Tag Archives | Books

The Most Banned and Challenged Books of 2014

persepolisI now have a new reason to love my kid’s school: his current assigned text, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, is number 2 on the most challenged book list for 2014 compiled by the American Library Association:

A current analysis of book challenges recorded by ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) from 2001 – 2013, shows that attempts to remove books by authors of color and books with themes about issues concerning communities of color are disproportionately challenged and banned. A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that a book or other material be restricted or removed because of its content or appropriateness.

In 2014, the OIF received 311 reports regarding attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves. Eighty percent of the 2014 Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books reflect diverse authors and cultural content.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Malformed: Forgotten Brains of the Texas State Mental Hospital

51a3AX6cRhL

Malformed: Forgotten Brains of the Texas State Mental Hospitaljust released in December, documents an obscure piece of history: the “Battle for the Brains” with stunning photography.

Hidden away out of sight in a forgotten storage closet deep within the bowels of the University of Texas State Mental Hospital languished a forgotten, but unique and exceptional, collection of 100 extremely rare, malformed, or damaged human brains preserved in jars of formaldehyde.

Decades later, in 2011, photographer Adam Voorhes discovered the brains and became obsessed with documenting them in close-up, high-resolution, large format photographs, revealing their oddities, textures, and otherworldly essence. Voorhes donned a respirator and chemical gloves, and began the painstaking process of photographing the collection. Desperate to know more about the provenance of the brains, Voorhes, together with journalist Alex Hannaford, traveled down the rabbit hole of the collection’s history.

Sifting through a century’s worth of university documents, the truth-seekers discovered that rival universities had bitterly fought over the collection.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

‘The Anarchist Cookbook’ and the Rise of DIY Terrorism

Anarchist cookbookThe Anarchist Cookbook is the book that just won’t die, despite its author’s wishes to the contrary. Now The Kernel assesses its importance for modern-day DIY terrorism:

On Sept. 14, 2010, a dry cleaner in Toronto, Canada, found something suspicious. In a bag of clothes dropped off by a client, a USB stick had likely been left in one of his pockets. Curious, he plugged the small device into a computer and read through the contents. Two days later, the dry cleaner called the police.

The following April, Canadian law enforcement officials arrested the USB drive’s owner, Mohamed Hassan Hersi, at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport as he was boarding a plane to Cairo. A joint force of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Toronto Police Department had been investigating Hersi for months. Posing as a consultant, an undercover cop had visited Hersi at his job, where he worked as a security guard.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Neil Gaiman Salutes Douglas Adams

Neil Gaiman pays tribute to Douglas Adams, immortal to many through his creation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, at the annual Douglas Adams Memorial lecture:

“I haven’t known many geniuses in my life. Some brilliantly smart people, but only a tiny handful would I class as geniuses. I would class Douglas, because he saw things differently, and he was capable of communicating the way he saw things, and once he explained things the way he saw them, it was almost impossible to see them the way you used to see them.”

Read the rest

Continue Reading

The Anarchist Cookbook: Burn After Reading

Anarchist cookbook“In 1971, William Powell published The Anarchist Cookbook, a guide to making bombs and drugs at home. He spent the next four decades fighting to take it out of print,” writes Gabriel Thompson at Harpers:

In September 10, 1976, during an evening flight from New York to Chicago, a bearded passenger handed a sealed envelope to an attendant. The note began: “One, this plane is hijacked.” In the rest of the letter, the passenger, a Croatian nationalist named Zvonko Busic, explained that five bombs had been smuggled onboard, and that a sixth had been placed in locker 5713 at Grand Central Station in Manhattan. Busic added that the pilot should radio the authorities immediately and that further instructions would be found with the bomb in the locker. “[It] can only be activated by pressing the switch to which it is attached,” he added, “but caution is suggested.”

While the captain notified air traffic control, Busic entered the cockpit wearing what looked like three sticks of dynamite attached to a battery.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Kurt Vonnegut Graphed The World’s Most Popular Stories

Kurt-Vonnegut-US-Army-portrait

U.S. Army portrait of Pvt. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Clearly there was a lot of method in Kurt Vonnegut’s creative madness, as discovered by Wonkblog:

Kurt Vonnegut claimed that his prettiest contribution to culture wasn’t a popular novel like “Cat’s Cradle” or “Slaughterhouse-Five,” but a largely forgotten master’s thesis he wrote while studying anthropology at the University of Chicago. The thesis argued that a main character has ups and downs that can be graphed to reveal the taxonomy of a story, as well as something about the culture it comes from. “The fundamental idea is that stories have shapes which can be drawn on graph paper, and that the shape of a given society’s stories is at least as interesting as the shape of its pots or spearheads,” Vonnegut said.

In addition to churning out novels, Vonnegut was deeply interested in the practice of writing. The tips he wrote for other writers – including “How to write with style” and “Eight rules for writing fiction” — are concise, funny, and still very useful.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

This Book Uses Facial Recognition to Judge Whether You Deserve to Read It

Can books afford to be so picky about who reads them? Yahoo investigates:

You might not want to admit it, but deep down every bookstore shopper knows that picking a new book to read is a fairly superficial process. We’re tuned to judge books by their covers, despite the advice of clichés. But what happens when the tables are turned, and the covers are judging us?

This is the question at hand for Thijs Biersteker, a Dutch artist who created a book that uses facial recognition to decide whether you are worthy of reading it. As demonstrated in the video below, the book scans your face for your emotional state; if it senses that you are either too excited or in a sour mode, it will lock itself shut, preventing you from reading in the wrong frame of mind.

It works like this: You first align your face with the book’s built-in screen, which intentionally resembles the face of a robot out of Fritz Lang‘s 1927 dystopian film Metropolis.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Harper Lee’s New Book Sure to Fire Truman Capote Conspiracy Theory

Harper Lee Nov07In case you hadn’t heard, there will finally be a second book from Harper Lee, the famously reclusive author of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s called Go Set A Watchman and the events it depicts take place after those in To Kill a Mockingbird, although it was actually written first according to the New York Times:

…On Tuesday, Ms. Lee’s publisher announced its plans to release that novel, recently rediscovered, which Ms. Lee completed in the mid-1950s, before she wrote “To Kill A Mockingbird.” The 304-page book, “Go Set a Watchman,” takes place 20 years later in the same fictional town, Maycomb, Ala., and unfolds as Jean Louise Finch, or Scout, the feisty child heroine of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” returns to visit her father. The novel, which is scheduled for release this July, tackles the racial tensions brewing in the South in the 1950s and delves into the complex relationship between father and daughter.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments [Free]

irrelevant_authority

I know how much everyone loves to call out fallacious arguments — especially on the Internet. So here’s a book illustrating and detailing some of the better known logical fallacies. You can read it in its entirety for free at the website or buy the hardcover book.

According to the author, Ali Almossawi:

I go on two solitary walks every day. There is a small park off the Embarcadero that is tucked away in a quiet spot. It has a pleasant stream flowing through it and an unassuming bench beside that stream. I have made walking to that frail bench a ritual, and the half an hour or so spent daydreaming on it amid the cool San Francisco breeze, an article of faith.

It was on a day in October of last year when, during one of those quiet moments on that bench, I recalled my college years and how outspoken I happened to be during them, an observation only made interesting by the fact that I have since turned into the quietest of beings.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Charles Bukowski’s Letter to the Librarian Who Banned His Book

51Gk+OrWOqLYet another intriguing Charles Bukowski letter. I think I still prefer the letter he wrote to his publisher, John Martin. But this one is also a gem.

A library in Holland banned Bukowski’s book, Tales of Ordinary MadnessWell Bukowski apparently felt the need to not exactly defend his writing, but to explain how honored he was to have written something so prolific. Though, he rightfully condemns the librarian’s censorship.

Dear Hans van den Broek:

Thank you for your letter telling me of the removal of one of my books from the Nijmegen library. And that it is accused of discrimination against black people, homosexuals and women. And that it is sadism because of the sadism.

The thing that I fear discriminating against is humor and truth.

If I write badly about blacks, homosexuals and women it is because of these who I met were that. There are many “bads”–bad dogs, bad censorship; there are even “bad” white males.

Read the rest
Continue Reading