**This post was originally posted in April of 2023
I am starting this essay thinking of all the books I’ve loved. (It sort of reminds me of the Willie Nelson song paraphrased; “To all the Books I’ve loved before!…”) And all of the wonderful time spent just looking for a new book to read! And the anticipation of a favorite writer who has written a new book. All of those things have given me a love for literature and writing and for reading. I came up with a short list of those books I have truly loved.
Some personal favorites from the National Book Month (every month for me!) for those of us who love books…
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- Catch 22
- Kurt Vonnegut books; Slaughterhouse Five
- The Crying of Lot 49 from Thomas Pynchon
- Bailey White: Mama tells it…
- Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Gifts from the Sea
- Marjorie K Rawlings/ Cross Creek
- The Great Gatsby
- The Sun also Rises and A Moveable Feast/Hemingway
- Winesburg Ohio/Sherwood Anderson
And I’ve also loved short stories. Some favorites include short stories by James Thurber & David Sedaris. One of my favorites is Katherine Mansfield’s The Garden Party. There is Mark Twain’s The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg, and many others. I’m thinking of those plays I have read. Starting with Shakespeare, way back in college, of course, but then moving to plays by the theater of the absurd playwrights such as the plays by Becket & Pinter. I have a treasured book of their absurdist plays. I remember how much I loved reading Jean Kerr’s witty and funny plays like ‘Mary, Mary”
Short story Anthologies
I was an English major and loved the reading assignments and classes where we would read from Anthologies. It was such a smorgasbord of love to choose from. It was the wonderful variety of beloved authors and artists who wrote in different time periods and different languages that made them special.
And then I learned to love to read Westerns. I would read some of the books my father had collected a long time ago. He loved Zane Grey, so I began by reading all of the westerns that Grey wrote.
Lover of Romance & Sci-Fi!
I have also been a lover of romance. Historical Romance was a favorite,and I loved the series about Alinor, who was based on the real life Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Roberta Gellis wrote these very intricate and detailed descriptions of the medieval era; and they swept you into a world apart. And then there was Jane Austen and all the romantic writers who have been so successful in the twentieth century. But someone like Georgette Heyer was the forerunner of all of the modern historical writers who made a living writing romance. Heyer is someone I would love to see adapted to the screen in the same way that Jane Austen has been. I love Jane,, but Austen has been done to death in recent decades and Heyer’s work deserves an outing…
I digress, but then I could go on! Science fiction was a favorite category of my brother. I would borrow his collection of books from writers like Arthur C Clarke and Robert Heinlein. I remember how excited I was to read Venus on the Half Shell from the mysterious Kilgore Trout aka Kurt Vonnegut (Philip Jose Farmer really wrote that particular book)! Vonnegut is one of my favorite writers of all time, and he of course, transcends the sci-fi category.
I can go on with all the different categories. The film books I’ve loved are legion. Books on film noir and on great directors and films inspired me to write my own book-6 Degrees of Film.
The biographies of famous and interesting people have always been a huge draw for me. I love to read about the lives of interesting and exceptional people. Not just artists and famous actors like Humphrey Bogart or Rex Harrison and Montgomery Clift & WC Fields, but books that are written about lesser-known stars and people who led and still lead wonderful lives!
The Books you just can’t forget…
There are some books you run into by accident, but you just can’t forget. There was this wonderful book, “Land of a Thousand Hills,” about a woman who lived in Africa many years before Apartheid ended. But the story is about the exceptional life she lived after Apartheid. She was a white woman who started an orphanage with a black man who had been her servant. The two very different people became business partners as well as close friends. For me, this book was even more gripping than the much-more well-known story told in “Out of Africa.”
I may wander from the topic at times- but the main point is this. There are so many different directions that our interests can lead us when we love books. Reading is something we can do on a tablet, or in bed, or on a break, or almost anytime. It is a universal language of love. We cannot ban books.
Some may say that not all books will be banned! You don’t have to exaggerate the problem. But the problem is this. My truths are not the truths of other young people. They are not the truths of someone who is suffering from a malady or a feeling that I cannot identify with or relate to. And if someone is answering that need by writing a book that speaks to them, who am I to deny that truth to another?
There is some material that is not age-appropriate. I think librarians and parents and educators can cope with that. And I daresay, if something is banned or forbidden, then there will be intrepid young or old individuals who will find a way to read or furnish or sell this material! So it will not always be verboten. But the idea of banning books is one that should not be acceptable to anyone living in the modern age.
We cannot recreate the past or hold back the future. And when we know that there are groups of people who are championing ignorance and fear, and hate, then we must speak out.
I will continue to speak out. I will speak out on my blog, and on my social media platform. I will protest and I will join others to condemn the banning of books. This will not stand. It’s not simply un-American, it’s against all historical progression of time. There is no need to ban books or to encourage hate and ignorance. We need to speak out and speak up. Books represent not just what was great and good about our past, but what we can imagine and still become into the future.