A FEW THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT CRAPPY BOOKS, AUDIOBOOKS, AND BANNED BOOKS
BY HAILEY MINTON
Let me set the stage: you’ve invested a few hours into a book. It didn’t grab you initially, but you held out hoping it would get better. Each time you pick it up, you’re still hoping… but it’s not getting better. A good book can give you a visceral reaction as a scene plays out. Your heart starts beating faster as you eagerly wait to see what they stumble across in the damp tunnel with stagnant air. It takes a substantial amount of self control to keep your eyes from jumping to the paragraph on the next page. You care for the characters, and you can feel their wins and losses. You find yourself thinking about what you’ve read, even when the book isn’t in front of you. The ideas printed in the book spark conversation with family and friends. You can hone in on what you really think about a topic and figure out if you agree or disagree with the author or character and why.
But what happens when a book isn’t giving you that experience? What do you do next? Do you feel like you need to finish your book with the same level of obligation of finishing food off your plate?
BREAKING UP WITH A BOOK
“I’ve only quit two books that I can remember,” said Craig Corless from North Ogden. “The first was a Stephen King book. After reading everything he wrote for a couple of decades, halfway through one, I suddenly grew tired of the fiction and the excess metaphor filler. It just no longer excited me, and I found nothing fulfilling about reading any more of it. The second was Thoreau, when I had enough of the pretentious, long-winded irony about simplifying that should have been done in less than a hundred pages instead of several hundred. I finally just asked myself: Why would I continue wading through this while cringing, when it’s just a book that is supposed to be for my own enjoyment? I then quickly grabbed some John Muir and Edward Abbey to get that bad taste out of my eyes.”
Linden Puzey Kendall from North Ogden said, “I try to at least read the first chapter of the book. If it does not bring me joy, I will Marie Kondo the thing and never touch it again… The events in the first chapter of a book really set things in motion and need to capture the reader’s attention by foreshadowing main characters and what events bind them together.” Personally, I’ve realized life is too short to spend it reading books that don’t engage me. After recently trudging through a book I didn’t enjoy, I’ve discovered my own litmus test for when I read in the future: Am I looking forward to reading the book, or am I looking forward to finishing it so I don’t feel obligated to read it any more?
THE PROS AND CONS OF AUDIOBOOKS
Many love how audiobooks give them the ability to multitask. As a mom and housekeeper, there are a lot of tasks that are mindless but need doing. I love when a good audiobook can keep me mentally engaged through monotony.
Shasta Burton, a Roy resident, said she enjoys reading but doesn’t have the time. However, she drives a lot, which makes books more accessible to her. “I also like that I can change the pace of the reader, so I can ensure I finish the book by the end of a road trip,” she said. Like Shasta, I agree; I usually listen to books at 1.5 speed if the story starts to drag.
Glenda Moore, also a resident of Roy, likes the “being read to” factor, so she has a lot of audiobooks for the car. However, she admitted that listening to audiobooks almost got her arrested once! “I had gone to the store late at night and was listening to a book on the way home. I wanted to reach the end of the chapter, so I kept driving around the neighborhood. Apparently, my repeated drive-bys at 2 a.m. spooked a vigilant resident, who called the police. The bags of groceries on the seat helped persuade the officer that I was not a nefarious criminal, just a woman driving while listening to a book.”
Several teachers in our communities use audiobooks to help their younger readers, especially ones who might have a harder time reading. Devon Crivello Lees, a teacher at Saint Joseph Catholic Elementary in Ogden, said, “ I have students listen to the audio book while following along with the hard copy text before we read aloud together. This helps students learn to track what they are reading and introduces them to words they might not have heard before. They hear someone else reading it correctly before trying themselves.”
Jennilee Hyde, who taught third and fourth grades at Clinton Elementary, explained that it also teaches kids to read with expression. “Instead of not letting struggling readers read books that my good readers were reading, I would have them listen as they followed.” She explained this helped them learn to like stories and read more, which often led their ability to read to skyrocket. Diann Mair is a private reading tutor who specializes in kids with dyslexia. “I strongly encourage audiobooks while we work on eye reading skills.” She said this increases their exposure to language.
On the flip side, several people mentioned that listening to audiobooks makes it hard to go back and review parts of the story from earlier. Some struggle to pay attention, and even a moment of distraction can cost a key detail lost in the story.
Stacey Haynes is a local author from Roy. She said, “I have one book that is on audio. The lady did a great job in telling the story; however, it’s not completely how I had it playing out in my head as I wrote it…I feel that reading a book keeps you actively engaged. Listening is great, too, but you could miss something.” When Kathy Diehl Sutherland reads a hard copy of a book, she occasionally jumps ahead and skips paragraphs. “Sometimes, authors are verbose and I get bored. I can’t do that with audio.” Darrin Hardman said, “I’m a huge fan of audiobooks… that being said, nothing replaces the intimacy of reading a book. I’m better able to appreciate the author’s craft, word choice, and reread to savor every moment. Listening to a book is linear; you start and stop with little time to reflect.”
REFLECT ON THE BOOK
Taking moments to reflect and discuss what you’re reading with someone really helps it sink in. What did you learn about the character? What strengths or flaws can you relate with? What has made the book enjoyable for you?
Whatever the genre, I hope you can find a book that thrills you, whether you listen to it or read it. If you find yourself dragging through a story, I give you permission to never touch it again (shhhh OCD, it’s ok [pat pat] it’s ok…).
Did you know that some books are deliberately not available in certain places because of their content?
Usually, the process of having a book removed from a public institution starts when someone, usually a parent, challenges a book in a formal challenge written to a government entity. There are many reasons for why a book is challenged, which can include profanity, sexual content, disrespect for authority figures, and unsuitability for the age group. Phoebe Carter, Assistant Library Director at the Weber County Library, said, “Reasons change with the times and tend to echo the social issues of the day. Ten years ago, most of the challenges were in response to sexual content in books for teens. Now, the trend is towards LGBTQ characters or content and messages of anti-racism.”
Banned Books Week shines a spotlight on books that may be less accessible. According to bannedbooksweek.org, “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. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information.”
There have been times while reading when I come across something and think, “Yikes! I could’ve done without reading that part.” For movies, I have really appreciated IMDB’s parent’s guide to find out what is shown explicitly in a movie I want to watch. The website tells you what to expect as far as gore, horror, sex, nudity, or other categories that some might not be comfortable with.
I wish there was something like IMDB for books so I could make reading decisions in a similar way that I do for movies. CommonSenseMedia.com comes the closest, but there are many books that haven’t been reviewed. Another resource is booktriggerwarnings.com, but it tends to be more vague.
I can understand why some want to ban books in an effort to protect children who haven’t learned how to think critically yet or to stop reading a book if it conflicts with their values. Carter said, “Sometimes, a book that represents a value system or topic that doesn’t match one’s own values affords an opportunity for discussion between parent and child.” Although these discussions can be harder to have and more complex than simply limiting access, I think discussions are more powerful in the long run than trying to control others.
Books are banned when a library or classroom removes a book at the instruction of an administrator or school board. Public institutions, such as public schools and libraries, are obligated to protect free speech. Carter said, “Schools and libraries have a policy in place stating their selection and deselection criteria for all materials and outlining the due process for challenges and the ultimate removal of a book from a collection.” The first amendment protects our freedom of speech, and a public institution’s failure to follow their policy in banning a book would infringe on our freedom. In essence, Banned Books Week helps us recognize the value of our freedom and that it’s up to the individual to choose what to read, believe, and become.