Of Mice And Men To Be Banned In Idaho?

Hailed by the Nobel prize judges in 1962 for his realism and sympathetic humour, John Steinbeck is under attack. Parents in Idaho have branded “Of Mice and Men” “neither a quality story nor a page-turner” and asked for it to be removed from classrooms. A curriculum review committee in the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho has recommended the 1937 novella should no longer be taught in classrooms, according to the Spokesman-Review, and that ninth-graders should study it “on a voluntary, small-group basis” only. For parent Mary Jo Finney, the use of words such as “bastard” and “God damn” makes it unsuitable for 14- or 15-year-old students. After counting more than 100 “profanities,” she expressed her shock to the Spokesman-Review that “teachers actually had the audacity to have students read these profanities out loud in class”.

Steinbeck’s story of the difficulties faced by migrant fieldworkers in the Great Depression is a fixture on high-school syllabuses in the US, the UK and beyond, but since 1953 has also become one of America’s most frequently-challenged books.

In the same week, one of the novels on the American Library Association’s most recent list of banned books, “The Kite Runner” by Afghan-born Khaled Hosseini, has come under attack in North Carolina. According to the Citizen-Times, a parent in Asheville complained about the global bestseller’s language and “adult themes”. “The description of the book the teacher included mentioned that there was a rape,” said Lisa Baldwin, “but not that it was the rape of a child and it was the homosexual rape of a child, which I felt was something parents needed to know.” Baldwin also objected that Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel, “All Quiet on the Western Front” had been “removed from the curriculum without parents knowing about it”.

Hosseini’s 2003 book has been removed from classrooms until a committee at Ashville’s Reynolds High School has considered Baldwin’s complaint. It’s not yet clear if parents concerned by Hosseini’s depiction of war and chaos in Afghanistan will be reassured by Remarque’s evocation of the shock and horror of mechanised warfare in France.


Argentina Is World Capital Of Bookstores

All across Argentina’s capital, lodged between the steakhouses, ice cream shops and pizzerias, is an abundance of something that is becoming scarce in many nations: bookstores. From hole-in-the-wall joints with used copies of works by Jorge Luis Borges, Miguel de Cervantes and Gabriel Garcia Marquez to elegant buildings with the latest children’s books in several languages, Buenos Aires is filled with locales that pay homage to print.

The city has more bookstores per capita than any other major city in the world, according to a recent study by the World Cities Cultural Forum, an organization that works to promote culture. With a population of 2.8 million people within the city limits, there are 25 bookstores for every 100,000 people, putting Buenos Aires far above other world cities like London, Paris, Madrid, Moscow and New York. The closest is Hong Kong, which has 22 bookstores per 100,000 people.

“Books represent us like the tango,” said Juan Pablo Marciani, manager of El Ateneo Gran Splendid, an immense bookstore in the affluent Recoleta neighborhood where 7,000 people visit each week. “We have a culture very rooted in print.” Behind the high number of bookstores, 734 by last count, is a combination of culture and economics. Culture boomed along with the economy in the early part of the 20th century, and even if the economic path grew rocky, ordinary Argentines embraced and stuck to the habit of reading. To this day, many across the region call the Argentine capital the “Paris of Latin America” thanks to its architecture, wide streets and general interest in the arts. During the Spanish civil war in the 1930s, many top writers fled to Argentina, further cementing the country as a literary capital and powerhouse for printing.

In 2014, there were 28,010 titles in circulation and 129 million books were printed in the country, according to the Argentine Book Chamber, making it one of the most prolific book printers in Latin America. Many stores carry rare books that are hundreds of years old. At Libreria Alberto Casares, bookworms can gaze at a collection that includes a French translation of Spanish poet Garcilaso de la Vega from 1650 and Gregorian chants on papyrus dating to 1722.

In buses and subways, parks and cafes, it’s common to see people flipping pages of whodunits, histories and poetry, or most recently, new books about the mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, a case that has rocked the country since he was found shot dead in his bathroom Jan. 18. “I was born with paper books and I’ll die with paper books,” said Aida Cardozo, 65. “Computers are for responding to emails and using Facebook, but not to read a novel,” she said.

Books also receive help when it comes to staving off the digital deluge. There are no sales taxes on books, notable in a country where most products get 21 percent slapped on top of the sticker price. And heavy import taxes on books, and electronics such as e-readers, help keep the local printing industry strong. While Argentines are increasingly glued to their mobile devices, customers who want to use foreign retailers like Amazon have to pay a 35 percent surcharge on their peso-denominated credit cards. The use of e-readers like the Kindle is still relatively low. Less than 10 percent of the 1.2 million people who attended the city’s annual book fair last year said they used electronic devices to read books, according to a fair survey.

Ignacio Iraola, the Southern Cone editorial director for publishing house Grupo Planeta, said the economic factors make printed books an attractive business for bookstores and make books a popular gift in tight economic times. “A book costs 200 pesos ($23) compared to 400 pesos $46 for a shirt,” said Iraola. “And the perceived value of a book is much higher.”

Listen to The Book Report at your convenience. Go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-book-report/id540205917?mt=2, or at bookreportradio.com, click on Archived Shows

Beach Reads 2015 ~ Show June 6 and 7


“Finder’s Keepers” by Stephen King
“Radiant Angel” by Nelson DeMille
“My Sunshine Away” by M.O. Walsh
“Cash Landing” by James Grippando
“Inside the O’Briens” by Lisa Genova
“The Road to Character” by David Brooks
“The Year I Met You” by Cecelia Ahern

Nelson DeMille, Author

A first look at “beach reads” for your early summer enjoyment – everything from Stephen King’s newest to “chick lit” titles worth your time. Elaine speaks with Nelson DeMille, who’s back with another great John Corey adventure, “Radiant Angel.”


Since it’s opening in 1982 in a 500 sq. ft. space in Coral Gables, Fl., Books & Books has grown. Its flagship store moved across the street into a 9,000 sq. ft. location, which is on the Register of Historic Places, added a full-service café, and now hosts more than 60 events a month. In 1989, owner Mitchell Kaplan added a second store on Lincoln Road in South Beach. After the opening of a third store in 2005 in the Bal Harbor Shops, an upscale mall that boasts the highest dollar per sq. ft. ratio in the world, Books & Books began leveraging its brand. In 2007, it opened a store in the Cayman Islands. Three years later it opened an affiliate store in Westhampton Beach, Long Island. Books & Books also partners on stores in Miami International airport, at the Southeast Financial Center in downtown Miami, and at the Coral Gables Museum. In addition, the bookstore developed a publishing arm five years ago and has released close to a dozen titles.

Books & Books head Kaplan helped found the Miami Book Fair more than 30 years ago, and he serves on the steering committee of the Florida Center for the Literature & Writing, Miami-Dade College’s literary center, the umbrella organization for the book fair. He is a former president of the American Booksellers Association and serves on the board of the American Booksellers for Free Expression. In 2011, Kaplan received the National Book Foundation’s “Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.”

Listen to The Book Report at your convenience. Go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-book-report/id540205917?mt=2, or at bookreportradio.com, click on Archived Shows

Pressed For Time? Check Out These Great Titles, Each Under 150 Pages

Here’s a list for the time-challenged among us who like little books that make a big noise. These small scale books made the cut for their exceptional power, grace and complexity. They are dark and philosophical, witty and profound, and they’re short—all under 150 pages.

1. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – This dense, psychological story is about colonialist greed and what it means to be “civilized”.

2. Train Dreams by Denis Johnson – Robert Grainier, the protagonist of this period novella, is a beautifully drawn character who takes his time laboring in a turn-of-the-century America where nothing stays the same for long, and people who don’t have much can lose everything in an instant.

3. The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector – The story of a young woman who plays out the process of her own creation in the real time of the novel. It is tragic, beautiful and heartbreaking.

4. Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick – Nonlinear and essentially plotless, this autobiographical novel is held together by the sheer power of the writing, the occasionally returning characters, and the candid emotion of its alternating narrative and reportorial style.

5. The Plains by Gerald Murnane – Multilayered, puzzling, elegant and fascinating, Murnane has been called one of the most interesting living writers.

6. The Beauty of the Husband by Anne Carson – The book tells the story of a first marriage falling apart, complete with grief and betrayal, nostalgia and longing.

7. Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West – This Depression-era tragicomedy sets all the grotesque suffering of Dante’s Divine Comedy in motion around a New York newsroom on the day its titular protagonist’s faith begins to show cracks.

8. The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra by Pedro Mairal – This simple mystery is constructed cleverly in the pattern of Juan Salvatierra’s scrolls: the story flows from one chapter to the next, like the movement of the Uruguay River bordering Salvatierra’s hometown of Barrancales, Argentina.

9. Not to Disturb by Muriel Spark – This oft-overlooked gothic novella is about servants implicating themselves in a murder being carried out by their Baron and Baroness in a room they’re not allowed to enter.

10. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton – It’s hard to imagine a more poetic tragedy than Ethan Frome or a writer more poetic than Edith Wharton.

Listen to The Book Report at your convenience. Go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-book-report/id540205917?mt=2, or at bookreportradio.com, click on Archived Shows

JK Rowling Harvard Speech To Be Published As Illustrated Book

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s 2008 commencement speech at Harvard University is set to be published as an illustrated book. Little, Brown will release the hardcover of Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination, worldwide on April 14, 2015.

According to the publisher, sales of the book, to be illustrated by Joel Holland, will benefit both Lumos, a charity organization founded by Rowling that works to transform the lives of disadvantaged children, as well as university-wide financial aid at Harvard.

“I have heard and read many commencement speeches, none more moving and memorable than J.K. Rowling’s,” said Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust. “Years after her visit to Harvard, people still talk about it—and still find inspiration in her singular evocation of the idea that living a meaningful life so often means daring to risk failure. What a powerful example she embodies, and what a remarkable gift her speech was, and is, for all of us privileged to hear it then—and to read it now.”

Listen to The Book Report at your convenience. Go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-book-report/id540205917?mt=2, or at bookreportradio.com, click on Archived Shows

The Sleuth….And Their Sidekick ~ Show January 31 and February 1


“Personal” by Lee Child
“The Escape” by David Baldacci
“Faceoff” edited by David Baldacci
“The President’s Pilot” by Robert Gandt
“The Einstein Pursuit” by Chris Kuzneski
“No Fortunate Son” by Brad Taylor
“Die Again” by Tess Gerritsen

David Baldacci, Authors

A literary salute to the sleuth…and their sidekick. After all, what is Sherlock without Watson or Poirot without Hastings? Elaine speaks with David Baldacci who, once again, is at the top of his game with “The Escape.” David also introduces us to “Faceoff,” a thriller lover’s dream.

Listen to The Book Report at your convenience. Go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-book-report/id540205917?mt=2, or at bookreportradio.com, click on Archived Shows

FaceBook’s New Book Club


Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg made a New Year’s resolution to read two books a month in 2015, and he’s inviting his 31 million Facebook friends to join him. https://www.facebook.com/ayearofbooks

Zuckerberg created a Facebook page, “A Year of Books,” where readers can follow along and discuss the books he’s reading. He posted his first selection, “The End of Power,” by Moises Naim.

Before Zuckerberg endorsed it, “The End of Power,” which came out in March 2013, sold 20,000 copies across all formats. Now, it’s shot up to No. 19 on Amazon’s best-seller list.

In a Facebook post on his personal page, Zuckerberg wrote that he would be focusing on books about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies. He described “The End of Power” as “a book that explores how the world is shifting to give individual people more power that was traditionally only held by large governments, militaries and other organizations.”

In the social media era, celebrities and public figures can push sales of a book overnight. Last summer, Bill Gates blogged about the best books he had ever read, and named “Business Adventures,” an out-of-print 1969 nonfiction title by John Brooks, as his favorite. The book shot to No. 2 on The New York Times nonfiction e-book best-seller list. Open Road Media brought the book back into print in a paperback edition in August, and has since sold more than 77,000 print copies and more than 126,000 e-books.

It is unclear how influential Zuckerberg’s new reading initiative will be in the publishing industry, and whether he can confer something akin to the “Oprah effect.” “The End of Power” was hardly an obscure title before Zuckerberg promoted it. Mr. Naim is a former executive director of the World Bank and served as Venezuela’s minister of trade and industry. The book, which examines how power is shifting and disintegrating in business, religion, education and politics, was chosen as one of the best books of 2013 by The Financial Times. Still, Naim said he was stunned to learn he had essentially won Facebook’s literary lottery. “I was flabbergasted,” he said, and added he planned to participate in the discussion on Facebook.

Listen to The Book Report at your convenience. Go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-book-report/id540205917?mt=2, or at bookreportradio.com, click on Archived Shows

Doris Lessing’s Library Headed To Zimbabwe


Nobel Prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing, who died last year, spent her early years in Zimbabwe. She is still giving back to the country whose former white rulers banished her for speaking against racial discrimination.

The bulk of Lessing’s book collection was handed over to the Harare City Library, which will catalogue the more than 3,000 books. The donation complements the author’s role in opening libraries in Zimbabwe, to make books available to rural people. “For us she continues to live,” said 42-year-old Kempson Mudenda, who worked with Lessing when she established the Africa Community Publishing and Development Trust. “The libraries she helped set up are giving life to village children who would otherwise be doomed,” said Mudenda, who said he used to trudge bush paths daily to reach remote villages with books. Lessing’s trust started libraries in thatched mud huts and under trees after the author was allowed to return to Zimbabwe following independence in 1980.

Lessing went to what was then Southern Rhodesia with her parents as a child, staying from 1924 for 25 years until she moved to London. After achieving success with her first novel, “The Grass Is Singing,” she returned in 1956 but was soon expelled for criticizing the white rulers of the time. She returned again in 1982. She died at her home in London at the age of 94.

In her writing, Lessing explored topics ranging from colonial Africa to dystopian Britain, from the mystery of being female to the unknown worlds of science fiction. She was best known for “The Golden Notebook,” in which heroine Anna Wulf uses four notebooks to bring together the separate parts of her disintegrating life.

Listen to The Book Report at your convenience. Go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-book-report/id540205917?mt=2, or at bookreportradio.com, click on Archived Shows