Opinion | Book Bans, From a Student’s Perspective – The New York Times

“BURBANK, Calif. — In late 2020, when the Burbank Unified School District removed five classic novels from mandatory reading lists in my city’s classrooms, I started a petition to protest the decision. The petition, which is still open, has more than 5,000 signatures.

I was a sophomore at Burbank High School at the time, and had read four of the five books in school — “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain; “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor; “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee; and “The Cay” by Theodore Taylor. The fifth, “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck, I read on my own a few years earlier.”

Readers Pick the Best Book of the Past 125 Years – The New York Times

In October, as we marked the Book Review’s 125th anniversary, we invited readers to nominate the best book published during that time. This was a nod to our history: In its first few decades, the Book Review often asked readers to anoint the best books, the best short stories, the best poems. We wanted this project, like those early ones, to reflect readers’ tastes and preferences.

Responses began pouring in from all 50 states and 67 countries. In November, we presented a list of the 25 most-nominated books (one per author) for a vote. After tallying more than 200,000 ballots, the winner, by a narrow margin, is …

THE WINNER

To Kill a Mockingbird

By Harper Lee

“I grew up in a small, insular, white, Protestant town in the West, and this book first exposed me to the cruelty of racism. I do believe it changed my life and made me a person who cares about social justice. Plus, it is beautifully written with characters I have loved my whole life. I always wanted to be Scout.”

Nancy Foxley, Fort Collins, Colo.

“I am 52. I grew up in public housing, on welfare, parented by angry, erratic alcoholics, with little guidance and even less continuity. Atticus, Jem, Scout, Calpurnia and Dill taught me everything I needed to know about life, love, friendship and honor. These lessons reverberated throughout my life and I truly believe that my path would have been very different without them.”

Corina Jensen, Stanhope, N.J.

“Each time I read it with my students, I find in the author’s words something brilliant and entirely new to discuss with my classes. ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’”

Ronnie Madanick, Dade County, Fla.

“I grew up in a small, insular, white, Protestant town in the West, and this book first exposed me to the cruelty of racism. I do believe it changed my life and made me a person who cares about social justice. Plus, it is beautifully written with characters I have loved my whole life. I always wanted to be Scout.”

Nancy Foxley, Fort Collins, Colo.

“I am 52. I grew up in public housing, on welfare, parented by angry, erratic alcoholics, with little guidance and even less continuity. Atticus, Jem, Scout, Calpurnia and Dill taught me everything I needed to know about life, love, friendship and honor. These lessons reverberated throughout my life and I truly believe that my path would have been very different without them.”

Corina Jensen, Stanhope, N.J.

Our critic reconsiders “To Kill a Mockingbird”

When you revisit in adulthood a book that you last read in childhood, you will likely experience two broad categories of observation: “Oh yeah, I remember this part,” and “Whoa, I never noticed that part.” That’s what I expected when I picked up “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which was voted the best book of the past 125 years by readers in a recent New York Times poll. Two decades had passed since I’d absorbed Harper Lee’s 1960 novel. And yes, there was a huge amount I’d missed on my first time through, ranging from major themes (the prevalence of child abuse) to minor details (unfamiliar words, like “flivver”).

Inexcusable lapses in reading comprehension also surfaced, such as the fact that I hadn’t realized Mrs. Dubose — the cranky neighborhood villain — was a morphine addict. (“Mrs. Dubose is a morphine addict,” Atticus states in the book. In my defense … well, I have no defense.) As an adult, I can perceive why the novel might hold enduring appeal for many and enduring repulsion to perhaps just as many. I cannot fathom the complexities of teaching it to elementary school students in 2021, especially after reading online accounts from teachers on both the “pro” and “against” sides.

Read more

THE RUNNERS-UP

2. The Fellowship of the RingBy J.R.R. Tolkien

“The depth of lore for an imagined world and the story of friendship that it accompanies lay the foundation for the rest of the fantasy genre that would follow. Yet few stories live up to the standards set by Tolkien.”Owen Clarke, Provo, Utah

The Fellowship of the Ring

3. 1984By George Orwell

“It still resonates with us up to this day, around 70 years after it was written. Its warning against the excesses of human pride and hunger for power and its challenge to use our love of freedom to guard against these problems are timeless and universal.”Kathlynn Rebonquin, Mandaluyong City, Philippines

1984

4. One Hundred Years of SolitudeBy Gabriel García Márquez

“As a piece of literature, it was an earthquake moment, shattering the expectations of a typical realist novel and spawning influences in authors and works from Japan to India and beyond. Out of all the works to have emerged in the last 125 years, none has created a ripple effect, or changed the landscape of literature, as much as this has.”Rizowana Hussaini, Guwahati, India

One Hundred Years of Solitude

5. BelovedBy Toni Morrison

“It’s not a bump in the night, subtle haunting. It’s loud and sick. There are images and emotions from ‘Beloved’ that are stuck in my mind now permanently. This ghost story has taught me more about the legacy of slavery than history books ever did.”Brontë Mansfield, Chicago, Ill.

Beloved

THE NOMINATIONS

The story of the nominations we received is not consensus, but diversity — not just in the sheer number of books that readers nominated, but in the ways that they interpreted what “best book” meant. Of the more than 1,300 books nominated, 65 percent were nominated by only one person. And only 31 percent nominated a book that made it to our list of 25 finalists. Here are some titles that speak to the breadth of readers’ choices.

  • Science Fiction

    Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

    “A bone-chillingly beautiful and heartbreaking tale of exactly what could happen if we don’t take steps now as a society to address social inequalities and the climate crisis.”

    Courtney Daron, Anaheim, Calif.

  • Nonfiction

    The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

    “A beautifully written, sweeping history of the past century in America. Never heavy-handed, Wilkerson’s storytelling places real people in real places, making it possible for any reader to grasp the various impacts of inequality and inequities that still plague America.”

    Patricia Methe, Cincinnati, Ohio

The best show about international relations on television right now is on — wait for it — Syfy. – The Washington Post

Daniel Drezner, Tufts University, Fletcher School of International Relations.

“. . .There is one political show I have enjoyed recently, however. It’s about international relations. Well, sort of. It’s more about interplanetary relations. It’s Syfy’s “The Expanse”:

The basic set-up of “The Expanse” is that it takes place 200 years from now in a world in which interplanetary travel is pretty easy. Mankind has colonized Earth’s moon, Mars, the asteroid belt and some of the outer moons, such as Ganymede. Earth is run by the United Nations. It controls the moon and a large, albeit aging, fleet. It is still the most powerful actor in the solar system, but appears to be on the decline. Mars is independent, with newer spaceships, a very cohesive culture, and an ambitious plan to terraform its own planet.  Both Earth and Mars view the residents living beyond Mars’ orbit — the “Belters” — as close to subhuman. The Belters work in the extractive sectors to send resources back to Earth and Mars. There is a loose-knit politico-military group, the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA), trying to organize this fractious population. And then events are set in motion.

“The Expanse” pulls off a few world-building gambits that make it pretty nifty to watch. It’s not as funny as “Firefly,” but like that show, it successfully resets the domain of politics from a planet to a solar system but no further. Also like “Firefly,” the space of “The Expanse” feels genuinely lived-in. The economics and identities that are guide the actors are well-structured.”

Currently, you can only stream The Expanse (for free) on Amazon Prime Video.Dec 22, 2020

Source: The best show about international relations on television right now is on — wait for it — Syfy. – The Washington Post

Opinion | Salman Rushdie: Ask Yourself Which Books You Truly Love – The New York Times

Mr. Rushdie is a novelist and an essayist.

“Before there were books, there were stories. At first the stories weren’t written down. Sometimes they were even sung. Children were born, and before they could speak, their parents sang them songs, a song about an egg that fell off a wall, perhaps, or about a boy and a girl who went up a hill and fell down it. As the children grew older, they asked for stories almost as often as they asked for food.

The children fell in love with these stories and wanted to hear them over and over again. Then they grew older and found those stories in books. And other stories that they had never heard before, about a girl who fell down a rabbit hole, or a silly old bear and an easily scared piglet and a gloomy donkey, or a phantom tollbooth, or a place where wild things were. The act of falling in love with stories awakened something in the children that would nourish them all their lives: their imagination.

The children made up play stories every day, they stormed castles and conquered nations and sailed the oceans blue, and at night their dreams were full of dragons. But they went on growing up and slowly the stories fell away from them, the stories were packed away in boxes in the attic, and it became harder for the former children to tell and receive stories, harder for them, sadly, to fall in love.

I believe that the books and stories we fall in love with make us who we are, or, not to claim too much, the beloved tale becomes a part of the way in which we understand things and make judgments and choices in our daily lives. A book may cease to speak to us as we grow older, and our feeling for it will fade. Or we may suddenly, as our lives shape and hopefully increase our understanding, be able to appreciate a book we dismissed earlier; we may suddenly be able to hear its music, to be enraptured by its song.   . . . “

BBC: 100 books everyone should read – (20+) Facebook

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The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here.
Want to play?
1 Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible –
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulkes
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife-Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tart
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Inferno – Dante (Have it downloaded)
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell-
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Eupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Gaudy Night – Dorothy Sayers
shared from Book Snoop Auctions

Source: (20+) Facebook

David Levithan | Beverly Cleary Helped Boys Love Books – The New York Times

Mr. Levithan is the author of numerous books for children and young adults. The most recent of which is “The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. (as Told to His Brother).”

Credit…Harper Collins

“In third grade, I wanted to be a mouse.

Not a timid mouse. Not a quiet mouse. And certainly not Mickey Mouse.

No, I wanted to be Ralph, the mouse with the motorcycle.

In the many appreciations of Beverly Cleary that have been posted since her death at age 104 last Thursday, there has been plenty of rightful attention paid to Ramona, her most famous character. Though I have nothing but respect for Ramona, my heart has always belonged to Ralph. Ms. Cleary always said she wrote “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” for her son. In doing this, she didn’t welcome just one boy into the world of her books; she welcomed generations of boys like me.

Third grade was a crucial time for me as a reader. I felt I was coming to a fork in the library aisles, where one path led to the Hardy Boys doing hardy boy things while Nancy Drew did mysteriously girl-coded things down the other. Even though Princess Leia was my favorite character to be when I played “Star Wars” with my friends (unusual, but not that unusual) and Marion Ravenwood was my favorite when we played “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (highly unusual, to the point of oddness), I still felt I needed to head for the mountainous boy-book terrain. I was supposed to read for action, not depth. Feelings were not a mystery the Hardy Boys ever needed to solve.

Then I found Ralph.

We meet him in Room 215 of the Mountain View Inn, where a boy named Keith has just arrived. (Keith’s parents are in an adjoining room.) As soon as Keith settles in, he pokes around the room, coming very close to discovering the knothole behind which Ralph and his mouse family live. Then Keith does exactly what I would have done, had I been the one checking into Room 215: He takes out his toy cars, plays with them, and then lines them up in a neat row before he goes to sleep.” . . .

Babette’s Feast — The General’s Toast — Mercy and truth have met together – YouTube

Last night we watched the movie Babette”s Feast, based on a short story by Isak Dinesen. Extraordinary Movie. Very spiritual, but not necessarily a realistic story. A beautiful thought piece. Now I really want to know which part Elly Lindsay had in the theatrical version recently played in Dallas, The soldier, who becomes the heart broken suitor, becomes a successful general, and gives this toast at the end of the feast, while the woman who refused him 40 or so years earlier looks on:

“Mercy and truth have met together.

Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.
Man, in his weakness and shortsightedness…
believes he must make choices in this life.
He trembles at the risks he takes.
We do know fear.
But no.
Our choice is of no importance.
There comes a time when your eyes are opened.
And we come to realize…
that mercy is infinite.
We need only await it with confidence…
and receive it with gratitude.
Mercy imposes no conditions.
And, lo!
Everything we have chosen…
has been granted to us.
And everything…
we rejected…
has also been granted.
Yes, we even get back what we rejected.
For mercy and truth are met together.
And righteousness and bliss…
shall kiss one another.”

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Babette’s Feast (1987)
“Babettes gæstebud” (original title)
Director: Gabriel Axel
General Lorens Löwenhielm: Jarl Kulle
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“Perhaps it is a desecration to take this scene out of context, but it is so wonderful in context that it shall be risked. The General has just enjoyed the rarest of meals in the most unlikely of places. He makes an after dinner speech that is more of a sermon and prayer.” – Youtube blogger named Straussian.

517 subscribers

Opinion | My Father- Out to Sea – By Jaed Coffin – The New York Times

By Jaed Coffin

Mr. Coffin is a writer.

CreditIleana Soon

“For as long as I can remember, my father’s favorite expression has always been “out to sea.” As in, “Well, I used to see that guy around, but then he got divorced, quit his job, and he just went out to sea.” Like many of my father’s expressions, “out to sea” is based on a vague and maybe misunderstood historical allusion; in this case, to the original men of Nantucket, who, my father claims, are my direct male ancestors. These brave souls would regularly leave their families for years on end, to slaughter sperm whales in distant oceans thousands of miles from home. “That’s just how it was back then,” my father often told me, in a whimsical tone laced with longing and nostalgia. “The men in our family, they just went out to sea.”

I’ve never been to Nantucket, and, raised by my single Thai mother, have never had much interest in my father’s heritage. But as a boy, something about my father’s use of the expression “out to sea” always intrigued me. For my father, going “out to sea” carried a mystical connotation, charged with rebellion and renunciation. Men (always men) seemed to reach a point in their lives when the burdens of domestic life — spouse, kids, job, community, whatever — grew too heavy, and the only path to spiritual freedom required that we drift into the mists of existence, never to be seen again.

We make strange heroes out of those who go “out to sea”: Don Draper is one of the newest members of the club. Jack Nicholson’s character in “Five Easy Pieces” (one of my father’s favorite movies), who abandons his girlfriend at a gas station by hitching a ride to Alaska in a logging truck, definitely belongs, too. Even Siddhartha Gautama, auspicious figure of my faith, who left behind his newborn son “Rahula” (Pali for “shackle”) for a life of meditation in the forest, might be the most famous man to ever go “out to sea.” How can I argue with the Buddha?

But my affection for men who go “out to sea” gets complicated when I locate it within the context of my relationship with my father, who met my mother on a military base during the Vietnam War. After the war, my parents came back to the United States, to New England, to start a family. Shortly after I was born, my father got involved with another woman, an American woman, wandered around for a few years, then moved in with her and her five children in Vermont. This left my mother, who worked the night shift as a psychiatric nurse at the local hospital, to raise my older sister and me on her own back in Maine. Throughout my boyhood, it never occurred to me how carefully my mother — who’d been raised in a stilt house, in a dusty village in Central Thailand — had to both scrutinize and adopt the strange customs of New England culture, how learning to navigate these foreign waters became, by necessity, the great project of her adult life.”

The Muggle Problem – by Ross Douthat – NYT

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/28/opinion/harry-potter-rowling-corbyn-muggle.html?ref=opinion

“This week we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter novel, and the beginning — in Britain, at least; the first volume’s publication in America came a little later — of a cultural juggernaut that defined a generation’s experience with books.

It is a timely anniversary, since if you believe what you read on social media the Potterverse has never been more relevant. As Western politics has become more extreme and a generation raised on Hogwarts more politically engaged, the Potter novels have been embraced ever more fervently as political allegories and moral manuals for our times.

As I write this The Telegraph of London has just informed its readers that a poll reveals that Jeremy Corbyn belongs in Gryffindor while Theresa May should be in Slytherin — respectively the bravest and most sinister of houses on the Hogwarts campus. Hillary Clinton has just given a speech praising the Potter novels for instilling progressive values in the young. Meanwhile, the social-media celebrations of 20 years of Potter have temporarily crowded out the endless liberal memes comparing Trump and his court to Voldemort and his Death Eater lackeys.”

David Lindsay

Hamden, CT Pending Approval

Nonsense and rubbish. We learned a great deal from J K Rowling’s Harry Potter books, like how to deal with an inflated right wing ding bat from the the big bad Times. We take out our wand, and order a Patronous, with Expecto Patronem. Then we stand and watch while the dementor from the Times slowly evaporates.

The 10 Best Books of 2016 – The New York Times

“The Association of Small BombsBy Karan MahajanA finalist for the National Book Award, Mahajan’s novel — smart, devastating and unpredictable — opens with a Kashmiri terrorist attack in a Delhi market, then follows the lives of those affected. This includes Deepa and Vikas Khurana, whose young sons were killed, and the boys’ injured friend Mansoor, who grows up to flirt with a form of political terrorism himself. As the narrative suggests, nothing recovers from a bomb: not our humanity, not our politics, not even our faith.Read our review of “The Association of Small Bombs”Viking. $26.”

Source: The 10 Best Books of 2016 – The New York Times