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The Lake News Online
  • Guest column: Banned books are often the best

  • Nothing against summer reading lists — usually full of juicy fare such as murder mysteries, romances, spy novels and the like — but summer is almost over. So let's talk about a winter reading list.
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  • Nothing against summer reading lists — usually full of juicy fare such as murder mysteries, romances, spy novels and the like — but summer is almost over. So let's talk about a winter reading list.
    You could do worse than by just working your way through the banned book list this winter. Very seldom does anyone want to ban a bland book that doesn't make the reader think.
    When I think of some of the best, most enjoyable and most thought-provoking and even life-changing books I've ever read, I can find a good number of them among the titles people have tried to ban.
    Banned Books Week runs Sept. 23-28. You can find lists of books at www.ala.org/advocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged. The best list, in my opinion, is of the 97 books classified as banned and challenged classics. There's not a bad book in the list, although personally I was never able to get into "Ulysses." Sorry, James Joyce. "The Great Gatsby," "The Grapes of Wrath," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "1984," "Brave New World" and "Slaughterhouse-5" are all on the list. Even if you're not much of a reader, you'll recognize most of the titles. You were probably made to read some of them in high school English class. You probably saw the movies several have been made into.
    An oft-repeated statistic that I couldn't verify the veracity of claims that 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after graduation. That's horrifying, if true, and goes a long way toward explaining the rampant ignorance in the world.
    We all agree that reading is good for little children, and only the most clueless or careless parents don't read to their little ones regularly. But your children probably won't become avid readers if they do not see you reading for fun, too. It should be seen as a pleasure, not a chore.
    Reading isn't just for kids' minds. It's for yours, too. When my children were young, I read aloud not only the easy beginner books, but "The Hobbit" and then the entire "Lord of the Rings" trilogy - yep, that one is on the list, in case you're wondering. By the time I read those books, my children were already pretty decent readers, but they could not have read the Rings books themselves. Kids' reading comprehension is more advanced than their reading ability, so reading aloud to them means they can be exposed to books that are a little more challenging than what they could tackle alone.
    For a while, I was reading more books on my iPod and then iPhone. That's a great way to read classic books whose copyrights have long since run out, because you can find deals like "Best 100 British Novels of the 18th Century" or whatever for 99 cents. I have hundreds of these digital books in my pocket at all times. But I still find myself purchasing printed books, too. I just like holding a real book in bed or on the porch swing, a glass of wine or cup of tea at hand.
    Page 2 of 2 - Reading a paper book is a different experience from reading a digital book. Sometimes I feel like whipping the iPhone out of my pocket. Sometimes I feel like curling up with a traditional book.
    There have been times in my life when I've been able to read a lot - I got through most of the big old Russian classics like "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina" when on bed rest while pregnant with my daughter. I got a lot of reading done when nursing little babies. Chasing after toddlers, running school-age kids to activities, going back to work full-time, becoming a single mother - any of these could have been a good excuse for saying I just didn't have time to read any more. But though there are some times when I read more than others, I always am reading something. I doubt there's been a single day in my life from the time I was 12 or so that I couldn't name at least one book I was currently reading.
    I feel sorry for people who don't read. They are lacking a richness in their lives and don't even know it. Visit a bookstore. Visit a library. Download something to your phone or e-reader. Or borrow a book from a friend. Just read.
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