A New Missouri Bill Threatens Librarians with Imprisonment if They Don't Censor Books

A bill (HB 2044) proposed on January 8, 2020, by Missouri representative Ben Baker calls for the creation of parental oversight boards to remove books from the children’s section of public libraries if they are deemed sexually inappropriate. Compliance with the boards is tied into state funding and librarians who allow children access to the censored books may be fined up to $500 or face up to one year in prison.

The parental oversight boards are to be composed of five adults who live in the library’s geographic area. They will be voted on by a majority, serve two-year terms, and listen to public comment on why books are sexually inappropriate and thus should be removed from the children’s section. The bill specifies that inappropriate material is defined as the following:

(1) “Age-inappropriate sexual material”, any description or representation, in any form, of nudity, sexuality, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse, that:

(a) Taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest of minors;

(b) Is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is appropriate material for minors; and

(c) Taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors;

Baker’s justification for the bill is that children need to be protected from certain content. He told a local news outlet, “The main thing is, I want to be able to take my kids to a library and make sure they’re in a safe environment, and that they’re not gonna be exposed to something that is objectionable material.” He also argued that he does not want to ban books as the materials can still be in the library–but in the adult section. And some news articles suggest that Baker is more concerned about banning programs like Drag Queen Story Hour than banning books, even though the language of HB 2044 specifically refers to “materials.”

Baker’s bill rejects the idea that readers should be allowed to determine for themselves what is objectionable material, and that parents, rather than the government, should be responsible for what their children read. It opposes the ideals espoused by the American Library Association (ALA) in their Freedom to Read Statement, which asserts that the ability to choose is the foundation of democracy:

“Most attempts at suppression rest on a denial of the fundamental premise of democracy: that the ordinary individual, by exercising critical judgment, will select the good and reject the bad. We trust Americans to recognize propaganda and misinformation, and to make their own decisions about what they read and believe. We do not believe they are prepared to sacrifice their heritage of a free press in order to be ‘protected’ against what others think may be bad for them. We believe they still favor free enterprise in ideas and expression.”

ALA “Freedom to Read Statement”

A parental oversight board would give the power to ban books to five individuals. It would allow a small minority to determine what books every child in the community is allowed to access. Hopefully, HB 2044 will not pass. But it is alarming it was ever proposed.

Take Action

If you live in Missouri, contact your representative to tell them you oppose censorship and book banning.

20 Discussion Post Ideas for Your Book Blog in 2020

  1. If you have a library, how much money do you save each year (or month) by using library materials?
  2. What do you think of the Macmillan ebook embargo?
  3. What do you think about book bloggers monetizing their blogs?
  4. What do you love specifically about reading book blogs (as opposed to watching Booktube or scrolling through Bookstagram)?
  5. What are the best ways to spread a love of reading?
  6. What are some tropes or plots that will immediately make you pick up a book?
  7. What do you think of “bad” characters who are never punished?
  8. What book do you think everyone should read, not necessarily because it’s your personal favorite but because it has important ideas?
  9. Who are your favorite classic authors and why?
  10. What do you think constitutes a spoiler?
  11. What lessons have you learned from books?
  12. What would make you go to your local library more often (if you have one)?
  13. What book do you think readers frequently misunderstand?
  14. Are there any books that remind you of songs? Or songs that remind you of books?
  15. What YA novels should Netflix adapt next?
  16. What are some books with strong sibling relationships?
  17. What stereotypes need to stop showing up in books?
  18. Has someone else’s review ever made you think more positively of a book than you did initially?
  19. What are some of your favorite magic systems from fantasy novels?
  20. Do your favorite childhood books live up to rereading today?
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More Discussion Post Prompts

Celebrating Anne Brontë's 200th Birthday at Pages Unbound

But he that dares not grasp the thorn/ Should never crave the rose.”

“The Narrow Way” by Anne Brontë

Anne Brontë was born on January 17, 1820, in Thornton in the United Kingdom. Although less celebrated than her sisters Charlotte and Emily, her reputation is today being reevaluated by scholars. Anne wrote a number of poems as well as two novels before her death at the age of 29–Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall–which draw upon her experiences as a governess and at watching her brother Branwell succumb to drink and addiction.

Anne is known for writing more realistic stories than her sisters and for her progressive views on women, which today are read as perhaps even more feminist than Charlotte and Emily’s. In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, for example, Anne writes about the laws that allow men to abuse their wives, suggesting that marriage can become a form of imprisonment, and celebrates the strength of a woman who had to courage to leave her husband. Her story shocked Victorian society.

Anne’s passionate, somewhat unorthodox views, lead Charlotte to try to tame her sister’s memory after her death. She refused to republish The Tenant of Wildfell Hall because she claimed its scenes of debauchery did not reflect Anne’s true, gentle character. Some scholars believe it is in part Charlotte’s intervention that lead to Anne’s literary reputation falling. Charlotte may or may not also have destroyed Anne’s letters and juvenilia. The fact that Charlotte has left far more written material than either Emily or Anne has lead biographers many to focus on Charlotte, simply because there is more to focus on.

This January 17 marks the 200th anniversary of Anne Brontë’s birth. We will be celebrating at Pages Unbound with a number of reviews and posts focusing on Anne’s life and works. Join us and help us remember the most neglected Brontë sister!

10 Nonfiction Books to Add to Your Reading List–Even If You Don't Normally Read Nonfiction

Nonfiction Books Everyone Should Add to Their Reading List

Are you looking to add more nonfiction to your reading list in 2020? Or do you generally enjoy nonfiction but want reading recommendations? Look no further! These are some of my favorite nonfiction books that I believe will be interesting and relevant to a wide audience, no specific interest in the topic necessary.

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Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing by Ben Blatt

Nabakovs Favorite Word Is Mauve

Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve is a great choice for readers interested in nonfiction about reading and writing and even what characteristics can make writing seem “good.” Blatt uses data science to explore what classic authors do in their writing (do they avoid too many adverbs? write short or long sentences?), which is thought-provoking whether you’re working on your own novel or just thinking about books you’ve read. He also addresses things like how to judge book covers and whether you can tell who wrote most of a book that is co-authored.

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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Quiet by Susan Cain

A 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Winner, Quiet explains the benefits of introversion and how extroverts can better support and maintain positive relationships with introverts. The book received a lot of attention when published and was even adapted for a younger audience, but its message about how introverts work differently than extroverts remains relevant, and its suggestions about creating workplaces and educational spaces that allow introverts to thrive without relying on things like open office plans and public speaking still haven’t been implemented in many places.

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The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money by Bryan Caplan

Case Against Education

The major conclusion of this book is that it is beneficial for people, under the current system, to obtain an advanced degree (because “everyone else” has one), but the look at credential inflation and his argument that education is more about “signalling” capability/conformity/sometimes knowledge more than actually knowing things is fascinating. It helps add some nuance to the question of whether countries should provide free university education to all citizens, and it’s an interesting topic since all of us have been through the educational system to some degree or another; you don’t have to agree with all of Caplan’s points to get something out of the book.

Screen Schooled: Two Veteran Teachers Expose How Technology Overuse Is Making Our Kids Dumber by Joe Clement and Matt Miles

Screen Schooled

Another book about education that will resonate with readers because it addresses a topic people have big feelings about: Is a reliance on technology helping or hindering students’ education? The general argument of the book is NOT that technology is overtly bad but rather that it’s not always good and is often a distraction, so it should be utilized thoughtfully when it has a clear advantage over a non-technological approach. Again, one needn’t agree with all of the raised points, but the book is based in an impressive amount of research and provides lots of food for thought.

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer

Moonwalking with Einstein

Moonwalking with Einstein is a fascinating exploration of the history of memory and the capacity of human talent.  It does offer a disclaimer that it is not a self-help book to teach the reader how to capitalize on his memory, but there are just enough tricks mentioned to pique one’s curiosity and perhaps even get one started in learning.

Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson

Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction

Monster, She Wrote is an incredibly thorough overview of women authors who wrote and pioneered horror and speculative fiction, ranging from Gothic authors like Ann Radcliffe to modern-day writers. Including anecdotes from the authors’ lives and summaries of their most prominent (or just strangest) works, it’s sure to help you add a bunch of books you’ve never heard of before (but probably should have) to your reading list.

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Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs

Wonder Women

Wonder Women is a delightfully informative yet informal look at amazing women in STEM. Maggs purposely tends toward less-known women (personally, I’d heard of about six), meaning the book isn’t just the same-old stories of Marie Curie and Amelia Earhart (though these women get mini bios at the end of each section).  Maggs explores the lives and accomplishments of 25 historical women in the fields of science, medicine, espionage, innovation, and adventure, and sprinkles in some interviews with women currently working in STEM to help inspire readers to go do all the science.

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud book cover image

Understanding Comics is itself a comic book that explains how to read and interpret comics, starting with basically terminology like what a gutter or a frame is and then moving on to more advanced topics. If you’re interested in reading more comics or graphic novels but don’t know much about them from a technical aspect, this may be the book for you.

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez

Invisible Women Book Cover

A 2019 Goodreads Choice Award Finalist, Invisible Women takes a detailed look about how nearly everything in our lives has been designed for (often by) men, from cars where the safety features are tested for the “average male” to office temperatures set to be comfortable for the “average male” to medicines that are often tested only on groups of men (because women’s hormones might “complicate” the data!). This book has been receiving a ton of attention and I hope it receives more and accomplishes some social change, to get women noticed in the design of, well, everything from bathrooms to military equipment to city planning.

Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating by Charles Spence

Gastrophysics

Everyone eats, so although this book is frequently focused on high-end food the likes of which I personally have not actually eaten, it provides a fascinating look at how external factors can influence the way we perceive/taste food. For instance, chip bags are noisy because the crispy sound of the bag open makes people rate the chips as fresher and crisper than the exact same chips in a quiet bag. This book explains this and more about the science of food and how you can be manipulated by chefs or big food companies into having specific thoughts about their food.

Supers by Frédéric Maupomé, Dawid (Illustrator)

Supers Cover

Information

Goodreads: Supers
Series: Supers #1
Source: Library
Published: 2018 (first published 2015)

Summary

Matt, Lily, and Benji are not from Planet Earth. But, for now, they have to blend in. That means not using their powers, even if they really want to. Even if the school bully deserves it. But buildings are being set on fire, and maybe they can help–as long as no one discovers what they can do.

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Review

Supers is an enchanting comic focused on three siblings who are not from Earth, but who must hide their super powers to blend in. They experience frustration at having to conceal their abilities, at having to attend class when they know so much more than the other students. But they are determined to stay together and, one day, maybe to go home. Their beautiful family dynamic is what carries the story, simple as it is.

Supers is so short that initially I found myself surprised when the story seemed to end just as it had begun. Really, this book is a set-up for the next books, more than an independent story. Typically, I would expect it to be something like chapters one to three in a longer work. Readers who know this going in, however, will likely be less disappointed than those who do not.

The artwork is what really makes the book something special. The characters are wonderfully expressive and their annoyance and love for their siblings shines through on each page. A sweet budding romance is also a delight to watch unfold, with the body language often saying more than the words. Fans of graphic novels will appreciate the art style in Supers.

Supers is a sweet story about family, and about finding the courage to do what you know is right. Readers who adore children’s graphic novels will find plenty to admire here. But they may want to get their hands on the sequel first, so they will not be disappointed when the first book ends.

4 stars

How to Read More Classics in 2020

How To Read More Classics

Is one of your bookish New Year’s resolutions to start reading more classic literature? Or do you always think you’d like to read more classics but just…never get around to it? Here are some tips to get you motivated and finding classics you’ll love!

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Pick a Genre You Like

When people talk about “classics,” they often seem to be referring either to Shakespeare (16th century drama) or Victorian literature. References to books about “boring old people” and novels written in “incomprehensible, old-timey language” abound with readers who don’t consider themselves fan of classics. However, classics come in literally every genre and have been written in nearly every time period. If you want modern, simpler language, you can try modern classics like Of Mice and Men or To Kill a Mockingbird. If you like genre fiction, you can try science fiction classics like War of the Worlds or fantasy classics like The Lord of the Rings. Whatever kinds of books you normally like, there’s probably something for you in classic literature.

Recommendations

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Pick a Classic Related to a Book You Already Like

There are many contemporary novels based on or inspired by classics, so if you like any of those, you just might like the original story! For example, if you like Roseblood by A.G. Howard, it might be time to read The Phantom of the Opera! Or if you generally like romances or stories about women finding their way, you might like Jane Eyre!

We have a couple of posts recommending classics based on young adult or middle grade books you’ve already read:

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Start with Something Short

The word “classic” can often conjure up images of heavy tomes like War and Peace, but there is a large selection of classics that are actually quick reads. If you’re not sure how committed you are to reading something lengthy, check out my list of classic books that are under 200 pages.

20 Short Classics
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Work a Small Excerpt into Your Daily Schedule

You can also work classics into your schedule in small chunks. You can listen to an audiobook while cleaning or on your way to work. You can commit to just reading 10 pages a day. Or you can sign up for a literary service that will send a short excerpt to your email each day, about a 5-10 min. commitment to read a classic in a month or so! You can read more about why I like using DailyLit to get book excerpts sent to my email here, but there are a few other websites that offer similar services.

DailyLit
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Find Other Readers Excited about Classics

Reading classics is more interesting when you find other readers who love them–and there happen to be a ton of them in our bookish community! Finding someone passionate about a book is also a good way to find things to appreciate about it, even if you didn’t initially love it yourself. I experience this a lot in school, where class conversations helped me see some interesting things in books I initially thought were pretty boring. So if you’re interested in reading a particular classic, see if you can find someone else who read it and loved it and can tell you why!

Read my post on how I fell in love with reading because of classics (those “old, boring” books!) here.

I Fell in Love with Reading Because of Old Books

Do you read classics? Have you been meaning to read more?

Briana

Trends I Think We'll See in Book Blogging in 2020

See my 2018 book blogging predictions here! (Apparently I didn’t do 2019.)

Continued Popularity of Audiobooks

Audiobooks have been rising in popularity for the past couple of years, and I don’t think that’s going to stop. With more people reading audiobooks, we’ll see more reviews and more features like “best audiobook narrators.”

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Increased Readership for Middle Grade

Publishing industry employees have been mentioning now is a great time for middle grade books, even as YA is starting to feel a bit stagnant to some people, and I’ve seen multiple bloggers say they’re interested in checking out more middle grade. Will this be the year more people check out this category of books?

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More Original Content

I’ve also seen multiple bloggers mention they hope to keep up their passion for blogging by posting more original content, whether that means more discussion posts or personal posts or just doing fewer memes. Personally, I do think original content is the way to stand out from the crowd and really establish your voice as a blogger.

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Fewer Book Bloggers?

The fate of book blogging has been under discussion for a couple years now, as Booktube and Bookstagram take off and users there obviously get far more followers than bloggers. While I enjoy blogger and far prefer reading other blogs to watching Youtube or scrolling Instagram, it is possible blogging will experience a downward trend. Hopefully, however, the community will continue to be vibrant where it does exist and welcome any new bloggers this year!

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Continued Emphasis on Visuals

I mentioned visuals in my 2018 post, and I think this is related to the perception that it’s difficult for blogs to compete with platforms like Youtube and Instagram. In an effort to draw readers who like that visual component, bloggers will continue to focus on graphics and original photography and may even embed video or audio into some blog posts.

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More Pinterest Use?

I documented my own Pinterest use and growth in 2019 and explained how I was able to get a significant amount of traffic from it. More book bloggers seem to be becoming aware of the possibilities of Pinterest, and I see more becoming active on the site and adding Pinterst-ready graphics to their blog posts.

What trends do you think we’ll see in book blogging this year?

Briana