Happy Banned Books Week!

It only comes but once a year, but the actual banning of books happens far more frequently than that.

Here in Evanston we are a reading community.  Book challenges don’t appear here at the same rate that they may in other cities.  That said, there is value in celebrating the right to read.  Here then is a listing of books that have been banned with description of some of the more ridiculous reasons for their challenges.  All of the following are true:

The Diary of Anne Frank


Reason for the Ban: “Too depressing”

It’s not widely known but there are actually two versions of Anne Frank’s diary out there.  The first is the cleaned up version originally published, with sections carefully left out.  The second is the full uncut version where Anne is particularly bitter about her mother and freely writes down her thoughts on sex.  Now the book does get banned for those sections, sure, but the it’s the “too depressing” reason (as stated by a school board in Alabama) that folks often forget.  Ah, if only she’d included more jokes.  *shudder*

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.


Reason for the Ban: Mistaken Identity

This is a good one.  Apparently this book was once banned because “Bill Martin Jr.” is also the name of an author who wrote the book Ethical Marxism.  For this reason, and this reason alone, Brown Bear was taken off a Texan curriculum.  Whoo  boy.

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl


Reason for the Ban: Sexy spider tongue

This was a new one on me.  The usual reason James gets banned is because the word “ass” appears on the text (it also appears in Peter Pan, but no one seems to mind that as much).  My favorite reason dates back to 1986.  That was the year that a small town in Wisconsin banned the book because at one point the spider character licks her lips.  The perpetually moistened lip denizens of this town said this action could be taken only one of two ways “including sexual”.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


Reason for the Ban: A metaphor

If you’ve read the book then you probably can imagine all the different reasons the book has been banned over the years.  That said, you probably didn’t know about the high school in Owensboro, KY that banned the book in 1985 for a single, solitary sentence: “The gun made a ripping sound like the opening of the fly of God Almighty.” Metaphors, it seems, are no safer from banning than anything else in this world.

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein


Reason for the Ban: Promoting violence against dishes

Shel Silverstein has been banned pretty much from the get-go (if Different Dances doesn’t explain why then Uncle Shelby’s A, B, Zs might) and for all kinds of reasons (one of my favorite being that he has “glorified Satan, suicide, and cannibalism”).  But by far my favorite was the time the book was banned for encouraging, “children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.”

And just to keep the fun going, here are some other Banned Book Week events happening on the interwebs:

  • Add this Twibbon to your profile picture to show that you STAND UP FOR THE RIGHT TO READ!
  • For Banned Website Awareness Day, Dr. Audrey Church (2016-2017 AASL president and professor of school librarianship at Longwood University, VA) and Lauren Mabry (current member of the AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee, a past member of the AASL Banned Websites Awareness Day Committee, and a 2009 ALA Spectrum Scholar) will write on the connection between censoring books and filtering online resources.
  • Battling Bannings: Authors Discuss Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read – A free webinar with SAGE Publishing on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 10 a.m. CST. Join authors Jessica Herthel (I Am Jazz), Christine Badacchino (Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress) and Wendy Doniger (The Hindus) as they share their stories of censorship. Register to reserve your spot.
  • A Night of Silenced Voices” – Seven bookstores across the country are celebrating diversity and Banned Books Week with open mic events on Tuesday, Sept. 27.
  • Contribute to the Banned Books Week conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #BannedBooksWeek.

Biographies No One Loves Anymore

The saddest thing
that i ever did see,
was a woodpecker peckin’
on a plastic tree.
He looks at me
and “friend” says he
“Things ain’t as sweet
as they used to be”. – Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein got many things right but in this case he was wrong.  Sad woodpeckers have nothing on old biographies nobody loves anymore.  Recently I went through them to find the books that haven’t been checked out in at least four years (I actually found one that hadn’t gone out since 1991, I kid you not).  In my travels I stumbled across a couple egregiously old bios.  Here then is an amusing summary of some of the books we’ve had to bid a tearful goodbye to this year.

Charles and Diana: The Tenth Anniversary by Brian Hoey


So it’s been 10 years since those crazy kids got married.  How’s that marriage doing, huh?  Turns out, it’s great!  No problems here!  La de da de da!

Accidental Millionaire: The Rise and Fall of Steve Jobs at Apple Computer by Lee Butcher


To put this in a little context, this book was published in 1987.  And boy do you feel sorry for that Steve Jobs guy.  He just seemed so promising, y’know?  Bummer about his career crashing and burning like that.

Johnnie Cochran: A Lawyer’s Life by Johnnie Cochran


Recently the O.J. Simpson mini-series American Crime Story swept the Emmys, full force.  When it was up and running I figured I’d put up a little O.J. display for folks who just couldn’t get enough of the nostalgia.  So I found every single title I could and put them up.  Nothing moved.  I’m talking nothing.  And so it was with a heavy heart we bid adieu to Johnnie Cochran.

The Other Woman: My Years with O.J. Simpson, A Story of Love, Trust, and Betrayal by Paula Barbieri


It is with a slightly less heavy heart that bid goodbye to O.J.’s girlfriend.  Did you know she had a bio?  You know who else didn’t know?  America.

Hulk Hogan: My Life Outside the Ring with Mark Dagostino

Book Review My Life Outside the Ring


Gladiator: A True Story of ‘Roids, Rage, and Redemption by Dan Clark a.k.a. Nitro


As opposed to beloved Nitro.  Nitro!  Remember Nitro?  He was everybody’s favorite American Gladiator.  He was so famous he “wrote” his own bio.  Nitro, be bid you a very fond farewell.  Nobody could wield those big puffy foam thingies like you, my friend.

No Mountain High Enough: Raising Lance, Raising Me by Linda Armstrong Kelly


For the record, Lance Armstrong’s early bios where he talks at length about how fantastic he is and how he completely put to rest those rumors about performance enhancing drugs . . . those haven’t really been checked out of the library lately either.  But I kind of felt bad that his mom wrote a bio.  She seems like a nice person.

Like these?  Then be sure read Awful Library Books for more of the same.

National Book Award and Man Booker Prize Nominees Announced: How Many Have You Read?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. That time when the longlists for the National Book Awards are announced. Click on the covers to put any of these on hold.

Here are the nominees by category for the National Book Awards:


































And just to round us out, here too are the . . .





  • Ottessa Moshfegh(U.S.), author of Eileen



  • Deborah Levy (U.S.), author of Hot Milk


Election Day is Coming Up – Be Ready

Spoiler Alert: There’s an election this year.  Did I surprise you?  I’m sure that since it’s never in the news you probably forgot that we’ll be picking a new president this year.  Note: There is no sarcasm font, so I want you to read the preceding sentences in a voice fairly dripping with it.

For some of you I’m sure the last thing you want to do is think about the candidates, their positions, and the seemingly daily news items of EPIC PROPORTIONS that keep flooding your in-box/news feed/Twitter feed/Facebook posts.  So today, let’s be a little old-fashioned.  Let’s look at some new books about the electoral process that don’t actually name check either of the current candidates.  In other words, bliss.

The Carnival Campaign: How the Rollicking 1840 Campaign of “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” Changed Presidential Elections Forever


There is a strange comfort in knowing that as crazy as this year’s election is, it’s not as if “carnivals” of this sort are unprecedented.  And why are they so kooky?  Blame 1840.  They called this election “the mother of modern presidential contests” and “the beginning of presidential campaigning as entertainment.”  Mud, suffice to say, was slung.

Off Script: An Advance Man’s Guide to White House Stagecraft, Campaign Spectacle, and Political Suicide by Josh King


Much along the same lines, this book examines how the methods of show business took over presidential election campaigns—and how political candidates have paid the price.  As Kirkus said of this book in their review, “If you enjoy the TV show Veep, you’ll enjoy this book.”

Plutocrats United: Campaign Money, the Supreme Court, and the Distortion of American Elections by Richard L. Hasen


Fun with campaign finance reform. Whee . . .

Five Dollars and a Pork Chop Sandwich: Vote Buying and the Corruption of Democracy by Mary Frances Berry


An alternate take on the same topic.  The advantage of this title being, obviously, the fact that it tends to make me hungry for pork chop sandwiches.



I just had the pleasure of watching this documentary recently.  In terms of looking behind-the-scenes at campaign headquarters, this movie offers an unprecedented glimpse at a successful mayoral campaign done in by its candidates personal failings.  It is strange and funny and sad all at once.  Particularly when you know the true ending of the story, as we do now.



Well, why not?  It’s a great movie and a wonderful palate cleanser for our current times.  And heck, there’s even a book!