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AOT,K

It would take me forever to list all of them. “Lord of the Flies” fascinated me. Anytime an essay topic was assigned that wasn’t tied to a specific book, I was writing about Piggy as a Tragic Hero, Simon as a Christ Figure, politics, you name it. I have written pages and pages on that novel. It even inspired a crime - I told the librarian I had “lost” the annotated edition that sits on my shelf to this day (though I did end up feeling so guilty I confessed and paid for them to replace it a month later). I keep the lesson that society is a fragile construct close to my heart. Look at how close we are to collapse already. If some MAGA were assured they wouldn’t be thrown in jail, we’d be hunted like pigs.

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founding

"Beloved" senior year of high school. I FINALLY realized the bullsh*t we were taught in Virginia schools in the 70s about slavery was just that: utter bullsh*t, designed to make white pepo less stressed about our god-awful history. SOUND FAMILIAR??

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One of the things in my life about which I am most proud is that I ran a library/media center at both the high school and elementary levels that provided exactly that safe, welcoming, affirming space for the weird kids [full disclosure: I was one myself] — and more than a few have as adults told me how valuable that was to them.

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Oct 25, 2023·edited Oct 25, 2023

This is a fantastic post! As a kid, I loved all books about animals - Charlotte's Web, The Yearling, Where The Red Fern Grows, anything by Marguerite Henry. I have a battered copy of The Little Broomstick, which featured a brave black cat. I think Black Beauty made the biggest mark - poor, poor, Ginger - and guess what? A quick search tells me it was banned in South Africa at one time because the words Black and Beauty together were considered a no go. WTF???

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I grew up secular humanist, and while I'll say that there were somethings I didn't learn in my family or at school, there was never a feeling that certain books should be forbidden...

Although, there was a short period in my 20s when I read 𝑉𝐴𝐿𝐼𝑆 and 𝑀𝑦 𝐿𝑎𝑠𝑡 𝑆𝑖𝑔ℎ and I was in love with both. Of course, back before the pandemic I read 𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝐵𝑜𝑛𝑒 𝐶𝑙𝑜𝑐𝑘𝑠 and it was almost my teddy bear...

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founding

Never heard of Bunuel's autobiography before, thanks.

VALIS? I'm glad I got to those last few books PKD wrote after having devoured all his pre-breakdown work, VALIS, Divine Invasion and Albemuth would have put me off for good.

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How could you say that about Kevin and his cat? The good Kevin.

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While we are all talking about literature and writers and the books that left lasting impressions on us, I'd like to recommend a collection by one of the best writers of his generation, even though he pretty much wrote only record reviews.

Lester Bangs' "Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung," wherein Greil Marcus collects a number of reviews and articles written by the late legendary rock critic.

Between his reviews of "Chicago Live At Carnegie Hall" ("I listened to it so you don't have to") to his verbal sparring with his arch-nemesis and hero Lou Reed ("Let Us Now Praise Famous Death Dwarves") to his account of riding in the van with The Clash, it's rock and roll writing at its finest. As Lester said, "good rock and roll makes you feel alive."

A few years after his death, Lester wrote a letter to fellow rock critic Dave Marsh. "Met God when I first got here. I asked him why. You know, 33 and all. All he said was 'M.T.V.' He didn't want me to experience it, whatever the fuck it is."

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There's another collection called "Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader."

And there's an excellent biography of Bangs by Jim DeRogatis (the reporter whose work took down R. Kelly).

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I have a soft spot for "Dori Bangs" even though it doesn't really get to either of their greatnesses. But it does give voice to the sorrow we lost them so early.

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Fahrenheit 451 in 4th? 5th? grade. Not sure my peers in Farmville USA ever read/appreciated it but it proved inspirational when it comes to punching Nazis.

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Is there a category for first and second graders? I'd love for them to write essays about "And Tango Makes Three."

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Sponsor one yourself, or start the ball rolling.

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My senior-year honors English class read Heinlein's "Stranger In A Strange Land." I wonder if that would be allowed these days. One of the discussion points was, "clearly Heinlein at this point envisioned himself as Jubal Harshaw," because enough of the class had already read other Heinlein books. There was no discussion about how Heinlein's later novels were exercises in rather icky soft-core porn.

Here's the fun part -- as a teenager I worked at the local branch of my county library (in Central Jersey). I read pretty much everything, from the back issues of "The Nation" to all of the Stephen King/Dean Koontz/Peter Straub horror to all of the Asimov/Bradbury/Butler/Lem/Pohl/Silverberg/science fiction to the spy thrillers by Le Carré and Ludlum and of course all of the then-current fiction. I lost count of how many times I was asked by the little old ladies from the local retirement community, "How is the new Jackie Collins/Harold Robbins/whatever novel? Is it as racy as the last one?" "Yes, Mrs. Chuchman, it is, you'l love it!"

Yep, I was reading all of that inappropriate stuff and it was never questioned! That said, the teenage workers knew enough to guide the younger kids to the age-appropriate stacks.

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As a late teen and early 20-something, I read Heinlein obsessively. I still check the shelves at every book shop I visit to see if there's anything I haven't read (this also goes for several other old sci-fi authors.) I realized that the more recent a Heinlein work was, the stranger it got (and the more interconnected with his other work.) I think he was just getting senile and/or DGAF in his old age, and I applaud him for convincing his publisher/agent to print the later stuff.

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I read 1983, Brave New World and Animal Farm though I don't think they changed much of how I thought about the world. A book I would reccoment is Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. Admittedly I only got as far as the era of the Robber Barons before being sickened of it all. But it's enough to make you distrust most everything you learned in school.

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My mom had Howard Zinn as a college instructor at Spelman College. Her class dedicated the yearbook to him.

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The world has changed so much. We were assigned Fahrenheit 451 in high school, Animal Farm in Middle School. My Catholic school nun had us read A Patch of Blue, Freshman year, I was 13. I still recall that one girl's parents objected & they just gave her an alternative assignment. The rest of us had no issue reading about & discussing poverty, alcoholism & abuse & an interracial friendship. Not sure how it stands up, critically these days. We were encouraged to read everything, at home and at school. Slaughterhouse Five & Catch 22 led me to a lifetime of appreciating Vonnegut & Heller & books that offered different perspectives. My mother was famous for telling us, " if you can read, you can do anything." I tried to instill the same.belief in my kids. I think I succeeded.

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Oct 25, 2023·edited Oct 25, 2023

Huckleberry Finn, most of Vonnegut, and a little later, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

I remember once when I was reading The Great Escape, probably in 6th grade or thereabouts, overhearing one of my mom's friends suggest that. I wasn't old enough for that book. I'm paraphrasing but her response was "If he can read it, he's old enough.". Bless my Mom.

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Yep, Slaughterhouse Five and Catch-22 changed my world too at about the same age.

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The Complete Works of William Shakespeare saved my sanity in fifth grade. I was bored out of my skull in class and had read the entire textbook in the first two weeks of class.

My teacher handed me this honking big book of Shakespeare and told me to read two full stories, two short ones, write reports on them and memorize Hamlet's soliloquy. I think she thought that would keep me busy the entire semester, the silly woman.

Of course I read it cover to cover. Had all the reports done in a month, did the memorization, and then went to town on the rest.

Bless that woman, because she kept handing me books that were not on the fifth grade reading list the entire school year.

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Impressive! It was Shakespeare that led to my sanity being severely impaired in the 10th grade.

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

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Read that in freshman comp.

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