Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Infograph: Top Ten Banned or Challenged Classics

Banned In the USA: Top Ten Banned or Challenged Classics
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Book Review: Breaking Bad and Philosophy: Badder Living through Chemistry

As the final season of AMC’s Breaking Bad is heading toward its much anticipated series finale on Sept. 29, I’ve been consuming just about anything written about the show. Whether it is episode reviews or crazy fan theories about how the show might end, I love reading it all.

One of the more interesting pieces of writing I read was Breaking Bad and Philosophy: Badder Living through Chemistry. The book is an entry in the Popular Culture and Philosophy series, published by Open Court. Previously, the series has examined some 60 other topics including Seinfeld, Harry Potter, and The Walking Dead, another hit AMC TV show.

Before going any further, here’s a warning: there are probably spoilers ahead. I’ve tried to avoid too many specific plot points, but the book examines in depth many choices and actions from the show involving a slew of different characters, so it's kind of impossible to talk about the book without at least referring to some of these plot events. Again, you've been warned. 

            The book is a collection of 19 essays, each by a different author. As someone who knows next to nothing about philosophy, I was a little afraid that I would not have enough knowledge of important philosophical concepts to really understand what the authors were saying. But by and large, the authors did a great job of “dumbing down” many potentially confusing philosophical concepts. Most of the authors seemed to realize that a majority of the people who read the book will be more a fan of Breaking Bad than a fan of philosophy, so they tried to simplify things as much as possible without losing depth or meaning. A downside I could see to this approach, though, is that people who are well-versed in philosophy will spend a lot of time reading many philosophy terms and concepts that may seem elementary to them.

The opening chapter of the book details each death Walter White is responsible for, looking through the lens of Aristotle’s criteria for either blaming or praising Walt for an action including his motivations, justification and the consequences of the actions. I was a little surprised, especially considering how far Walt has fallen this season, to remember how much sympathy and empathy I had for Walt in those early seasons. Despite him killing (or being directly responsible for the death of) at least nine people, I remember justifying his actions as “doing it for his family” and that he simply had no other choice. Little did I know how unjustifiable Walt’s actions would become in the later seasons.  

            Probably my favorite chapter in the book was "Heisenberg's Uncertain Confession" and was written by Darryl J. Murphy, an instructor at Brock University (who I can only assume was chosen to write for a Breaking Bad book because of the name of the university). Part of this chapter’s appeal was how accessible Murphy made the discussion of some of history’s greatest philosophers. Going into the book, I definitely didn’t expect to be reading the sentences "cut off his junk and sent him packin' " and "had mad relations with females" before page 20.

            Murphy makes a novel connection between Walt naming his drug kingpin alter ego “Heisenberg” and physicist Werner Heisenberg’s famous Uncertainty Principle. I apologize in advance for butchering this attempt at an explanation, but in short, the principle argues that there is a limit to how precisely some physical properties of sub-atomic particles can be measured. There is some “uncertainty” in the measurements. After some logical reasoning, Murphy concludes that this gives Walt’s science-based, “materialist point of view” a chance at gaining some kind of redemption by the end of his story. “Heisenberg allows Walt to believe that he chose to break bad and that he can choose to be good again." 

            Other chapters cover many varied topics, such as comparing Breaking Bad to Shakespeare's Macbeth, looking at parallels between Walt and Don Draper of AMC's Mad Men, and how Gus Fring's lack of empathy helped him become the criminal mastermind who led the meth market in much of the southwest U.S. 

As a whole, the book was an enjoyable, fairly easy read. One of the benefits of the essay format was that the book was very easy to pick up for 15 minutes, knock out a chapter and then begin a brand new topic when you picked the book up a day later. And since there was no real carryover from chapter to chapter, one could easily skim or completely skip any chapters that don’t seem interesting.

One issue I did have with the book, and maybe it’s a bigger deal to me than to most readers since I work with words for a living, but there were more than a few really distracting grammar mistakes. Some adverbs should have been adjectives, some present tense verbs should have been past tense. These mistakes often made me reread sentences and paragraphs to figure out what the author was trying to say.

            The book only covers through Season 4 and not any of 2012 and 2013’s two-part fifth season. Walt’s body count has risen since then, so those deaths and choices are not examined in the book. But I guess it’s a good indicator for how much I enjoyed the book that I’m hoping a new, updated version is published after the series finale.  

Be sure to follow Matt Skrajner on Twitter @MattNewsHerald

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'The Time Traveler's Wife' now out as enhanced e-book

Zola Books has released an e-book version of "The Time Traveler's Wife" — my favorite book — and it includes 25 new pages from the upcoming sequel.

From a news release:
New York, NY (September 23, 2013) – Marking the 10th anniversary of its publication, THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE by New York Times bestselling author Audrey Niffenegger is available today for the first time as an e-book, enhanced with 25 new pages from an upcoming sequel.


THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE is the story of art student Clare Abshire and librarian Henry DeTamble, who meet when he is twenty-eight and she is twenty. Though Henry has never met Clare before, Clare has known Henry since she was six – impossible but true, because Henry finds himself periodically displaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. Henry and Clare's attempts to live a normal life together are threatened by a force they can neither prevent nor control, making their love story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.


The pages from the as-yet-untitled sequel focus on Henry and Clare’s daughter Alba, who as an adult finds herself caught between her real-time husband, Zach, and her other husband, Oliver, a fellow time-traveler and musician.

“It’s been intense to revisit the world of THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE after ten years; Alba’s life has complications and delights that surprise even me. It’s funny how the imagination works quietly, secretly, just waiting to be asked for more story and serving it up as though it’s been there all along. I hope readers will be pleased, both with the new story and with Zola," said Niffenegger. "I am excited to be working with Zola Books; we are all are eager to give both readers and writers the best possible e-book experience and to benefit the community of book shops and publishers, too."

How to buy THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE e-book ($8.99):
1.      Visit
2.      Download the Zola Books app in the Apple App Store:
3.      To read, tap the Zola app on your iPad or iPhone. Swipe left to see your purchased books. Tap the book cover to download the book into your app. (This step can take a few minutes because the book files are big).

I didn't know a sequel was on the way, so I'm pretty excited about that news! Though I am disappointed this release is not available in Nook format, which is my e-reader of choice.

-- Cheryl Sadler | | @nhcheryl

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How Book Banning Works

Wondering how book banning works? Check out the podcast "How Book Banning Works" featuring Josh and Chuck over at Stuff You Should Know.

Episode description:
If you want to control the masses, control what they read. After all, books are seeds that germinate new points of view. As a result, the struggle against banning books is contentious and continual. Learn more about banning books in this episode.
You can stream the episode or download it.

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Happy Banned Books Week!

Celebrate the freedom to read during Banned Books Week.

Banned Books Week is the national book community's annual celebration of the freedom to read. Hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events. The 2013 celebration of Banned Books Week will be held from September 22-28.  Banned Books Week 2014 will be held September 21-27.

Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982. For more information on Banned Books Week, click here. According to the American Library Association, there were 464 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2012, and many more go unreported.
Looking for ways to observe Banned Books Week? Check out the American Library Association's Schedule of Events for Banned Books Week 2013 to see what the organization has going on, including Google hangouts with authors, the Banned Books Week 2013 Twitter Party and virtual read-outs.

Wondering what books are challenged or banned? Check out ALA's page on Frequently Challenged Books, which includes this awesome timeline of the past 30 years of banned books, the list of banned and challenged classics, the list of frequently challenged books of the 21st century, the list of 100 most frequently challenged books by decade, and more. Seriously, you could spend all of Banned Books Week just making a list of books you will want to read.

My favorite banned or challenged book is "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. What's yours?

-- Cheryl Sadler | | @nhcheryl

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Author Expo 2013 at Willoughby Hills Community Center

The Author Expo 2013 is set for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Willoughby Hills Community Center, 35400 Chardon Road in Willoughby Hills.

Local authors will be available to chat, and you'll be able to purchase books and have them signed. (Cash, check, credit card and debit card will be accepted.)

Participating authors include:
Sponsors include Barnes & Noble, Friends of the Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library, Gray and Company Publising, Willoughby Hills Community Center and Zeppe's Pizzeria-Willoughby Hills.

Visit the Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library's website for more information.

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