Bombings at a marathon, a letter containing poison being sent to the White House, and an explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas. And yeah, yet another wintry blast in our own back yard. It's definitely been quite the week, and not just for those who are in the news business.
When the news about the Boston Marathon incident hit the airwaves, it was hard to believe, surreal in a way. I didn't have to work that night, so I avoided the television and settled into a few books. Books have always been my way to escape.
On Monday, the American Library Association's annual study of "challenged books" was released. These books are considered challenged because of complaints from parents, educators and other members of the public. And the objections are: offensive language and graphic sexual content.
Topping the challenged books list was Dav Pilkey's "Captain Underpants" books, mainly because of the offensive language. Since I'm not the series' target market, I haven't read any of these books. The author said that it was "pretty exciting to be on a list that frequently features Mark Twain, Harper Lee and Maya Angelou. But I worry that some parents might see this list and discourage their kids from reading 'Captain Underpants,' even though they have not had a chance to read themselves."
The rest of the top 10 challenged books are: "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie, "Thirteen Reasons Why" by Jay Asher, "Fifty Shades of Grey" series by E.L. James, "And Tango Makes Three" by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini, "Looking for Alaska" by John Green, "Scary Stories" by Alvin Schmidt, "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Wells and "Beloved" by Toni Morrison. I've read a few of these on this list and not because they were challenged. In fact, one of them was for book club.
When choosing a book to read, I usually go by the back cover. If the description grabs me, I'll get it. Sometimes the cover of the book can intrigue me. Or the title. Language and content don't usually bother me (unless it's extreme). But if that's the case, I can usually gloss over the random offensive bits.
My book club just finished "Every Last One" by Anna Quindlen. This was the first book I've ever read by her, and others had said she writes good books. It was OK, not monumental. I finished it. Here's the description from Amazon: Mary Beth Latham has built her life around her family, around caring for her three teenage children and preserving the rituals of their daily life. When one of her sons becomes depressed, Mary Beth focuses on him, only to be blindsided by a shocking act of violence. What happens afterward is a testament to the power of a woman's love and determination, and to the invisible lines of hope and healing that connect one human being to another. It does take a while to get to the tragedy itself, but I didn't mind. And I will read other books by this author. It just may take a while as there are just so many books out there that are capturing my attention.
And so I'm returning to my mission of reading books off my own bookshelves (the collection I've amassed from library book sales, Half Price Books, Barnes and Noble's bargain books and the Goodwill). This week's candidates are "Riding With the Queen" by Jennie Shortridge and "The Second Wives Club" by Jane Moore. Moore's book is British "chick lit" in a way, but it's fun. "Riding With the Queen" is Shortridge's debut novel, and it's about a 34-year-old woman who left home at 17 to be a rock 'n roll star, leaving behind her crazy mother and resentful younger sister. After getting the heave-ho from her latest band with no money, she returns to her hometown. It's great so far. Same with "The Second Wives Club."