e-readers, told myself. But then I started researching and found the Kindle Oasis actually claimed to be waterproof. So did I risk it or what? More decisions.

But eBay had one at a really good price. So I ordered it.

And after I received it and set it up, and used it for a day or so I wondered why in the world I’d waited so long! It’s so easy to use, and I can set the reading style just for me, including font size (for those of us with astigmatism that’s one of the best features), lighting (no book light needed for reading in bed), plus it tells me how many hours/minutes left in the book based on my reading speed. I love that feature! I don’t need a bookmark to keep track of where I was. And I can even highlight passages I want to remember. I’d never do that in a REAL book!

And the book choices….I can download samples before I buy the actual book, which has now resulted in a digital library of gigantic proportions, organized by genre or author, depending on what I need, and I can even mark the books I’ve read and save them in their own folder. No, I still can’t bring myself to get rid of them!

And Amazon knows me now. Really well. So well, in fact, they’re making sure to advertise all these new books on my Facebook and Instagram feeds. Which of course I read, and over half the time I download a sample….

At least I’m saving the books digitally so I’m not going to have to box them up to make room for more. But I might have to upgrade my Kindle.